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$4 toast, booth babes, Brent Spiner, and more: The best of Jolie O’Dell

$4 toast, booth babes, Brent Spiner, and more: The best of Jolie O’Dell

Remember reading about the $4 toast here in San Francisco? Yeah, a VentureBeat employee first coined that.

That would be Jolie O’Dell, VentureBeat’s fearless managing editor until just a couple of weeks ago. She has now moved on to focus on charitable work and her family, and we’re going to miss her.

In her time here, Jolie wrote some brilliant and entertaining stories. She churned out serious ones about hopeful investors and gay developers and ambitious founders and tech juggernauts, but also some genuinely hilarious ones. (Thanks, gurl!) We’ve done you the favor of rounding up some of our favorites.

Remember that one time VentureBeat’s editor somehow greenlighted Jolie’s proposal to attend a Star Trek convention?

Having grown up with The Next Generation, she found herself flustered.

“Seeing the USS Enterprise bridge crew just hanging out like this completely throws me off my game,” she confessed. “I stand there like an idiot deer in the headlights, looking dumbly at my press pass with a suddenly blank mind. After 25 years of being a fan, what am I going to say to them?”

She shelled out $40 for an autograph and ostensibly an interview with actor Brent Spiner, who played the android character, Data.

“I confess without shame to having a childhood (ok, ok, and adulthood) crush on Data, which perhaps explains my uncanny knack for dating emotionally unavailable computer people,” she explained.

Spiner asked who was standing next to Jolie in line. It was her husband, whom Jolie had married two weeks earlier. Spiner tells her she’s made a huge mistake.

Here’s what happened next, according to Jolie’s account:

His eyes are pale blue and piercing. “Jolie,” he asks me, “would you leave your husband for me?”

It’s the same joke I’ve been making to Aaron for a year and a half; Spiner and Sir Patrick Stewart are my two celebrity freebies.

“Yes, sir,” I say without hesitation and with a red face.

“You’ll have to change your name to Spiner,” he says.

“That’s fine, sir,” I say.

I have trouble in the moment deciding whether Spiner is a huge jerk or the potential next love of my life, but I end up thinking he’s only a demi-jerk who puts on a small front because he has to interact with a huge range of very strange people for three days.

One has the impression that the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, would be a fascinating, fun affair. But seen through Jolie’s eyes, the show seemed downright strange.

“In addition to the endless booths of iPhone cases, washing machines, and underdressed young women, you will also find smart robotic drone-grills, biometric 4K social helmets, and every imaginable energy-efficient, LED-bedazzled plastic turd your imagination can devise,” she wrote.

She went on to explain the ins-and-outs of a smart Crock-Pot, a service to talk to your refrigerator, a glasses-cleaning device, a hard drive in the shape of a sphere, and — my favorite — inconsiderate conference attendees.

The first major CES press event was jam-packed this year.

Above: The first major CES press event was jam-packed this year.

Image Credit: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

“Whether you’re holding hands with your life partner, wheeling a roll-aboard three feet behind you, or just pondering fate, if you’re standing at the top of an escalator and blocking the way, you’re being an absolute douchenozzle,” she explained. “Is it too much to ask that you demonstrate a little situational awareness there?”

She concluded her comment on the subject with a word of advice.

“A crowded convention is already stuffy enough,” she wrote, “so if you feel a hot, stinky one coming on, you hold it in, got it?”

Jolie also won points at CES by talking to a few of the models who hung around company stands on the exhibition floor, even though she felt tormented by their “ravishing” beauty. She walked away with a point of insight worth pondering even today:

“One has to wonder: If CES attendees feel intimidated by a booth spokesperson, why is that spokesperson chosen to do the job? Why not let the models dress down, adopt girl-next-door makeup, and actively demo the products instead of standing around in heels waiting for the next photo opp?”

Pasted without comment:

Split “helps people avoid awkward encounters” in meatspace.

That means you run into someone at a cocktail party. Maybe you were talking crap about them and they found out. Maybe you hooked up with them once. Whatever. It’s awkward.

And you are so freaking maladjusted that you need an app to prevent yourself from getting into these situations. You can’t be honest, tactful, or poised. You have to rely on GPS and more to high-tail it in real time.

Good freakin’ grief!

The app idea is bad enough. The fact that it’s raised $1 million is much worse.

That’s a million dollars that could have been invested in money-making developer tools, privacy-protecting security startups, or, God forbid, a profitable platform that supports non-profits.

Jolie wasn’t too enthusiastic about an app for threesomes, 3nder, either.

“Seriously, people. Seriously,” she wrote. “You’re going to negotiate one of the most emotionally complicated sexual maneuvers of modernity with an app. Not this app.”

She proceeded to make the case that you’d be much better off setting up having a threesome without using 3nder. One of her reasons: sexually transmitted diseases. Another: “Oh, the humanity.”

Jolie landed a big interview with Eich just before he resigned from his job as Mozilla’s chief executive, following a scandal over his donation to the Proposition 8 cause. She described Eich, the inventor of JavaScript and a co-founder of Mozilla, as “a clean-shaven neckbeard hero” and “a thoughtful, nerdy, humble guy — the kind of guy you want to corner at a party and talk about web technologies with for an hour.

Here’s how she concluded her first post on the interview:

“Personally, I don’t know or want to know why he made that donation because, like Eich, I don’t think it has any bearing on his performance as CEO. He is, in my own opinion, on the wrong side of history. He might be sparking the HR nightmare of the decade. And as unwilling a participant as he may be, he is nevertheless a real part of institutional homophobia, as are many of his peers in the tech CEO community.

“But he’s still a great technologist with a lot of good to do in the world.”

Jolie entertained herself on a Saturday shift by noticing a bunch of things inside Torvalds’ house:

  • “Zombie shuffling” treadmill desk — CHECK.
  • Sh*t-strewn second desk — CHECK.
  • 3D printer — CHECK.
  • Socks with sandals — CHECK.
  • Hard-disk graveyard — CHECK and RIP!
  • A sword, obviously.
  • This, on the closed blinds: “I don’t want the sun to come in and disturb me. … I do NOT want to see outside.”

I, for one, feel that. The best SPF is tin foil over the windows and a deadbolt on the door, right?

Here are the facts Jolie presents: “I went to The Mill for breakfast today and got a black cup of coffee and a single slice of toast topped with butter and sour strawberry jam. For $6.”

And this is how the story ends: “After my $6 breakfast, I am still hungry. This, San Francisco techsters, is all your fault.*

“*Spoken with tongue in cheek. A bit.”

We love you for that bit of tongue in cheek, Jolie. We’ll miss you, even if you have lost that “huge lady-boner for startups,” and even if you want to do good things in the world.

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