Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Thanks for a great semester in Digital Journalism! Professor Silver had great advice and helped in creating a comfortable and creative learning environment. Our blogs are all interesting and hopefully we can all keep in touch that way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

rss in plain english

here is the instructional video i showed in class today:

it comes from lee and sachi lefever of common craft.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Street Festival, Japantown Style

Thousands of people flooded Post Street between Fillmore and Gough for the opening weekend of the 40th Annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival last Sunday. The first thing any visitor to Japantown will notice about their celebration of the blooming of the cherry blossoms is how tame it is in comparison to other public parties in the city. While an event like the Bay to Breakers is a celebration of our city's special ability to integrate debauchery and running, the Cherry Blossom Festival was a celebration of Japanese culture and showcased a far more wholesome set of skills. On the main stage, children performed a few basic karate manuvers to the delight of their parents and one onlooker who clearly was just sticking around to see if the kids were really going to start brawling. They didn't. In fact, there would not be any shenanigans. The freak quotient was well below the standards I've come to expect. That said, I did manage to find a grown man dressed as what I can only assume is a Power Ranger.

The defining characteristic of the event came in the form of the event's sponsors whose white tents lined Post and forced visitors to run a blocks long gauntlet of barkers who harangued passers-by to provide them with personal information in exchange for low quality freebies. Not even cries of "I'm walkin' here!" in a heavily affected Brooklyn accent could ward them off. Their presence varied from obnoxious to creepy, with one booth promising to turn your eight-year-old into a modeling superstar.

For the kiddies who want to act their age, there was the Children's Village which provided the young ones with a "jump house." A term I managed to discover by googling "inflatable jumping around thing," which I would argue goes much further in explaining its purpose. Based on the miserable faces of the children leaving the General Mills-sponsored inflatable jumping around thing, the event was of a dud for children of all ages.

That said, and in fairness to the event's organizers, I may have been the wrong weekend to happen upon these particular goings-on. The real show takes place on April 22 at 1 pm with a parade from City Hall into the Western Addition which will feature, among other things, a sake barrel shrine float which will be carried by an estimated 100 people as the festivities make their way into Japantown. However, despite what we might expect from the other street festivals, I don't suspect they'll be cracking that barrel open once they arrive on the scene. It is the prerogative of the organizers to have a family-friendly affair, and they have exercised it. You've been warned.

Where Do You Hide?

San Francisco, California is glamorous, fabulous, amazing…and extremely distracting. Around every corner San Francisco seems to offer something new, fun, and beautiful; for example, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, SF MOMA, and China Town. Not to mention that San Francisco has some of the best restaurants in the country, phenomenal shopping, and (although, they may be a bit windy) beautiful beaches. This 7x7 mile city has so many hidden gems; including, Sociale an Italian restaurant hidden down a tiny shadowed alley and the often overshadowed independent book store City Lights.

Stress factors! School, parents, relationships, work, bills, debt, deadlines, traffic jams, errands, chores… and I’m sure you agree, that list could go on forever. I am a city girl, I grew up in Chicago; which is three times the size of SF, so I definitely understand the struggle of trying to find some ‘peace and quiet’ in a city that never sleeps.

Philosophical! As you have all learned over the course of this semester, I tend to be a pretty ‘deep’ person, so to speak. No matter what the assignment may be I always seem to find some obscure angle and get all philosophical…I even managed to make going to a baseball game about much more than just strikes, outs, and innings. Anyway, don’t think for a second that this assignment is going to be any different.

Alright, now that I have your attention and you are completely confused as to where I am going with this… let me (try to) explain. As college students (and of course professors), there always seems to be that “to do” list that never goes away; and no matter how many things you complete and can cross off the list, there is always 15 more things to add. However, living in one of the most amazing cities in the world I often find myself forgetting to ‘email that guy about that internship’ or ‘call Grandma to catch up’ (because she has left 8 guilt-tripping messages) and find myself caught up in some San Francisco escapade. Somehow, I rarely find myself feeling guilty that certain “to do’s” linger on my list for weeks at a time, because honestly life is too damn short! And who knows where life is going to take us and when, before you know it you may be stuck in Birmingham, Alabama and we all know it won’t even begin to compare to our beloved San Francisco.

San Francisco has endless possibilities for eating, shopping, and adventuring… but sometimes the most satisfying thing is to find a ‘place’ to hide from the overwhelming, stressful hustle and bustle of city life. A perfect place to do this is on the tiptop of Telegraph Hill where you will find breath-taking panoramic views and 74-year-old Coit Tower. Coit Tower was built in 1933, and is dedicated to the SF firefighters who ‘fought a massive blaze’ after the devastating 1906 earthquake. Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill both have fascinating stories. Another fabulous place to see in SF is the Exploratorium, which is a public science museum, which has beautiful buildings like the Tactile Dome and the Palace of Fine Arts. Even Ocean Beach has endless activities to get involved in; including, surfing, kite flying, and bonfires.

However, it is not the 210-foot concrete tower, the science facts, the surfing, or the famous wild parrot flock that resides on the hill that draw me to these various places in San Francisco. When I am stressed out and trying to hide from everything and everyone, I run away… and go the top of Telegraph Hill or the benches outside the Exploratorium and so on. These places are my escape; the views are spectacular and the people watching are to die for. If I have one suggestion for any of you, it is to find a place like this of your own.

Does somebody have a case of the Mondays?

Have you ever wanted to be invisible, to be able to walk through a crowded party unnoticed as if you never existed? It’s possible, believe me, I’ve done it hundreds of times. Just this past weekend I invisibly visited three parties, unnoticed.

You may ask, how is this possible? Well, it’s easy and anyone can do it if they really want to. All you have to do is become a caterer (actually take any job in the service industry and you will become invisible).

Now, you may say to yourself, “Wow, that sounds great I want to be invisible too!” Before you jump in head first into invisibility let me fully disclose what being invisible entails.

People are unable to see you unless;
1. They need something from you, this can include: drink/food requests, being asked to fix overflowing toilets or any other type of janitorial duties, moving furniture, going to the store, washing dishes, unwanted sexual advances etc…
2. They want to tell you a lame joke that usually puts you down in one way or another.
3. They want to complain. Be warned, this can be very confusing at first because the complaints almost never have anything to do with you, you are just the person to file any and all complaints to.
4. This rarely ever happens, but, there are a few people who will be able to see you as the true living person that you are.

You Can't Always Believe a Bad Review

After her book, Sex and the City, was reviewed by a famed New York Times critic, the Manolo obsessing Carrie Bradshaw posed a thought provoking question, “why do we believe our worst reviews?” And in today’s web 2.0 world of Yelp, Citysearch, Menupages, and Zagat, reviews matter more than ever. But why should a bad review of a restaurant from a complete stranger overrule our sneaking curiosity that only seems to build with every passing? Is it possible that these non-critics are just too critical? This past Saturday, for my friend Rebecca’s 23rd birthday, we disregarded the bad reviews of the restaurant Tortilla Heights, and ended up having a wildly enjoyable dining experience.

Located on the corner of Divisadero and Bush in lower Pacific Heights, Tortilla Heights, is a Mexican restaurant whose sizzle isn’t only found in the fajitas. “The fajitas were damn good!” Said Rebecca. “And they went well with the delicious margaritas.” The “delicious margaritas” which rated an 8.6 out of 10 on Citysearch, are made out of the over 50 different types of tequila that Tortilla Heights carries. But don’t be fooled into thinking tequila is confined to the bustling bar, shot glasses are gathered on each dinning room table, and when the waitress first came to serve our party she was quick to alert us of the special, four dollar tequila shots. Triggering a flashback of the debauchery that is spring break in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where shots are shoved down your throat by whistle bearing waiters, I was relieved to see our waitress simply set the shots down on the table (I, of course, stuck with water).

Tequila (and water) weren’t the only things going down smooth at Tortilla Heights. My friends were happily and rapidly consuming tex-mex styles of quesadillas, taco salads, and enchiladas that caused my friend Josh to say, with his mouth crammed full, “this is so good!” With good food, good friends, and good fun, the Tikki themed Tortilla Heights set the tone for the rest of the night. “The atmosphere was full of people having fun and drinking, that put everyone in a good mood,” said my friend, Jennifer.

So, despite the two and a half star rating on Yelp or a review titled, “bad food, expensive, horrible service and management” on Citysearch, we thoroughly enjoyed our time spent at Tortilla Heights, the ideal place for a group party. Therefore you can’t always believe a bad review. Besides, where else are you going to find a birthday bowl of vanilla ice cream served with a side of tequila?

Time Machines

It hasn't started 'til the fat toothless lady starts laughing.

Across the street from the Fisherman's Grotto where the savory aroma of boiled seafood wafts in the air and hopeful seagulls coast overhead waiting for a snack is San Francisco's Musee Mecanique. Hidden behind swarms of tourists and the original Boudin Sourdough bakery, on Pier 45, the museum features 200+ working coin operated machines from the 1800s to the present day video games. Previously located at the lower level exterior of the Cliff House, the museum moved to the pier during the renovation of the restaurant in 2002.

According to owner Daniel Galland Zelinsky, who can be found in the maintenance room in the back wearing dark blue overalls and a big name tag that reads I work here, Musee Mecanique has been around for 70+ years. It was first started by his father, Edward Galland Zelinsky, who wanted to share his collection of mechanically operated machines with others. From mutoscopes and player pianos to dioramas, the museum showcases a myriad of coin machines from around the world. San Francisco history can also be found here, among other things, in a towering, robust mannequin with wild red hair and a toothless grin named Laughing Sal, who was located at Playland at the beach from 1940 to 1972.

'Because it's old school technology, it's a good way to experience it," Dan said, "if you look at the historical aspect, the machines nowadays are made the same way using quarters, nickels, and dimes."

The shrieks of pain and laughter from the Addams Family electric shock machine. The awe and wonderment of a mechanized toothpick carnival made by inmates of a California State Prison at the turn of the century. The amusing effort of many trying to beat the arm wrestling machine that Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries effortlessly defeat. These are just some of the things you can encounter at the Musee Mecanique. Whether they're 5 years old or 90, many visitors enjoy this place. With their free admission and myriad of entertaining coin machines ranging from a penny to a quarter, it's not hard to see why.

Thrown Out The Window

Defenestration: 1: a throwing of a person or thing out of a window 2: a usually swift dismissal or expulsion (as from a political party or office)

Crab-like and tweakerish, a yellow chair scuttled up the brick side of the building, yet another cracked out inhabitant of 6th Street’s. A coffee table bearing suicidal tendencies leapt from the roof, an old wardrobe twisted out of a window and reprimanded the street lurkers below, while a grandfather clock peered up at the sky inquiring after the weather. If there were one thing to go see in San Francisco it is this, Brian Goggin’s art installation, opened March 9th 1997, that represents “to be literally thrown out the window”.

A neighborhood that has fallen into irreversible disrepair looks entirely average in its seediness until one has glanced up at the building on the corner of 6th and Howard. It would seem a nearly hallucinogenic vision of the furniture from Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast" has come to life.

Take a minute to glance about, and when you’ve done that you may understand the inspiration of this particular piece of art. His clever choice in title (The Defenestration Project) reflects the 6th Street community perfectly. Almost every person who lives on, or frequents 6th has been thrown out the window by society. Fiending drug addicts, old forgotten grandparents, and inexplicably shunned individuals have one similarity amongst them… funds are seriously lacking and there is no way of changing that.

For an exclusive interview with the supposed son of the artist, 60-year-old veteran and street vendor of sorts (inventory consisting of considerable lengths of dirty yarn, and bottle caps), and hopefully an interview with the artist himself (Brian Goggin, who bears no relation whatsoever to the veteran), once it is up and running-check out SneakySalamander.

Driving that Train

In the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the premier modes of public transportation is the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART. Run by an elected board of supervisors from each of nine geographic locations at a total yearly cost of $1.6 billion, BART services an area spanning the distance between San Francisco International Airport, SFO, to points in the East Bay as far away as Fremont, Pleasanton, Richmond and Bay Point. In any one of 43 stations, patrons will find an atmosphere that has become the great equalizer. Businesspeople ride alongside soccer moms. College students and tourists listen to the underprivileged and the homeless play the guitar and the didgeridoo for spare change. Commuters travel from all parts of the Bay Area to reach jobs in San Francisco, and still others make the reverse commute to the East Bay.

I am among the roughly 323,000 passengers BART services every weekday, as I use the service to make the commute from my home in Emeryville to the University of San Francisco. Though the trip can be long, the BART leg of the journey is the fastest and most reliable. The BART employees are courteous and attentive, and the train schedules allow for a variety of options in terms of destinations and arrival times.

Also, because the BART train system is the central artery around which the Bay's transit system is situated, the various stations act as hubs for further travel to various points of interest along the way. I have used BART to connect to many local bus services, from MUNI and SamTrans on the peninsula, to AC Transit, Emery-Go-Round and Wheels in the East Bay. Passengers can also use the system to connect to other transit systems, like Golden Gate Transit, to connect to VINE, which serves the North Bay, and CalTrain, with stops along the peninsula from downtown San Francisco to San Jose.

Though riding public transportation can be a chore sometimes, with the longer commute times relative to driving, in an age of global warming and rising gas prices, it can become the only sane alternative. There is also something to be said for mass transit's ability to create a melting pot of different cultures and classes. People from all walks of life frequent the BART station. It is here that people go to reach whatever destination life takes them.

One of BART's workers, Steve, said it is of paramount importance to get used to unusual occurrences in a BART station, because when you throw together people from different backgrounds, there are bound to be interesting results. Steve said that one major problem is people's responses to the homeless, who often frequent BART stations to panhandle, sell Street Sheets or play music for money. Sometimes, people come to BART employees expecting them to do something about homeless people asking for change. Unless they are being overly aggressive, there is nothing that BART can, or in Steve's opinion, should do about the situation.

"Most of the homeless are nice to people," he said. "You just have to get used to the shock and reality."

BART stations provide a slice of life in one of America's most diverse cities, showcasing both the economic hardship of areas like the Mission, and the affluence of places like the financial district. Because BART connects these two disparate neighborhoods and scores of others on a railway system that passengers can ride for as little as $1.40, this blending of society will remain the hallmark of BART. It is a hallmark that is here to stay as long as the heartbeat of the city pumps its life into the veins of public transportation.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pace Yourself

In an image obsessed world, how well do we really know our bodies?

Someone once told me that our bodies are capable of doing 50% more than our minds realize. Runners seem to understand this fact very well.

That someone was Tamara Johnson, a good running friend who I have been training with since last August. She is a marathon runner, with more than 25 under her belt, and to challenge herself more, she is getting into ultra running. It was her first 50 mile race and as her pacer of the last 23 miles, I can say that she kicked some a** out there.

A pacer is someone who runs with the person running in the race to hold their energy powders and water bottle and to encourage them along when they become so exhausted finishing seems utterly impossible. I ran in front of Tamara encouraging her along, reminding her to drink water and eat, and chatted her ear off.

You know the saying rain or shine? Well, when it comes to racing, they certainly aren’t kidding. Saturday morning 500 runners lined up in the dark and rain in for the American River 50, a foot race that goes from Sacramento to Auburn. The times ranged from 6.5 hours straight for the winner, about 9-10 hours for the average runner, and up until 13 hours for those struggling along. Tamara finished in 9.5 hours, which, as one of her reasons for running, qualified her for the Western States 100 mile race next June. (The Western States is a whole other story…) Her other reason for running is “because I can.”

I accept that as a great answer because, though I’ve never run 50 miles, I’ve felt that fatigue and kept going during marathons and numerous training runs. It’s an amazing thing to realize what our bodies are actually capable of. Running is about ignoring your mind trying to hold you back and to surge on using all the physical force you have. It’s about feeling your legs come to life as if they have been injected with springs, to feel your breath run through you, to watch your muscles become stronger and your body change to be capable of taking on so many miles.

It’s crazy on so many levels, but it is fun. All those people wouldn’t be out there putting themselves through that if they didn’t enjoy it. Technically, they’re all addicted to the endorphins, but they are also addicted to the accomplishment that they alone did something unthinkable. They overcame a challenge that seems physically impossible to most people and walked away smiling (and it’s not because they were all handed a nice fleece jacket from North Face). No one runs 50 miles just for the jacket and no one would do it if there was a trophy involved either. All those runners accomplished something for themselves that they knew was great. And that’s why they do it.

Sloshing through the mud, getting drenched with rain, running along a trail with the American River by my side, and feeling pretty tired but strong at the same time, had me thinking about the human body. Not in the way our culture has trained us to think but in a way that made me realize that we can always do more than we think. Here was an event where it didn’t matter that everyone was covered in mud and sweat because when they come through the finish line, no one’s expecting anyone to look good. They praise what you did, and that’s a refreshing reward.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Someone's watching you...!

I was excited that looking at ‘mapping softwares’ was our homework, mainly because last year my roommate and I used to always look stuff up on Google Maps (So, being the dork I am I have some background on the whole ‘Google map’ thing.) Although, I never added a map or anything like that, so this project will be good to further my previously acquired ‘mapping’ knowledge.

The satellite option on ‘Google Earth’ is awesome, but if you think about it…kinda creepy! For example, when my friend Kristi from home ‘Google maps’ her house in Crete, IL if you zoom in as far as it will let you, you can see her and her x-boyfriend in the driveway standing next to his yellow Ferrari. Like I said, really cool, but who took that picture…weird huh?

Web 2.0 and all of the interactive abilities that come along with it, has really opened up consumer possibilities. Web 2.0 is crucial for our DJ class success! Google Maps & Google Earth are perfect softwares, because they are easy to use and an ample amount of ‘accessories’ (so to speak).

G Map’s also include all the necessary tools for DJ to personalize our very own map:
* Mark your favorite places on your map.
* Draw lines and shapes to highlight paths and areas.
* Add your own text, photos, and videos.
* Publish your map to the web.
* Share your map with friends and family.


Candy's Success was No Piece of Cake!

The interview with travel writer, Candy Harrington, really caught my attention. As I have always wanted to be a writer, it is cool to read about a woman who had the same dreams as little girl. Although I want to write about the fashion industry, travel writing is amazing and Harrington shed some serious light on the pros and cons of her job.

One thing that Harrington mentioned a time or two was how back when she ‘got her first big break’ the industry was not so competitive. That could not be more true. However, that is really scary when it is the industry I hope to make an impact on in my life. The 21st century has changed so many things and made so many advances; namely technology (the Internet) which has cast a huge shadow over ‘print journalism.’

Harrison also talked about the challenges that her job brings. She described the pressures of running a business, writing, and maintaining her relationship with her husband were the major challenges she faces. Although I am not married and probably won’t be for a long time, I have always worried about how being a journalist will effect my ‘marriage.’ Due to much required traveling, covering breaking news stories in the middle of the night, and a lot of time ‘away’ in general. It was comforting to hear about a successful woman who was facing this same challenge.

Harrison shared her best advice for ‘breaking in’ and said it is important to “Establish yourself as an expert in a specific niche.” I think that is perfect advice. Although, I am pretty sure her advice was meant for travel writers, I think that’s true for writers across the board (i.e. fashion writers). Freelancing and covering odd jobs is a good way to break in. But showing passion and knowledge about the subject you want to cover will make it much easier to find a job where you can write about what your interested in. Which I think is the key to being successful and happy!

Reliving what seems like a century ago

Beautiful tan people from all over the world sitting on the bright sandy beaches with only bikini bottoms, speedos, or nothing at all. Welcome to life in the Cote d'Azur, also known as the South of France. In Roselyn's blog titled, Cannes Film Festival, May 2004, she relives the warm, sunny days when she ate good food, rubbed shoulders with celebrities, and walked the famed red carpet to attend a couple of screenings.

In May of 2004, representing Anthony's Grand Cellars as an invited guest of Baron Philippe de Rothschild Wines, Roselyn was able to attend the annual Cannes Film Festival. She stayed at the posh Martinez Hotel, on the same floor as actresses Kathleen Turner and Tilda Swinton, members of the Cannes Film Festival jury headed by the eccentric Quentin Tarantino.

Wining and dining at numerous restaurants and sitting out on the hotel's private beach area weren't the only things she got to do. She also was able to attend two film screenings (a French film by Emir Kusturica called Zivot Je Cudo [Life is a Miracle] and Shrek 2) and walk the famed, le tapis rouge, the red carpet with other celeb while being the center of attention of adoring fans and photographers.

Reading this blog made me remember when I was there in May of 2004, studying extensive french at the College International de Cannes. I took a bullet train with some of my classmates from Paris, where I studied for a semester (and where it rained the last couple of days I was there). Five hours and a bus ride later, I was in warm, sunny, beautiful Cannes.

It seemed like life there was all about laying on the beach, eating good food, sailing away, and partying with friends. Even the students at the college, who were all from different parts of the world, acted as if life in college was all about having fun. Tanned girls wearing bikinis played volleyball, while well toned (and surprise! tan) guys wearing nothing but shorts would sit outside flexing their muscles hoping for a girl to notice. This was the life.

Amidst the "Comment-allez vous?" and "Je suis fatigue/" of our 6/7 hour days, my friends and I attended Film a la Plage (screenings on the beach), befriended numerous Cannes-ians, lazed away our days on the beach drinking beer and smoking foreign brand cigarettes, and even had a few celebrity sightings (Cameron Diaz, Quentin Tarantino, Mike Myers just to name a few).

It was a wild time. Looking back now, it seems like ages ago. But for one moment, Roselyn's blog made me remember and took me out of the cold and fog, to a place of warmth and sunshine.

It's Not Just Earth ... It's Google Earth

As CNET's Elsa Wenzel notes in her review of Web 2.0 mapping software, the effectiveness of any mapping software lies not just in the application itself, but also in the purpose for which it is being used. With so many different mapping sites, from old stalwarts like MapQuest to newer sites like Google Maps and Windows Live Local, it can be difficult to choose which one to use. Each has its own particular benefits and concomitant quirkiness. All of the various mapping websites offer directions. Some, like Yahoo Maps and Windows Live Local, integrate live traffic information, which can help avoid trouble spots and give a more accurate driving time prediction. MapQuest remains among the most popular, in spite of the fact that newer mapping sites have surpassed it in features, precisely because it is so old and people are used to using it. Google Maps and Google Earth, the first of the new crop of mapping sites, were the first to open up their source code, allowing for the proliferation of mashups for everything from locating real estate to pinpointing disease outbreaks. Windows Live Local can also be interesting in that it showcases a "birds-eye view," a 2-D or 3-D view of certain cities showing all four sides of buildings, rather than just their roofs as in a satellite view.

Ultimately, for our purposes, the only ones worth consideration are Windows Live Local, Google Maps' My Maps, and Google Earth. This is because these are the only mapping systems that allow users to mark their maps with text, photos and videos. In the final analysis, Google Earth wins out for several reasons. First, Windows Live Local, while perhaps the most sophisticated with it's "birds-eye view" software and live traffic updates, these features are not particularly necessary for our class activities. What's more, many of Live Local's features require Windows to operate, and when zooming, sometimes the frame rate can be slow enough that it's jarring.

Google Earth, like Google Maps' My Maps, allows users to integrate their own content. It uses the same natural language interface, which allows for easier and faster searches. It also starts out with a beautiful NASA image of the entire globe, and features smooth zooming software with no pixelation. The software, which is a downloadable program, also comes with many pictures and links to sites like Wikipedia already built into its maps, giving users additional information about the places they are mapping. These features make Google Earth my choice for our maps projects.

5:23 AM

I looked at the blog, "My Year of Getting Published" and read an interview with a travel writer. The "kiwi writer" interviewed Candy Harrington, a travel writer who wrote two books, There is Room in the Innand Barrier Free Travel. The Kiwi writer asked questions about how she got started, her big break her biggest challenge, and any advice she has for people hoping to get into travel writing.

Harrington's challenges are running her business while on the road and maintaining her health. She says that a sense of humor is essential. Her advice to writing hopefuls is to get a staff position to learn the ropes and to build up a network. "never, ever stop marketing yourself. Writing is the easy part -- selling yourself is harder." Harrington is the editor of the magazine "Emerging Horizons," which is a resource for people with physical disabilities who travel.

I really enjoy the advice and the people the kiwi writer seeks out to interview and we can learn a lot from her and her interviewees.

On International Affairs

BuzzMachine had an interesting post that captured my attention not so much because of the content, but more so the response it received. The blog itself is concerning the optimism that European Media has in regards to the future of News.

Now, I realize that Internet is universal, it is globalized, packaged and marketed to mankind everywhere but… this failed to fully register until I read a comment from a German blogger responding to what Jeff Jarvis had written.

Hmm… will we here at USFblogtastic attract an international audience? We can only hope so. Something else I was considering was language barrier. How long will it be before there is a link we can hit on blogger to instantaneously translate the blog into any desired language? (Or does that already exist?)

In Regards to Mapping: I am definitely a fan of Platial mapping because well, it’s “The Peoples Atlas”. And it truly is, the detail one can include in Platial maps is astounding. It isn’t just any map; Platial is a handbook to your neighborhood, city, state, and world. You can find a good restaurant around your block on Platial OR you can look up an obscure city in some foreign country thousands of miles away.

It's a Two-Way Street

He still has a great teaching blog on the advancements and excitement of web 2.0, he still has the credentials to back it up, and he is still feevy worthy. However, after reading several of the posts by Dan Cohen on his blog, and listening to the first episode on his podcast, Digital Campus, my attention seemed to keep veering from the informal discussion on the changing forms of media to Sanjaya's latest American Idol performance (my friend is a die hard fan). As a result, I decided to redirect my attention to a different blog, allDAY, which is the Today Show anchor’s blog.

In a post made yesterday, by jolly weatherman Al Roker, his rarely seen serious side came out as he expressed his opinions on the recent uproar concerning Don Imus and the comments he made regarding the Rutgers women’s basketball team. In the post, Roker says that Imus remarks, and similar instances where humor is used as a weapon at the expensive of others, is inexcusable and needs to have serious consequences rather than just a “slap on the wrist,” said Roker. Roker’s post has created an uproar all on its own, as comments about the post began flooding the blog, to the extent that an Editor’s note was made, stating, “we’re trying to post as many comments as possible, but it’s hard to keep up.” Roker’s post resulted in such strong reactions that he sat down with a Today Show online correspondent to talk about the comments posted on the entry, which can now be viewed on the Today Show website.

This blog is a great example of web 2.0 working as a conversation. Roker expressed his opinions, hundreds of viewers responded with their own feelings, and then Roker sat down for an interview about the viewer's response to his post, all in the same day. Like Roker, I found myself reading comment after comment after comment, which in my opinion, ended up being more interesting than the original post that evoked them. This illustration of blogs operating as a two-way conversation street, was an exciting and optimistic way to see the era of web 2.0, which is to often characterized as scary and bleak.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words ... Just So Long as They're the Truth

Photojournalist Allan Detrich resigned from his job at the Toledo Blade yesterday amid controversy over a doctored photo published recently in the paper. The photo, taken at a Bluffton University Baseball game, depicts the players kneeling in prayer prior to their game, their first since a tragic bus accident killed five teammates on March 2nd. Several photographers captured the moment from remarkably similar angles, and each picture shows a pair of legs behind one of five jerseys hung along the fence in remembrance of the fallen students – each picture, that is, except Detrich's.

After some investigation, curious journalists at other newspapers found out that the legs in question belong to freelance photojournalist Madalyn Ruggiero, who was working for the Chicago Tribune during the game. Ruggiero insists that she never left the scene, a story confirmed by other photographers at the scene.

When confronted with the inexplicable differences, Detrich initially denied doctoring the photo. After he met with his editors and they inspected his laptop, he changed his story, admitting to doctoring the photo. He claimed to have inadvertently sent the photo to his editors after changing the picture for his own personal use. He had no explanation for why he would change the picture while under deadline without the intent to submit the doctored version, and said that he had forgotten about doing so when he was first questioned.

Detrich's distinguished career spans a quarter century. His work garnered him recognition as Photographer of the Year from the Ohio News Photographers Association, and his photo essay, "Children of the Underground," was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Feature Photography.

It is unfortunate that such a long and lauded career should be cut short by an incident like this, but as Mindy McAdams writes in her Teaching Online Journalism blog, "the moral of the story is that in a 24/7 digital world, a journalist is always one click away from a serious error that would put false information before the public." Detrich's story should be a cautionary tale for future journalists. You may think that changing something trivial is too small a lie to matter, but your audience demands absolute integrity and has a right to expect it.

Tipping the Scales of Justice

On April 10, Josh Marshall added a new post to his blog on the unfolding Justice Department scandal. Marshall highlighted new aspects of the Department’s initiative to consolidate and politicize its power. Marshall wrote, “in addition to the no-senate-confirmation provision in the revised USA Patriot Act, there's also a new provision allowing the Attorney General to waive the residency requirements for US Attorneys. So the US Attorney for, say, Omaha can do his job from Washington, DC.” The Justice Department and its political allies have argued that none of the department’s actions have been political. However, the firings, the lack of senate confirmations, and the use of out-of-state U.S. Attorneys paint a very different picture.

The initial story of the U.S. Attorney firings was broken in large part due to the work of’s sister site Bob Garfield on NPR’s On the Media spoke with's Paul Kiel last month about his early newsbreaking coverage of the scandal and the role the blogosphere plays in modern politics. Kiel summed up the significance of this scandal and why it is important for the public to be aware of it. “One of the points that comes out of this scandal is that once you see that the rule of law is not the rule of the Justice Department, that prosecutors are being viewed in a political light, every decision becomes suspect,” said Kiel.

vide, yo

not to steal eva's thunder but i found this video on and figured it'd have a place here

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Place Where the Dead Are Alive

A jar of Gefilte fish and a Chinese takeout box fill Sally Marie Mendelowitz's niche, while Lily J. Moy's is centered around a baseball field, complete with painted onlookers. These are just a couple of the thousands of niches found in San Francisco's Columbarium, a resting place for cremated remains.

Located off Anza Street on Loraine Court just a few blocks away from USF, the 109 year old columbarium is hidden among residential homes. It is the only cemetery in the Richmond District and the last remaining landmark left that was part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery which spanned 27 acres. Along with other cemeteries that encompassed San Francisco, it had to be relocated to Colma after the city's board of supervisors prohibited further burials and sales of cemetery lots in 1902.

Designed by B.J.S. Cahill and built in 1898, the Greek and Roman inspired three-story building is the final resting place of early San Francisco's many founding families. According to caretaker and tour guide Emmitt Watson, the building fell into disrepair throughout the years after being passed from one organization to another. For thirteen and a half years the columbarium was abandoned until 1980 when the Neptune Society bought it and Watson was brought on to restore the old building. "This was one nasty, filthy place," said Watson. He described finding the building infested with mushrooms, fungus, and mold. He also found pigeons and raccoons living inside, as well as a homeless man trying to make a fire in the entryway.

Although the floors, walls, and urns have been cleaned up and he has uncovered beautiful mosaic tiles, stained glass windows, intricately carved walls, and shiny (bronze, marble, brass, and silver) urns, he said that there is still a lot to be done. Watson pointed out that he painted the walls with light colors because he wanted to brighten up the place, to make it pleasing to those who visited. "When you say cemetery, people think dark and cold. I wanted it to represent life."

Watson, who said he is known as "the man that keeps the dead alive," watches over approximately 7,500 niches, some with "residents" and others on reserve. Throughout his 20 years of working at the columbarium, he has formed a connection with its present and future residents, finding out their stories and telling visitors about them. He pointed to a niche with two fresh tomatoes on flower holders and shared the story of the couple who grew tomatoes in their backyard. When the wife died, the husband would always put a fresh tomato at her niche. After he passed away, close to four years ago, Watson has taken over the duty of replacing the tomatoes. "That's what they wanted. How can I not do what they wanted?" he said. He nicknamed the couple the "Tomato King and Queen."

Preferring to call the niches "apartments," "condos" (for the bigger ones), and "penthouses" (for the niches within the dome), Watson makes death something that shouldn't be dreaded. Many of the niches follow in the same way, each personalized with pictures and mementos, some even revolve around themes. This is what makes this columbarium different from others, in that visitors can get to know some of the people interred there.

Aside from being a place where ashes are kept, the columbarium also rents out their space for memorials, parties, and weddings. Among the Shattucks, Haights, Bacon Boggs, Steiners, and Eddys (and even Carlos Santana's father), the living can visit and celebrate with the pioneers of San Francisco and some "famous" people. How do some of the guests feel about this? "Some of 'em react weird, some of 'em walk out the door," Watson said, "they don't realize that the dead are the best people to be around. What they gonna do to you?"

After 15 years, when Watson turns 62, he plans to retire. But until then, he plans to keep restoring the "one-of-a-kind" historical building and it's inhabitants, keeping their memory alive, and comforting people's qualms about death.

Bring Your Own Big Wheel

Lined up and revving fantastical motors, roughly 150 full grown adults in ridiculous attire big-wheeled it down the illustrious Lombard, crookedest street in all of the United States. At exactly four-o-clock Easter Sunday, a race of epic proportions took place leaving behind the carnage of tiny plastic toys.

Similar to a twisted movie, I found myself staring at Mario, Luigi, a drunken Santa, a man self-sponsored by Jagermeister, and a Lego person barreling down, leaving only a split instant to jump out of the way. This past Easter was the seventh year that the “Bring Your Own Big Wheel” event took place. Formerly an illusive affair, this past Sunday it had blown up in publicity. Three “heats” or sets of 50 people flew down the street three times. Semi organizer of the occasion, Jonathan Kakatek dressed as Mario (character from Nintendo’s Mario Cart) said, “last year there was thirty people and this time it’s just out of hand… it was easier to control before”.

The actual founder of the event could not be found but through word of mouth it was discovered that his name is John. He began the big wheel race seven years ago and awarded the courageous winners with his own hand made prizes. Sadly, there were no gifts given this past Sunday, the individuals with the most panache and grit went home empty handed but relishing their eternal glory.

“It was crazy this year, neighbors are pissed off and we don’t even know who won the event”, said a friend of Kakatek’s. Aside from the few disgruntled neighbors peering over their balconies and the concerned coordinators, no one seemed to mind the extreme confusion and disorganization, “it doesn’t matter how you did, it doesn’t matter who won, it doesn’t matter who put this thing together. This is all about breaking the norms and having a great time… and well, we did that,” said Kim, a spectator there to cheer on her boyfriend. Moments later, her boyfriend was destroyed by the Luigi imposter who slammed into him, causing a five big wheel pile up.
San Francisco commemorated the religious day by having an all out, gory race on neon kid-cycles. Typical of the city and true to “San Franciscan Values”, Easter was by no means an ordinary affair. But don’t think that religion was entirely neglected; Easters true sentiments were recognized when Jesus made his own special celebrity appearance dressed in full traveling messiah attire on a hot pink Barbie big wheel. An enthusiastic fellow big wheeler hi-fived him and yelled “Jesus! You’re alive, and now I’m going to own your ass in the next race.”

When the race had ended, a few insane participators decided to depart with all the class and daring they could possible muster. They rode off down the next (unsafely steep) hill, through two intersections and left behind a scattering of infuriated cars that had screeched to halts in order to avoid what could have been a disaster. There was no prominent first place winner this past Easter, but several breakneck speed daemons reserved a spot for themselves in history, going down as some of the bravest souls to ever careen down the crookedest street in the U.S.