INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Fleeting Fame

Daypop has started a new feature, “ Top Word Bursts,” which highlights “heightened usage of certain words in weblogs within the last couple days.” They also show excerpts of blog posts that are currently using the listed words.

I must have been briefly cited because I had a near-blizzard of hits arriving from Daypop between 8 AM and 1 PM today. Unfortunately, I was away from the computer during this entire period. By the time I was able to check out Word Bursts to see what all the commotion was about, I was off the list, gone, history. I didn’t get to enjoy my itty-bitty moment of fame. Blog time isn’t very forgiving, is it?

I suspect that the word that was involved was “Devlin,” which would indicate that my wish for this story to gain blogging attention was fulfilled to some extent. However, I did a search and found nothing in the mainstream American media other than the original Breslin column in Newsday. It doesn’t appear that the blogging flurry had any impact beyond the blogosphere--where it really mattered—which supports my theory that blogging as a “Media Phenomenon” is overblown.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Ashcroft Saves Us From Dangerous Radical

Here’s an infuriating story that I hope will get picked up and blogged into the American media’s myopic attention. I got it from Lisa English, who apparently picked it up from Jimmy Breslin. Of course, you could say that Breslin is part of the mainstream media, but Lisa points out that his story has gone nowhere.

It should. It’s an outrage—the latest manifestation of the erosion of freedom under Bush/Ashcroft.

Seems that the Irish revolutionary hero, Bernadette Devlin, (remember her?) now a grandmother, wants to visit an aging friend who lives in the U.S. Ashcroft’s thugs won’t let her (more)

Monday, February 24, 2003

How To Impress Your Wife

Could you, in your wildest dreams, imagine a surprise birthday party like this? The party-giver husband should be doghouse-proof for at least a decade!

Thanks to Doc for the link.


Wasn’t I just observing a few days ago that, even when bloggers quit blogging, they can’t stay away? Mike Sanders, for example, seemed to have hung it up pretty definitively a few months back. Yeah, right!

I like one of his stated reasons for returning: “To fill the colleague-void created by working at home.”

I can’t stand the other one: “If I stop, then the terrorists will have won.”

If the second reason trumps the first in Mike’s subsequent posts, then he’ll have lost me once again as a reader. However, if the first reason prevails, I’ll be around. Mike’s a good writer and an inquiring mind. I really enjoyed his blog before his slide into war-blogging.

Mike is making sounds that he might be considering going back to the mellower tone that was characteristic of his earlier blogging—back before he descended into his seemingly daily flights of negativity that led to a bout of high-profile rancor among some in the blogging community.

I told Mike that I only “de-blogrolled” him because of inactivity, not politics. I said I would put him back on my roll unless he tells me that he doesn’t want to be associated with my political views.

Mike was very kind to me when I first started blogging, so I have no problem with having him back on the roll. I just hope to hell he means it when he says that his new blogging will be “without anger.”

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Finally, A Senator Speaks Out

Many thanks to Jordon Cooper for the reprint of Senator Robert Byrd’s speech delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate. I didn’t hear a peep about this from the mainstream American media, which is hardly surprising. They’ve been keeping our populace in ignorance since before I can remember.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all those milquetoasts running for the Democratic nomination for president would take up this speech as their rallying cry? Don’t hold your breath.

Of course, cynics will say that Byrd is in his mid-80’s, has a rock-solid safe seat, and doesn’t have to give a shit. So what? His words desperately need to be heard.

Friday, February 21, 2003

How To Make a Grown Man All Squishy Inside

Check out the Anniversary Cake being offered to me by His Eminence, The Archbishop of Blog Merry-Making, Frank Paynter.

And the baloons by Lisa English. Aw, gee, guys!

I Made It!

One year ago today, I launched my blog. At several points throughout the ensuing year, I wasn’t sure whether I would run out of steam before I made it to the one-year mark. Actually, I might have if it hadn’t been for the continual inspiration derived from reading the great blogs listed in my blogroll.

Being in marketing, Cluetrain Manifesto came to my attention, and from that, the illustrious blogs of Messrs. Locke, Searls, and Weinberger--and from them, many other delightful branches.

At first, I was just a lurker, adding these blogs to my daily component of reading. But then, I began to notice deeper possibilities—therapeutic and existential—in the practice of this fledgling craft.

Eric Norlin’s moving post, for example, in which he attempted to cope with his feelings about the grave illness of his beloved dog. It spoke to me about the possibilities for catharsis through blogging. Then there was an exchange between Jeneane and Weinberger about “writing ourselves into existence.

Jeneane’s words ignited me:

“that avatar we create *recreates* us in the offline world. It is a circle of creation and recreation. That is the joy in it for me--not so much the voice, the self I have created through blogging, but how that unleashed voice is transforming me, the person, the flesh and the mind.”

This led me to write Jeneane about getting into blogging. She was wonderfully gracious, helpful and supportive. With her motherly nudge, I took the plunge.

Here are some excerpts from my very first post:

“I've been fantasizing about putting together the perfect essay for an opening piece. Bullshit! If there's going to be a good piece, it will come when it comes. In the meantime, there's struggling with creating a new self--an expanded self. That's what I've concluded blogging--good blogging--is primarily about. . . .

. . . .The possibility for creating a new self through blogging was opened up for me by Jeneane Sessum, who is my other primary source of inspiration. She and Dr. Weinberger had an exchange on this, which I presume got opened up when Dr.W asserted that "We are writing ourselves into existence on the Web. Together." This statement has since acquired a touch of renown and cachet--deservedly so--as a lot of blogs have been picking up on it.

But it was Jeneane--a fabulous writer who goes straight to the soul--who really made it possible for me to see the opportunity for self-expansion that lay ahead if I would take the plunge into serious blogging. She was also incredibly gracious and supportive in responding to my fan email. As was David. Thanks so much guys.

……Anyway, David and his amazing ‘threadmates’ have precipitated my thinking quite a bit about the subject of inventing the self. "Inventing the self" sounds at first blush like an act of vanity and deception--the antithesis of authenticity. I would assert that inventing the self is a supreme act of personal responsibility. You're either creating it and putting it out there or you're operating at default self--i.e., without authenticity. Default self is the sum of all that one has been. We tend to see this as what the self is, and it leaves us locked in to what we were. .”

So that was the possibility that I saw in blogging when I started out --the possibility for re-invention—an expanded self—doubly important and doubly challenging when you’re moving toward the sunset years as I am.

My vision was largely correct. I am now, one year later, a more alive and expanded person than I would have been had I not engaged in blogging this past year. I need to remember that when I get depressed or fearful of running out of blogging steam. Pushing through that is where the real value comes.

Thanks again to all my fellow bloggers. Getting to know you has been the best part!

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Five and Dime Nostalgia

David Lyttle has fun today reminiscing about the old five and dimes. He does a nice job of citing some of the things that evoke sharp memories of these former mainstays of our pre-mall culture.

The thing I remember most about the five and dimes was the God-awful smell--an unholy mélange of stale candy and popcorn, cheap cosmetics, and vinyl.

Then, of course, there were the lunch counters with the old ladies on both sides of the counter. Every sandwich, it seemed, was a "toastie," smashed to smithereens in a sandwich press, served with flaccid potato chips and the ubiquitous Coke in the classic curved glass

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Blogward Ho!

Back to blogging after a holiday hiatus. This past week has seen my lowest readership levels since I installed Site Meter back in the summer. My hits have been climbing steadily upward month after month, but in February, they’ve slipped into reverse. I’ve been in a funk, no doubt about it. Every February, I seem to suffer some sort of Seasonal Depressive Disorder. Last February, one of my motivations in launching my blog was the hope of providing myself with an antidote to these annual blahs.

It’s interesting how your tracking results reflect your personal state. It’s also ironic in a way because this week-–Friday to be exact—will mark this blog’s one year anniversary. I had hoped to be entering that milestone on an upnote rather than a downturn.

Oh well, I’ve seen so many bloggers—great bloggers—reach these impasses where they say they’re going to have to re-evaluate their relationship with blogging. Some of them even threaten to quit for a while. Some of them actually go ahead and do it. But in every case that I’ve seen—bingo--they’re back in the blogging game before you can say Small Pieces Loosely Joined.

So I guess I’ll spare you the mantra about “reassessing my relationship with blogging” and just muddle ahead as best I can.

My blogging funk and my blogiversary are occurring at an interesting time in the development of Web logging. I suspect that blogspace is going to be dominated for a while with speculation about the Google purchase of Pyra. The best of such speculation that I’ve seen so far is in Shelley Power’s blog—particularly the Comments to her post of Feb. 16—41 in all (41 comments—my God, that’s so far outside of my reality! Shelley must be the all-time comment recipient champion of the blogosphere. And why not? She's earned it).

Speculation seems to range from dark to exuberant. On the positive end of the spectrum, I particularly like Jeneane’s take on it. In her Comment to Burningbird, she says,

“The point is: We're driving it. And Google knows this. They're not looking to control--they're looking to enable. That is why this move is so fucking brilliant.”

Phil Wolff, imho, hits the nail on the head in his Comment, analyzing the business rationale for this move—a move that many are questioning. Phil observes:

“Pyra doesn't make any money today because it doesn't have a b2b product or sales / marketing / support organization. Google does, in the form of its Google Search Appliance products. With Pyra, they can walk into the Naval Academy, Chevron, or the CIA and offer a bundled search box and all the blogspace you can chew in the privacy of your own intranet. You might throw away Lotus Notes or the next Microsoft Office suite if all your people write to the web, if the content is linked and rapidly available through Google”

I also like the remarks of Dan Gillmor in his column in the San Jose Mercury:

"More than most Web companies, Google has grasped the distributed nature of the online world, and has seen that the real power of cyberspace is in what we create collectively. We are beginning to see that power brought to bear."

Hallelujah and Amen!

Friday, February 14, 2003

Voix de Raison

A lot of Americans would like to string up the French because of their alleged ingratitude in not supporting the US rush to war. Well, I’m not one of them. I find their defense of sanity in this matter both refreshing and hopeful.

I was fortunate enough this morning to be able to listen to the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, as he addressed the UN Security Council. It was a stirring speech, both logical and impassioned—a powerful call for giving peace a chance.

The chamber erupted in applause, apparently a rare event in the UN. It was a pleasure to watch Colin Powell attempting to not show his anger.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Niner Noodling

Jordon Cooper was looking for my reaction to the 49ers selection of Dennis Erickson as the new head coach, but found nothing. Sorry, Jordon, I’m at least a day behind on everything right now. But, for what it’s worth, here it is.

I agree with Jordon’s observation that this was probably not a good choice. The local press and a poll of the fans also show agreement. But who knows? Maybe Erickson’s a winner.

Unfortunately. The problem with the Niners is not coach selection. Ever since Eddie DeBartolo was forced to give up the team, the front office management has floundered.

The new owner, Eddie D’s brother-in-law, Dr. John York, is a meddlesome no-nothing. The President, Terry Donahue, shows no imagination or organizational ability—a far cry from the former President—Carmen Policy, now with Cleveland and bringing that fledgling organization around nicely.The legendary Bill Walsh remains as a consultant, but his status and influence remain murky and ill-defined, making things more difficult and confusing for any coach.

My sons, who grew up in the 49er glory years of 1981-98 and were totally spoiled by it, cover their ears and hurl epithets at me when I say this, but I do honestly believe that this once proud organization is in decline, and will only get worse. It doesn’t matter whether Erickson is a good choice or a bad one.

Great coaches in dysfunctional organizations can’t do very much. The most vivid example of this is Mike Holmgren at Seattle. So, Jordon--to sum up my reaction to the Erickson hiring---Ho Hum.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Aussie Nude-In

Those Aussies sure know how to wage a protest. A fitting (and fetching) gesture on the heels of Prime Minister John Howard’s lap dog performance at his recent visit with Bush and Gang.

Do you suppose Jonathon Delacour had anything to do with it?

Dave Rogers lets his imagination run wild and entertains the vision of thousands of these brave women lining up and baring all at the entry points to Iraq. Can you imagine Bush trying to bully his way past that one?

Keep on spinning out the creative ideas, Dave. If the diplomats can't save us, maybe you're the last hope. Thanks, btw, to Dave for the link.

Alphabet Bliss

The last five days or so have been heaven on the local radio. KFOG has been airing its marathon A-to-Z show—the 2000 best singles in the history of rock and roll, in alphabetical order.

I’m afraid that today will be the last day. They’re on the W’s.

At the moment, it’s my favorite Stones’ single, “Wild Horses.” Every time I hear it, I want to grab my lady, get belly-to-belly, and rock and sway slowly across the floor in synch to the wonderful harmony and chord changes of this classic.

Wow! And what do they follow this with? Another great belly-to-belly, rock-and-sway classic--U2's "With Or Without You." Why can't radio be like this all the time?

Return Of The Dead

The “return” refers to the name, not the band. The band never went away. After Jerry Garcia’s untimely death in 1995, the surviving members continued as “The Other Ones.” But the name never really clicked, and the band seemed to be drifting.

Happily, this state of affairs has changed—as announced by the band’s press release this week—which I quote in part:

Seven years ago, when Jerry passed, we made a conscious decision to retire the name Grateful Dead. We did so after some deep soul searching and out of our love and respect for what we had created together. After we played our first shows together at Alpine Valley last year, we were all profoundly affected by a sense of awe and connection that none of us had felt since we played with Jerry.

It was a magical occurrence that no one could have anticipated, yet one we all want to embrace. To us, this was the Grateful Dead- without Jerry. We had stopped being the ‘Other Ones’ and were on our way to becoming something new but at the same time very familiar.

‘Grateful Dead’ conjures up many different emotions and feelings for all of us; it was a BAND, it continues to be a community, an approach to life, a electrical current, a dream, the list goes on. Whenever and wherever we played this past year, we all knew that we were experiencing Grateful Dead in its multiplicity of forms. We also know that this would not have been possible without all of you joining to support us.

Therefore, with the greatest possible respect to our collective history, we have decided to keep the name ‘Grateful Dead’ retired in honor of Jerry's memory, and call ourselves: ‘The Dead.’ “

In the same release, the Dead announced that they would kick off their new name with a benefit concert on Valentine’s Day at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. “Ticket sales will commence at noon Monday,” the release declared.

At 12:08 Monday, all tickets were gone. The Dead is beginning/The Dead is back. A simultaneous serendipity.

Monday, February 10, 2003

The Shugart Index of Economic Indicators

During the years when I commuted to the city, I found that a simple but accurate indicator of economic activity was the level of rider-ship on the trains. Never mind the economists’ fancy theories or the spins of whatever Administration was in office at the moment. The trains told the real story.

This past Friday I was in the heart of Silicon Valley for the first time in over a year. I decided to apply a variation of the Shugart Economic Evaluation that seemed appropriate for that region--the Drive-By Assessment. George W should have been with me. He might have learned something.

I was literally stunned as I drove by acre after acre of parking lots surrounding the huge stretch of technology complexes. Some of these lots were totally empty. Most of them averaged around ten, or at most, twenty per cent occupancy. It was a forlorn tableau. The only lot that was filled to the edges was, of course, Google, deservedly so.

It’s one thing to read about the downturn, or to talk to individuals lamenting their reversals of fortune. But this simple drive-by put it into an immediate and vivid perspective.

Will the Old World Save Us?

Merci beaucoup to La Belle France for lending a hand to the people of the US—giving some welcome payback to their former liberators, as it were. I’m referring, of course, to their sticking up for some sanity and trying to throw a monkey wrench into Bush’s hard charge towards potential catastrophe.

And ditto for the Germans, Russians, Belgians, and Chinese. As Lisa English puts it:

”Whodda thunk it? Freedom loving Americans, now under the thumb of a repressive Bush regime, are looking for the world to get us out of this mess.”

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Taking A Break

I'm leaving town for a couple of days to keep my wife company while she attends a seminar. We're planning to kick her business into the next gear, and this is the first step. See you after the weekend. Have a good one.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

The McSlide and a Brewer’s Cautionary Tale

It’s been amusing to watch the McDonald's marketing people take the heat for the first negative quarter in the fast food giant’s history. Hey, McIdiots, marketing ain’t the problem.The Golden Arches are becoming a dinosaur, first of all, and secondly, more and more people are starting to become hip to the fact that eating Ronald’s garbage can be dangerous to your health.

The marketing people know this, but the corporate execs are breathing down their necks, telling them that they’ve got to spice up the message. Nothing is more terrifying to a marketing person than being faced with putting a spin on an inferior product.

The McD marketing folks, in a panic, are convening a joint creative conference with ten different ad agencies. This is practically unheard of and a sign of true desperation. Normally, you get each agency,separately, to pitch its own approach to your marketing situation, and you go with the one that seems to have the most promise.

Marketing professionals hate being in this bind because they know that dollars spent to lure customers to inferior products or services will come back to haunt them. Sometimes it can even lead to a death spiral. That’s what happened to Schlitz about twenty years ago.

Schlitz beer is still around, but owned by Pabst and a pallid shadow of its glory days. The once mighty Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company is long gone. I’ll bet few of my readers were of boozing age when Schlitz was actually the number one “premium-priced” beer in the US—valued for its good taste and consistent quality. Its slogan, “The beer that made Milwaukee famous,” was universally recognized. “She sits and sips Schlitz” was perhaps the most famous toungue-twister of the time.

In the 70’s, Budweiser and Miller got very aggressive in their advertising and overtook Schlitz in sales and market share. How did Schlitz respond? They decided to compete on price and to join the advertising wars.

In order to compete on price, they were forced to lower their quality. Then, astonishingly, they launched a massive, “taste challenge” ad campaign. It became one of classic fiascos of marketing history. People were invited to do blindfold taste tests. These had the unintended but predictable result of people discovering that Schlitz was the shits.

Continuing their cost-cutting, Schlitz did the unthinkable. They left Milwaukee because they could no longer afford the high wages of the skilled brewers of that Germanic city—thus destroying their history, heritage, credibility, and of course, their famous slogan.

They went down south—Texas, I think—and only lasted a few years. By the early 80’s, they were out of business entirely. Pabst picked up the brand but has done nothing with it. It’s now a minor label in a dreary stable of watery beers. If you had told people when I was in college that Schlitz would be belly up in twenty years, you would have been dismissed as deranged.

McDonald's, by making its marketing people the scapegoats for its current problems, could be starting down this same treacherous road. If it happens, I will gleefully dance on their grave.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Dorothea Gets In!

Congrats to our favorite Library Information-Maven-In-Waiting on her acceptance to the graduate program! The field of Library and Information Studies will never be the same.

We await your war stories, Dorothea.

Monday, February 03, 2003

What’s Great About Blogging—Cont’d

As we continue to blog, our sites spread ever wider and rise ever higher in the realm of Google searches. Frequently, the queries on which we show up are bizarre, or just plain disgusting.

Fortunately, there’s the other side of the coin. Sometimes, a wonderful person from your past is surfing Google and stumbles across your humble blog, and Voila! A serendipitous reconnection is made.

Jill and I are terrible at keeping up with people after they move out of the area. It’s one of our worst faults as a couple. But thanks to blogging and Google, a wonderful woman from our past
(twenty years ago) has found us, and is now living only 200 miles away. We are looking forward to some exciting reciprocal visits!

Sunday, February 02, 2003


As frequently happens, I’ve fallen behind in my blog surfing. Fortunately, my wife has been doing some filling in for me. I’ve gotten her hooked on following some of the blogs on my roll—one of which is Halley Suitt. Jill brought Halley’s post of a few days back to my attention—the one in which Halley ruminates on what she calls the “Beta Males”—the under-35 guys.

Halley remarks on how the younger guys are moving away from the male obsession with work that typified my generation. The new guys tend to be true partners with their mates and seek to strike a healthy work/life balance.

I don’t think I’d call’em Betas, though. I prefer to think of them as post-Alphas. The old Alphas are on their way into the dustbin of history. These heads-on-straight new guys are the true Alphas—right now, today—we don’t have to wait for the testing.

I’ve remarked several times in this blog that Jill has been in a unique position to witness this change first-hand. She was an administrator of early-childhood education programs for some twenty-five years. Around the mid-90’s, she began noticing a huge shift in the involvement of fathers with their kids, and the sharing of the parenting responsibilities. In her family therapy practice, a frequent issue that Jill encounters with younger fathers is the attempt to achieve the work/life balance. With older fathers, the issue is far more likely to be the fallout of never having had such balance.

I’ve also remarked several times in these pages that, imho, it’s the women that are responsible for this. By waging the battle for equality in the workplace, today’s woman is much more likely to have a job and career that’s as important and significant to the family checkbook as her mate’s. In this state of affairs, the old Alpha posture just isn’t going to cut it.

I guess I was ahead of my time. I married a career woman and I never let work take an upper hand over family. I paid the price. My values were not shared by my male peers. I never got very far in the workplace—basically just got by. But my joy of participating with my family made up for it. Sure, it would be nice to be in a better financial position now—but at the cost of not having been an intimate part of my kids’ childhood? At the cost of not now being able to be close friends with them? No thanks. As the old axiom says, no one ever said these words on his deathbed: “Damn! I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

So Vive Les Hommes Nouveaux—Betas, post-Alphas, or whatever you want to call’em. And thanks to Halley for pointing them out.

Moving Into Prime Time

Happy 40th birthday to George Partington! I'm sure that one of the things that George is thankful about as he turns this corner is the long friendship of the poetic Ray Sweatman. Don't miss Ray's moving tribute to his good buddy.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Do Astronauts Matter?

Good discussion at Burningbird on the significance of astronauts and the space program.

Bush Fails to Sway the Media

A small but possibly encouraging sign emerged this week about how Americans might actually feel about the headlong rush into war. Editor and Publisher Magazine did a survey of the editorial positions of the 50 leading dailies in the US—after the State of the Union speech.

These are the results:
Totally pro-war now – 5
Cautiously pro-war now---11
No opinion expressed---5
Highly skeptical of Bush’s war plans—29

Let’s hope that these dailies are reflecting the views of their readers.