Friday, January 26, 2007

Come Post With Me

It's rather rare in my experience to have the chance to include people I care about in a financial opportunity before the train leaves the station. That said, all the caveats need to be stated. This may or may not succeed. You may or may not make money. There are more uncertainties than if I were offering you a seat on a rocket to the moon.

On the other hand, the risk is zero.

If you have access to a blog or any kind of website, you can now add a dynamic (ever-changing) content block that will display headlines (and story abstracts if you wish) that link to articles in magazines like The Atlantic or Psychology Today, and newspapers like the Philadelphia Inquirer or the Miami Herald.

Please follow this link for a demonstration of a SmartMatch content block:
David's Daily Updates .


It is very exciting for me to finally deliver on a promise I originally made in this space -- that I would provide an exploration of that place where the personal meets the professional and the political.

These SmartMatch content blocks, once you add them to your website, automatically update every day. If you are not satisfied with the results, simply go back to and adjust your topic selections.

Why do I think this is revolutionary?

Because up until now, most opportunities for small-time entrepreneurs depended on their visitors' willingness to click on advertising links.

Take this blog of mine, for example. I have published 397 entries, including this one, adding up to perhaps a quarter of a million words plus around 500 original photographs. My earnings on this work to date amount to around $180, much of which has yet to be paid.

That comes to about 1.3 cents per word and nothing for the photos. Mind you, I am not complaining. But a modest blogger like me will never be able to support himself by doing this work because the only money we make is when somebody chooses to click on an advertising link.

(Note to the Google Police: I am in no way here asking or advocating that any individual visitor click on any ad on my blog. I do not control the display of these ads, or the behavior of my visitors.)

No, I am simply explaining that nobody in his or her right mind would ever do this for the money. It is so far below the minimum wage as to be laughable.

Compared to the advertising opportunity, think about the content opportunity. Many more people will be interested, I suspect, in reading an interesting story than checking out an ad.

The truth will be apparent soon enough. My point tonight, for loyal readers of my blog, is to let you in on the opportunity at the very moment it has emerged. Please consider adding one of these content blocks to your site or a site you have access to.

It may just be the best little decision you've made lately!


On to more important topics: Children's natural love for babies.

Here are two new uncles and one new aunt with their new little nephew.

Here in San Francisco, it's a bit chilly again and sort of rainy. Aidan is out at a movie with his first best friend from infancy, Alice. Dylan is out at a hockey game with his friend Robbie. Julia and I are here at home, watching our kinds of movies.

It looks like both Julia and Dylan are well on the way to becoming vegetarians. My friends like Julia Butterfly Hill will be happy.

Aidan, like me, likes all kinds of foods too much to restrict himself. I am increasingly focused on food, which is a main reason I am growing a potbelly that I wish did not exist.

On the other hand, since I am not in a dating mood, and not trying to meet anyone, who cares? Maybe this blog will soon include recipes, just in case anyone out there cares about foods the way I do.


My car sort of broke down today. That's one of my worst fears, since becoming single. What happens when my car dies? Luckily, I have friends.

Thank you, Mark.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Transactional Charisma*

I so wish that phrase was my invention, but I'm simply reproducing author Robert Stone's words describing the contagious enthusiasm of his old friend, Ken Kesey. Stone's new book, Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties, is a memoir. His conversation with Michael Krasny of KQED-FM's "Forum" this morning resonated with me on many levels, the most important of which is how writing about your life triggers all sorts of memories you had "forgotten."

This is truly a mysterious process; I'm hoping neuroscience will shed some light in the future. (Peter!) But I, and the many people I've worked with on memoirs all discover that if you start writing about some hazy memory, way back in your past; and then if you choose another old image in your mind from another time, and another and another, before long your mind is able to recognize that you do really want to recover some of the stuff it has filed away in the stacks of your library.

So, it delivers you little prizes, like that day when you were maybe six, holding your grandma's hand, walking down a street, learning the names of all the different trees by their distinctive leaves and barks.


My car has had a longstanding love affair with Minis, and almost from the first week I joined my current company, necessitating a commute down 101 each workday to Redwood Shores, it (my car) and I have been drawn to a certain orange Mini, whose owner apparently lives near to us, works similar hours to ours, parks in the same parking lot, and works somewhere on one of other five floors of our six-story building!

Today, for the first time ever, my car insisted on parking next to the Mini. They were snuggled together in a two-car segment of our parking garage, away from all the other vehicles. I'm not sure what transpired on this, their first day in such proximity ever, but I did notice tonight, as I fired up my car's engine, a certain bounce in his step and smile on his grill.

Odds are that sometime I'll get to hold the door or punch an elevator button for the pretty Asian woman who owns that orange Mini. But I doubt she will give me more than a passing glance. So, unlike her car, which knows how my car feels, she'll never know she has a secret admirer curious about who she is, what she does, and what she keeps in her glove compartment, for starters.


In Safeway tonight, I caused a small scene. The young checkout clerk, a very short Latina with dyed blond hair and a nice smile, didn't recognize two of the items I had purchased -- kumquats and daikon. She frantically tried to locate them on her product list, but she was visibly having trouble. Other customers in line piped up, trying to be helpful.

One woman in the next row, with steel gray hair and a friendly face, offered: "They are like miniature oranges. Why don't you look under citrus?"

Then, to me, she asked, "They're pretty bitter, aren't they?"

This distracted the clerk, who looked up at me and asked, "How do eat them?" I couldn't think how to answer so I made a motion of just popping one of them into my mouth and crunching it. I added a satisfied smile and rubbed my belly afterward.

The ever-helpful woman in the next row had a question: "You just eat them, skin and all, right?"

I offered the same non-verbal response to her, for some reason words were escaping me. Then, "I don't know, maybe some people put them in drinks."

A flurry of additional suggestions from all around us helped the fumbling clerk realize that kumquat started with a "k", not a "c" as she had supposed.

"I remember the price, if that would help," I said. "They are $3.99/pound." (My bag of less than half a pound ended up costing $1.72.

Next, the rather large daikon I had chosen presented this poor clerk with a whole new problem. "It's a type of radish," an elderly black woman suggested. The girl looked up at me and said, "So how do you eat this one?"

"Well, I slice it thinly and eat it raw or I put it into Miso soup."

"Ah ha," she said, but I could feel that what she really meant was, "You are really a weirdo, mister." Not unkindly, mind you. At this moment, I looked up to lock eyes with an extremely attractive Asian woman in the next row, who though eavesdropping on our chaotic exchanges, never uttered a word.

I felt that her expression softened ever so slightly as we looked at each other. Maybe it was the Miso Soup reference that caused her momentary interest in me, who knows. When I glanced back at her, she didn't return the favor.

Safeway trains their clerks to say thank you and then pronounce your name when they hand you your sales receipt. When our commotion came to its blessed conclusion, my little clerk struggled to express, "Thank you, Mr. Wire?"

"Weir," I politely but firmly corrected her. "It's a hard name to pronounce, I know." Again the Asian woman and I looked at one another; probably I hoped she was a Deadhead and might fall for the possibility that I was Bob.

That, at least, would be a conversation starter.

Do you see why I consider standing in line at Safeway just about as good as life gets? If you ever really made a lasting connection in such a place, someone would reach out and make sure you'd meet again. Or, at least post a message to "Missed Connections" on Craigslist, right?

But you've got to be looking to do that sort of thing, not just absorbing whatever comes at you, which is my approach to life these days.


In between these various episodes, I got to see most of my 12-year-old's basketball game. It was an exciting game with a disappointing finish, as they lost 23-28. But he is emerging as a team leader and a star. He swished a basket, stole at least four passes, grabbed some rebounds, blocked some shots, and had some assists.

When he plays as hard as he did tonight, he ends up coated in sweat, cut in several places (tonight on his arm and forehead) and red-faced, dehydrated. I bought him a drink, and the he sat with his friends to watch the girls' JV team play.

Up with the parents, from afar, I envied him. To be that young and passionate, smart, beautiful, competitive and engaged is the kind of 12-year-old boy I never got to be.

Luckily, I get to write about him. Because writing about me at his age would be a song of sadness and regret, the story of a boy who would have liked to have been like my sons, but in fact was very different: Alone, sickly, left to his own wild fantasies, none of which would ever come true.

What I would give to be able to have done as Aidan did tonight, driving around a defender toward the basket from the left side, then suddenly pulling up and sending the ball gracefully arcing through the air and down through the hoop -- all net. Or, reading his opponent's eyes and racing in front of the intended recipient of a pass to intercept, and start his own team's fast break toward the other end of the court.

Or, to time his jump, and rip the ball away from others for a rebound.

It is nice stuff. Poetry in motion.


We have some potentially exciting news in our corner of Silicon Valley. We are launching a new product called SmartMatch. It is a content block that you can place on your own blog or website (for free) and it updates automatically. It is topic-based, meaning if you are interested in specific topics only, it will refresh your block regularly with the latest and best stories from our vast database of publications.

Best of all, we will pay you for driving traffic to our site!

So, you heard it right here first. This may be the next big thing on the web. My colleagues and I have been working on this for months. If you are interested in setting up a beta version of SmartMatch on your website or blog, please let me know, and I will help you through the process.

I have been testing the product yesterday and today and I love it. Here is a screenshot of how it looks on one of my other blogs:


So, you might well ask, what does any of this have to do with Transactional Charisma?

Just this: I have come to believe, based on experience, that whether you are at Safeway, playing basketball, driving along the freeway, or trying to create a new product, the true leaders among us exhibit a contagiously viral ability to advocate attractive ideas.

You might call them evangelists. Some have good intentions, some bad. But we all fall victim, sooner or later. We come under the influence of another.

My hope, for you, is that you discover your own transactional charismatic and that (s)he is kind and wise, not exploitive and cruel. That will make all the difference.

*Robert Stone


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The old man and the See

When I write in this space I feel like Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles. Not that I wish to suggest I possess even a fraction of their talent, because I don't, but I do feel that I am flying blind.

Does that make sense to anyone?

By way of anecdotes, including some I may have published before, I once checked in at a hotel in Hollywood behind...Stevie Wonder! Plus, one of my best friends at the University of Michigan in 1965, Calvin, was Stevie's former childhood playmate while they both grew up in Detroit.

I hope these passing coincidences do not sound like name-dropping, dear reader, but while I am at it, maybe I feel comfortable in these dark glasses because I am more like another singer, Roy Orbison, who could see just fine but preferred not to.

Sometimes, the only relief here in America, circa 2007, is blocking it all out. Not just all the excessive imagery, and the noise, but the overlooked pain and the relentless suffering of a people held hostage by wicked consumerism of the type that angered Jesus, their main savior, leading him to upturn the tables of the greedy in a rage only the pure and the righteous can appreciate.

For the rest of us, our choices run a narrow gamut from cynicism to hopelessness.

How different to be Japanese! Not so much of this pain need be borne as long as you can embrace an appropriate fatalism.

Arrigato, my Japanese guide(s). Even those who can see need help in these matters.

Bob, Aimee, and me (a threesome)

Most of the time
I'm clear focused all around,
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground,
I can follow the path, I can read the signs,
Stay right with it, when the road unwinds,
I can handle whatever I stumble upon,
I don't even notice she's gone,
Most of the time...

...Most of the time
I'm halfway content,
Most of the time
I know exactly where I went,
I don't cheat on myself, I don't run and hide,
Hide from the feelings, that are buried inside,
I don't compromise and I don't pretend,
I don't even care if I ever see her again
Most of the time...

--Bob Dylan
Copyright © 1989 Special Rider Music
Columbia Records


An emotionally honest blog is nothing if the author doesn't clear house now and then in this fashion. Please read the poetry above and below and see how a man can miss every signal, all the way along. Why, you ask? Because he may need to be loved so badly that he doesn't notice that he is inserting his own concept of love into a woman's life who doesn't have room for that much of an intrusion.

Now that I've met you
would you object to
never seeing each other again
cause I can't afford to
climb aboard you
no one's got that much ego to spend

So don't work your stuff
because I've got troubles enough
no, don't pick on me
when one act of kindness could be

Cause I'm just a problem
for you to solve and
watch dissolve in the heat of your charm
but what will you do when
you run it through and
you can't get me back on the farm...

Artist: Aimee Mann
Song: Deathly
Album: Magnolia soundtrack

These singers sum most of it up, as far as I am concerned. In the private sector, we call this the bottom line. Supposedly, in this society, that is the only thing that matters -- the outcome, the net net, a story written up in numbers.

But, for me, it is only part of the story. Of course, I would love to make lots of money, and become filthy rich all of a sudden. Not because I want anything in particular for myself except to purchase my time back.

I've reached an age where I would by quite happy no longer having to perform as a wage slave. I'd be happier as a part-time consultant, advisor, and board member. Meanwhile, I could finish my damn book about a media mogul who bores me to tears with his self-aggrandizing moves, including (vomit) a reality TV show that I never watched.

Then, I could work harder on the memoir that this blog has become, and ensure that it would be of a higher and more consistent quality that has henceforth been the case. Some nights, I literally fall asleep at my computer, trying to push these posts out, without much sense of whether they matter to anyone, anywhere, except those closest to me.

But, if I ever can strike a chord that resonates outside of the small circle of my family and attentive friends, it is easy to envision this work becoming a book. That would be fun.

At the same time, I have an undeniable urge to start growing food. The back yard of this place would be fine, despite the dusts of ghosts that continue to haunt the former location of the privy. That square just won't support vegetation, while the rest of the yard is a clover and sourgrass paradise.

My housemate also wants to get her hands dirty, so we have a perfect fit here. The landlady came by the other day and asked if I wanted her to clear the growth from the yard, and I said, "No!" Nature will take care of all that, in due course, and as we plow it back into the soil ever richer will present itself for us to plant lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, and the other treats common in gardens in these parts.

Hmmm. I wonder if I can grow daikon?


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bush's Glaring Omission (live)

Pelosi looks nervous and uncomfortable. She is feeling the burden of all the eyes of her party members on her to determine which of Bush's lines to clap for and stand up for and which ones to ignore.

Next to her, Dick Cheney looks grumpy as ever. He seems to be somewhat sensitive to cues from Pelosi. Makes sense. First time he's sat at the head of the table above a mixed house.

The first big awkward moment comes when Pelosi decides to stand as Bush introduces his health insurance deduction ideas, which are meant to attract bipartisan support. It is almost comical to see the Democrats get Pelosi's message, and rise from their seats. Lieberman looks particularly ridiculous.

Cheney and the Republicans are far more restrained, but once the Dems are up, they heave themselves out of their seats too.

Out in the audience, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has an unattractively frozen smirk that reveals her difficulty at this event. Barack Obama has completely bailed out; he is looking down at notes the whole time. John McCain tries to counter the impression that he is only acting like a loyalist by winking at others, as if they know what he is up to. He acts much like a crackup in the back of the classroom.

I don't have the resources to apply an applause-o-meter tonight, but I'd suggest that those who do should slice and dice these applause lines to gauge which ones have any chance of bi-partisan support.

The next awkward moment comes when Pelosi rises to Bush's immigration reform initiative. Catching her move with his peripheral vision, Cheney rises too and the house unites behind an utterly vague idea.

Then, Bush moves to the energy crisis. Here, Willie Nelson and Kinky Friedman, must be standing and cheering back in Texas, because Bush mentions Biodiesel fuels.

Then, things get interesting. As Bush mentions global climate change, the people on the floor rise and cheer. The leaders -- Pelosi and Cheney -- have to follow. This passion for doing something on global warming, finally, seems broad-based.

A few decades too late.

Bush moves on to his anti-terror rhetoric. Here, his warrior lines bring easy standing ovations, and Pelosi has to play along. Bush likes easy applause lines, so he tells some stories about horrors averted by "heroes" and receives sustained applause in response. Everybody supports our troops.

(I think I see where he is going now. He will be honoring a homespun hero, the man who saved another man who had a seizure and fell onto the subway tracks in New York. His theme is all about heroes, overseas and domestic.)

Bush also is expressing his apocalyptic vision of the Al-Qaeda leaders, and is referencing directly the polarizing language of fear that has swept him to whatever political credibility he still possesses -- the politics of fear.

On and on, he goes. The echoes still are those of the Crusades, however -- a clash of civilizations, which is a dangerous image for him to wield. He is clueless about this rhetorical excess and how he has elicited a terrible response by playing into the hands of extremists the past five-and-a-half years.

(My, Condi Rice looks bad. She is trying to look tough, never a good decision for her. Of course, she too has designs on becoming Bush's replacement, though her odds are long.)

Now, Bush is waging his hardest fight -- convincing a doubtful nation that he can successfully win the Iraq War. The darkest shadow he is casting over that effort is Iran, the main terrorist-sponsoring nation in the Middle East.

But his "surge" strategy is making Pelosi and other Democrats grit their teeth. This is really hard on these guys -- they are people, despite years of political experience, and they cannot entirely hide their true feelings, their fears, and their contradictions.

Only one-third of the U.S. population, according to today's polls, support Bush in his performance as President and that is largely due to widespread doubts about the Iraq War.

More fear mongering, but now only the Republicans are rising. Pelosi and the Dems all sit stone-faced. They have no choice -- they've established a strong consensus opposing the pending escalation of forces.

The way Bush unifies his immediate audience is by repeating the throwaway line that we all support our troops, blah, blah. Of course we all support them! They are our sons and daughters. But that doesn't equate to feeling good that they are in harm's way.

Bush also talks about increasing the military by 92,000 in the next five years.

Then he turns to civilian reserves (read: National Guard.) Nobody clapped about this; it simply is an unsupportable political position.

Then he quickly plays the nuclear card on Iran. Rice still is trying to look tough, and it still is far from her best move. She just looks out of her league here.

Bush's commitment to an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord seems lukewarm, almost an afterthought. And he passes off North Korea in with a mere sentence.

He brings everyone to their feet by mentioning Darfur. He tries to sound compassionate. He again touches on working against HIV/AIDS in Africa, always a popular position.

A very odd part of the scene he faces is the presence of a minority of the Supreme Court (I counted only four justices) in the front row. They apparently feel constrained against showing any passion or commitment to anything. So they remain stoic.

Near the end of his speech, Bush starts honoring individual people who have done good one way or another. A basketball player. An entrepreneur. Then, bingo!, the story of Wesley Autrey, the man who saved another man when he suffered a seizure and fell before a New York subway train.

Then he turns back to military heroes.

The old men who sent this soldier there (read: The Joints Chiefs of Staff) are the heartiest of clappers.

Bush wraps up with a kind of sentimental appeal, which none of the other politicians can refuse to respond to.

The above may be rough, But since I wrote it in real time, much as I learned to do years ago as a correspondent for UPI, I'll post it as is.

(Note: I have edited this piece slightly for grammatical consistency and word choice the following day. -- DW)


The glaring omission, and I mean a huge and unforgivable one, is Bush failed mention the most serious social problem facing our nation -- how to rebuild the Gulf Coast. It is very sad to me that this greatest of all domestic challenges was totally ignored.

In the end, one of the main responsibilities of any government is managing the national economy, and Bush as our chief custodian has chosen to squander $1.2 trillion in Iraq that might have helped Americans desperately in need of help.

That he never even mentioned New Orleans and the Mississippi coast is an open invitation to John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, et. al., to move into the vacuum and articulate what in fact is our country's greatest domestic challenge.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Ways to listen to the State of the Union Speech

Tuesday night's address by the President will be effectively satirized many times, some before it's even delivered. I can mention a few but that is not my main intent tonight. One of the most effective pieces making the rounds on the web is a female PETA activist doing a slow striptease as the staid Senators and Representatives rise to clap and cheer.

Would that the animal-rights movement had any more than a smattering of support in Congress!

But, tons of other jabs exist out there in the public domain. Of course, the usual suspects, like The Daily Show, will be getting armed and ready to fire their salvos once the highly staged event is over.

So, too, the Democrats.

The Bush administration's desire to make a good impression is almost palpable. Among recent pre-speech leaks, President Bush's proposal on health care is a case in point. The Gubernator of California tried a similar ploy last week in his State of the State address in Sacramento.

The problem with both of their plans is that they cannot possibly have an ice cube's chance of survival in hell in the poisonous special-interest environment that characterizes modern American politics.

Forget K Street. The money is everywhere now, even on the Internet.

Especially on the Internet. That's why the two most recent Democrats to enter the 2008 Presidential race -- Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton -- chose to announce their candidacies via the web, eschewing the traditional appearance before the cabin they were born in, or the statehouse where their political birth occurred, etc.

Besides the salient point that nobody can ask you any direct questions when you announce online, Barack and Hillary clearly read Time magazine when constructing their announcement podcasts.

The tip-off was in how they addressed their presumed audiences in said podcasts -- "You."

Remember who the person of the year is?


But, as some may recall, I (and others) have expressed the opinion, from inside Silicon Valley, that Time missed the point of what its editors belatedly think of as "Web 2.0."

It's not about "me," stupids; it's about "we."

It has always been about the network, not the user.

But a point that subtle is sure to be lost on the likes of Time's editors, Hillary and Obama.


Perhaps I have wandered a bit from tomorrow night's speech. Bush won in 2000 (to the extent he actually did win) by promising to be a "compassionate conservative."

Instead, he has been a conservative.

His last chance to create any kind of legacy for himself is to reposition himself as a moderate able to work with everyone along the American political spectrum. Thus, the health insurance leak.

But this politician is caught between Iraq and a hard place. Even his own party members are deserting him in droves. The sad thing is that, now he has committed our military might and national pride to suppressing an irrepressible civil war in a secular country he confused with an Islamicist enclave, he is right about one thing.

Unless his (or someone's) military strategy helps the U.S. extract itself and turn over power to some sort of Iraqi coalition that can quell the violence, the U.S. and its national security (read: oil) interests will suffer serious harm in the months and years to come.

The saddest thing about all of this is how many lives have been lost. The second saddest thing is how much money we have spent: $1.2 Trillion!

With that, we could have rebuilt the Gulf Coast and gotten universal health insurance in this country, not to mention countless other benefits.

My gut sense is that Bush's "surge" strategy probably will "work" for a while, at least in Baghdad. If he is lucky, and he may be, he'll be able to extract enough troops by the end of next summer to not totally doom the chances of his party's next nominee for President.

So, cutting to the quick, do you want to save months of headlines and know what the two major parties' tickets will be in 2008?

Here is one old political junkie's take.

The Democrats will run either Clinton or (darkhorse) Pelosi (P) with Obama (VP). The GOP will run McCain (P) and Rice (VP). Thus, both parties will run a woman and an African-American.

Who will win? McCain, easily, except for a startling development. It seems likely that Senator Brownback will become an Independent, attacking both major candidates from the right on social issues, especially abortion.

His challenge will split the Christian Right, thereby dooming McCain.

On the other hand, envision a different ticket for Republicans: McCain and Brownback.

Under this scenario, the Democrats need a different ticket, possibly John Edwards and Bill Richardson, the first part-Latino member of a ticket. That is a long way from running women and African-Americans, but that is quite possible.

Ah, but we get ahead of ourselves. First, tomorrow night, we have to see whether the President bombs or pulls off a surprise, which would be bringing Pelosi and Democrats to their feet by unveiling centrist proposals.

I doubt he'll succeed. This war, much like Vietnam a generation ago, will destroy a President and his party's chances as the fate LBJ and the Democrats suffered in 1968.

Only this time it will be Bush and the Republicans.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Morning After.1

So, after every sleepover, there comes the next morning, sooner than after a normal's night sleep. Here, our morning started at around 4 when one of our guests wanted to phone her Mom. I suggested we wait a few hours, until her mother would be awake, and she agreed. At this point, apparently, all three girls got into the same bed and started an extended giggling session.

All I know is I checked outside their door from time to time and they seemed to be asleep. Once morning officially arrived, they all had cereal, milk and tea. And then, they danced.

Hip Hop. We also baked cookies.

By mid-morning, everyone had gone home and I was able to eat my breakfast, which consisted of miso soup composed partly of the leftover ingredients of sourgrass salad.

It's that time of year again, when the need to gather and organize tax records looms on an ever-closer horizon.

Each year's documentation seems to require an entire box. Then, you have to keep the stuff around for years, in case of an audit. Why can't all this be digitized and automated? Who has the space for all this junk? My credit card receipts alone filled three large manila envelopes last year.

And I really don't want to look back through them!