Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for July, 2011

The Illuminatus Trilogy and why I run conferences…

Posted by shannonclark on July 26, 2011

The Illuminatus Trilogy and why I run conferencesI own two SIGNED and inscribed copies of The Illuminatus! Trilogy. One signed by Robert Anton Wilson and the other by his co-author Robert Shea.

When I was in high school I co-founded a local science fiction convention, run by the high school science fiction and fantasy club, OPCon became our annual fundraising event plus a really fun event (yes I’ve been starting conferences and events for over 20 years).

We contacted Robert Shea and asked him if he would speak at our conference. He said he would but needed a ride. So I found myself seated at his kitchen table on spring day meeting his family and waiting for him to get ready.

As a result of his speaking at OPCon some of the organizers of other conferences and conventions around Chicago realized that Robert Shea lived in the Chicagoland area and he was invited to speak at ChiCon in 1991 (the World Science Fiction convention the last time it was in Chicago until next year). There I was witness to a panel discussion which had the following panelists:

Robert Shea
Robert Anton Wilson
Philip Jose Farmer
some other guy from Tor I think

and making a grand entrance Timothy Leary.

The audio tape my friend Dwight made of that panel is one bit of lost audio I dearly wish I had a copy of somewhere.

After that panel I got a copy of Illuminatus signed by Robert Anton Wilson.

I am not a Libertarian, nor am I conspiracy theorist or a drug user (haven’t even tried anything) but I love The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Reading it as well as getting to know, even briefly and lightly Robert Shea (and reading all of this other books which are also great) change my course in life in many small and some major ways.

Major Spoiler is one of my favorite podcasts – you owe it to yourself to go subscribe. This isn’t a typical episode but it is a fascinating and great discussion.
*&refresh=31536000&resize_h=16Major Spoilers Podcast #327: The Illuminatus! Trilogy | Major Spoilers – Comic Book Reviews and NewsIn this issue: A special guest drops by and joins Stephen in a discussion of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! Trilogy in our latest (and much delayed) installment of The Other Word B…
*&refresh=31536000&resize_h=120
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Idea a shared beautiful calendar of cool events and happenings

Posted by shannonclark on July 26, 2011

Idea – based on posts I’m seeing on Google+ (and on many other sites) – a shared, beautiful calendar of cool events and happenings across the globe.With the following features:

Navigation is via TIME (i.e. timelines/calendars) but that navigation triggers the following distinctly different experiences:

in the NOW and “nearly now” portions pretty aggregations of near-realtime posts about events and happenings, recent photos, Google+ shares, Tweets, Tumblr posts, Justin.tv live streams etc. Aggregation and curation of this would be hard, might need to be humanpowered or at least reviewed and refined but the overall experience should be Flipboard like.

in the PAST (perhaps defined as more than a week ago) use a view similar to the “NOW” view but layer on social signals to hide cruft – i.e. filter out content without some threshold level of +1’s, likes, retweets,@mentions etc. Editing should help find the most authoritative (and accurate where possible to define that) articles, summaries, videos etc.

in the FUTURE use the knowledge of the PAST to show TWO sets of related features:

1) ADD deadlines and related events when a major event is added. For example show when tickets go on sale for an event, show when prices for an event get bumped up, show when deadlines to apply end (and start) etc.

2) SHOW the event dates – correctly adjusted for local geography and timezones

3) SHOW “great” articles talking about future events – show these with increasing frequency and prominence as the event approaches (i.e. in the run-up to San Diego ComicCon the many great articles that discussed what to expect or what panels not to miss)

Getting the UI for this right would be hard.

Getting the right content both for a generic “public” viewer and better yet tailored to a specific user based in large part (but not exclusively) on their own social connections and “circles” will be harder still.

But the result would be compelling and beautiful.

[full disclosure – in 2000 I started my company JigZaw Inc with the vision of building a smart calendar which would update itself. I built a lot of complex AI driven capabilities and also a full, complex web based calendar, but the timing of my business, perhaps ironically, was bad. But this is a space I remain passionately interested in and one where I do have some existing IP which might be helpful]
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Being political – taking a risk – some suggestions…

Posted by shannonclark on July 25, 2011

Being political – taking a risk – some suggestions for job creation

Tonight President Barack Obama gave a speech about the looming debt ceiling crisis. I haven’t yet had a chance to view the video of, though I’ve seen summaries of his speech and the initial reactions.I am a firm and strong supporter of President Obama – have been since he was my senator when I lived in Illinois (though in his initial primary race for that position he ran against a neighbor of mine whom I knew personally from our local coffeehouse, however once he won the primary I was proud to vote for him for the Senate and years later for President). Many friends of mine have joined his administration and I hope to do all that I can to reelect him.

But after we get past this debt crisis, assuming that we do, there remains many major problems in the US today – problems which are pervasive and nearly universal and which resist any easy solution. These problems stem in part from the excesses of the past decade, from the growing disparity in incomes, opportunities and outcomes around the country.

There are no easy answers – I support President Obama’s proposals – to make the very highest earners in this country pay a little bit more each year and to close a wide range of loopholes but there is much more that needs to be done to fix government and as importantly fix the US (and the larger global) economy. And yes, if all goes well next year this might mean that I personally have to pay a little bit more in taxes.

Here are, however, a few suggestions.

1) Hold the telecom and cable industries in the US to past promises and commitments

The US has some of the slowest and worst broadband speeds of any major country in the world at the moment (and are far slower than many smaller less “major” economies as well). Not to mention a very dysfunctional cellular service in much of the US. All of the companies – telcos and cable companies use public assets (rights of way, spectrum) and in most cases have limited monopolies (or duopolies). In exchange for tax breaks and the purchase of rights to various spectrums etc they have made many promises but have rarely been held to them. Fixing this wouldn’t be easy but would both require a LOT of new jobs directly (to upgrade copper to fiber, to install more cell towers, to upgrade switching stations etc) and indirectly could spark major changes in how the US workforce works – allowing people to work more productively from homes or to work in smaller offices closer to their homes. It could also spark entirely new business opportunities based on real high speed access.

2) Streamline and simplify zoning rules across the country and make it easier for mixed-use and creative re-use of spaces to occur

This takes effort in 1000’s of local jurisdictions across the country but the current model of land-use across most of the US is broken. It relies on the separation of residential, commercial, office and industrial spaces from each other, encourages much of the urban and suburban landscape to be devoted to cars (and parking of cars) and discourages uses of spaces once abandoned in a way different from how they were initially constructed. This means that housing developments built for single-families can’t easily in many cases be turned into rental homes or multi-family residences. It means that as factories close they can’t easily (in most cases) be converted to commercial spaces or loft apartments. It means that most Americans can’t meet their regular shopping needs within walking distance of their homes but need to drive just to get some milk or to drop off dry cleaning. This change would take time and would change the “character” of many parts of the country – but in turn it would unlock massive entrepreneurial opportunities and help create 1000’s, likely millions of jobs in the process.

3) Adopt serious efforts to reduce oil consumption across the board

Moving to California from Illinois I have been struck by one very puzzling difference in the architecture of California to that of Chicago. Throughout California homes, apartments and office buildings alike seem to mostly have been built without the use of insulation or the many steps standard in Illinois to help manage energy use of buildings. Sure my condo back in Illinois when I bought it had single pane windows but as I lived there the entire building was upgraded to double pane windows (at a cost of well over $1M) with an immediate result of a major reduction in the energy use of the building. Here in Northern California an investment into the infrastructure of our homes and office buildings would result in massive long term energy savings while also creating 1000’s of jobs in the process. Sure homeowners would need to spend money (as would other landlords) but this is a case where in many cases they would see a return in that investment rapidly. Furthermore this is a place where simple, low cost government efforts could spark much of this investment at low cost.

For example…
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Feature I want soon on Google+ (see some …

Posted by shannonclark on July 23, 2011

Feature I want soon on Google+ (see some of my recent stream items to see why) is an ability to EXCLUDE certain circles I create from my “all circles” groups – i.e. an ability to mark special purpose circles I create as just that – something special and other than the norm.- typically these might be circles with ONLY “send to email” members – frequently just one (i.e. to archive an item to Evernote or to post something I share here to my personal blog as I’m going to do with this post

– or these might be a circle I create just including myself to save things to read later or to save drafts etc.

But these should be something other than the “all circles” option.

Another way of phrasing this might be that at some point in the future I would like the ability to create Circles with other circles.

i.e. to have a “default post” collection of circles

or to have a personal circles collection (i.e. in my current schema this would exclude my “following” circle who are folks I don’t actually know personally
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Similar to the Google+ to Evernote trick …

Posted by shannonclark on July 23, 2011

Similar to the Google+ to Evernote trick going around you can also post stuff you share here on Google+ to a wordpress blog you control via a similar method.On WordPress.com go to the “My Blogs” page, there you will see a list of the blogs you can post to.

For ones you control, there is a “post by email” option.

Enable this and you will generate a secret email address to use to post to your wordpress.com blog.

Now on Google+ create a circle and ADD this secret email. I’d suggest calling is something like “Post to <name of your wordpress.com blog>” so you don’t forget what it is for.

Then when you SHARE something with that circle be sure to check the “share via email” option when you share something with this circle (as the wordpress.com secret email address won’t be joining Google+.

And bingo a very easy way to post to WordPress.com blogs when you share something on Google+.

I personally would suggest you limit your use of this to content you personally create or to links you share with extensive commentary – posting other people’s content to your personal blog seems off to me (but plenty of people do that).

A very similar trick likely is possible with Tumblr and Posterous blogs as well.
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