Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Web surfer that slips in your pocket

It's not the fastest lil thing, but it sure is a cute way to surf the Web!;-) Posted by Hello (See item below for more details)

Moxi and Pocket Surfer: My two new toys

Coincidentally, two very interesting fun dealy-bobs just came into my life.

One is the latest and greatest (IMHO) way to "surf TV" as you do the Web. It's a two-tuner DVR that Bend Broadband is offering, from Paul Allen's company, digeo. It's called Moxi. (To see my article about it, click here.)

Then there's one I read about recently in Time and decided, for the price, I just had to try it. It's called the Pocket Surfer, from Datawind and it's a Web surfer that's about the size of a checkbook (and not much heavier). It costs just $200 and uses your cell phone to connect to the Web via Bluetooth (if your phone, like mine, isn't Bluetooth-enabled, you can get a little USB-connect Bluetooth dongle to make that wireless connection.)

I've drooled over similar form-factor "palmtop PCs" for years, but the $800-plus price tag always scared me off - what if I drop the thing or leave it somewhere by accident? (Or break it?) When I saw the price, I figured this was the Christmas toy for me.

The "cool factor" alone is worth a good chunk of the price - which is fortunate, because despite a couple positive reviews and the touting of it's speed, it's been a bit pokey for me. (Whether that has anything to do with Sprint not supporting using phones as modems and having to use it by the minute, rather than megabyte, I don't know.)

But the pages render accurately, and you can click through and use the thumb keyboard to enter info in forms, etc. I still dream of a faster lil device, about the same size, with file storage, word processing, etc., for a similar price point. But this is a door to the future, and like CompuServe in 1985 or America Online in 1990, you can see the promise coming down the pike to reality. I'm jazzed!;-) (This image is of the top of the Bend.com home page.)

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Oy, what I would give...

...for someone to at least tell me the kind of device I'm about to describe is possible. Within the rest of my lifetime. For less than a small fortune:

I'm a reporter. I skipped third grade, so I'm sure I missed some handwriting classes. Ever since, my handwriting has sucked, especially when someone is speaking fast and I'm trying to get down every interesting word. It's sort of a self-encryption - if I don't transcribe the notes within 12-24 hours, even I can't make out what it says. (It's why I love phone interviews - not out of sheer laziness - well, not just that - but I'm a real fast typist, so those notes are 1,000 times better.)

Sooo.... there's voice-recognition software out there, right? Getting better all the time? But apparently you still have to train the thing? I'd LOVE to tape interviews, rather than scribble them, then upload the audio file and have a program turn it into text! Heck, I'd settle for 30 percent accuracy, that'd be better than my stinkin' notes!

My friend/co-worker Jesse told me it'd take more processing power than anyone has at the moment. But "Utterly Boring" Jake agrees with me that'd it be so useful to so many folks.

So ... am I dreaming? Will it arrive in another 50 years, too late for me? Or ...

Oh and another invention idea, my wife Deb and I had - why not sell scrapbooking software IN a scrapbook? (And photo album software IN/with a photo album, for that matter?) With the pages and the software set for those pages? Clip art built in, the whole package together, "hardware" and software? I've thumbed through scrapbooking magazines and haven't seen that, have I missed it? (I should patent that one, yeah right;-)

It's what the world's been waiting for...

Wrapped around your Oregonian comics this morning, in case you had ANY appetite before ... a full-color, life-sized version of the latest breakthrough innovation from Carl's Jr. - you know, the ones with that witty "Don't bother me, I'm eating" ad campaign.

I'll admit it, when I haven't had breakfast OR lunch, I've been known to enjoy a Palmer's Cafe burger that actually has ham, egg and cheese on it - what do they call that, the Lumberjack Burger or somethin'?

But this one takes the cake - to me, it even tops the new XXL Pizza Hut monster or the "Why eat one pizza when you can have a double-decker with cheese between the crusts" carotid-artery special from Domino's.

It's ... the Pastrami Burger. But the fine print says it's only available for a limited time. So hurry! (Hey, add sauerkraut and it can be a Reuben Burger! And then make the bun out of rye bread and ... muwahahahahahah!);-)

Saturday, December 04, 2004

'National Treasure,' indeed

The missus and I just came from one of our favorite flicks of a year in which we've seen a whole lot more than normal: "National Treasure."

I'll skip the plot details and just say if you like a good yarn, a good mystery, a fun movie for the whole family (no swear words! Two kisses! Very little violence!) check it out.

And online, I found in the oddest of ways - by Googling the movie title and 'Masons' (see it, you'll see why), something new called a SmartTrailer - sort of like getting to see all the DVD extras way before the DVD comes out. It's at: http://www.compleatseanbean.com/nt-enhanced.html (you'll probably need broadband, which I'm not sure I could live without;-)

Best thing I can say about the latest Nicolas Cage/Jerry Bruckheimer teamwork is: You don't know exactly what's coming next. (At least, I didn't.) A clever mix of fact and fantasy and history and Indiana Jones? That is a "national treasure."

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The highest compliment

Twice today, people in the midst of controversy around here - one public-sector, the other private-sector - complained to me about the daily paper's treatment of them, and paid me a compliment I don't take the time to appreciate nearly often enough.

They called me fair. And while fishing for compliments is a hazardous sport, with little chance of success, I (perhaps naively) don't believe they were simply sucking up. Too many times, I've heard how people in high-visibility positions simply pray that the media doesn't foul up the basic message they are trying to get across, much less agree with them on the editorial pages. And so many times, the press comes up short in the basics of accuracy and fairness.

As a reporter for a local Website for the past five years, I've been very blessed to have a boss who doesn't tell me what to write, or how to write it. I have no idea how many times he's bitten his tongue to keep from doing just that, but I've tried to make clear how much I appreciate his trust in my news judgment.

I can mess up, like any other human. (Oh boy, can I.) But when I tell folks "I don't play gotcha journalism," I mean it. I drool over a juicy story as much as the next reporter, but I don't believe, as some editors obviously do, that if you don't make the people you cover mad at you, you must be too cozy with them and not doing your job. That if the folks you write about like your stories - especially if they are in government - you must be doing something wrong.

Telling both sides of a story seems to be out of favor any more, as journalism magazines question the very worthiness of objectivity. I've engaged in my share of newslist fistfights with those who believe that reporters shouldn't give both sides equal weight if one side is "obviously wrong." Get real. We don't wear robes, and we're not on a jury. We fail in our mission if we pretend that we can sort out the crooks from the heroes, and I firmly believe most readers are smart enough to see right through one-sided "position journalism." They know when they are being spun.

Trouble is, if you believe what you read these days, a lot of folks are rather enjoying "preaching to the choir" news sources that do what the right-wing talk show hosts do: Tell you that you're right and the other side is wrong, that just about everything is black and white, and that one day, when your side prevails, Utopia will exist. Very scary.

The beauty, value and worth of objective news reporting is that you get to hear the other points of view, the other side or thought you hadn't considered. That it becomes less easy to live in your cozy world view of preconceived notions. That you realize that the problem you thought would be so easily solved if only everyone believed as you do ... isn't that simple at all. And maybe, just maybe, we all nudge a bit toward the middle, toward common ground, toward that far-too-maligned notion of compromise.

A friend who's a state senator points out that even the most black-and-white of issues have grays to them. Darn straight. If we buy simple answers, we'll be disappointed with the results every single time, IMHO.

Maybe I'm an old-fashioned dinosaur. Maybe "position journalism" isn't just an editorial or column masquerading as a fair, balanced story. Maybe a story without "spin" is too boring to be read by far too many folks. But I still believe it's the right way to go, and that the idea of all media proclaiming their political (or other) ideologies is downright chilling.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Eating Larry Hagman (or JR takes the cake)

Sometimes, the edge is the best part of The Oregonian (and if it's posted at Oregon Live, I haven't a clue where;-)

Take, for example, these two tidbits:

Larry Hagman has stipulated that upon his death, he wants his body to be ground in a wood chipper and scattered in a field, where wheat is to be harvested for a cake to be eaten by his friends and family one year later. (This from USA Today, no less).

Now does that sound like a paaartaaaay or what?;-)

Followed by the tale of "a Turkish gas station attendant who lost his cell phone dialed the number and was surprised to hear it ringing from his dog's stomach."

The headline was just right: "Can you hear me NOW?" (Beats "This Too Shall Pass";-)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Nothing brings a smile...

like word of an imminent release of a new album from one of my Top 5 favorite artists of all time, Elton John. "Peachtree Road" is the name, and after listening to 30-second clips of each song, I know it's another great one. I feared "Songs From the West Coast" was so bitter about music in the lyrics, etc., that he might pack it in, but this one sounds superb.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

OrBlogs testing 1-2-3;-)

I think I just added the code that gets me seen at OrBlogs, a fast-growing repository of Oregon blogs. (In fact, this blog and my other, Please Release Me already are listed there!) Now I just gotta think of some important things to say;-)

Healing nation? (Or more screams at extremes?)

How long will it be before we see a set of lawn signs/bumper stickers that say "Don't blame me, I voted for Kerry!" and "Wake Me in '08" (and/0r Hillary '08")?

Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush said the right things today. We'll see how that translates into action (or inaction) in the next four years, and whether the country can heal or we need a move toward the center through such things as the "Radical Middle."

We really need to find a way to move away from the screams at the extremes. I was just listening to an old friend and philosophical foe, Lars Larson, on the radio, so mad he was shaking (I could tell) about punks who threatened him and his wife, posted his home address on the Net, forced him to move, etc.

Ideas/views I disagree with me don't scare me. That kind of punk behavior surely does. Our own homegrown terrorists deserve nothing better than the ones overseas. If you say someone who speaks his mind on the radio "deserves it," you're part of the problem, and you scare me, too.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Plumb out!

Gee, there must be lots more kids in our neighborhood (Foxborough). We did the "2 pieces per" out of what we thought was a big bowl, and ran out by, oh, 6:15! So it's turn off the lights, shut the blinds and ... sorrreeeee;-/

A "community" news service - by the community?

Well, if this isn't a potential antidote to the blog as navel-gazing "Me Magazine" diary writing, I don't know what is.

Ever heard of Wikipedia? The open-source encyclopedia that anyone can add to, edit, etc.? Risky biz, for sure - but quite the wondrous site to check out.

Now, there's a movement afoot, to do something similar with the news. Wikinews is already creating quite a debate, even controversy about its potential use (or abuse), value and worthiness.

I sure like the idea, myself. I've offered to help, maybe with that unsung but most important of jobs - proofreading. (Seeing as how I'm always better at catching others' typos than my own;-)

But in reading Dan Gillmor's "We The Media," I'm reminded of the notion that journalists have too high an opinion of themselves - that yes, we have special training and unique experience, but the whole idea of the Web and the Net is that everyone has a voice - and gets to use it.

Will this work? I have no idea. But it'll be fun to help - a collaborative process, far from the insularity of blogging and looking for folks to stop by. This will be a major thoroughfare, with all the pluses/minuses that entails. If folks behave themselves and work (and play) to their better instincts, it'll sure beat the Sims Online or Chat Room 1,034 as a place to see things happen, and make things happen.

Or not;-)

Oh, and by the way - objectivity in the news is taking a beating from some quarters who claim it's not fair to give the "wrong" side/"questionable" points of view equal time.

Poppycock. NPOV is my favorite new acronym - stands for Neutral Point of View. It's explained wonderfully here at Wikipedia. I'll have to go back and read it slowly, because it makes the kind of points I've been trying to make in much more reasoned, in-depth fashion.

Saturday, October 23, 2004


Riff off a stand-up routine I saw many moons ago - okay, sing along!:

"Seventy-six trombones led the big parade ... there was nobody else!"

"Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket ... AAAAIIIEEEEE!"

"Imagine me and you ... I don't."

"Every time it rains, it rains - that much is certain." (Borrowed from Brother Rick;-)

"I just called to say I lo - (click)"

Okay, not as funny as a good episode of "Scrubs" (never saw a bad one). But hopefully at least a smile;-)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Google does it right (again)

As a guy named Barney who knows the song "Barney Google," but doesn't exactly have "goo-goo-googly eyes" (as far as I know), I've always had a soft spot for the Kings and Queens of Search.

So I downloaded the Google Desktop Search with more excitement than trepidation, figuring they'd do it right, as they have everything else (okay, I wish Blogger had more oomph, but it sure works nice and is simple).

And they did. It didn't take long at all to index ALL of my .doc and .txt files, Outlook e-mail, Web sites, etc. And I used it within a couple of hours to find a piece of notes from several months ago, and it came up lightning quick.

Bravo. In fact, said so on Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine site (a favorite blog, BTW), and someone responded: "I'm with Barney, this thing is amazingly fast. Makes the XP search look like a horse & buggy. And it'll find whatever you've got. Hell, I've got porn I'd completely forgotten about."

Hmmmm.... time for another search;-)

Ow, that hurt

Some doofus (trying to be kind) who was camped out by the railroad tracks next to the Bend Parkway (nice, quiet spot - yeah right) caused a lot of people a lot of grief today.

He fell asleep with a lantern burning, and knocked it over, and started a fire, and tried to put it out, but he couldn't, so he called 911, and the fire got bad enough it burned some wires overhead - but not just any wires, but the freakin' BendBroadband fiber-optic wires, the ones made of glass, thin as a hair, that carry light (and a whole lot of data), and melt. And which it takes some specialized wiring to fix.

Soooo ... though BendBroadband says it only affected about 5,700 subscribers, I have a feeling a lot more of their almost-30,000 customers felt the pain, for several hours (here's my story about the mess). And most folks really don't have a backup for this stuff - it's cable-modem or nothin. (DSL customers today could chuckle and feel sorry, I suppose.)

It sure throws off the rhythm -- I didn't get to two things I wanted to cover today, and it took quite a while to catch up on e-mail, etc. I've already heard the city manager on the radio, saying he wants to make sure (the city also uses the cable system for Net-based phones!) they have redundancy, like Qwest created for its phone lines after several really dumb, really widespread outages.

But what's a home user (or home-office) user to do? We haven't had a "real modem" for a long, long time, and to have both DSL and the cable modem is ... well, ridiculous (and priced like that, too;-) BendBroadband does have a great service and a great up-time percentage, but when one has one's digital eggs all in one's basket, one would like that basket to be made of titanium alloy. (Though who could lift, or afford, that?;-)

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Moderate in wilderness says: 'Eureka! I found it!'

In a way, I feel like a fool - or at the least, like a less-than-professional Google-searcher.

A few months back, I wrote something that was more of a St. Helens-style venting of steam (and ash) than it was a reasoned piece of political discourse. I called it "A Moderate's Manifesto," and it kvetched about how sick I was (and I'm sure by this point in the election season, many of you are) of the extremist screaming that passes for political debate these days.

Before writing it, I went Googlin' with some search terms that related to "moderates" or "moderate politics" and couldn't come up with stuff better than out of Sweden, for goodness sake. Still, my pal Jake at UtterlyBoring.com was kind enough to post it, and it apparently drew some interest from here and there.

Then, this past weekend, I finally got out of Bend for more than 48 hours - the first time in more than a year. And while my darlin' wife got to attend her Women of Faith convention, I got to spend a couple semi-rainy days at Powell's Bookstore, the Western Hemisphere's reading hangout, where I picked up a fun lil mag, Utne Reader, that I peruse on occasion.

And that's where I found it: the article about the movement that I just knew HAD to be out there, but couldn't put my digital finger on. In this case, it's called the Radical Middle, and while it may be a bit more Radical and a bit less Middle than to my immediate liking, I soon had grabbed the only copy (left) of the book by the same name, which led me to the Website, which in turn has led to such interesting groups (and sites) as the Centrist Coalition.

I personally feel that Radical Middle author Mark Satin has, while putting his fingers on the pulse of something, may have gone too far for many who would just like rational, reasonable debate over issues and some out-of-the-box thinking without throwing away the box. The idea of a combined draft-or-community service requirement for all young Americans of a certain age has its pluses, but I'm not sure how the idea of federalizing ALL public education funding would go over.

To me, it's far more important that there's places out there where people are trying to get beyond the ideas of "opponent as Devil Incarnate" (Rush Limbaugh buys into that on one extreme, Al Franken and most Bush-haters on the other) and look not for "Kumbaya"-singing waffle-fests, but real answers to tough issues that deserve more than rhetoric and finger-pointing. Once you get into the specifics, people might peel off -- but setting up the structure for dialogue beyond the screeds of the Major Party Machines is the crucial part, to my way of thinking.

Nevertheless, I think I've finally found the Mother Lode, when it comes to us folks who think Middle of the Road is where most of us are, and that it doesn't mean you get hit from both directions - as long as there's a well-designed median from which to decide on directional travel. Some from the extremes at both ends of the polar spectrum might call that wishy-washy waffling, but I daresay a majority of Americans would call it a New Reality worth embracing and exploring.

I know I plan to!

Monday, October 04, 2004

Here I am!

There ARE eyes behind the glasses;-) Posted by Hello
I wanted to put this over in that profile box, but my my, has Blogger made that ... not as easy as other stuff? BloggerBot seems a bit ... um, constraining. Oh well, it'll change - everything online does!;-)

Spyware ad nauseum unproductus

Lordy, have they got us coming and going or what?

The nasty spyware that infests and infects. Then you have to pay for programs like Ad-Aware, Spybot and the new King Killer, Spy Bouncer to get rid of ones that even the Big Boys haven't gotten around to. (Thanks to Brother Pete for finding that apparently quite effective lil proggie;-)

So they help you find dozens, even hundreds of baddies hiding in your files and registry. But then, if ya wanna remove the darn things, ya have to pay up. And we do, we do - because the pop-ups are at the least maddening, and sometimes far worse.

So is it, as a UPI friend posted today, like paying the Mafia "protection"? Are they in cahoots? I don't want to believe it, but ... sigh.

Hummer Bummer (or, Sorry, Jake...)

But the hundreds of times I send you things a month for your great blog start feeling like someone poking you in the ribs until you wanna bop them on the head.

So why not just do it myself? Why shouldn't I just tell the world (yeah right) when I, for example, open a Bon-Macy's mailing (they must come 2x a week!) and one of the infernal perfume deals that falls out is:

"Hummer: The Essence of Adventure. A New Fragrance for Men"/

Smells like plain ol' cologne to me. But the bottle is shaped like one of them cars;-)

So go ahead, call me a meany, Indian giver. But I wanna kick Bloggers' tires all by myself;-)

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Hello there! (And visit over here!)

Here's the first post I made on this blog, before I found that Squarespace would be a better place to do my Website all about press releases. (That's because I saw right off that Blogger, at present, doesn't even let you do sub pages, from anything I could find.)

So come visit my "professional" site (well, the one other than Bend.com, my real day job;-)

Greetings and solutions! (Well, I hope solutions, anyway;-)

Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm Barney Lerten, a 25-year "professional" journalist (and long before that in amateur-land). I live in Bend, Oregon, a booming High Desert town of, oh, 60,000 or so, with my darlin' wife Deb and two kittycats.

I work for a great Website, where I write a LOT of local news. But as the only reporter, we also do something pretty unique, to cover more ground than one person could ever hope to cover. We post press releases (the ones we get electronically, anyway). ALL press releases we get via e-mail, of local import. (Thank goodness for the world of cut-paste!)

I've been doing this for close to five years now, and so, while I'd seen tons of press releases over the decades, I've personally handled and edited MANY more in the past five years. And I've learned a LOT about what folks out there are doing right - and wrong - with press releases.

Not everyone gets into the public relations field, but FAR more folks than just the PR professionals find a need to do regular or occasional press releases - and they've often asked me, "How?"

In the past, I pointed them to what now stands as a vast archive of the good, bad (and yep, the ugly) of press releases on our Website, and basically said, "pick a style you like and copy it."

But there's got to more to it than that. And there is! So I figure, why not share what I've learned and help myself in the process. Yes, this Website will be a chance for me to help you, and myself at the same time. Or as Jerry McGuire pleaded, "Help me help you!"

I've said many times that there are thousands of ways to write a news article right, and thousands of ways to write it wrong. The same goes for press releases. I'm not about to claim there's one "correct" way to write all of them - in fact, my plan is to create sections on this site that talk about the various categories of press releases, and tips and techniques for each.

Yep, thousands of ways to write them right, and wrong - the trick is to be on the right side of the line - not formulaic or A-B-C, just ... an inviting release that gets the message across to whom you want, in timely fashion. So, this is a chance to start assembling tips, saluting the really good

There are some experts out there who claim press releases are awful, that they take a one-size-fits-all approach and try to curry the favor of editors, when in the world of the Internet you can talk directly to the people you're trying to reach.

True, up to a point. But really, the Net has made it possible for everyone to be a writer, and the idea that press releases are going away is like saying the computer created the "paperless office" Ha! Anything but. It's buried us in information, a lot of it on paper.

So yes, the tips and techniques will be focused on what to say in your releases, as well as what not to say, what not to leave out, what formating to use (MS Word) and not (Publisher???), grammar and style and all of that - much of which comes into play no matter what medium you use, paper or e-mail.

So let's get started! And I look forward to hearing from you about what areas you'd like covered. As a reporter, I never claim to have "all the answers." I just try to have the right questions. The answers then follow.