Hip to be (a) square (bar code.)

Monday, December 28th, 2009

So you take your fancy iPhone app, like this one, and point it at the screen here, and darned if it doesn’t read this fancy QR Code (ah, so that’s what these square-ish barcodes are called) and ka-whamo, it reads the URL I’ve encoded into this collection of blotches, and darned if it doesn’t read…well, the site you’re already looking at now. Hey, impressive!
(By the way, these QR codes are way more readable when blurry, tilted, or seen in a dark place than, say, the UPC Codes—aka ‘bar codes’—we know and love. I just get my iPhone within the tristate area of the screen and WHAM!—it’s read.)
Apparently Google not only generates these codes from their Chart API (a fancy programming interface to create charts online) but they’ve distributed zillions of stickers for real-world locations (you know, bars, stores, coffee shops) that rumor has it can be used for anything from coupons to meetups to Orwellian scariness to…well, dunno.
None of that here. This is just barcode as decor. Enjoy! Buh…leep!

Gotham snaps.

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

I had a quick day-trip to New York last Friday for a business meeting and it was sunny (but jeez-o-petes cold by Southern standards). I bought a one-day unlimited-ride MetroCard at LaGuardia and let my trusty iPhone (with some judicious power management) lead me through buses and subways to some photographable sites. It was the kind of day where the city just looked nice…so I took advantage of that, grabbing pixels hither and yon…through two Apple stores, several seats of broadcasting, quite a few subway stations, the new-ish High Line park down by Chelsea Market, and finally, at Grand Central where I hopped a Metro-North train to get out of the city for an early, early flight home—just ahead of the snows that dumped on the east coast.

So I’ve uploaded a selection of the images to this Flickr photo set, and I’m sharing them with you.

Wifi onboard.LGA wingage.Jackson Heights underneath.The classic staircase shot.All red shirts?Not Black Rock.

Plaza horse.Such a deal I have for you.Not some set in Astoria...High def tree.RCA 'television' camera.Helvetica underground.

Sidewalk sausage.Spelling words with the letters 'A-C-E-L'.Not oceanic.Elaborate kids' sidewalk game?The park upstairs.Was rusty ex-railroad, now sunny park.

Not benched.East on 15th.Afternoon shadows, overhead.Marketplace sign.Back in the High Line again.One television booster, please.

Les affiches du Chelsea.A friendly place, sales-wise.Grabbing a recharge.View from Apple Store Chelsea.And the haircut lasted for...Tile signage below ground.

Grand, central timepiece.Lights! Flag! Wreath! Action!Deco dominance.Absolut-ly not.Not part of the SNL set.Metro-North blur.

Privet property.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Yesterday, Sammy and I drove through the mist and fog up Highland and Lenox Roads to the low area where Peachtree Creek and a rail line cross through the twisty residential stretch that is our common way to get to the splendors(?) of Buckhead. This time, though, we pulled into a driveway just this side of the railroad tracks and parked our Prius among several others just between a new Georgia Power substation, crossed by high tension lines, and a sign that said “Morningside Nature Preserve.”

This is all because of a tweet I picked up that simply said the park was being dedicated Monday at 11 am. It didn’t say that this was culmination of nearly a decade of struggles of a bunch of neighborhood organizers, the city parks and rec department, and enough cooperative people at Georgia Power. It didn’t say that the way these dedication things are apparently done is someone from the city brings out a small portable awning (it looked like the rain might hit full blast any moment) and a small portable podium with a microphone and then the folks who worked hard on it gather and tell themselves how much they appreciate each others’ efforts. A few pictures are taken. There is applause.

But that’s more or less what happened, and when they packed up the speakin’ gear and drove away wishing it was a warmer, drier day, Sammy and I strolled up the trail, through a small woods separating a condo complex and the power line cut, and then across, over through some trees, down a set of wood and steel stairs to the Peachtree Creek floodplain, and then up through a muddy stretch along the creek that probably was part of the storm runoff system Atlanta has been fighting to modernize. Then, we clambered back up the steps and we were back to the car after probably 20 minutes.

We took some pictures with the old camera and the new one, and Sammy wrote about this promptly yesterday in her blog, and I followed her links this morning and paged through some of the many documents involved in keeping some 30 acres of intown greenspace from becoming wasteland of the industrial, mcmansional, or kudzu-covered sort. I admire what these folks were able to do, although in the greater scheme of things most Atlantans will probably drive by, maybe a few wondering why a Georgia Power substation has a ‘nature preserve’ sign at its apparent entrance. Probably the more visible signs of the negotiations between city, neighborhood, and the power company is that Lenox is getting sidewalks that run all the way up to Cheshire Bridge, and the power company footed a chunk of that bill. Yay, sidewalks.

At any rate, I’m always amazed how much documentation and plain old investigation has to accompany some sort of public endeavor like this one…and I particularly got a chuckle out of the legend that ran down the side of one of the appended maps: “Map 11: Vegetation: Invasive Exotics.” It’s the series of boxes on the right running the length of this post.

I smile and shake my head because I had no clue that there could be such a thing as quantifiable (and precisely mappable) levels of invasive species, like kudzu and privet (which, as you might guess, to me are just “that fast-growing prickly stuff you get in the south you can’t walk through.”) And I really get a quiet hoot out of the idea that if you stack them as they did in this legend you get a kinder, more botanical homeland security threat scale for our times: “We’re at Privet Level 2!” “Careful, we may reach Kudzu Level 5!”

So I wanted to show you this scale (clicking on it leads to a PDF of the whole map), and get a chance to use my favorite lame line (Sammy is so patient when we hike) as the title of this post, and, in one last exhale of pun-osity, let me say that I (metaphorically) sign my name to this post because I don’t want it to be euonymous (level 3).

Twenty, and smiling.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Today was a special day for Sammy and me. And it was a special day back on December 9, 1989, when we gathered some people very important to our lives together here and made some promises to each other and then went off to lead a shared life, with the usual array of stumbles, surprises, savors, and, always, ultimately, smiles. After rain, wind, and storms overnight, the day shone bright (if breezy) and we celebrated by wandering the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the aisles of a camera shop and a fine grocery store. The result, a celebratory new camera (those are the first two images from it, above) and a homecooked meal that was oh man, so good. And, indeed, every day we get to do simple things like that together is a special one in my book, and I’m looking forward to more smiles, and miles, together, hand in hand.


Monday, December 7th, 2009

Okay, just a quick rant. I’ve been following, at a great distance, mostly via Twitter, this conference here that appears to follow on the heels of this conference here that seem to be part of an onrushing tide of conference-y efforts to “reinvent” public radio (among other media) so that, it’s…I dunno, the word “compelling” keeps coming up. As if the opposite of “compelling” is something to be avoided at all costs. Without sufficient compelling-osity, we are told, the audience—all of it, or at least all of it under 30—will simply abandon it, like totally, dude.

Well, let’s see, some quotes from this ‘The Future of News’ white paper [PDF link]:

Tom Rosenstiel and others pointed out [that] those journalists and news organizations that don’t drop the pose of lecturer and learn how to genuinely engage the audience will be lost.

The pose of lecturer!? Perhaps you’re confusing that with, uh, reporting the news. That is, reading it aloud, just the unvarnished, well-researched, fact-checked facts, the four or five Ws and maybe an H?

That’s really what we have a dearth of. That’s really what we need to re-sanctify in the canon of journalism.

“Draw me in. Engage me. Challenge me, make the radio (or whatever platform) experience as compelling as the journalism. If not, I’ll go somewhere else.”
– Online Attendee Israel Smith

Oh, okay, online attendee Smith. You want the “platform experience” to be as “compelling” as the “journalism.” I think my quote key is getting stuck, or maybe my spittle is getting on the keyboard.

Hey, look. If you’re being offered a diet of Pure Journalism, delivered as actual no kidding reporting, not prognostication or pontification, and you don’t find that compelling, then please oh please go the hell somewhere else.

Chris Worthington, Minnesota Public Radio’s managing director of news, is quoted as saying:

We need to “listen more to the audience” to understand what the gaps in journalism are we need to fill, and what sort of journalism they will value.

This is, of course, along the same vector that compels TV producers to put up real-time ticker crawls of viewer’s tweets. “Hey look, we’re listening to you!”

I’m kinda thinking maybe you’re listening a bit much, and losing the skills of going out and finding out in great and sophisticated detail exactly what is happening. Guess what—your listeners, readers or viewers may have no idea that they want this information until you present it to them. They’re simply not aware of many of the informational gaps in their nutritious daily news diet.

My hope and dream is that we will re-discover the crucial importance of facts, reported without varnish or abuse of the future tense. We will value them…literally. We will fund a vast army of people…let’s call them “reporters” …to go out and lasso those facts.

We will pay for actual humans to report…to go out and do original research and newsgathering, which means sit in chairs at countless boring meetings and don’t talk about your feelings even one little bit…just sum up exactly what happened.

And we will then deliver that information on new media and old. Into microphones and cameras, yes, and onto tweets and into whatever darn other social doohickies you want as well…but the point and the focus of our financial support will be on their gathering, and our presentation will be sober, simple, and unadorned.

Publishing is now even easier than ever. We don’t need to subsidize that.

But we need to pay for folks who will do the craft and hard work of gathering the news.

Okay, you can back to all that “engaging our readers in conversations” tripe now.