Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The speech Safire wrote for Nixon if Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the moon.

(Via Boing Boing.)

Columnist and conservative speechwriter William Safire died yesterday at age 79. Here is the speech he drafted for president Nixon to read in the event that Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong found themselves stranded to die on the moon. I am happy to note that Messrs. Aldrin and Armstrong are all still alive (as is Michael Collins, who orbited the moon while his colleagues walked on her surface). William Safire's Finest Speech. (Gawker, via Scott Beale)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Breathtaking sand animation

I don't know what to say about this - except to call it magic. I can see that Kseniya Simonova is creating the images on the stage but I can hardly believe it. It's hard to imagine but it might be even more powerful if I could understand the language. It's a very powerful piece of performance art.

Simonova's performance won her the Ukraine's version of "Britain's Got Talent" last June. The YouTube video has racked up 2.5 million views so far. Her winning performance was a moving recounting of Germany conquering Ukraine during World War II. From an article in the Guardian:
She brings calm, then conflict. A couple on a bench become a woman's face; a peaceful walkway becomes a conflagration; a weeping widow morphs into an obelisk for an unknown soldier. Simonova looks like some vengeful Old Testament deity as she destroys then recreates her scenes - with deft strokes, sprinkles and sweeps she keeps the narrative going. She moves the judges to tears as she subtitles the final scene "you are always near".
Watch it for yourself.

Link to YouTube

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Catching up with Roz

Roz Savage is a British rower who is on her way to becoming the first woman to row solo across the Pacific. I thought I'd linked to her blog her previously, but I can't find any previous posts. I may have posted about it on Twitter but not here. Anyway, I thought I'd close the loop by letting you know that she's finished stage 2 of her epic adventure by rowing from Hawaii to Tarawa. You'll have to use Google Earth to find that place.

Right now, Roz is back in New York, getting ready for a five-day ride through the countryside to raise awareness about global warming (some people just never quit impressing me) but she's posted some very nice retrospectives of her latest journey on her new web page.

Here's the link to one of them.

If you've got the time, I'd recommend going back and reading some of those posts made from the middle of the Pacific. It was a fascinating journey and fun to see how she's made such great use of new communication technology, like sat/phones that let her blog every day from the ocean. And Twitter, which she is active on. And a bunch of other social media tools. It is a great case study of how to build a community.

It's all on her website at www.rozsavage.com

Monday, September 21, 2009

Warren Buffet on scheduling meetings

I found this gem on the Signal vs Noise blog from 37Signals.If true, it's another illustration of the value of not measuring up to preconceived ideas of how things are supposed to be done.
"I recently heard about Warren Buffet’s approach to scheduling meetings. I can’t confirm this is true (I’ve never met him), but I hear from a reputable source that he usually doesn’t set up meetings more than a day in advance.

If someone wants to see him, they are told to call and set up the meeting when they can see him tomorrow. So if you want to meet with him next Friday, you call on Thursday and say ‘Can I see Mr. Buffet tomorrow?’

I love the simplicity of the rule: I can see you today if you asked me yesterday, but I can’t fill up my schedule any further in advance. This way he can determine how he wants to spend his time within the context of the next 24 hours instead of booking things weeks or months in the future. Now his schedule is relevant instead of prescient.
(Via Signal vs. Noise.)

Fantastic photos of our solar system

There are some breathtaking shots in here, taken from space probes and the Hubble telescope. This excerpt is from an article at Smithsonianmag.com
We've been looking at other planets through telescopes for four centuries. But if you really want to get to know a place, there's no substitute for being there. And in the past decade, more than 20 spacecraft have ventured into the deepest reaches of our solar system. These probes, unlike the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories that merely orbit Earth, have actually traveled to other planets and approached the Sun, sending back pictures that humble or awe, even as they advance astronomers' understanding of our corner of the universe.
- Read the whole article
- Watch a slideshow of all the photos

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Alan Turing Finally Got a Posthumous Apology

This is an inspiring story about a long-ago wrong finally being made right. It's also a wonderful modern-day tale about a single person's efforts to make sure the right thing gets done. And it's a great story about just how valuable and powerful a tool social media can be for making change happen.

I tweeted a link to this story earlier this morning but I thought that it deserved a blog post too, especially for those of you that aren't using Twitter.

Alan Turing is a legend in the programming community, especially among cryptographers. But he was also gay and he paid a steep price for it, as the story notes:
Alan Turing did three amazing things in his working life: he laid the foundations of computer science by thinking up a theoretical computer called the Turing Machine, he worked through the Second World War breaking Nazi German codes, and after the war he worked on artificial intelligence and defined the Turing Test. His life was cut short at 41 when he had begun to work on morphogenesis in plants.

Alan Turing was also gay and he was prosecuted for "gross indecency" (essentially being gay) in 1952. To avoid prison he agreed to be injected with female hormones as a sort of 'cure' for homosexuality. Two years after his prosecution he was dead: he killed himself by eating an apple dipped in potassium cyanide.
In this post, John Graham-Cumming tells the story of how he used the British Government's online petition tool to generate enough public interest to end up with a formal apology from the Prime Minister.

It's a great story. Here's the link.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

16 million views and counting

Ever wonder whether you're worrying too much about timing/ordering/organizing in your daily life?

The video I've posted below might make you pause - once you're done laughing. "Business Time" is hilarious...and so true...

But there are some other things you should notice about this too. Take a look at the statistics for this little ditty performed by Flight of the Conchords - two very funny guys from New Zealand who are a Grammy Award-winning comedy duo. Find out more about them in their Wikipedia entry.

Note that this video, one of many that are posted on YouTube, has been viewed over 16 million times. That's a big number - and it's just one of the videos. That kind of exposure is worth a lot of money. I'm sure it's also resulted in a lot of sales of the group's DVD's and CDs, as well as spurred interest in their TV show.

Now suppose that the people that filmed that TV performance had imposed a take-down order on YouTube. How likely is it that millions of people around the world would know about this comedy duo?

The incredible power of social media is that something as simple as posting a video to the site (something almost anyone can do) can be viewed by millions with no more resources required.

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked whether I could package up four short videos for a client and create a DVD for a presentation. I was able to do that but I also offered to post the winning entry to YouTube - it didn't take any more effort on my part. (You can see it here.) So far, without any further attention, it's already been seen by over 500 people.

Creating and sharing content is not a new skill. We've always done it. But now, we can share it with far more people than ever before, in ways that we might not even have contemplated.

Here's the Flight of the Conchords video.