Getting a leg up!

My Last Days in Italia

Alright, I am getting a jump on all of you other slackers out there who are living up to our country’s obesity statistics.  I dialed back the typical New Year’s resolution clock and started my commitment yesterday, Dec. 1.

I have let the L.B.s stack up since July.  I have had pretty good reason though: we had our daughter July 1 and knowing that we were leaving Italy, I made a promise to eat as well and as much as I possibly could before departing…mission accomplished:  204+ lbs. is the result.  I am proud of myself!

So, to motivate me and keep me honest I signed up (and threw down the cash) for three races this coming year: The Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler, The Blue Ridge Marathon, and The Nation’s Triathlon.

And without haste, I got cranking…today.  I dusted off my iPod Shuffle and with some good advice from John, I loaded it with podcasts vs. the traditional music playlist I have had on it for the past two years.  As a budding Georgetown graduate student, I want to get more smarter, so I tuned into NPR‘s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! (Dude “Not my job” Edition) and All Things Considered.  Friday’s run I will change it up and go with John’s recommendation, The Bugle.

If you’ve got other recommendations for good podcasts or running playlists, let me know.  Or, if you prefer dialogue, let me know and we’ll ditch the iPods and hit the pavement/trails.

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Much to be Thankful for

This morning’s long run helped me do two things:

  1. Feel no guilt for turning on the feed bag this afternoon.
  2. Think about everything I am thankful for.

I could list them all, but I will only put up what I feel are the most important.

First of all, the people I love and those who love me.  I am blessed to have a great family.

I am thankful to be American, to be free.  For one who has traveled extensively abroad and has seen what life can be like without freedom, I could see living no other way.  It reminds me of a saying I’ve once heard: To be born free is an accident.  To live free is a privilege.  To die free, an obligation.

I am thankful to be healthy.  To be able to walk, run, and swim, to be able to play with my daughter is something I do not take for granted.

I am thankful for having a purpose.  I have been very fortunate to work for inspiring leaders and with sharp, energetic Soldiers and civilians.

As you sit down for the big meal today, please keep our service members who are apart from their loved ones in your prayers.

Thank you.

P.S. God bless to my 173rd brethren, heading to Afghanistan now.

Wikipedia – I am sofa king we tall did!

There is good reason why only 1% of Wikipedia users have created or added any content to the site:

It’s fu@&n’ hard!

When Garrett told us to dabble and get familiar with Wikipedia, I didn’t listen very well (admittedly).  I thought I was dabbling, but when it came down to execution (in the last ‘hour’…admittedly), I was nowhere close to being a Wikipedia expert.

If Garrett had told us about this new thing called football and told us to dabble in it, my extent of dabbling would have been to click through a few channels on Sunday.   “OK!  Throwing, running, tackling–got it.  Easy!  Pass me another beer, please.”  Yeah, well, watching from the sidelines and playing are not the same.

Yes, I did the research on my topic;  I knew the structure and what I wanted to write about; I knew I was providing something that was not controversial; and my topic had a reason to be in there.

So why can’t my topic not be found right now? I can appreciate the simplicity of a blog.  Type in what I want, hit save, publish and BAM it’s there for the world to see.  Not so with Wikipedia.  And you know what?  – – – that is a Good Thing!

After having gone through this last assignment, I appreciate Wikipedia a little bit more…actually, a lot more.

As I have posted before, the ability to throw something up on Wikipedia that is false is too easy and there should be a mechanism to keep it from happening.  Now I know it’s not THAT easy.

Even though I will not do well on the assignment, it will not deter me from future ‘dabblings’ on Wikipedia.

I wanna be a 1%-kind-of-guy!

Spit or Swallow?

At Piovene Porto Godi

This post is about wine…vino, vin, wein, wijn, viini, vinul, wina.  Whatever the language, whatever the country, most have found ways to crush the grape and love it.

What prompted me to write this post is that it is Nouveau/Novello season.  Beaujoulais Nouveau was the first wine I tasted several years ago that I REALLY enjoyed.  From that point, sometime around Halloween 1996, I made the significant shift from predominantly drinking beer to vino.

Emily has a great post about the basic juice and how she has started to get into it.  Unlike Emily, though, I am not that good at deciphering the different qualities of wine.  I know if a wine is red or white, bubbly or still, sweet, or cold or hot.  Most important though, to me, I know if it is good or bad.  That, my friends is what it really comes down to, just listen to Gary with Kevin Rose: “If you like it, drink it.

Dave and I after Piovene buy

Even with my limited palette to distinguish a merlot from a cab sav, my track record is pretty good at selecting quality wines.  Having lived in Italy for the last 7 1/2 years, I have been very lucky.  Where I lived, it was as easy to find a local vineyard as it is to find a Starbucks here in D.C….and I visited them all.  My father-in-law and my Italian friends all applauded me and took my advice on my vineyard and wine selections.

Yes, studies show that people will buy a wine based on the price, thinking that the more expensive, the better it is (hell, I have done it…lots of times).  But now I am trying to be a little more budget conscious, now that I don’t have 30 vineyards within a 30-minute radius.  Vineyards where I can drive up (like a gas station) and have my 25-liter damijan filled up for about $3/liter.  Pretty cool, huh?

We’d go to the annual Vin’Italy in Verona for wine tasting.  This is where I really showed my colors.  Most Italians go to this event to taste all the new wines that will open for the year.  Professional sommeliers go from booth to booth rating all the different types of wine, swishing and swashing, gurgling, and spitting.  No Way!!!   I can’t see all the great nectar spit away. I am more like this guy and not like this guy.  These wines are all awesome.  That is why I do not spit.  AND this is why I am usually hammered by the end of the first aisle.  Typical American, right?

So go enjoy some good grape.  Go try a nouveau before they go bad (by the end of December).

In Vino Veritas!

Cin Cin! Salute!

Wiki Wiki Woo

My sage social media profs, my Obi-Wan and Yoda, have asked us to look at Wikipedia and other crowdsourced sites and ask whether or not we should trust them.

I touched on this in my previous post, but it is easy to dig deeper.  Wikipedia is the most prevalent and used encyclopedia-like source, period.   Anyone with an internet connection, using any of the various search engines, will likely get a Wikipedia hit in the top five of their search.

Regardless of Wikipedia’s high ranking and usage, it still does not answer the main question of whether or not to trust the information found within.  Several people have asked this same question.  Wikipedia gives compelling reasons “Why you should use Wikipedia” and there are studies that show Wikipedia is as accurate as traditional encyclopedias.  There is even a forum dedicated to Wikipedia review.

However, this is the problem: Wikipedia can never become a complete, accurate encyclopedia of human knowledge. Why? There are three simple reasons by a guy who sounds really smart.

Wikipedia lacks: (1) Accountability, (2) Reliability, and (3) Truth.

Even with all the props from the study mentioned above, there is still a dark side of Wikipedia.  So much so, that many teachers today prohibit students from using Wikipedia as a source in reports and research due to the anonymity and possibility for unconfirmed (or even falsified) information.

Red Team Journal suggests Wikipedia is already moving in the right direction. What crowdsourced reporting needs is a better (crowdsourced) means of controlling white noise and organizing information. Wikipedia, to some extent, has already done this through its gradual increase in the power of an core elite.

In the end, I’ll stick to my guns and with that of a fellow super-smart student and say that Wikipedia is just the beginning to one’s research.  In matters of importance, Wikipedia is a start to finding what you are looking for, not the end.

What the F—k is a Wampus Cat?

WampusCatTruthinessSteven Colbert‘s word for “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination or facts.   My take on the word: the difference between professional journalists and Italian journalists.

OK, that was a free shot at a PARTICULAR journalist/particular daily from my experiences as a PAO in Italy, but it certainly does not hold for all Italian journalists.

I have seen professional journalists lean towards Wikipedia, but they still follow up with questions to gather facts.  An amateur journalist is often content with one source saying something they want to hear to gather steam for their side of the story, regardless of reliability of the source.  Amateur reporting is often shallow and one-sided.

This is no reason to knock Wikipedia though.  Wikipedia serves a great purpose and IS the most accessible source of information at my fingertips (when my Internet is not out).

The collaborative efforts to produce “Loose Change” was impressive, but was it easy to dismiss?  Yes.  I was intrigued and piqued until a particular part about cruise missiles that I, as a military member, could call B.S. on.  After that point, it became less reputable.

Unfastened Coins“, on the other hand, was VERY convincing and kept me intrigued all the way through — great parody.

Overall, there is concrete evidence that crowdsourcing works and there is continued promise.  The sum of crowdsource-generated content should be the beginning and not an end for information.

Final questions.  How could Wikipedia be better set-up to better provide accuracy?   They could hire experts in certain fields to validate content and identify those entries.  However, the thing that has made Wikipedia successful IS the transparency and the ability for anyone to submit what they know on a subject.  It SHOULD remain open to everyone.

Lastly, as a test, I picked one of the more obscure subjects of my short history in this world: my senior year of high school mascot, The Leesville High School Wampus Cat!

After moving from Berlin, Germany to Leesville, Louisiana, my father was showing my sister and I our new high school.  When I asked, “Dad, what is a Wampus Cat?” he stumbled and tap-danced around before answering, “Son, I have no f—ing idea.”

Too bad for him, he could have used Google, Wikipedia. Monstropedia, WikiFurChaCha, and TheSupernaturalWorld as starters.

Teamwork

I thought this was a pretty cool video.  I like it because it says something to me about the things I’ve picked up in my Social Media class.  The video portrays several people from around the planet collaborating on the project.  Enjoy!

How an American Soldier is Made

soldier066This is a fantastic series of photographs titled How an American soldier is made.

For 27 months, Ian Fisher, his parents and friends, and the U.S. Army allowed Denver Post reporters and a photographer to watch and chronicle his recruitment, induction, training, deployment, and, finally, his return from combat.

As a combat infantryman with stints in Iraq and Afghanistan and a former basic training company commander, this is a telling view of what it can be like for a young soldier straight into the Infantry.

    The multimedia project, including all the photos, video and special features, can be viewed at www.denverpost.com/americansoldier.

    What Have I Learned?

    Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten on the internet.

    Social media is here.  It is a part of our daily lives.

    In this blog: what have I found most surprising so far this semester in my Social Media class? What have I learned in class that most changed my thinking or my way of working?

    We are in the infancy of the digital age, at the beginning of a transformation that has already changed the way we do business.  Being one of the older “kids” in the class, I have witnessed this transformation.  When I was a senior at Providence College, I was still cranking out papers on a word processor (I bet half of my class does not know what white-out is).  As a 2nd Lt. in the Army, I still had to write awards on typewriters.

    Two things that have opened my eyes since starting this class seven weeks ago:

    1. What the future looks like for the Internet, Social Media, Social Networking.  I am in awe of what can be developed to help us make our lives easier.  However, for the first time, I am scared of what the trade-off is.  By succumbing to sites that feed off of our personal information to make our experiences on those sites better, do I  write “free checks” giving up my personal identity?

    2. The Internet is an open, global community.  It lies in the hands of its millions of users.  As with Blogger, that allowed anyone to become a journalist and publisher, people are now building everything on their ownThe mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020.    With new technologies and social structures, users will continue to work together to find answers, participate in solutions.

    Those are the big picture things.  The smaller things — how I work — has changed with daily doses of Google Reader, Firefox, and the sites and Twitter feeds I follow.

    I’ve learned to embrace the new technologies, but I still hold close that nothing beats a real conversation, nothing beats the great outdoors.  Do not take today’s technology for granted.  “We are the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.”

    My Life of Gaming: From Pong to Tecmo Bowl to Halo 3

    Halo 3 ODSTOK, as I have mentioned in a previous post, I started my home-gaming experience on an Atari in 1980.  Even the most basic game, Pong, drew a young kid like me (and older kids, my Dad) in.  It doesn’t surprise me that gaming has maintained and has grown in popularity.

    I’m surprised at how the popularity in the gaming industry has exploded.

    What DOESN’T surprise me is how addictive it can be and the rate at which gaming in the U.S. and the world over, is growing.

    As mentioned in our class blog, “they’re even being used by the U.S. Army to recruit (as well as train new soldiers).” I had a VERY unique job as the Chief of the Virtual Training Program for all Soldiers in Europe from 2000-2001.  These virtual training programs were not your average PS3 or Xbox plug-into-your-TV kind.  They were million-dollar replicates of M-1 Abrams Tanks, M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and the combination of U.S. Army Helicopters.  Even in 2000 they were very sophisticated.

    Why is virtual training important in the military? Several reasons:

    1. Training costs money.  One M-1 Abrams tank gets 0.6 gallons per mile (take that Prius!); or about 300 gallons every eight hours.  Artificial and live rounds (bullets, missiles, etc.) cost a lot as well.
    2. There are training restrictions when conducting live training.  You can’t shoot anywhere you want due to safety guidelines, etc.
    3. Limited number of hours a unit can train, depending on where the training location is located.  For instance, because of noise agreements between the U.S. and Germany, night training is limited to certain hours on certain days.
    4. Safety.  With extremely high safety standards and extensive risk assessments, there are still fatal accidents when conducting live training .  Poor weather and/or road conditions, extreme fatigue and several other variables factor into why.
    5. Gaming is a part of today’s Soldiers’ culture.  Just about every Soldier of mine has some kind of gaming device and favorite game they like to play.  One of my Soldier’s in Italy, on a two-week leave period, left his apartment to get food and toilet paper in between his marathon World of Warcraft sessions.  He was THAT addicted.

    While there are several benefits to gaming, as a new parent, I am hesitant to let my daughter game to her own free will.  I am very thankful my parents kicked my butt out of the house, made me play sports.  Had they not, I am sure, left to my devises, I would still be playing Space Invaders.