Month: September 2009

A marvelously literary, techtastic, thinkalicious day

Thanks to the lovely Sherry and Melissa and their ticket procurement, this morning our book babes posse (Sherry, Melissa, Dana, Ashley, and myself) headed to the Kitchener Public Library for a reading and whatnot by Margaret Atwood.

Her appearance had a two-fold purpose: a stop on her Year of the Flood book tour, and as the kick-off to KW’s The Word on the Street festivities.

Good times were had by all. The Year of the Flood is a tale that occurs simultaneously with Oryx and Crake, which is my favourite Atwood book. Ms. Atwood is as smart, funny, and knowledgeable as expected. And there was even singing! (There are hymns in the book and she demo’d one.)

The interview part of the presentation was unfortunate, as the interviewer seemed unprepared and out of his league on a number of levels. She went easy on him, I think, but not 100%, which I think was fair, and, I admit, left us cackling a bit evilly.

Sherry has a more detailed account of the festivities.

After the presentation there was a signing, so Sherry and Ashley got books signed and we had fun making fun of the romance and sci. fi and romantic sci. fi books in the carousels while we waited.

Margaret Atwood, signing Sherry's copy of Year of the Flood

After heading back to Andrew’s to switch up my laundry, I headed home briefly to grab a bite to eat, check out a map of UW to determine where to park, and then was off to grab a tea and Smile Cookie at Timmy’s (yay, Smile Cookies!) before arriving at the university for Cory Doctorow’s lecture as part of his Independent Studies Scholar in Virtual Residence gig. The crowd was an interesting mix of students, alumni, older folks, and Cory Doctorow’s parents. 🙂

Delightfully, he’s an awesome speaker, too, combining great storytelling with stupendous intellect and the occasional well-placed geek joke. The time absolutely flew. And the Q&A was, blessedly, much smarter than at Atwood’s talk. (The fault did not lie with Ms. Atwood in that case…)

As for what he talked about, mainly his primary schtick. The history of copyright and its evolution (or failure to evolve…) Public vs. Private. Who owns what and when. The internets as the biggest copying machine ever, and The Powers That Be’s attempts to suppress that (laughably unsuccessfully). Some talk about his own experiences with his work and those he’s met and their various attitudes and stories. The aforementioned geek jokes… The talk will be online, so I’ll link it up when that happens.

Got me thinking a fair bit, too, about the fringes — those who are spearheading, intentionally or inadvertently, the (r)evolution of the dissemination and transformation of information and creativity. I considered the theatre people I’ve known (and that environment when I was in it), and the discussion about online marketing with people in the fringe porn business (at the Buck Angel presentation).

Many of them would love “mainstream success”, but aren’t allowed to have it. Either they don’t have the money to buy into the right machine, or what they do isn’t deemed acceptable or marketable by the aforementioned Powers That Be, or they don’t have the expertise to connect to, manage and manipulate the right channels — the list goes on.

So they’re forced to try and make their living outside the commercial box, however they can, and lo — a new world of business was born. One that didn’t need the folks who said “you can’t play in our sandbox”. Hell, they didn’t even need the sandbox. There’s the joke that tech innovation online is driven by porn, and it’s well-known that many revolutions have been driven by people in the arts, people who already live on the fringes.

But what I started wondering was how many (r)evolutions have happened due to intentional, passionate, angry instigators and participants, and how many happened almost accidentally. Simply because those who turned everything on its head weren’t allowed to play the game they had been told was the only game in town. And they couldn’t pick a new, more acceptable game (in theatre school they repeatedly said not to do it unless it was the only thing you wanted, and you really wanted it) and refused to starve (either physically or creatively), so they found alternative routes and means.

Cory Doctorow, UW Independent Studies lecture

Might I note that the only person I’ve met with a bigger watch than Mr. Doctorow wears is Steve Wozniak, but damned if I could get a clear picture of it. Also, Mr. Doctorow has apparently dropped out of four universities. Two more than I have! Gotta catch up! 🙂

A handful more photos from the day’s literary events are here.

As I tweeted as well, definitely want to thank both of them for their presentations. We frequently bemoan the state of culture here in KW, so a day as stimulating as this is both very welcome, and shows that there is passion for the arts out there, across a wide range of demographics.

Pour me a glass, barkeep

Today at work we had a big launch: PostRank Analytics, if you’re curious.

Hectic and productive and things went pretty smoothly. A glass of wine at lunch helped with the tension headache. 🙂

Earlier this evening I saw a list of all the signups from today. With the product less than 24 hours old, whether or not all those people are paying customers after their 30-day free trials isn’t important (philosophically).

When you work at a 15,000-person insurance company, you’re isolated from most of what goes on in the business. And after 150 years or so, ain’t a whole lot of groundbreaking “new” going on.

At a startup, however, evolving from embryonic to profitable, it’s really educational. And can be pretty stressful sometimes. And things are less than new; they’re waiting for you to invent them. You’re also isolated from far less — the good, the bad, and the WTF?

Seeing a list of customers, real names of real people who took the time to sign up and provide credit card information, is something I highly recommend.

Because until that moment, even when you just spent the day talking to lots of people — answering questions and helping fix issues — it’s all abstract. But these people, most of whom are strangers, signed up for something our team built.

From this distance, it’s usually pretty easy to raise a supercilious eyebrow at the Silicon Valley crowd for the frequency and intensity with which they chug the Kool-Aid.

But sometimes I get it, and may become inclined to take a sip, too. 🙂

The annual Divas’ Cottage Weekend!

At long last, last weekend Sherry and I headed north to Wasaga and Kim’s family cottage for a couple days of eating, drinking, laughing, eating, drinking, trashy magazines, napping, eating, drinking, huddling around the fire, beach walks, eating, and drinking. 🙂

Alas, this year there only ended up being five of us, but we brought enough food and booze for 20 people for a week. We know what we’re doing…

And despite my immense crush on the charming and handsome Chevy Chase (the only man allowed to join our revels), I even managed to include a couple of pictures that aren’t of him.

Divas’ Cottage Weekend