An old media company like Comcast does something right online

Fancast Demo Screenshot featuring CSI Miami

If you’re a geek like me you know that it’s the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas right now and every morning while CES 2008 is running I’ll be cruising through all the news online looking for objets d’art for the Technophile. Today while reading a New York Times article on Comcast’s upcoming CES announcement I was taken aback in a really good way by a company that I’d least expect innovation from – the good ol’ cable company.

Long the bastion of horrid customer service, boring products, and technically poor image quality, the decrepid old U.S. Cable company Comcast has a new vision of cable T.V. that sounds pretty darn good. Even better, their online strategy is shockingly coherent. How? They’ve launched a free T.V. network online called Fancast that’s open to anyone, not just Comcast subscribers, where you can watch T.V. shows for free – on demand. We’re talking about some good T.V. content – not just old reruns. They’re also reaching out and integrating content from elsewhere on the web (like iTunes and Amazon), so it’s not the typical walled garden so popular with old media companies like Comcast.

They have some really interesting plans in store for the near future for both Fancast and their digital T.V. service.

I hate to admit it, but I’m happy for Comcast – and us.

[tags]Comcast, Fancast[/tags]

All aboard!

Grandluxe

I’ve been thinking about taking a train ride recently. In my search for the local Amtrak and Tri-Rail offerings just now in West Palm Beach I came across this news.

Luxury Train to Service West Palm Beach, Orlando August 27, 2007

WASHINGTON — Train aficionados and Florida magnates will now have the chance to experience rail travel in the lap of luxury, after Amtrak announced that it will include West Palm Beach and Orlando as stops on its new GrandLuxe Limited service.

Passengers on the luxury service will now be able to board and disembark the train on the overnight trip between Washington, D.C., and Miami at three Florida destinations: Orlando, West Palm Beach and Miami.

Seven GrandLuxe Rail Journeys cars, which can hold 47 passengers, will be pulled behind Amtrak trains on its Silver Meteor route between Washington and Miami.

For the well-heeled in those cities, this means they can step back into the sepia-tinged era of luxury rail travel at its zenith, when such an experience was the private domain of royalty, diplomats and the glitterati.

Some of the frills include mahogany interiors, five-course meals, hotel-standard sleeping cars and even a lounge car where passengers can sit in plush upholstered chairs and listen to a pianist.“

The bad news is in the closing paragraph.

Such luxury won’t come cheap, however. Prices will range from $789 to $1,299 per person for the two-day trip.

Wow! I can fly to D.C. First class and spend less than $789. I think we better go coach. Then again, five meals a day for two days does make up for a lot! Then there’s the ability to stretch out and take a nap. Check out the Grandluxe Express site.

[tags]Grandluxe, Train, Grand Luxe Express, Grandluxe Express[/tags]

Fully Loaded – The Loaded Vanguard that is

Loaded Vanguard PremiumAbout a year ago I got the itch for skateboarding again. It’s been a long time since I’ve shot a hill on a board – like 25 years. I learned to skateboard in 1976 with my brother almost immediately upon arriving in Western Australia from New Jersey.

Then as now, skateboarding was a literal and figurative form of freedom

My brother and I didn’t have new friends right away when we moved to Oz but we did have each other and we had our skateboards and through those boards we met a lot of people and had a lot of great experiences.

We never got into the tricks that you see on T.V. at the X-Games today but we did ride hills which takes some courage. We amassed many exhilarating moments, near-misses, and spectacular wipe outs, earning us battle scars and leading to heaps of fun. We did graduate to some pool riding but that was limited and I would never claim to have conquered pools – just a taste. Enough to appreciate what people can do on short boards today.

Then as now, skateboarding was a literal and figurative form of freedom, evoking similar feelings in me as motorbikes do. It seems I’m not the only one. Surfers share the same vibe. Back then our boards also served as basic transportation just like a bike. I had a thirst for this kind of freedom as a kid and some things about our characters never change…

This time around Longboards caught my attention. Although Longboards are longer than the boards I grew up on, they’re the same shape, run on similar wheels and they serve a very similar function; to eat up distance, fly down hills and get somewhere.

Longboards do these things much better than the boards we had ever could. They don’t just eat up flat land and carve down hills, they tear up straight-aways and shred hills.

Different length boards, trucks, wheels, and deck flexes all effect the specific handling of a Longboard just as they do their shorty cousins. One other variable – wheel size – also plays a critical role in handling. The bigger the wheel, the smoother and faster the ride. Just as with car or truck tires, the big wheels eat up bumps in the form of pebbles, rocks, curb lips, sidewalk lips and other “surface irregularities” that can literally send you flying off a regular board.

One thing that all skateboarding has in common is the silly grin it places on your face. A few months ago I went looking for today’s best Longboards and I believe I found them. They’re called Loaded boards. Loaded boards makes a complete line of Longboards that are considered the BMW’s of the Longboard crowd. As in Premium, High-Tech, and Sporty like a BMW.

Loaded has roots in Snowboarding and a focus on technology, materials, and complementary components (deck, trucks, wheels, bearings) all integrated to work together. They also bring an irresistible intangible. Adam Colton and Adam Stokowski. Although I don’t believe Adam S. works for Loaded, he’s as much a part of their early story as Adam Colton has gone on to be. Adam Colton now works at Loaded and seems to be their public persona.

Both Adam’s (referred to as Adam Squared) are largely responsible for creating many of the most exciting moves for Longboards today often categorized as “Dancers.”

The Adam’s spirit and passion are what grabs you – not just the magical moves. The Adam’s took a video camera and their passion and took center stage on Youtube. The rest is Longboarding history. Their videos manage

they are authentic, a label I apply sparingly

to be playful, endearing, spiritual, uplifting, and intelligent all at the same time. If you tried to bottle this it wouldn’t work – they are authentic, a label I apply sparingly. Their videos would make the average skateboarder get up and on their Longboards for a ride across America. Something Adam Colton actually did a couple of years ago with a group of friends. Adam plans a similar ride this summer across Europe with still other friends.

So back to flat lands and carving hills. We don’t have hills in South Florida but we have lots of smooth and flat, punctuated by bridges that offer some hill excitement. With my middle son Charlie now totally in to skateboarding my plan has been to get a ride when he arrived for summer so we could skate together.

Charlie actually got a new shorty board from his mum for his birthday and after I got my Loaded Vanguard Charlie couldn’t resist getting a Loaded board of his own: a Pintail. I had hoped I would ride with Max this summer as well but he wanted to stay in California this year with his friends so we’ll have to ride together another time. I’ll save it on my calendar for you Max and as long as I’m able, we’ll got out for a ride. I must thank Max also for his part in our longboarding – he was the first of us to get a Longboard and really focus my attention on them. When I was with Max earlier this year on his 16th birthday in The SF Bay Area it was his Sector 9 longboard that I hopped on for a spin around the block – enough to realize that I could still ride if I wanted to. These experiences are gifts and I thank Max for this one.

note: We didn’t get Charlie his Pintail until a couple of days after I purchased my Loaded Vanguard so this account doesn’t have his reactions since I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and am just now posting.

Back at the store in Ft. Lauderdale where I got my Vanguard…

Charlie and I couldn’t wait to ride the Vanguard — so we didn’t. As soon as we were out the door of the store Charlie was off. Grinning ensued. I hopped on. It was good. It felt solid and comfortable – I could still do this. This board breeds confidence. I’m getting to the part where I tell you just how much confidence it breeds. When we got home we went out to ride but it immediately started to rain. We went back inside dejected. We stood at the window together, me looking just as much the disappointed 11 year old as Charlie. And we waited. The skies cleared and the roads were ‘dry enough’ to go out.

You might think that this story ends up in a cast but you’ll have to read on to find out.

We took off down the road and I had no problems carving my mini-hill that approaches the main waterway here. In fact I was really pleased with the amazing combination of stability and maneuverability that the Vanguard offered. Soon we were speeding along the wide flat sidewalk that runs along the Intracoastal waterway separating West Palm Beach from Palm Beach.

My balance was off here and there but it was also ON at times and it felt fantastic. By 3/4 of a mile I was kicking with big strides and flexing on the board nicely. Hello Julian – nice to see you again. I’d like to take all of the credit for this but I know the board deserves a great majority of it. It’s just that easy to ride and with the huge wheels all the typical rough spots were ironed out.

My first challenge came at the Palm Beach Bridge. I had no plans originally to go down the hill of the Royal Park bridge in to Palm Beach on my first ride but the board told me it was OK to do it. Honest, she told me it was OK. So I went. I couldn’t carve much to slow my pace on the narrow walk way of the bridge and it was still a little wet so I didn’t feel I could be too aggressive with the side-to-side carving without losing my new found footing. Half way down I knew it was OK. I hit a speed peak and the board was solid – all in control. I had conquered my first hill on my first ride out.

Charlie caught up to me on his roller blades and found me grinning from ear to ear. We went back up to the top where I only briefly considered the additional long sweeping curve at the bottom of the bridge’s west side, and the sharp turn that the west side also offered. With all my confidence I wasn’t worried. I started down and started carving.

It was going nicely but the speed was greater. Half way down I began to fully appreciate that the sweeping turn would actually find me accelerating rather than slowing down as I had on the Palm Beach side. I got a bit tense but I committed to the hill, knowing that I was doomed if I didn’t. I hit the curve, flying now, knowing full well that I was ditching if someone popped up in my way in mid corner. I got the dreaded speed wobbles – once, and leaned back and found rock solid again – close to a high speed wipe out. I bore down. I hit another apex in the curve and again had the wobbles. On my old boards I would have already been toast. I brought the board back a second time (thanks Adam). At this point I was going pretty fast. I was through the curve and if I had either a straight-away or a slight curve at the bottom of the bridge I would have been home free. But I didn’t. I had a sharp turn. The Vanguard was up to it but I knew I wasn’t.

I sized up my options as the sharp turn raced towards me and kicked the board into the flower bed as I launched myself towards the relative safety of the grass. Grass is our friend. I ate some weeds, along with a pretty side of flowers and got some wet muddy clothes but no scratches or bruises. It was a good fall. I fell with style and control. I didn’t even roll, just a knee skid with a muted face plant to ease my rate of speed. 😉 I got up, and smiled again. I spotted my trusty Vanguard about three yards into the three foot high Flower garden and wiped her off. She had some of the same pretty purple flowers on the top of her deck that my arms did. Charlie had called her “Mother” earlier in response to me question of a name. I liked it but didn’t commit. Looking at her now I knew she was mother nature. Mutha. I hopped on and went home a happy man.

My good friend Susan L. always told me that you’re only as old as you act. At 38 I’m not planning on laying down for middle age with a remote control in my hand.

Here’s Adam riding a Loaded Vanguard with the wind rushing over his face. Thanks Max. Thanks Charlie. Thanks Adam and Adam. I’m loaded.

Due to my tardy posting of this story this post isn’t in proper reverse chronological order. You can watch a video of Charlie and I on our Loaded boards on the 4th of July here. How does Charlie like his pintail? The smile on his face on our video of him finishing his bridge run that’s in this video should answer that question for you.

[tags]Longboarding, long boarding, skateboarding, Adam Colton, Adam Stokowski, Adam Squared, Loadedboards, Loaded Vanguard Review, Loaded Pintail[/tags]

Salvation

Sometimes you need a little – sometimes you need a lot.

Back in January 2001 I was in Phoenix Arizona and I needed a lot. I met an angel there and we were reborn, rising up together through the ashes.  I believe that Shannon and I knew each other from another time, that we have come together again in this time, and will find each other again in the future.

To celebrate our re-connection I took Shannon to get a Tattoo of an infinity on her birthday of that same year. I got the same one – mine rides along on my strong arm – my left. Hers sits on her back. The infinity is our symbol, a representation of our knowing each other through time, of our connection, of life that does not end.

Since then we have often discussed getting a Phoenix tattoo and we have always made it a point to look for Phoenix symbols that we liked for the purpose. We’ve found many visual representations of the Phoenix that we’ve enjoyed but none that ever seemed quite right.

Friday night, May 18, 2007 we were driving over to South Beach in Miami when Shannon said…

“We should go get our Phoenix Tattoos.”

She happened to have her laptop in the car (god I love her) and she was connected to the Internet so she started looking up images of the Phoenix. The first page she brought up under a keyword search of “Phoenix Tattoo” found this one that we hadn’t seen before:

Phoenix Tattoo By 0Bsessi0N-1
We both immediately knew it was the one we had been searching for.

Where to go for the ink?

Miami Beach has no shortage of overpriced Tattoo parlors and good artists to go along with those prices. We decided we’d try Miami Ink just for fun, and as you might expect, they were very busy (with T.V. fame and all). None of the artists we’ve gotten to know from the T.V. show were present either. Most importantly the guy at the counter just had a really bad vibe. In other parlance, he was rude. It seemed obvious that to get a Tattoo here was all about being part of a T.V. show and had little to do with the experience we were enjoying. We had passed a place on the way to Miami Ink called The Mosh Pit that does tattoos. We liked the name and headed back there.

We were walking along and just one store away from The Mosh Pit when Salvation appeared – Salvation Tattoo Lounge that is. It seemed appropriate.

Needless to say we got our Phoenix Tattoos there. Sharky, a Tattoo artist for over 20 years performed the work. He’s from the Village originally and has been down in South Florida for a few years. He seemed competent and we liked him so it was off to the races.

I went first, putting the Phoenix on my right arm. Shannon followed with her vision of weaving the tail of the Phoenix into her existing infinity.

There you have it. It was a magical evening where we shared a great time on South Beach, a wonderful dinner at Perricone’s (run there don’t walk) and before that a fantastic time looking at Triumphs and Ducati motorbikes, which we’re hoping is in our near future (Ducati S2R800 specifically).

Time Person of the year YOU

Interested in social media? Whether you think Time’s selection of ‘you’ as person of the year (for user generated content) was a bunch of hogswallop or not, I think this quote says a whole lot about what’s happening with a few words.

“It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”

Check out the full article online if you haven’t had a chance to do so.

Marathons are methaphors for enduring and I’m running in this one

A week from today, on February 18th, 2007, I’ll wake up around 3AM and strap on my running shoes, then don my shorts and race number in preparation for my first marathon. Sometimes a marathon is just a really long run, and at other times it is an expression of something very important to the runner. For me, the latter is true. The way I look at it, the most important thing I’ll take along to my race is you – in the form of a tune. Yes, a song that I will listen to on my run. To me and many people, a song is a gift, and in this case, one that I hope will conjure up your image in my mind’s eye, where I will see you helping me to endure my race and my journey.

I am dedicating this run to my brother Lorenz Gude, Shannon’s Aunt, Mary Seery, and my dear friend David Ordin. They all have something in common for me. They all left this world before their time, leaving behind family and friends who miss them deeply. Although their lives were short, they all left an indelible impression on this place and in our hearts. Heart ache is often used to describe the loss of a love, but in this case my heart aches for loss of a brother, a family member and a friend. All of us who have been fortunate to love and be loved, have also lost someone terribly important and close to us, and I know you feel this heart ache too. Among many goals with the running of this Marathon, from the mundane to the spiritual, I hope more than anything to endure the difficulties of this race to honor their memories and their names. I want to run this marathon for them because they no longer can, and I hope I can connect with each one and remember them in the fullness of their beauty. In reaching out to you I am asking for your help in making this run. Many times when I run I connect with very important things in my life – people, memories, ideas, and often enough, great inspiration. Music for me is central to this experience and many others in my life. You might say that music is like a best friend to me. Music has held deep meaning in my life through all the good times and the bad. No matter my mood or place in the world, I can rely on music to echo and enrich my feelings in the moment, and just as easily, alter my emotions in a profound way. Music for me is life, part celebration, joy, sorrow, pain, reflection, meditation, a connection with the past, and a looking glass in to the future.

So will you please play a tune for me as I run? I would greatly appreciate it if you could think of one of your favorite songs (perhaps your most favorite) and let me know what that song is. I will then make it my goal to find that song and put it on my marathon play list. I have in mind to call on your help to keep running while I listen to your song as I also enjoy memories of our times together and also hopes for renewed friendship and connection. You need not concern your song selection with how fast or slow it is, the music genre, or time that it is from. From classical to punk, folk, oldies, rap, hip hop, electronica, soul, r&b, blues, latin, jazz, bluegrass, metal, folk, country, rock, acid, house, swing… you get the idea – I’ve listened to it all, and in all of the genres there is greatness. All that is important is that this song represents YOU. I have no doubts that the song you choose will be the right one.

Although I’m reaching out to you in e-mail I have also posted this on my blog. You can find me on the web at https://blog.julians.name. I would like to capture your song with your name on my blog. You can do this by leaving me a comment on this blog post: https://www.blog.julians.name/2007/02/11/marathons-are-methaphors-for-enduring-and-im-running-in-this-one/. If you run into any difficulty with this, please feel free to e-mail or call me. I will then post your song and your name on my blog for you (unless you request otherwise). If you would also like to dedicate your song to someone you have lost, please feel free to do so on your comment. Don’t worry about song duplicates, just because someone may have posted the same song doesn’t mean you can’t. There aren’t any rules here that you need concern yourself with. I will take all the help I can get.

One last thing. I don’t know if my message will reach all the right people. In fact – I’m sure of it. I don’t even have contact information for all of my family – never mind all the people who I may call a friend. As I write this I am still searching for addresses of people that I would like to include but that I’ve lost track of. If you would also do me the favor of forwarding this message to any family member I’ve missed unintentionally, or a person you feel I would call a friend, please do so. I would hardly want my lack of an accurate or complete address book to come between me and someone I would happily connect with.

Celebrate life!

Jules

p.s. By happenstance I made my final decision to do all this on Sunday. My sister-in-law Kristen Seery was actually the first to nominate a song for me because we had a chance to catch up on the phone as I heard about her adventures as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia and I talked about my Marathon. Her choice? Old Crow Medicine Show’s, Wagon Wheel. Just before turning in for the night my oldest son Max contacted me on IM and he quickly nominated The Stones, Gimme Shelter. So the process has begun and it is great fun already!

p.p.s. I’m going to provide some text updates during my run from my mobile phone. If you’d like to follow those updates in real time you can view my twitter.com profile here:

https://twitter.com/Jinfinite8

Scrybe online organizer

Scrybe

Scrybeâ„¢ is a groundbreaking online organizer that caters to today´s lifestyle in a cohesive and intuitive way.” -Scrybe home page.

The much anticipated Scrybe online personal organizer has launched their beta today. I’m writing about it here for two reasons. First, who isn’t interested in ways to be more productive? As far as tools go, the quality of the axe you swing does make a difference, even if the skill of the operator is more important. Second, it’s a great example of how you might use savvy online marketing techniques to promote your effort (be it a recruitment campaign, local, national, or even international, hello world, launch) as Scrybe is going for.

Scrybe made all the cool watcher lists due to a knock-your-socks-off video that they circulated on video sharing sites like YouTube. The video has been described as a savvy use of modern online marketing. Take a look at their home page and all the ‘A list’ blogger testimonials and it’s pretty obvious that Scrybe made the blogging digerati a key part of their social media marketing plan as well. Call it what you want: guerrilla marketing, word-of-mouth-marketing, buzz marketing, social media marketing, social media optimization. Whatever! I’m calling it a great example of how to make a ton of people aware of your stuff so that they’ll want to someday buy your stuff when you’ve got a budget of…well, pretty much nothing. Judge for yourself.

Remember folks, this is only the launch of Scrybe’s beta – not the final product. If you’ve watched the video, you’ll get an idea of how their use of the latest web technologies (like Ajax) are used to create what would appear to be, highly functional and useful tools.

Useful tools eh?

AchillesOK, here are a couple that make my list. Offline sync, once the Achilles’ heel of web based programs, is handled with aplomb, as are paper output modes designed to appeal to the luddite or PDA Hipster in all of us. And it all looks easy to use – dare I say it – even enjoyable to use.

So here’s the thing. I’m always on the hunt for better ways to organize my life (I use David Allen’s framework). Yes, sometimes my lust for new tools even outweighs my desire for productivity itself. But, never for long, and I’m quick to apply a .22 to the head of any self described productivity tool if it gets in my way. For now, I’ve signed up to be part of the beta with about four different e-mails in hopes of getting in on the action. So far, I haven’t heard a peep from Scrybe. I imagine this blog post might help. At least it will if Scrybe is as up on their social media marketing as they appear to be. Because if they are, they’re monitoring the blog buzz on their launch right now and they’ll see this. So, what are you waiting for Scrybe? I can’t write my review until you give me the keys.

[tags]iScrybe, iScrybe.com, Organizer, Calendar, PIM, Personal Information Manager, Life Hacks, GTD, Getting things done, Time Management, To-do Lists, PowerLists, ThoughtPad, Social Media Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Interactive Marketing[/tags]


Digg!

Fight breast cancer, one M & M at a time

Pink M&M's support Breast Cancer AwarenessYesterday while discussing ManBags I got sidetracked in talking about one of my favorite subjects. Breasts. I’m not a titty man per se, I’m actually more of an ass man, but like I said yesterday on the topic of breasts:

“Not only do these look good, babies find them delicious, cuddly, and nice to look at. Don’t we all I can hear you saying. One of natures more perfect blends of form and function.”

October is breast cancer awareness month. Not only is this an opportunity to raise awareness and money to save breasts, it is a chance to save lives. Now that’s something we can all put some effort into right? Right!

So the corporate folks over at Masterfoods have released Pink M & M’s to support the cause and just in time for Halloween no less. You buy a bag of 14 oz. M & M’s and 35 cents goes to The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Splurge on the 21 oz. bag and the bounty goes up to 50 cents.

Now we all know what breasts mean to all of us, and among those that love them are little kids. And little kids like candy right? And little kids will be collecting candy and dolling it out in just a few short days for Halloween right? Right! So go out to to one of those big box warehouse stores where you buy in Army/Navy quantity and buy some pink M & M’s!

In the mean time, if you’re a blogger then go ahead and put up a post about this before you run down to the store. Carl Chapman, a blogger I just became acquainted with from another blogger friend of mine has gone on a blog strike until 25 other bloggers put up a post about this. If it counts, this will go up on all our blogs, however meager their traffic, because dammit, it’s the thought that counts.

Thanks to Carl and Ami I’ll be making pink M & M’s my sole distribution for Halloween this year.

Oh, and to my friend Glenda B. who knows a blogger or two. Will you consider a quick ditty on your ode to life and perhaps even give your closest blogosphere friends a link on this topic? We could get Carl his 25 in a heard beat. Perhaps, you could even just mention it in parties while you’re at the Blog Business Summit in Seattle this weekend? Tagline: Together, we can save some ta ta’s and more importantly, a life or two.

[tags]Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Halloween, Breasts, Cancer, Masterfoods, M&M’s, The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation[/tags]

Newsvine crashes

For the last few hours I’ve been unable to reach Newsvine. All other sites are loading and I’ve tried both my Mac and Windows XP machines to reach them, using all the popular browsers (and then some). I occasionally get a page to load but it’s very rare. Has the Vine been hacked?  I can’t find any news about this yet out on the blogosphere or on the news wires. Too bad I can’t write a story about it on Newsvine, er….

Update: Read the full story to see Mike’s comment.

Do you know what they know? What information do Google, Yahoo!, MSN and other search engines track on your searches?

The San Jose Mercury News published a good story on privacy recently related to what information the major search engines track when you use their sites.

Searching the internet is so ingrained and seemingly temporary that it’s hard to get it in your head that someone is watching what you are doing. Did you know that major search engines like Google have ticker-type displays showing the live top searches scrolling across their lunch room walls? Things like that, and all the news in the last few months about search engine data being subpoenaed by the U.S. government is starting to wake consumers up about this threat to their privacy.

The full article in The Merc is worth the read.