Archive - 2009

December 8th

Making a Game out of Fighting the Flu

Yesterday and then again today, two competing ideas about dealing with how to fight the spread of H1N1 have been presented at press conferences. Yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, together with Ad Council President and CEO Peggy Conlon held a press conference call to discuss the importance of getting vaccinated against the H1N1. A set of new public service announcements have been made available at Yawn.

Meanwhile, the Federation of American Scientists are launching Immune Attack. On first glance, it looks like a three-dimensional first shooter game designed for high school age immunologists. The game was released in May 2008, and today, Dr. Melanie Stegman is presenting a poster session at the American Society for Cell Biology Annual Meeting. Not only have students learned cell biology from the game, but they’ve been inspired to create their own video games.

Dr. Stegman illustrates that not only should women be leaders in science, but that science can be cool, interesting, and fun. So, if you want to be bored into why you should get a flu vaccine, check out the HHS PSA. If you want to be engaged in why you should get a flu vaccine, check out the FAS game. If you really want to make a difference, get your local high school biology teachers to start incorporating games like Immune Attack into their curriculum.

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Free, as in Hard Cider

On two different mailing lists recently, the discussions between Gratis and Libre, or “Free, as in Beer” versus “Free as in Speech” has come up. Since I’ve started making my own Hard Cider and giving away a fair amount of it, it struck me that thinking about Free Hard Cider provides an interesting way of exploring “Free, as in Beer”.

In many ways brewing hard cider is similar to writing blog posts. First, and foremost, I do both of them because I enjoy doing it. Then, I place my blog posts up on the Internet for anyone to freely read. While I’m less liberal with my hard cider, I also give away a fair amount of it.

If people like my blog posts, I am grateful when they add a comment in response to my blog posts, essentially, freely giving me information about their reactions or other information they think I might appreciate. If they buy something from one of my sponsors, thereby generating revenue for me, that is also appreciated.

In a similar manner, much of my cider is given away at pot luck events. We bring things that we like to make and give it away freely and others do the same thing. As a result, I often have a nice Mexican Layer Dip to eat with the cider that I drink.

Another interesting aspect of Free Hard Cider, which perhaps tells us something about production and distribution of other things is that the cost of the bottles is greater than the cost of the cider itself. In other words, the big expense is in distribution. To deal with this, I try to recover as many of my used cider bottles as possible to reuse them. In a similar manner, the cost of distributing the written words has always been expensive; printing presses, trucks to deliver the papers, newsboys to take the paper the final mile, and so on. Yet as more of the written word gets distributed online, the cost of distribution decreases. The same is applying to lots of things that can be delivered online and is causing many to rethink their pricing models. This has been a big issue in the news and music industries and is likely to spread.

Of course my cider production and blogging are avocational interests. What about the journalist who needs to get paid for his work? Are their ‘free’ models that could work in this manner? Some of my friends might see this as a return to bartering or some sort of socialist enterprise. Yet this presents an interesting way of rethinking our work. Would we be better off if more people worked at what they loved, in hopes of getting enough compensation to live instead of people toiling away at things they are less interested in out of a contractual obligation that provides them of a somewhat steady income stream?

Perhaps at a party someday soon, I’ll eat some Mexican Layer Dip, drink some cider, and discuss these ideas with friends. Until that time, feel free to leave your comments here.

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December 7th

Debugging Wave Server Configuration

Assuming you have gotten your Wave Server up and running, the big problem is managing to federate with other servers. I’ve spent a bit of time talking with various people about this on Google Wave and have had moderate success. With that, let me share a few of my thoughts and experiences with this.

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December 6th

The Tedium of Electoral Politics

As the battle for the Governor’s Seat in Connecticut heats up, so does the battle about how the election will be funded. On Friday Republicans announced their latest deficit mitigation package which

For the fourth time since they’ve been offering alternative budget plans to their majority party colleagues, the Republicans proposed eliminating the funding for the Citizens’ Election Program. Currently the fund has about $30 million in it, which would be used to help fund the 2010 elections.

Apparently, they would rather see a campaign for governor between two men from Greenwich that can self fund their campaigns.

Then, in the Hartford Courant today, Former Republican State Senator Kevin Rennie suggested that Election Finance Law Shackles Candidates. He suggested that “Raising that $250,000 from the thin ranks of Connecticut Republicans requires a taste for tedium.” Given the lack of substance in most Republican discourse I’ve heard over the recent months, I can understand why some would view discussions with Republicans tedious, but I would hope that anyone running for office would not find talking with their possible constituents, especially constituents in their own party, tedious.

Most candidates in the 2006 cycle reported that by participating in the Citizens’ Election Program, they spent more time talking to their possible constituents about the issues that matter most. First, they had to spend time talking to a wide array of low dollar donors, and then, when they had completed this, they were free to spend all their time talking about the issues, and not having to waste more time dialing large donors for dollars.

Yet perhaps it is this fear of having to talk about positions that worries Mr. Rennie and his friends the most. Ken Dixon, in a recent blog post wrote, Tom Foley Wants To Be Governor, But Needs Time To Say Why. Several people commented on Mr. Dixon’s post suggesting it was unfair for members of the media to want information about why a candidate is running for office.

Mr. Rennie seems to long for the days when donors could give up to $2,500 per person. He also goes on to say that “The campaign finance law championed by Rell, Fedele's ‘partner in government,’ bars many citizens from participating in politics.” The ‘many citizens’ that Mr. Rennie is so concerned about are the 622 registered lobbyists and their family members who are barred from making financial contributions to campaigns and for Mr. Rennie, ‘participating in politics’ seems to be limited to writing large checks.

I should note that I am the spouse of one of those 622 registered lobbyists. My wife is a Senior Organizer for Common Cause here in Connecticut. She continues to fight hard for the Citizens Election Program. The law does bar me from making financial contributions to the Gubernatorial campaigns. However, I believe there are much more important ways of participating in politics than writing checks, including discussing the issues that matter to the people of Connecticut.

This leads me to a final thought, for right now, about Mr. Rennie’s column. He ends off his column saying,

If there's an unexpected choice, someone who isn't rich but who advocates interesting ideas, he or she will have a hard time being heard. So many people are banned from participating that if you aren't rich, you're sentenced to months of scavenging for small contributions in the name of Jodi Rell's virtue.

I fail to comprehend this logic. If all the candidates, whether they have a rolodex of rich friends, or an email list of loyal supporters, are limited to spending the same amount of money, then everyone has the same chance of getting their message out. Of course, this will depend on members of the media, both old and new, to focus on the issues, the way Mr. Dixon and myself wish to do, instead of making sure that rich lobbyists can pay campaigns to hire expensive consultants and air expensive television advertisements, the way Mr. Rennie seems to think political coverage should be done.

(Cross posted at My Left Nutmeg.)

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December 5th

Bright Shiny Tools

While I never was diagnosed with ADHD, my approach to technology these days have felt a little bit like there is some sort of attention deficit disorder. I’ve found myself hoping from bright shiny tool to the next. As I started playing with yet another platform last night, I thought I would bring you along on my latest technological ramblings.

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