My AARP Tech Perfect Fail

I’ve had a bad day in multimedia. Seeking to be best blogger I can be for AARP, I screwed up my video. I screwed up my audio. I even failed to connect with Tony the Tiger for a photo op. It was not a good day, technically. On the other hand…

I saw Jane Pauley and heard a little of what she had to say about her work as an interviewer. She’s a long time favorite of mine. Doesn’t hurt that she’s the step-mom of my role model, Roland Hedley.

Jane Pauley 9/30/2010

I did my imitation of the human tripod at Dave Barry’s press conference. I held the microphone in one hand. I held the camera in the other hand. I did a plausible imitation of the Karate Kid in his crane pose, only of course I balanced in poised stillness on both my feet.

I travel with a ridiculously diverse assortment of technology. On this outing I’m carrying an iPhone, an iPad, an Asus eee netbook, a Sony Vaio laptop, a Kodak zi8 video camera, a Nikon Coolpix digital camera, an AIPTEK ISDV2.4 video camera, and all the cables, batteries, chargers, and other technoid cruft required to use each of these things, individually. Too bad I have failed so miserably in the basic job of integrating these cool toys. After unsuccessfully messing around with the Dave Barry video for what seemed like a month or two, I shifted to the retail therapy strategy, took a cab to what must be the biggest upscale outlet mall in the world, or in Florida, or in Orlando at least, and I bought a new messenger bag at the North Face outlet store.

Meanwhile, the other bloggers and the AARP social media mavens, the creative peeps who are in control of their time and their tools, have enjoyed an evening out at a BB King and Gladys Knight concert. I’d rather live in their world, than be alone in mine. Especially since I can’t seem to crack this little video problem that’s lingering here.

Oh well, at least papa has a brand new messenger bag…

Tony the Tiger

I cruised the AARP exhibit hall shortly before it opened today in Orlando. I picked up a modest amount of schwag and a couple of important clues. First, and probably most important: Kellogg’s promises that Tony the Tiger himself will be on hand throughout the day today, providing hand-outs of the new Fiber Plus cereal with antioxidants.

High flying

Maybe the mouse is dead. This is my first trip to Orlando in a plane full of grown-ups. Usually the background noise is whining and crying and… Damn! The cap’n has just come on the intercom congratulating Josie Something-or-other on her first flight and thanking her for the crayon rendition of the corporate mouse. Happily, Josie isn’t caterwauling or spreading her pertussis around the cabin. Yet.

Wi-fi in the sky. It could only be better if it was free.

And now a word for a sponsor

Whooga. That’s the word. I treated my new Whooga uggs with a leather conditioner. Repeated applications should make them water-proof, slush proof, smudge proof and whatever proof. Seems to work walking out in the morning dew. Still, I’ve yet to test them in doggie-doo, so we’ll see. Here’s a picture of them. I don’t think I’ll take them to Florida. I mean, a saltwater test would be great, but at ninety degrees who’s whooging whom?

How about another plug? AARP sent me a mini camcorder, something called an ISDV2.4. All I know about it is that it’s blue and it interfaces with my computer via a USB connection. The above snapshot was taken with that little beauty. I’m taking it out to the Obama/Feingold rally this afternoon to see if I can learn more about how it works.

Netroots Wisconsin

It’s a beautiful fall day, full of cross-currents and coincidence. This is a quick catch-all, catch-up post so i can clear the boards for next week. I have interview questions to prepare for the AARP Orlando@50+ conference and I’ve managed to procrastinate until yesterday’s Cheddarsphere gathering ended because I’m a single threaded kind of guy.

Fall day, past the average “first frost” date, but globally warmer so the horseradish continues to grow and I won’t have to dig it and re-plant until mid-October. That’s by way of speaking of roots… netroots, horseradish roots. Roots? We picked up some beets at the farmers market this weekend too. Where was I?

Two comments in two days on how specifically this listics blogs sucks these days. I was reminded yesterday that the RSS feed is broken. I know. It has been hosed for quite a while. I’ll fix it with the upgrade to WordPress 3.0.1. really, I will. Today in a comment thread at Joho the Blog, Darryl Jonckheere suggested some improvements that I’ll tackle as part of that upgrade as well.

Meanwhile, back at the Cheddarsphere… Steve Hanson hosted Netroots Wisconsin yesterday, a great gathering that pumped energy into the progressive blogging community and provided geekular connexions for many of us who have too little face time with our peers.

The Sunlight Foundation presented a great overview of tools and websites they sponsor in support of the transparency movement. Take a look at the Influence Explorer project!

Cory Liebmann shared a list of resources for research.

Some links I jotted down…

The gathering was held in the Madison Senior Center, a facility my grandmother Ruth Paynter helped to found. Twenty-five years ago or so, there was a plaque in the lobby acknowledging her work. The plaque is gone. Maybe I’ll call and see if we can track it down. One of her great grandchildren would probably get a charge out of having it around.

Meanwhile, I’m ready to prep for my trip to Orlando. From the Madison Senior Center yesterday to AARP this Wednesday, there’s a deeper meaning there, much like the net-roots horseradish trope I used to begin this post. I truly hope I get a one-on-one with Newt Gingrich and a one-on-one with Secretary Sebelius. The beets go on!

Sodding the Commons

Netroots Wisconsin hosts Uniting the Cheddarsphere in Madison today. They tapped me for the panel “Fighting Astroturf-Based Telecom Policy and a Corporate Broadband Future.”

Astroturf? Whazzat? Take a look at this excerpt from a letter filed with the FCC by the “Arkansas Retired Seniors Coalition,” a group that leaves no trace of itself on the web:

Astroturf is worse than boilerplate. All of our favorite causes gather strength from organizing people to send boilerplate letters urging political action of one kind or another. Astroturf raises the bar by adding deception… letters are sent from fictional people and fictional groups.

Corporate broadband, if it belongs anywhere, belongs in the national-regional high-speed bulk transport business. Middle mile and last mile services should be publicly owned and operated, like they do in Reedsburg and countless other communities across the USA.

Long ago the Wisconsin Public Service Commission was subverted by the endless pressure and litigation by private companies that control the natural monopolies of the public service markets. The situation is described like this in Wikipedia:

Regulatory capture occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead acts in favor of the commercial or special interests that dominate in the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure, as it can act as an encouragement for large firms to produce negative externalities. The agencies are called Captured Agencies.

For public choice theorists, regulatory capture occurs because groups or individuals with a high-stakes interest in the outcome of policy or regulatory decisions can be expected to focus their resources and energies in attempting to gain the policy outcomes they prefer, while members of the public, each with only a tiny individual stake in the outcome, will ignore it altogether. Regulatory capture refers to when this imbalance of focused resources devoted to a particular policy outcome is successful at “capturing” influence with the staff or commission members of the regulatory agency, so that the preferred policy outcomes of the special interest are implemented.

Citizens, customers of the monopolists that have freed themselves of regulation, as individuals have little motivation to influence government about specific complicated regulatory discussions. The monopolists themselves are highly motivated to remain free of public oversight and regulation so they manipulate the market using lobbyists and public relations campaigns to keep the regulators off balance.

Here are some links to information about a few of the astroturf groups identified by

American Consumer Institute
Dick Armey’s “Freedom Works”
David Koch’s “Americans for Prosperity”

Hippie punch

David Axelrod had a little dust-up with bloggers from the left today when he tried to drum up some enthusiasm for the Dems in the fall elections. Susie Madrak said he made her feel like the town ho’. “Hippie punching.” Never heard that before. I have this horrible feeling that I’ve been hippie punched a time or two myself. Thank god it wasn’t by Axelrod or Gibbs. (If you aren’t punching hippies are you the hippie being punched?)

Silly Season

Today, “Talk Like A Pirate Day” marks the official end of the silly season, those glorious few months toward the end of summer when the gherkins are ripening and the mass media hit their lowest audience levels of the year competing for their share with lies, fables, fantasies, and frivolity.

Around 1950, C.M. Kornbluth published a story called “The Silly Season.” The story was premised on an old journalism tradition. In the hot summer months nobody believes what they read in the newspapers because the reporters are stretching for stories to write while everything is slowed down, governments are in recess, and everyone’s on vacation. What better time for the aliens to invade? Who believes those flying saucer stories anyway?

This year the season included the catholic pope speaking before parliament in the United Kingdom, admirably introduced at Westminster by Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow (whose wife, tweeting as @SallyBercow used the papal visit to underscore some of her own work for gay rights). Thomas More, dead since 1536, was present for the meeting of the octogenarian cleric with the octogenarian queen. We mortals will never know exactly what Saint Thomas made of the occasion.

Other special moments of the just passed silly season included the twin teabag victories of Carl Paladino (characterized by New York Magazine as a fan of bestiality porn) and Christine O’Donnell, dabbler in witchcraft and opponent of “sexual socialists” everywhere. Jason Linkins calls Paladino and O’Donnell the “newly-minted Tea Party Prom King and Queen.

In local silliness, the Whooga ugg boots arrived and I did an unboxing video. The voice over is embarrassingly unscripted and bespeaks a singular lack of talented ad libbery. Currently, I’m spraying them with a leather conditioner to extend their life in the barnyard mud, and the slush and snow of the Wisconsin winter. I don’t intend to wear them to Orlando, because–stylish as they are–they’ll be too warm for Florida. Between now and the 30th, when the AARP convention is due to start in Orlando, I’ve booked cyber-journalism lessons with one of my generation’s most famous correspondents. I’m hoping he can give me a few hints for interviews with James Carville and Mary Matalin and Kathleen Sibelius.

Silliness on the national scene continued last week with Fox News filing a lawsuit against Robin Carnahan for telling the truth.

Finally, in an encore act of silliness guaranteed to keep you giggling until you collapse from lack of breath, Newt (yes, that NEWT) Gingrich reprises his role of power-mad propagandist for the religious right at a gathering called the “Values Voter Summit” sponsored by a group called the FRC, or Family Research Council. Here’s a taste: