We’re living in interesting times. The lead candidate for the republican nomination for presidency just wants everyone to give up and anoint him their candidate now, despite finally starting to face the consequences of years of fraud and treating the legal system as a cudgel to use against anyone he hdeals with- as a tool to delay and to wear the other party down, for his personal advantage. And yet, many people still seem to think that he is a great leader. He is and always has been a carnival barker. Sy anything, do anything for his own selfish reasons.

What I love most is the current Twitter/X posts about the value of Mar-a-lago. The Court said it was worth 18M. Eric Trump is trying to say its worth 1.5 B. Palm Beach currently appraises the value at 26.6 million. Looking up the property tax rates in Palm Beach– Trump paid (or was assessed) 1.48 million in 2020. I say we go ahead and take Eric’s Number! That’s 56 x higher than the current valuation- so let’s multiply the tax he owes by 56 = 82.88 million dollars. Think how much good that could do to the communities in Palm Beach County! New Schools! Computers for everyone! Lobster at lunch at schools!

But of course, the reason they are in trouble in NY is they value property at one number for ego or for a business advantage, but another for tax purposes. Let’s just take their word on their valuations and make them pay up for all the taxes they have shorted the government on for all these years, and we’ll all end up being better off. They’ll be out of money or in jail for tax fraud, and we’ll still have our democracy.

Of course, I know Republicans can’t take yes for an answer- but they are truly screwed here- they have been called on years of BS and have to pay up either way. This means Eric and Don Jr might actually have to get real jobs- where do you think they will work? The mind reels.


AI is Going to Change Everything

Working in digital marketing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and what it can and should be used for is all the rage right now. If you want to understand AI better, the best source is really Chris Penn– who has an excellent set of videos and regularly explains what’s happening in AI in his superb newsletter.

What it is- and isn’t

AI models like ChatGPT, Bard and Microsoft’s version are all based on large language models- and essentially what AI does is take parameters you set and use algorithms to essentially predict the next word in a sentence- based on everything it knows and has been fed from its database. It’s better at editing than at text generating, to be honest, and while we’ve been experimenting with it for putting together outlines for blogs or generating content ideas, the results are only as good as the prompts, and are limited by the parameters you set to begin with. You still need to think carefully what you want, just like giving a new employee really good instructions on what you want,- and then be prepared to edit the crap out of it afterwards.

AI for Art

AI can also create art, pictures and more, based on what you feed it. I recently used an AI headshot generator, to test it out for my kid, and for the candidates I work with- to see how good it was. The picture here is based on 20 pictures of me I fed it- and frankly it’s done a better job of making me look polished and together than I look on any given day. Which lipstick color did they use? Join these shots up with a Sephora link, and I’d probably give a go at looking this polished more often. Probably only a matter of time until this feature is available 🙂

How to Tell What’s Real

My biggest concern with AI is how we’re going to be able to tell authentic, human-created content- the stuff that moves people emotionally, and builds relationships- from facsimiles. I can see complete campaigns for office being run with virtual headshots, AI generated campaign lit and websites- full of bland positions that are good enough to get someone into office- but what happens after that? And how in a world where this stuff is being pumped out at scale with proper SEO, will we ever know the difference?

AI Leaves Time for….What?

I’m excited about what AI can do at at speed- but are we going to get to a point where machines are talking to machines and it’s no longer about the human to human connection which is what the internet was supposed to be about? Will the goodness and kindness of people win out over the more avarice and base instincts we all have? If I can do half of my job faster than ever before, what do I do with the time? Do I get better at what I do, or am I looking for that time to free me up to explore new tasks? Does it give us time to be better and move up Maslowe’s Heirarchy, or are we going to get caught worrying about the bottom levels we never get to the top?

Serious limitations

AI is being used for a lot of parlor tricks right now- but take one example, a website called Consensus that can summarize academic papers and give you a sense of where the science on a particular subject is. That sounds great, but what happens if a doctor is using this as a basis to make treatment decisions for your loved one? Sounds like a great way to know what to rely on- but you also have to know that the language model Consensus is pulling from is date limited to early 2021. That means the most recent science and discoveries- which could be important when we’re talking about treatment decisions, especially when new therapies are coming out for treating all sorts of conditions-are not included. You need your doctor to be consulting journals, the NIH and more to find out the standard of care- not what the standard of care has been for the last 20 years.

But I see the nuance of people understanding what AI can do and what it can’t- or what it’s limitations are, being rapidly drowned out by the “Go-Go-GO” fast impulse we all have to play with new toys and get them to do amazing things. I was shocked how good the AI pictures were- but that’s also because I fed it the pictures of me I like best- so it’s a sliver of me, but not the whole story, to be sure.

I worry what happens when deep fakes and AI are used to create untruths at scale- because the machine doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not- if we thought Russian Bots were a problem before- now disinformation can spread amazingly quickly at scale, and will we be able to tell truth from reality? And who will decide? We know plenty of people have been persuaded by disinformation put out by the “news” in recent years- what happens when this can scale even faster? How do humans have a chance to counteract the deluge of information that is “truthiness” rather than the truth, and how can we get a handle on this before it spins out of control?

I don’t have any answers here, clearly. I’m also playing with this technology and trying to learn what works well, what doesn’t, and how to best deploy what works well- like any tool- a computer or a pencil- you need to use the right tool for the right job at the right time. And I am worried in the rush to adopt these new technologies, we’re too focused on moving fast rather than being thoughtful- at our peril.

Let me know what you think!

What do you think? How is AI affecting your life so far? What are the best uses you’ve found and which are less reliable?


Podcamp 2023

A small group of us, die hards from Podcamp Philly and Podcamp East, came together this past weekend for Podcamp 2023 in Philadelphia.

There were amazing sessions talking about how AI and Chat GPT will pose challenges to those of us who are involved in digital marketing, or looking to build brands for passion projects in the age when getting digital attention is going to get harder unless you are willing to pay for it.

We talked as a group about how making your voice heard is critical, especially in local government- and how to try to pressure people to make change- and the pushback from people like Gov. DeSantis who is looking at laws to make bloggers register if they want to talk smack about him. (But somehow, registering your guns is a problem? Maybe the keyboard is mightier than the sword…)

Learning Together

Podcamp 2023 proved once again that having smart people in a room, questioning and exploring things together makes all of us smarter. Somehow, Zoom calls alone don’t foster the same give and take, and learning from others. It works in a pinch, but being around friends in a space where exploring and sharing new ideas is the cornerstone – is a different, and compelling thing.

It was disappointing that we had fewer people show up than signed up- the co-pay model for these small conferences helps get some people to come, but others – it’s not enough to compel attendance. However, organizers have to plan for the max number of people that sign up, leaving them holding the bag for things like extra catering or rented space, and that’s a drag, and a deterrent when planning future events.

If you have any ideas on how to get more people to sign up and show up for organic events, especially those where sessions are planned the day of rather than weeks in advance, let me know.

Preplanning, or Ad Hoc?

I think the pre-seeding of sessions and signing up in advance for spots may be what’s needed, as we all seem to want everything to be more predictable, especially in a world that seems more and more uncertain. We went full bar-camp day of sign up this time, nd I think it may have led more people to stay home, but I don’t know for sure.

Or it could be the era for the small, community-based unconferences has passed, and everyone wants a big event or nothing.

The magic of podcamp was always that people from a variety of backgrounds, industries and experience got together and shared ideas and expertise in a pace, at low to no cost- making it available to everyone. This also fostered sharing and community, in a very quaker-values way- everyone has something to contribute, so we should honor everyone and let them decide what to share, providing space for the conversation to the place.

The space isn’t brand new any more, and many people have “niched up” – developing expertise in areas, and the number of “newbies” is fewer as well- so maybe the value proposition also needs to change.

What I do know is this weekend was like returning to a place where I felt immediately at home- it was kind of like having a high school reunion- seeing people you haven’t seen for forever, but fall back in with like no time at all has passed- and post-pandemic, this was a real balm for my soul.

When we got together and played “Battledecks”- memories flooded back, and seeing what a great tool all of these early experiences were that helped make me a better presenter in my professional life. Podcamp made me a better and more confident public speaker, and it made me better as an elected official later on as well. I will be forever grateful to everyone I’ve met at Podcamp and for every experience, as they all continue to pay off for me in the long term.

Question for you

Are you interested in Unconferences? What is the appeal? Why this vs. a normal conference? What’s your ROI for coming? And how do we intriduce these community-centered conference to a new generation?

Looking forward to your comments!


Glad to Leave Office? I get it.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is getting into trouble because he spoke his truth, saying he’s looking forward to a time when he’s not mayor. As someone who was a Township Supervisor for 6 years, I understand this sentiment perhaps as much as anyone.

Being a local elected official may look great from the outside. You get to show up in places, they announce your name, you wave to the crowd. People seem to pay a little more attention when you say something. People ask your opinion. You have the opportunity to make changes, and work on things you care about. You can help people in your community by helping them navigate the government, and even by teaching them how to make officials like you uncomfortable, so they listen and make change. Those parts of the job are great.

However, much of the job is like a customer service job. People yell at you, for things that are not, and cannot be your fault or responsibility. They assume you have much more power and authority than you do. They assume everything that happens, good and bad, but especially the bad stuff, is your personal fault and incompetence. If you have to raise taxes because you need to balance the budget and make sure the staff gets paid, then you are a spendthrift taking money out of the mouths of their children. If you put in a new stop light or traffic signal, you are only interested in making money off of your citizens. Here in Kennett Township, people like the fact they have a better and quicker police response, but conversely, they think its too expensive and think somehow we live in Mayberry where nothing ever happens, yet they want to be assured that a prompt police response will happen if something like the Uvalde school shooting happens. (You can’t get a quick response unless you have officers in place already…)

There’s no winning in local politics. Everyone in the public seems to think you are a moron, and somehow benefitting from the job. For Township supervisors, the pay is $2,500 A YEAR, codified in state statute, so there’s no way we can give ourselves a raise. For the time required, I once worked it out that we were getting about $5.00 an hour- way less than minimum wage to be sure. You only run for this office if you care about the community and have something you want to do. The amount of stress is incredible. You certainly don’t do it for the pay.

In my case, during my term, we discovered the Township manager had been stealing from the Township. It went on for years before I was elected, and I actually took time off my “day job” in order to put all my effort into helping the investigation and the huge amount of work required to fix everything the previous manager broke. It was incredibly stressful, and because there were ongoing investigations that would see the manager eventually sentenced to jail, I couldn’t talk about it to anyone. It was horrible to have people assume we were all stupid and negligent, when most of it happened before I even hit the door. Yet at re-election time, people wanted a change, and I was not re-elected.

At first, I was disappointed. Who wouldn’t be? But then I started to understand the scope of the constant stress and how it had been affecting me. Since leaving office, my blood pressure has dropped over 50 points. I have remembered what it’s like to be happy, and to have free time. My family says I’m no longer angry all the time. My quality of life has improved in immeasurable ways.

So when Mayor Kinney says he will be glad when he’s not mayor, I know that means that he will longs for the day when every problem doesn’t end up on his desk; that he will no longer be held responsible for things and random acts of violence and stupidity over which he has no control, nor the ability to forsee; that while being a Mayor is an important job, it does not grant omniscience and let you prevent pandemics, national recessions, take control of our health care system and more.

Being a public servant and elected official has its up sides. But it also means living under a spotlight, under a magnifying glass where you often have no hope of winning and somehow, the voices of the critics always seem so much louder than the supporters. I even had a “stalker” for a bit, who was trying to say he had no responsibility for paying taxes because he was a sovereign citizen, and kept trying to contact me personally. It was a little scary, to be honest, not knowing this person, or what their intentions were.

Yes, running for the job and accepting it means you “asked for it”; but I would also say that there’s no way anyone can really anticipate what this will mean until you are in the position yourself. Just like no woman “asks for it” when she wears clothing that later, people say meant she was asking for an assault, there’s no way most people elected to public office for the first time can really understand the scope of the job before them. It’s always a lot more work and stress than it looks from the outside. Just because your name is in the papers doesn’t make you any different, or more important or smarter or dumber than you were the day before. All it does is make you more stressed as you try to do the job, when everyone is standing around like Monday morning Quarterbacks, telling you how they could do it better.

We really treat our public officials horribly, and we’re lucky anyone chooses to run for office in the first place. Should any of us really be surprised that we see more and more of the most crass attention seekers who are interested in the spotlight more than doing the actual job running for office? That’s what we get when we chew up and spit out the people who do really care and try to do the right thing.

So I hope that somehow, Philadelphia will get over the fact that Mayor Kenney let a truth bomb slip and let you know that being the mayor is really hard. He may like the job, but he’s also honest that being able to sleep at night because you no longer have to worry about everything that happens will be a great night indeed.

I’m back to sleeping through the night, and waking up refreshed, something that didn’t happen for close to three years. I’m getting the opportunity to spend time with friends and family, and have a life back. While I’m glad a got a chance to serve, I do not miss being the lightning rod for everyone’s anger and frustrations at the world, especially in this day and age. And I sincerely hope this is the case for Mayor Kenney when he eventually leaves office as well.

Being honest shouldn’t be a crime. And we should all recognize this as a symptom that perhaps, there’s a better and kinder way to deal with public officials than full frontal attacks 24 x 7. We’re just people. And we all have bad days too. But remember- Your personal problems are likely nothing compared to having to deal with a City full of problems every day, hoping you can make headway and make a difference, but knowing that solutions are hard and take a long time. And no one will ever think the solution is good enough, fast enough or cheap enough.

So let’s cut the guy a break, huh?


Almost 80 Best Movies of the 80’s

Rolling Stone just put out a post of the 100 best movies of the 1980’s- and there are a lot of obscure movies that as a teenager/college student during the 80’s I never heard of. As a child of divorced parents, I spent a ridiculous amount of time at the movies on weekends. Then as a teenager and young adult, I spent plenty of time at the movies with friends, dates, and eventually the fantastic guy who ended up being my husband.

So I am here with my nostalgia hat on to put together my list of Gen X’s version of the Greatest Movies of the 80’s – the movies we shared, movies that helped us decide what growing up was all about, and more. In retrospect, some of the movies have what were commonplace attitudes about the relationship between men and women at the time, but are clearly rather disturbing now- kind of not a surprise so many men in their 50’s and 60’s cross lines- these movies and cultural norms are what they grew up to expect. Doesn’t make it right by any stretch- evolve people- but it does put in a bit in context.

The John Hughes Collection (9)

  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- Why we all wanted to go to Chicago at some point, and fantacized about what skipping a day of school should be like.
  • Weird Science– This, for me, is what I suspected my younger brother and his friends were all about.
  • Mr. Mom- What it was like to be home alone with Dads in the early 80’s- they tried, but it was pretty confusing for everyone
  • Sixteen Candles– For everyone who felt a little lost in the jumble of family life, this one’s for you
  • Pretty in Pink– for every kid who wasn’t in the popular group and wanted to know it was ok to be yourself, Molly Ringwald made you feel a little more self-assured.
  • Some Kind of Wonderful– Basically, Pretty in Pink from the Guy’s perspective
  • The Breakfast Club– an inside look into highschool and something you never hear about any more- Saturday Detention
  • Say Anything- some of the best dialogue out there- we still quote this movie frequently- “So if you guys know so much about women, why are you outside the Gas & Sip on a Saturday night? ” “By Choice man!”
  • St. Elmo’s Fire– basically, this is the Breakfast Club kids once they got to college, more or less. And what happened as they tried to learn to be adults. It’s why so many girls crushed hard on Rob Lowe and loved him just as much when he was on the West Wing.

The Ivan Reitman Collection (5)

  • Stripes– the younger sibling of Animal House- laugh out loud funny and something I will watch whenever I see it on TV. Tropes like the magazines in the end credits later used in other movies like Sister Act.
  • Ghostbusters-Another true original and a perfect summer movie. A little scary and lots of comedy- with all our favorites from Saturday Night Live,
  • Legal Eagles– a perfectly silly Robert Redford- Debra Winger movie that was perfect date night fodder
  • Kindergarten Cop– It didn’t really come out until 1990, but I have to add it since there is a great scene where a kindergartener says “My dad is a cynagologist and looks at women’s vaginas all day” and I turned to my boyfriend, now husband who was applying for medical residencies in OB-GYN at the time and said- “There’s our boy!” Fortunately, both of our sons are far cooler than that kid, and less weirded out by dad’s profession.
  • Caddyshack- it may not be a John Landis movie, but with Bill Murray – it had the same general feel.- it’s technically a Harold Ramis movie.

John Landis Movies (4)

John Landis made movies and music videos, and somehow made us love both.

  • Trading Places– this came out just as I started school in Philadelphia, so I was excited to see all the places I knew around town.
  • Coming to America– great fish out of water movie, showcasing both Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall’s talents
  • Blues Brothers– simply a fantastic cult classic-and we see Carrie Fisher before she became solidified as just Princess Leah to everyone.
  • Thriller– a music video, but should have been a movie

The Spielberg/Lucas movies (10)

It started with Close Encounters of the Third kind in 1977. Then it went from there- full of adventure, these movies were perfect in every way that mattered. And even Speilberg’s non-adventure movies were fantastic.

  • ET the Extraterrestrial
  • Gremlins– we still don’t want to feed our pets after midnight
  • Back to the Future- We all liked Michael Fox from Family ties, but now he was more of a regular guy we all could see dating
  • The Color Purple- a classic movie that taught us film didn’t have to be so suburban all the time.
  • Star Wars series– the first movie came out in 1977, and from then on, we were hooked. Now even as an adult- I still wonder what it would be like to live in those worlds, and eagerly took my kids to every movie when they came out- it became something we shared together. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were 1980’s movies, and became part of our psyche.
  • Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark– classic- no doubt
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom– not as good as the first
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crucade- made me better understand why my dad was a Sean Connery fan

Rom Coms/Chick Flicks (17)

  • Splash– the Tom Hanks/Daryll Hannah movie- silly but loveable
  • The Money Pit- made every young adult a little more nervous about buying that first house- and I think showed us we should think small vs. big
  • Big- What would happen if you really did have to grow up quicker than you were ready?
  • Overboard- a silly Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russle movie, but a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon
  • Pretty Woman– ok this was 1990- but let’s face it- most women wanted to be Julia Roberts
  • Mystic Pizza- where we first got to know Julia Roberts and learned that guys can be jerks, and it doesn’t always work out in the end, and that’s ok
  • When Harry Met Sally– the first of many Nora Ephron movies that made me think fondly of what it would like to be a New Yorker, and hoping I could be that cool and grownup.
  • Working Girl– another great rom com with Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith- I think this is what all the girls I knew who went to Wharton were hoping working on Wall Street would be like.
  • Short Circuit– Robot as romantic protagonist for people from the breakfast club set.
  • Flash Dance– Jennifer Beals was at Yale the same time some of my friends were- so this felt like a movie worth seeing with friends
  • Footloose- what we all thought midwestern, uptight towns were like
  • Field of Dreams– the baseball movie even women liked
  • Dirty Dancing- a nostalgia movie that was getting us ready for Ghost
  • The Princess Bride– a movie that had it all, including humor at every turn
  • Desperately Seeking Susan– the movie where we all wanted to be Madonna, when it was still possible
  • Labryinth- A movie that was somewhere between an adult and a kid’s movie, with David Bowie and lots of Jim Henson characters
  • Tootsie– a classic with Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray that made anyone who every watched general Hospital while home sick think how crazy Soap Operas must be behind the scenes.
  • Moonstruck- Cher and Nicholas Cage- again, how I wish New York was in reality

Complex Movies (10)

Body Heat– a movie that was startling provocative – and full of things I would not understand for years.

Do the Right Thing– Spike Lee’s movie brought a whole new world to life, and made us think about what life was like from a totally different point of view

Broadcast News– a romance and a piece about journalism, it shone a light on an adult world I knew little about. And had a rather jaded view of politics overall, which seems appropriate

The Big Chill– sort of like St. Elmo’s fire with grownups, made us all wonder what it would be like when we all had grown-up jobs and then met up with college friends.

Amadeus- a movie my mom loved, but one that left me with the thought of what it’s like to face your own mediocrity, and it didn’t offer many constructive answers on how to face it, to be honest.

Steel Magnolias– I feel like this should be on a list as an oscar winner and all, but as a play turned into a movie, it shows.

An Officer & a Gentleman– a mixture of a chick flick and a guy’s movie, this one seemed well balanced for any date night

Terms of Endearment– a total chick flick and sob story- strong mother and daughter interactions- in a way that seemed more honest than Steel magnolias.

Black Widow- a great film noir type movie starring strong women- unusual in that era.

Fame-The High School of the Arts movie where my main takeaway is that the kids were ambitious but also ambivalent about what they thought they wanted most- fame.

The Other “Guy” movies: (22)


Beverly Hills Cop

Lethal Weapon– funny action movies that eventually played themselves out, but were great date movies

Risky Business– Kind of a John Hughes type movie but with a harder edge

Beetlejuice– a weird movie that made us all ready to accept the weirdness of Tim Burton movies like Edward Scissorhands a few years later

Major League– the baseball movie that was funny enough to keep us all entertained

Dead Poet’s Society

Revenge of the Nerds – another version of Porky’s and other movies that look a lot more problematic now after #metoo in their attitudes towards women and sex than they did at the time.

Top Gun– a testosterone movie if there ever was one, with a side of romance mixed in making it a decent date movie

Tron– the movie as video game

Fast Times at Ridgemont High– part of that teen movie genre, but launched Sean Penn who has turned into a provocative film maker in later years

Wall Street– How many of us saw capitalism, and cut throat business people- especially after being in school with some of them at Penn.

The Karate Kid- never my thing, but my brother loved it, jut like the Rocky movies

Time Bandits– a really interesting sci-fi kind of movie by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame- just a bit weird like Python as well

War Games– The Matthew Broderick movie that made us all remember why they made us hide in the basement in elementary school, and how maybe this computer thing should be approached with a little caution

Who framed Roger Rabbit? A movie, a cartoon, slapstick and film noir all in one.

This is Spinal Tap– a cult classic.

Airplane- one cliche and pun after another- one was good, the others, redundant

Blade Runner– another trippy movie, worth seeing

The Terminator- what made Arnold really famous, but I never loved these movies as much as things that were a little lighter overall.

Die Hard- This had the right mix of adventure and humor for me- and you gotta love Bruce Willis. Although he seems to basically play himself in every movie, he’s the smart ass we all long to be

The Untouchables

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure– classic buddy movie with the addition of George Carlin

What were your favorite movies when you were coming of age? What made an impact? How do they hold up now?

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