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April 2005

Easy Living, Listening, Eating and Drinking at P&G Speakeasy


Amy and I went to dinner last night at the P and G Speakeasy Cafe, a great good place in Duvall, where everything is "handmade, homemade and never boring."  We enjoyed a simple, tasty and inexpensive meal of spaghetti and meatballs, with caesar salad and garlic bread, accompanied by their last bottle of Montevina 2001 Amador County Zinfandel.  We also enjoyed the music, headlined by Casey Garland, who played a collection of engaging original compositions inspired by his years as a river guide as well as a number of cover songs from the 60s and 70s.  Jason Knight did a great job accompanying Casey (and others) on electric guitar, blending subtle background riffs as well as taking occasional leads throughout the evening.  James Hurley and Steve Borquez also made cameo appearances during Casey's break.

James and Steve will be back tonight, along with a number of other musicians, to celebrate the release of the "Live at the P&G Speakeasy Cafe, Volume 1" CD.  The doors open at 6, the music will start around 7, and the cafe is not huge, so we are planning to go early.

Call of the Mall: Mobile Phones + RFID = New Shopping Experiences

KDDI recently announced a pilot program in which their RFID-enabled mobile phones can be used in a shopping mall to provide information about stores, products and sales campaigns offered there.  The program, developed in conjunction with Oki Electric Industry Company and iNAGO, is being tested at Stellar Mall, using KDDI's new mobile phones with embedded RFID readers.  Since the phones have readers rather than tags, the user is [more] in control -- sensor rather than sensee. 

I remember reading articles about coupons sent to mobile phones several years ago (e.g., in Wired and The Industry Standard), but don't know how those earlier trials worked out.  The announced plans for Stellar Mall are different in that they are location-based, possibly down to a very small granularity (a single store within a mall).  There will still be a challenge in alerting users to the availability of proximate information, and I suspect that if the signal-to-noise ratio is not high enough, people will stop seeking information once the novelty factor wears off.  Unfortunately, no specification of the trial's duration was provided.

[Speaking of interesting, potentially useful, but as-yet unproven, location-based mobile phone applications, I wonder what is happening with WaveMarket ...]

Oriah Mountain Dreamer at East West Bookshop, Sunday, April 17

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, author of The Invitation, one of the most inspiring books I've ever read, is appearing for a two-hour free (!) seminar at East West Bookshop in Seattle this Sunday, from 2-4pm.  The title is "Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul: An Afternoon with Oriah Mountain Dreamer", so I imagine this will be largely based on Oriah's latest book, What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul.  I've never seen her present, but have enjoyed listening to audio program based on one of her seminars, Your Heart's Prayer: Following the Thread of Desire into a Deeper Life, several times.

Practically Creative

The first issue of Practically Creative Quarterly was published recently: "a free webzine and creative community on the grow, exploring the creative process ~ increasing creative productivity ~ enjoying the creative life."  There are many inspiring short articles throughout the magazine, with sections focusing on process, craft, practicalities, creations, practice and practices, crackles and preferrals.  All of the articles are about creativity and inspiration, differing in the channels through which these are expressed, including studio muses, stray puppies, gardening, and cycling.  In addition to the non-fiction articles, the magazine includes works of fiction, business card art, doodle art, floating tissue art, photography, poetry and a cartoon.  There is also a practically creative blog.

Highly recommended ... and not only because one of the articles is a nicely edited revision of one of my blog posts (thanks, Nancy!).

Just Tasing

Laura Sullivan narrated a report on Taser International's new personal stun guns on NPR's All Things Considered tonight.  Given that it is April Fool's Day, at first I thought this was some kind of a tease, but as the story went on, I realized it is true.  [The next story , on "New England Suffers Maple Woes", was an April Fool's Joke, describing maple trees that are filling up and exploding with sap due to the slowed demand for maple syrup (because of the popularity of low-carb diets), with hilarious references to "arboreal thermodynamics", the "tapping point" of maple trees, and Danish Samoa.]

These stun guns shoot two electrical darts up to 15 feet, which can incapacitate the victim by generating short pulses of intense voltage (50,000 volts) between the sites where the darts become embedded, lasting between 10 and 30 seconds.  They have been used by law enforcement officers, and Taser is now planning a new advertising campaign to sell "citizen Tasers" for self defense -- claiming these are safe, effective, easy to use, legal to carry, convenient and responsible.

I was extremely impressed with the journalistic dedication of Ms. Sullivan, who volunteered to be tased, and described the experience as "like someone reached into my body and ripped my muscles out with a fork."  I was reminded of another journalist, Hunter S. Thompson, whom Gary Trudeau parodied as "Uncle Duke" in his Doonesbury cartoon; one episode described one of Duke's campaign platform planks:

I'm for mandatory gun ownership. It's a simple safety issue. We require seat belts--why don't we require sidearms? I believe every American--man, woman or child--should be in a position to return fire, you know, in their day-to-day life. If you know someone's armed, it prevents a lot of misunderstandings, or at least they get resolved quickly.

As for the "responsible" claim in Taser's promotional literature, each air cartridge that power these new weapons will include 20-40 Anti-Felon IDentification (AFID) tags, "pieces of film printed with the serial number of that Air Cartridge are loaded behind them. When the TASER is deployed, these AFID tags are dispersed at the scene."  Thus, any use of the weapon can potentially be traced to the place it was originally shipped to ... whether that is a place associated in any way with the person using the weapon remains to be seen, since it appears that Taser does not expect that its customers will necessarily retain ownership of these weapons.

Taser offers a Lifetime Replacement Policy: "If the TASER is used in self-defense, it can be deployed and left behind attached to the attacker causing incapacitation while you get to safety."  So, once the 10- to 30-second window of opportunity is up, the stunnee can now become a stunner (the batteries are supposed to last up to 10 years).  The story suggests that a Taser may not be easily distinguished from a firearm that shoots bullets, and so may be even more threatening ... at least to the uninitiated.  Of course, if the prospective stunnee does have a firearm with bullets, this ploy may not be very effective ... such encounters may devolve into a variation of the childhood game of "rock, paper, scissors".