Archive - 2011

December 6th

Occupy Cyberspace

Today, I saw a message on Twitter about the police shutting down Occupy Hartford. Interestingly enough, the first source on Twitter I saw talking about this was a traditional local news organization that has started using Twitter. I immediately sent a message to a Hartford City Counselor whom I know on Twitter and who has been supportive on the Occupy movement. He provided additional details to the story.

As far as I know, the encampment was shutdown without any major incidents. As I drove home from work, I listened to a story about the Occupy movement and how active it has been on Twitter. Occupy Hartford never seemed all that active on Twitter, and perhaps that is a contributing factor to the end of the encampment.

Twitter is changing a lot of the political discourse. As a whole, the occupy movement seems to have made good use of social media, even if Occupy Hartford didn’t. Issues that resonate, that are likely to be repeated, have the ability to emerge when others are trying to control the message, and that is, perhaps the real power of the occupy movement and the importance of occupying cyberspace.

A recent kerfuffle is illustrating this quite nicely. Chick-Fil-A has sent a cease and desist order to the guy who created the Eat More Kale T-shirts. They have trademarked ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ and are apparently concerned that people might confuse kale and chicken. The story is starting to get legs and the New York Times and NPR have both covered it. There is a YouTube video of Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin suggesting people from Chick-fil-a that don’t understand the difference between kale and chicken come up to Vermont where it will be explained to them.

Chick-fil-a has a press release out talking about the importance of defending the brand and the trademark. Unless someone backs down or a compromise is reached, the trademark will have to be defended in court, and Chick-fil-a’s ability to defend its trademark from kale eating artists in Vermont is questionable.

What is not questionable, is that Chick-fil-a doesn’t get the importance of occupying cyberspace. Yes, they are on Twitter with over 100,000 followers. @EatMorChikin is also on Twitter with around 7,500 followers. Yet when you look at the buzz, #teamkale seems to be out performing @chickfila today. They whether or not they successfully defend the ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ trademark against ‘Eat More Kale’, their current efforts are not successfully defending the brand.

Especially in this time of the occupy movement where the richest 1% and large corporations are vilified, it seems particularly a bad idea for a large fast food corporation to go after a small artist encouraging people to eat more healthy food. It just isn’t a winning narrative. Add to this, Chick-fil-a claiming to exist ‘to glorify God’, and they even more wide open to attacks. Is trying to shut down a small artist glorifying God? I don’t think so.

I have to wonder what is going on internally at Chick-fil-a. Is there someone in the organization who is pointing out that this has the potential to grow into an even larger public relations fiasco? Is there someone trying to reconcile this fiasco with glorifying God? Or, are they just going along with their lawyers and already in so deep that they just don’t see that it is well past time to stop digging?

Occupying cyberspace is about allowing people powered messages to emerge, messages that have a compelling narrative that people will repeat. Organizations need to think seriously about what this does to their business models.

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December 5th


Today is one of those days that was just too long. The day went quickly, but left me with little to write about and even less energy to try and conjure thoughts out of the air. There are fragments of ideas floating around, parts of dreams from last night that I can’t remember enough of or put into any context. Emails and social media messages that are important, but I don’t have a reply for.

I yawn. My eyelid twitches. I don’t feel all that tired, but no thoughts are coming and perhaps my body is telling me that I’m more tired than I realize. Let’s see what a good night’s rest and tomorrow brings me.

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December 4th

Smoke on the Water

(While National Novel Writing Month has passed, I've written the following in the style I was exploring during the month. While it is based on my general recollections of junior high school, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the memories.)

It was about forty years ago that I went to my first junior high school dance. It was around the time that my parents were breaking up and my mother drove me in old green Chevy pick up truck to the regional high school. With anticipation and apprehension, I dressed up in some nice school clothes. I didn’t have any fancy clothes to speak of, it wasn’t a fancy sort of dance, and I probably would have felt even more awkward if I had to where something nice. My older brothers, already in high school, and having been to various school dances made snide comments, and my younger sister, still in elementary school and a Partridge Family fan wanted to find some way that she could go on such a grand adventure. My mother sensed my uneasiness at the event, and told her to stay home as she drove me to the dance.

Back then, I was a nerd, before it was cool to be a nerd. I enjoyed talking about academic subjects, especially math. I had gone from playing clarinet in the school band to alto clarinet, on a journey that would lead me to saxophone, bagpipes, and any other instrument I could get my hands on. Yet actually performing, or for that matter, sufficiently practicing the clarinet, was something that terrified me, almost as much as talking to a girl, or letter her know that I liked her.

The drive to the school was a little over seven miles. It was fifteen minutes of just me and my mother. She tried to get me to talk about who would be there. I mentioned some of the boys that I thought would probably be there, but didn’t mention any of the girls, especially not mentioning the girls I thought were cute or hoped to dance with.

Like so many school dances, this one took place in the gymnasium. The room wax dark and decorated with crepe paper. Up near the front of the gym, the band was set up at the east end. I walked around a little the large room for a little bit to try and find my friends. Like all the boys, they were on the north side of the gym. We stood around and looked timidly across the floor to the south side where the girls were gathered in similar clusters. Some of the more popular and self possessed kids took to the dance floor. They seemed to be having a good time, and I longed to join.

We did not listen to much music at our house. There was an old radio in the corner of the kitchen that we would listen to on snowy mornings to hear if there was a school cancellation. We eventually got a small record player and we listened to records we checked out of the town library. My sister purchased a single or two, and it seemed like there would be weeks on end that I heard “If you’re going to San Francisco…” playing over and over on the record player.

I remember listening to the Beatles when we checked out one of there albums and I would mangle Hey Jude, horribly. Some of my neighbors, older boys that were closer friends with my brothers and played in one of the many typical high school bands, would endlessly try to get me to sing Hey Jude a little better, but I just couldn’t tell what I was doing wrong. I also listened to a bit of Simon & Garfunkel. “I am a rock” seemed to capture my social abilities of the time.

At the dance, there would be various songs that the band would play that would encourage me to ask a girl to dance. When “She was just seventeen” came on, my heart would go boom as I crossed the room to ask one of the girls to dance. I would be terrified that they would say no, and perhaps even more terrified that they would say yes. Yet instead of dancing through the night, we would dance one dance, and then awkwardly exchange niceties before retreating back to our respective sides of the gym.

Another song that I really liked to dance at in those says was “Smoke on the Water”. I didn’t know what the words were. I just recognized the four measure riff and anticipated singing along to the chorus, “Smoke on the water, fire in the sky”. When the familiar opening chords were played, I would walk across the floor and try to get someone to dance with me. I was more comfortable with this song. I could simply enjoy dancing to it, without worrying about everyone looking at me or what my partner might be thinking.

When the dance was over, my mother would pick me up in the green pickup truck for the long fifteen minute drive home. She would ask if I had fun and whom I danced with. I would mumble about having had a good time and maybe name a girl or two that I danced with.

The days have passed and my two eldest daughters have been through their school dances. Perhaps I was projecting, but it seemed like Mairead’s experiences at school dances mirrored my own. Miranda seemed to have a much better time at the dances and would be much more talkative afterwards.

All of these memories come to mind, as I visited a blog I enjoy today. The Modern Historian has blog posts about things that have happened this day in history. Today is the fortieth anniversary of the Montreux Casino fire in 1971 that smoke on the water is all about.

Instead of looking for the old grey portable record player we had as a kid, I typed “Smoke on the Water” into Spotify and listened to the original, as well as a bunch of interesting covers of it, from a workout video to a bagpipe cover.

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December 3rd

2011 Black Current Hard Cider

I’ve just bottle 36 bottles of ‘1D’, my fourth batch of hard cider for the 2011 hard cider season. Assuming I didn’t mix up my batches, this is using the heirloom cider that I picked up at Beardsley’s Cider Mill at the beginning of November.

The first Sunday of November, Beardsley’s makes a special batch of cider, using heirloom apples, quince, and whatever else is in season, for a brewing club. They all come down with their carboys to fill up and to share cider and stories from previous year’s batches. This year, I had some interesting flavored ciders. One was made with elderberries and another with black current juice. The black current cider was really good, but it was a bit sweet. I think the guy making it just hasn’t mastered the proportions. The elderberry cider was also quite good. There were also discussions of making whisky and oak flavored ciders by adding in different types of wood chips.

An old friend from work had expressed interest in making flavored ciders, and it was too bad that he didn’t make it to cider day. Another friend brought in an article from a British magazine about different flavored ciders. So, I decided that I would try making some black current cider, myself.

Kim brought home a gallon and a half of black current juice from Maple Lane Farms in Preston, CT. I’m glad to be using local juices as part of my locavore approach to cider brewing. I then headed over to Maltose Express in Monroe. I needed to pick up more bottles for storing my cider and I wanted to pick up some yeast for new batch.

So far, this year, I’ve been using a Belgian Abbey Ale yeast, that has worked nicely for me. However, I was concerned that this yeast may be close to dying out and I wanted to try more of a wine yeast for this batch. I asked for recommendations, and they recommended a cider yeast. They always do, but I’m just not interested in Cider yeasts. So, they came back with Lalvin 71B-1122. It is supposed to be a rapid starter and work well in a wide temperature range, which is important in our chilly house. It sounds like a really nice yeast for what I’m doing.

I stopped at Beardsley’s and picked up five gallons of fresh cider and headed home.

Years ago, when my eldest kids were very young, we would drive to Jones Tree Farm, which is fairly close to the cider mill. To keep them entertained in the car, one year, we started counting the number of Christmas Trees we saw on different cars. We have kept this up as a tradition, and so I counted Christmas trees on my drive. Since I would be going by Jones Tree Farm on the first Saturday of December, I figured that I would get a pretty high number, and I wasn’t disappointed. I counted 164 Christmas Trees on the tops of cars during my trip.

Back home, I bottled the ‘1D’ batch of cider. As I always do, I pour off a glass of it to taste, and this batch has come out extraordinarily well. Kim said that it may have been the best batch yet. I’m drinking some of that glass as I write this blog post.

I put the new bottles in the dishwasher to sterilize them. I had done this with thirty six other bottles earlier, so I had enough bottles for most of the ‘1D’ batch. However, it wasn’t quite enough and there was probably half a gallon of hard cider remaining that I didn’t have bottles for. I could wait until the dishwasher finished, mix up some sterilizing solution, throw out the cider, or use it as a base for the new batch.

I really wanted the 71B yeast to be the dominant yeast, so I hesitated with the final option, but I certainly didn’t want to throw out any of the batch. Kim agreed that it would probably be fine to use it as a base for the new batch, so off we go. The new batch has 1 gallon of black current juice, 5 gallons of fresh cider, and about half a gallon of the 1D hard cider batch. We’ll see how it comes out.

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December 2nd

#ff #EmpireAve @chrisvoss @BobWarren @kimgarst @lizstrauss @MySOdotCom @GayeCrispin @Annehthomas @davidsanger

After a long, busy, tiring week, I figured I'd do a really quick and simple Follow Friday post. This week, I'm listing eight players on Empire Avenue that I hold over 35,000 Eaves worth of shares in.

They are priced from around 177 Eaves per share to 334 Eaves per share. Currently, the most shares I can hold in any player is 200, and five of the eight I hold 200 shares in. Most of them can and do own 600 shares of my stock on Empire Avenue.

These players are the blue chip stocks of Empire Avenue, and if your new to Empire Avenue, I'd encourage you to at least pick up a couple shares of each of them.

One player that I want to particularly highlight, however is @davidsanger. A little over a week ago, his share price started diving. Today, he posted
"thanks to shareholders sticking with me during family medical emergency, will be back on track soon and spending all these eaves piling up".

If you play the game because you value making meaningful connections with others on social media, it would be a good time to step in and buy some of David's share as a means of showing support to him.

If, on the other hand, you are simply in the game to maximize the value of your portfolio, this would probably be a good time to invest in him, since the drop in share price is most likely just temporary. I expect his share price will climb soon, partly because of increased activity and partly people buying him as he invests some of the eaves that have piled up. If your a new investor, there is a good chance he'll buy a bunch of your shares if you buy his.

Whatever your reason for playing, David is probably a great buy right now, and the rest of the blue chips are also well worth following