Tuesday, April 29, 2008

While in DC...

… my son visited the Supreme Court. Since he and his brother were out of class for a week, they needed to do an independent study which they would then present to their class. Ricky went to the Supreme Court, and built this PowerPoint presentation all by himself (OK, I helped with the template – but that’s it)…

I’m pretty proud. Particularly when he showed me all his PowerPoint hacks (yeah, they’re learning PPT in second grade).


Friday, April 25, 2008

The Kindle is Here

The Kindle showed up today, and it is terrific. I’ll be publishing a more detailed review after I’ve had a couple days to play with it. But my initial reactions:

  • the file-to-Kindle conversion service ($.10 for over-the-air, or free for file attachment by e-mail) is excellent. I’ve already added a number of PDFs from my hard drive for viewing on the Kindle, with mostly good results (some PDFs with complex formatting ended up getting a bit messed up).

  • downloads over the air are lightning-quick… not surprising, given the relatively small file sizes and straight-forward mark-up.

  • like Ernie, I will definitely be reading more books now.

More later. Really excited to finally get my hands on this.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Prediction

Clinton will win today in Pennsylvania, by 7 or 8 is my guess. Let’s call it 54-46. But the delegate count will be closer, and I think Barack stays within 10 delegates of her. Which will mean that she’ll be no closer to overcoming his delegate lead, and it will be all but impossible for her to overcome his popular vote totals.

And the agonizing campaign will continue.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Welcome to Cody!

Nearly nine months ago, our beloved dog Tioga died. It was just a week after we moved to California, and we missed him terribly.

At the end of last year, we started to feel ready for a dog in our house again. We reached out to the Northern California Golden Retriever Rescue group to see whether we could adopt a Golden who had been abandoned. After one false start, we got a call earlier this week that there was an 18 month old Golden who needed a home. Today we drove to Mountain View to meet Cody, and after determining that he was as personable as we could have hoped, we signed the paperwork and brought him home.

The kids (well, the boys – Becca’s not so sure she enjoys any competition for attention, but we’ll get her past that!) adore him, and he’s spent much of the afternoon and evening getting to know his new home.

Here are a couple pictures:


And yes, he’s on Dogster.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The April Fool's Day Joke That Almost Was...

Another oldie but goodie…

In 1997, Erik Heels and I created a fake law firm website (we were in the business of building law firm websites at the time). The firm we picked was that of Russell and Tate, the two characters played by Tracy Morgan and Tim Meadows of SNL in a few fake-commercials aired in ’96 and ’97. We thought the site was funny, it made the rounds among SNL fans, and that was that.

A couple years later, we revived Russell & Tate when we broke the staggering news that Visa bought the Internet and it was revealed that the multi-faceted firm of Russell & Tate was representing Visa in the transaction. Why Visa? Because, among other things, it wasn’t a publicly-traded company, so there’d be no claims of stock fraud if things got out of hand. We actually distributed the fake press release on InternetWire.com, chosen because its TOS didn’t prohibit the distribution of fake news. Our fake press release was the most viewed press release on InternetWire.com in 1999, possibly saying more about InternetWire.com than our sense of humor. But I digress.

It was the following year that things got… well, interesting. We had registered laywers.com, a misspelling of the popular lawyers.com site. We built a site that was a near replica of the “real” site, with one important difference: no matter what specialty you searched for, no matter what geography you included, laywers.com produced just one result. You guessed it: that of Russell & Tate. Needless to say, the good people at Martindale-Hubbell (owners and operators of lawyers.com) were not amused (though many others were, as you might imagine).

Fast forward a few months. News broke of the settlement between Microsoft and the Department of Justice. An intrepid reporter from Yahoo! Finance was eager to get the break on the story, and line up someone for an on-air commentary regarding the settlement. Off she went to laywers.com, searched for anti-trust lawyers in San Francisco, and bingo! These Russell and Tate guys must be who the firm to contact. (Shocking that there’d be just one anti-trust firm in all of San Francisco, dontchathink?)

She sent an e-mail to the addresses (russell@russelltate.com, tate@russelltate.com) listed on the firm’s “Contact us” page, and it immediately showed up in my inbox. Could we be on air later that morning to discuss the big break in the case?

If only I had known how to contact Tracy Morgan, something tells me he would have been up to the challenge… Sadly, I had to fess up to the embarrassed reporter that the site was fake, the law firm didn’t exist, and no, we couldn’t be on camera in an hour to discuss the anti-trust settlement.

(Bizarre postscript? Martindale-Hubbell, to whom we transferred ownership of laywers.com, no longer owns laywers.com. Sheesh.)

The one where I punked the Vice President's Chief of Staff

While in law school, I worked at The Nature Company at the Mall of America on breaks. The store manager, Kathy, was a fellow political junkie who just happened to have been formerly engaged to Tony. Tony was at the time Vice President Al Gore’s scheduler. I went to law school in Richmond, Virginia – and when Kathy called to tell me she’d be in DC in April, I gladly accepted an invitation to tag along. I’d get a tour of the White House!

I showed up at the OEOB security gate, and was waived through. Remarkably, I was free to roam the halls of the OEOB. (I assume they do things a bit differently now.) Look! Warren Christopher! Hey – isn’t that Janet Reno?! For a 22 year-old who adored politics, it was too good to be true.

I found Tony’s office upstairs, and his first words to me (we’d never met) were, “Can you act?” I’m pretty sure my first answer was “No” (well, after lots of confused stammering), but he persisted. “Not act, so much as just ask questions and not laugh.” It was only then that I realized I was in the White House on April Fool’s Day. And that there was no saying “No” to Tony.

Tony and the rest of the staff had planned an elaborate prank: their boss, Jack Quinn (Al Gore’s Chief of Staff), was a big Utz Pretzel fan. I was to play the Utz Pretzel representative, there to inquire about Quinn’s love of all things Utz.

Into the Vice President’s Ceremonial Room I went to wait, until Jack Quinn was ushered in. Yes, it’s as imposing as it looks.

They had a script – 20 or more questions (the only question I remember: “Would you say peanut M&Ms are to President Clinton as Utz Pretzels are to Jack Quinn?” His answer: “Not many people know that President Clinton doesn’t like peanut M&Ms, so… no.”) designed to test even the most patient of men.

To his credit, he put up with the whole thing. Last thing I heard as his staff let him in on the joke: “Who was that?!”

And now you know why I’ll never work in Washington, DC.

(And Mr. Quinn, if you’re out there: sorry. Tony made me do it.)