Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for December 2009

Clear: Why Try 4G Hi Fi Wi Fi?

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I’m very blessed in that working for IBM, I’m able to work most anywhere that there’s a working phone connection and Internet access (and often do!).

Considering that we sell technology that powers remote work, to do anything less would be downright hypocritical, don’t you think?  : )

Of course, working remotely requires a certain amount of self-discipline which, being a writer, among other things, I mostly have.

During this holiday season, I’ve worked a few days from the Watson Starship Enterprise motor home (my newfangled nickname for the Monaco Dynasty 42 foot motor home where my retired parents now live full time), situated here at the Destiny RV Park just outside Denton, Texas (our hometown).

I was able to pull this off this year thanks to the generous testing opportunity of a new 4G WiMAX technology called Clear.

A buddy of mine works for Clear in Austin, and he asked me if I wanted to give Clear’s new 4G technology a test drive sometime, free of charge.  The Christmas holidays presented a perfect opportunity to do so.

The first wide area wireless Internet technology I ever saw was actually while visiting Prague back in 1998, where a friend of mine was living at the time.  I think it involved big microwave towers.

I’ve wondered why wide area wireless Internet access hadn’t made a resurgence since then, and I suspect the landline competition from the telcos and the cable companies is certainly a key reason.

But leave it up to Craig McCaw, a godfather of the American cellular phone business and founder of Clear’s parent company, Clearwire, to come up with a new solution.

Clearwire currently offers wireless broadband services in 46 U.S. markets, along with Belgium, Spain, Ireland, and others, and has a list of very interesting partners and investors which are clearly hedging their Internet bets: Sprint, Comcast, Intel, Time Warner Cable, and Google.

In November 2008, Clearwire partnered with Sprint to combine their next-generation wireless broadband businesses into a new wireless communications company, which continues to be named Clearwire.

As part of that deal, Sprint gave all of its 2.5 GHz spectrum and WiMAX-related assets to Clearwire, which is the entity currently offering the 4G wide area broadband service, and which is expected to be available in up to 80 U.S. markets by the end of next year, and cover up to 120 million Americans.

So, that’s the backstory.

Now, here’s my experience:

Before the holidays, my buddy Brandon set me up with a Motorola WiMAX USB Adaptor, put me in the Clear system, and we downloaded drivers for both my Macbook Pro and my Dell (so I could try it out on both machines).

Back in Austin, up on the hill (I live just south of Town Lake off South Lamar) I was constantly receiving a good 8-10 bars, and my speed tests were revealing a solid 4 Mbps.  There was no problem whatsoever with video/audio streams, and I could safely listen to Pandora while replicating my email.

Billed as being 4X faster than regular 3G access, Clear was living up to its brand promise.

Here at the Destiny RV Park, things have been a bit more interesting.  Admittedly, I’m on the margin of the small metropolis of Denton, so I didn’t expect the coverage to be very good.  And I’ve been mostly correct.

On average, I’ve gotten between 2 and 4 bars (out of 10), but even that has mostly been enough to allow me to do a variety of core Internet tasks: streaming video/audio (again, with very little buffering impact); replicating email (including with large attachments); visiting numerous websites with a great diversity of page load requirements; instant messaging (both work and personal); posting pictures to Facebook…and, well, I’m impressed.

First, I’m impressed that it works so consistently (I’ve really been hammering it the last two days working here).  The connection is very consistent, even at the slower speeds.

Second, I’m impressed that I don’t need as much bandwidth as I would have thought I might for some of those regular tasks.  However, recognize I was NOT entering into any emeetings and the like, which I think may have challenged my access speed here at the RV park.

It hasn’t been without fail, though.  Several times, particularly in the evenings, I’ve tried to hit a Web page, and the “no connection” message came up in Safari, only to have it work again ten minutes later.

So, clearly (pun intended), the strength of the signal makes a big difference (as with any wireless connection).

Would I replace my current landline Internet access with Clear?  Not yet.

My Time Warner Roadrunner connectivity is too reliable and too high speed (speed tested at 16 Mbps download right before I left Austin for the holidays).

That said, I’m awfully enticed by the promise and ability of Clear to deliver even before their infrastructure buildout is complete.

This is clearly (there I go again) an idea whose time to come, particularly as the buildout expands and we suddenly find ourselves surrounded by more ubiquitous WiMAX towers — at least in major cities…you’ll have to find another solution out in the boonies.

You can imagine no end of use cases where higher speed wireless makes all kind of sense for somebody moving about in a metropolitan area: real estate agents, local trucking, pizza delivery guys, city workers needing dispatch services and access to online resources…the list goes on and on.

And, considering that Clear is able to offer 4 Mbps reliably in a city like Austin, as demand increases the opportunity for more aggressive pricing kicks in, and suddenly WiMAX becomes a very viable alternative to landline Internet (and hence the investments in Clearwire from Comcast and Time Warner).

Never mind the fact that there’s no need for rolling up a truck into somebody’s house to install all that equipment.

Clear is easy enough to install that even a techno-idiot like myself can plug in the router and install the modem/load the software, and for an additional $25/month you can bundle an IP phone (which I didn’t get to try).

That means, for the cost of about $75/month, a user or small business could have a high-speed Internet bundle with a VOIP phone with nothing required but a power outlet and a computer to hook it into (again, assuming you’re inside a coverage area).

Not bad.

And, considering the problems AT&T has been having with its data servicing for the iPhone in major metro areas like San Francisco and New York City, and recognizing that AT&T’s 4G answer, “Long Term Evolution,” won’t be commercially available until at least 2011, I have to wonder if 4G doesn’t become a viable bridge technology that starts to supplant regular telco mobile data service.

No matter its fate, it’s clear to me that, assuming Clear can find its way to conveying a clear and compelling value proposition as to why one would subscribe to it versus existing landline Internet access (see earlier scenarios), then Clear has a clear future indeed.

Written by turbotodd

December 29, 2009 at 6:38 pm

All Hail King Turbo!

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Greetings, and I hope this blog post finds your holidays happier than ever, and your travels hassleless.

Well, as hassleless as they can be in light of recent circumstances surrounding air travel in these United States.

Today, I went in search of the new TSA rules to make sure I was hearing them directly from the source.  In the process, I found a loophole that I’m figuring out how I can try to apply to myself.

More on that at the end of the post.

Currently, TSA Security Directive SD 1544-09-06 is scheduled to be in effect only through December 30 of this year, but I suspect it’s a sign of things to come — once we put these measures into effect, they seem to become permanent.

(Mind you, I try to maintain a sense of humor about these measures, being a frequent flyer and all, but I also recognize the serious nature of the threats that lead to them, so please keep both in mind as you read the rest of the post!)

First, at the boarding gate, TSA employees are instructed to perform thorough pat-downs of all passengers, concentrating on “upper legs and torso.”  They’re also instructed to “physically inspect 100 percent of all passenger accessible property” prior to boarding.

Okay, but didn’t the Nigerian dude who tried to light his foot on fire board at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam??  Why didn’t somebody inspect him!??

In flight, the restrictions get even more serious.

First, passengers have to remain in their seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at their destination.  That means no trips to the bathroom, no trips to the galley to flirt with the flight attendants, no trips to the cockpit to chat with the pilots.

You also can’t access your baggage starting 1 hour prior to arrival at said destination.  That means no reaching for your book, your iPod, your Kindle, gummy bears…nada.

But we’re going to make it even more fun.  We’re also going to disable “aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems” so that you’re bored out of your frickin’ mind because you can no longer access the Interwebs.

Rock Paper Scissors?  Anybody?

How’s that?  Is that something special in the air?  You loving the way we fly?  Is flying these skies really that friendly??

But wait, there’s more!  “While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks.”

I can’t wait for this announcement:

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.  I’d like for you to ignore that massive hole in the ground off to your left that looks something like the Grand Canyon, because acknowledging said hole might prematurely reveal our position in these friendly skies and give us away to the terriers.”

And finally — and with all due apologies to Linus from Peanuts — no blankies or pillows may be used starting 1 hour prior to arrival at said destination.

Does this mean flight attendants will come stomping through the cabin, the Blankie Policia, yanking away pillows and blankies from the kids mid-slumber?  I assume this includes for the sleeping kiddoes that, heretofore, were perfectly quiet in their slumber but will now turn promptly into screaming helions?


However, as with any good bureaucratic policy, there’s always an exception to the rule…and I found it!

Ladies and gentleman, from here on, I would like you to please address me as “His Substantially Absurd Majesty the Turbo, King of the Sovereign TurbotoddLand.”

You can find my country via the Internet at turbotodd.com.

You see, the new travel restrictions allow our government to exempt certain individuals — namely, passengers who are Heads of State or Heads of Government — from the new safety measures.

Now, could somebody please go find my court jester?!

It’s good to be the king!

Written by turbotodd

December 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Wishing You A Very Turbo Holiday

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Greetings, and here’s wishing you and yours a very merry and happy holiday season, wherever in the world you may be.

In my spare holiday time, I put together the following Christmas greeting montage with a few highlights from my travels in 2009 (Thanks to my new Animoto subscription!).

Though I won’t be matching George Clooney’s AA status from the new movie “Up in the Air” anytime soon, I did renew my AA Platinum status for the next year!

Here’s wishing you and yours a very happy holiday and prosperous 2010.

I’ll see you in the Admiral’s Club!

Written by turbotodd

December 25, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Turbo Finds His Avatar

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Ho Ho Ho.

Happy holidays.

First off, if you’d prefer to listen to the Turbo “Stuff I Like and Hate” from the 2009 post that I wrote the other day (rather than read it), I wrapped it up in a podcast edition and thank my fellow collaborator Scott Laningham for pulling it together.

Meanwhile, I finally got myself out to the multiplex to see “Avatar.”

I was gonna check it out while out in Utah, but decided to ski that last day instead and also to let the first few days’ crowds go down.

All I can say now having seen it is “wow.”  Big frickin’ wow.

What a gorgeous and mind blowing movie!

I mean, talk about being transported to another world.  Literally.

I don’t think I’d actually ever seen a 3D movie until now (go figure), so that would be my first suggestion, see it in 3D.  It’s too gorgeous and complex NOT to see it the way the filmmaker intended you to see it.

Second, I would suggest you go ahead and pay the extra to see it at an IMAX.  I may even come back and see it again at an IMAX, it’s such a visual feast.

I don’t think James Cameron needs to worry about making back his $230M for that reason alone (repeat visits).

I’m not going to give much else away about the movie, but will say that I liked the storyline as well as the visual feast.

From this viewer’s perspective, “Avatar” lived up to the hype and then some.

I stumbled upon this article from Data Center Knowledge which explained the horsepower that was required by Weta Digital to do the renderings of Pandora.

According to the article, it consisted of a 10,000 square foot server farm with much of the movie processed on 4,000 HP BL2x220c blades.

Thirty four racks made of 32 machines each with 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of memory.  All water cooled on Rittal racks (there was too much heat for standard raised floor and forced-air cooling).

So, Avatar is hot hot hot (and hot to make), and now I can’t wait to see the X-Box and Playstation games of that gorgeous digital world.

That’s the third time I’ve used the word “gorgeous” in this post, I know, but that’s exactly what Pandora was.

Thanks for the Christmas gift, Mr. Cameron.  You continue to raise the bar for your fellow filmmakers and to transport your audiences to parts unknown.

Written by turbotodd

December 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Turbo’s “Stuff I Like And Hate” List

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I’ve been out on vacation for the past week, so that’s why you’ve not heard much from me.

It was some needed time away, and it got me to thinking.

I’m not going to make any predictions about 2010 this year.

And I’m not going to talk about what happened in 2009, either.

You were here.  You saw it.  Or, at minimum, you probably heard about it.  Whatever it was.

But what I am going to do is talk about the state of technology: Things I hate. Things I like.  Things that tick me off.  Things that make me want to throw a big phonebook across the room…that is, if I still had a big phone book.

This is, of course, no complete list…but it’s all I could remember for now.

1) Lack of Persistent Authentication. This one falls into the “Things I Hate” column.  We’re 15 years into this commercial Internet revolution thing, and STILL I have no way to persistently authenticate with a single user ID and password across multiple websites.  Life’s too short to remember all those user ID and passwords, and I have to keep a spreadsheet with all those passwords just to remember which one goes with which site. And sorry, I don’t wish to place the full authentication bet on Facebook Connect or Google Friend Connect or anything else that’s vendor-specific.  And unfortunately, OpenID seems to require a degree in computer science to figure out.  Can nobody figure this one out?  Really?

2) The Illusion of Internet Privacy. In the “Ticks Me Off” column.  When Facebook announced its recent privacy policy revamping, they basically pulled the equivalent of giving its global user base a giant wedgy. The default privacy setting was “everyone,” illuminating the pure nakedness of your personal information for all the world to see.  If you wanted to keep personal things personal, you had to go out of your way to take action and regain some semblance of control over your personal information, which of course Facebook is using to monetize its site.  I don’t have an issue with their monetization…I do have an issue with a constantly evolving privacy regime that consistently lowers the bar on privacy and devalues user information.

3)  Overzealous Digital Intellectual Property Protection (iTunes). In the “Makes me want to throw a phone book” column. I bought the music, I oughta be able to move it from one computer or device to another (And I’m just talking now about the Apple devices) with no hassle.  I rented the movie, I oughta have more than 24 hours to finish the damn thing.  When I rent a movie from Blockbuster, it doesn’t suddenly expire because I hit play and then hit pause for 23 hours!  I love Apple products, but the DRM drama needs to find a new ending and soon.

4) My iPod Touch. Things I Like.  The DRM complaints I have above aside, I also give credit to Apple for the iPod Touch. It’s become my new best friend, particularly considering the amount of travel I’ve done the past couple of years.  My Touch has become my favorite e-reader, portable jukebox, portable movie screen, and portable communications device, all in one.  It keeps me from getting bored in the most boring of circumstances (say, that 15 hour flight from LA to Hong Kong in coach??)

5) Amazon.Com. Definitely “Things I Like”  I’ve been an Amazon customer pretty much since day one.  Not once have they ever let me down or pissed me off, nor do they abuse their opportunity to market to me.  I still dig their personalized recommendations, even if I don’t buy from their recommendations, and their site experience continues to be easy-to-use and with a solid persistent memory of me as a customer.  Why don’t more Websites take a clue from Amazon?  I mean, seriously.

6) TechMeme. Also “Things I Like.”  As a part-time blogger, and full time technology news junkie, I depend on a lot of different information sources and RSS feeds to try and keep up with it all (and fail miserably most of the time!).  But TechMeme has for several years been a kind of tech news barometer that I can always count on to keep me up to the minute.  Though some have criticized it’s algorithmic engine and over-dependency on the big blogs, I find that it’s typically got the pulse of tech news, which is just what the Turbo doctor ordered.

7) My Blackberry Bold. Put this one in “Things I (Mostly) Like.”  Since I got the Bold in January, I’ve been impressed with the performance and screen, and the swiftness of the 3G connection.  I’ve also enjoyed most of the apps, but I still hate the fact that I can’t do a cloud synch of my contact info (read: phone numbers) and that the Blackberry browser continues to be subpar, nor can I synch my iTunes with it  (even with the Blackberry Desktop manager!). Those issues aside, it’s my virtual lifeline to the world when I’m on the move (which is often!).

8) Tech Company Arrogance. Definitely phone book material. Tech company arrogance is the worst kind of arrogance there is.  IBM had it back in the day, as did Microsoft, Yahoo, and others.  For those big boys on the tech block these days, know that we in the industry have a very long memory, and life won’t always be as good as it is for you right now.  That much you can count on.  Just know that a little humility goes a very long way, and the position of strength you find yourself in now will one day be one of significant weakness.  Don’t invite your customers or competitors to one day abuse the latter by your abuse of the former.

9) Social Media as the Second Coming. I drank the social media Kool-Aid way before there was a name for it.  I was an early Cluetrain advocate, and always felt (and still believe) the basic mantra that Searls, Locke, and others laid out way back in 1999 had a lot of wisdom. However, social media is only as effective as the smart and intelligent individuals behind the blog or the Facebook page or the community site.  The constant firehose of BS PR and propaganda loudspeak via the social media only crowds the already information-overloaded social media freeway and encourages those simply trying to navigate their way from Point A to Point B to quickly search their GPS for alternative routes.  Get a clue, get on the Cluetrain, and understand social media’s role in the overall marketing ecosystem, but do NOT put it in the pantheon category of Second Comings — you’ll be sorely disappointed.

10) People Who Tweet Too Much. You know who you are.  Some of you people need to get a life.  “Joel, put the iPhone down and get off the babysitter” (Remember that scene from “Risky Business”?)  I’m serious.  I like to Tweet, but all things in moderation.  Some of you folks literally don’t seem to do anything else, and I worry about your mental and professional health.  Does your doctor know that that’s all you do is Tweet?  Your boss?  Your significant other?  Hey, it’s okay to just put the device or the PC down and go outside for a walk. Preferably a very long one.  Don’t worry, the Twittersphere ain’t goin’ anywhere.

Written by turbotodd

December 17, 2009 at 10:12 pm

The Subservient Marketer

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Greetings from snowy Utah.

I thought I’d head out here and get some skiing in before the masses arrived for the Christmas holidays.

Fortunately, I arrived just in time for old man winter to really kick into gear in the Wasatch mountains.

Deer Valley, where I skied yesterday, got about 17 inches of new white stuff in the prior 24 hours, and 17 in Alta (where I hope to be skiing today, weather permitting).

But no amount of snow has slowed the winter holiday shopping season, with comScore reporting that online holiday spending is approaching $20B, a steady 3 percent increase over this time last year.

But Tiger Woods won’t be receiving any gifts from consulting firm Accenture, which ended its six-year marketing relationship on Sunday.

According to a New York Times story, Accenture said in a statement that Woods was “no longer the best representative” for its advertising.

“Go on.  Be a Tiger.”  Just no longer do it on behalf of Accenture.

Interesting.  Just the other day in the Salt Lake City airport, I distinctly remember seeing a big ol’ ad for Accenture, featuring a picture of Tiger: “The road to high performance isn’t always paved,” said the tagline.

To which the obvious rejoinder is now: “Sometimes it runs straight into a fire hydrant.” (This courtesy of James Surowiecki’s fine column on Woods’ downfall in the December 21 & 28 edition of The New Yorker.)

So there is a price to be paid for all that philandering, after all.

While we wait for the next Tiger sponsorship  domino to fall, congrats go out to Crispin Porter & Bogusky for being named “Agency of the Decade by Ad Age.

That Subservient Chickenstill one of my all time faves, was the brainchild of Crispin on behalf of Burger King.

I paid a visit to the site this morning — give me a break, I’m on vacation…I have nothing better to do! — and instructed the Subservient Chicken to “Dance the Funky Chicken,” and Mr. Chicken got right to it.  And a fine dance it was.

But not all clients are so lucky to have a Crispin on their roster.

If your regular old boring interactive marketing hasn’t worked for you in 2009, it’s okay, help is on its way!

Here’s why: 2010 is the year that social media really takes root and has bottom-line impact on your business results.



I’m not kidding!

A new study from the CMO Club and BazaarVoice (who have a significantly vested interest in the blossoming of social media marketing, and whose technology IBM has been piloting) reveals that nearly two-thirds of chief marketing officers plan to increase social media budgets in the next year.

Spending?  On what?

I thought social media was free!  That’s what I keep hearing when I ask my executives for budget to do social media!

All kidding aside, the Online Media Daily article indicates that in 2010, CMOs expect social initiatives to directly impact their bottom lines, without exception.

The article goes on: As a result, the metrics they track for social campaigns will shift from Web-centric benchmarks like traffic, page views, and “fans,” to ones linked more directly to their overall business like conversions and average order value, along with sales.”

You know, kind of how they measure the full impact of their print and broadcast advertising initiatives today — you know, Mad Men style.


To wit, all I can say is, don’t throw the social media baby out with the bathwater.

Though the indisputable fact that the market is a conversation may not be enough to warrant your precious marketing dollars without a solid ROI, remember that that conversation can impact your business interests far and wide, and all without you ever having spent a dime.

Go on.  Just ask Tiger.

Written by turbotodd

December 14, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Weathering The Storm With Business Intelligence

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Top-performing companies are 15 times more likely to apply analytics to strategic decisions than their underperforming peers.

This from a new IBM study on the role information-based decision making is playing in successful business strategies during these tough economic times.

Top performers were also 22 times more prepared to challenge the status quo in their organizations, rethink their current strategies and business processes, and aggressively apply and act on new insights derived from analytics.

The study also found that top performers were six times more likely to entrust a broader base of employees with greater authority to make decisions and act on insights.

Entitled “Breaking Away With Business Analytics and Optimization,” the study was based on a blind survey of nearly 400 business executives globally, who rated their businesses versus their peers.

It was published by the IBM Institute for Business Value and is available here.

As part of the analysis, IBM consultants determined that top-performing organizations are able to more fully exploit business analytics for competitive advantage.

The study also revealed that having superior data governance — assuring that data definitions were clear, relevant and accepted — is critical to success for the top performers.

In fact, by a factor of three to one, the study found that top performers were much more sophisticated in their approach to governing organizational information relative to lower performing companies (42 percent versus 14 percent).

IBM itself is actually one of the leading users of analytics in the industry.

Our own Blue Insight initiative is a cloud computing environment that will soon be gathering information from nearly 100 different information warehouses and data stores, providing analytics on more than a petabyte and helping IBM sales and marketing teams to better predict which products and services will deliver the most value to our clients.

Today, at 3 PM EST, check in with the IBM New Intelligence Video studio to learn more about this study and about how IBM’s Business Analytics and Optimization Global Business Services organization may be able to help your company improve its decision making with actionable insight.

Written by turbotodd

December 9, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Happy Birthday, Lotus Notes

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Today is Lotus Notes’ 20th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Lotus Notes.

Lots of folks are applauding Notes’ birthday over on Facebook.  You can be one of them!

I know, it’s kinda weird to go wish an inanimate object like a software product Happy Birthday.

But you have to remember, this is Lotus Notes we’re talkin’ about!

Lotus Notes, one of the first “groupware” products that changed the way people collaborate and work together, first in their own little offices and later, via the Interwebs, around the globe.

Lotus Notes, one of the first products to have a sophisticated, built-in replication engine that allowed for the type of document change management regime that the world was screaming for.

Lotus Notes, developed by now-Microsoft-executive Ray Ozzie and his team at Iris Associates, the Massachusetts-HQed software “think tank” and Lotus Development, which was acquired by IBM in 1995.

I still remember the first day I used Lotus Notes, as IBM made its own transition away from the VM “green monsters” for email.  Talk about a culture change.

I also remember seeing Jim Manzi, the former CEO of Lotus Development, running around the halls of Somers just after the acquisition.

But mostly, I remember a paradigm shift in the way Lotus Notes helped we IBMers communicate, work with, and collaborate with one another…a practice that continues to this day.

I’m not a software developer, nor do I play one on TV…but I have helped program plenty of Lotus Notes databases.

So, happy birthday and here’s to you, inanimate software product Lotus Notes!

It’s been twenty years, you graduated at the top of your class, and you continue to bring value to your customers around this smarter planet of ours.

We’d have gotten you a cake, but figured you couldn’t eat any of it, so just imagine there’s a virtual cake, why don’t ya?

Written by turbotodd

December 7, 2009 at 11:49 pm


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I found out over the weekend that a really good friend of mine had passed away recently from a sudden heart attack.  The irony was, he was on his way to the doctor for an already-prescribed stress test, so he was trying to take care of himself, but he was just a tad bit too late.

His name was Kennedy, and he was someone important in my life going way back.  I’ll explain why.

When I got the news from his daughter that I needed to call her to check on what was some “very sad news,” I knew instantly what it was, and it felt like a sucker punch.

If I’ve ever personally known a Renaissance man in this lifetime, Kennedy was he.  Kennedy knew something about everything, he know a lot about some things, but no matter what he knew, he was always very well worth knowing and he could tell a story beyond compare.

He also had a grand sense of humor, one that ranged from the twisted to the benign to the outrageous, but one always informed by a Cheshire Cat grin that could, and did, warm your heart.

Because Kennedy had had the good fortune to leverage the G.I. bill (and did, over and over and over again…he had more college degrees than I could count), and because of his intellectual voraciousness, he could expound on topics ranging from literature to art history to the latest and greatest sci-fi novel.

But he wasn’t just book smart.  Yes, he spent a number of years in college and in the orbit of the publishing industry, running across authors like Stephen King and beyond, but he would also regale me with tales from the times he was traipsing across Europe as a young hippie hipster.

I first met Kennedy some 21 years ago when I first moved back to my hometown of Denton, Texas, to continue my university education at the University of North Texas.

I met him at the university student union, where he was working part-time doing desktop publishing-related things (I can’t remember exactly what!), and doing it on a Macintosh! (Remember, this was 1988.)

Over the next several years, Kennedy and I were in one another’s orbits in a variety of ways…we continued working on and honing our editing and desktop publishing skills together…we reappropriated resources from the university to develop an underground newspaper (that was around the time of the Gulf War I) entitled “The North Texas Lite.”

Kennedy also helped me do some very interesting in-field research on Harry Hines Boulevard in Dallas for an urban anthropology class, and when I graduated with my BA degree in English in 1991, Kennedy served as the co-sponsor and venture capitalist for my very popular and festive graduation party.

That alone was the most kind and unselfish thing anybody had ever done for me up to that point in my life, and he did it with that Cheshire Cat grin as if it was absolutely his pleasure…and I suspect it must have been, but it meant the world to me (I took a few extra years to get my undergrad degree so I had a lot to celebrate.)

Later, Kennedy opened his own very popular near-campus bookstore, where students would congregate regularly just to chat with him and once in a while buy something, and in 1993, Kennedy and a couple of other friends took our first trip to San Miguel de Allende, a wonderful artists enclave northwest of Mexico City.

It was San Miguel where Kennedy last week met his untimely demise.

I think the reason his passing has so haunted me is because it exemplifies for me — and, I’m sure, his wonderful children Astra and Bryan — the fragility of life.

But also because it means the passing of someone who I know helped shape the fragile clay of my own youth through his own good humor, tutelage, and encouragement in a way that had been completely unselfish, and in a manner that helped pave the way and shape and inform the professional I later became.

But, I take great comfort that the circumstances by which Kennedy has passed are an arbiter of the great connectedness and symmetry in our universe.

You see, I last visited San Miguel in 2006 with some other friends, and as fate would have it, found my way to the bar that would only later become Kennedy’s (or “Kenny,” as JJ and friends would come to refer to him) virtual living room.

It’s a small world after all.

JJ’s was a comfy, cozy Harley bar that drew a great diversity in its clientele, and where, if you were brave enough, JJ would do his famous knife trick (I went along for that particular ride, and still have all my fingers).

I take great comfort, and laughter, in knowing that Kennedy spent some of his last couple of years’ evenings a few nights a week in this very warm and welcoming place, and I don’t find it ironic at all that Kennedy found it after I had made my own return trip to San Miguel some 13 years after our great adventure together there.

So, I’ll leave you where Kennedy left us, in San Miguel de Allende, in a bar straight out of a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie.

It’s a ceremony that may seem strange on its face, but if you knew Kennedy, it was an entirely apt means by which for him to make his escape from this life and possibly of starting the adventure to find out what may come next.

I’m going to miss you terribly, my good friend…more than I can relate here.

Just knowing you’re no longer on this planet causes me a very great sadness.

But in my sadness, I will try to always remember that 13 hour long train ride in the dead of the Mexican night, your Cheshire grin smiling away in the moonlight as you waited for the nice seniorita to bring you another cerveza, the dark and barren Mexican moonscape passing by in the background barely hiding the promise of what great adventure lay south for us in San Miguel, not knowing, in fact, that we were making our way to what would become your final resting place.

Written by turbotodd

December 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Just Don’t Do It

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Tiger Woods seems to have not learned that it’s always the cover-up, if not the crime.

In his case, it was both…that against his family and in not learning the lesson of basic PR crisis management — get ahead of the story and don’t let it follow you around like a bad slice.

Of course, were I in his shoes (which I will never, of course, be), I might not want to get out ahead of that particular story, either.  It’s a shame and an embarrassment, and he’s allowed it to trickle out like a long session of Chinese water torture, putt putt style.

Not unlike how he taunts his victims on the golf course.

To be sure, in the golfing world, Tiger is already a walking legend.  Now he can add the covers of US Weekly and other paparazzi titles to his record.

For those of we amateur golfers who have watched Tiger play week in and week out over the past 13 years, it’s like a bunch of house painters watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.  Sometime you can’t believe what you’re seeing.

Perhaps seeing isn’t everything, particularly when what you’re believing is flawed.

Though Michelangelo didn’t live to see his design for St. Peter’s Basilica finished at the Vatican, Tiger has lived to see himself conquer one after another golf record like they were so many…trysts?

Perhaps that’s all those records are to him, more notches on his putter.

And though the jokes will continue to emerge, perhaps along with more of Tiger’s off-the-links partners, what will resonate for the rest of us for some time is the disappointment.

Not disappointment that we finally discover with some real proof (i.e., the voice mail) that Tiger is human.

But instead, to find that a man who truly does have everything is seemingly no happier than the millions of the rest of us who have so much less.

Making par, it seems, is evidently never enough.

As for Jesper Parnevik, the Swedish golfer who introduced Tiger to his wife, Elin, well, I’m with him.

Said Jesper about Tiger: “I would probably need to apologize to her and hope she uses a driver next time instead of a 3-iron.  It’s a private thing, of course, but when you are the guy he is — the world’s best athlete — you should think more before you do stuff … and maybe not ’just do it,’ like Nike says.”

Actually, Jesper, I think Elin used a wedge on Tiger and the Escalade, but one of those Nike Sasquatch 460 Tour drivers probably would be a better fit.

And, like Sasquatch, once the beating’s over, Tiger can disappear into the wilderness with his Nike clubs and his bottle of Gatorade and his EA Sports Tiger Woods golf games and all the other sponsors who have let him off the hook with hardly a wink, and think long and hard about what he had, what he stands to lose, and how deeply disappointing his actions have been to his millions of fans around the world.

In the meantime, let the Tiger Woods jokes continue…he deserves a few more good punch lines and a lifetime of bogeys.

Written by turbotodd

December 3, 2009 at 4:07 pm

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