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monday, october 30

lifting the stones

I'm sitting here in my robe on a rainy Monday, listening to Forum with Michael Krasny on KQED, sipping coffee and generally waking up. Krasny is interviewing an Irish author named Malachy McCourt, who's fantastic. I love the Irish way of looking at things, and he's talking about storytelling and surviving tragedy and writing books with incredible energy and passion. I'm rapt.

He's talking about abuse. He was molested as a child by three different priests, but that's all the detail he gives.

Then he suddenly starts talking about the Irish countryside. All the stones on the hills in that constant mist. And my mind flashes back to the Aran Islands, over a year ago now, where I felt so alive. And I can see the rocks he's talking about like they were in my back yard.

He says that if you go to one of those countrysides in Ireland, and pick up one of those stones, you'll see one of the worst things you'll ever see. Bugs and mold and disgusting maggoty muck.

But if you leave the stone overturned, and come back in a week, there will be this beautiful spot of new green grass. The most beautiful green in the whole field will be where the stone was overturned. Life grows again, when the stones are lifted.

Talking about the hurt, he says, lets you grow again.

And I remember those rocks and that mist and how hurt I was when I returned home from Ireland. And I look out into the mist where the Sutro Tower should be and let my face go damp. And I swear, right at that moment, a beam of light pokes out of the clouds and the room brightens, just for a moment.   + 9:50 AM   comments


saturday, october 28


San Francisco Stories is two years old today. In that time I've posted 24 stories, and visitors have posted over 150 of their own. Makes me proud.

I started the site just after my Grandpa Powazek died. He was the strong, silent type, and he lived through things people my age only read about in textbooks. He took most of his stories with him when he went, never wanting to talk about what had seen and done in his journey to America. That was his right, I suppose. But I decided I wanted to live a different way.

When people ask me why I put my stories on the web, the answer is easy. It's not for you. It's not even for me. It's for my someday, hopefully, God-willing, grandchildren. Think about it. How much better would you have known your grandparents if they'd had a website?

In this season of loss, it's good to remember that every door that closes opens another. For every thing that ends, something new begins.

Happy birthday, SF Stories. I still miss you, Grandpa. And my thoughts are with you, Jeffrey.   + 6:35 PM   comments


thursday, october 26

If you're gonna watch it, you'd better read it.   + 12:02 PM


wednesday, october 25

derek about town

I love to see a good idea spread.

Write like me! Thanks so much for the honor, Webmistress Jo! Oh, and if you download and enjoy the font, be sure to donate to my charity.

I'll be speaking at Web2000 next week.

This is my favorite mirror shot yet. Congrats on hitting 300, Heather!   + 8:18 PM


tuesday, october 24

At least I'm not the only one who got all atwitter about that Wired story.   + 7:16 PM


monday, october 23

a brief rant

So wired.com has gone back on its own style manual and proclaimed that it's e-mail, not email. Aside from the outrageousness of devoting three pages to a hyphen, this story makes it clear that things have really changed over on 3rd Street, and I for one am sad.

Wired Style was a bold attempt to codify all the new language that was coming out of the web. A fatally flawed act of hubris, perhaps, but bold nonetheless. This was about The Digital Revolution, remember?

So now we have an article on wired.com, just a few years later, that casually pronounces the revolution over. Say what?

The Revolution Wired talked about was the process of everything going digital, going on the net, going faster, changing the way we work and relate, changing the world. Does anybody here really doubt that happened, and is, in fact, continuing? Look around!

You can't fault a copy editor for being anal. That's what they do. But what you do not do, as copy chief of Wired News, is pronounce The Revolution over. It sullies the history of the entire organization, a history I'm proud to be a small part of. (I worked at HotWired in '96 and '97 when Wired Style was first published. I believed in what we were doing there. I still do.)

And besides, we all know it's email fer cryin out loud.   + 3:36 PM   comments

a brief tech note

Due to server spasms, I am currently unable to receive my email. It won't bounce, it'll just hang around slightly out of reach for the next few hours. Which just means that, if you sent me mail today, I have an excuse for why I haven't responded yet. (As opposed to my usual excuse-less mail lag.)   + 3:06 PM

a brief thought on this weekend

48 hours spent offline, hiking and talking with cool people is a good good thing.   + 3:01 PM


friday, october 20

just my luck

Remember last month when I found out I'd won a NewMedia Invision Award? I found out what it is: {fray} has won a bronze in the Storytelling category. I'm stoked, because the Invision awards are pretty well-respected.

Or, rather, were.

It looks like I'll be the last winner of this particular award, because this is the last year they're being offered, because the NewMedia magazine and awards show are shutting down.

Since I can't find any news about this online, here's the email they sent out this morning:

    Dear INVISION 2000 Entrant,

    As of October 17, NewMedia has ceased operations, and the NewMedia INVISION 2000 Festival and Conference (Palace Hotel, San Francisco, 1-3NOV) has been cancelled.

    While we regret that we are unable to contact each of you personally, we wanted to let you know as soon as possible about the status of the

    Your entry has undergone the same rigorous judging process that has characterized the INVISION competition since 1993. Two separate judging panels reviewed a pool of more than 1,100 entries from 18 countries.

    If you have won an INVISION Award, your award will be issued and delivered by the end of the year.

    If you have outstanding business regarding the INVISION, please contact us at mailto:newmediainfo@yahoo.com.

    All of us at NewMedia want to thank you for your support of our company and of the INVISION 2000 Competition.

    Best wishes,

    Richard Landry
    CEO and Editor in Chief

Bloody hell.   + 12:39 PM   comments


thursday, october 19

my new addiction

L-R: mugs from fojm, loobylu, and harrumph.

I love Cafe Press mugs! I've picked up a bunch of merchandise from my favorite sites over the last few months as the Cafe Press thing has gained ground, and I have to say, the t-shirts suck. They're basically iron-ons, far inferior to, say, a nice screen-printed t-shirt. (Shameless, I know. Sorry.)

But the mugs. The mugs! They're wonderful. Full color and glossy, they're beautiful. So I've started a collection. The three above are from my first binge. And they look great.

I was so atwitter by the whole experience, I decided to make some of my own. So here's introducing the Powazek Store! Six different mug designs inspired by my total adoration of, and addiction to, coffee.   + 2:35 PM

Have you made a mug at cafe press? Let's see it! Share your url here.   + 2:34 PM   comments


wednesday, october 18

Happiness is walking into the hair salon downstairs, saying "the usual," and walking out with exactly what you wanted.   + 9:35 PM


tuesday, october 17

and yet more linky goodness

Now that is a great reason to run a personal site.

Welcome back, k10k!

That's my momma.

I can't wait to read the whole book.

Speaking of books, I just bought this one and it's wonderful. If you're into comix, personal stories, or happened to catch The Real World San Francisco on MTV a few years ago (one of my guilty pleasures), you should definitely pick it up.

Amen.   + 6:07 PM


monday, october 16

This weekend I had a chance to visit one of my favorite places in San Francisco, the Musee Mechanique. At the top of Ocean Beach, it's a treasure-trove of old-time coin-operated amusements, preserved tenuously in a crumbling building. The constant salt water in the air has eroded the ceiling so much, they've had to string plastic above many of the machines.

Something about the old machines, the crumbling building, and the pounding surf makes the place feel like a rare treasure. As if, at any moment, it could all fall into the ocean and be gone forever. It forces you to enjoy it now, for the moment.

Maybe it's just my recent hard drive failure that's got me thinking about permanence. Or maybe it's these last beautiful gasps of summer weather we're having as the rains loom on the horizon, but I can't help wanting to appreciate everything for what it is right now.

Every time I go to the Musee Mechanique, I get lost in taking pictures of all the old machines. Unfortunately, all those photos were lost in my recent crash. So this weekend, I shot some new pics and spun them into postcards over at sfstories. That way, even if my drive crashes again, they'll be out there. Why don't you send one to someone you love today?

I also updated the city links page, too. Check it out, there are some great sf sites in there.   + 2:32 PM


friday, october 13

hard drive decisions

The most annoying thing about losing a drive (so far) is the loss of all my preferences, settings, bookmarks, custom dictionaries, etc. I just had to tell Microsoft Word that "Powazek" was, indeed, a word. Ugh.

In any case, I think I've reached a decision. I'm going to save the bucks and not get the drive recovered. Leave the past behind, and all that. Besides, I just can't afford it. Nor can I afford a new computer, swanky as they may be, so I've just gotta suck it in and make due for now.

I believe my father calls this character-building. Sigh.

And, anyway, I'm alive. I'm healthy. The book is coming along nicely (and was not lost in the crash). It's a beautiful day in San Francisco. Priorities.

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful, sympathetic posts. You all rock!

Now go make some backups.   + 1:23 PM


thursday, october 12

what would you do?

Let's say you had this 9 gig drive that contained your entire digital life. Let's say you fancy yourself a photographer, and this drive had about six months of photos that didn't exist anywhere else. And email! Boy, do you love email. Let's say this drive had a ton of email that wasn't backed up anywhere. Plus important documents, writings, Photoshop files ... all that good stuff.

Now let's say that drive had what's called a "catastrophic failure" in the business. Let's say that deep inside this magic box that contained your most important virtual things, the heads dropped down onto the magnetic media that kept track of all those ones and zeroes. Let's also say that every time you turned it on, that media spun against the heads, creating deep grooves where your lovely data should be.

And let's say you turned it on several times, just to make sure it was really dead, not knowing that each time you were just making it worse.


Skip to the chase. Let's say the drive recovery guy tells you that he estimates only 10 to 40 percent of your data is recoverable, and it's going to cost "under a thousand dollars" to go in and get it. And even after you spend all that money, there's no guarantee that the savable 10 to 40 percent won't just be archived spam and that Photoshop tutorial you never used.

On the one hand, your data is priceless. It's your art, your life, your communications with distant friends, a record of this magic time in your life that you'll miss if it's gone forever. If there's a chance it could be saved, you should do anything you can to save it.

On the other hand, money is pretty tight right now. And even if you had a thousand dollars to spend on computer shit, you'd rather spend it on a swanky new system than sink it into a nostalgia-laced treasure hunt.

So. There's my quandary of the day. What would you do?   + 4:38 PM

No, really. What would you do? Try posting using the (very beta) blogger comments functionality!   + 4:38 PM   comments


wednesday, october 11

Two months of email. Five months of digital photos. All my bookmarks and cookies. Countless files and important documents. All gone.

Kids, back up your files. Do it today. You never know when your hard drive is gonna make its last spin.

(And if you sent me any email in the last two months that I didn't respond to, including fray submissions, it's gone. Please resend.)

Sigh.   + 12:51 PM


tuesday, october 10

on weblogs, the press, and changing the world

Now that's funny: an article on weblogs, written in a diary/weblog format. I met with Colleen in South Park a couple months ago to talk about personal sites and self-expression on the web. We had a great chat, and it's a bummer that more of the ideas we talked about didn't make it into the article.

I don't mean that to sound like sour grapes – it's not. It's just interesting to me to watch the idea of "blogging" take the place of other venues of personal storytelling online. I spent most of my time with Colleen talking about sfstories and fray, both definitely not "blogs," no matter how loose you get with the term. And yet the issues her article examines (virtual intimacy, self-expression, privacy, and confession) all relate to any kind of public online presence, not limited to weblogs.

I think that's why some venerable homepagers (myself included) have, at times, taken umbrage to the term. Weblogs are getting all the press, for sure. The "my gosh wouldja look at that homepage" stories died out in early '97. (Thank goodness.)

I think all this hooey is simply public self-expression. And it's a good thing. If it makes you happy to call it a blog, go for it. You could call it a desk for all I care. Just keep doing it. I believe, now more that ever, that all this self-expression is going to change the world.

Haven't you noticed? It already has. How many people do you know who you've never met? Or, how many people have you met online? How much has being online changed your perceptions and ideas? Where do you go when you need to connect with other people? How much of your time is spent conversing with people who aren't in the same room with you? Where do you get your music? Your fun? Your ideas? Your ... faith?

Now think about life before you got online. See the difference?

Put simply, expressing yourself online is a gift to the web, because it lets strangers see the world through your eyes, if only for a moment. And if we all did that a little more, I think the world would be a more tolerant place.

It's already happening. Can't you feel it?   + 12:18 PM


monday, october 9

Today is Yom Kippur. I'm loopy from fasting and I'm not supposed to be working. But when my mom sent me a story about our family, I decided it would be a good way to celebrate this yom tov (good day) to put it up. Please, go gently.   + 5:07 PM


saturday, october 7

It's a mellow scene here in Cell right now. If you're in San Francisco, come on down! I'm supposed to go on in about an hour, right after the trapeze act. Heh.

It's been a hell of a week. I still haven't beaten the cold, but I have managed to share it with my closest friends. And yesterday my main hard drive decided to take an unscheduled trip to la-la land. This is bad. Very bad. But none of the hard drive recovery places are open on the weekend, so it's a little bit like a forced vacation.

I'm nervous as hell. Time to go pace. And hey! If you're in SF, come on down and watch me embarrass myself telling personal stories in public again.   + 8:37 PM

Happy birthday, sis!   + 11:53 AM


thursday, october 5

Cool! Shmuel sent me some kickass photos of Fray Day Grand Rapids. I especially like this shot of Shmuel performing and the one of the wish machine. Oh, and did you hear about the marriage proposal that happened there? You can watch it happen. I wish I coulda been there!   + 11:23 AM


wednesday, october 4

I'm sick. Sigh.   + 5:06 PM

Sez the (conservative rag) National Review:

"Sighing is not something men do a lot."

Really? I actually sigh a lot. So does my dad. He says it's better than screaming.   + 4:41 PM

I really hope that the folks at Apple are listening to stuff like this. I've been messing around with OS X for a few weeks and, as excited as I am by it, I've had this creeping feeling that something was missing. John Siracusa's wonderfully thorough reviews have been quite illuminating, and I can only hope that someone at Apple is paying attention.   + 2:06 PM


tuesday, october 3

random thought

A purring kitty on your lap makes the bravado and bluster of the presidential debate seem appropriately insignificant.   + 8:13 PM

attention san franciscans

Looking for something fun to do in The City this Saturday? Come on back to Cellspace (the cool art warehouse that hosted Fray Day SF)! I'll be doing a brief storytelling performance there Saturday night. Check it out!

    Cell's Open Studios Performance Showcase
    Featuring: break dancing, cello and Taiko drumming, clowns, spoken word, video art, live theatre, fire dancing, salsa dancing, live djs, and, well, me, probably telling a story about something stupid I did once.
    Where: Cellspace! 2050 Bryant Street, between 18th and 19th.
    When: This Saturday night, from 8pm to midnight. I'll going on in the beginning, so show up at 8pm if you wanna catch me.

Hope you can make it!   + 5:35 PM

still more linky goodness

My Italian buddy Stefano has a spiffy new url.

L'shana tovah, Scott.

It's always interesting to see your city through someone else's eyes.   + 5:34 PM


monday, october 2

Wooo! I got my TiVo today! Now I just have to figure out how to set it up. Yeesh.   + 4:26 PM

Julian took several photos of me and Halcyon at Fray Day 4 that didn't make it into his photo retrospective. So I asked him for them. Here they are!   + 3:54 PM

At last! The audio archive of the Fray Day 4 SF webcast is up! Got a few hours to spare? Listen in.   + 2:35 PM

Bryan is reaching out for some help. If you've ever lost a beloved pet, stop by and share your story.   + 12:20 PM

My advice to anyone running a personal website: Put your head down and don't listen to anything anyone says about it. Ignore any dire pronouncements that include the words "genre," "medium," or "revolution." Avoid referer logs, popularity rankings, and vanity searches at all costs.

Use whatever tool makes sense to you. Write your code by hand or not. Distrust all political parties. Never put a label on yourself unless you're sure it's really what you are, and even then don't. Avoid cults of personality, even when they're your own.

Remember that a personal website's only defining characteristic is that it's personal. And, as such, no one has to "get it" but you. It doesn't have to "advance the medium" or "make the world a better place." It just has to make your world a better place. It has to fill some need in your life. It has to make you happy.

Do what you love, baby. And don't stop doing it for anybody.   + 10:02 AM

 © 2000 derek m. powazek ^top