The Multimedia Storyteller

Here’s a sampling of Nicole’s favorite published stories, photos, and videos:

  
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PACAYA VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK, Guatemala — Midway into our hour-and-a-half, shirt-soaking hike up one of this country’s most active volcanoes, my city-girl leg muscles cramped, stalling our attempt to reach the crest flowing with lava and return before sunset. Then a thick fog fell. We could see about 40 feet, which made it crystal clear why this trail is notoriously riddled with thieves. Suddenly, this impromptu adventure didn’t seem like such a good idea. At least our tour guide was carrying a machete.
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BEIJING – A lady whose head and neck were completely covered by a crinkled Mylar gas mask just glared at me. What the heck was she doing in my hotel room?  Showing me how to flee for my life.

Aloft Beijing

BEIJING – A cluster of Asian gals gathered a few feet away from me on the sidewalk, staring, squealing and laughing as I munched on what tasted like the extra-crispy sliver-ends of McDonald’s french fries.  I was actually chomping on a fried cricket.
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December 5, 2008

BEIJING — I scampered up the Olympic Park subway station’s steps this afternoon, eager to reach the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube.  But I didn’t get there soon enough.  The dingy, cotton-thick haze beat me to it.  It muffled my photo-snapping enthusiasm.  And it covered my crumpled-up Kleenex with soot-colored snot.

Beijing Olympic Park Water Cube

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globelogoJune 29, 2008
Surging gas prices and airline fees are making day trips and weekend excursions to New York that much more expensive.  Yet one mode of transportation between the Hub and the Big Apple has actually gotten cheaper: the bus.  The Globe tested the five low-cost bus lines – BoltBus, MegaBus, Lucky Star, Fung Wah Bus Transportation Inc., and the pooled operations of Greyhound Lines Inc. and Peter Pan Bus Lines.  And here’s a chart listing the locations, prices, pros and cons of each bus company.
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globelogoApril 25, 2008
BoltBus’s inaugural run yesterday from Boston’s South Station to New York’s Penn Station started smoothly, but ended with a screech – literally – as the shiny new motor coach, which was running more than an hour late, loudly scraped against construction equipment.
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April 24, 2008, 8:14 PM
The name BoltBus alludes to bolting out of the city. But on today’s inaugural run from Boston to New York, passengers just wanted to bolt off.
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April 24, 2008, 1:15 PM
Live from BoltBus II: A few caveats”

We’re not saying BoltBus is too good to be true, but the advertising should include some asterisks.

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April 24, 2008, 10:04 am
“Live from BoltBus: Cool but no Riverdance”

Yes, that’s right, we snagged seat Numero Uno on the Hub’s inaugural departure for just $1.  So what’s it like?

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June 17, 2007
Every sixth Saturday or so, dozens of young software developers flock to a small mansion somewhere in Silicon Valley to share technical tips, collaborate on the coding of pet projects, and knock back a few beers while debating the data-models underlying popular start-ups like Facebook and Twitter.  It’s a tech party known as SuperHappyDevHouse, and it’s lured rank-and-file employees of Google, Oracle and still-nameless entrepreneurial endeavors.  It’s this robust swapping of ideas and sharing tricks-of-the-trade across company lines that has given Silicon Valley an innovative edge since the ‘70s.
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April 29, 2007
At least once a week, Hewlett-Packard executive Philip McKinney runs into someone who asks him, “What’s in your pocket?”  That’s because the chief technology officer of HP’s personal computer business is always toting around prototypes of the latest gadgets.  But the classic McKinney question could also allude to his knack for pulling innovative ideas out of his sleeves.
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March 26, 2007
When times get tough, Sun Microsystems Executive Vice President John Fowler tells a joke.  Fowler also uses laughs to win over employees who look askance at changes in corporate strategy.
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February 25, 2007
Some of Silicon Valley’s largest technology companies, in an effort to cut costs and address a mounting stack of customer-service complaints, are embracing an offshoring trend known as “nearshoring.”  Unlike the traditional offshoring that flung U.S. customer call centers halfway around the world to India and other faraway countries, nearshoring sends white-collar jobs to Costa Rica, Mexico and other countries in the Western Hemisphere.
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What’s 150,000 minus 45,000? In Hewlett-Packard’s world, the answer is still roughly 150,000.  Hiring people while laying off others is called churn. And HP isn’t the only aging Silicon Valley vanguard that’s using churn to survive the onslaught from technological innovation and global competition. But the legendary computer company’s use of churn to help fuel its financial turnaround illustrates how the strategy has shattered the implicit employment contract that once bound America’s companies with their workers.
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If everyone laid off by Hewlett-Packard moved to the same city this autumn, they would fill all the houses and apartments in Cupertino –  and 2,600 people would still need homes. Welcome to ex-HPville: population 53,100.

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August 19, 2006
“BILL & DAVE’S EXCELLENT (SILICON VALLEY) ADVENTURE: IMAGE OF HP FOUNDERS TOURS BAY AREA BUT IS REBUFFED AT HOME”

A life-size cutout of Bill Hewlett and David Packard is popping in to Silicon Valley homes and offices these days, but they’ve had trouble getting in the door at one place — Hewlett-Packard headquarters.

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June 3, 2006
Hewlett-Packard, the Silicon Valley company known for pioneering flexible work arrangements four decades ago, is canceling telecommuting for a key division of the company. While other companies nationwide are pushing more employees to work from home to cut office costs, HP believes bringing its information-technology employees together in the office will make them swifter and smarter.
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May 17, 2006
“HP’S SALES ROARING BACK: COMPUTER MAKER FINDING WAYS TO WIN CONSUMERS”
After years of being dismissed as a computer-industry clunker, HP is rebounding with such strength that some observers think this may be the dawn of the “HP era.”  A big part of the turnaround story of HP’s personal-computer business rides on its growing savvy about appealing to consumers while cutting costs to post bigger profits.  “We never, ever thought we would use the words ‘sexy’ and ‘HP’ in the same sentence,” Cindy Shaw, an analyst at Moors & Cabot, wrote in a report last week about HP’s new focus on the design of its PCs.
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March 29, 2006
“CEO’S  FIRST YEAR STABILIZES HP”
Six months after Mark Hurd became chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, he told 900 business partners meeting at the Venetian in Las Vegas that he wasn’t interested in “making a big announcement every 15 minutes.” Rather, he wanted HP to be operate with “incredibly boring regularity.”  So far, being boring seems to have paid off.

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October 30, 2005
“REPAIRING CAREERS THAT HAVE BECOME OBSOLETE”
The three middle-age men stood on a Fremont rooftop, staring at an air conditioner pump.  They were unemployed and desperate.  Their stories reveal how technology both gives and takes away, how it is displacing workers at an ever-faster pace even as it creates new jobs and new ways of living.

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June 10, 2005
A handful of Bay Area commuters have traded the highway for the skyway.  These hobbyist pilots fly to their high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley from Oakland, Martinez and even Ashland, Ore.  It’s a way to escape the valley’s stratospheric housing prices, avoid some of the worst commute traffic in the nation and reclaim a few hours of enjoyment.
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May 1, 2005
For many Silicon Valley employees, there’s a pecking order to valley companies.  And it has nothing to do with sales or size.  It’s all about the food.  For years, Silicon Valley companies have invested in their cafeterias to cut the time workers spend foraging off-campus for food, boost camaraderie and keep the troops happy, or at least well-fueled.  Now some cafes are such hot spots that discerning diners from other companies are clamoring to eat there.

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February 28, 2005
“HANDHELD HURT: SMALL ELECTRONIC DEVICES LIKE A BLACKBERRY CAN BE A ROYAL PAIN IN THE FINGERS”
Repetitive stress injuries — a common curse of desktop and laptop computer users — are now afflicting people who type on handheld devices. As the sizes and prices of handheld typing devices continue to shrink, doctors and therapists caution that consumers need to treat their on-the-go text messaging work as a physical workout. And here’s a related article: “KEEP HAND INJURIES AT ARM’S LENGTH”

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January 27, 2005
There’s gangsta rap. And now there’s geeksta rap.  It’s all because of Rajeev Bajaj, a 39-year-old chemical engineer from Fremont, Calif., who is either going to become the def jammer of the science and technology domain or the poster boy for excruciatingly embarrassing nerdiness.

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merclogoApril 25, 2004
“IN THESE CLASSROOMS, ‘D’ DOESN’T MAKE GRADE: MANY SOUTH BAY STUDENTS NEED C-MINUS TO PASS”
The grades that save slackers are disappearing from report cards at several Silicon Valley high schools.  A growing number of teachers have eliminated D’s, betting it will boost students’ achievement by heightening their fear of failing.  Most high schools still allow students to graduate with D’s, but many four-year colleges don’t recognize such a low grade under admission requirements.  So these students are learning if they don’t work hard enough to earn a C-minus, they flunk.
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February 2, 2004

Ron Gordon is a bit of a square. The Redwood City high school teacher, who celebrates half-birthdays, is trying to drum up a national following for Square Root Day — 2/2/04 — which occurs when the numbers representing the month and day both are the square root of the last two digits of the year.

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April 7, 2003
“RULES OF EXPRESSION: P.A. COUNCIL PROPOSAL WOULD MAKE FROWNING OFF-LIMITS”

Palo Alto may need to call in the Demeanor Police.  The city council is wrestling with a code of conduct that urges elected officials not to roll their eyes.  Or shake their heads.  Or frown.  Experts say the council’s plan to discourage non-verbal forms of “disagreement or disgust” is odd, unenforceable and almost an infringement on free speech.

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