Everyone these days is dino-crazy. T-Rex has become a cash cow. Vermel and I just got back from the Natural History Museum, where the prehistoric beasts were resurrected and propped up in battle scenes. The tinny roar of dueling dinos played from hidden speakers, while kids dragged their parents to the gift shop for T-shirts and baseball caps. No wonder the terrible lizards didn't survive--they failed to grasp the finer points of merchandising their own likenesses. Of course, grasping anything is difficult without opposable thumbs.
Another lumbering giant recently proved itself ill-adapted for evolution. The San Francisco Chronicle, Northern California's largest daily rag, decided to cut off its employees' remote access. From now on, reporters will have to be at their desks to check their email, a move that one reporter told me was a "giant step backwards."
"What's next?" she said rhetorically. "No more calling in to check voice mail?"
The edict came about when the Chron decided to make the Gate, the Web site/ISP it shares with S.F.'s afternoon paper, the Examiner, strictly content-only. No more ISP meant no more dial-ins, which lots of Chron workers were using to surf the Web at night. Hmm. Whatever the nocturnal proclivities of some employees, cutting off all remote access is like throwing the ichthyosaurus out with the Jurassic sea water. Taking the newest tools of the trade away from reporters out in the foggy field all day isn't a great way to thrive, let alone survive.
Granted, it's been tough for print media dinosaurs to wrap their brain stems around digital evolution. But some are trying harder than others. At the Interactive Newspapers conference in San Francisco last year, one silver-haired Texas publisher stood up and confessed, "I'm not sure what it is, but we gotta get on the email."
Another ink-stained wretch definitely has email. Whether she has a clue is another story. As I, Skinny DuBaud, predicted, the San Jose Mercury News now has its own tech gossip columnist, Chris Nolan. I reported in December that Merc staff opinion was divided about the hire. There's likely to be even more division after last week's inauspicious debut, in which Nolan reported that oysters were served at a Silicon Valley charity ball, then followed up in the next column by admitting that oysters were in fact not served at said event. Even more strange, the Merc promoted the column--and Nolan's blunder--on the front page.
Government officials frequently dismiss their critics as too conspiracy-minded, but what's a paranoiac to do when the feds' clearinghouse for information on the Web has cryptic messages in its URL? The FedWorld site has a page where you can give your credit card number and purchase government publications. The URL http://chaos.fedworld.gov/ordernow. Color me zany, but the words credit card and chaos don't mix well together on the Internet. So much for purchasing those guides to farming explosives.
On the other hand, maybe I should buy those kids at Microsoft the latest CIA World Factbook. According to one reader, the latest Bookshelf '97 atlas has an info button for the state of Georgia--the Peach State, that is, as in R.E.M., goobers, and Jimmy Carter (not necessarily in that order)--but it links to info on the nation-state of Georgia. As in north of Turkey, fights with Azerbaijan, and 120-year-old women who smoke a pack of butts a day (I saw them on a National Geographic special). Those kids in Redmond may know software, but former Soviet republics is another matter! It's a topsy-turvy world, so email me your rumors ASAP. Don't worry--I can read them from anywhere.