Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Cone of Silence Almost Here

There was an article in today yesterday's New York Times, No Privacy in Your Cubicle? Try an Electronic Silencer, by John Markoff, about a cool new gadget. I'm always on the look out for new gadgets I like, so I know exactly what toys I want when I hit the lottery.

Apparently, this little doodad called The Babble, that looks like a box or one of those aromatherapy-spa thingys, scrambles your voice to people around you when you are on the phone or in the cube farm. Way cool. The product is created by a company affiliated with Herman Miller, the folks who make those chairs that makes your butt feel like it's in a hammock.

Picture of the Babble

Looks like the entry price will be around $400, but I'll wait until it comes down under $200 before I give it a serious look. The Sonare Technologies website says they'll be demoing the device at the upcoming NeoCon World's Trade Fair show in Chicago on June 13th.. I wish I could be there to hear how it sounds. Right now, I'm picturing the voices of the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

PostSecret Makes Prime Time ~ New York Times

I was happy to see this New York Times article about one of my favorite blog sites. Enjoy.

May 31, 2005

Bless Me, Blog, for I've Sinned

Online confessors are like flashers. They exhibit themselves anonymously and publicly, with little consideration for you, the audience. Browse some of the confessionals on the Web: grouphug.us (a simple log), notproud.com (organized by deadly sin) or dailyconfession.com (where you can barely find the confessions for all the promotional stuff). You can see for yourself.

One online confessional, though, breaks the mold. At PostSecret, found at postsecret.blogspot.com, the confessions are consistently engaging, original and well told. How come? The Web site gives people simple instructions. Mail your secret anonymously on one side of a 4-by-6-inch postcard that you make yourself. That one constraint is a great sieve. It strains out lazy, impulsive confessors.

For PostSecret, you write, type or paste your secret on a postcard, and then, if you want, decorate the card with drawings or photographs. Next the stamp and then the mailbox. Yes, it's work to confess. And it should be, if only for the sake of the person who might be listening.

One message says: "I lied" under the word "oath." Another says, "I deleted the pope's funeral unwatched off my TiVO to make room for an episode of 'Survivor.' " The postcard picture - a split image, top half funeral, bottom half 'Survivor' - captures the moment of sin.

Some secrets cannot be separated from the cards they're on. One sad little postcard has a lineup of seven 3-cent stamps, each with a picture of a Conestoga wagon on it, plus one 2-cent stamp of a locomotive: "I found these stamps as a child, and I have been waiting all my life to have someone to send them to. I never did have someone."

The following typed message was pasted onto a card made out of a $50 parking ticket: "I got a parking citation and so did the car next to me. I replaced the ticket on the car next to me with mine. My ticket got paid. And the one I took? I mailed it to PostSecret." It isn't so much a confession as a live performance of sin.

PostSecret is simple to navigate. You scroll down to read one postcard after another. There's little else on the site. O.K., you will occasionally run into little self-congratulatory landmarks: announcements that PostSecret will be onstage in Melbourne, Australia, newspaper clippings from all over the world, scores of compliments from readers. But basically it's all secrets.

And the secrets are regularly refreshed. Each Sunday, Frank, the keeper of the secrets, posts a new batch straight from his mailbox in Germantown, Md., and removes some old ones from the site. One virtue of the resulting chronological lineup is that you can look for patterns emerging, certain kinds of confessions clumping together. And clump they do.

For instance, the most recent confessions tend to be the most graphically and ethically hip. They look like the work of Barbara Kruger, Damien Hirst or Sophie Calle. "I want to be anorexic," says one card with a photo of a skeletal woman, "but I can't stop eating."

And for some reason many of the secrets posted on May 8 follow a certain form, a confession followed by a coda with a dash more guilt: "I don't care about recycling. (But I pretend I do.)" "I had sex with strangers for money. And I liked it." "I hate loving families... Because I don't have one."

One odd thing about PostSecret is that there's a real disconnection between what the confessions are and what the readers think they are. One reader from Texas wrote, "Thank you so much for building a window into so many souls, even if it only shines light on the darkest part." A reader in Australia wrote: "Each is a silent prayer of hope, love, fear, joy, pain, sorrow, guilt, happiness, hatred, confidence, strength, weakness and a million other things that we all share as human beings... there is no fakeness here."

No fakeness? Oh, but there is. And it is the fakeness, the artifice and the performance that make this confessional worth peeking at. The secret sharers here aren't mindless flashers but practiced strippers. They don't want to get rid of their secrets. They love them. They arrange them. They tend them. They turn them into fetishes. And that's the secret of PostSecret. It isn't really a true confessional after all. It is a piece of collaborative art.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Monday, May 30, 2005

My New Art Deco Card

I'm happy to show off my new business cards. The design was heavily influenced by Art Deco. It took me forever because I had to come up to speed on PhotoShop CS2, which is really different than Photoshop 5.5, my previous version. All improvements I've seen so far are for the better.

Ta Da!!

Debra Evans Card as of May 30th, 2005

I think it's an improvement over my old card, which was based on a VistaPrint template.

Debra Evans old August 2004 card

Unfortunately, every other person has the same template, so I had to change. Plus, now mine is more personalized with my initials and colors I chose.

I was influenced by a chair from the architect Bruno Paul and a geometric jacket by Sonia Delaunay. Both of these talented people worked in more than one art form using different materials. I got the idea for my initials, with their mirror image, from a beech chair by Bruno Paul, page 96 of Art Deco: 1910-1939 by Tim Benton, Charlotte Benton, Ghislaine Wood. There's a better picture of Sonia Delaunay's (another link) jacket in the book on page 163.

There were some cool Art Deco fonts I got from free Fonts sites.

Art Deco Fonts considered for card.

Oh, I almost forgot. I found a great site on Art Deco style colors palettes. Both interior and exterior color schemes. They go into detail about decor, furniture and stuff, but I just focused on the colors.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Nike Ovolo S Curve Heel

The Wave magazine did me the favor of opening my eyes to the wonderful looking Nike Ovolo.

Nike Ovolo in Red

Nike Ovolo in Green

This is better than those heel shock absorbers or the little lights in the heels. I can't wait to try a pair on. You can see different views and colors on the Freshness Magazine site.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Guide to Unwritten Rules at Work for Women

How Men Think by Adrienne Mendell

I recently checked out How Men Think by Adrienne Mendell from the Sunnyvale library. It was very enlightening and helpful. The gist of the book is that Men see Work as a game. Since Men are still are the dominant number in some fields, such as technology, it's to Women's best interest to learn the unwritten rules then modify their behavior to get along better.

We could debate about the degree to which Ms. Mendell writes about is relevant today, 10 years after the book's publication. I found everything she said was true. Nothing she wrote was ridiculous or exaggerated. She gives plenty of real examples to make her points, plus the examples of situations and suggested responses are from both Men and Women. Plus my own life experience in the Technology field confirms the reality of what she has to say. I can give examples from my own life that parallel the samples in the book. And I'm still in the 1st half of my work career.

I liked that the suggested behavior changes for Women don't include turning themselves into some weird version of men. Instead Ms. Mendell suggests using humor as much as possible to keep your poise. The point is more to put the person on notice that you are on to their attempts to "put you in your place" and you will act accordingly. This is achieved by:

  • Encouraging Men to pause and relect on what they just said or did. (Hopefully they'll consider if they'd do or say the same thing to their mother or sister or how they'd like it if some guy at work treated th their wife or girlfriend way.)
  • Recommending actions that may increase the probability that Men will take you seriously and give you your due respect
  • Reassuring you to keep your dignity when you are put in an awkward position, usually with humor
  • Educating you on alternatives when the other techniques don't work
All in all, it's an empowering book. This 2003 article, The Rules of the Game of Business by: Adrienne Mendell, gives an overview of the 7 rules if you can't get to the whole book.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Slowness Immortalized

Every now and then I look myself up on Google. Usually, I don't even make the first page when I put in "Debra Evans". There are other more accomplished women with that name that come up first. Not only do I have to confront my relative lack of professional attainment when ever I do the search, but a couple of the women seem to be around my age. One even works in software development.

I did find one article that I didn't even know existed. I remember talking to a report for The Sun local paper, but I never followed up to see if anything came of it. I'm happy to say it did, in the form of the article, City looks for resident help in redesigning main website. I was glad to see that some of my suggestions made it to the redesigned Sunnyvale City website, especially the part about incorporating more local pictures.

The Sun Article Where I'm Quoted

The Sun Article Where I'm Quoted

The topic of this posting comes from the fact that I also found my times for a couple of "walk-a-thons" I did with my dog, Culo. The more fun ones like Mutt Strutt, put on by the Peninsula Humane Society don't keep track of time. 5K Dogs Best Friend put on by Palo Alto, 2001 59:42 & 2002 56:40. Hmm, I guess I didn't turn in my number correctly on the other years. No biggie. I obviously got put in the wrong category for the Moonlight Run and Walk in 2001 since my time shows up as 29:28. This one is fun since you get to walk in the pitch dark out on the Bay Lands.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Requirements Across the Software Development Lifecycle

Yesterday, I attended a seminar by IBM to show off some of their Rational Software products. Of course, I focused more on the best practices of requirements management and use cases best practices than the actual software. After introducing RUP, Rational Unified Processes, they explained how requirements fits into and drives portions of the lifecycle. Coming from the project manager point of view, things were starting to get interesting.

Rational Unified Process

Rational Unified Process

As you can see, it's a little different than the PMBOK process.

PMBOK Processes Overlap

PMBOK Process Overlap

The seminar also went into the various benefits of diagram version of use cases versus declarative (written out text version).

Use Case Types

Use Case Diagram

  • Can show within context
  • Goal oriented
  • Action use is focus
  • Broad perspective

  • "The system shall"
  • System oriented
  • Easily converted to test cases and other documentation
  • Small perspective

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Silicon Valley Open Studios 2005 Adventure

Silicon Valley Open Studios is always an adventure. Actually I did the majority of my adventure last Sunday when I visited studios in Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto. I had originally planned to go out on Saturday, but I got sucked in by the America's Next Top Model marathon. (I wonder why you never see the winner of season 2. You only ever see Adrianne Curry or Eva Pigford).

For the most part, the artists are happy to have you come see their work, talk to you a bit and generally welcome you. Unfortunately, some didn't want to interrupt their socializing with their friends to acknowedge you. I even ran across a couple of women who hovered too close between me andi their displays with their arms crossed, legs in a defensive stance. Hmmm, think they had problems letting go of their "babies"?

Aladdin Arm Fold

A complaint. The maps in the guide did not include street addresses, so I was not able to find some studios because I couldn't tell what street they were on. That could also be the fault of the Artists since they didn't have their signs out in a visible location. A kudos. Thanks for collecting the artists URLs and e-mails online.

Open Studios I visited:

  • Sonya Paz: I love her nergetic egraphical style and bold colors. Sort of reminds me of Carribean colors, but not quite. Her style brings to mind Britto, who was on the Apprentice earlier this year. I got two matted prints and some bonus cards. The cool thing is that she collaborates with E. Moises Diaz, an author whose work I bought as a wedding gift a few years ago.

  • Nancy Wong: I love her naturalistic water colors, especially the wood scenes. I wish I had more space to put some of her paintings. I need to get in touch with her about prints for Woods with Bent Tree or Voluminous Bay Tree in sizes smaller than her orignals.
  • The cool thing about Michael Gesundheit's open studio is that he had part of his workshop on his front driveway. So you knew something artistic was going on when you turned in the street. Not that you'd miss the laser cut steel sculptures on the front lawn. He was representing at least 5 other artists at his house. From Isreal, Russia, Ukraine, Africa and New England. I totally loved the beads made out of African grass that looked like little bamboos.
The Ukraine artists included a master, Michael Rozenvain -bio and some of his students, Galina Dor -bio (aka Galina Didur), Nathan Brutsky -bio and Yuri Tremler -bio (aka Yuri Trembovler). You could totally see how his pupils extended and evolved his style but still made the style their own. Michael Gesundheit sells their artwork on the west coast, so get in touch with him if you are interested.

Michael Rozenvain
Michael Rozenvain
Galina Dor (aka Galina Didur)
Galina Dor
(aka Galina Didur)
Nathan Brutsky
Nathan Brutsky
Yuri Tremler (aka Yuri Trembovler).
Yuri Tremler
(aka Yuri Trembovler)

  • Bea Gee not only does wonderful watercolor and Chinese calligraphy, but she also paints on gold paper treated with gum arabic or alum. I want to try to get some of the paper to see if it would work in an illumination project.
  • Of course I had to make a stop at the open studio of one of my fellow Pacific Scribes guild members Melissa Dinwiddie. She's part of an awesome set-up with other artists. That stop didn't disappoint. Plus the artists in the neightborhood took it uppon themselves to come up with their own little neighborhood open studiios guide. Very nice.
  • A great place to see more than 10 artists over a variety of disciplines was the Cubberley Community Center. A couple of artists even had a work in progress as people filtered through for Open Studios. Laura Klein was particularly nice and patient in talking about how she creates her paintings.
  • Hands down, the best gallery was David Howell's. Not only did he have a studio, easels and folding displays like many of the artists, he had a garden. David's world travel inspired paintings were all over the backyard including several winding footpaths that lead to "hidden gardens". Speaking of the actal artwork, I like how he experimented with different textures. At first I thought it was nature printing but he said he uses stencils and other stuff. Maybe he'll use the whale krill filter thingy he had on display. (I see it's called a baleen.) It would make some interesting patterns.
  • Rochelle Ford's house is truly magical. If you live or go through Palo Alto, you've no doubt noticed her house. She and her husband have both regular sculptures and furniture scultures in front of their brightly colored house. The inside of the house is chockful of different artworks. Art is everywhere including hallway, stair case, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, den, backyard, etc. Both functional and just for looking. You KNOW you are in an artist house.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Getting Ready for Open Studios

I can't wait for Saturday to do another weekend of SVOS. I just got an e-mail postcard from Christine Oliver:

Still Life with Mums and Lemons

Still Life with Mums and Lemons

I liked this picture so much, I made it my laptop wallpaper. I may not make it to her studio, but at least I have the watercolor print I won in a her Open Studio drawing a few years ago.

Vogues of 1938 - Art Deco Extravaganza

Vogues of 1938 starred Warner Baxter and Joan Bennett and was directed by Irving Cummings, but that doesn't matter. Hands down, the REAL star of the show was the Art Deco style. The period music just added to the whole package. The movie was one of those silly comedies with a madcap heiress and bad guy. It's funny how in the midst of the depression in the 1930's, so many movies were about petulant, bratty rich girls. Anyway, every scene had something different Art Deco, from signs, clothes, stair cases, architecture, circle bed/couch thingie, offices and ashtrays. I originally saw the movie on Turner Classic Movies, but I kept wanting to rewind to re-look at some Art Deco thing that just flitted by. Luckily, Netflix carries Vogues of 1938, so I'll soon be in Art Deco heaven again. I can watch the nighclub acts over and over again as much as I want.

Opening Credits Scene
Opening Credits Scene
Vogues of 1938 Poster
Movie Poster
DVD Cover
DVD Cover
If you have any suggestions for other movies with a lot of Art Deco, especially if
Netflix carries it, I'd like to hear about it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Compliance

Last night, Navigant Consulting's Bradley McCord and Rick Ostiller gave an overview on the
Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 to the PMI Silicon Valley chapter in an evening program. I learned quite a bit. Before the meeting, I just knew it had something to do with accounting.

After the high profile creative accounting episodes with Enron, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, SOX for short, was put into place. The main benefit is that the act makes auditors are answerable to the share holders rather than just to the client who signs off on their invoice. A side effect is that big accounting firms are de-coupling their high fee consulting services from their auditing business, to lessen conflict of interest concerns.

Some other interesting points:
  • SOX only applies to public companies, with stock that's publically traded

  • Only the CEO and CFO are liable and responsible for certifying the company's
    financial numbers to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
    (SEC). So no matter what other company employees contribute to the final
    report, only those two will get dinged if there's a problem.

  • Other high profile company scandals that SOX was involved:
    Worldcom (DBA MCI), HealthSouth, Qwest, Homestore, Marsh & McLennan

  • Company boards must now include a financial expert and oversee an audit comittee. The board audit committee cannot contain an employee of
    the company.

  • Every audit will not raise ever issue or error. The goal is to work
    towards a fair conclusion.

  • 404 Internal control is based on guidelines from
    Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of
    the Treadway Commission

    . This part seemed to be the most relevant to project management:

    • the conrol environment

    • risk assessment

    • control activities

    • information and communication

    • monitoring

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Plenty of People Were Afraid of Andrea Dworkin

Since I'm behind on my newspaper reading, I just found out today that feminist writer Andrea Dworkin died on April 9, 2005. After reading the obituary, I thought about college and "fringe" social writers I was introduced to during those years. Occasionally, I hear their names. Unfortunately, they are usually still treated like some wacko, you are supposed to treat like a joke instead of really listening to what they have to say. Presenting an alternate point of view from the mainstream or speaking for segments of society that are usually ignored DOES NOT mean that you hate men. I never got that reasoning.

On the Feral Scholar blog of Stan Goff, I found a copy of Catharine MacKinnon's New York Times article, Who Was Afraid of Andrea Dworkin? She gives a fond farewell to her friend and does a nice job summarizing the conflicted relationship Ms. Dworkin had with the media. I’ve long admired both Andrea Dworkin’s and Catherine MacKinnon’s writing. After being introduced to them in college, I learned what happens to people who don’t toe the line. I learned not to believe everything told to you, just because it comes from a “reputable” source. I guess that's why I'm such a fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. They get such a kick out of poking the sacred cows and saying stuff you aren't supposed to say.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Just Because Something's True Doesn't Mean We Have to Acknowledge It

I got a kick out of the Jay Bookman article, When Facts Don't Match Beliefs, Reality Sometimes Twisted. (Jay has been described as a progressive Associate Editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, so that tells you a little about his spin on things.) The article talks about
how Dubya Bush's administration comes up with a version of reality and acts according
to the stories they tell themselves. Even when facts surface that contradict the made up reality, the adminstration tends to steamroll ahead with the original plan. At least until they change their story about their original goal. Like the love of democracy was the primary reason for going to Iraq.

Anyways, I think this quote from Mr. Bookman is one of the biggest understatements of the year:

Every administration tries to manipulate public perception, but this is
something different. In many cases, this administration actually believes
in the false reality it tries so hard to create. It weaves an illusion around
itself of how the world really works, then makes policy based on that illusion.
In time, that must inevitably lead to big trouble.

I'd like to see Jay Bookman on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It'd be fun to watch them spar. I like the show better when they have authors, pundits or other people with points of view rather than bubble headed entertainers. Don't take this to mean I dislike all actors/actresses, singers and sports stars on the Daily Show. I don't. I just get annoyed by inarticulate ones and who can't string together a coherent thought. So many times, a Jon has finished up with a guest and I sat there thinking, "What the hell was that about?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Expert Choice's take on Analytic Hierarchy Process

Today's combination PMI Silicon Valley and SD Forum event Better Project, Program and Portfolio decisions using Expert Choice and the Analytic Hierarchy Process reminded me of brainstorming on steroids. For those who are not into project management Hippopotamus talk, Analytic Hierarchy Process is a way for a company to narrow down their choices and make educated decisions. Jim Devlin from Expert Choice primarily focused on ranking projects in an IT project portfolio. If you use spreadsheets to manually analyze, prioritize and rank projects, you could still use a product like Expert Choice. I think of it as the difference between a manual toothbrush and a Oral-B 3D Excel Action tooth brush. It can factor in many variable and let you adjust the weight of the variables on the fly. I don't know whether the best thing is the graphical representation of the results or the way the tool takes out the emotions out of decisions. You can lead a team to come up with portfolio decisions that stick because of buy in from all of the decision makers. Plus you have back-up and supporting data upp the wazoo. They'll do a training at your location or you can go to one of the public trainings. If you have a need a high powered decision making tool, Expert Choice may be worth checking out. OK, commercial over.

I ran into a former co-worker, Mike Crocker, and got an update on what happened to our project after I left and before he left. Good luck to him on his interviews.

I met Randy Englund, another of those enterprising folks with their own consultancy. Plus he's an author with a book on the Amazon Best Books on Project Management list, Creating an Environment for Successful Projects. Looks like he's coming out we a new book next year too, Project Sponsorship.

Cluetrain Manifesto

You gotta love a book with the title, The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual and whose website begins people of earth... in several terrestrial languages. I haven't read the book yet, but checking out the Amazon review and the website, I definitely have to check it out. The writers take the view that mass communications is transitioning from the model of a few corporations controlling most channels to communications via Web sites and message boards, and in e-mail and chat rooms.

I think their point of view dovetails nicely with the message of The Long Tail (see below). Although most people think the majority of mass communication are through big boys* [General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom and Rupert Murdock's News Corporation], the amount of intercommunication between people through the other avenues actually exceeds what these companies can spew out.

*Source: National Organization for Women Foundation Digital TV Project: Who Controls the Media

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More Money From the Onesy Twosies

At the SD forum event last night, Robin mentioned an article by Chris Anderson of Wired called, The Long Tail from Issue 12.10 - October 2004. The gist of the article was that online vendors can make as much money, if not more, from the products that sell one or two a month. Most of us are conditioned to just focus on the "Hits" and see the "Losers" as having no value. It helps explain why CD Baby and other little guys seem to do so well. Chris does a nice job of turning this concept on it's head. In the article, Chris gets down to specifics on several sample sites.

SD Forum Business Blogging

Last night, Robin Stavisky, Founder and Managing Partner of New Venture Marketing, gave a great talk on business blogging. Marketing SIG: Business Blogging for High Tech Companies was hosted by SDForum and held at Mitchell Park in Palo Alto. It motivatived me to find out more about the Blogosphere and resurrect my blog to be more interactive. I can't wait to evolve this bad boy to add more of the latest bells and whistles.

I met a couple of interesting people. One was, Athol M. Foden. I had taken at least one UCSC Extension Marketing class from him. Now he has his own company, The Silicon Valley Marketeer in addition to consulting and teaching. Another was Mary Sullivan, who does Product Marketing & Competitive Intelligence for KickStart Alliance. Mary gave me a great lead to
Women in Consulting. Now I'm so glad I didn't sit in my chair reading back issues of eWeek liked I planned to do.