by Dana Blankenhorn
  Volume VIII, No. XXV

This Week's Clue: The Source Of All Energy Is Hope

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This Week's Clue: The Source Of All Energy Is Hope
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
SP (Shameless Promotion)
The Great Disconnect
TiVo Is Thrown Off The Bridge
Lawyers Shield The Media
Clued-in, Clueless

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For the Week of June 21, 2004

We're getting through the tech wreck OK, thanks to my lovely wife.

She's a computer programmer. Works on transaction processing systems. She can get along with people and explain what she's doing in English. She also has (or seems to have) unlimited stores of energy. When big deadlines demand that she go at it 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, she goes, yet somehow the laundry gets done, too.

The source of this energy can be traced back a century, to a Texas prairie town where German was the only language spoken. Jenni's Dad was raised in a world where you worked from sun-up to sun-down or you didn't eat. And he never changed.

There were times she resented the fact that he'd wake up before she did, run a school system until dinner-time, then go run a second business on the side until after she was asleep. She got over that resentment after she had her own family, and found she could call on that same kind of energy. She is always busy at something. If there are chores she does chores, if not she keeps our books, and if not she still finds time to read several hours per day.

I saw this energy first-hand before our daughter was born. Jenni's Dad was retired by then, but far from tired. He came up from Texas to build two closets in our bedroom, sleeping in the sawdust, doing the dimensions by hand. He was 67, yet he worked myself and a friend into the ground.

I mention this because he's now nearly 85, and ill, and we don't know if maybe this time he won't walk away from it. He's the rock of a huge, extended family, and no one can fill his shoes. He has set his affairs in perfect order, and everyone will be taken care of, but it's his presence we treasure now.

For me, Jenni's Dad always seemed a sharp contrast to my own father, whose story drew so much comment here recently. Nothing my dad tried worked out. He never followed through. Jenni's Dad always followed through, always. And his daughter follows through, too. So I bask in the warmth of his energy, second-hand, and when I get tired at this typewriter, when my own energy flags, I wonder, how in the world does he do it?

I have no firm answer for that. I only surmise, from watching his daughter, that he has taken every day of his life as a gift, as a chance to do some good in the world, as a chance to take care of others, and to offer hope.

There are many sources of happiness in this world. I get it from writing. I need to be here, and to have you reading me, or I feel like I don't exist. And for a long time I thought that was the only way to be happy. If you're not doing something meaningful, something you hope will last, I would wonder, why are you sucking oxygen?

But it's the process of doing that's more important than the result. Being dependable, being depended upon and delivering, is a great reward. You build a life from pieces of time, from units of energy, you fight entropy as much as you can, every day, with whatever you have. The result is not for you to judge.

Jenni's Dad will leave his family in comfort. His children have all gone to college, he's seen most of his grandchildren graduate, and even his great-grandchildren are coming along fine. But, while the money that brought college educations and suburban lifestyles for generations to come is welcome, that's not his legacy.

His legacy lies in a story.

As I mentioned before, Jenni's Dad was a school superintendent. He was a school superintendent for over a quarter-century. In the mid-1960s he was asked to build a new elementary school, and rather than putting some politician's name on it (or trying to get his own name there, as he could have), he asked his children what they would like to name their school.

He was very pleased with their answer. Hope, they said. Their community was poor, and most of the parents were new immigrants, just as his family had been.

So Jenni's Dad called Bob Hope. And he prepared a ceremony. But Hope, being a very busy man, dawdled on setting a date, and the work wasn't going to wait on him. So in exasperation Jenni's Dad called Hope's assistant and said, "If he can't give me a date in the next hour I'm going to name it for Crosby." Five minutes later the phone rang. "This is Bob 'please don't name it for Crosby' Hope." So Bob Hope Elementary was born. And Hope said later that it was one of the greatest moments of his own greatly-honored life, because he hadn't been able to graduate from elementary school himself.

The greatest honor of Bob Hope's life was pushed on him by Jenni's Dad, not because he necessarily wanted to honor Hope, but because he wanted to honor hope. Knowing him has been the greatest honor of my life. My prayer is that my children, and their children, can build something on the hope he brought the world.

Well, I hope that we at least try. Remember, when things don't go right, that you can still build tomorrow. Remember, when your energy flags, that you can still use whatever you have. Remember that showing up and staying on the job is something anyone can do, and very meaningful. And remember that, in the end, it's not the building, or the business, or the children you leave behind, that will be your legacy. Your legacy will be the lesson of your example, the hope. That's what you'll be judged by.


Shameless Self-Promotion

I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am presently searching for opportunities.

My last book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards .

You have my permission to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know. Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...


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Takes on the News

The Great Disconnect

When the history of journalism is written this period may well become known as the "Great Disconnect," a period where the practice of media became divorced from the business models it depended upon.

Despite the claims of otherwise clued-in journalists that Google would save the day the fact is that, taken together, Google, Amazon and Blogads can't pay for a writer's time creating a first-class special interest blog. Those blogs that have succeeded financially have had large circulations (and thus high ISP bills), they have had to beg for support, and most have been subsidized by their creators. Matt Drudge built himself a radio career, getting his from right-wing sources. Glenn Reynolds has always paid his bills as a law school professor, and the rest of the big boys would have to threaten to go dark every few months.

The reason for this is that none of these ad media paid a decent CP/M (cost per thousand), and no blog provides enough ad inventory to really pay the bills. Nick Denton tried some innovative things, like taking all items "inside" to get a second, more specialized taste of ad revenue from them, buying short, snarky pieces, selling the personality of his writers, and concentrating only on those subjects where blogging was strongest - entertainment, gadgets, politics, sex.

But the fact was even that was not enough. So recently he went to the full sell-out route, blogging directly on behalf of major advertisers like Nike. Some in the media thought this cool but in fact he was really, at best, setting himself up as a boutique ad agency for big clients, specializing in new media. And we know what happened to them. Once the other agencies learned the tricks, the new guys got the boot.

And so the Great Disconnect continues...more on how it will end next week. (That's called a tease (everyone's got to innovate)).


TiVo Is Thrown Off The Bridge

Tivo made "big news" recently with claims it would bridge the world of TV and the Internet .

What actually happened here is quite different. The gatekeepers of the TV industry - the cable operators - tired of Tivo's dance between their interests and those of technology. So they copied the heart of its system, its big hard disk recorder, and sold that directly to subscribers under other names.

By the time Tivo is able to disconnect from its old business partners and see them in court, it will have been in Chapter 7 for many years. So it's got this head-feint going about Internet TV.

It won't work, for several reasons:

  • There aren't enough good shows that can attract any kind of audience on the Internet.
  • There's not enough bandwidth to make downloading them worthwhile.
  • The downloads don't have the quality we're accustomed to.
  • Even if it does work, cable can copy this very, very easily.

What Tivo needs to do, right now, is find a deep-pocketed buyer before it goes completely down. Time Warner seems the best bet - they have both cable and entertainment assets. Otherwise the shareholders, and the bondholders, are going to be left with nothing within two years.

Lawyers Shield The Media

What's the difference between me and the "real" media?

They have lawyers.

Shield laws don't protect you if you don't have the counsel who can take full advantage of them. So the Online Journalism Review story questioning whether such laws, in fact, protect online journalists' and the confidentiality of their sources is completely bogus .

There is only one firm protection that any reporter can give a confidential source. That is, are you willing to go to jail for them, as Vanessa Leggett did for a half-year recently . If Leggett gave me a commitment to protect my anonymity I would take that to the bank. If some newbie gave me a "promise" I'd first have to get something I could blackmail him (or her) with that would make a stay in the clink seem a walk in the park by comparison. And that sounds like work. Sources don't want to work, they want to talk.


Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Linus Torvalds, for moving from Silicon Valley to Portland . Once your fame is established it is always best to make them come to you. Besides, the Rose City is lovely, with good schools and reasonable living costs.

Clueless is this Editor & Publisher story wondering whether conservatives should be given "affirmative action" in newsrooms. In fact the opposite is the case, given the right-wing bias of media owners. I guarantee you a Republican has an easier time getting a job today than a Democrat.


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