Daily Archives: May 28, 2009

Photographic Evidence

Whilst at ConQuest, I was showing off pictures and in showing off the Scalzi Compound, noted there was at least one picture where the house was framed by a rainbow. This was met with skepticism, so I promised to fish out the picture and repost it for the non-believers. Thus:

Totally not Photoshopped. Really happened. Even a double rainbow, if you look closely.

Tech Geeks, Ho

Hey Moveable Type/Wordpress geeks:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, my friend and also generally excellent editor at Tor, is the co-proprietor of the also generally excellent Making Light blog, and is asking for some much-needed technical assistance in migrating the blog. This would likely be classified in the “labor of love” category in terms of payment, but there are worse things than having the Managing Editor of Science Fiction at Tor Books be grateful to you, if you know what I mean. So if you’re inclined to be helpful, check out the plea and let him know.

Time Warner to AOL: It’s Not Me, It’s You

Time Warner appears finally to be quitting the AOL business:

Time Warner unveiled plans Thursday to spin off AOL as an independent company, an end to the massive media marriage formed in 2001.

“We believe that a separation will be the best outcome for both Time Warner and AOL,” said Time Warner chief executive Jeff Bewkes, in a prepared statement.

The 2001 merger between AOL and Time Warner was applauded at the time as a visionary attempt to meld old media with new media. But synergies between the two never materialized.

The whole “synergy” argument always makes me giggle, because it’s been my long-held opinion that the real reason that AOL and Time Warner ever got together in the first place was that back at the turn of the century, AOL head Steve Case realized things were going to get bad, and that if AOL were to survive, it would need a host organism to feed off of during the lean years. And look, there was Time Warner, full of rich, life-giving nutrients. Done and done. If synergy were to happen, so much the better. But in the meantime, AOL would survive. And it did. So in this respect, well done, Steve Case.

The other thing I find amusing in this is that people seem to forget that it was actually AOL who bought Time Warner, not the other way around. Survival strategy or not, it’s an interesting thing for the purchasing organization to be spun off from the company it bought. But this is what I strongly suspect Steve Case didn’t account for, which is that the executive bench strength and organizational memory of Time Warner was much stronger than it was at AOL (which changed — and changes — its executive lineup as often as some people change socks). In other words, the host organism was easily latched onto, but then exhibited some impressive antibodies. Steve Case was gone as AOL Time Warner Chairman in January 2003, the company dumped the “AOL” part from their official title and that was pretty much that in the “who’s the boss?” sweepstakes.

Bear in mind I’m not a disinterested observer here; I was employed at AOL for two years in the mid-90s (i.e., its heyday, when it was seen as the universe-eating monster Google is today — which is a cautionary tale for Google) and I was a contractor and consultant for them up until the last day of 2007. I have generally very positive feelings about the company. Yes, AOL did lay me off once, but it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me, and they did keep me on as a consultant for more money and less work, so I can hardly complain about that. Aside from that a number of people we met there continue to be close friends. So, in all, AOL’s a big part of my life.

Which is why I wish it well being spun off and continuing its life out there without Time Warner stepping on its head. What would be nice would be for AOL to get back a bit of its mid-90s “what the hell, let’s just do this and see if it works” zing; it’s never going to be that company again, but then, none of us are who we used to be. It doesn’t mean that who we are now isn’t interesting (or in some ways, better). Regardless, I see AOL as a long-term survivor; it’s not for nothing that I call it out in The Android’s Dream as “Earth’s oldest and largest continually active network.” Even if I do have it owned by Quaker Oats at the time. Hey, whatever works.

Bummer Weed

Over at Slate, William Saletan points to a new pharmaceutical take on medicinal marijuana that allegedly provides all its medicinal value (relieving pain and spasms, etc) without the not-so-medicinal values (totally getting you high). The makers of the product suggest that their un-stoned version of the stuff — called “Sativex” —  is better for medicinal purposes, since among other things it takes the therapeutic parts of pot and provides it in standardized and measured form, taking the guesswork out of, say, how potent your weed is, and also eliminating what is in fact a really bad method of drug delivery (i.e., smoking).

I make no claim toward the effectiveness of this “Sativex” as regards its medicinal qualities, but assuming that in fact it does give all the therapeutic value of medicial pot without the actual fun of getting high, it does put an interesting inflection point in the drive to legalize marijuana use. To put it bluntly (heh), I’ve always thought a fair number of people who yammer on about legalizing pot wrap themselves in the relative piety of its medicinal qualities to mask the fact that the reason they want pot to be legal is simply so they can get stoned without hassle. If you ask them if they would support legalizing pot only for its medical uses they might say yes, on the grounds they could always fake a backache, but I wonder if you then said “fine” and then presented them with this non-fun version if they would change their minds. Myself, I would just like to see the expression on their dazed, eyeballs-not-quite-tracking faces.

Before you stoners get outraged enough to hoist yourself unsteadily off the couch to come at me, please to read my actual position on legalizing marijuana, which is, sure, why not. But I don’t really drag the medicinal aspect into it, because I don’t really think that’s why most people really want legalization. And I for one think that if you are going to use the stuff medicinally, getting it in a form where its medicinal qualities are maximized (and the side-effects, pleasant as they might be, minimized) is the way to go. Which is to say I hope this Sativex stuff will work as advertised, whether it bums out potheads or not.

Dipping Into the Mailbag

The week at AMC I dip into the mailbag once more, and answer questions about why steampunk isn’t a big hit in movies, why I’m able to tolerate bad science in Star Trek, and why Terminator: Salvation got slapped around by the new Night at the Museum flick at the box office. Trenchant questions all. Go on over and see how I respond to such questionery.