Saturday, January 08, 2005


I have just contributed to the world's knowledge!

I have used the Wikipedia on a number of occasions but have never felt an urge to edit anything. But I broke the ice this morning and edited the entry for By the Pricking of my Thumbs.

I was working on a column (for VoIP Magazine) and had an inspiration to title the column "Something Wicked This Way Comes." I knew the line was from Shakespeare but couldn't remember the context. I checked the Wikipedia which had a great entry on the subject and it reminded me that the line is from Macbeth. The whole line reads

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes

It is uttered by a witch as Macbeth enters. But reading this entry made me wonder what "by the pricking of my thumbs" meant. Wikipedia had a link to this other phrase and I happily clicked on it (continuing to procrastinate from writing the column... as I am continuing to do...)

But horrors! The Wikipedia entry merely mentioned some Agatha Christie novel! I still wanted to know what the phrase meant, so I went to Google and ended up reading a couple of different sites to uncover the etymology. But then it struck me -- I should go back and update the Wikipedia so that the next person doesn't have to repeat my search!

The only scary part of this was how easy it was to update the article. I didn't have to register, there was no review process, no waiting period... How is it that the Wikipedia has not been attacked by spammers, by people with a grudge, or on a mission from god?

OK, now I should really stop procrastinating and finish that column...

Meeting Jerry Brown

Jerry Brown's people responded and I will be meeting with the mayor the week of the 17th. I plan on giving him a presentation on using the Internet as a way to create a dialog with voters in California. It's time to go beyond what the Dean campaign did and really use all of the community building tools to support a political campaign. I hope Jerry is up to the challenge.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Oryx and Crake

I have just finished reading Margaret Atwood's excellent book Oryx and Crake, what the New Yorker called "Towering and intrepid....Atwood does Orwell one better." I have to agree. I was much more scared about the future of our planet and human life after reading this book than I was after reading Huxley's' Brave New World or Orwell's 1984. The other book I might lump into this list is Kurt Vonnegut's Galapagos which bears a stronger similarity to Atwood's book than the other two. In both Atwood's and Vonnegut's future world the human race is wiped out.

Vonnegut's book, however, left me feeling angry when I read it 20 years ago. I should reread it today and see if my reaction is different. Atwood's book scared me. Sure, we all know that we are destroying the environment, that there are too many of us, that modern biotech is breeding all sorts of strange new creatures. But Atwood paints a realistic picture of where that could all take us in the not-too-distant future. And a description of the sudden collapse of civilization that is chilling.

I highly recommend reading this book. In addition to being an important set of ideas about where the human race may be headed, it is also beautifully written. And to the person who recommended that I read this book -- thanks a lot, I'll get you back :-)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Jerry Brown

I have been meaning to post a follow-up here on my attempt to contact Jerry Brown. We did finally connect on the phone for a brief call. His answers to my questions weren't entirely satisfactory, but he was driving and I was driving so the connection was bad and our time was limited. I spent some time thinking about things over the holidays, though, and sent him this email yesterday:

Hope you had a good new year.

I have been thinking about our conversation and I have two suggestions.

(1) I think your strongest argument for the attorney general position is to talk from your recent two terms as Mayor of Oakland. Talk about being tough on crime and dealing with the problems of California's cities. Talk about how you think that the State can do more for our cities and that, having seen up close what cities need, you want to serve as California's attorney general to help get that help to local governments. Get your political consultants to research this approach anyway and see how it does with target voters. It seems to me that running on your time as mayor is much more pertinent than your time as governor and that local issues will appeal much more to voters than ethereal issues such as civil rights. Sorry. You'll get me and other people that are your natural supporters behind you on the Ashcroft-is-evil messaging but that won't help you with the broader base.

(2) You need to grab the high ground with the Internet. Put a working group together to give you a list of suggestions - I volunteer to serve and to help you get people on board to help. The Internet is NOT an electronic pamphlet. The Internet is a communications medium. Use it to communicate with your voters. There are a bunch of great tools out there -- Blogs, Wikis, discussion group tools like ezBoard -- reinvent yourself using the Internet to reach out to your constituency. Voters have Internet access.

Start now. Don't call me back. Email me back.


Ted Shelton
I'll let you know if/when he replies!