June 28, 2007
Enterprise 2.0 Talks

Seb, a buddy of mine, runs Altus Learning Systems, a company that take presentations and makes them into an easy to use format for the web. He recently helped sponsor Enterprise 2.0 and had his company record 14 presentations and has made them available on the web for free.

The presentations combine a video recording of the speaker, the slides of the presentation, and a full transcript of the talk. All time indexed, searchable, and with shuttle capability. There's even a way to speed up the talk to hear it faster than realtime. There are even links to download the content as MP3s, MP4s, Powerpoint, etc.

Dave Weinberger's talk is great, as expected. But the rest of the speakers are good as well. For free, what have you got to lose?

The presenter works best in IE, but it is Firefox and Mac compatible as well.

If only all tech conference's offered this kind of easy to use recording of talks...

Posted by michael at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)
June 20, 2007
Lonely Werewolf Girl

A few weeks ago I reviewed the Good Fairies of New York. Michele and I loved the book and I was excited to hear that the author Martin Millar was coming out with a new book called Lonely Werewolf Girl.

I pre-ordered a copy from the UK and it arrived just before I left on vacation.

Lonely Werewolf Girl - Martin Millar

This novel is about the royal family of werewolves that live in Scotland and England. From what I can tell, it exists in the same universe as the Good Fairies, but the fairies don't play much of a role in this story.

The author, Martin Millar, finds a way to weave rock 'n' roll and Scotch whisky into a story about werewolves and their intrigues.

The magic behind the werewolves is sensible and works to set some limitations, unlike other fantasy novels where nothing is plausible or consistent. The influence of the Moon and silver are all discussed to make a werewolf fan happy. You can imagine these werewolves living among us in the modern day.

While centering the main theme of the control of the werewolf clans, Millar touches on all sorts of other themes from couture fashion to teenage angst to multi-dimension merchants. He does a great job of moving back and forth from humor to serious events, never allowing the reader to get quite comfortable with guessing what's coming next.

I don't want to give away spoilers, but I will say that I respect the author's decision not to tie up every loose end in a nice little bow. While several major plot points are resolved, man of the other threads are left open for interpretation by the reader, and if we are lucky, a future novel. I blew through the book in two days and sincerely hope this is not the last we've heard of young Kalix MacRinnalch.

If you like your fantasy fiction with a bit of humor, you should by a copy of Lonely Werewolf Girl now.

Posted by michael at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)
June 18, 2007
Wear your helmet

I am on vacation with the family in the Outer Banks in North Carolina this week. Michele and I rented bikes and were riding back to the rental house when I heard a noise behind me. I glanced back to see another rider splayed in the middle of the road. He'd been clipped by a car.

I ran up to him and flagged the traffic to stop. He didn't respond to what I was saying to him at all. I called 911 and a woman ran up from a stopped car. Luckily for him (and me) she was a trauma nurse and held his head in place.

I held his hand as we waited as what seemed like a long time, but what actually was under 5 minutes for a team of paramedics to arrive. He kept squeezing my hand but couldn't respond to our words. The nurse and I talked to him and he only spoke once, telling us his name was Steven.

I have no doubt that without his helmet, I would have run up to him and found a dead man. Last year, my friend Lilo died in a bicycle accident when he wasn't wearing a helmet.

Please, please wear a helmet while riding your bicycle.

Posted by michael at 08:48 AM | Comments (4)
June 08, 2007
Pooh Camp Story, ver. egoboost

At the office, I helped (with a bunch of other people) get a version of the O'Reilly Foo Camp launched. Some people know the concept as an Unconference or Barcamp. Since we are Disney, we tweaked the name a bit to Pooh Camp to put our own spin on it (and to avoid infringing on O'Reilly IP ;) ). Actually we spoke with Tim O'Reily and Sara Winge when we did the first one. Sara explained that many of the concepts are from the book Open Space Technology.

The story covers the second Pooh Camp we threw. You can see the Pooh Camp Flickrstream for all kinds of pictures.

For my part, actually I mainly sat in a comfy chair pontificating while others did all the work to make it happen. Obviously, this leads to me being quoted in an article for Corporate Meetings and Incentives, a magazine for people that worry about Corporate Meetings and Incentives.

You can read the article online at the Meetingsnet.com site or you can download a PDF version of the story.

The PDF version is good with pictures of yours truly and a nice layout. You'll dig the nicely staged cover photo and the image of me with a bullhorn...

In either case, my mother will be happy.

Posted by michael at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)
June 04, 2007
Green Shrek Cheetos

Today I was heading home with Mira and we stopped by 7-Eleven for a snack. We were in the savory aisle when we spied this.

Yes, look closer...

Turn Thy Tounge Shrek Green!

This was impossible to resist so we picked up a couple bags and headed home. Food that changes the color of your body simply must be tested.

Taking a look, they look like normal Cheetos with the unnatural orange color and crumple shaped. Upon close examination, there is no hint of green.

Zoe snapped one in half and we saw a normal Cheetos color with no greeness.

So, into the mouth went the Cheetos.

Sure enough, Zoe's tongue was green after just 4-5 Cheetos.

I ate a half dozen and smushed them around my mouth. Again, the green tongue was in evidence. The Green Shrek Cheetos do turn thy tongue green!

We couldn't stop at this and had to get Piper the dog involved. We gave her a small bowl of Cheetos. She looked up at me as if to say, "This is a trap, right?"

Of course it was a trap, as I wrestled with the dog, braving her fangs, to get a photo of her green tongue. The Cheetos worked on the dog as well!

Zoe figured out that it was water activating the hidden green dye. Here you can see a couple of Cheetos floating in water with the green dye leaking out.

Well done Cheetos! The girls and I love them.

Posted by michael at 08:54 PM | Comments (7)
June 03, 2007
His Majesty's Dragon

Michele and I have been reading several of the Dresden Files, but Michele told me to slow down and let her get ahead in the series.

At the office, my co-worker Cyril, brought in a few extra books for anyone to read. One of them was Temeraire (known in the US as His Majesty's Dragon, Cyril had the UK version, obv) which I had actually seen in stores before. I picked it up and took it home.

His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik

This book introduces the central concept of the Temeraire Series, intelligent dragons coexisting with humans in the Napoleonic Era. I am a huge fan of novels of the Napoleonic Era also know as the Age of Sail. I've read all eleven Horatio Hornblower novels, a few of the Patrick O'Brien/Jack Aubrey novels and even a few of the Dewey Lambdin/Alan Lewrie books.

Starting off as a naval story, the plot quickly takes us into the fantasy of the Aerial Corps, the men, women, and dragons that form the military force in the air. Ms. Novik does a good job of slowly rolling out ideas and concepts in this area keeping the reader happy but without revealing answers to every question.

The writing is easy to read with and you can speed through without some of the usual jargonistic sentences that often mar the typical naval novel. There are some mental leaps like believing that a crew will man a dragon like a ship and crawl all over in flight with the use of carabiners to stay attached in flight. There are even boarding attempts from one dragon to another.

The first novel doesn't dwell much on the issues surrounding dragons and mainly focuses on the relationship between the rider and dragon and the viability of the world in which they exist.

After finishing the book, I wanted more. On Saturday morning I went to the library and picked up the next book. By about 11PM that night I had finished it. Yes, I read fast, but the book was fast and kept the plot rolling along.

Throne of Jade - Naomi Novik

This book continues the adventures of Temeraire the dragon and Laurence the rider. While also packed with action, the book dives into the issues of the rights of dragons and their place in society. The European take on dragons is one of focus on them as military weapons with little regard for their desires. Contrasted with the Asian view of dragons as not only citizens, but as valued members of society with many roles from commerce to politics to the military. The author also reminds the reader that at the time, the enslavement of humans was still a matter of real debate and legal in some of Europe at the time.

Ms. Novik doesn't take the easy way out and incorporate some quick fix to the problem. She sets the issue up as a continuing plotline in the series. There is a third book in the series with a fourth on the way. It will be interesting to see how these issues are dealt with in addition to the action scenes.

I recommend the series to anyone that likes historical fiction or fantasy.

Posted by michael at 08:18 PM | Comments (2)