Politics Online

Garrett Graff’s Washington Post op-ed published last December raises some very interesting issues regarding our presidential candidates and their technological literacy.  Garrett states that, “our economic future and security require that we have a higher standard for our leaders.”  And he goes on to pose the question, “Why is it that we blithely allow our leaders to be ignorant of the force that, probably more than any other, will drive and define the nation’s economic success and reshape its society over the next 20 years?”

In addition to many other Bush-isms, President Bush has referred to google as “the google” and the internet as the “internets” and thus dubbed (among other things) “Googler-in-Chief” by The Wall Street Journal.  Did you miss it?  Don’t worry, here’s a quick CNN clip that has it all:

In his op-ed piece, Garrett also mentions Senator Ted Steven’s description of the Internet as a “series of tubes” and Mitt Romney’s inability to distinguish the capabilities of YouTube from MySpace during a campaign trail question in early 2007.  Although we all get a good laugh out of this stuff, I have to agree with Garrett when he says that “technology shouldn’t be a laughing matter.”

It is my hope, too, that the 2008 presidential elections will reshape our standards of technological literacy for our leader.  In a Republican presidential debate in 2007, John McCain admitted his need to rely on the Vice President for up to date knowledge of our new technology.  The full transcript is available here, but this is what he said:

McCain: Look, I am going to give you some straight talk. This president came to office in a time of peace, and then we found ourselves in 2001.

And he did not have as much national security experience as I do. So he had to rely more on the vice president of the United States, and that’s obvious. I wouldn’t have to do that. I might have to rely on a vice president that I select on some other issues. He may have more expertise in telecommunications, on information technology, which is the future of this nation’s economy. He may have more expertise in a lot of areas.

Obama has publically stated that he intends to make technology literacy a priority in public schools and to use the “Internet as a tool to increase government accountability” according to alternet.org.

Only time will tell…

Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 12:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Corporate Blogging” – North Shore Music Theatre Blog

In our current Web 2.0 world, it is more important than ever that we embrace our new social media tools.  Blogging is one of them.  Chris Anderson says in his book, The Long Tail, “…collectively blogs are proving more than an equal to mainstream media.”  Journalism is literally changing as we know it, and we have no choice but to adapt to these changes.

I thought it would be interesting to search around and find various performing arts organization blogs.  One of the best ones that I came across was the North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) blog.  North Shore Music Theatre is one of the largest non-profits professional theaters in New England that creates “some of the most vibrant classic, contemporary and new musical theater in the country” according to its website. Through the use of photos, video, informative text, and a human voice, they truly provide a behind the scenes look into their productions.  This blog is fairly new, but if they keep it up, it will be a huge success.  Additionally, they are extremely open to audience suggestions and questions.  In their first blog posting of their newly revamped site, NSMT says:

North Shore Music Theatre is happy to announce the return of THE NSMT BLOG. Our new exciting format will be an informative and exciting editorial magazine style that will mix interviews with video and photo essays. However what we are most excited about is that we want your input on the content. Let us know what you want to read or see and we will update the blog regularly with answers to your questions as well as many other fun facts and insider information.

As a patron of the arts (and NSMT) this blog makes me very excited to see its upcoming production of Bye Bye Birdie —  which I will actually have the opportunity of seeing next weekend!  Here is the video of Bye Bye Birdie they provide on their blog that gives viewers an insider look to their rehearsal process:

Additionally, NSMT uses similar social media tools for its children’s productions.  Another video podcast was created for their recent performance of Frog and Toad.  Here is the video clip for that one:

I’ve always enjoyed productions at NSMT; I even used to be a yearly subscriber to their musical season when I lived in the Boston area.  If I could, I still would be!  Just a bit difficult being an 8 hour drive away…

I’d just like to thank NSMT for embracing these new social media tools.  It is a such a joy to read their blog and watch their videos.  See you next weekend!

Published in: on July 27, 2008 at 10:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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Swampscott?  No, that’s not the name of a new monster creature that lives in swamps.  It’s the name of the town where I grew up.  That’s right, Swampscott.  It is a tiny town in northern Massachusetts.  It is 3.58 square miles and located about 15 miles northeast from Boston with a population of about 14,600 according to its website.

I never fully appreciated my town until I moved away.  Going back to visit always makes me realize how beautiful it is!  Especially during the summer months.  The beaches are so close by and the size of the town makes everything convenient.  It is always inevitable that I bump into a few old friends or neighbors when I go back to visit which is always fun.  Although, on the flip side, there’s nowhere to hide…maybe not so convenient for some.

I do admit that I tend to cut my visits short or not visit at all during those awful months of November through April — living with snow in large doses and freezing temps is never a good thing unless you’re on a ski trip.  Since moving south, I think my tolerance for the cold has decreased significantly.  Encountering snow more than 3 times a year is just too much for me now!  And to think, I used to spend the majority of my year scraping the frost off my car’s windshield.  Miserable!

I love living in D.C.  It’s a great city with a great climate, vibrant nightlife, fantastic job opportunities, and free cultural offerings like museums and performances at the Kennedy Center.  With so much to offer, it’s hard to find yourself in the city with nothing to do.  There is one thing missing though.  It’s something that you don’t notice until May or sometimes even June, but by July you’ll definitely know your missing out.  It’s the BEACH.

In Swampscott, getting to the beach was never an issue.  We practically lived on it!

You can probably tell I have beach on the mind right now. I will be heading out there very soon for my usual summer visit.  Can you blame me?  I miss my beach!  I’ve heard all about the “local” beaches that all the D.C. cool cats head to during these hot summer months like Ocean City, Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, etc.  But, those are over 2 hours away!  They all sound like lots of fun, and I’m sure I’ll get the chance to check them out sometime soon.  But, nothing can beat waking up in the morning, at your own home, having some coffee (did I mention that I’m addicted?), putting on a bathing suit, grabbing a towel and sunscreen, and walking over to the beach to meet up with friends.  Oh, how I miss the lazy summer days I’ve had!  Here’s a short video that shows more of Swampscott:

Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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A Response to Biking in the Great Outdoors…

In response to my blog post on Spinning, Michael posted an article titled Converted Cyclist in his blog, Mknac’s Weblog.  First of all, I want to thank Mike for reading and enjoying my blog post!  Secondly, I want to say that about 2 months ago, I purchased my very first “adult” bike from City Bikes in the Woodley Park area in Washington, D.C. and have been test riding it outdoors ever since, and I really like it!

The employees at City Bikes were so helpful to me.  They patiently answered all of my questions (I had SO many!) and they took the time to discover which style bike would suit my needs best, fit me to a bike, and show me the proper equipment I would need to go with the bike (lock, helmet, etc.).  They were so knowledgeable and friendly, it’s no wonder that they were named Best Bike Shop by Washington City Paper‘s Best of D.C. in 2008, as well as ranking in the top ten for the 2007 Consumer’s Choice Award. 

I ended up selecting a dark blue  2008 Jamis Women’s Commuter 1 bike which is perfect for what I need.  I really wasn’t looking for an extremely high-end road bike or racing bike.  I was looking for something comfortable, affordable, convenient, and occasionally, for exercise.  To be honest, I find myself so busy with my full-time job, my part-time job, and with grad school work, that I don’t really have the time (or energy) to be biking outdoors for 25+ miles on a regular basis.  Sure, I could do it.  And, I plan to very soon — but, not on a regular basis, or else when would I get my grad school work done, keep up to date with the latest movies, have time to spend with friends, or basically, have a life? 

Staying healthy is very important to me.  Exercising on a regular basis is a must to stay healthy and strong.  That’s where indoor cycle comes in as a great and refreshing workout for busier than busy people, or even just for those who like to cycle, that fits in just one little hour.  We go fast, we go slow, we do jumps, we hover, we suffer climbs by adding resistance, and taking it off, we have recoveries, we take water breaks, we have great music, and we have moving and stationary fans, and many times, AC 🙂   Yes, it is different than being in the great outdoors — but, how “great” are those outdoors when the temperature is upwards of 90º and humid, or even when its pouring rain?

Mike, I have to disagree with you when you say:

Riding indoors is like running on a treadmill; going nowhere fast. Never to enjoy the rush of a downhill or to suffer on a climb! Don’t you yearn to ride free and feel the air as you cut a line through a turn?

You clearly have not been to an indoor cycle class before, and definitely have not been to my cycle class!

I’ve tried it.  I bought a road bike.  I even joined Washington Area Bicyclist Assocation (WABA).  I’ve been riding outside and will continue to do so.  Now, Mike, it’s your turn!  I challenge you to try indoor cycle.  Be sure to go to a class with a recommended instructor, I’d hate for you to experience indoor cycle/spinning for the first time with a beginning instructor.  Or better yet, come take my class, and see what all the hubbub is about!


Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 12:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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Web 2.0 Fills the Gap Created by Mainstream Media Coverage of the War

Web 2.0 has changed reporting as we know it.  This is especially apparent with combatant-reporters from Iraq — real soldier correspondents eager to share what they have seen and experienced with the rest of the world.  For my assignment this week, I have been asked to explore various military blogs (aka miliblogs) as well as any other blogs and YouTube clips pertaining to the war.

The shear mass and detailof reports and footage coming from soldiers in Iraq and other parts of the world is simply incredible.  The Internet, with its Web 2.0 features, brings it all to us instantly, with a click of a mouse.  Gone are the days when we have to wait for the morning paper, or a magazine, to see or read about breaking news updates or graphic photos of a major event.  (FYI, Without a functional updated website, Life Magazine has still yet to fully embody Web 2.0 which is not in their best interest since the popularity of individual blogs and Flickr sites have been overwhelming) – Update: Wow, I’m a space cadet.  Thanks, Crystal, for letting me know that Life folded last year.  However, reports show that they intend to keep their website.

I believe that seeing and reading about the war is a good thing, although hard to stomachat times.  It is in America’s best interest to have this much access to the front lines and show the reality of the war to as many people as possible in order to make our country feel directly connected to it.  This new way of sharing information provides us with a broader understanding of the war leading us to make properly informed opinions of the war, and hence appropriate decisions on what should be done.  Blogs and YouTube clips from combatant-reporters also provide Americans with alternative views of the war that perhaps the mainstream media left out.  Colby Buzzell, a famous blogging soldier, agrees in his blog when he talks about military bloggers,

In the sleepy on-base hours between missions, they share their stories directly with the world, unfiltered by the biases of the “mainstream media” many of them distrust.

Also, I read about one of the biggest online controversies involving Kevin Sites’ video clip.  While being an independent journalist in Iraq, Mr. Sites videotaped a soldier shooting a wounded and unarmed Iraqi.  Mr. Sites provides an in-depth explanation about his experience, as well as the aftermath of releasing his video to the world in the following YouTube clip: 

From blogs to Flickr to Twitter to YouTube, soldier-reporters have a lot to show and tell us, and it is in our best interest to watch and listen.

Published in: on July 20, 2008 at 11:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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I Love Coffee, I Love Tea…

In reading Rafael’s blog, I found his mention of the Murky Coffee incident hilarious!  It is amazing how Web 2.0 allowed one person to create such a fuss over a single event that ended up to be an article in the Washington Post.

I am a HUGE coffee lover.  Be it coffee, latte, espresso shot, tea…you name it, I love it.  Call me addicted to caffeine, but hey, Dolly sang it right when she said in 9 to 5, “Tumble outta bed and stumbled to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, yawnin, stretchin, try to come to life…”  (Did I mention this is going to be a musical?!  It opens on April 23, 2009 on Broadway, and I can’t wait!)

Back to coffee, I am so disappointed to hear about the 600 Starbucks closings throughout the country.  How sad!  I’m not that surprised though, with our failing economy and soaring gas prices, people are forced to spend less where ever they can.  In the listing of store closures, I was happy to hear that only 1 in Washington, DC will be affected (sorry, 21st and L Starbucks!), which does not include the two Starbucks stores that I frequent on a daily basis.  PHEW!

Published in: on July 20, 2008 at 2:44 pm  Comments (2)  
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Global Voices Online: Saudi Arabia

For this week’s blog posting, I was asked to explore a country beginning with the first letter of my name (first or last) via the website Global Voices Online.  I chose Saudi Arabia.

It was fascinating to get a peek into a world that I do not know much about.  I stumbled upon topics that were both controversial and mundane – yet, each and every blog played an important role in shaping the humanity of people I’ve never met, living in a far off country I’ve never traveled to, and living under rules, laws, and religious regulations I’ve never been exposed to.

Through this website, I was able to come across a personal blog by a student from Hijaz, Saudi Arabia studying in the U.S.  This blogger writes passionate articles on issues, events, and news of racism, internet censorship by Saudi officials, and even an extremist riot that bombards the opening of a theatrical performance.  This student also posts video whenever possible, although many have been taken down.  I found a clip about a Saudi Arabian female author on the subjects of Women, Sex, and Taboos particularly interesting and insightful to the mindset of a large portion of this country.  Here it is: 

Additionally, I sampled articles directly from the Global Voices Online website.  I learned that there are no movie theaters in Saudi Arabia, and one person from the country is advocating for them.  Another person from Saudi Arabia blogs about his experiences at his new job, and how he was accidentally locked in his office overnight.  Pretty amusing.  Not so amusing is that a Turkish barber is under arrest and could possibly be beheaded “for using God’s name in vain” while in Saudi Arabia.

It is a truly eye opening experience to be able to read these translated blogs, or portions of blogs, from non-professional writers that are experiencing this stuff first-hand.

Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I Love Spinning!

I teach Spinning at Gold’s Gym on the weekends, and I love it!  I’ve been a certified cycle instructor since December 2006, and received an additional Spinning certification this past May.

What’s the difference between indoor cycle and Spinning, you ask?  Good question.  They are very similar, but have differences.  I like to compare it to Kleenex.  All Kleenex are tissues, but not all tissues are Kleenex.  Spinning is a branded name, and is actually the original indoor cycle fitness program (created by Johnny G).   It is one of the most recognized names in indoor cycling.  According to my manual, it is taught by over 130,000 certified instructors and thousands of facilities in 80 countries worldwide.  Similar to the other certifications out there, Spinning instructors have a specific format and method to follow.  Other certifications in indoor cycle include:  AFAA, M3 Trainer, Cycle Reebok with Robert Sherman, and Les Mills’ RPM, and more.

I keep a cycle listserv for my class so that I am able to keep students posted on my personal cycle schedule, as well as any updates in the cycle world.  I find that “Ride On” (a monthly email Spinning resource) provides me with great articles that I can send out to my students.  It is very interesting and informative from teaching proper bike setup to explaining how to beat the heat.

I highly recommend giving indoor cycle a try!  You never know, you might get hooked.  I fell upon it during my sophomore year at Boston College.  As much as I love BC, I do have to say that their fitness facility (nicknamed The Plex) was extremely lacking.  With no sign-up system in place and few cardio machines (something every girl needs!), it was nearly impossible to get a good workout in within a decent amount of time.  With so much homework, studying, and extra-curricular activities, I didn’t have time to watch others work out while I stand and wait for a machine.  I discovered that The Plex offered indoor cycle classes, in which you could sign up ahead of time and be guarenteed a bike.  I thought this would be perfect…1 hour of cardio, and I’m done.  It was so much more than that!  My first cycle class was so challenging.  I was covered in sweat.  But I loved it!  The one hour class flew by, and I realized this is something I want to get really involved in.

In case you are still wondering what indoor cycling is really about, here is a good video clip to give you an idea.  As you can see, the combination of music, atmosphere (usually black lights or a fairly dark room), and instructor really contribute to the mood and the overall experience for the cyclist.

Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 2:20 pm  Comments (2)  
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Wikiscanner: Scientology

After much deliberating, I chose to look into the Church of Scientology for my Wikiscanner report.

Employees working for the Church of Scientology have made about 170 edits to various Wikipedia pages from 2004 to 2007.  For the most part, these employees, probably made up of mostly Sea Orgs, have added Scientology-related links to these articles.  Scientologists are anti-psychiatry and have edited many Wikipedia articles for psychiatric disorders commonly treated with drugs such as: bipolar disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, and dyslexia to name a few.  They edit these articles to include a link to the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) website to provide alternatives to using medication and standard psychiatric procedures.  The CCHR “investigates and exposes psychiatric violations of human rights” and was co-founded in part by the Church of Scientology itself.  Scientologists are anti-psychiatry, but those who are anti-psychiatry are not necessarily Scientologists.

The Sea Orgs also make a point to insert major Scientology-related events in Wikipedia year articles.  For example, in 1954, L. Ron Hubbard issued the Creed of the Church of Scientology.  In 1993, the IRS granted full tax exemption and religious recognition in the U.S. to all Church of Scientology Churches and affiliated organizations.  Hm. Is this wise?

The most interesting edit I found occurred in the Wikipedia article for Church of Scientology.  The edit claims to have “removed hearsay” and “added some links.”  However, I think it was more so a NPOV issue, or even, in their best interest to make themselves sound better.  Within this article, the edit was made to the Scientology Volunteer Ministers section.  Originally stating that:

Over the past several years, it has become a common practice for the organization to send ‘teams’ of ‘Volunteer Ministers’ to the scenes of major, headline-grabbing disasters in order to provide assistance with relief efforts. According to critics, most of these relief efforts consist of passing out copies of a pamphlet authored by L. Ron Hubbard entitled “The Way To Happiness,” and by engaging in a method of calming panicked or injured individuals known in Scientology as a touch assist.

The words in red were deleted and the words in green were replaced with the much kinder, “Though they provide a number of different services, critics suggest…”

Additionally, the edit goes on to a paragraph about Scientology Volunteer Minister roles in the aftermath of September 11.  The article orginially states:

An E-mail confirmed to be from a Sea Org ‘Lieutenant’ brags of a deliberate plan to prevent the grief-stricken from receiving counseling from non-Scientology sources. “Due to some brilliant maneuvering by some simply genius Sea Org Members we tied up the majority of the psychs who were attempting to get to families yesterday in Q&A, bullbait and wrangling. … The survivors don’t know it but they need the Scientologists with LRH’s tech to be here right now.” http://www.xenu.net/archive/events/20010911-tragedy/

Although this is not the most articulate article written, it provides a website and quotes.  Both of which were taken out, and re-worked by Scientology workers.  The new text they provided was, “An E-mail reportedly from a Sea Org ‘Lieutenant’ brags of a deliberate plan to prevent the grief-stricken from receiving counseling from non-Scientology sources.”  This has all since been taken down and reformatted on the page now – but, it seems to me that the writer may have an agenda of his/her own.

One final note:  The Sea Orgs also added their Volunteer Ministers program link to articles for major disasters like Hurricane Katrina, 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, Cyclone Larry, and September 11 to name a few.  Does this follow the Wikipedia guidelines of what Wikipedia is not?


As I was reading individual blogs from our Social Media class on the Wikiscanner report, I noticed that Alicia also examined Scientology on her blog.  She caught something quite interesting on Wikiscanner that I had overlooked.  Alicia found that the workers at the Church of Scientology edited the Wikipedia article on Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (the Columbine High School shooters) to include a report of a “therapeutic amount” of Luvox (an anti-depressant) found in Eric Harris during an autopsy.  I agree with Alicia that “this was clearly edited to support their belief that anti-depressants cause suicidal thoughts and violence amongst its users.”

For the first portion of my Wikipedia report, we were asked to write a new page or substantially edit an existing page.  The majority of my work was on creating a page on Town Class (sailboat) with the username bostonsro.  Growing up near the ocean in Massachusetts, I was around boats all the time.  My dad has a Town Class sailboat and I thought it would be beneficial for his Town Class organization to have a Wikipedia page about the boat.  I did run into problems attaching an image to my article.  I would love to include this line drawing of a Town Class sailboat. Can anyone help me out?

Additionally, I made Wikipedia edits to:  One-design, and Indoor Cycling.

Published in: on July 6, 2008 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Second Life

In less than 20 minutes upon arrival, I found myself running around in a strange place with angel wings attached to my back and a beer bottle in hand.  No, I’m not talking about my Halloween experience last year.  I’m talking about my avatar, Rosie Osterham.

Second life is a virtual world video game on the internet in which you can choose your own character (called an avatar) as well as what it does.  The possibilities to this are endless.  Your avatar doesn’t even have to be human — some are even animals (or so I’m told…I’m still a novice so I haven’t seen one just yet).  As I started to fiddle around with my avatar’s appearance, I was given the option to have a double chin or not! (By the way, who would WANT a double chin?)

I’m still not entirely sure how I came across the wings (I think I found them in a box labeled “Free Stuff”), but I was able to use them to my advantage.  Not only did it give me the option to fly, but a very nice man named Eugene started a conversation with me which began, “Nice wings.”  Turns out he wanted a pair too.  So I just did a click-and-drag from my inventory box to him (still having no idea if that would even work), and he got them!  He was very happy about it.  In fact, he decided to give me a box of women’s clothing in return.  This was a great surprise to me because I was still in the generic dress that comes with the standard avatar.  I didn’t know how popular my avatar was until I arrived at “Orientation Island” and found about 8 other girls with brown hair and a pink dress roaming the island.  Although, I did stand out slightly since I had angel wings.

I probably spent a total of 4 hours exploring Second Life.  I barely scratched the surface.  There is so much to do, so much to see, so many people to talk to, so much to buy, SO MANY OPTIONS!  It is so open-ended, I was a bit overwhelmed with the magnitude of this game.  If Second Life has a point or message to get across to its users, I think I have a good idea of what it is:  Anything you can do in the real world, you can do here.  Anything you can’t do in the real world, you can also do here.

Second Life uses “Linden dollars” as its currency.  But make no mistake, this isn’t monopoly money.  It’s real.  That’s right, real.  People are actually paying for things that exist only in the virtual world.  Ailin Graef (avatar name: Anshe Chung) and her husband Guntram Graef created Anshe Chung Studios in Second Life.  CNET News reported that their company’s total holdings, mostly virtual land, were worth more than a million real-life dollars.  Wow.

Before you cry Emperor’s New Clothes on me, just think about this a little deeper.  REAL money is being exchanged in a FAKE world.  But is this world really fake?  I think we need to be careful with this one.  It’s virtual, not fake.  Although I can’t feel it, smell it, or taste it, I can see it and hear it.  That’s 2 out of 5 senses.  Having money factor into this virtual world makes it a virtual economy, which I think is a Pandora’s box just waiting to be opened.

Also pretty interesting is that some people participating in Second Life have gone so far as to attempt to perform Euripides’ The Bacchae.  Here is a clip of their rehearsals where they work out techinical difficulties with skin changes, etc.

Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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