Do You Remember … Dancing In September

Goofing off with Googlers.

Goofing off with Googlers. Photo by Bruce Gibson.

Here are some things I learned from Google Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt last night. He and Jonathan Rosenberg were in town as part of their book tour, and I was honored to moderate a conversation with them before a hypersmart DC audience of 600, at the Sixth & I Synagogue.

He likes those Hershey’s miniatures as much as the rest of us. When we were hanging in the green room before the show, I think he consumer about 17 of them in a row. Rosenberg even quipped, “I don’t think those are on your diet.”

He uses a Motorola Razr X, running Android, of course.

He prefers generalists over specialists, because the number one quality he looks for in people is passion. “It can be passion about anything,” he says. “But you can’t teach passion.” In other words, they want people who really care a lot, and they don’t care particularly about wedging people into particular roles. I love that.

He has new appreciation for Stephen Colbert and other comedians after learning how much time and energy Colbert spends getting into his character and preparing mentally to be so witty.

He’s not sure about the whole selfie thing, he says. But he gamely agreed to shoot a selfie of us. Luckily, photog Bruce Gibson caught us doing it, above. So meta.

Anyway. I’ve spent the last two months in such a state of constant motion that at no time have I not been rushing somewhere, recovering from what came before or preparing for what comes next. In no particular order I have: spoken in London on wearable technology and love, flew halfway to Cleveland to moderate a panel on the tech community in Ohio (only to be canceled at O’hare), reported stories on fashion that comes in a box, the PayPal-eBay split, net neutrality and other stuff I can’t remember anymore, spoken to public radio programmers about risky reporting situations, presented to the NPR board about Ferguson, threw a 2nd birthday party for my daughter, and interviewed billionaire Googlers about the inner workings of their company. On the same day, as if the random subjects I’ve been speaking on weren’t random enough, I was invited to moderate a panel on the future of reproduction.

Just the subject-shifting alone is enough for total cognitive overload. I do love nothing more than meeting new people and engaging with fresh ideas. But I also think I need some time to just not prep for anything or recover from anything. Onward.

What I’m Reading: SF Struggles, Vonnegut on Marriage, Manly Startups

This morning my new pal Om Malik tweeted out his list of what he’s reading, a list he’s been sharing for quite awhile. I find it really enjoyable, much like I love receiving friend Sean Bonner’s newsletter. The missives are basically his delightful stream-of-consciousness with reading that guides that consciousness.  I used to do some link roundups on this here blog, but have largely abandoned it. I think I’ll try and start it up again. A few of the pieces I read today:

Is San Francisco New York? (New York Magazine, with writing from San Francisco Magazine)

The team at my favorite magazine ever got the help of San Francisco Magazine writers to write a series of dispatches from SF, a city whose tech-boom-2.0-fueled identity crisis seems to foreshadow the kind of struggle America is about to have in a few years. I love the little vignette about ‘founder hounders’ — ladies who seek out tech company founders just before their company’s IPO. Absurd.

Journalism startups full of white men (The Guardian)

The Guardian’s Emily Bell calls out this era of white-men-led news startups, i.e. Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, Glen Greenwald. “The new micro-institutions of journalism already bear the hallmarks of the restrictive heritage they abandoned with such glee,” she writes. Nate Silver recently responded, admitting that 85 percent of his applicants are men and “that worries us.” He follows up by saying, “We’re hiring the best candidate for the position,” which worries me. Because “best” is subjective, and if you extend this defense too far, you could fall into believing a meritocracy myth that is so pervasive in the mega-gender-unbalanced world of tech. I’ve written about that before.

Kurt Vonnegut on Marriage

When a couple has an argument nowadays, they may think it’s about money or power or sex or how to raise the kids or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though without realizing it, is this: “You are not enough people!” A husband, a wife and some kids is not a family. It’s a terribly vulnerable survival unit.

This makes a tremendous amount of sense, especially in the face of studies recently that show our expectations of our spouses are higher than ever, which makes marital satisfaction lower. Conclusion: Our spouses can’t be — and shouldn’t be — our everything. I maintain that the key to success in my own marriage is the tremendous amount of freedom my introverted husband gives me to party hard with — and seek connection with — people-who-aren’t-him. h/t Sean Bonner

 

Tags: , , ,

Tough Week, Or The Toughest Week?

Satirical news source The Onion summed up the past week well:

“Maybe next time we have a week, they can try not to pack it completely to the fucking brim with explosions, mutilations, death, manhunts, lies, weeping, and the utter uselessness of our political system,” said basically every person in America who isn’t comatose or a complete sociopath. “You know, maybe try to spread some of that total misery across the other 51 weeks in the year. Just a thought.”

Pal Justin texted this to me, halfway through this week from hell: “What does it say when a justice of the peace murdering a district attorney and his family is at the bottom of the news totem pole?” (I’m not even sure that story made it into our newscasts. Nor did the sentencing of the Travis County District Attorney for DWI. She’s serving 45 days in jail. Normally I would think that was a big story, too.)

Oh, and then, last night the week was capped off with a destructive earthquake in China:

“As Boston celebrated last night, the week from Hell managed to end with one more tragedy: A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit southwestern China’s Sichuan province on Saturday. Right now, 156 people are said to be dead, and an estimated 5,500 are injured, making the earthquake the country’s worst in three years. We’re just hoping marathoner and West, Texas resident Joe Berti wasn’t around.”

Journalism and social media both got a reminder to just chill out and take a breath. Reddit sleuths went down as many bad trails as promising ones, implicating innocent people in the process. The New York Post was particularly egregious in its fact ignorance, reporting 12 people were killed on Monday and that a Saudi national was a suspect. (Neither of these reported “facts” proved true.)

Oh, and our newsroom was split into two buildings, producing our afternoon show, All Things Considered, from 1111 N. Capitol, and the morning program, Morning Edition, from 635 Massachusetts Ave. As tragedy struck blow after blow, we were struggling to coordinate news reporting and broadcasting while in between the final phases of our staff move. By Friday, the old building and its parts were getting dismantled around us. The moving and salvage crews outnumbered NPR staff. Yesterday, in the middle of our efforts to report a manhunt that shut down the city of Boston, the TVs got cut off. This prompted a move to 1111 half a day early.

President Obama called it a “tough week.” I’d call it a curl-up-in-fetal-position-and-rock-back-and-forth-week.

As you reflect and process and drink heavily (you deserve it), consider consuming any of the following:

Your kids, your parents, your friends, your lovers: Hug ‘em tight. Hug ‘em tight.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m Worried My Little Brother Is Losing Years From His Life

Uggggh.

Uggggh.

This is today’s view from my brother Roger’s window in Beijing, where the pollution has reached crisis levels. “I literally try not to breathe much anymore. Have to take super small inhales through the nostrils,” Roger writes. “Eyes are sour, throat itches, no energy… It hurts badly to breathe.”

Here’s James Fallows, writing for The Atlantic:  

“[In 2008] the level of dangerous “PM 2.5″ small-particulate pollution, as reported by the rogue @BeijingAir monitoring site on the roof of the US Embassy in Beijing, was in the low-300s “hazardous” range. The readings in the past few days have been in the previously unimaginable 700s-and-above range, reported as “beyond index” by @BeijingAir. The worst I have personally seen in Beijing was in the high 400s, and that day I did not understand how life could proceed any further in such circumstances. The conditions this weekend have been much worse.”

We have got to get Roger out of Beijing. He’s living there to launch his startup, but it can’t be worth his lungs.

Tags: , , , , ,

Inauguration Is Over. Now I Have a Brain Cloud.

The presidential motorcade as it headed to the Capitol for the swearing-in.

The presidential motorcade as it headed to the Capitol for the swearing-in.

 

The single best thing about living in DC is that people I love come into town frequently for one reason or another. Since presidential inaugurations only come around every four years, MANY people I love came into town at the same time. I had been training my liver for this weekend for awhile.

My only other DC inauguration experience was when I covered Bush’s first inauguration in 2001 as an intern for WFAA-TV. Attending that swearing-in ceremony was the coldest I’ve ever been. I remember getting dressed up for the Texas State Society’s Black Tie and Boots ball in the public bathroom of Belo’s DC bureau building at 13th and G.  I remember anchor Gloria Campos being in DC to anchor the coverage and wanting her scripts printed in bigger type, and how I had to help rush reporter Jim Fry into a cab so he could go do a post-parade live shot.

I remain on maternity leave, so I got to take part in this inauguration as a straight-up spectator. I skipped the weekend balls but was looking forward to the Common/T-Pain/John Legend concert since, as many of you know, Stiles loves loves LOVES Common. (BTW: Where WASN’T John Legend this weekend? Anyway.) We waited until the day before to respond to the ticket email and it was too late. Instead, we went to a delicious Indian restaurant for our 2nd anniversary dinner, seven months late. (Hey, 2012 was a little busy, okay?)

Continue reading →

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In Memoriam: 2012 Celebrity Death Pool

Our long-running celebrity death pool has concluded yet another year of being awful at picking celebrity deaths. (To prove my point, the year Amy Winehouse and Steve Jobs died, none of us picked either of them.)

George H.W. Bush’s passing, which did not happen despite the publishing of his obit, would have given Evan the 2012 win. But I ultimately get to claim victory on a technicality. Here’s a snapshot of the final scoresheet, which I’ll follow with an explanation:

CDP 2012 Final Point Totals. Click to enlarge.

CDP 2012 Final Point Totals. Click to enlarge.

 

Scoring is one point per death, then we subtract the age of death from 100 and put that number behind the decimal point. For example, a 25 year old celebrity death gets you 1.75 points, while a 80 year old celebrity death is 1.20 points.

Who counts as a celebrity? The group can veto a pick for obscurity during a draft, but we haven’t had a situation so far in which a questionably famous celebrity was drafted.

Lippy and Blake finished the year with 0 points. It’s the second shutout year in a row for Lippy, who didn’t correctly predict any celebrity deaths in 2011, either. Evan was prescient to pick Inouye, whose December passing took a lot of Washingtonians by surprise. Lindsay Lohan, who like Hosni Mubarak shows up on two lists, is somehow still alive.

The 2011 Holdover Rule of 2012, which has since been amended, is responsible for my second victory in a row. We don’t draft on the very last day of the previous year, which creates a death loophole for those who die between draft night and January 1 of the new year. In 2012’s draft, anyone who died in 2011’s gap period would count toward the 2012 total. That’s how I wound up with points for Christopher Hitchens.

No one benefited from the Two Deaths-Same Incident Rule, which doubles your points if two of your celebrity death picks die in the same incident.

2013’s contest introduced some major changes, notably the snake draft in which we can’t duplicate any picks, and the elimination of the holdover loophole. (Those who died in the gap weeks were replaced with fresh picks.)

The CDP Death Notification Rule remains. (The death of any CDP pick must be immediately tweeted and then shared or retweeted by other CDP members, sometimes with a standings update.)

Tags: , , ,

Recommended Reading: A Random Assortment

This roundup is pretty representative of the things on my mind this week, besides Hurricane Sandy, that is. The storm largely spared us here in Washington but I’ve been glued to the TV and the internet, captivated by the stunning images of Manhattan in the dark, a changed coastline in New Jersey and the stories of survival and togetherness in the storm’s aftermath.

Of course, there’s still a presidential election in a few days, and I’ve been fascinated by the rather silly backlash against prognosticator Nate Silver, a data nerd and former baseball statistician who turned his talents to analyzing political polling. There’s a nice take on the backlash, below.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my offspring‘s sleep habits. She is already quite amazing at sleeping during overnight hours, having fallen into a routine in which she gets up twice at night for feedings at the exact same times. This is the kind of predictability that her momma (a nine-hour-a-night sleeper) really needs. But it wasn’t until this week that I got serious about reading sleep expert Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s method, which focuses on naps just as much as night sleep.

And this week, my friend Drew finally got his Lance Armstrong-is-not-a-nice-guy story published. He had reported and written it three years ago but the magazine that originally paid him to do it decided it was too mean back then. Looking back on it now, had they run it in 2008, the piece would have been remarkably prescient. Happy reading.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Round of Cheers and Jeers

I’ve been sitting around my living room a lot more lately, since I am too slow to really move around and apparently I could go into labor at any moment. That has allowed plenty of time to consume more pop culture and cast judgement upon it.

Cheers

This Jacoby Jones endzone dance from the Ravens-Eagles game today. It looks like he’s doing some sort of mongolian barbecuing or something … not sure, but it makes me happy:

Scott Disick. This guy is the only reason I’ve managed to sit through about four or five episodes of E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians. He’s vapid and narcissistic like the rest of them, but he owns it and seems to be a pretty decent father, actually.

Owing to more sensitive gums, I am now flossing numerous times a day. So a big shout out to my favorite floss, Oral B’s Glide Pro-Health. So smooth. You know what else is smooth? Tito’s vodka, which I miss so much.

Jeers

Really!?

American peanut butter giant Jif has decided to make “Jif Hazelnut” to compete with the European hazelnut spread standard-bearer, Nutella. Say it with me now: OUTRAGE! But let’s see what the market decides, cause I don’t see how Nutella addicts will accept any imitators.

And how about one more first-world problem jeer for not-being-able-to-sleep-on-one’s-stomach? This whole sleeping on your side situation is getting old. I know I am supposed to cherish this special time and all, and I am quite appreciative of the miracle of life and all the perspective it brings, but free range sleeping was so nice back when it was an option.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Ducks Can “Shut That Whole Thing Down” And Reject Sperm

“From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”  -Missouri US Senate Candidate Todd Akin

That’s the (widely repudiated and much-repented-for) quote that swept across the nation and resulted in prompt calls for Senate candidate and US Rep Todd Akin to withdraw from the race for fear it will cost Republicans a chance at control of the upper chamber. (Akin said this afternoon he’s in it to win it, despite major GOP money sources saying they’re not going to fund him.)

To be clear, it’s totally nonsense (and Akin has admitted as much) that human women’s bodies can “shut that whole thing down” and reject sperm if raped. But interestingly, a 2008 episode of RadioLab explains that female DUCKS do have that capability. Fascinating. (Hat tip to my friend Reeve for pointing this out to me.) The audio of this discussion starts around the 13:15 mark, but I excerpted a key part here.

“The thing about the duck is … ducks engage in forced extra-pair copulations. What he’s really saying is the males are “raping” the females. A couple of years ago, we were dissecting a female duck and a doc called Patty Brennan (sp) called me and said “Look at this, I found a funny structure in the female vagina…

What we found was that in species where the male had an enormous phallus, the female had the most complex vagina we’d ever come across. Some have two or three side branches and a very long spiral, like a corkscrew at the end of the vagina. If you think about it, what seems very likely here is the female has got these structures to deflect the male. If she’s being raped, she might contract part of her reproductive tract to send the male off down a blind alley. If he avoids that, she can just tighten up the spiral so his sperm can’t get to the right place. So what you’ve got here is a kind of warfare. The male says, I’m coming in here like it or not, and the female says, you’re getting nowhere, like it or not. Remarkable case of females evolving counter-adaptations to keep males at arm’s length. Or penis length, so to speak.”

Tags: , ,

Load more