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March 19, 2011

Lorenz University: I can has degree?

Click on the image to see the original (full size) version in a new window. Big thanks to Wondermark for allowing people to post their comics!

Misadventures in HR (an hilarious blog about… HR) mentioned Lorenz University, a degree mill. I’d never heard of a degree mill before, so I wanted to see how legit it looked from a computer scientist’s point of view.


Every site on the internet has to register contact information the king of the internet, so you can see who’s behind a website. Anyone can look up this info by running “whois url” on their computer. For example, here are some legit universities’ info:

$ whois nyu.edu
   New York University
   ITS Communications Operations Services
   7 East 12th Street, 5th Floor
   New York, NY 10003
$ whois mit.edu
   Massachusetts Institute of Technology
   Cambridge, MA 02139
$ whois ufl.edu
   University of Florida
   Computing and Network Services
   Space Sciences Research Building
   Gainesville, FL 32611-2050

Most businesses, higher learning institutions, and pretty much any large, legitimate site has their actual address listed there. What does Lorenz U have?

$ whois lorenzuniversity.com
   Domains by Proxy, Inc.
   15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
   Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
   United States

Domains by Proxy is a service where you can pay them to keep your contact info a secret. It’s good for privacy, but it’s a bit unusual for a university.

Also, protip: most universities are not .com addresses.


At first glance, Lorenz University seem to have some good proof that they’re a valid, accredited institution:

Lorenz University holds valid accreditation from reputable accrediting agencies including IAAFOE and ACTDE. These agencies have clearly mentioned on their official websites that Lorenz University is fully approved by their evaluation committee.

But wait, I’ve never heard of the IAAFOE or the ACTDE. A quick Google search turns up the International Accreditation Association for Online Eduction and the Accreditation Council for Distance Education.

Okay, Lorenz University is accredited by someone, but let’s take a look at who.

$ whois iaafoe.org
Registrant Name:Registration Private
Registrant Organization:Domains by Proxy, Inc.
Registrant Street1:DomainsByProxy.com
Registrant Street2:15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Scottsdale
Registrant State/Province:Arizona
Registrant Postal Code:85260
Registrant Country:US

Huh, Domains by Proxy. Again.

$ whois actde.org
Registrant Name:Registration Private
Registrant Organization:Domains by Proxy, Inc.
Registrant Street1:DomainsByProxy.com
Registrant Street2:15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Scottsdale
Registrant State/Province:Arizona
Registrant Postal Code:85260
Registrant Country:US

And again! What are the chances?!

Now, let’s take a closer look at these accreditation sites. I used wget to download the entirety of both sites (somehow, I had the feeling that they wouldn’t be that big). Indeed, one site was 10 files and the other was 11:

$ wget -r http://iaafoe.org/
$ wget -r http://actde.org/

Looking at these files, we can see certain similarities:

$ ls actde.org/
ACTDE  CSS  index.asp  index.html  PDF  robots.txt
$ ls iaafoe.org/
IAAFOE  index.asp  index.html  PDF  robots.txt
$ # is robots.txt non-trivial?
$ wc -l iaafoe.org/robots.txt
30 iaafoe.org/robots.txt
$  diff -s iaafoe.org/robots.txt actde.org/robots.txt
Files iaafoe.org/robots.txt and actde.org/robots.txt are identical

Also, there’s a funny “Members Login” link on the ACTDE site that—whoops—isn’t actually a link. How hard is it to make a login page that doesn’t log anyone in?


Lorenz University seems to have “accredited” themselves by creating two accreditation websites, and are trying to take advantage of people who think this will help them get a job.

What I’m really curious about is if they’ll accredit other bullshit. The accreditation sites seem to be non-interactive, and don’t have any way of taking money.

P.S. As long as I’m just picking on them… Lorenz University also bought the site lorenzuniversityscam.com, to defend against people calling them a scam. The scam site has a link, “Click here[sic] to visit the official website of Lorenz University and find out all the details about Lorenz University and the application process to get an accredited degrees.” They misspelled “university” in a link to their own site.

Vim Ruby Runner

When I switched to Vim from TextMate, I missed TextMate's ⌘R command to execute a Ruby script and show the output.

There are ways to execute Ruby code from a Vim buffer, such as :w ! ruby or :! ruby %, which you could map to any shortcut, but they have annoying limitations.

Hence, I've been tinkering with a better solution for a while in my dotfiles. It finally felt mature enough to pack into a plugin, so I did:


Get it from GitHub: https://github.com/henrik/vim-ruby-runner


The default keybindings are only available in buffers with filetype ruby. I recommend defining a command in your ~/.vimrc like

command! FR set filetype=ruby

so you can set that filetype with a simple :FR.

When you have a Ruby buffer, ⌘r (lowercase r) will execute its contents (even if it is an unnamed, unsaved buffer) as Ruby code and output the results into a new split buffer.

The output buffer gains focus, and you can hit ⌘r again to close it.

⌘R (capital R, so ⇧⌘r) will keep focus in the input buffer. If you're in input mode, you'll even stay in that mode. So you can keep hitting ⌘R as you type, any time you have valid Ruby code.

Just like with :help, one and the same output buffer is reused per tab page.

Comparison and caveats

The main benefit in comparison to the TextMate command is, of course, that it runs in Vim ;)

In some ways, though, this plugin compares unfavorably to TextMate.

Whereas TextMate will show you output incrementally, I haven't been able to find a good way to achieve that in Vim. The Vim window will be unresponsive while the script executes, and will only show the output all at once after completion.

Also, script execution does not wait for gets. The value of any gets will be nil.


If you need to see incremental output, you could instead do

:w ! ruby

That very command is at the heart of the plugin, but it only outputs incrementally when run on its own. Be aware that you get the output below the command line, not in a buffer, and have to discard it to be able to continue using Vim.

You could also write to an output file on disk and tail that from a terminal, with e.g. (in Vim):

:w ! ruby > /tmp/out.txt

and (in a terminal):

tail -f /tmp/out.txt

Or you could tail in Vim, but that doesn't seem to work perfectly.

The Vim wiki has an article on a command a little like this plugin, but that lets you run only visually selected lines. I may attempt to copy that feature.

A completely different approach is to launch Vim from IRB, edit in Vim and execute in IRB. I've had that set up for a while, but haven't found myself using it in practice.

Please try the plugin and suggest or contribute improvements. If you use something else, feel free to share in the comments.

On Twitter, ‘What a Party!’ Brings an Envious ‘Enough, Already!’

Shared by Jake Dobkin
meditate on whatever causes resentment
The tantalizing window Twitter provides on the lives of friends, colleagues, rivals and celebrities can have a downside: knowing too much about the fun you are missing.

Mobile Safari's privacy settings give web marketers headaches

Those who make their money by working out who sent you to visit which websites via what adverts are scratching their heads and popping the Advil over what to do about Mobile Safari, which automatically blocks third-party cookies by default.

This makes it difficult for ad servers, tracking systems, and ad management tools to link visitors to ads that brought them to the Web site. Which, in turn, makes it difficult to measure the performance of paid-search marketing campaigns.

MediaPost reports that search firm Marin Software published a white paper about Mobile Safari and ad tracking last week. The paper says that Mobile Safari on iOS devices is a "major challenge" and that, on average, advertisers using third-party cookie-based tracking systems are undercounting conversions by 38% -- the actual conversion rates for iOS, minus for the third-party cookie based undercounting, were on average 23% higher than on Windows.

With millions already using iOS devices and the iPad 2 and, later this year, a new iPhone bringing millions more into the Apple fold, this is becoming a big problem for ad companies.

Mobile Safari's privacy settings give web marketers headaches originally appeared on TUAW on Sat, 19 Mar 2011 13:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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fallows on christopher

James Fallows remembers Warren Christopher. "Shortly before LBJ left office, Christopher came to speak at Harvard and also met with mainly suspicious and hostile staffers on the student newspaper, including me. In those days anyone from the Administration could expect to be shouted down about Vietnam policy, and Christopher was. But then he patiently made the case for the historic importance of LBJ's efforts to address poverty and racial injustices. It was an illustration of how his temperament, sometimes criticized in his SecState years as phlegmatic or dull, could also be seen as unflappable and determined."

“It’s a Madonna pap smear … it’s like...

“It’s a Madonna pap smear … it’s like getting down to the real Madonna.”

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ head writer talks about George Lucas, religion and the show’s lifespan

The third-season finale of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is coming April 1 on Cartoon Network with the highly anticipated appearance of Chewbacca (an episode that features contributions from Peter Mayhew), but something else has been happening with the animated show — a shift in the overall the tone and more and more intensity. That was especially the case with the recent “Mortis” story arc, a three-episode tale that presented Anakin with nightmarish visions of his future and, in a profound surprise, offered a deep new exploration of The Force and revelations about the mysterious Overlords.  The architect behind the trilogy of episodes was writer Christian Taylor, who has since been named head writer on the show. I caught up with  Taylor — whose credits include “Lost” and “Six Feet Under” — to talk about the Jedi show’s past, present and future.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (Lucasfilm)

GB: When fans of a certain age think of “Star Wars,” they think of the films and the past but it must be really energizing for you to see the emphasis that George Lucas has put on “The Clone Wars” and the resources that are behind it. This is the “Star Wars” that matters too,  for most youngsters that are aware of the Jedi universe.

Christian Taylor (Lucas Campelo)

CT: Well, Dave Filoni is the genius behind it — as is, of course, George [Lucas] — and he’s such a great guy and such a talented guy. My catch-phrase is that he’s the James Cameron of animation because what they do is phenomenal and technologically breaking down barriers and it’s never been done before.  The show as I’ve been on it — my episodes from three years ago just started and they were breaking major technical barriers then —  and I’ve seen the latest footage of stuff that they’re going to do for the next season and what they can physically do now is so much better. The thing that is amazing is that George is completely involved in the show. The first time I got invited up, the show had been running for two years and they had never done a writers’ conference before they, they had sort of just got spec work from different writers so there we were, there were like eight of us, working at the main house and you’d come and be sitting there at a meeting with George Lucas.  It was two things at the same time: Your head would be thinking, “This is George Lucas!” and it seemed incredibly normal at the same time.

GB: Talk a bit about your working experience with the series.

CT: I’ve been working on the show for the past three years and it is amazing that, due to the complexity of producing the episodes, only now are the first episodes I wrote showing.  The first year that I started was actually Season Three for the “Clone Wars.”  We have since written seasons four and five.  The third season was the first year that “The Clone Wars” had a writers’ room and worked very much like an episodic TV writers room would — but it was crammed into less than 10 days with George steering the stories.  For this I helped developed every upcoming story.  Cut to three years later and I am the head writer on the show.  I am incredibly lucky that I get to play in this sandpit!

GB: It’s interesting to hear the show described by fans of different ages. There is a divide but plenty of passion — there doesn’t seem to be any apathy when it comes to “Star Wars” fans and their expression of ownership.

CT: The thing for me personally is that, as we all did, I grew up with “Star Wars” but it was never my religion. That allowed me to access this show and not feel like, “Oh, this is not really ‘Star Wars’” or “‘This is some different type of ‘Star Wars.’” I just accessed it from the point of view of these characters and everything that you could do with your writing that was fantastic in this world and with these characters. And you could write anything and [the animators] could actually make it. That’s sometimes a very frustrating time in television: [The producers] can’t actually do what you write because of schedule or money or technical ability. Dave has created this machine and the artists that are there are top notch and they can realize anything that you write. The episodes that I just wrote, there was a planet that changed from a dead planet to a live planet. They couldn’t do that until my episode and even then, afterward, Dave said, ‘Well, we didn’t get as right as we should have but now we can do that so much better and we learned from it.’ And as far as working in this established universe and in a workplace that — as you said — has this energy and this assurance and you know what you work on is going to be seen by a lot of people, all of that is very inspiring. And you know that what you do is also going to inspire a lot of people.  The great thing about doing this show is the fact that now there’s a whole new generation of “Star Wars” fans. There would be established fans, like you and me; the religious, hard-core fans; and then this whole new bunch of kids who have never even seen the films. Not to be cynical, but it’s a brilliant marketing tool. It’s also a way for these kids to access this universe and then go see the films. It’s a win-win situation which is really lovely and it’s not often that way in television as a writer. [Laughs.] I’ve had many shows that have failed because they can’t get the audience and I’ve done stuff that I’ve developed which i thought would make a great show but executives didn’t believe in it. It’s lovely to be playing in a winning tournament.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (Lucasfilm)

GB: You mentioned the gradations of fans — from the casual to the absolutely possessed,  from the young newcomer to the longtime follower — how do you service all of those different nations?

CT:  It’s funny, when we came in George said there are three things: ”There’s the father, the son and the holy ghost.” He said “There’s the father, who’s me, there’s the son who is through licensing and then there’s the holy ghost.”  So when it’s authorized by George Lucas it’s canon. When it’s by “the son” — that’s the whole load of things made by the machine — and there is a lot of creativity there but it’s just not authored by George. The holy ghost is what fans provide and expect. So for us, we really have only one master to answer to. You’re not going to answer to the fans and nor would they want that, really. We can’t change something because some of the fans think that wouldn’t happen. In one of my episodes, one of the criticisms that I would hear a lot and found to be fascinating was, ‘Why is Ahsoka being a mechanic?” I was like, ‘What are you talking about, of course she can be a mechanic. Carrie Fisher was a mechanic. Leia was a mechanic, she’s fixing ships in ‘Star Wars.’” But you can’t get into that [sort of conversation]. You only have to answer to George and in that universe you’re trying to write things that are true to character and will hopefully inspire people in a good way. We get these outlines for “Clone Wars” and George has built the outline with you. You’re doing three outlines a day [during the writers' conference] for nine days and that’s intense. I was teasing George at one point — “You’re expecting us, these TV writers, to write an hour of story and it’s condensed into 22 minutes.” They’re used to working with animators but to have writers building three stories a day; that’s unheard of in the world of  TV. The mission is you’re writing stories for fans but authorized by George and still trying to somehow be cutting-edge.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (Lucasfilm)

GB: How would you characterize the fan feedback that reaches you? Indignant fans generally write far more e-mails than satisfied fans, especially since the happiest viewers you have may also be the youngest…

CT: Dave gets most of the flak of this as far as fan outrage but I think the fans generally love the show. If they’re being cynical … that comes across and some people will never be satisfied. And there’s no one who is ever satisfied with everything and nor should they be. For me, I feel you just write the best story and the best characters and pick the stories that are most inspiring for the kids. I never patronize in my writing. I don’t write for kids. The show succeeds best when it doesn’t write to kids, it just writes in the vein of “Star Wars,” which is accessible to kids. If there’s something just past their grasp they say, ”Oh, I’ll read up on that” or “I’ll ask someone about that.” I have five nieces and nephews and I have close relationships with them. The youngest of my nieces has just started watching the show and I like talking to her about it all.

GB: Every project brings surprises with it.  Tell me about a surprise you found along the path with this endeavor, either in the material itself or perhaps in craft or your approach to it.

CT: I remember sitting in the room and George talked about The Force, he did his monologue. I wished I had recorded it on my iPhone, it was so iconic, but I probably would have been fired if I had done that. And it was all so thought out and incredibly articulated. There’s a rhyme and reason to it, it’s not just fluff, and it fits very much in with my spiritual path of Buddhism and the true teachings of Christianity, not the bigoted, twisted version of Christianity. Then we sort of got to pick what we wanted to do and I thought, ”What am I going to ask for? Am I going to pick the C-3PO arc or the Asoka? And I decided to pick the scariest one, the one everyone had been joking about as the frightening one. I knew it would terrible or really wonderful. And it was wonderful. It’s very operatic, very Wagnerian, it’s big and it’s epic. It was controversial as well. I knew it would be an interesting failure or an interesting success. Later when I went to see the first real screening of it, up at the Stag Theatre [at Skywalker Ranch] with the crew and everything, I sat there and thought, “I wrote that?” You forget because it was three years ago when I put it on paper. I was happy with the way it fit into things that came before it. Some people, I knew, would get upset about this or that, but that’s “Clone Wars.”

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (Lucasfilm)

GB: You’re talking about the “Mortis” arc. Can you reflect a bit more on it?

CT: The “Mortis” arc, it was an incredible challenge.  It was a chance for George to explore aspects of The Force that had never been discussed before and was a spiritual universe outside of the traditional “Star Wars” we know and love…. This arc introduces characters called Overlords who are Force wielders who use The Force in ways that we haven’t seen before.  They are not gods  but powerful beings who can manipulate The Force unlike any other… and with that comes great danger and complications.  Putting Anakin, “The Chosen One,” into that mix is a recipe for some juicy revelations, action and an awesome power struggle.  It was an amazing operatic arc to write and to see animated and was one that has been both controversial and embraced by fans in a frenzy of postings — the most of any “Clone Wars” episode to date, I was told.  I am very proud of it, especially that we get to see Darth Vader in a flash forward.  How many writers get do that?

GB: The arc stirred people up, to be sure, but it did feel like new ground for this show at this point.

CT: I don’t talk about The Force in my day-to-day life or anything like that but it was a powerful experience for me and I did feel like, well, not that I was channeling it but that it was coming from an emotional place.  The idea that there’s this universe and these characters and they have these gods and they can do this — all of that was a little more interesting to me than the clones and the war and running around doing that stuff. So I’ve picked those sort of episodes as we’ve gone along. That’s the interesting thing for me.

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (Lucasfilm)

GB: The Clone Wars is the big chunk of time that has created a canvas with plenty of blank spots.  Still, when looking at the previously established canon, do you ever feel boxed in by the fact that you are writing about characters whose past and future are, in many cases, known to the audience? Do you get frustrated with the range of possibility when it comes to consequences available for your core characters?

CT: This show, and it’s a good thing, has a life. It’s going to have to end in a certain amount of time. There are very clear categories of what you can and can’t do within that world.  And there are things that are frustrating. Anakin can never fight with General Grievous, for instance, and, you know, that’s fine. I think that’s actually why George has allowed us to go into sort of emotional stories because that’s the territory you can go in. It’s a weird, interesting way to build a show because you have an ending already out there. But we also have characters in the show whose final fate is not known, like Ahsoka. We’ve discussed it obviously but the fans have no idea. The great thing is there is such a machine there for us. There’s a guy called Gary Scheppke that you call up as a writer and you can say, “I want to do this, but has this happened before?” I know maybe 25% of the stuff from watching the movies and the series so far. He’ll say, “You can do this, but not that, and you can’t use that ship because of this….” So that’s great. There’s a gatekeeper for that. With Dave its a similar thing, he’s a huge fan. He’s read all of the extended-universe stuff and I don’t [know] any of that. He knows it all but he’s not a slave to it because with George, if it didn’t come from him it never existed as far as the conversation about the stories we can tell. Dave knows everything, though, so he can create a world within in the world. I find it kind of easy to find imaginative things that don’t bump people. It’s come easy to me to find the logical thing to do with these characters and they are so clearly established. You know Anakin and Obi-Wan and they are a certain way and they present themselves when you take them into new situations. But clearly the show can’t go on forever. And that’s a good thing. Shows that can go on forever, those are the ones that sort of explode.

– Geoff Boucher


Did Lucas change cinema with prequel trilogy?

“Empire” director Kershner, remembered

“Star Wars” brings Force to Legoland

“Phantom Menace” on the way in 3D

Seth Green: Lucas wants to be silly

“Clone Wars” characters show their age

“Star Wars” saga will hit Blu-ray next year

Ford returns to Jedi universe … for one night

Kurtz: Toy sales took Lucas to dark side

VIDEO: Ford and Hamill on “Today” show, 1980

Lucas asked David Lynch to direct “Jedi”

VIDEO: “Star Wars” & Ke$ha? May the Farce be with you

Currently watching “Slacker” to see if I recognize...

Currently watching “Slacker” to see if I recognize any of the filming locations from my Austin trip. My Very Productive Saturday is off to a great start.

Oh also, Austin = heaven.

Twitter's platform at 5 years

Twitter recommended upgrading to OAuth "for optimal security" and so developers don't need to "worry about the user changing their password". While I dislike APIs that break old clients, I saw mostly the good things about OAuth, framed around letting the user approve access to their own account.

Seven months ago, as Twitter was finishing the OAuth transition, Buzz Andersen tweeted this:

"Twitter isn't just enforcing OAuth for technical reasons: it's a way of taking control of the platform."

I'm not sure I got it at the time. Twitter was all about open APIs, right? They encouraged new clients, and the original Mac client Twitterrific had brought a lot of innovation and standards to the platform. Why would they need this level of control?

The email from Ryan Sarver last week showed part of how Twitter is changing as a company, refocusing from building a network to selling a product. Reading between the lines, it seems that to effectively sell ads, Twitter feels they need to control the user experience. On Twitter clients:

"Developers have told us that they'd like more guidance from us about the best opportunities to build on Twitter. More specifically, developers ask us if they should build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. The answer is no."

Disappointing. At a panel on the Twitter API at SXSW, that sadly no one from Twitter in Austin knew about, the mood was pretty dim. I said to the room that we expected more from Twitter.

Then over the weekend, Ryan clarified: "we are saying it's not a good business to be in but we aren't shutting them off or telling devs they can't build them." There's still plenty of uncertainty, but that's a more hopeful message. I collected some additional related tweets on tweetlibrary.com.

Many people during SXSW asked me what this means for Tweet Library. Is Tweet Library a mainstream Twitter client? It has all the basic features of a normal client, but no, not really. It's meant to be something more, something unique that solves problems no one else is working on, least of all Twitter.

I'm a little discouraged, but not enough to stop. I owe it to my customers to finish what I started: to fix bugs, add new features, polish the rough edges, and make Tweet Library the best app on the Twitter platform.

Seattle Mariners, 1978

According to the Gods: a 2011 Team-By-Team Preview

Seattle Mariners

You can’t predict the future. You can only hope for the best. Here is the first Seattle Mariners squad ever assembled, the 1977 edition, a collection of expansion draft refugees and free agent driftwood, posed outside the Kingdome. Years later, as the Kingdome neared its last fatal crumbling days as a home for big league baseball, it would be spoken of with shame and regret by the team’s president, Ken Behring. “We have a building here that was poorly designed, that was never well built and that was poorly maintained from day one,” Behring said. “Plus, it’s downright homely. It was outdated at the time it was built.”

But the setting of this team picture suggests that in the beginning the Mariners had some hope for and pride about the Kingdome. If they didn’t, would they have had their picture taken in front of it? The picture is similar to that of a young family posing outside a first house: Here we are, brand new. Home.

The central dream of human life seems to be to find a home. Maybe this dream has its roots in the very earliest days of human life on earth, when our grunting nomadic ancestors first stumbled into the discovery that any kind of shelter from the harrowing elements was an improvement on loitering around outside and getting pelted with sleet or burned by the sun or swallowed in bloody chunks by saber-toothed tigers. You can’t predict the future, but you can try to lessen the terrifying uncertainty of existence by moving into a cave or a mud hut or a wood house or a concrete skyscraper or a dome. A home.

The idea behind playing baseball in a dome is that it will always be the equivalent of a warm spring day inside such a structure. It was supposed to be one of those days for real where I live a couple days ago. That was the prediction, anyway, but after a brief spell of blue sky in the morning gray clouds moved in and the temperature dropped. I went for a walk late in the day and was a little underdressed, still attached to the hopeful prediction for the day. I passed a newspaper vending bin and saw headlines about a possible nuclear meltdown in Japan. This triggered the loop in my mind of images from the earthquake and tsunami. I continued on my walk. Office workers flailing through nightmare snowglobe frenzies of paper and shattered computers. At a drug store I bought a magazine to help me predict the upcoming season in terms of fantasy baseball. Houses and cars riding giant sheets of water like bathtub toys swirling in a draining tub. I walked back toward my new address, where my wife and I just moved. Survivors in surgical masks picking through rubble. I sat down in my new living room with my fantasy baseball magazine and watched my basketball predictions instantly begin to fail miserably as I planned more doomed predictions for baseball and thought about people in surgical masks searching bulletin boards for familiar names and with all that you’d think I’d give up on the future but I can’t help it. The sun broke through the clouds late in the day and lit up the room where I was sitting and I felt hopeful about my new home.


How to enjoy the 2011 baseball season, part 16 of 30: Pay close attention while you still can to Ichiro Suzuki. And do what you can to help.


2011 previews so far: St. Louis Cardinals; New York Mets; Philadelphia Phillies; Washington Nationals; Pittsburgh Pirates; Arizona Diamondbacks; Colorado Rockies; New York Yankees; Cleveland Indians; Detroit Tigers; Milwaukee Brewers; Minnesota Twins; Atlanta Braves; Cincinnati Reds; Oakland A’s

March 18, 2011

Tibet’s Quiet Revolution

Pico Iyer

AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia

Tibetan Buddhist nuns, holding their mandatory "Green Book" as proof of identity, waiting to vote in the last Tibetan prime ministerial election, Dharamsala, India, June 3, 2006

It’s been startling to witness mass demonstrations in countries across the Middle East for freedom from autocracy, while, in the Tibetan community, a die-hard champion of “people power” tries to dethrone himself and his people keep asking him to stay on. Again and again the Dalai Lama (who tends to be more radical and less romantic than most of his followers) has sought to find ways to give up power, and his community has sought to find ways to ensure he can’t. It could be said that almost the only time Tibetans don’t listen to the Dalai Lama is when he tells them they shouldn’t listen to him. Now, on the eve of an important election for Tibet’s government-in-exile, he has announced he is relinquishing formal political authority entirely—and the Tibetan government has accepted his decision, even as the move has alarmed many around the world and struck some as the end of an era.

In truth, the Dalai Lama’s statement was merely a continuation—and a stronger expression—of what he has been saying for years: that political leadership for the Tibetan people (in exile at least) belongs with the democratically elected government-in-exile he has so painstakingly set up over decades in Dharamsala, in India (elections for a new prime minister are to be held March 20); that he will function only as a “senior advisor,” helping to oversee the transition to a post-Dalai Lama era; and, most important, that the spiritual and temporal sides of Tibetan rule will at last be separate. As he noted in the speech that mentioned his “retirement”—his annual state-of-the-nation address, in effect, delivered on March 10, the anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the People’s Republic of China and a frequent day of protest—he has believed, since childhood, that church and state should not be one and that the fate of Tibet should be in the hands of all Tibetans.

Democracy, as the Dalai Lama sees it, is perfectly in tune with the Buddha’s central principles of self-rule and responsibility; it is one of the features of the wider world that long-isolated Tibet can and should now learn from; and it only stands to reason that the voices of all Tibetans be more important than that of just one—a logic that appeals to the scientist and the natural Everyman in him. Besides, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama will be 76 this July and the Dalai Lama institution cannot function as it did now that Tibet’s exiled leaders are separated from the 98 percent of Tibetans—some six million people—who live within the People’s Republic of China in circumstances of general repression and deprivation of political rights. Beijing has already “banned” reincarnations without government approval and all but announced that the finding of a “Fifteenth Dalai Lama” will lie under its jurisdiction as soon as the current, fourteenth, Dalai Lama dies.

Almost from the moment he arrived in Indian exile in 1959, the Dalai Lama drew up new constitutions for Tibetans both within Tibet and outside it, with one clause (over his people’s protests) allowing for the impeachment of a Dalai Lama, if necessary. Since then, he has carefully overseen a steady devolution of authority, setting up in Dharamsala first a parliament, then an elected Cabinet and, since 2001, a popularly elected prime minister (or Kalon Tripa, as Tibetans call it). In both the elections held so far—in 2001 and in 2006—the runaway winner has been the gentle monk Samdhong Rinpoche, whose Gandhian principles clearly meet with the Dalai Lama’s approval.

The Dalai Lama has constantly urged the Tibetan prime minister—and other government officials—to represent the political face of Tibet around the world, but none of them, of course (in a tiny exile community that numbers only 150,000 or so) possesses his natural charisma or standing in the eyes of the world. In that regard, Tibet as much as China has been a victim of the current Dalai Lama’s unusual charm and authority. And the many members of the Tibetan Youth Congress have traditionally presented a kind of loyal opposition, calling for a more forceful stance toward Beijing than the forbearance that the exile government, following the Dalai Lama, has always recommended.

But as exile Tibetans, especially in the West, see the urgency of gathering their resources now instead of waiting for the Dalai Lama’s death, there are indications that the exile government may get more involved in some of the official discussions with Beijing, which heretofore have mostly lain in the hands of the Dalai Lama’s representatives. The Dalai Lama’s hope, clearly, is that with each passing season, his exile government will be more and more of a self-sufficient body (chosen by Tibetans from around the world). In the run-up to the March 20 election for a new prime minister, there has been an extensive and eagerly contested campaign, with 17 candidates (among them three women) now whittled down to three finalists. Two of the three, Tenzin Namgyal Tethong, 62, and Tashi Wangdi, 64, are decades-long veterans of the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile and the third (and current favorite) is Lobsang Sangay, 43, a Fulbright Scholar who holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School and has been more open to calls for Tibetan “self-determination,” a subject the Dalai Lama has avoided but that is popular with more radical members of the younger exile generation. (Sangay’s dissertation, in fact, was on the very subject of democracy and the Tibetan government-in-exile.)

Responding for the first time with energy and evident excitement to their new opportunities, exiled Tibetans have held debates among the candidates, in New York and Washington and Toronto and elsewhere; flashy websites have been set up, with tributes to the candidates (“Kasur Tashi Wangdi is like Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series”); and none of the final candidates is a monk. (The Tibetan Charter calls for a maximum of two terms for any prime minister, so Samdhong Ripoche, beloved of elderly Tibetans, is stepping down). Democracy has come to neighboring Bhutan—after its king likewise imposed it on a reluctant populace four years ago—and it is showing signs of arriving in Nepal. The Dalai Lama clearly feels that the process can wait no longer and that he must push his people into full self-governance, at a time when he’s around and can, if necessary, offer encouragement and the fruits of his experience.

It’s easy to understand why Tibetans have clung for so long to the Dalai Lama’s leadership as if to their sense of themselves. He’s the only ruler most of them have known, for seventy-one years now, and pretty much the only Tibetan who can recall dealing with India’s founding statesman, Pandit Nehru, and spending a year traveling around China and talking to Mao Zedong. He is one of the last remaining symbols of the Tibet that existed for three hundred years, until the Chinese crossed Tibet’s eastern border sixty years ago. And, of course, for Tibetans the Dalai Lama is regarded as an incarnation of Chenrezig, their god of compassion, and few devout believers are likely to listen to a political candidate—even one they have elected—over a god.

Yet the Dalai Lama’s gift as a political leader has always arisen from his no-nonsense pragmatism and his monastic habit of looking to the long-term (in part, of course, because he’s never been hostage to electoral cycles, even as he’s no mere ceremonial monarch). When he tells the world that his concern is not with the Dalai Lama but with the welfare of Tibetans, he’s being characteristically precise: this Dalai Lama may not last many decades longer and, as he often stresses, the Dalai Lama institution may have outlived its usefulness. But Tibetans are going to be around for a long time, one hopes, and unless they have some experience at governing themselves, they will not begin to be effective even if those currently in exile can one day return to Tibet.

Spiritually, of course, the Dalai Lama can never retire, and can no more renounce his incarnation than any one of us can try to erase his blood or his DNA. So long as he’s around, it’s hard to imagine any Tibetan prime minister overruling him (though, of course, more and more Tibetans have been agitating for a more forceful, even confrontational approach to the deadlock with Beijing, criticizing his “Middle Way” policy even if they never criticize the man). But it’s part of his clear-headedness to see and acknowledge that political leadership may require a very different kind of training from the spiritual kind, and the conflation of the two can make for confusion. When I said to him—three years ago—that to some of us it seemed refreshing to have someone with a monk’s larger vision and moral clarity in the realm of politics, he acknowledged that it could work well, but in principle should not be encouraged.

One of the curious aspects of this global Dalai Lama’s life is that his every political statement is usually addressed to many audiences at once, not least the 6 million Tibetans in Tibet he can barely meet and the government in Beijing that he has not been able to see face-to-face. In announcing his “retirement” ten days before Sunday’s election, he was telling fellow Tibetans to seize the moment, and he was reminding the Chinese government that however much it tries to hijack or neutralize the Dalai Lama institution, political leadership among at least exiled Tibetans will remain firmly out of reach, in Dharamsala. He managed to be, in equal measure, a parent telling his charges, “I’m leaving soon (so start taking care of everything yourselves)”; and a seasoned strategist telling those who distrust him in Beijing, “If you think I’m a threat to you, or an obstruction to better relations with Tibetans, I’ll relinquish all my official power right now. Will you talk more productively to us now?”

China is never likely to worry very much about a government-in-exile in an Indian hill station representing only 2 percent of Tibetans. But the Dalai Lama’s official relinquishing of political leadership was one way of underlining to Beijing that the Tibetan problem will not go away when he dies, and that there will still be Tibetans pressing for a (probably peaceful, negotiated) settlement to the issue, to counter the more confrontational firebrands often featured in the press. Meanwhile, those in Tibet itself continue to wait for the most basic human rights, transparency and real democracy to come to them from Beijing. On March 16th, according to a report from Dharamsala, a 21-year-old Tibet monk in Sichuan Province set himself fatally alight in his monastery, both to protest Chinese rule and, perhaps, to try to spark uprisings akin to the ones seen recently in Egypt and Tunisia.

Opened the new issue of New York Review of Books to find this full-page ad!

Thank you, University of California Press!!!!!

You Can’t Please Everyone

Daniel Jalkut responds to Alex Payne:

Ambition to influence or change the world is, on its own, relatively useless. Pursuit of truth and understanding, on your own terms, is the noblest of endeavors. If you’ve got something, anything, that you can work on all day for weeks, months, or years, don’t let anybody tell you it’s not worth pursuing.

Many Styles

I've been making my way through Small Black's first full-length and the Smith Westerns first joint for most of today. I like both of them, but they seem to share a similar flaw--the songs sort of run together. Maybe I'll feel differently in a week or so. I thought the same about Passion Pit initially, but was less bothered the more I listened.

Anyway, I'm not particularly interested in bashing anyone as much as I'm interested in why this tends to happen to artists. I imagine youth and inexperience are part of it. I don't really know much about music, but I suspect there's some relationship between how much you hear--both in terms of breadth and depth--and the colors you are subsequently able to employ. The point here isn't a profane eclecticism. Indeed, nothing is worse than musicians who cite their "diverse" influences but still haven't figured how to best enroll them. The point is the difficulty in making each work in a series stand out. Again, I'm a novice at visual art, but I imagine young painters have a similar problem.

Of course, at the end, this isn't so much about Small Black or the Smith Westerns, so much as it's about me. In a few weeks I have piece on Malcolm X coming out in the magazine. I killed myself trying to come up with a lede, mostly because everything I wrote either sounded like it was cribbed from The Beautiful Struggle, or from one of the many homilies to my Dad which litter this very site. I think I wrote like ten ledes, before deciding on telling the story through my mother's eyes instead. And then I tried that ten times, until the music of it, sounded close to the music in my head. We'll see how different it is. 

But more than that, I'm struggling with the voices in the book. I think I've successfully differentiated them all, but the hardest part is inhabiting each voice in all its varying moods and motions. Think of an actor doing a one-man show. Perhaps the actor knows how to play each character angry or sad. But can the actor play the character in emotional agony? In crazy love? In solemn respect? Does each character even exhibit all of those moods? 

When I played the djimbe, every one of us had improvisational riffs which we liked. But the best could weave those riffs into other riffs and those other riffs into other riffs still, which I simply could neither imagine of duplicate. Their brain-power simply exceeded mine. The reasoning employed was almost spacial. It was like watching someone reveal beautiful and hidden pathways through a percussive wilderness. But no sooner had they guided you through, then the trees would close up behind. And if you tried to double-back, to retrace the elegant path they'd cut away, you found yourself tangled in the vines and lost in the overgrowth.

So its not so much about the young folks, as it is the challenge of any sort of creation. How do you carve your own way through the wilds? And how do you do it repeatedly in a way that, at least, looks different?

Please don't try to answer that. Answers miss the point.

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Three Down…

I wanted to post this last week, but got caught up with something or other about a bike lane. The timing worked out, though, because today we can mark an anniversary… Can you believe it’s been two years to the day since we posted this picture?

Of the four State Senators who refused to put a price on NYC’s free bridges in March, 2009 — a decision that’s hurting transit riders to this day — three are now facing federal fraud, embezzlement, and/or corruption charges. This got me wondering: Is there something intrinsic to fervent defenders of free rides that makes them more likely to go crooked? Or is just about everyone in Albany corrupt, and the feds are sending shots across the bow to the ones who might mess with our transit system in the future.

Think about it.

HTML does not have a version number

For all the reasons in this document, an API for a single-instance web services (e.g. Flickr, etc.) should not be versioned: "As previously resolved, the HTML language defined by the HTML5 spec does not have a version indicator. Distinguishing between incompatible versions of HTML was deemed to be 'something that will likely never exist', noting that 'something that has no observable effect leads to confusion; and the indicator itself would tend to encourage fragmentation and additional modes - something that there is general consensus is undesirable'. ... HTML5 redefines HTML, such that when it is published it obsoletes previous definitions: it will define a conforming document written in HTML, and indeed will be the only current definition of an HTML document."

What the NYT Pay Wall Really Costs

The New York TimesFinally delivering on a long held promise, The New York Times announced yesterday that it would debut a ‘pay wall’ around its digital products, first immediately for users in Canada and then at the end of the month for the U.S. and other countries. This is the culmination of a process that began in the dark days of the so-called Great Recession; I remember first hearing of it while employed at The Times in late 2008, I believe. There was much debate about it the next year, and an exploratory team, including myself, began putting together plans for it in the summer of 2009. The project was still evolving, and lots and lots of work remained at the time I left my job there in July 2010.

Whether the pay wall succeeds or not is an open question and I won’t pretend to know the answer. To be completely frank I was never a proponent of this concept and it was among the reasons I decided to leave my job there last year. Now that it’s here I hope it does succeed, actually, because The Times generates tremendous value for the public good and it would be terrific if we could find a way to continue to reward its talented journalists and staff for their hard work. Still, I can’t help but look at the effort that went into constructing this new revenue model and think that it has exacted an unfortunate opportunity cost on the company.

What Could Have Been

Depending on when you mark the start of the pay wall effort, it took The Times roughly eighteen months to get to this point, where they have a viable, launchable new product. That’s a long time for any company, but it’s a painfully long time to spend on a product that’s really for an audience that isn’t growing. The people who will open their wallets and subscribe will be the hard-core Times loyalists, and it’s generally understood that those folks fall into an older demographic, and that there are fewer of fewer of them every year.

There’s nothing wrong with building products for that audience, of course. But the world doesn’t stop while The Times gets its books in order. Newer, younger audiences are growing up into a world where The New York Times is an afterthought, and they’re forming patterns of news consumption that barely incorporate The Times if at all.

Just think what else could have been done with the time and resources that the company devoted to the pay wall: entirely new news products could have been developed, products that could engage a wholly different kind of audience and expand the company’s reach by several orders of magnitude. Flipboard was born in roughly that same time span; The Daily, for all of its imperfections, was conceived and launched within less than half that time; Groupon skyrocketed to prominence and tremendous revenue in that time, and over the course of the past eighteen months any number of other information-based startups and new products debuted and captured the public’s imagination. It’s exactly those kinds of innovations that The Times has needed for a very long time, frankly, but by focusing on the pay wall for most of the recent past, they effectively paused on that front for a dangerously long spell.

Ghosts of TimesSelect

The effects of this decision probably won’t be seen in the immediate future, but the long-term damage to the brand may be significant. The amount of notoriety that this new endeavor will receive is sure to be tremendous, but all the subtleties — and complex mathematics — of this new pay model are likely to be lost on most news consumers. Its many rules and semantics are simply too complex to be communicated effectively, and what’s more the marketing tends to use blatantly tricky language (e.g., “$15 every four weeks” — just tell me what I have to pay, already). I’m willing to bet that what most people will understand about this new development is that now you have to pay to read The New York Times. Period. With that misunderstanding, it wouldn’t surprise me if users start staying away in droves.

I saw something like this effect in action just last fall, at a dinner party held by some friends here in New York. Some of the other guests happened to be well-educated, high-income residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side; exactly the kind of demographic that forms loyal attachments to The New York Times brand and that the company values dearly. And yet these people were under the impression that The Times’ Opinion content — widely-read Times columnists like Maureen Dowd and David Brooks — was restricted online to everyone but subscribers.

What they were referring to of course was TimesSelect, an earlier attempt at a different kind of pay wall that restricted only a subset of The Times’ online content to subscribers. The company shuttered that effort in the fall of 2007, and yet there we were, three years later, living with its lasting effects: at least a handful of The Times’ prime customers were under the impression that The Times was not 100% free when in fact it unambiguously was at that point in time.

What I shame, I thought then. Now I wonder what people are likely to think this time around, when it seems like the entirety of the site is subject to the pay wall, and all of the reasons why it’s actually not as bad as that are being communicated in such a convoluted fashion? Not only has the company missed an opportunity to build something for new audiences, but they may also be signaling an entirely counter-productive message to their existing audience, and in a very lasting way. I worry.

Please Let Me Pay

Garrett Murray:

I’ve been complaining for years that Tumblr is free. I don’t want it to be free. I want to pay for it. Tumblr is one of the few services on earth that refuses to take my money. And it’s a shame, because rather than taking VC or running a tiny team, they could be charging customers, making money, and growing the service while remaining stable.

A Plea for Baked Weblogs

Brent Simmons:

And so, even in the year 2011, if your weblog gets Fireballed, there’s a good chance it won’t be able to handle it. That seems crazy. It’s not 1997 — it’s 2011.

It freaks me out that this is still an issue. Or, worse — sometimes it pisses me off a little, when I want to read something and I can’t. […]

I think the new technique web developers — or weblog developers, at least — ought to learn is static rendering: writing files to disk rather than building from a database on every request.

That’s how DF itself works — and has always worked — thanks to Movable Type’s default static publishing mode. I do run on a higher-end server today (thanks, Joyent), but software-wise, DF works exactly the same today as it did back in 2002, when it was serving 100 page views a day.

BBW Japan cover

Richard Turley and his Bloomberg Business Week team do it again with this stunning cover featuring the work of illustrator Noma Bar. Open the cover flap and reveal the crack/screaming face. Read Richard’s notes about making it here.


★ The Evolution of SXSW Interactive

Andy Budd, on last week’s SXSW Interactive:

In reality in think SXSW jumped the shark in 2008/09 and is now an entirely different conference. It’s just taken me a couple of years to reconcile the difference and develop a new set of coping strategies.

This year I finally gave up on the conference itself, going to a handful of sessions. I met many more who hadn’t seen a single session and several who didn’t even bother buying a ticket. Instead people spent time seeing friends and maintaining the weak ties in their social graph. I say that somewhat wryly, but SXSW really has become about networking in the most real and genuine sense of the word.

I had a great time, once again, but only in the sense that Austin is a fine city and you can’t help but have fun hanging out with good friends from across the country (and globe) whom you see in person only rarely. The conference itself, though, is a mess.

As Budd says, you can’t go from a conference of 2,500 attendees to one of 25,000 attendees without turning the event into something entirely different. I first attended SXSW Interactive in 2005 and haven’t missed one since. Each year has been bigger than the previous, and so the conference has always been changing. Once it outgrew the Austin Convention Center, though, it grew into something I no longer enjoyed. I don’t see how anyone could claim that the conference now is anything but broken.

A prime example: Despite the fact that there were almost 25,000 attendees, almost no one saw Matt Haughey’s excellent talk in person, because the conference schedulers put Haughey in an obscure location across the river, a mile away from the Austin Convention Center. There were about 30 or 40 people in the room for his talk. Good sessions are scheduled at bad times in obscure locations and banal, unprepared panels are held in cavernous but empty rooms in the ACC. It could well be that SXSW Interactive 2011 was as well-produced as it could have been given 25,000 attendees and the space available in downtown Austin. I just don’t think it’s possible to program a cohesive, interesting, accessible session schedule given those constraints.

Used to be that SXSW was an interesting conference and a great weekend experience. Now it’s a terrible conference and a good-but-crowded weekend experience. Maybe 25,000 attendees can’t be wrong, and I’m just a curmudgeon yearning for the days of old. There’s no denying that the ACC was packed with people every day. But everyone I know either (a) attended only a handful of sessions; (b) went to sessions but complained bitterly about the quality and regretted the waste of their time; or (c) didn’t even bother getting a conference pass this year. There’s something sad about a conference where it’s now considered the smart move not to even attend. There’s got to be a better way.

What Would Wu Tang Do?!
via alwaysphilthy

What Would Wu Tang Do?!

via alwaysphilthy

Why PSGI/Plack Matters (Testing)

Plack is one of the most important projects in the Perl world in the last two years. It's a good idea borrowed from Python's WSGI and Ruby's Rack but made Perlish; it's a simple formalizing of a pattern of web application development, where the entry point into the application is a function reference and the exit point is a tuple of header information and a response body.

That's it. That's as simple as it can be, and that simplicity deceives a lot of people who want to learn it.

Test::WWW::Mechanize::PSGI is one of many reasons why it matters.

Given a Plack application, you don't have to deploy to a web server—even locally—to test your application as if it were deployed. TWMP executes your application as if it were running via Plack (because it is!) and allows you to perform Test::WWW::Mechanize tests against it.

Certainly you need to test that you've deployed your application correctly when you do deploy it, but that's a single test.

Plack and TWMP (and Plack::Test) use the well-defined Plack pattern to make something which was previously difficult into something amazingly easy. They're not the first and they won't be the last, but they do demonstrate the value of Plack.

The story of Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail is one of the most-played video games in history, and certainly one of the most popular educational games. Here's the history of how the game was developed.

Forty years and ten iterations later, the Oregon Trail has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, becoming the most widely distributed educational game of all time. Market research done in 2006 found that almost 45 percent of parents with young children knew Oregon Trail, despite the fact that it largely disappeared from the market in the late '90s.

A recent frenzy of nostalgia over the game has yielded everything from popular T-shirts ("You have died of dysentery") to band tour promotions ("Fall Out Boy Trail") to humorous references on popular websites ("Digg has broken an axle").

"It's hard to think of another game that endured for so long and yet has still been so successful," says Jon-Paul Dyson, director of the International Center for the History of Electronic Games at the Strong. "For generations of computer users, it was their introduction to gaming, and to computer use itself."

Tags: Oregon Trail   video games

Pleased to meet you. What’s the greatest movie ever made?

(From the Seth Saith blog)

Kristin here:

Way back in January Jim Emerson participated in the “Movie Tree House” conversation on Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. On January 14, his blog recounted his discussion of the differences between “average viewers” and those of us who are more intensely involved in films in one way or another:

I met a very nice, intelligent woman (maybe ten years older than me) at a New Year’s Eve party and she told me “The King’s Speech” was the best movie she’d ever seen. I responded politely by showing (genuine) enthusiasm for Geoffrey Rush’s performance. But I don’t know what to say to something like that. I mean, I had no reason or desire to dismiss her, but it wasn’t the kind of statement that calls for critical analysis, either. It was just social small talk. But I believe she was quite moved by the film. And, yes, there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

He added:

I thought of saying, “Wow. My favorite movie is ‘Nashville.’ Or maybe ‘Chinatown.’ Or ‘Only Angels Have Wings.’” But I didn’t think the conversation would have much opportunity to go anywhere from there, so I didn’t.

I suspect Jim’s experience is common among people whose main vocation is writing about films. When I meet someone who isn’t a film buff or scholar, he or she almost inevitably asks one of two questions: “What is your favorite film?” or “What do you think is the greatest film ever made?” From the looks on their faces, I suspect they really want to know the answer and think that it will be interesting, even gratifying. After all, meeting a film critic or historian is less common and more potentially interesting than meeting a mathematician.

Up to now, I have generally answered honestly that I think the greatest film ever made is Jacques Tati’s Play Time and that it’s probably my favorite as well. Or I say that it’s hard to choose, but some candidates would be Ozu Yasujiro’s Late Spring, Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game, Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, and Play Time. Almost invariably the smile on my interlocutor’s face fades into disappointment as he or she admits to never having heard of any of these films, let alone having seen them. Awkward pause, with conversation turning to other matters or my making a feeble attempt to say sometime to encourage the person to give these films a try.

I think I’ve come up with a better way to answer these questions. I’ll say something like, “Well, lately I’ve really enjoyed True Grit and Toy Story 3.” This dodges the question, but the person is bound to have heard of these, likely to have seen one or both, and may well have something to say about them—though I hope it isn’t “Yes, that’s the best film I’ve ever seen.”

Maybe that tactic will work. After all, most movie-goers work on what in cognitive psychology is called “the recency effect.” Our memories of things we’ve just experienced are more vivid in our minds than those from longer ago, even though those older experiences may have seemed equally intense or pleasurable at the time.

I ran across a good example of this effect in an Amazon review of True Grit posted by Harold Greene. Giving the film five stars, he enthuses, “I am reluctant to declare it THE best movie I have ever seen in my life but in five weeks watching it every Saturday night I can recall none to surpass it.” As a fan of True Grit and the Coen Brothers, I would believe that possibly it is the best film Mr. Greene has ever seen. But it could equally be that the intense repetition of viewings may have solidified the recency effect and diminished his memory of other films that he esteemed equally at the time.

More generally, the recency effect tends to be borne out when one of my colleagues in film studies here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison surveys their students at the beginning of a course. The goal is to find out something about their knowledge of film going into the class. One question, “What is your favorite film?” almost invariably elicits a title released in the past year or so.

So I suspect that the party-goer asking about my favorite film would be satisfied with my talking about recent movies I’ve enjoyed. The real puzzle, though, is why such people would ask such questions to begin with.

One possibility is that most people have very little sense that there is a vast body of movies out there, from over a century and from many significant filmmaking countries. Their impression of film history, as reflected in the popular media, could reasonably be that the film I might name as the greatest is probably one they’ve heard of, maybe Casablanca or Citizen Kane or The Godfather or La Dolce Vita or even Avatar.

Could it be that my questioner is hoping, probably without realizing it, that I will name his or her own favorite film? Or at least a title that he or she has seen and enjoyed? Or at least heard of? In the latter case, the person can hold up his or her side of the conversation by responding, “Oh, I’ve heard of that and have been meaning to watch it. I must put it in my Netflix queue.” A satisfactory conclusion to that little stretch of social interaction, and it does happen, albeit rarely.

I try to imagine whether scholars of opera or poetry get such questions at parties. Does someone who has just been introduced to them ask what their favorite opera or poem is? Maybe. I wouldn’t. My typical response on learning that a perfect stranger standing in front of me is a professor of something is to ask what his or her area of specialization is, hoping that it’s something I know a bit about (Vivaldi operas as opposed to Verdi, nineteenth-century Victorian novels as opposed to Renaissance poetry).

I have to admit, some people I meet at parties do launch in by asking me what areas of film I study, which makes the subsequent conversation less likely to end in mutual embarrassment. That is, with me looking like a pointy-headed, ivory-tower intellectual who wouldn’t be caught dead watching Cedar Rapids (which I’m actually looking forward to seeing) and my new acquaintance looking like an ignorant clod who doesn’t look beyond this year’s Oscar nominees (even though he or she has probably in reality seen quite a lot of excellent movies).

This entry on Jim’s blog led to a touchy exchange in his comments section about whether he and the other participants in the dialogue were being condescending to “average viewers.” This sort of disagreement seems inevitable, since people who know a great deal about any subject are likely to seem condescending to people who don’t, even if that is not their intention. But the question I’m asking is not whether “average viewers” have good taste. Some do, some don’t. So far I’ve just been trying to figure out why many of them seem determined to ask experts questions that will very likely expose their own lack of knowledge.

Beyond that issue, though, is the symptomatic implication of these two nearly universal cocktail-party questions. I think people are more apt to ask “What do you think the greatest film is?” than “What do you think the greatest opera is?” because film is still taken less seriously as an art-form than are the “high” arts. Most people think they know more about film than they do about opera because almost anyone you and I are likely to meet goes to movies more than to operas. The fact that a steady diet of well-reviewed, even Oscar-nominated Hollywood films remains only a tiny slice of the entire range of surviving movies made so far doesn’t occur to them. The same is true even for those who see the occasional indie or foreign-language film.

It used to be that a good liberal-arts education gave a young person a solid foundation in fields like music and art. I took two four-credit semesters of classical-music appreciation as a freshman and have benefited ever since. I took literature courses, and although I took only one semester of art appreciation, I have filled in by visiting museums all over the world. Even so, I would be cautious in trying to make conversation about topics like ballet, which I realize I know very little about.

Yet, the “What’s your favorite film?” question doesn’t just come from neighbors I see only at the annual block-party potluck or over bed-and-breakfast buffets. It comes from college professors who themselves are often specialists in one of the arts. They probably would feel, as well-rounded intellectuals, required to know at least something about the other arts—except film.

David was once talking with a distinguished literary scholar who would have been appalled if someone in a university had never heard of Faulkner or Thomas Mann. But when David said he admired many Japanese films, the scholar asked incredulously, “All those Godzilla movies?”

That’s really the crux of what bothers me about the awkward great-film/favorite-film question. If it’s a non-academic who asks it, it tends to be a conversation-stopper, which is unfortunate. But anyone is entitled to love the movies they want to love and to believe, if they wish, that Avatar is the greatest film ever made.

But when academics who would claim to be well-educated in the arts look blank when I mention The Rules of the Game or one of the other likely masterpieces of world cinema, I do mentally pass judgment. Is it more important to be aware of Monteverdi’s Orfeo or Velasquez’s Las Meninas than of Renoir’s film? Obviously I would say no. Yet I don’t think that these academics feel particularly embarrassed at not recognizing the title of a mere film.

This is not to say that all liberal-arts academics in other fields are ignorant of film and its history. On the contrary, we have friends who certainly know as much about the subject as we do about any other art form. But on the whole, in-depth knowledge of film is fairly uncommon across the campus. There are physicists who play piano sonatas and biologists who love painting, but those typically aren’t the people showing up for our Cinematheque screenings. The question isn’t merely one of taste either. In universities, people in the other arts vote on funding for film programs. If they deep down consider film a lesser art form and hence an inconsequential subject of study, we can expect less support, or perhaps the sort of condescending support that says, in effect, “Well, I suppose that since it’s popular with students we should go ahead . . .”

A final note. If anything I have said here sounds “elitist,” you might consider the vast movement we see occurring in this country’s politics, especially on the far right, where any learning at all is equated with elitism and any experience in public office is equated with being tainted. When our educational system is being systematically downgraded, expecting people to learn things is simple common sense.

Has Hollywood Finally Gone Too Far?

The 1970s, aka THE best decade for couples yachting.

Ben and Casey Affleck (henceforth “Ben Affleck”) and Matt Damon are working on a movie about the whole Fritz Peterson/Mike Kekich wife-swapping thing from the 70s (tentative title: “The Trade”). To me this sounds ok. The story’s old news, but it could make a good movie.

Unless… wait a second. Is it possible that well-known Red Sox propagandists Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, in making a film about a controversy involving Yankee players, are actually committing a deeply violative act? Is this in fact a veritable crime, being perpetrated upon honest Yankees of yore by partisans of a pathetically incompetent and unredeemably racist rival team? In a dark paroxysm of vindictive hypocrisy?

Yahoo! Sports Contributor Network contributing user Roy A. Barnes thinks so.

Some choicer morsels:

“As a fan of the New York Yankees for more than 30 years, I find this utterly disgraceful that these Hollywood elites would try to dig up a dubious chapter in the personal lives of former Red Sox rival players for profit.”

Whenever someone uses “elite” pejoratively, I think to myself: You don’t understand what words mean.

“Let the smug Hollywood elites Affleck and Damon go back to the first glory days of the Bosox, a time when they were a baseball powerhouse in the first part of the 20th century. That is, until the team owner Harry Frazee had the brilliant idea in late 1919 of selling off Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees so he could raise money for his theatre productions on Broadway. What a swap indeed (for the Yankees)…”

Odd spelling of “theater” from an elite-bashing Yankees fan. Is Mr. Barnes actually an elite-loving Anglophile in disguise, merely masquerading here as a lunchpail Yankees diehard? Or worse, could he actually be Canadian, and therefore ineligible for true citizenship in Yankee Nation?

“Ben Affleck and Matt Damon like to wring their hands and open their pie holes over various social causes, so let them do a movie take on why their beloved team was the last club to allow an African American to play for them, and thus, finally showing some racial tolerance.”

Probably a movie that should be made. Point: Roy A. Barnes.

“Keep your noses out of Bronx Bombers’ ‘family business’ that’s over and done with. Neither one of you exploiters are truly welcome to focus on anything sensitive (or otherwise) having to do with Yankee Nation.”

First, it’s unusual to see someone describe celebrity wife-swapping as “family business,” as if it deserves grade-A sacrosanctity. Second, what’s the real danger to Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich’s privacy? Everybody already knows this story! It’s documented on Wikipedia! Also: they were players for the Yankees, and they SWAPPED WIVES! Could these guys have had a reasonable expectation that the world would forget about that, ever, for the rest of their lives?

Roy A. Barnes, self-appointed guardian of “anything sensitive (or otherwise) having to do with Yankee Nation,” feels Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have gone too far. I disagree. But then, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I would.


Grant Hill claps back:

In his garbled but sweeping comment that "Duke only recruits black Uncle Toms," Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today. And, I wonder if I would have suggested to former Detroit Pistons GM Rick Sund to keep Jimmy King on the team if I had known, back then in the mid-90s, that he would call me a bitch on a nationally televised show in 2011. 

I am beyond fortunate to have two parents who are still working well into their 60s. They received great educations and use them every day. My parents taught me a personal ethic I try to live by and pass on to my children. They remain committed to each other after more than 40 years and to my wife, Tamia, our children, and me. They are my role models and always will be.

In moments like these, it's always worth revisiting the original statement:

For me, Duke was personal. I hated Duke and I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms." 

I was jealous of Grant Hill. He came from a great black family, congratulations. Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hilary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL, is a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn't know.

I don't find this garbled, or sweeping at all. Indeed, I find it quite clear. I think you can debate Rose's critique of Duke--which he still holds today. But it's very hard for me to read this and believe that Jalen Rose is either saying, or implying, "Grant Hill and his family are Uncle Toms." On the contrary, I think  Rose was making as much of statement about Duke, as he was about himself. Rose literally says "I was jealous of Grant Hill." He literally says "He came from a great black family." He literally says "I was bitter." I've heard accusations of Tomming before. Rarely have I known them to be this reflective. 

With that said, I do not think Hill's response should be dismissed. He goes to great lengths to detail his family own long hard struggle toward prosperity. Reading through that, it occurred to me that this almost certainly was not the first time he'd been accused of Tomming, or acting white, or some variant. It's worth watching the clip above, because at the end Rose basically confesses to doing exactly that. I think if there was some history of people interrogating and attacking my identity, I wouldn't really be in the mood for parsing and nuance.

I think it's possible that Hill may not be reacting to the specific comments of today, but a litany of similar comments over the years, some of which seem to have been lobbed by Rose himself. Were I Rose, I like to think I'd give some thought to what I'd said in the past to people like Hill, and what other players around me had said. The ability to analyze your errors is significant. But it's a balm for you--not for others. It's likely that Grant Hill is not just looking for self-reflection, but some contrition. I can't say that's wrong.

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Micah Lexier + Christian Bok

A collaborative work by artist Micah Lexier and poet Christian Bok. I’ve always loved text-based work and for me this is a masterpiece.

Micah Lexier + Christian Bok

Photo taken by Jacklyn Atlas.

Emma Goldman Sticker

Ben Rubin Emma Goldman Sticker $1 This is a screenprinted vinyl sticker of the Emma Goldman Celebrate People's History poster. 1 color screenprinted sticker on vinyl 3"x5" unsigned/unnumbered 04emmastik_400.jpg

March 17, 2011

Found on 6th Street & Congress in Austin,...

Found on 6th Street & Congress in Austin, Texas.

via interweber

If I Could Have Linked to This Tweet a Few Hours Ago, It Would Have Saved Me a Lot of Typing

Mark Pilgrim:

Wait, so the big conspiracy is that Apple made their browser faster? We should all have these problems.

Notch shares some of his pre-Minecraft games

success is rarely overnight; like Ze, it takes feedback and iteration over time  

I found my old Turbo Pascal projects! :D :D Screenshots!

I found my old Turbo Pascal projects! :D :D Screenshots!

★ Why the Nitro JavaScript Engine Isn’t Available to Apps Outside Mobile Safari in iOS 4.3

Along a similar line to today’s story about the performance differences between Mobile Safari and the system-wide UIWebView control in iOS 4.3, was Tuesday’s mini-brouhaha about web app performance outside Mobile Safari. The Register, as usual, sensationalized it best, in a story headlined “Apple Handcuffs ‘Open’ Web Apps on iPhone Home Screen”:

Apple’s iOS mobile operating system runs web applications at significantly slower speeds when they’re launched from the iPhone or iPad home screen in “full-screen mode” as opposed to in the Apple Safari browser, and at the same time, the operating system hampers the performance of these apps in other ways, according to tests from multiple developers and The Register.

It’s unclear whether these are accidental bugs or issues consciously introduced by Apple. But the end result is that, at least in some ways, the iOS platform makes it harder for web apps to replace native applications distributed through the Apple App Store, where the company takes a 30 per cent cut of all applications sold. Whereas native apps can only run on Apple’s operating system, web apps — built with standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript — can potentially run on any device.

“Apple is basically using subtle defects to make web apps appear to be low quality — even when they claim HTML5 is a fully supported platform,” says one mobile web app developer, who asked that his name not be used.

The clear insinuation is that web apps running outside Mobile Safari have been made to run slower, but that’s not true. What happened with iOS 4.3 is that web apps (and JavaScript in general) running inside Mobile Safari have been made significantly faster.

The Nitro JavaScript engine is only available within Mobile Safari. Outside Mobile Safari — whether in App Store apps using the UIWebView control, or in true web apps that have been saved to the home screen — apps get iOS’s older JavaScript engine.

Put another way: nothing is slower regarding web apps or web page rendering in iOS 4.3 compared to 4.2 or earlier. If anything, everything is at least a little bit faster. But: the most significant performance improvements in iOS 4.3, particularly for JavaScript, are exclusive to Mobile Safari.

The obvious question: Why? The cynical answer is that Apple seeks to discourage the use of home screen web apps. But if that were the case, why don’t apps from the App Store get Nitro either? Many, many App Store apps use embedded UIWebView controls for displaying web content.

The real answer is about security. Perhaps the biggest reason for Nitro’s performance improvements over WebKit’s previous JavaScript engine is the use of a JIT — “Just-In-Time” compilation. Here’s Wikipedia’s page on JIT. A JIT requires the ability to mark memory pages in RAM as executable, but, iOS, as a security measure, does not allow pages in memory to be marked as executable. This is a significant and serious security policy. Most modern operating systems do allow pages in memory to be marked as executable — including Mac OS X, Windows, and (I believe) Android1. iOS 4.3 makes an exception to this policy, but the exception is specifically limited to Mobile Safari.

It’s a trade-off. Most OSes allow marking memory pages as executable for performance reasons. iOS disallows it for security reasons. If you allow for pages of memory to be escalated from writable to executable (even if you require the page be made permanently read-only first), then you are enabling the execution of unsigned native code. It breaks the chain of trust. Allowing remote code to execute locally turns every locally exploitable security flaw into a remotely exploitable one.

Apple, as of iOS 4.3, trusts Mobile Safari enough to allow this. The upside is that Mobile Safari is now significantly faster. The downside is that any security exploits against Mobile Safari now potentially allow worse things to happen than before.

Web apps that are saved to the home screen do not run within Mobile Safari. They’re effectively saved as discrete apps — thin wrappers around the UIWebView control. (That’s why they show up individually in the task bar, just like apps from the App Store.) Home screen apps may well eventually get access to the Nitro JavaScript engine — Apple simply hasn’t yet done (or perhaps finished?) the security work to allow it. It is not an oversight or a bug, or the result of a single person at Apple wishing to hinder the performance of web apps.

One way Apple could make Nitro available system-wide in iOS would be to do something similar to what they’ve done with web content plugins (like Flash Player) on Mac OS X: execute JavaScript in a separate (trusted) process that maps back to the host app. On Snow Leopard, Flash Player no longer executes within Safari; instead it gets its own process. Similarly, Apple could introduce a dedicated Nitro JavaScript process that executes JavaScript for any app, rather than executing within any app. I have no idea whether this is something Apple is considering or working on, I’m just saying it’s one way they could offer JavaScript JIT compilation to apps system-wide without allowing most processes to mark writable pages in memory as executable.

In short, iOS was designed from the ground up to be more secure than Mac OS X. The price for this trade-off is performance.

Note too, that Nitro isn’t new. The WebKit team first announced it (then known as “SquirrelFish Extreme”) back in September 2008. That it took until now to show up at all on iOS is an indication of how complicated these security implications are. That Nitro’s availability on iOS is limited to Mobile Safari today does not imply that it will always be limited to Mobile Safari.

  1. I’m actually not 100 percent sure that this is true for Android, but my understanding is that every app on Android is running in a JIT. That’s how the Dalvik virtual machine works — and the use of a JIT is the reason why recent versions of Android have performed significantly better than previous ones. I don’t see how they could be using a system-wide JIT if the Android OS disallowed processes from marking pages in memory as executable. But if I’m wrong about this, let me know


This past weekend I traveled to SxSW and ate tacos, drank too much, bought a bicycle and rode it around Austin, discovered a cave full of bats, met some internet friends, extemporenously spoke about Hitler and Helvetica in front of 200 people, ate more tacos, and illustrated a supplemental newspaper with Richard Turley and the Guardian.

It all started by accepting Mike Monteiro‘s duel for revenge since our Layer Tennis match last Fall. As the host for Battldecks he invited me to join five others in a public flogging all in the name of comedy. Then, Richard asked if I was interested in teaming up with him and his friends from The Guardian who were also going to SxSW. They were creating a pop-up newspaper and they had invited him to come and design it. Of course I said yes- I am incapable of enjoying a vacation without working.

The only plan we had was to not have a plan. We agreed to start thinking about it on the flight to Austin and to be honest I spent most of the plane ride sleeping.

So, for most of Saturday and all of Sunday I was locked in a room with MONSTER energy drinks and four handsome men- Ian KatzPaul Macinnes, Stephen Abbott, and Richard Turley. We worked out of the offices of the Austin Chronicle Newspaper which was seven miles away from downtown… so when not designing we spent most of our dignity begging for cabs and car rides back to the bars.

Richard tells the SxSW story and more pictures on his tumblr. “The only cruel blow of an otherwise excellent day was Guardian’s Deputy Editor making a harsh late ruling, deeming the word ‘vibrator’ inappropriate for a family audience on the infographical page. But apparently he is in charge.”

Distributed exclusively at SxSW (available as of 3/14).

On Expectations (And A Writer's Lack Of Same)

by admin

This winter I got a rejection note for a short story I had sent out to a magazine 838 days previously. I have too much personal integrity to name the magazine (that was a joke; I don’t; I’m just scared of editorial blacklists), but here’s a short list of things I did with my life while that magazine was considering whether to publish my 16-page story: I grew my hair ten inches; I paid off a car loan, I did my taxes (three times); I got my own apartment; I read 131 books; I attended two weddings and a baby shower; I cut my hair off again; I drove across the country three times. Additionally: I completed an MFA in creative writing, taught five semesters’ worth of college freshmen how to write, and, after 149 job applications, landed a full-time position with health insurance and a 401(k). I wrote a dozen more stories and the beginning of a novel. I sold reviews and articles to various markets. I actually published the story in question in another magazine. In the animal kingdom, the elephant is considered to have an especially long gestation period at 22 months. Depending on your reckoning, 838 days is one elephant, two giraffes, three humans, five sheep, 19 kangaroos, 25 litters of rabbits or 70 litters of North American opossums. If I'm good in this life, perhaps heaven will be the chance to set a pair of possums loose in a certain editorial office.

Read the full story at The Awl


paywall reactions

I've been collecting some interesting bits throughout the day about the NY Times paywall announcement. Will update this throughout the day with more as I find them...

Dave Winer: "Wouldn't it have been wise to, at this juncture, offer something to sweeten the deal. Something truly exciting and new that you get when you pay the money. Something that makes your palms sweat and your heart beat faster?"

Megan Garber at Nieman: "None of those details are surprising. (Other than the prices, which, wow.)" (I agree. What's interesting, though, is that this will probably push me to subscribe to the weekend paper edition. I want the Sunday Times anyway...so the digital stuff would be gravy.)

David Weinberger: "Really? The entire nation of Canada is just a beta tester for the US and the rest of the world?How do you find out what version number is Canada up to, anyway? Click on the maple leaf?"

Cory Doctorow: "Lots of people are going to greet the NYT paywall with eye-rolling and frustration: You stupid piece of technology, what do you mean I've seen 20 stories this month? This is exactly the wrong frame of mind to be in when confronted with a signup page (the correct frame of mind to be in on that page is, Huh, wow, I got tons of value from the Times this month. Of course I'm going to sign up!)"

Danny Sullivan: "NYT introducing new roulette paywall, where whether you have to pay or not depends on how the ball drops." (This, I think, combined with Cory's point above, will be the biggest weakness: I'm an (obviously) engaged consumer of the Times, and I don't understand how this is going to work, and when I land on the wall it's going to feel random, and it's going to make me reach for the back button instead of the "subscribe" button.)

Felix Salmon: "What does all this mean for the New York Times Company? I can’t see how it’s good. The paywall is certainly being set high enough that a lot of regular readers will not subscribe. These are readers who would normally link to the NYT from their blogs, who would tweet NYT articles, who would post those articles on Facebook, and so on. As a result, not only will traffic from these readers decline, but so will all their referral traffic, too. The NYT makes more than $300 million a year in digital ad revenue, so even a modest decline in pageviews, relative to what the site could have generated sans paywall, can mean many millions of dollars foregone. On top of that, the paywall itself cost somewhere over $40 million to develop." (Go read the whole thing -- Salmon does the math on the potential impact, and argues that it won't be big.)

Mark Potts: "This really looks like small potatoes, perhaps just a sop to virulent 'we must get paid!' factions within the Times." (There are these strains of virulent factions? I'd love to learn more about them -- are they journalists? Or business people? Or do they run the subscription business? I can't imagine the Times making this massive bet (tech investment, business model change, etc.) just to appease some people on the management team...)

Andrew Ross Sorkin: "To honor our commitment to our loyal DealBook readers, all our articles will continue to be accessible without a digital subscription." (Wow.)

Danny Sullivan: "In the end, it seems like you want a paywall that gives your most loyal users something you don’t give the drive-by readers. I suppose convenience is part of that, but right now, as announced, the paywall is so riddled with holes that drive-bys won’t be inconvenienced at all."

"The thing we have to realise is that this isn’t an era of control. Our attempts to control the..."

““The thing we have to realise is that this isn’t an era of control. Our attempts to control the world have multiplied so much that they themselves have become part of the system, part of the world, and the entire thing has once again become chaotic, unpredictable, and uncontrollable.””


matt webb on fukushima and engineering (via sippey)

I had a timely conversation with Zadi last night about time and historicity, revolution and evolution, which all dovetailed nicely with my interest in control and accidents and decay.

recent question on my mind: have we gotten better with prediction because of an increase in knowledge and analysis or is it a false improvement based on algorithmically reducing the number of possible outcomes that we are willing to consider?

I remember the big fear in the early days of audio/video codecs was that lossy compression would limit the range of sound/color/saturation we would experience and that this would have an effect on the music and film that we create. Similarly, if all content is packaged for SEO, are we limiting the practical range of thought?

So is the normalization and ‘databasization’ of experience just Orwell’s Newspeak through math?

Bloops: Sabermetric Cartoons!

Curious about the role of luck in pitching statistics? Then prepare yourself for a series of sabermetric cartoons courtesy of DRaysBay's Bradley Woodrum...

I'm pretty sure he's going to continue making these, so check out Bradley's YouTube account to keep up with future sabermetric cartoons.

Shane MacGowan Plays Queens

After Monday night's Pogues show, Shane came to Astoria, then joined the local band onstage for an excellent interpretation of "Sweet Jane."

Mets connection? Well, Shane was replaced in the Pogues for a spell by Joe Strummer, who once rocked Shea Stadium with the Clash. I'd like to think that if Shane was into baseball, he'd be a Met fan.

Just setting the St. Patrick's Day mood, people:

GQ: Philly has Worst Fans in America

Posted in MetsBlog

According to GQ Magazine, Philadelphia is home to the worst fans in America, writing:

Over the years, Philadelphia fans have booed Santa Claus, their own star players, and most absurdly, the recipient of America’s very first hand transplant, whose crime was dribbling in a ceremonial first pitch. … Things reached their nadir last season, when Citizens Bank Park played host to arguably the most heinous incident in the history of sports: A drunken fan intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl. The truth is this: All told, Philadelphia stadiums house the most monstrous collection of humanity outside of the federal penal system. “Some of these people would boo the crack in the Liberty Bell,” baseball legend Pete Rose once said. More likely, these savages would have thrown the battery that cracked it.”

How much do you want to bet they figure out some way to make this New York’s fault? Because, like with everything Philadelphia, they can’t help but drag New York in to everything.

Speaking of New York, the Yankees check in at No. 9 (not New York as a whole), while the Mets are no place to be found on the list, just like it should be.

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On The Run

Still trying to chase something down here at SXSW guys. I desperately want to follow-up on he Grant Hill-Jalen Rose contretemps. I've tweeted about it some, but I think there's more here beyond the "Is Grant Hill right?" issue that should be addressed. I hope to do that soon. But I don't want to rush it.

For now, the house is yours. Don't stab anyone. 

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What Next Iron Chef Nate Appleman Has Been Doing at Chipotle

"I'm not joking when I say that I eat a Chipotle vegetarian burrito every single day."

Nate Appleman 3_Ep3[1].jpg

Chef Appleman competing on Food Network's Chopped All-Stars. [Photograph: Food Network]

Some of you became familiar with chef Nate Appleman during his intense stint on The Next Iron Chef. Appleman was known for his nose-to-tail style of cooking, not to mention being ultra competitive. Quite a bit has changed since his appearance on the show. He's now focusing on vegetarian food and recently made a career move that's left many scratching their heads.

Named a Rising Star Chef from the James Beard Foundation and a Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef, Appleman has worked in critically-acclaimed kitchens in California and New York, but recently took a job working for the chain Chipotle Mexican Grill and currently, can be seen working the line at their Manhattan test kitchen location in Chelsea.

Appleman broke from burrito-making for a bit to chat with us about his new job and upcoming appearance on Chopped All-Stars this Sunday, March 20.


Chiptole napkin walks you through the burrito-eating process. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

What exactly is your new gig with Chipotle? I can't get into too many specifics, but I'm doing research development. I've been with the company three months and am currently working the line at the Chelsea location, making burritos.

What has the reaction from people in the culinary industry been like? To be honest, I don't really care. I did this for me and for the people who eat Chipotle's food. I believe in the company and their practices. I didn't do this for other chefs or food people, this isn't a PR thing. It is; however, the craziest thing I've ever done in my life. It's also sort of my way out of the spotlight. I'm not bashing the celebrity thing. I'm a part of it, but I was getting a little overwhelmed.

Why do you think more fast food chains haven't followed suit with natural, organic ingredients? Most people start chains to make money. Steve Ells started Chipotle as a restaurant and turned it into a chain. Quality wise, things have only gotten better for Chipotle since restaurant number one because the company now has more resources. This model can be used elsewhere, but each Chipotle is independently run. Many fast food places are franchised and Chipotle isn't, which allows them to have more control over the quality of the food they're putting out.

Before joining Chipotle, had you ever cooked Mexican food before? I'd never cooked Mexican food. We're not serving authentic regional food. We're just scratching the surface of what Mexican food is, but the food is light, crisp, and refreshing.

What's your usual order? I'm not joking when I say that I eat a Chipotle vegetarian burrito every single day. It's rice, black beans, peppers, onions, and guacamole. I'm thinking a lot about vegetarian food these days, which is kind of funny when you consider what I'm known for. Right now I'm experimenting with something called Garden Blend for Chipotle, which is a soy and protein combo. I'm going for vegetarian food more often and now it's my goal to only eat very good meat, which means eating it much more rarely than I used to. I'm treating meat as something special.

When can we expect to see some of your Chipotle creations? I'm running a special this week at the Chelsea location; it's a chicken and pork chorizo I developed. I think it tastes really good and it fits into our system, meaning that it will hold up well on the line. Working in this industry doesn't present a lot of constraints necessarily, but you have to take more into account when developing recipes and thankfully, my mindset has always been total carcass utilization. I don't know if people know this, but Chipotle's don't have freezers. Chipotle is the first restaurant I've worked in since I started at 14 that doesn't have a freezer. I've really found a home at Chipotle. I know a lot of people think it's crazy, but I feel like I've landed on a great thing here and I'm really excited about the food.

How'd you get involved with Chopped All-Stars? I'd only seen one episode because my friend Amanda (Freitag) was a judge. I was happy to do it for charity, but the ingredients were so weird and you don't really have time to think. You start cooking and then think of your dish.

Has your focus in the kitchen changed since having a son? My focus is constantly changing and still evolving now. I did start making more conscious decisions about where my son and I ate. When I was living in California, there were amazing taquerias, but you never know the source of the ingredients. That's when I started going to Chipotle with my son. It was organic, natural food that I could trust.

Have you gotten used to all the media attention? I treat media as just another aspect of my job. I'm finally at a point in my life where work doesn't consume me; what I do doesn't define who I am. It still feels weird getting out of a taxi with my son and have strangers come up and talk to me. When I see Rosario Dawson in the East Village do I want to walk up to her and ask her to have my children? Yes. But would I actually approach her? No. Celebrity is a weird thing. I don't know how very famous people do it.

Rules For Online Writing Happiness

As I have picked up the pace of writing on this site recently, I have kept a few general rules in the back of my head as I envision what a 2011 variation of this site looks like.

This is what I do to ensure carpeaqua is a site I am proud to write on. You shouldn’t listen to a single word I say. Instead, make your own list of rules and follow it. Anything you create in 2011 should be designed to make you happy, not some anonymous person on the Internet.

  1. Don’t refer to it as a blog or blogging. I refer to this as my web site and what I do here as writing. Traditional blogging is now so mainstream there is no reason for a special, differentiating name.
  2. Assert I do my best to never use phrases like I think, in my opinion, or other fluffy phrasing. It should be assumed that everything here is my opinion. Most of the time when people use superlatives such as I believe it is to soften the blow of an opinion. Luckily I don’t have those concerns. I’m a walking opinion.
  3. Comments are for your site I haven’t had comments on here in years and have no intentions to. The best way to share information or a response to an article is to write a post on your own site that links back or via Twitter. Search engines and Analytics software are good enough to ferret out incoming links so I never feel like I am missing a follow-up.1
  4. Make it easy to share This one pains me a bit, but it’s essential. At the bottom of each full post I have a Facebook and Twitter button so users are a click away from sharing my content with their followers. Most sites have ruined this practice by going overboard with adding a dozen sharing service buttons. I hope having the big two taking up 50px at the bottom of each article isn’t too Valley.
  1. The pro-comments community will always shout about how this is stifling their free speech by not allowing comments. They’ll also bring up how not allowing comments is detrimental to the Internet because you are cutting off a communication venue. Both are false. The Internet is global, so the concept of free speech in the US constitution does not count. Second, I checked the constitution and Thomas Jefferson never made mention of freedom to comment on privately owned blogs.

Japanese Earthquake Cover
Major news events make for exciting...




Japanese Earthquake Cover

Major news events make for exciting times at news magazines/newspapers. The rush of a story breaking, it developing around you, the adrenalised feeling of seeing a bit of history unfold and the rush of having to grasp it, process it and make sense of it for the reader in the context of his/her experience. 

Coupled with that, the competitive nature of EVERY SINGLE EDITOR I HAVE EVER WORKED WITH to feel that they have handled the story the best, got the definitive story, the best piece of analysis, the best pictures, the best cover. This makes for a lot of work, a lot of discussion and a lot of not leaving the office and eating takeaway pizza.

And I don’t mean to knock that. The desire to serve your readers best is fundamental to the success of any publication. Especially as a consequence of the public interest in the given event, readership tends to swell too, so it’s a good opportunity to show off your journalism in the hope that new readers come back again.

For me, this cover was initiated in a phone call with Josh. He knew he didn’t want a picture, there were already too many, too much noise. We wanted something quieter and more solemn. We talked about more elaborate illustration, but Noma Bar jumped quickly to mind. Noma needs no introduction. Has a very cool head when it comes down to finding the idea in it’s simplest form.

So by the time I got back to New York on Tuesday, Noma had sent a load of roughs through. (Apart from the standard of his work being so high, the other great thing about Noma is he gives you about 10 ideas, which is pretty rare for an illustrator). The quake shaped like a screaming face in the rising sun seemed the strongest.

It was such a simple idea that we thought no words on the cover aside from the logo. We rolled back a bit from that, putting ‘Crisis in Japan’ at the top, Christian Schwartz doing some custom work matching our logotype (its a slightly condensed version of our 95 setting).

We spotted late in the day that our flap offered another opportunity for us to play with the readers a bit, by covering the quake/face in the sun up, to be revealed when the flap opens, so we had Noma redraw the face to take advantage of this, moving the quake/face to the left to be obscured by the flap. Putting loads of words in the flap seemed wrong too, to the flap became a black curtain with minimal type, just the contents small at the base of the page.

So here is the flap (#1), then without (#2), then our standard newstand version (#3, with the more central quake/face and slightly larger logo). With no disrespect to Noma, there are many other iterations of rising suns out there. I think ours/is the only one where the quake is screaming. Though just typing this sentence almost guarantee’s I will be wrong about this..

March 16, 2011

the fear of missing out

Caterina Fake, on FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out. "It’s an age-old problem, exacerbated by technology. To be always filled with craving and desire (also called defilement, affliction) is one of the Three Poisons of Buddhism, called kilesa, and it makes you a slave. There is true meaning in social media—real connections, real friendships, devotion, humor, sacrifice, joy, depth, love. And this is what we are looking for when we log on."

MongoDB Tailable Cursors

MongoDB Tailable Cursors:

Tailable cursors are a cool feature of MongoDB. It allows you to setup scripts that run forever and are constantly processing new data that gets inserted to the collection. You need a capped collection in order to tail a cursor […]

A dummy PUB/SUB.

Original title and link: MongoDB Tailable Cursors (NoSQL databases © myNoSQL)

A plea for baked weblogs

You’ve noticed that processors aren’t getting faster as quickly as they used to. Instead, manufacturers are adding more cores. This means that app developers, in order to make their software faster and able to handle a bigger load, have been learning new techniques — they’ve been learning to take advantage of multiple cores. (They’ve been learning how to write multi-threaded apps.)

I think there’s a somewhat similar situation in the web-in-general. Servers aren’t getting faster, but traffic’s going up.

And so, even in the year 2011, if your weblog gets Fireballed, there’s a good chance it won’t be able to handle it. That seems crazy. It’s not 1997 — it’s 2011.

It freaks me out that this is still an issue. Or, worse — sometimes it pisses me off a little, when I want to read something and I can’t. (Imagine when it’s a post on your product’s weblog. I might never come back, or I might get a bad impression of your thing just because your site couldn’t handle a spike in traffic.)

Given that we can’t rely on servers getting faster, but we can rely on more and more traffic, weblog developers could learn new techniques to make their sites faster.

New technique is old

I think the new technique web developers — or weblog developers, at least — ought to learn is static rendering: writing files to disk rather than building from a database on every request.

It’s an old technique, actually, but too rarely practiced. (Lots of weblogs in the ’90s were rendered as files-on-disk. They were built from a database plus templates and scripts and uploaded to a server. We did a bunch of this when I worked with Dave Winer at UserLand Software.)

In 2002 Aaron Swartz wrote Bake, Don’t Fry, which is worth re-reading. (He also wrote that he doesn’t care about performance. If getting fireballed were a thing back in 2002, he might have cared about performance. If he had seen system X go down for a day, he might have cared about performance. It’s interesting that performance — or robustness — arguably wasn’t an issue in 2002, but it is now.)

Two main ways to do this

  1. Desktop/laptop to web: in this scenario, your personal machine holds the source. An app or set of scripts generates the website based on templates, then uploads it to the server. (That’s what I do with this site.) It works great: I’m a huge fan of this style of publishing.

  2. Dynamic authoring, static publishing: in this scenario, everything lives on the server. You have the advantage of being able to publish from anywhere you can get to a web browser. But then the server generates static pages when you make a change. It’s much like the first scenario, except that it’s accessible from everywhere. (It supports multiple authors better too, for people who need that. Which I myself do, for some sites.)

I’m aware of a few things

  • Dave Winer is working on new software which I think implements the first scenario. (I think, that is: I need to investigate. I could be mis-characterizing the software.)

  • WordPress has WP Super Cache, which should make your site Fireball-retardant. I use it on a couple sites. But this feels like a temporary band-aid. I keep wondering if we’ll need a WP Super Amazing Cache at some point.

  • Movable Type can work like the second scenario, but I can’t help but feel that Movable Type is a much-heavier solution than the average blogger requires or wants. It feels like a pro thing, where the average blogger would like something closer to the Twitter end of the blogging spectrum.

  • Blogger probably does static rendering. Maybe TypePad does too. But, to be clear, I’m talking about slightly-geekier-bloggers, the type who install a blogging system on their own server or on their shared space at DreamHost or wherever. Those are the weblogs I tend to read.

What I’d like to see

Given the above, I think the still-missing piece is the scenario #2 weblog system. It should be as easy-to-install and easy-to-use as WordPress — easier, actually, would be better. Not-requiring a database at all would be awesome. To be successful, like WordPress it would probably have to be done in PHP, since PHP remains the commonly-installed scripting system on shared webservers.

Maybe such a thing exists already? It’s entirely possible. (Then the next step is marketing it so that people like me hear about it.)

Anyway, I bring this up because I’m tired of slow sites or sites that go dark the very minute I hear about them. It looks to me as if there’s a big missing piece in the ecosystem, and now might be a great time to build that piece. Because, otherwise, it’s not going to get any better.

Hippy Homes & Gardens

If you're as old and jaded as I am, when someone sends you an email bearing the title "best new blog," you tend to just raise an eyebrow and say, "next..." You might as well send me a link to some "hilarious" YouTube clip. LOL! But some tipsters are more reliable than others. Some tipsters know a good thing when they see one. Some tipsters know what time it is. So I actually did click on that link. And when I did I found this:

hippy birthday to you fig. a: hippy birthday to you

The blog in question was Hippy Kitchens, and M. was right, it was the best blog I'd seen in a while.

The content may be old-school, but Hippy Kitchens is one of these new-school blogs we've been hearing so much about recently. It's virtually devoid of text and consists almost entirely of photographs, but, oh!, what photographs.

mountain high fig. b: mountain high

Of course, we, here at AEB, have a bit of a soft spot for hippy kitchens. In fact, when we moved in together, for a while there, our bookshelves held not one, but two copies of The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, a book that's gotta rank as the ne plus ultra of hippy kitchen lit. Michelle claims that she actually cooked her entire way through The New Farm, and I believe it. She was known to make her own soy milk back in the day. I was a little more judicious in my vegan cookery, but I definitely made more than my fair share of Melty Nutritional Yeast "Cheese."

Anyway, without any further ado, here are just a few of our favorite hippy kitchen pix:

soul to soul front fig. c: soul to soul 1: Mary!

soul to soul back fig. d: soul to soul 2: fried "chicken"!

Mary & co. fig. e: Mary & co.

cactus! fig. f: cactus!

new farm front fig. g: new farm 1

new farm back fig. h: new farm 2

soybeans fig. i: soybeans!

soymilk fig. j: soymilk!

Janet's cabbage fig. k: Janet's cabbage

And last, but not least:

uncle bill fig. l: Uncle Bill!

And, while we're at it, one for the road...

I asked Michelle to pick a well-traveled recipe from her glory days, and this is what she came up with.

Gluten Roast

Have 4 cups raw gluten ready. [recipe follows]

Combine in a bowl:
1/2 cup oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup warm water
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper

Work the seasonings into the raw gluten, some sauce will remain. Shape gluten into an oiled loaf pan. Add 2 cups of water to remaining sauce. If no sauce is left, add 2 tbsp soy sauce and 2 tbsp oil to water. Pour over loaf. Place 2 onions in thick slices on top. Sauce should come almost to top of loaf; if not add a little more water. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350º for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Uncover for last 15 minutes of baking, baste. Liquid left in pan can be thickened for gravy.

Basic Raw Gluten

8 cups wheat flour (half unbleached white or whole wheat and half gluten flour)
2-3 cups water (or enough for a stiff dough)

Knead 10 to 15 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough. It should spring back when poked. Put in a large bowl, cover with water. Let soak an hour. Knead it under water, kneading out the starch and holding the gluten together. Change water when it gets milky. Let it rest. Repeat the process of kneading, changing the water and letting it rest several times. When the water stays almost clear, you will have 4 to 5 cups of raw gluten ready to be spiced, oiled and cooked.

Chunks can be simmered in a savory broth (add soy sauce, onion, oil to vegetable stock, simmer about an hour and thicken liquid for gravy). It can be baked for a roast or pot roast, oven-fried or cooked in barbecue sauce.

Leftover cooked gluten is good sliced for sandwiches, chopped bite-size and added to chili or used on pizza.

[Louise Hagler and Dorothy R. Bates, The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, fifth edition, 1992 (1975)]

Michelle says she made this roast "countless" times. She also says that it was only last year, when she was making a traditional pot roast recipe that she got from an Edna Lewis cookbook--a stovetop boneless pork roast with a peanut sauce--that she realized what this gluten roast was attempting to simulate.*

In any case, Michelle has been so inspired by this post that she thinks we should do an entire hippy kitchen menu sometime soon. What's it going to be? Sloppy Joes? Soysage? Tempuna Salad? Who will be our lucky guests? Maybe it should be a potluck!

The soundtrack? Melanie! Definitely lots of Melanie.

Melanie! fig. m: ...is for Melanie


* Indeed, in the index at the back of the book, the recipe is listed as "Gluten Pot Roast."

MySQL Fork Drizzle Released

MySQL Fork Drizzle Released:

Drizzle aims to be different from MySQL, stripping out “unnecessary” features loved by enterprise and OEMs in the name of greater speed and simplicity and for reduced management overhead.

Drizzle has no stored procedures, triggers, or views […]

Aiming to provide a database for the cloud with support for massive concurrency optimized for increased performance, Drizzle team started by removing “non-essential” code and features. Michael Stonebraker’s VoltDB is focusing on a different set of optimizations for achieving performance — removing logging, locking, latching, buffer management[1].

Anyway, it is not about who’s approach is better, but which scenarios are covered by using a simplified MySQL compatible database or by an in-memory with predefined queries database.

  1. The “NoSQL” Discussion has Nothing to Do With SQL:

    If one eliminates any one of the above overhead components, one speeds up a DBMS by 25%. Eliminate three and your speedup is limited by a factor of two. You must get rid of all four to run a lot faster.

Original title and link: MySQL Fork Drizzle Released (NoSQL databases © myNoSQL)

thirty days live

thirty days ago on february 14, 2011, ottoneu.fangraphs.com went live. it’s been an up and down thirty days, but overall i would have to say it has been a successful launch. first, some basic stats

  • over 500 paid users
  • 120k pageviews
  • 2 to 3 server meltdowns
  • thousands of completed auctions

i guess the best way to discuss my experience is to go through a typical day as the solo employee at a startup with this much visibility (the fangraphs partnership has resulted in hundreds of thousands of unique impressions on my banner ad). my work day tends to start between 8:30am and 9:30am, whenever i roll out of bed. west coast living! every day, i think “i’ll just check my email real quick and then go get ready” – this never happens. the reality is that i wake up, open up Mail, go through my 3 ottoneu-related email addresses, and respond to every email i have unread. if i don’t have a quick response, i flag the email to get back to in a second pass. then i go ahead and complete my second pass through the emails and see if any of the flagged emails require code changes.

i’ll save the suspense – they often do.

the next thing i know, it’s 11:30am and jen is asking me what my plan is for the day. pre-launch, i didn’t have these emails to go through, so i was able to get up, get to the shared office space i have, and start coding. now that i have semi-urgent tasks, i’m going to need to start waking up at 7am to get to the office by 10:30 i think. anyway, i get through those bugs enhancements and then usually shower before lunch. usually.

the afternoon depends on what the main tasks of the day are. sometimes there are larger enhancements requested or that i have thought of that really deserve my time and attention. emails continue to come in, and sometimes i need to help out a user or three. and sometimes a post i have on fangraphs requires responding to comments, both good and bad.

if i remember, around 6:30 or 7pm, i’ll get dinner. if i’m lucky, someone will want to meet up for a beer or to shoot the shit. or for dinner.

the night ends with, as you might guess, Mail.app. double check twitter and my inbox to make sure nothing is broken and people are generally satisfied. if i’m not coded out from the day, i’ll add a couple more features or tweak something that has been bothering me – after all, i am not only the coder, i use the damn site daily. and finally, i’ll take a break and play some video games or read or whatever.

nothing pushes one to exercise more than this life choice, and the one main improvement i could make in my day would be to not check my email when i roll out of bed, but to go for a run and shower before doing anything else. once the email tap is opened up for the day, it’s really hard for me to shut it off and go do something else.

another good improvement would be to not get into the coding mindset before getting out of the apartment. getting in the zone is, as everyone know, a fickle and important thing that you don’t want to break. getting into the zone in my boxers and a tshirt about 10 minutes after waking up can’t be good for me, and staying in that zone for 3+ hours only leads to me missing two meals and breaking out of the zone when i realize something smells awful and it is me. which is basically what happened to me two days ago.

it’d be good to institute some no-computer time in the evening before bed, but maybe that’s something that can wait until things stabilize a bit, like after the season starts and i get through the inevitable start-of-season bugs.

anyway, it has been a fun thirty days, without a doubt. i have a great set of users who are patient, understanding, and really sharp. i have a pretty good, if perennially smelly boss. and look – i work on something that i both own and love every single day. not a lot of people can say that.

Pen Nerds and Finding Better Tools

While I've always liked doing a lot of my notes and writing with pen and ink, I've never been particularly well-versed in the latest innovations and trends in the handwriting world. But! I know this is exactly the sort of endeavor that attracts nerds, and that my network of friends and acquaintances would be well-versed in what the best options are.

So, I asked my Twitter followers for pen recommendations that would best meet my predilections. Here are their responses:

Some early trends jump out — 10 recommend a Pilot pen of some sort, and 8 mention Uni-Ball. The zebra, signo, and pentel all have vocal advocates. And what's clear to me is that I'll just have to buy a few different ones and try them out, but at least my friends have helped narrow down the selection. Because obviously, the thing that's keeping me from updating this blog more often is that I don't have the right pen.

The other improvement to my recording tools that I've been looking for is shown by the contents of this post itself; The latest versions of ThinkUp have progressed enormously, and doing fun stuff like embedding a list of replies (in this case, sorted by friends first, and then by number of followers) is really easy to do with just a click.

I know the old trope is that the answer to productivity is never a new tool, but sometimes there are tools that let us do things that would be a total pain in the ass otherwise. It's nice to have friends to help solve that problem.

Writing lectures

I am now in the middle of writing my first Mellon "emperors" lecture, for the National Gallery in Washington. I'm always surprised how little is written about the processes of writing. You read any number of autobiographies of academics, and they will almost never share the struggles of getting the words on the page and into the lecture hall. They just seem to have an idea and it pops into writing. Or on the other hand, they are blocked.. but they dont ever quite explain what the unblocking mechanism is.

I am now pretty clear about what I want to say in my first lecture. It will start from a curious story about a Roman imperial sarcophagus refused by President Andrew Jackson as a burial place, and will end up (by a logical path!) thinking about the ways, over the last 200 plus years, we have identified (ancient) portraits of Julius Caesar. My line here is that each generation finds a new image of Caesar for themselves... and new "real" images are identified, as each generation passes.

So far so good. But how do you go about putting this over to a mixed audience of 300+ (lets hope!) all of whom are smart, but some of whom are specialists, some not.

I have to say that I have scrubbed out an awful lot of versions. Not because they were wrong, but because they were boring. And then I scrubbed out more because, although they seemed quite sexy, I didnt think I wanted to say exactly that to the specialists in the audience. How do you arrive at something that is both academically cutting edge and defensible, AND then accessible to the intelligent general audience AND packs a punch.. that is to say makes it clear that you are still bloody keen on this subject on which you have promised to speak.

Anyway, after going in circles, a bit of a breakthrough came today. I thought I should have a look at what some of my images looked like on the big screen here. So I mocked up a powerpoint to have a test drive (thank you Mattie for arranging). I thought to start with that this was a terrible waste of time (it took me 2 hours to make the mock-up power point for heaven sake). But then, as I made it , I saw how amazing these images of Roman emperors I had assembled were, and how I had sold my self short. Too much anal obsession about anachronicity (a bit is surely needed, but only a bit) .. too little in your face stuff on the sheer, intriguing, intellectual splendour of Roman imperial images.

So 2500 words to go on lecture one, and I have seen the way forward; then only 25,000 words more to go.


stellar.io does so many things right. And by right, I mean the way I believe web apps should be built. Which is to say, distinct from the built in order to drive rapid growth, viral addictive lab rat behaviors by hijacking traffic into a pachinko machine of false attention style.

In particular, the fact that favoriting an item on stellar.io propagates that favorite back to the native medium seamlessly is a classy move from an earlier age. I thought we’d perhaps seem the last of small pieces, loosely joined into well designed, simple experiences.

Also the best of page has a lot of what I wanted for accolad.es. (though be great to be able to dial up/down how strong of a “best of” signal you’re interested in, ala Hot Links)

Only problem, still hasn’t solved the asymmetric updates problem. One person can still go on a favoriting spree of weird design elements and totally obliterate your feed.

Nice work!


I just finished up my final project for my mapping class:




I originally planned to focus on three specific urban renewal projects that happened in North Portland but couldn't find the specific block data I was looking for. This series of maps developed out of looking for that data, but at a much more general scale.

transaction economics v. attention economics

Kevin Kelly on features, products and companies. "[The feature] may be novel, useful, desirable, and marketable. But how big and autonomous will it be? Is it big enough to sell as a product in itself, with all the necessary support that requires? And is that product big enough to be able to sustain a company and all the overhead an organization demands?"

His conclusion, which you should go read for yourself, made me think that the inverse of Coase's transaction economics (and the theory of the firm) is attention economics. Probably not an original thought, but it's the distinction between demand-driven company boundaries and supply-driven company boundaries.

Happy Pi Day!

Shared by sippey
I love pie so much.

Did you know today is Pi Day?

Not Pie Day. Pi Day. A day set aside by founder Larry Shaw to commemorate…well, Pi.

Not Pie. Pi.

Since the (approximate) numeric representation of Pi is 3.14, March 14 (3/14) is the perfect fit! Many Pi Day celebrants embrace Pi Day by eating Pie, so today I’m sharing what is probably my favorite pie here on The Pioneer Woman Cooks. (Well, besides the French Silk Pie, which is eternally my one true pie love.) I call it Key Lime Pie even though I used regular lime juice, and it’s just so creamy and tangy and wonderful. But recently, a friend of mine sent me a box of key limes from his backyard in Florida and I used the juice in this pie. I died. I just died.

Whether you use regular limes or Key limes, you owe it to yourself to make this.

And Happy Pi Day, everyone!

Here’s the recipe:

REE_0265Strict Key Lime Adherents: Please look away. I haven’t got time for the pain.

Everyone else: Let’s make Key Lime Pie! Using regular limes! Because that’s all I have available in my small town! And I don’t live in Florida! So I can’t grow my own! Key limes!

I’m still calling it Key Lime Pie, though—no one can stop me. Not even you Strict Key Lime Adherents.

But I love ya anyway.

Before I proceed, I would like to state that I am currently obsessed with refrigerator pies: pies that require refrigeration (to facilitate setting) before serving. These pies often have a graham cracker or other cookie crust, which I think is at the basis of my current obsession. They’re just making my skirt fly up right now. Can’t explain why.

I chose Key Lime Pie for today’s pie recipe because I love the movie “Heartburn”. At the end of the movie, just after Meryl Streep’s character, a food writer named Rachel, discovers that Jack Nicholson’s character, a political columnist named Mark, has just spent their savings on a down payment for a new necklace for his mistress, a tall, leggy European named Thelma with whom he’d had an affair months earlier, Rachel bakes a Key Lime Pie with the sole intention of smashing it into Mark’s face at a dinner party later that night.

And she does it.

And frumpy, disheveled housewives everywhere CHEERED!

And then we got really dang depressed.

But that’s what pie is for: movie-induced depression.

By the way, are you aware the story of “Heartburn” is loosely based on the marriage between Norah Ephron and Carl Bernstein?

Anyway, that’s why I decided to make Key Lime Pie.

REE_0094We’ve got to begin by making a good graham cracker crust. Put 18 graham crackers (that means the full rectangle) into a food processor.

REE_0102Pulse until totally crumbled. You could also put the crackers into large Ziploc bags, hand them to your sons, and say “Have at ‘em, boys.” It’ll just take a minute or two.

REE_0104Pour the crumbs into a bowl.

REE_0105Then throw in a little sugar.

REE_0106Or a lot, if that floats your boat.

It usually floats mine nicely.

REE_0112Some butter. Regular, please. This concoction needs the salt.

REE_0114Melt it in the microwave.

REE_0116Then just drizzle the butter over the crumbs.


REE_0123Stir the mixture with a fork.

REE_0126It should be moist, but still very crumbly.

REE_0128Pour the crumbs into a pie pan.

REE_0134Using your fingers, press the crumbs gently so that they form a crust on the bottom and sides of the pan. Again, don’t expect the crumbs to stick together like glue; the crust should easily crumble if you mess with it too much.

Now just bake the crust in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes. This will toast it up a little bit and cause the crust to set.

REE_0097Grab some limes. If you have Key Limes, yahoo! If you don’t, grab some of these regular peasants.

REE_0139Now zest a couple of them. You’ll need a heaping tablespoon of zest.

And if you don’t have a microplane zester, please obtain one at your earliest convenience.

And when you do: run the zester over the lime—not the other way around.

REE_0136Now halve and squeeze the puppies until you have 1/2 cup of juice.

REE_0100Now dig around your fridge until you find two eggs. Heave a sigh of relief. Then scribble “eggs” on your grocery list.

REE_0143Separate the eggs. You just need the yolks for this one.

REE_0144Now, throw the lime juice and the lime zest into the bowl of your electric mixer.

REE_0145Then add the egg yolks and beat immediately on high for one minute.

REE_0148Turn off the mixer, then pour in 1 can of sweetened, condensed milk.

It’s good stuff. I promise you that.

REE_0151Mix it on high until thick and smooth.

REE_0155If the mixture looks like it needs more zest, add it right in!

REE_0160When it’s all mixed, just pour it into the crust.


REE_0168Oh, honey.

REE_0174I love you so much.

Now bake it in the oven for about fifteen minutes, or until no longer jiggly.

Then remove it from the oven, allow it to cool for a little while, then stick it into the fridge to chill for at least an hour. A couple of hours is better. You just want it to be nice and chilled and firm and perfect.

REE_0236Like this.

Oh, how I love Key Lime Pie Sorta.

Now, here’s my stance on Key Lime Pie Sorta: it needs sweetened whipped cream. It could be that I’m overly sensitive to tart flavors and I need the whipped cream to balance it out. Or it could be that I just look for justification for putting more cream into my diet.

Either way, whipped cream makes it better.

And here’s how you make it:

REE_0230Pour about a cup of cold, heavy cream into the (clean) bowl of the mixer. Then add in a healthy tablespoon or two of sugar. You can also add a little vanilla, but we don’t really need it here.

REE_0233Then just beat it on high speed…

REE_0239Until it’s very stiff. Perfect!

REE_0240Now comes the fun part.


REE_0244Mmmm. You can see that the crust is rather thick in relation to the filling. This is by design; as much as I love the creamy filling, I do find it pretty rich. With the ample crust and whipped cream on top, it turns out to be a really balanced piece of pie…and that lime flavor still really bursts through.

REE_0251A little extra zest on top totally seals the deal.

REE_0260Oh, man. I’m so ready for the next five (okay, three) minutes to happen.

REE_0262It’s…it’s…it’s happening.

REE_0265It happened.

And now it can happen to you!


Recipe: Key Lime Pie

Prep Time: 15 Minutes  |  Cook Time: 1 Hour  |  Difficulty: Easy  |  Servings: 12

Print Recipe 3"x5" Cards 4"x6" Cards Full Page


  • Crust
  • 18 whole Graham Crackers (the 4-section Large Pieces)
  • ⅓ cups Sugar
  • ⅓ cups Butter, Melted
  • _____
  • Filling
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Lime Zest
  • ½ cups Lime Juice
  • 2 whole Egg Yolks
  • 1 can (14 Oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

For the crust:
Crush crackers in a food processor or Ziploc bag. Pour them into a bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter. Press into a pie pan and bake for 5 minutes or until golden and set. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

For the filling:
Mix lime zest, lime juice, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Add in condensed milk and mix on high until smooth and thick. Pour mixture into crust and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour—more if possible.

Serve with sweetened whipped cream and more grated lime zest.

Arsenal tour at Emirates (Taken with instagram)

Arsenal tour at Emirates (Taken with instagram)

A Brief History of Title Design

From the excellent blog The Art of the Title Sequence, a short video called A Brief History of Title Design.

The video page has a full listing of the movies from which the opening title sequences are pulled.

Tags: movies   video

Khoi Vinh talks about the future of reading at SXSW

SXSW this year was huge — so big it was impossible to see everything. Fortunately, there’s video.

Here, designer Khoi Vinh talks with design writer Alissa Walker about where design for online reading is headed.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, read Alissa’s write-up on Fast Company.

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matt webb on fukushima and engineering

Matt Webb on Fukushima and engineering: "The thing we have to realise is that this isn't an era of control. Our attempts to control the world have multiplied so much that they themselves have become part of the system, part of the world, and the entire thing has once again become chaotic, unpredictable, and uncontrollable."

Jodie Foster on Mel Gibson: 'I Knew the Minute I Met Him, I Would Love Him' Forever (Stephen Galloway/Hollywood Reporter)

Stephen Galloway / Hollywood Reporter:
Jodie Foster on Mel Gibson: ‘I Knew the Minute I Met Him, I Would Love Him’ Forever … Jodie Foster is sick, really sick.  Sick of being away from home for the past two months; sick of the grueling schedule she's maintained in Paris on Roman Polanski's Carnage; and physically …

Kat Hack

turn any Web page into an HTML5 Katamari Damacy [via

Throw This Party: Game Night

by Katie Walsh

There sometimes comes a point in life where the bar scene gets tired, or you just get tired of putting on things like makeup and shoes. But if you don't want to rock another solo Saturday night with bootleg Korean DVDs of True Blood and actually want to interact with humans, the perfect low-key and easy party to throw at your house is Game Night. Put on your comfy pants and glasses; add games, booze, and snacks; and you'll soon be a legend among your friends.

FOOD: Don't sweat the food. This is not some dinner party where people are supposed to show up and feed themselves at your expense. (You also don't want food prep and eating to steamroll the games.) Start the party at 8 p.m., so it's just past dinner time but not too late, because your friends will be an hour late anyway. Make a couple cheap 'n' easy dips like hummus, and put out some crackers and cheese and you're good to go. If you're short on time or effort, store-bought hummus is fine, but please for the love of god put it in a real bowl! Yes, you have to wash them at the end of the night, but to not have plastic containers with freshness flaps blowing in the wind makes all the difference. Hummus: whirl chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic in a food processor, mix in fresh herbs or top with zaatar spice if you want to be fancy, or sub white beans (no tahini) for a twist on hummus. Grab a wheel of brie, goat cheese, gouda, Parmesan, or bleu (whatever you like), stab it with a knife and put it on a wooden board. Set out a plate of crackers/chips/crudite (for your vegan and gluten free friends) and scatter some teacups filled with olives and mixed nuts. Cute huh? Cloth napkins and pretty (clean) dishtowels can decorate your coffee table spread.

DRINK: Make your friends bring the drinks (and they'll always bring too many), but have a little something on hand for when you're cooking/getting dressed/waiting for them to show up/right when they show up. A big bottle of wine, a bottle of liquor of your choice, and a mixer — plus some club soda and juice — make a good base. Game Night feels a little retro, so a fun activity is a Make Your Own Manhattan station. Here's a foolproof poor man's (lazy man's?) homemade Manhattan recipe that I've, um, perfected. No chilled martini glasses or cocktail shakers for this lady. Toss some ice cubes in a glass/tumbler/jar and pour whiskey or bourbon to just cover the ice. Add a dash of sweet vermouth, a dash of dry vermouth, a few shakes of bitters (old fashioned or orange, you crazy cat), a maraschino cherry and a dash of cherry juice if you like it sweet. Stir with a chopstick and sip. Try subbing dark rum for whiskey or bourbon, delish! And if you invest in vermouth and bitters, they'll serve your home cocktail needs for a long, long time. You know, for when you rock a solo, Manhattan-fueled Game Night (not that I would know anything about that).

GAMES: Allow for drink making, snacking, and mingling as your guests arrive, but as soon as it looks like everyone's settled into their cocktail party chitchat, be assertive about starting a game. It doesn't have to be with everyone, just a few can start and others will join in when they see HOW MUCH FUN IT IS, or they'll start their own game. The kinds of games that succeed at Game Night are interactive, team based games. The ones that don't are checkers-type games or card games that don't involve teams and are therefore boring to watch. Games like BS, Go Fish, or Crazy Eights could be fun, but Texas Hold 'Em or Gin Rummy (etc.) are too serious/involved for the fluid and silly nature of Game Night. And no Monopoly unless it's a smaller group (fewer than 6) — you want to be able to pick up and abandon games at will. Games I suggest: Taboo is fun, team based, and easy to set up and execute. I'd start with this, since not everyone has to participate at first but people can join in easily. Apples to Apples is also a great group game, and if you don't have Apples to Apples cards, just play it in your head, which is what my friends and I did one summer, many many times. (One person thinks of something [anything!], the other people name random things, the first person decides which is closest to their thing, and that person goes next. Fun!)

Once everyone is good and warmed up, introduce a little Pictionary onto the scene. Use your kitchen whiteboard (or just a bunch of paper) and divide into teams. For instance, Boys vs. Girls Pictionary is an awesome way to start creative shit-talking and inspire team spirit. And then if you get sick of using the cards, make up your own themes like "Rolling Stones Songs" or "Middle School Slumber-Party Movies." Or just let those creative juices flow! I made up a great game during a tequila fueled happy hour called "Sexual Fetish Game" where everyone writes down one real sexual fetish of theirs and one fake one and puts them in the bowl. Go around the circle picking out fetishes and trying to figure out who wrote it and whether it's a real or fake fetish of theirs. Dirty and enlightening! The Manhattans will help.

EXIT: When the first person falls asleep on your couch, it's time to start cleaning up and sending subtle messages for everyone to get the hell out (12:30, 1 a.m.-ish).Toss the empties, pile the dishes in the sink to do in the morning and off to bed you go, you hostess with the mostess!

Katie Walsh used to live in Brooklyn. Now she lives in St. Croix where she throws and goes to a fair amount of parties.

Photo via Flickr


Japan Earthquake: The Struggle to Recover

Nearly a week has passed since Japan suffered its worst crisis since World War II. More than 4,000 have been confirmed killed and more than 8,000 remain missing after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the northeast coast of Japan six days ago. The hundreds of thousands now displaced by the quake, the ensuing tsunami -- and now, fears of radioactivity -- are scattered across the country, finding shelter and aid where they can, as they begin to rebuild their lives as survivors. Search-and-rescue teams from several countries have now joined Japanese forces, scouring the vast fields of rubble that were neighborhoods and towns just last week. Collected here are recent images of the ongoing recovery efforts and of Japanese citizens coping with this historic disaster. [37 photos]

A Japanese home drifts in the Pacific Ocean in this photograph taken on March 13, 2011 and released on March 14. Ships and aircrafts from the U.S. Navy's Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group are searching for survivors in the coastal waters near Sendai, Japan, in the wake of 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that officials say claimed at least 10,000 lives. (REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord)

Ooh la la—ask Gaga a question!

(Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog)

Attention little monsters! Channel your inner Oprah, because now is your chance to ask Lady Gaga everything you’ve always wanted to know. What’s life like on tour? What’s her favorite YouTube video? Was the meat dress really made of meat?

In Gaga’s own words:

You have until midnight PT on March 18 to submit a video or text question, so just head to Gaga's channel to submit your query or vote on the ones you want us to ask. You can also tweet your question with the hashtag #GoogleGoesGaga. We’ll share the interview with you shortly after it’s uploaded to YouTube.

So, what are you waiting for?

Posted by Andrew Schulte, Associate Product Marketing Manager

Your Moment of Type Zen #10

Okay, I'm not as cool as you are. I only made my first trip to Williamsburg a few months ago, to pick up my cousin. Who knew it was so groovy? Not me, I guess. I could have spent the entire day there taking pictures of amazing signs, but there was family to tend to. But I'll be back.

will1.jpgI don't know what this says, but I like it.

will2.jpgSomeone took the R. I wish it was me.

will3.jpgNice hats.

will4.jpgReally nice hats.

will5.jpgLove the rainbow blinds.

The Pieman's Craft: How to Unstick Your Pizza from the Peel

From Slice

[Photographs and video: Jessica Leibowitz]

Last time we met with Pizza a Casa owner Mark Bello, he showed us his DJ skillz for stretching out dough. Here, he shares a quick trick for unsticking pizza that won't budge from the peel. Semolina to the rescue! As Adam mentioned a few months back, a spice shaker will help with quick, even distribution.

When using a peel to place your pizza in the oven, you want to make sure it shimmies freely on the surface so it'll slide off. The best way to make sure it won't stick is to give the peel a shake periodically as you build your pie—and to work quickly. But if at some point it won't budge, just gently lift the dough and apply some semolina (or other bench flour) to the peel at the problem spot.

Pizza a Casa

371 Grand Street, New York NY 10002 (near Essex; map)
212-228-5483; pizzaschool.com

How a Tokyo Earthquake Could Devastate Wall Street and the Global Economy

That's the title of an article written by Michael Lewis in 1989.

A big quake has hit Tokyo roughly every 70 years for four centuries: 1923, 1853, 1782, 1703, 1633.

(via @daveg)

Tags: earthquake   economics   Japan   Michael Lewis

Angel Pagan says he’ll have more SBs than Reyes

Posted in MetsBlog

That’s awesome… nice catch, by Peter Wade at SNY’s Tumblr.

To see Pagan’s interview on SNY, watch this video.

In a report for the St. Lucie News, Laurel Phaler talked with Pagan, who said:

“Last year I didn’t start the season as an everyday player but I was really confident in my preparation, and I was really confident I could help the team in any role they gave me. … I am not looking to be a 30-home run hitter because that’s not my game but I am always looking to get better and I know I can improve in power numbers. … No. 1 is to score as many runs as I can. I would love to score 100 runs, and that would help make the team better. I believe if I score 100 runs the team will be better because I won’t be the only one scoring runs. If Jose (Reyes) and maybe David (Wright) score 100 runs, too, that can make a pretty great team.”

I feel like such a fool for doubting Pagan, before last season. I just didn’t think he had it in him to be an every-day player.

I wrote about his sloppy base running and odd routes in the field. But, man, was I wrong? And good for him, because I was not the only skeptic. The best part is, not only has he stepped up his physical game, and adjusted his strength and conditioning program to keep himself healthy, but he’s clearly becoming a leader on the team. Last Spring, he was a guy fighting for a job. This Spring, in watching him, he looked comfortable, and, instead of veterans talking to him about his game, he was approaching and talking with younger players about their game.

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The fear of missing out

Caterina Fake on the fear and hope that underlies social media.

FOMO -Fear of Missing Out- is a great motivator of human behavior, and I think a crucial key to understanding social software, and why it works the way it does. Many people have studied the game mechanics that keep people collecting things (points, trophies, check-ins, mayorships, kudos). Others have studied how the neurochemistry that keeps us checking Facebook every five minutes is similar to the neurochemistry fueling addiction. Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on. You're home alone, but watching your friends status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere. You are aware of more parties than ever before. And, like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you're participating, not missing out, even when you are.

The last paragraph nutshells why I love the web so much. (via @bryce)

Tags: Caterina Fake

Scanned Boards Custom Cut into Curved Hardwood Floors

Shared by mathowie
Holy Shitballs
[ Filed under New Materials or in the More category ]

We have so much technology to design and build these days, but it is all meaningless without an application like this: a device scans each board that passes through the machine, evaluates its natural curves and structural properties, then slices it into perfectly-fitting but uniquely-shaped floorboards.

The technique itself is not new, strictly speaking – master craftsmen have done things like this for ages. But the work has historically been laborious – time- and labor-intensive to the point of being cost-prohibitive. Digitized by Bolefloor, it becomes mass-producible … yet remains customized.

Aside from the amazing visual effect of having organic-looking floors, each board nesting into the next, the process also strategically eliminates knots and other structurally-troublesome deformities while maximizing the amount of use from each board.

Further, each tree is tracked from the time and location it is cut down to the final destination of its installation. While eco-friendly cork and non-wood materials have made their way steadily to market, it is nice to see an actual new-wood alternative that still considers environmental impacts.

Keep Going - Check out this Great Related Dornob Design:

Thin Veneer: Crazy Hardwood Finish for Plywood Furniture

What better way to finish off a piece of furniture than with a beautiful hard oak, walnut, cherry, cedar, dark maple, light birch or soft mahogany veneer? How about mixing and matching a series of hardwoods over the plywood parts instead - after all, the outside is what people see, touch (and bang or bump) anyway? Though veneers cost less they sometimes get a bad reputation as cheap sur... Click Here to Read More »»

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[ Dornob Design - Filed under New Materials or in the More category ]

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1923 Kanto Earthquake: Echoes from Japan's Past - Alan Taylor - In Focus - The Atlantic

With the massive quake and tsunami that struck Japan last week, the specter of another devastating event has returned: The 1923 Kanto earthquake, which shook the region around Tokyo, was the country's last "big one." The 7.9-magnitude quake reduced much of Tokyo to rubble, and as refugees tried to leave, firestorms swept through the city. More than 100,000 people died during the Kanto quake and its aftermath. These archival images, drawn from the U.S. Geological Survey, AP, and Brown University's Dana and Vera Reynolds Collection, show the horrifying wreckage. They're a reminder that Japan has faced brutally difficult rebuilding efforts before, and succeeded in building back better. (Alexis Madrigal and Alan Taylor) [24 photos]

id self = (id)0x1 for Block Debugging

I’ve just been bitten again by how easy it is to accidentally retain self using Objective-C blocks.

After a little thought, I came up with a single line of code you can place in the header of your block that will root out most (all?) possible errors: id self = (id)0x1.

Here it is in action:

@implementation MyClass
@synthesize window;

- (void)applicationDidFinishLaunching:(NSNotification *)aNotification {
    __block typeof(self) blockSelf = self;
    dispatch_after(dispatch_time(DISPATCH_TIME_NOW, 1ull * NSEC_PER_SEC), dispatch_get_main_queue(), ^{
        id self = (id)0x1;          // SHOULD result in compile-time warning: "unused variable 'self'"

        blockSelf.window;           // Fine
        self.window;                // Compile-time error: "request for member 'window' in something not a structure or union"
        window;                     // Compile-time error: "'struct objc_object' has no member named 'window'"

        NSLog(@"%@", blockSelf);    // Fine
        NSLog(@"%@", self);         // No compile-time warnings or errors, but runtime EXC_BAD_ACCESS


Topspin, Act 2

In April of 2008 I left Yahoo! to join a brand-new and still-stealth company called Topspin. Founded by Peter Gotcher (Digidesign) and Shamal Ranasinghe, the vision which drew me in was one of building software which would do for media marketing what software had done for media production (ProTools, Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, etc) in the fifteen to twenty years previous. Having worked at the consumer end of the value chain (Nullsoft, AOL, Mediacode, Yahoo!) for a number of years I felt the best place for me to make a serious dent in the future of media was to return to where I started, the content creator end.

At Topspin we’ve been building that software ever since and been lucky enough to have some of our favorite artists as our beta testers. If you’d have told me when I took this job that in our first three years we’d have a chance to work with David Byrne & Brian Eno, Arcade Fire, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Beach House, Yeasayer, Dirty Projectors & Bjork, Eminem, Antony, and Linkin Park, I’d have laughed, looked up, and said, “In our dreams.” We aimed for 900 artists at the end of 2010 and ended up with more than 4,000 artist accounts. Wow.

Thank you to everyone who helped make these past three years possible, from the artists to our incredible team at Topspin (investors and advisors included). It takes a village and y’all are it. It’s an honor and a pleasure to get to grind this out every day with you.

So what the hell have we built, anyway? Topspin’s software has been built to serve the direct-to-fan marketing and retail needs of the thousands of artists we’ve been working with. As we’ve been trying to solve the challenges of marketing and releasing art direct to consumers on the Internet we’ve been working those solutions into an integrated platform which can be operated by anyone marketing art. Topspin helps you manage your stuff — digital media or files of any kind, t-shirts, posters, box sets or anything you can describe and deliver, tickets including an iPhone ticket scanner, and memberships and fan clubs. It helps you build awareness for unheard and unseen art through streaming players and tools which make sharing easy. It helps you build direct connections with prospective fans via email, Facebook, and Twitter and communicate to build a real, trusting relationship with those folks. And it helps you sell to your fans, anywhere they are, in whatever currency they’d like to transact in, on Facebook, your web site, etc. It is a feature-rich, powerful, non-trivial piece of software.

In fact, where we’ve taken the most criticism is over the lack of ease-of-use of this sprawling platform. It’s true, I’ve pushed the team for a breadth of features rather than ease-of-use. We’ve spent much of 2011 trying to take the breadth of our offering and make it easier to explain, grok, and ultimately use. We’ve removed confusing bits from our user interface, reduced the number of clicks it takes to do many tasks, changed the overall look/feel, and added simple overview videos throughout the application to give a first-time user a better sense of what’s going on. As we exit our prolonged “beta” we’ve finally pulled together a proper Web site which attempts to clearly explain what our software does and how you use it. That said, our vision for Topspin is to be Photoshop, not MS Paint, ProTools not Garage Band, Final Cut Pro not iMovie. None of those products are something you just sit down and start using expertly without some practice or instruction. The learning curve yields power. Our software is not (yet) in the league of those, but I think we are certainly where those software packages were in their first few years and versions.

For Topspin, last week’s work week still hasn’t ended. We’ve been working around the clock getting this week’s software release ready and putting in place all the pieces to spread the word about it. Today we opened Topspin to every artist, musician, filmmaker, and author who would like to find their way to our web site at http://TopspinMedia.com. We’ve been working toward this day for more than three years and I appreciate any and all artists you send our way. Thank you.

I hope you’ll check out what we have going on this week and get up to speed on the new Topspin. There’s plenty for you to participate in even if you’re not in Austin this week. Please take a look at the below and add a few of these to your calendar.



WHAT: Topspin available to all artists!
WHEN: All day and forever, starting today.
WHERE: http://TopspinMedia.com

WHAT: Topspin Demo
WHEN: Live at 10:30am, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

WHAT: Case Study: Linkin Park: Aaron Ray of The Collective, Topspin’s role in Linkin Park’s 2010 album launch and tour
WHEN: Live at 1:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

WHAT: Case Study: Yeasayer: Jason Foster offers a detailed review of the band’s direct-to-fan efforts
WHEN: Live at 3:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

WHAT: Digital Music Meetup w/ Hypebot, Mobile Roadie, MusicMatters, MXP4, Songkick, Soundcloud, Topspin, and Virb
WHEN: 5:00 – 8:00pm
WHERE: The Belmont



WHAT: Topspin Demo
WHEN: Live at 10:30am, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

WHAT: Case Study: The Decemberists: Stu Smith walks through an incredible album launch of 2011
WHEN: Live at 1:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

WHAT: Topspin Direct-To-Fan Grant Winner Announcement! and Case Study: Tigers That Talked
WHEN: Live at 3:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

WHAT: [PIAS] + Topspin Happy Hour
WHEN: 5:30
WHERE: The Belmont

WHEN: 7:00pm
WHERE: The Belmont and we’ll broadcast live if we can!



WHAT: Topspin Demo
WHEN: Live at 10:30am, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

WHAT: Case Study: Concord Music Group: Jason Feinberg discusses D2F campaign for Gregg Allman’s latest
WHEN: Live at 1:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia

WHAT: Case Study: The Civil Wars: Nate Yetton walks through their direct-to-fan campaigns
WHEN: Live at 3:30pm, online live if possible, time-delayed if bandwidth doesn’t allow live stream
WHERE: In Austin at The Belmont (INSIDE, UPSTAIRS), online at http://justin.tv/topspinmedia


We’ll be back with our weekly “Live From Topspin” webcast next week, too.

Thanks as always for the support.


March 15, 2011

Topspin, Act 2

…and such it was that Act 1, in which only those invited were given accounts, came to a close. It was a fun act, if a little long, including appearances from David Byrne, Josh Rouse, Arcade Fire, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Beastie Boys, Dave Holland, Trent Reznor and How To Destroy Angels, Yeasayer, Linkin Park, PIXIES, Eminem and a supporting cast of thousands of musicians too numerous to list here. There were moving pictures as well, from Transcendent Man and Nice Guy Johnny to music docs like Still Bill, and even a few great authors and books.

Today Act 2 begins, in which Topspin has a proper front door open to all comers and a warmer, friendlier site and application. Please come try us out, give us your feedback, and we promise to do the most important things every day and release a new version of the software every week. This act stars you.

Why the wait? The honest truth is we’d have liked this moment to come sooner, but instead we added more features our current users were asking for and we thought you would want, too. Last March we added tickets to the product mix, last summer we added a “set-it-and-forget-it” pre-order capability, and in October we added a VIP Access product to make creating fan clubs and memberships possible. Not to mention the plethora of sticky operational issues that needed a good ironing — it turns out shipping orders around the world from hundreds of fulfillers and paying people in lots of currencies is a difficult problem, not something you want to try to scale too soon. Thanks sincerely for your patience.

Please take some time this week to:

– If you’re in Austin, come visit us at The Belmont

- Signup for a Topspin account, login, setup your artist, and take a tour with the overview videos

- Get to know the new TopspinMedia.com

- Tell friends via Twitter or Facebook

Look out for some exciting new features coming in the very near future, too, such as big improvements in the way you send/save/template your emails and communicate with your fans on Facebook and Twitter, too.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Act 1, the artists, managers, labels, distributors, marketing services companies, and software partners. Thanks to those rooting for or against us; thanks to any and everyone who cares enough to think about what we’re up to at all.

More recent thanks go to Jonathan Green and New Monarchy for our new “What is Topspin?” video. Thanks you Les Blanks for appearing in the video and letting us use your music for our overview videos. Thanks Nick Tamburri for editing our team and app overview videos.

Extra teary-eyed very special thanks to the awesome team at Topspin who have worked so hard to make this possible. I couldn’t be more proud of the team family we’ve assembled to create this product. As Ozzy says: I LOVE YOU ALL. I hope you appreciate these video tributes to your hard work.

See you tomorrow for Act 2.

ian c rogers

ps – I did a slightly different post about the journey at my personal blog

"I work at Apple as a manager at one of its stores in Japan. The earthquake hit while I was working..."

“I work at Apple as a manager at one of its stores in Japan. The earthquake hit while I was working on the first floor of one of their stores. As the entire building swayed, the staff calmly led people from the top 5 floors down to the first floor, and under the ridiculously strong wooden tables that hold up the display computers.
7 hours and 118 aftershocks later, the store was still open. Why? Because with the phone and train lines down, taxis stopped, and millions of people stuck in the Tokyo shopping district scared, with no access to television, hundreds of people were swarming into Apple stores to watch the news on USTREAM and contact their families via Twitter, Facebook, and email. The young did it on their mobile devices, while the old clustered around the macs. There were even some Android users there. (There are almost no free wifi spots in Japan besides Apple stores, so even Android users often come to the stores.)
You know how in disaster movies, people on the street gather around electronic shops that have TVs in the display windows so they can stay informed with what is going on? In this digital age, that’s what the Tokyo Apple stores became. Staff brought out surge protectors and extension cords with 10s of iOS device adapters so people could charge their phones & pads and contact their loved ones. Even after we finally had to close 10pm, crowds of people huddled in front of our stores to use the wifi into the night, as it was still the only way to get access to the outside world.”



XXXXX, Great Tohoku Earthquake Survivor 2011 (via ericmortensen)

Food Gallery 32: A Food Court Destination in Koreatown

From Serious Eats: New York

VIEW SLIDESHOW: Food Gallery 32: A Food Court Destination in Koreatown

[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Food Gallery 32

11 West 32nd Street, New York NY 10001 (b/n 5th and Broadway; map)
Service: Generally friendly and efficient
Setting: A futuristic tri-level food court
Must-Haves: Spicy Pork Teppan-yaki, seafood soft tofu casserole, bibim-nangmyun
Cost: Most dishes $7-10
Grade: All over the map
Check out our guide to the stalls »

It's hard to duplicate the almost otherworldly experience of dining at a Korean food court without catching a plane to Seoul—but Food Gallery 32, the new food court in the middle of Manhattan's Koreatown, is pretty otherworldly in its own right.

There's the space: food stalls of all sorts crowded into the main hall, with self-serve Red Mango near the door and a crepe stand on the third floor, where Korean pop star videos are shown on video monitors. The whole place is shiny and modern-feeling, much like the neighboring Foodparc; place your order and you get a little buzzer that lights and vibrates when your food is ready. And there's the range of the food, from ramen to bibimbap to bulgogi to seafood stews.


The draw of a space-agey Korean food court is enough; really, if you're going to Food Gallery 32, it's at least in part for the experience. That it's a fun place almost goes without saying—but what about the food?

Ed had visited once with friend and food adventurer Jeffrey Steingarten (who the predominantly young, female crowd treated like a rock star, thanks to his Iron Chef judging stints)—but with so many separate stalls, there's only so much three people (even with two esteemed food personalities among their number) could order.

So we returned a dozen strong for an epic eating adventure, checking out just about every dish Food Gallery 32 had to offer.

Get Your Bearings


First, wander back and decide which of the stalls you'll be ordering from. Since most of these spots don't have websites—they're all independently owned except for Red Mango and, according Sue Choi (owner of Crepe Monster and Noodle 32, and wife of one of Food Gallery's partners), many of the restaurant owners do not speak English—it can be hard to make sense of the offerings, particularly if you're not familiar with Korean food.

Need a primer? Check out our guide to the stalls, with menus, descriptions, and more,

Our Favorites


An extremely good version of galbi for food court fare, the L.A. Galbi from Hanok ($9.95) had edges and a surface charred to a slightly crisp texture, while the flesh was fatty and beefy; the meat was well marbled and balanced in taste from a marinade that was not sickly-sweet, as some meat marinades can be.

The pork chop from Bian Dang (formerly known as NYC Cravings; pork, $8), though simple and straightforward in taste, was beautifully fried (the meat tender and juicy, the caps of fat rendered crisp) and paired with a minced pork sauce that had just the right balance of savory and sour. Spicy Pork Teppan-yaki from O-de-ppang! ($8.99) also had a near-perfect sweet-spicy balance.

Cold and refreshing, springy and delicate, the buckwheat noodles of the Bibim-nangmyun from Noodle 32 ($8.95) were fantastic, the sauce a nice balance of sweet and spicy; noodles were weaker elements elsewhere. Overcooked and soggy, the flour noodles were lifeless but the ramen noodles, which tasted like the cheapest packets you can buy at any grocery store, were even worse.

Soups and Stews

Haemool Soon Dooboo Chigae from Hanok ($7.95)

Noodle and soup dishes are smartly covered in plastic wrap, both to keep the heat in and to prevent stair disasters on your way up to the seating area. It's a touch we appreciate, especially given how good some of the stews are. The Haemool Soon Dooboo Chigae from Hanok ($7.95) was comparable to what's served at any of the soondubu places in Koreatown; even that, however, is saying a lot about the quality of the dish: custard-y tofu nestled in a spicy, oceanic broth that tastes clean, not muddy. The Hae Jang Guk (spicy oxtail stew) from Hanok could have been spicier—but the broth was excellent, tasting beefy and pure. Pieces of oxtail were tender, if not falling-off-the-bone tender; the cooks in the kitchen were careful to leave the oxtail meat still attached to tissues and tendons so that you got a bit of chewy contrast to the tender flesh with each bite.

And More


Not all of the food falls neatly into traditional Korean territory, though—or even Asian. The Seafood Spaghetti with House Special Cream Sauce from Pastel ($9.95) was appealing in a sort of Olive Garden way. The white sauce—creamy, with flecks of parsley and a pronounced seafood flavor—was a nice complement to the noodles, cooked al dente; the garlic bread that accompanied the pasta was buttery and crisp, though perhaps not as saturated in butter as we would have liked. Even stranger was Pastel's Beef Gratin with Bulgogi Sauce ($9.95)—thin beef strips with sauteed peppers and onions, cheese, and an unfortunately goopy brown sauce, it was something like a burrito bowl meets a Philly cheesesteak meets... we're not sure what. If you get rid of the sauce, it's actually kind of appealing, in a total stoner-food way.

See more dishes in the slideshow »



The Red Mango at the front door will undoubtedly be a major draw, not least because it's self-serve. And as self-serve fro-yo outlets go, it's an attractive one: lots of choices, all of the nozzles working well on our visit, plenty of sample cups to try the different flavors. The thing about Red Mango is that we've found the original sort to be the best, so the opportunity to try a dozen flavors (ranging from tasty to inedible) isn't that enticing. But it's nice to be able to determine your own serving, and portion out toppings, for a price that doesn't seem to be any higher.

What might be more fun, really, is to save room for the stuffed crepes at the crepe stand upstairs—some with good ice cream piled inside, as if the crepes were softer, crisp-edged cones. But by far the most exciting was a Milk Toaster ($5), raisin bread soaked in condensed milk, all inside a crepe. Gloriously excessive and delicious, like a satisfying bowl of breakfast cereal, it tastes of warm childhood food memories.

See more dishes in the slideshow »

The Verdict

We knew Food Gallery 32 would be worth checking out. What delighted us is that it's worth going back to—whether for a quick lunch or a massive feast the likes of our latest visit. Spacious enough for groups, friendly enough for a solo eater, and cheap enough for frequent visits, it's dinner theater plus some pretty good eating—especially now that you're armed with our direction.

Ed Levine, Carey Jones, Chichi Wang, Jenny Lee-Adrian

i like "movie site" myself

Ugh, URL scare! In case anyone is accessing this from my blogspot address (ewww going back to that, ewww ideas I had in 6th grade), the new URL is stylerookieblog.com. At least the site makes it look like I have an in with J-Lo and that I am a girl being forced to look like I enjoy college for a picture in a brochure. She may be half-smiling, but I can see in her eyes that she wants to be rescued.

I can help you, College Girl! Perhaps you might be interested in some Watch Free Movie? The adventures of GI Joe? Or simply The Movie, if you are one for ambiguity?

Aaaaanyway, my uniform lately has been a tiara decorated one way or another and a sweater and a long skirt. Blah blah Meadham Kirchhoff blah Courtney blah blah riffs on femininity in the form of girl scout patches and jewelry with images from popular culture on them blahhhhhh.

I had to carry around a box of SweetHearts today when the heart stuck on top would get too worn down.
Duskin dress, Miu Miu collar, Bewitched necklace from Flamingo Cupcake on Etsy, and Cheer patch from Troop Moore on Ebay.

EDIT: More lies! Again! Back to http://www.thestylerookie.com/, yippee.

In Semi-Defense of Twitter

There's been a lot of hullabaloo about Twitter recently telling developers of client apps that, like, maybe client apps aren't a smart business model for them, as Twitter is going to be making client apps and (one might assume) crushing off third-party clients either through force or inertia.

I've read a bunch of opinions of people who feel betrayed by Twitter. Gruber, for instance, has banged the gong very loudly and linked to this article, in which Twitter claims their interest is in making sure that users have a "consistent" experience with Twitter across platforms. Taking Twitter's statement at face value, it's kind of hilarious Gruber would come out against this, since he's the prime press spokesman for Apple's curated approach to apps, where "consistent" is also used as the catch-all buzzword.

But I don't take Twitter's statement at face value. Honestly, I think what it means is, "Hey, guy, we've been providing a free service for five years, and now we need to make money off it. And if that involves us selling advertising on the clients instead of you doing so, well, you're going to get hurt."

That's a hard thing to hear for developers who have written Twitter clients. Some of these guys are my friends, and my heart goes out to them, it does. But, seriously, the value of Twitter is that it's a huge network of people who are posting all kinds of interesting things. If you write a client that accesses this data for free, and then you find a way to monetize your client (ads or sales), well, you have to expect maybe Twitter is going to want this money, right?

Yes, you can argue that great clients have been beneficial to Twitter's growth and development. Certainly I used Twitterific exclusively until very recently. But (a) it's not as though I wouldn't have used Twitter without Twitterific, and (b) it's still hard to argue that Twitter should continue making, like, NO money off Twitter while Twitter client makes continue making SOME money.

I know whereof I speak. My first project on Cocoa, in 1989, was a Usenet news reader, which I gave away, just to build my reputation. An Apple tech guy also wrote a newsreader a little bit later, thus sparking a rivalry between us. I was kind of pissed, honestly, that someone would compete with me and steal "my" market, especially when there were so many apps out there waiting to be written. But, you, being the impartial observer, are probably thinking, "Uh, it wasn't 'your' market. The value came from Usenet." Yes. You're right.

Over the years I've also written a web browser and a mail client and an image viewer and a PDF interpreter and other applications that use someone else's content and let the user interact with it on a new platform. And, while I made sure I got paid in each instance, I did not begrudge, say, Apple, when they decided to include PDF viewing in the core of Mac OS X. (Full disclosure: in that case they licensed it from me, so I got paid again.) Nor have you heard me utter a negative peep when Apple decided to build Safari, after my company had been the only web browser on their platform for years and years. (Again, to be fair, Apple first approached us about licensing our web client, and I believe our management made the wrong decision not doing it.)

And, to address the elephant in the room: Delicious Monster's current application, Delicious Library, uses Amazon database back-end to look up items. This provides a lot of value to Delicious Library. But in this case, we felt like we were safe, because we include lots of links inside Delicious Library for people to buy related items on Amazon, and we drive hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of sales their way. So, we figured squirting a couple bits our way should be well worth it for them. Also, there are other sources of information out there (although up to now none seemed as complete as Amazon), which is unlike Twitter – right now, there aren't other Twitter networks.

But when Amazon's terms of use forced us to withdraw our Delicious Library for iPhone app from the market, yah, I was upset. Because they get paid by people using our apps, but also because I felt this was bad business for them.

I never, however, used the words "they owe us" with regards to Amazon. When I spoke with Bezos on the issue, I said, "Look, here are the reasons I think this is a bad business decision for your company." And I pointed out that a mobile version of my app will only make money for Amazon, and that if he is too strict with access to his database, then someone else will come along and create a more lenient database, and Amazon will lose their enviable position of controlling the standard. [And, in fact, we're starting to see this happen already – Google now has a database that is searchable by UPC that has even more items (in our tests) than Amazon, albeit with less data on each item right now.]

I found out that some people had been approaching Amazon about Delicious Library and yelling and screaming and telling them they suck. And I apologized for those people, because honestly it is Amazon's decision to make, and yelling and screaming and telling people they suck doesn't tend to get results.

So do I think Twitter is wise to cut off third-party clients? Hell, I don't know.

Do I wish Twitter would just say, "Hey, guys, we're going to find a way to make money on our network, which is costing us a fortune, and if we happen to put you out of business, well, that's going to be tough for you?" Yes.

Do I think it's helpful to yell and scream and call Twitter traitors for not supporting their clients? Well, no.

Twitter clients are using a data feed that Twitter provided for free. Twitter's feed is obviously the valuable part of this equation. Twitter provided not just the content on the feed, but also the bandwidth, for free. Each new client costs Twitter actual money. Twitter isn't PBS. How do they make money?

Sure, one can reasonably argue Twitter should have figured out a way to make money a while ago. But, it's just as reasonable to say client-makers should have noticed Twitter isn't making money, and realized that something, somewhere, was going to have to change.

If Twitter does decide to pull their feed from third parties, well, it might not be good for Twitter, but I think you're hard-pressed to call it "evil" when a company does something really nice, for free, for five years, even if they suddenly decide to stop. And hopefully client-makers have, like, made money off their clients already, otherwise THEY messed up.

* Note that Twitter isn't a public company, so nobody knows exactly how much they make or spend, but they do say they make some money selling bulk feeds large companies.
** Full disclosure also requires that I mention I consider Twitter founder Evan Williams a friend, which may color my perceptions of his company. I have intentionally not spoken to him on this issue, however.

Fixing NCLB: So Much to Do, So Little Time

Examiner column for March 17.

            President Obama is calling for a fix of the No Child Left Behind law before the moment in 2014 when 100 percent of our public schools would be “failing.” Although well intentioned, the goal of 100 percent proficiency was never going to occur unless the tests became so easy as to be meaningless.

            The law has had some good effects, including increased focus on underperforming groups, and an effort to create more meaningful assessment tools (as tests are now called). But the ill effects have been damaging: decreased school and teacher morale in nearly every part of the country.

            Fear of being labeled a “failing” school when subgroups fall short of the yearly testing target created paranoia in the school where I taught for 16 years—one of the highest achieving schools in Virginia! Each year we would watch a doom-and-gloom Power Point showing how narrowly we had averted disaster, and what we would have to do to replicate that feat.

            Mostly it was a matter of a handful of students, but any principal whose school falls short has to undergo the third degree from the central office, and considerable not-so-funny ribbing from fellow principals until the “failure” is corrected. Missing the year’s target is every principal’s nightmare.

            Special education and English as a Second Language teachers in particular have been under scrutiny. At one time, students with learning disabilities were allowed to compile portfolios instead of taking standardized tests, but that was phased out as too lenient. The reality has grown increasingly clear over the years: there will never be a time when 100% of a school’s subgroups will pass a battery of standardized tests. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that more than 80% of the nation’s schools will fail to meet their targets this year, three years before the 2014 100% goal.

            The time has come to institute a new law guiding our educational future. Replacing the requirement for 100% compliance by a certain date in the future, President Obama proposes that states should institute more flexible goals, and “smarter” tests that will not be merely fill-in-the-bubble. (That might even mean portfolios of work could be used to measure progress in some students with learning disabilities who perform poorly on standardized tests.)

            There will continue to be financial incentives for states to adopt plans to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in classrooms, and to provide college and career readiness for all students, along with increased high school graduation rates. Additionally, schools in districts that have persistently lagged behind because of their rural location or low socio-economic population will be targeted for more technology to keep those schools in touch with national standards and allow students to take Advanced Placement and other specialized courses online.

            Who would argue with those common sense reforms? Our Senators and Congressmen will argue—that’s who! It’s so easy to let educational reform slide since children and their parents don’t hire lobbyists or shout as loudly as others competing for scarce congressional dollars. We need to bury NCLB and find a bipartisan way to put common sense back into educational law.  And we need to find a way to fund educational mandates, as well.


[Cover Art] Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee” (Part Two)

“Hot Sauce Committee Part 2″ Available May 3rd.

Players chip in to save coach’s life after Clippers decline medical coverage

Seven years ago, former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Kim Hughes was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the ensuing aftermath will change the way you feel about several NBA types significantly.

Up until Tuesday afternoon, the only functional knowledge I had of former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Kim Hughes was that he was, in fact, a former Los Angeles Clippers head coach, and that he once touched his elbows on the rim in a lay-up line at a high school tournament in Illinois, which really impressed my father.

Beyond that, nothing. Until Tuesday afternoon, when Howard Beck brought this column to Trey Kerby's attention, and he brought it to our attention. And now we're passing the feel-good savings on to you, in the form of an anecdote that reveals that NBA players Corey Maggette, Marko Jaric, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand all chipped in to pay for expensive life-saving surgery for Hughes, after the Clippers organization (read: Donald Sterling, noted worst person in the world) declined to cover the costs.

Declined to cover the cost of a surgery that would save their employee's life. While playing rent-free in an often sold-out arena in America's second-biggest television market. Unyieldingly evil.

Gary Woelfel has the original story:

"Those guys saved my life," Hughes said. "They paid the whole medical bill. It was like $70,000 or more. It wasn't cheap.

"It showed you what classy people they are. They didn't want me talking about it; they didn't want the recognition because they simply felt it was the right thing to do."

Hughes said he will be forever grateful to Brand, Jaric, Kaman and Maggette. In fact, Hughes said every time he runs into any of them, he thanks them from the bottom of his heart.

Maggette said that was indeed the case, laughing how he has repeatedly told Hughes over the years it wasn't necessary.

"Kim thanks me every time he sees me; he does that every single time," Maggette said smiling. "I've said to him, 'Kim, come on. You don't have to do that. You're good.'

No, you're good, Corey Maggette. You're pretty fantastically good. And so are you, Marko Jaric, Elton Brand, and Chris Kaman.

And Donald Sterling? You remain a terrible, terrible person.

Follow Yahoo! Sports on Facebook and be the first to know about the most interesting stories of the day.

Other popular Yahoo! Sports stories:
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Andrew Golis Leaves Yahoo for PBS, Chris Lehmann Promoted to Replace Him

Andrew Golis, the founding editor of the Upshot network of Yahoo news blogs, is leaving the Internet giant to go work as a senior editor and digital director at PBS's Frontline. Meanwhile, his deputy Chris Lehmann (who is also an editor at Bookforum) has been promoted to replace him. [Cutline/Yahoo]

Read more posts by Chris Rovzar

Filed Under: blog-stained wretches, andrew golis, chris lehmman, media, upshot, yahoo

Apple Keynote feature request: easy recording of your talks

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 10.12.26 AM
Summary: It should be easier to film your talks when practicing at home. Not everyone can make it to a conference or meeting where you present, but it's really easy to share a video of your talk with the entire world on Vimeo or YouTube. Sal Khan has shown how one guy can change the world with some screencasts, and I'd like to see the power of that fall into the hands of anyone with a Mac. I wish Keynote made it easier, and hopefully the next version does. 


My last post linked to my SXSW talk that I recorded at home. A lot of people asked me how I did it, and it required the following steps:

- get two macs running ichat that can talk to each other (one computer was using my AIM screenname, the other my .Mac screenname). Disable all audio in/out on the second computer you don't present on.

- Start a video chat between the computers, then drag your keynote file into the lower half of the video chat window to start "iChat Theater" on the computer you will present from.

- Resize the video chat window to something around 1024x768 in size, then start screencasting software (I use ScreenFlow) to record the entire desktop and make sure to capture the computer's audio.

- Walk back to your presenting computer, give your talk.

- Walk over to your screencasting computer, hit stop. Edit out the beginning and end of walking between computers, zoom the video so only your presentation shows in the viewport, then save.

- Export video out (I used the 960x540 AppleTV size, and it took about an hour to render) then upload to Vimeo.


You can currently rehearse your talks in Keynote, but it creates a slides-only video with your recorded audio. Most macs all have iSight cameras in them, so I'd really like to see a single mac option to record a video exactly like the screenshot above, without the need for a second mac or complicated screencasting software. 

About the only change that would be necessary and is currently lacking is that I can't see my presenter notes when using iChat Theater. The presenter sees something like this:

Screen shot 2011-03-15 at 10.12.59 AM

You can collapse the small image of your current slide and just have the forward/back controls, but I really wish notes were in that panel, like so:


Overall, I think this would make a killer addition to the next version of Keynote, and let people share their knowledge much easier and to wider audiences.

Cardboard Gods: the liner notes

Cardboard Gods is officially out in paperback today. Algonquin Books posted some news about their release of the paperback (including a chance to get a free copy) and also included my “liner notes” for my imagined soundtrack for the book, with thoughts on songs by, among others, John Lennon, the Grateful Dead, Leif Garret, The Ramones, and the band whose album cover (shown at left) fascinated me as a child as much as any baseball card:

 Algonquin Books: Cardboard Gods Publication Day and Liner Notes

Slash’s Mom

MySQL on Amazon RDS part 1: insert performance

Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS) is a cloud-hosted MySQL solution. I’ve had some clients hitting performance limitations on standard EC2 servers with EBS volumes (see SSD versus EBS death match), and one of them wanted to evaluate RDS as a replacement. It is built on the same technologies, but the hardware and networking are supposed to be dedicated to RDS, not shared with the general usage of AWS as you get on normal EC2 servers with EBS.

I benchmarked the largest available RDS instance, which is listed as “High-Memory Quadruple Extra Large DB Instance: 68 GB of memory, 26 ECUs (8 virtual cores with 3.25 ECUs each), 64-bit platform, High I/O Capacity.” I used sysbench’s oltp benchmark, with 400,000,000 rows. This creates a table+index data size approximately twice as big as memory, so the workload should be somewhat IO-bound.

My goal for this benchmark is long-term performance, but as a side project, I thought it would be interesting to measure the single-threaded insert throughput as sysbench ran the “prepare” phase and filled the table with 400 million rows. Here is the chart of rows inserted per minute (click on the image for a bigger view):

We can deduce a few things from this.

  1. The overall downward slope of the line is steady enough to show that we did not cross a dramatic memory-to-disk threshold, as famously happens in B-Tree inserts (see InnoDB vs TokuDB for example). This doesn’t mean that we weren’t IO-bound; it might only mean that we were IO-bound the whole time waiting on fsync operations. But we didn’t go from a solely in-memory bottleneck to solely on-disk.
  2. The insert performance is quite variable, more so than I would like to see. My intuition is that there are some severe I/O slowdowns.
  3. I should have gathered more statistics and finer-grained samples, say, every 5 seconds instead of every minute, and some samples of more data such as SHOW INNODB STATUS. But I was on the client’s time and I wasn’t going to spend time redoing it — I did not see that it would really benefit them.
  4. Finally, a single-threaded insert workload is not very revealing. To understand the sustained write performance of an RDS instance, we need a multi-threaded long-term insert benchmark such as IIBench.

In the next post in this series, we will see how the Amazon RDS instance performed at various thread counts on the OLTP benchmark.

Update Vadim and Peter have rightly pointed out that I shouldn’t have published this result without being able to explain exactly what was happening on the server. I will reproduce this test, capture more measurements about what was going on, and post a follow-up before I continue with the actual sysbench benchmark results.

Pizza Protips: How to Work with Very Wet Dough

From Slice


[Photograph: Donna Currie]

Pizza makers often talk about using wet doughs, and there are some bread doughs that can have even higher hydration. Focaccia, for example, is often made from an extremely wet dough. The recipe in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day has a hydration of 80 percent. For those you haven't grasped baker's percentages, we're talking about a recipe with 20 ounces of flour and 16 ounces of water.

Working with a dough that wet has its challenges, particularly if you're used to handling more typical doughs.

Mixing a wet dough is easy. Baking a wet dough, well, the oven does all the work. Kneading a wet dough is where many bakers go astray. For most doughs, the kneading is done on a floured surface to keep the dough from sticking. But if you knead a very wet dough that way, that dough is going to gather up a lot of flour along the way. Pretty soon your 80-percent hydration dough is at 70 percent or less. It's a lot easier to handle, but it's not the same dough.

Many people these days have heard of the stretch-and-fold technique. I first heard of it back in the days when newsgroups were the way to meet up with kindred souls. I belonged to a food group, and there was a very lively bunch of bakers who were experimenting with wetter and wetter doughs.

One day, one of the guys on the group said that he'd found a unique new way to handle very wet dough. What he described was the stretch and fold technique. I have no idea if he developed the technique independently, or whether he learned it somewhere. All I know is that the group proclaimed him a genius because the stretch and fold technique is a wonderfully easy way to work with wet dough.

The stretch and fold technique is just what it sounds like. When you knead a standard dough, you tend to fold it and push, fold and push, fold and push. If you tried that with a super-wet dough, you'd be fine with the fold, but the push would leave you with dough adhered to your palm.

Stretching and folding is a similar motion, but with a very wet dough you don't need to press it to get it to merge with itself, so the last motion is the fold.

Stretch and Fold Variations

There are several variations in this method. For example, you can do your kneading in a bowl or on a flat surface. There's really no difference in the result, so it just depends on which way makes it easier for you to handle the dough.

Most recipes for high-hydration dough recommend using olive oil on your hands and on the work surface (or bowl) rather than using flour. It makes sense, since you don't want the dough absorbing more flour as you work with it. The oil also makes the dough slippery to work with, so the key is to use just enough oil to keep it from sticking without using so much that you're chasing it around as it slithers across the counter.

To do the simplest stretch and fold, oil your hands to keep the dough from sticking, then grasp the far end of the dough, lift up to stretch it, and fold it over itself. Next, grab the near end of the dough, lift, and fold it over itself. Do the same with the left and right sides. Then flip the dough over so the seam is on the bottom.

It sounds easy, and it is—once you figure out how hard you need to grasp the dough. Hold it too loosely and the dough slithers out of your hands. Hold it too tightly, and you've got dough stuck to your hands. Hold it juuuuust right, and there's nothing to it. It just takes a little practice.

After stretching and folding from all four sides, the dough is left to rest (the time is based on the recipe you're using) and the stretch and fold series is repeated again. Depending on the recipe, you might repeat the stretch-and-fold and the rest several more times.

An alternative stretch-and-fold technique involves grasping two sides of the dough, pulling both up, and folding in thirds, like a letter. Then you turn the dough 90 degrees and fold it in thirds again.

The Result

As the gluten becomes more organized, the dough becomes more springy and smooth and elastic with each iteration of the stretch-and-fold. What was a completely oozy dough is able to be coaxed to hold a shape, and the gluten net becomes able to hold the bubbles and rise properly.

This method can be used on slightly less wet dough as well, if you prefer this to traditional kneading. The key is to watch the development of the dough and know when it has been kneaded enough—that doesn't change, no matter which method you use. With less wet doughs, you can use a little flour on your work surface and on your hands, just as you would if you were kneading in the normal manner, but keep it to a very light dusting to limit the amount of flour incorporated into the dough.

There are endless variation on this method, with different folds, different time intervals and different numbers of fold sequences. Once you've mastered the basics, you'll be able to manage any of them. And once you've mastered very wet dough, the less wet dough will be even easier.

About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. She writes the blog Cookistry and has joined the Serious Eats team with a weekly column about baking.

Hallå Sweden

Gratuitous Type has found it’s way to Sweden. If you’re in Stockholm, stop by the fabulous Papercut (located at Krukmakargatan 24) to grab a copy of our first issue. While you’re there, co-owner Alexander Dahlberg also recommends having a look at these favorite magazines: Apartamento, Put A Egg On It, 032c, The Journal, and Purple Fashion.


The world seems to be reeling from one crisis and confrontation with history to another. The unfolding disaster in Japan, understandably, has everyone's attention. And before the earthquake this weekend, the shambling and chaotic situation in Libya had everyone's focus. But something else just happened that while not momentous or dramatic in the moment -- or compared to everything else that's happening -- seems like a very big deal, and an event the implications of which may be vast.

One of the more protracted mass protests in the Arab world over the last two months has been in Bahrain, a small emirate on the coast of the Persian Gulf with close ties to the United States and a Sunni royal family presiding over a majority Shi'a population. The regime has rocked back and forth between violence and accommodation. But over the weekend the Bahraini royal family invited 1000 Saudi troops into the country to help control unrest. (Any number of these verbs might well belong in single quotes.)

There's a lot of context necessary to understand this situation -- a key one is sectarian. Saudi Arabia has a large Shi'a minority and, significantly, it tends to live in the areas where the country's oil is. It is also, to put it mildly, very resistant to political reform. Bahrain, meanwhile, is overwhelmingly Shi'a but is governed by a Sunni minority. Finally, a small minority of the population is ethnically Persian.

What all of this amounts to is that Bahrain has in a more advanced form most of the internal fissures that threaten Saudi Arabia itself. So Saudi Arabia's move into the country must be taken as some measure of the insecurity of the Saudi regime. Indeed, it's not clear to me what the Bahraini 'invitation' really means in this sense. It seems clear that the Bahrainis feel they've lost the ability to control the situation in the country and at some critical level have opted for outside (Sunni) force as the solution to the crisis as opposed to political reform. That is a decision that clearly troubles the United States. But we're at the limits of US power to affect the situation and reading between the lines it's not altogether clear the US administration feels it knows a better solution.

I don't know enough about the politics of the Arabian peninsula to confidently say more than this. But I know enough to recognize this as a very big deal and a sign that the contagion of unrest in the Arab world has fixed itself into not only Bahrain but Saudi Arabia itself in a way that's likely unleash all sorts of unpredictable results. It also seems to escalate a local and internal crisis to one pitting the two regional powers -- Saudi Arabia and Iran -- into a broader confrontation. Remember it was the threat to Saudi Arabia -- both the threat that we perceived and the threat perceived by the Saudis themselves -- that set in motion our intensive military involvement in the region stretching from 1991 all the way to the present day.

March 14, 2011

Montreal: Fleisher's Meats Hosts Butcher Blackout at Joe Beef



[Photographs: Pilar Benitez Vibart]

New York-based Fleisher's Grass-Fed and Organic Meats recently hosted its annual Butcher Blackout at the Montreal restaurant Joe Beef. Despite the dinner coming directly on the heels of my gluttonous maple syrup feast at Pied de Cochon's sugar shack (it was the next night) I knew better than to turn down an opportunity to eat a massive meal of Fleisher's famed beasts multiplied by Joe Beef's spunk.

Fleisher's is run by former vegetarians (!) Joshua and Jessica Applestone, a duo with a serious commitment to ethical animal practices. All of their meats are sourced from small farms, where healthy animals have access to grass and open pastures. Their old-fashioned philosophy has drummed up a tremendous amount of attention in the seven years they've been in business. (You also may have heard of Fleisher's from SE's meat t-shirt contest, or, for better or for worse, through Julie Powell's butcher memoir, Cleaving). As a restaurant renowned for both its creative fare and exclusive party atmosphere, Joe Beef was the perfect showcase for the Fleisher's crew and their gourmet meats.

At 10 PM on Friday night, I walked into the restaurant, and was immediately handed a sweating bottle of Czechvar. I wandered to the back terrace, which was littered with empty champagne bottles and well-gnawed ribs.

As we plucked hot morsels from the oversized grill and charcoal pit, welded together by chef and co-proprietor Frédéric Morin, I sampled all manner of Fleisher's famed beasts, including tiny bites of lamb sausage and suckling pig. While admiring the remains of a charred kid goat they picked up at the Atwater Market earlier that day, I was handed a paper plate, heaped high with cold, sticky pork ribs. Shivering in the frigid air, I happily chewed on the fatty, yielding meat.

Back inside, Joe Beef's cozy dining room pulsed with energy. A few scattered candles threw shadows on the walls. As I settled into a booth tucked behind the oyster bar, the Black Keys and Neil Young blared from a stereo. The staff at Joe Beef remained mysteriously mum about the evening's proceedings, and we were given no hints as to what the menu would entail.

Fingers tacky with barbecue sauce, I clapped excitedly when our first dish was placed on the table. A scattering of thickly cut, deep-fried bacon, served with chartreuse-hued sour pickle dipping juice, provided a cracker-like snap of flavor against the dregs of the Czechvar.


A huge platter was piled high with smoked ham, spicy pickled vegetables and whole garlic cloves. It also contained Joe Beef's riff on the iconic American after-school snack, "ants on a log." Joe Beef's dinner-appropriate variation substituted peanut butter for a blue cheese spread, studded with walnuts and tucked into the crunchy curl of a celery stick.


Pork belly returned again only moments later. Crispy, wafer-thin strips of bacon, stacked high on a plate, glistened provocatively under the candlelight. Before I knew what was happening, our server struck a lighter, and the entire dish went up in flames. The flambéd finish (provided by a glug of Ballantine Scotch whisky) imparted a boozy, caramelized edge to the gently incinerated bacon.


Our server, Vanya, brought over a dozen glistening Massachusetts oysters, declaring them "ocean cupcakes." Prince Edward Island native and champion shucker John Bil (his record is 18 perfectly shucked oysters in one minute and 26 seconds) had prepared these gorgeous specimens, which were half Chopper's Choice, and half Cotuits. Set on a bed of cold ice, and with plenty of fortifying seawater tonic still cradled in the shell, the oysters were vessels for only the most simple of dressings: a delicate flurry of grated horseradish, thick wedges of lemon, and mignonette sauce.

Though I don't normally gravitate towards Ontario wines, Vanya poured us cold glasses of Norman Hardie's Prince Edward County Muscadet. It was delicious, bone-dry and full of gritty mineral and shades of light citrus.


A buttery omelet dappled with pickles, chopped peanuts, matchsticks of carrots and daikon, and a flurry of cilantro and mint was distinctly Vietnamese inspired (it was similar to a bánh xèo, or sizzling pancake), though the lacy pouch of translucent deep-fried pork skin was a decadent, French Canadian touch. The crunchy, fresh dish was a winning match with Yvon Métras Fleurie, a lively red Gamay. (If you catch them on the right day, and in the right mood, Joe Beef can be even more generous than usual. Vanya reappeared ten minutes later, with another omelet for our table. "Here, have it. We made extras!" she beamed).


The "light" portion of the meal over, I waited expectantly for the more showboat meats to arrive. A thick rectangle of toasted baguette, fried in pork fat and soaked with veal jus, served as a starchy mattress for two decadent layers of veal: a juicy slice of veal jowl, topped with four velvety medallions of veal cheek. The dish was scattered with candied figs. As I sipped on a glass of Chateau Yvonne Cabernet Franc from Saumur-Champigny, I wondered why the jowl, in particular, was so ineffably delicious. How was it possible that the side of my fork slid so cleanly into the meat? I peered into the candlelight to inspect my bite, and the answer was clear. Most of the jowl was nearly molten fat.


Served on a bed of onions cooked in goat's milk, the Goat Pojarski (explained as a "reconstituted goat chop") was the apex of the meal. Inspired by Russian Pojarski, which typically makes use of chicken or veal, the Joe Beef and Fleisher's concoction consisted of finely-ground kid goat, wrapped in caul, and cooked until tender and faintly crispy.



The final dish, a gigantic salt-crusted rib eye steak cooked to medium rareness, was a cool idea, but the crust had leeched way too much salt into the flesh for me to enjoy more than a few bites. The side of smoked oysters and sautéed oyster mushrooms that came with the steak rang of umami, but the dish's extreme salinity blew out my palate. Glasses of Premier Cru Volnay were being passed around, but the wine was totally closed. (Wine nerds were debating whether it tasted like cherries or dirt, but all I could think of was musty libraries).


In a desperate bid to maintain a shred of gustatory dignity, I asked for no dessert. My pleas went unheeded, and the kitchen sent out a towering St. Honoré cake, named after the French patron saint of bakers.

Piled high with choux puffs -- made from pâte à choux, a dough most commonly seen in French profiteroles and éclairs -- and filled with crème Chiboust, the ornate cake was topped with tart raspberries and a delicate, glassy cage of caramel. To aid us in our digestion, Vanya poured us grappa nonino, a potent pomice brandy infused with rue, a bitter medicinal herb (Vanya called it the "abortion weed").

The collaboration between Joe Beef and Fleisher's was a brilliant move, and it's great to see Montreal celebrating more ethical meat practices.

About the Author: Natasha Li Pickowicz is a San Diego-born music and food writer, and a recent Montreal transplant. In addition to updating her food blog Popcorn Plays, she contributes to a number of music publications. She also curates experimental music concerts as Popcorn Youth, and is the baker at Dépanneur le Pick-Up, a popular restaurant in Montreal. She loves Richard Olney, Cabernet Franc, Ina Garten, pizza, and goose fat.

Jalen Rose's Uncle Tom Comment

I haven't finished watching the Fab Five doc, but it's really sad that Rose's Uncle Tom comment is overshadowing the piece. What I saw was excellent. But more to the point, I didn't think Rose's point was that Grant Hill was--objectively--an Uncle Tom. The point was that as a 19-year old kid, who had significant anger toward his own father, significant anger about growing up poor, he saw Grant Hill as a Tom and the Duke program as targeting Toms. 

That's very different than making an actual, literal case that, say, Hubert Davis or Elton Brand are Uncle Toms. Rose is dismissive of Christian Laettner, but he actually says he only felt that way, "until I got on the floor with him." I'm not sure why that's wrong. I could fill a blog post about the objectionable thoughts I had at 19. It almost gives the thing too much credit to say people are "taking it out of context." From what I can tell, folks heard "Duke" and "Uncle Tom" and then stopped listening.

I can't wait to watch the whole thing.

UPDATE: My apologies for defaming Hubert Davis. Being an ACC dude, I should have remembered he was a Tar Heel.

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Just You & I (Instrumental) Added To The Twin Peaks Archive At David Lynch Dot Com!!

Order now at DAVID LYNCH MUSIC COMPANY!! Remember folks, if these sell well, there will be more! Please support these releases and spread the news!
(Click to enlarge)

RunKeeper Pro

I have been using RunKeeper Pro since it was first made free in January of this year. I am training for a half-marathon run in April, and wanted something to help motivate me and to track my progress. RunKeeper fits the bill perfectly.

There are two components, the mobile app, which runs on iPhone and Android devices, and the web application, which allows more detailed analysis of your activities. The mobile application has a simple, straightforward interface, which allows you to track the time of your activities (this could be running, cycling, walking, hiking, etc...), as well as plot a GPS map of your activity, so RunKeeper can figure out how fast you were going, and how far you went. The app also offers verbal reporting while you are performing your activity, to let you know the time you've been working out, how far you have traveled, and your average pace for the whole activity. This is really useful to help you keep on track and not go too slow or too fast for your particular goals.


After each activity, you are asked if you want to post it on Facebook, if you have linked your Facebook account with RunKeeper. I would recommend this, as it is a great way to get encouragement from your friends which just offers more motivation to keep working toward your goal.

Your activity is also uploaded to RunKeeper.com, where you can login later and analyze your activity in more detail. You can look at a Google Map of your activity as well as see the elevation, pace, and speed at any given point during your activity. You can make your activities public or private. You can see an example of one of my runs here.

There are some more social aspects integrated into the RunKeeper site, such as groups of your Facebook friends who also use RunKeeper, so you can keep abreast of their activities and offer them encouragement and motivation as well.

Additionally, RunKeeper has some "classes" that you can purchase, which are created by sports trainers or professional athletes, that will help you to reach specific goals. Once you have purchased a class, you can start using it during your activities, and the app will give you verbal coaching while you work out, such as instructions to run the next mile at a fast pace, or to sprint for 45 seconds. This makes your workout more dynamic and also helps you to improve specific parts of your performance (like speed or endurance) without having to come up with a workout plan on your own. In my case, there are several Half Marathon classes available for different experience levels and different amounts of time to train before the race (16 weeks vs 24 weeks, for instance).

Since I've started using RunKeeper my outlook on running has changed, I've connected with a few other runners from my Facebook circle, and my endurance and motivation to keep going towards my goal of running a half-marathon have improved.

I've used other run/sport tracking apps for Android in the past but this one has them beat on the simplicity of the user interface, and the smooth social integration, which for me has proven very useful to keep me motivated.

-- Jake Moffatt

RunKeeper Pro
Android and iOS
Available from iTunes and Android Marketplace

Talking about Ev and the Blogger days

I rarely get interview requests anymore, and usually when I do, it's because people want to hear about Evan Williams. If you haven't read this site since 1999, maybe you don't know that he and I co-founded Blogger together, and that he went on to co-found Twitter. Anyway, last summer I talked to Bloomberg about Ev for a program called "Game Changers". But there's quite a bit about the early Blogger days in the show, including some old video footage of us in our offices (and me with short platinum blonde hair!) and some old photos. It was neat to see, and made me kinda sad. Bonus for viewing: you can hear me talk about Ev, kinda like those "Behind the Music" shows where some old band mate no one remembers talks about the guy who went on to become the huge star.


Yikes! I embedded the video and it's auto-playing. So here's the link to watch if you're interested: Bloomberg Game Changers: Twitter.

John Axford Needs Your Help

Brewers ender of ballgames John Axford wants you to help him choose his entrance music. As we all know, a closer’s entrance music is as vital to his success as his fastball and his morning muesli followed by a round of deep knee bends. That Axford is leaving such an important matter up to the will of the people demonstrates that, a, he is of, for and by those very people, and, b, Nickelback is just awful.

Anyhow, you’d think Axford, based on his winsome and gentlemanly mustache, would prefer whatever parlor music is favored by accomplished 19th-century railroad barons, but will the people give it to him? No, they will not. That’s because whenever the question involves music, the answer is always, always, eternally and without fail, “Motorhead backed by an orchestra” …

kottke.org, teenager

Thirteen years ago, I wrote the first entry for kottke.org. There was never a plan for the site...I just never stopped. And amazingly, I've been doing the site as my full-time job for over six years now. Crazy. See also from 2008, kottke.org designs through the years.

Tags: kottke.org

Crossing The Line Between Intellectual and Nerdy

Or: Why NotGraphs is Nerdier than FanGraphs

The idea of the baseball nerd is pretty well ingrained in those who follow the sport: crazy acronyms, unintelligible formulas, and spreadsheets (oh, the spreadsheets!). In that sense, FanGraphs encompasses this entire definition – just read anything by me or the rest of our staff or, in particular, any of our big-time chart-and-graph gurus like Albert Lyu or Dave Allen (NERDS!). The kind of nerditry (similar to punditry) that we see on our parent blog is hardly matched around the internet, at least by this definition.

However, I think solely looking at the analysis blog here and claiming “This is the ultimate in baseball nerd-dom” completely misses the point of what it means to be a nerd. Although the FanGraphs analysis blog (and similar places) embodies perhaps the most mocked part of being a baseball nerd, it misses the true meaning: heart, soul, humor, with, and other characteristics of real-life, actual human beings. Thinking deeply about something and producing well-thought, well-reasoned, and intelligent analysis (whether or not that analysis discusses player performance, the history of the game, or Michael Young slash fanfiction) is what nerds do. It’s not what nerds are; it doesn’t show the human substance that resides within us all.

This past weekend, nearly 20 employees of this fine website descended upon the strip-mall infested wasteland described by maps and road signs as “Arizona.” The nearly immediate synergy between such a large group of people with assumed social ineptness was tangible from the beginning. Perhaps we partially cheated. Some of us knew each other from last year’s event, and some of us hail from the same city, such as Carson and I in Madison, WI and Joe Pawlikowski and Mike Axisa in New York City (although I believe Pawlikowski is in Jersey now, and we all send our condolences). Still, a majority of the connections that resulted from the trip were previously nonexistent outside of a few Twitter clients and a company message board.

However, we all have something in common, and that’s a deep bond with the game of baseball. Our knowledge of the game is similarly deep. That may appear to be a brag, but it’s not. It’s just something that we’ve devoted an insane amount of time to, and as many people acquire hobbies and skills and know them backwards and forwards, we’ve done a similar thing with the game of baseball.

It was a weekend full of laughter and fantastic times. Sure, the events with front office members from Cleveland, Seattle, and Chicago headlined the trip and may have been the “official” reasons we were there. Of course, the events were engaging, thought-provoking, and entertaining, but they merely served as the opening band for the headliner of really getting our nerd on.

Getting our nerd on is seeing 25-year-old AA “prospect” Charlie Blackmon and nearly pissing ourselves. Getting our nerd on is working the phrase “Extra 2%” into conversation at every possible junction (sorry, Jonah). Getting our nerd on is making jokes about career bench players and getting huge laughs from the entire room. Getting our nerd on is a group of 10 people from across the country polishing off a 30-pack of PBR and a 30-pack of Tecate over eight hours of ottoneu fantasy drafting and barely filling out starting lineups, much less finishing the draft. Getting our nerd on is taking pictures of Dayton Moore’s Escalade. And, obviously, getting our nerd on is writing this piece at 6:00 AM Eastern Time (the time zone I’m flying to) entirely for my own enjoyment, with the thoughts and concerns of the reader out of sight and out of mind. Tenuous relationships to actual baseball be damned, this is NotGraphs!

As Carson noted this weekend, even in a large metropolitan era it’s unlikely that “one of us” knows too many colleagues or peers in baseball nerdosity. So, when we meet others with like minds and similar investments in being a baseball nerd, the results can be magical. Magical like an “oh, like Gregor, Henry, and Andres Blanco” joke in reference to a “blanco” dish at a restaurant. Magical like multiple people (not even projection systems!) acknowledging Zelous Wheeler’s existence. Magical like a .gif of Matt Daley’s pre-windup butt wiggle or Aaron Rowand shaking his bat like a certain part of the male anatomy in the batter’s box(anything more than two shakes and you’re just playing with yourself, Aaron). Magical like waving at Dayton Moore as he drives past you in a club car.

None of those things will make any goddamn sense if you don’t have the kind of investment in baseball that we have. Whatever; if you don’t, that doesn’t make you a bad person by any means. In fact, you’ve probably accomplished far more than I while I was busy memorizing the entirety of Cot’s Contracts. But this is where the heart, soul, and humanity of the nerd begins. Naturally, part of it is the pursuit of intellectualism and analysis in sport and the almost inevitable social alienation brought upon us by that process (seriously, try talking about WAR at a sports bar). And we clearly embrace that part of being a nerd and we like to believe that it serves people; that it makes people at least partially as happy as it makes us. But at the same time, this is such a huge part of our lives that it not only manifests itself as analysis but as humor and history and simply as excellent stories free of acronyms and formulae.

And this is where NotGraphs crosses that (somewhat blurred) line between intellectual and truly nerdy. The analysis produced at FanGraphs takes an inner nerd to produce, but what is on the computer screen is not in itself nerdy. Throw 10 jocks in a room and force them to play Dungeons & Dragons and the resulting scene won’t be nerdy. It’s the incredible dedication required to memorize a monster manual and other ridiculous details of the game that create the nerd society of a D&D campaign. That dedication, that memorization and exploration of such minutiae and obscurities is the true essence of nerddom. I hope that, as either fellow nerds or simply one with a curiosity for the most minor of detail, that you continue to join us down our exploration of baseball and our own nerdhood. Such is the true joy of my pouring so much of myself into the sport, and when I’m able to share in this joy with other people, it becomes even sweeter (I mean, seriously, I got a picture of Ned Yost’s parking spot in Surpise, Arizona with another person?! Really?!).

Hopefully, we here at NotGraphs can share even a fraction of the joy we shared with each other through our nerdition over this past weekend. Come, let’s embrace the nerd within, together.

Hollywood career advice from Alec Baldwin

Apologies in advance for the Charlie Sheen mention, but Alec Baldwin's advice to Sheen (and, belatedly, Conan) is golden.

Conan has moved on and his great talent is undiminished by his difficult experiences. I had wanted to say to him back then what I will now offer to Charlie. You can't win. Really. You can't. When executives at studios and networks move up to the highest ranks, they are given a book. The book is called How to Handle Actors. And one principle held dear in that book is that no actor is greater than the show itself when the show is a hit. And, in that regard, they are often right. Add to that the fact that the actor who is torturing their diseased egos is a drug addled, porn star-squiring, near Joycean Internet ranter, and they really want you to go.

Reminds me of Frank Sinatra's letter to George Michael.

Come on George, Loosen up. Swing, man, Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice and be grateful to carry the baggage we've all had to carry since those lean nights of sleeping on buses and helping the driver unload the instruments.

(via stellar)

Tags: Alec Baldwin   Charlie Sheen   Conan O'Brien   TV

Judging Books by Their Covers: 49

kropotkin_anarchism_german.jpgOver the next couple weeks I'm going to dig through the rest of the Peter Kropotkin covers I've found. Most are beardless, and many are banal at best, but there are some gems hidden in here. The cover to the right, for instance, is really interesting and strange. A giant generic pink heads fills the field of the cover, with a large albatross flying out of the person's mind, huh? I'm not sure if the bird is an oblique reference to Mutual Aid, Kropotkin's most influential work, but this is definitely not that book, but instead a German edition of his overview of anarchist philosophy and politics. The type is unfortunate, this would actually be an even more challenging and engaging cover if the title was in a cleaner sans serif font and dropped to below the chin, leaving the entire space of the head empty except for the bird in flight.

The British editions of Anarchism I found are much less compelling. The Freedom edition to the left from 1987 was designed by the usually amazing Rufus Segar (designer of the sharp looking UK journal Anarchy from the 1960s, you can see some examples of those covers on the Signal website HERE), but this is a real flop. I'm not sure if it read differently 25 years ago, but it doesn't stand the test of time. This is the general design, with the colors changing, for the entire Freedom Press "Anarchist Classics" series of that period, and it is clear that someone had some ideas of what "classics" should look like. But rather than pulling out a single or coherent set of visual ideas to convey seriousness, age, historical value, etc., a bunch of half-formed concepts have been thrown on top of each other. The background is made of bricks, but the corners are cut off with an outline, creating the appearance of a schoolbook, or ledger. The title is in this tall oval, with the publishing info in a diamond below, but the way they are stacked makes them look like a cheap medal, like something you would get for honorable mention in a contest. It just doesn't all add up.

To the left is a bearded cover that slipped through the cracks, a pamphlet version of Anarchism produced in London in the 1970s I think. Not much to say about it—I do like the overly ornate lettering, and the awkward spacing, I assume caused by each letter being individually rubbed onto the master cover via zippotone rub-on letters.


Conquest for Bread is currently a popular Kropotkin title (in English at least), but I wasn't able to find many different editions. Here are two recent paperbacks, the first is the 2007 edition by AK Press, part of its "Working Classics Series." The covers of entire series were designed by Juston Coyne, and are clean and solid. Their sparseness and design efficiency go much farther to imply "classic" than the aforementioned Freedom series. To the right is a fairly new edition by the small Canadian anarchist publisher Black Cat Press. In ways very different than the German Anarchism cover above, this one is both striking and strange. First, most editions of this book tend to include green, a nod to Kropotkin's utopian ideas about food production and harmony with nature. This cover is instead bright reddish orange, with the color literally dripping down the page like blood. And people are lined up to go into the smog producing factory like an industrial assembly-line. I guess the idea is to show the inverse of his vision for a new society, but without any clear exposition, it is a strange way to sell a book!


Mutual Aid is probably Kropotkin's most popular and most referenced work, and there are lots and lots of editions floating around out there. Here is a small selection, far from all of them. The first book is one of my favorite of all the covers here, a really nice integration of illustration and type, all in duotone red and and green, an unexpected color combination. This is the Porter Sargent Publishers/Extending Horizons Books edition, cover designed by Nancy Brigham. There is no date on the copy I have, and the web brings up a huge range, from 1960 to 1976. The one I have seems likely from the mid 60s. As a side-note, the inset illustration of the bees is one we used back in 1993 as part of the a log for the Beehive Infoshop in Washington DC! We used it on flyers and on pamphlets we produced, and maybe even on some patches and t-shirts. To the right is the 1955 Extending Horizons Books edition. The rough and expressionistic cover is kind of cool, but I've never been able to figure out if it is supposed to representative of something, or is simply abstract.


An elephant caravan is the focus of the cover of the new Freedom Press edition from 2009, and although I commend Freedom for trying to create a contemporary-looking cover, it looks a little bit too much like stock photography, and the clouds evoke a religious book, as opposed to Kropotkin's attempt to grapple with evolutionary science. next to it is a 1930s condensed pamphlet version I picked up somewhere for $1 I think. Nothing fancy, but the cover is actually letter-pressed, and I almost prefer the simplicity to the grandiosity of the elephants.


The last copy of Mutual Aid is a Spanish edition by Editorial Zero from 1970. The youthful piercing eyes are so contrary to the popular "old man" Kropotkin it is pretty jarring. The asymmetrical cropping of the image, the right and left justification of the title, and the repetition of his name (one vertically) make the cover feel almost proto-punk.

The Kropotkin book that bridges the gap between Mutual Aid's science and the Conquest of Bread's political economy is Fields, Factories, and Workshops. This is a great looking Spanish hardback edition, with a really awesome embossed multi-color illustration. It's from 1978 and published by Biblioteca Historica del Socialismo.


In 1974 the British anarchist, public planner, and political Renaissance man Colin Ward took Kropotkin's book and updated it, creating a new text titled Fields, Factories, and Workshops Tomorrow. Below are the British and American editions. The UK version was once again published by Freedom, and has a passable but not great cover. It unfortunately looks like a powerpoint slide. The American edition is on Harper, a major publisher, and has a very cool 70s montage construction of a mini-factory popping out of a potato. I'm not sure of the designer/illustrator, but it is reminiscent of some of the work of British political photomontage-ist Peter Kennard.


I'm going to round up this week with some bits and pieces and pamphlets. The two covers below are from small Canadian-produced pamphlet reprints of short pieces by Kropotkin. On Order is put out by Black Books, and has a cover that harkens to a classic age, but reads more as dull than efficient. Profit and Exploitation on the other hand has a snappy cover, the nice block-print style illustration overlaying the large Kropotkin title that anchors the design. The orange and black on the raw paper stock looks great.


Anarchist Morality if another reprint by Black Cat Press, the cover is much more simple than the Conquest of Bread above, and basically looks like a photocopy. I'm thinking the image is of Kropotkin as a youth, but I'm not sure where it is from (and I'm certainly no Kropotkin expert...). And finally this strange book titled The Black Flag: Kropotkin on Anarchism. I'm unsure if this is simply a new repackaging of Kropotkin's Anarchism, or a different book. It is published by Red and Black (not to be confused with Detroit's Black & Red publishers run by Fredy and Lorraine Perlman), and I believe is a print-on-demand (POD) book. The cover is classic POD crap, but it is interesting that the flag doesn't appear to be clip-art, someone might have actually created it in Photoshop or Illustrator for this particular cover. Ugh.


That's all for this week, stayed tuned next Monday for the Kropotkin wrap-up. We'll look at Memoirs of a Revolutionist and other books!

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Recommended by John Warner

Sarah Vowell is a fascinating writer. She launched her career as a radio (and print) essayist in the Sedaris mode, with a wry and self-mocking tone mixed in with pointed barbs that didn’t seem to hurt anyone all that much, leaving plenty of room for laughter.

Over the last several of her books she has evolved from personal essayist to what she now appears to be in her last two books: our best and most entertaining historian of Puritan America.

That might not sound like much fun, but Vowell’s mix of history with present-day reportage and sharp one-liners achieves what the best history does: shows us how our past is reflected in our present. Unfamiliar Fishes is a kind of sequel to her previous release, The Wordy Shipmates, as once again she’s fixated on the Puritan experience, but this time she’s engaged with New England missionaries who mean to civilize the native Hawaiian islanders and cause unpredictable, but inevitable mayhem. Just about every third page, you’ll find yourself shaking your head in disbelief over some tasty historical nugget that Vowell manages to unearth. Incest, leprosy, and prostitution are all apparently central to our 50th state’s transition from a self-contained culture to an “Americanized” colony.

As Vowell shows, the American imperial impulse reached a kind of peak in the final years of the 19th century, as the new power flexed its regional muscle, not just in Hawaii, but Puerto Rico and the Philippines as well, in the form of the Spanish-American war, which ended in a victory that ultimately turned pretty sour. Vowell makes the reader reflect on the costs of America inserting itself where it wasn’t invited, and may not be needed without lapsing into polemic. She’s questioning and searching, and it’s a pleasure to follow along.

Vowell the wisecracking character is less involved in her recent work, as for the most part she stays out of the action and in the background, but the voice is still there, as though you’re going on a historical places tour with the world’s wittiest tour guide. Her fans will love the book as much as they’ve loved all the others. Newcomers, particularly those who enjoy popular history, will be well satisfied.


John Warner is the editor of The Staff Recommends and the author of Fondling Your Muse: Infallible Advice From a Published Author to the Writerly Aspirant.

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell

Recommended by John Warner

Sarah Vowell is a fascinating writer. She launched her career as a radio (and print) essayist in the Sedaris mode, with a wry and self-mocking tone mixed in with pointed barbs that didn’t seem to hurt anyone all that much, leaving plenty of room for laughter.

Over the last several of her books she has evolved from personal essayist to what she now appears to be in her last two books: our best and most entertaining historian of Puritan America.

That might not sound like much fun, but Vowell’s mix of history with present-day reportage and sharp one-liners achieves what the best history does: shows us how our past is reflected in our present. Unfamiliar Fishes is a kind of sequel to her previous release, The Wordy Shipmates, as once again she’s fixated on the Puritan experience, but this time she’s engaged with New England missionaries who mean to civilize the native Hawaiian islanders and cause unpredictable, but inevitable mayhem. Just about every third page, you’ll find yourself shaking your head in disbelief over some tasty historical nugget that Vowell manages to unearth. Incest, leprosy, and prostitution are all apparently central to our 50th state’s transition from a self-contained culture to an “Americanized” colony.

As Vowell shows, the American imperial impulse reached a kind of peak in the final years of the 19th century, as the new power flexed its regional muscle, not just in Hawaii, but Puerto Rico and the Philippines as well, in the form of the Spanish-American war, which ended in a victory that ultimately turned pretty sour. Vowell makes the reader reflect on the costs of America inserting itself where it wasn’t invited, and may not be needed without lapsing into polemic. She’s questioning and searching, and it’s a pleasure to follow along.

Vowell the wisecracking character is less involved in her recent work, as for the most part she stays out of the action and in the background, but the voice is still there, as though you’re going on a historical places tour with the world’s wittiest tour guide. Her fans will love the book as much as they’ve loved all the others. Newcomers, particularly those who enjoy popular history, will be well satisfied.


John Warner is the editor of The Staff Recommends and the author of Fondling Your Muse: Infallible Advice From a Published Author to the Writerly Aspirant.

You. Need. This.

Do you have a black eyelet dress?

Like, say, this one, from Holly at LuciteBox?


I don't set myself up to be a "dictator of taste", and I don't think I've ever done one of those "Ten Items Every Woman Must Own" lists, but if I did, a black eyelet dress would be on the list. ("Trench coat" would not be on the list. Has there ever been a fashmag printed that didn't tell you to run out and buy a trench coat? "Trench coat" is like the "free square" in Bingo.)

This is why you need a black eyelet dress: they're perfect. (Okay, okay, I'll elaborate.) Black eyelet has a natural tension between sweet and sultry, between looking (and staying) cool and looking hot. It's easy to dress up or down, and easier still to accessorize. (Black pique is *almost* as good, it's just slightly more casual.)

I've seen black eyelet like this (elegant, restrained) and black eyelet wild (in some 1980s fashion spread -- I wish I'd kept it -- a black eyelet A-line dress with eyepopping neon bra & briefs under it, possibly a swimsuit, but hey, it was the 1980s, everything was neon). 

I've got one black eyelet dress that I've worn nearly to rags, so I'm definitely planning a black broderie anglaise dress for this summer, lined in black batiste (or unlined, if I choose to go the neon underthings route ... UNLIKELY). 

This one is 38/28/40, and trust me, you will wear it until it gets rusty and falls off you. 

Happy Pi Day Pie! Make a Pi-Shaped Pie

From Recipes

[Photographs and original illustrations: Cakespy]

Jessie Oleson (aka Cakespy) drops by every Monday to share a delicious dessert recipe. —The Mgmt.

There is some disagreement over when to celebrate Pie Day. Some (including the American Pie Council) cite January 23 as the day, the reason allegedly being that the digits of 1/23 are "easy as pie." Others (generally math nerds) say it must be March 14, or "Pi" Day.

Of course, this is a very silly argument, because really, it's an opportunity to enjoy pie on two separate occasions, whether baked at home or at a roadside stand, cafe, or bakery. But as a shout-out to the math nerds, here's a Pi-shaped Pie for March 14.

Use the template with your favorite pie crust and use whatever filling you'd like (I used peanut butter and chocolate chips), but know that it's best enjoyed at 1:59 PM...and 26 seconds.

About the author: Jessie Oleson is a Seattle-based writer, illustrator, gallery owner, and cake anthropologist who runs Cakespy, an award-winning dessert website. She is currently at work on her first book.


serves 3.14, active time 15 minutes, total time 1 hour

  • Pie dough for a 9-inch pie
  • 4-5 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup milk chocolate morsels
  • 1 egg, beaten, to use as an egg wash


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. On the bottom half of your rolled dough, place your filling in the shape of a Pi symbol (you can use this template).

  3. Fold the top half of the dough on top of your Pi-shaped filling.

  4. Cut the dough around the filling to match the Pi shape, but leave a little extra dough around the sides of the filling so that you'll have a spot to pinch the edges so that the filling doesn't come out while baking.

  5. You'll notice at this point that you have plenty of extra dough. I have just two words for you: Pie Fries.

  6. Lightly brush with your egg wash, and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.

March 13, 2011

Ok @Vimeo wins for best venue (Taken with instagram)

Ok @Vimeo wins for best venue (Taken with instagram)

for japan

My journey began Wednesday when I left Silverlake for Tokyo on a plain sunny LA morning. I'd packed haphazardly at best (five pairs of shoes? all shorts? my biggest furry coat on the plane? sure..) and was feeling a little delirious and a lot carefree, making Colin stop for my favorite coffee and orange juice so I could leave with a taste of home even though he insisted I needed the international-required 2 hours to check in. It ended with an early flight back from an airport lined with people on blankets by jam-packed ticketing counters and Next LA miraculously having succeeded in finding that one way ticket home. 

Things were going perfectly on schedule down to the minute as they do in Tokyo...my arrival was as pleasant as it was uneventful, and I was checked into my hotel in Roppongi and asleep by 11 after a quick trip to the convenience store and spending a little time allocating all my chargers and toiletries to make the next day go a little more smoothly. I was warned that hair and makeup would be getting to my room in the morning but I laughed this off with the knowledge that I'd be getting up early to make a couple quick blog posts and explore the breakfast options downstairs. After having my favorite makeup artist Mio prep me and thoroughly enjoying idly catching up with him, we hopped into a taxi to the Nylon Japan studio about half an hour away, where I was excited to style out 6 looks using both my clothes and their selects. Honestly, my biggest problem was how to put together a nautical look that wasn't too literal. 

I was in the middle of exacting this when the floor started to quiver at a little past noon. We all looked at each other in mutual acknowledgment of the earthquake, but fear wasn't really part of the equation yet. We started to wait it out..shelved items were remaining relatively in place and I was thinking it had to finish any second now. I was on the verge of going back to the clothing racks to mull over how I was going to color block when we realized it wasn't stopping. It was getting much more violent. Worried glances upward turned into a flat out decision that we had to get outside. Now. We hurried to the stairs and came out onto the street, where an old woman grasping a scraggly dog and passing motorcycles were the only others in sight. I asked stupidly while looking at the surrounding apartment buildings, is everyone still inside?...to blank faces. The asphalt below us rumbled and shook strongly for what seemed an eternity as we held each other and shivered. That shaky feeling of surfing is the only way I can describe how it was making my legs feel. Car alarms were going off and telephone poles swayed reed-like but structurally everything seemed to be holding pretty fast in our immediate vicinity. I learned later this was no mistake, Tokyo architecture being designed to do just that. My mind flitted briefly to evacuation training I'd had at the school I had gone to in Tokyo when I was little, and that every one of us had had this awkward chin-strapped yellow double pillow device to pull onto our heads in case of just this. This is a country about being prepared, ready, I reminded myself. After a few minutes it became hard to differentiate the actual shaking from how hard my heart was beating. It seemed to die down and we decided to go back up for the time being and see what the radio had to offer. A mirror had broken onto the floor and rolls of paper spilled across the room. As they found the best station, I loaded Twitter on my phone and did a quick search, immediately yielding photos of a devastated Tokyo Disneyland. The crew relayed that the epicenter was in Miyagi, 200 miles north. Level 5 here, level 8 there that was later corrected to be closer to a 9. Fuck. But my God, the levels of destruction it had and would continue to cause..we had no idea. The shaking started again, this time we grabbed our bags and headed back outside. Subsiding more quickly this time, we tried to resume regular business and finished the shoot, checking for updates throughout and wondering how we were going to get home with likely no taxis and trains completely down. It was dark by the time we were done and the photographer offered to drive however many he could fit into his car. My manager didn't know what would be best, calculating the distance and probable state of home and office..while she mulled this over I sat stiffly and thought how lucky I was to be in a car and what the hell I was supposed to do once back to the hotel. 

The scene on the drive back was unreal. Masses and masses of people, most wearing health masks, packing the sidewalks, spilling over onto the road, their faces stoic as they navigated toward shelters or home if they could. Bright convenience store windows displayed customers stocking up as shelves slowly cleared entirely. Endless lines awaited buses, seemingly the only semi-reliable public transport left. I looked up and saw a train that had come to an awkward halt on an overpass, imagined how odd it must have looked when the passengers had gotten off and walked the tracks to the nearest station. The soundtrack was what sounded like air raid sirens and not much else. And through all of this, there was no sense of panic, nothing near pandemonium, just people that knew that this was what they had to do right now. 

At the hotel. Got out in the road in the middle of gridlocked traffic with my 50 lb. suitcase in tow. I reassured my manager that I would be fine on my own for the night and tried to believe myself, not even close to being about to take someone away from where they were needed most. 

I went up the stairs to my room on the 3rd floor, still greeted courteously by the front desk....jammed my dead Pocket Wifi and iPhone into their chargers, anxious to check reports online and understand what was happening. Instantly sickened by what I was met with on Twitter and Google..instability and failing efforts to cool the Fukushima nuclear reactor worsening tweet by tweet, fires at an oil refinery in nearby Chiba, footage of tsunamis sweeping away everything in their paths like steamrollers, entire towns unaccounted for, skyscrapers swaying in Tokyo and the tip of the Tokyo Tower bent, 70,000 trapped at a flooded Disneyland, speculation about radiation poisoning, the Honshu island shifting eastward 8 feet, talk that the Big One was still on its way....equal parts heartbreaking and terrifying. Sleep obviously wasn't an option through the news and unrelenting aftershocks..this time measuring from 3-5, every one necessitating a decision to leave or stay. I intermittently read updates and Facetimed on a weak internet connection with Colin as I kind of broke down quietly. My mom emailed me from California and reported that my family in and around Tokyo was alright, my aunt saying that the force at her place was strong enough to flatten falling cans. But just relief.

The light of morning came with a call from my booker: "We're getting you home". I replied that I doubted the possibility of this, the Narita trains weren't running, the roads blocked, but she was adamant to not take no for an answer. I quickly tossed my things into my bags and stepped outside. The air felt strange, piercing, and somehow my ears were ringing. I looked up at the buildings that had held so strong and walked out to the road, deserted save clumps of cars that would pass every few minutes. After trying and failing at multiple routes I think I already knew were hopeless and 10 hours of renavigation, I made it to the airport via subway with help from every direction that I didn't deserve, most especially my Les Pros manager Noriko who didn't leave my side until the very last second at security. Even afterwards she watched me walk down the stairs to immigration and messaged me that she wouldn't be heading back until the flight was in the air. Remembering leaving her brings a lump to my throat but I know I'll be back to see her soon. I am so, so lucky. 

Tokyo held up pretty well compared to the Northeastern coast. The situation there is unbelievable and my heart goes out to the evacuees and families affected. The entire thing still doesn't feel like it could possibly be real. Some links to illustrate the actuality of the situation if you somehow haven't seen them yet:

Japan needs us right now. The ever-growing estimated death toll has skyrocketed to 10,000 and the lasting effects of the multiple phases of the disaster are impossible to fathom. I wish the entire nation resilience and hope and those working at the nuclear plants and coasts everything in my heart, but the most we can do is help by donating. People the world over, including me, are going about their daily lives while so many are devastated. Please please help by donating to the Red Cross here. I know this is supposed to be a place for pretty pictures of frivolous things and this is a lot of writing to take from me..but we have to try to make a difference. I know Japan will rise above this.

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami: How You Can Help

I know we're all absolutely stunned by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan. My heart goes out to the victims of this incomprehensible tragedy. Please help as much as you can. Send donations to:

Thank you, Harris

No musical numbers.

The other day we found ourselves on an exceptionally plot-packed car on the BART train to SFO. Several competing movies seemed to be playing out in one tiny airport-bound space, with us awkwardly in the way of all of them. At one point we were seated in the middle of some kind of contemporary Keystone Kops style physical comedy, surrounded by a Hindi-speaking family consisting of one mustachioed man, four women, five boys aged about five to eleven, and two girls, about the same. The kids swapped seats more times and in more configurations than you could imagine, with impressive choreographed crispness. 

That part of the ride wasn't particularly plot-filled, obviously. The plot density was higher earlier in the trip. A few stops in, a young man and woman a few seats down, in my line of sight, started quietly freaking out.

He, staring with amazed delight at his phone and at her: "Get the fuck out of here. Get the fuck out of here!"

She, bouncing up and down in her seat, grinning like mad: "Ah! Ah!"

They continued in this happy but nonspecific vein for some time. While I was doing my best to eavesdrop more effectively, a group of hustlers running a shell game poured into the car and set up shop right at Steve's elbow. Their setup was the shell game equivalent of a bong made out of a Coke can: three plastic bottlecaps for the shells and a little grotty piece of foam rubber as the pea. 

Steve entertained himself by silently picking out the shills from the marks as I concentrated on the Get the Fuck Out of Here couple. Aha! Someone wanted him for their tv show in some capacity.

"Fox! As in F - O - X. Aaaaaahhhh!"

But what? He seemed plausibly good looking enough to be an actor, nebbishy enough to be a writer. A professional funny guy?

Meanwhile, the guy running the shell game waved a hundred dollar bill. "Show me your money. Show me your money." F - O - X kissed, held hands, stared together at the phone. "I don't even know what to say. What should I say? I don't know what to say."

"Say you want to do the show!"

A shill flashed his comically obvious carny roll.

"But what if this weekend was just... some one-time magical thing?"

The shill "won" the hundred dollars and exchanged very studied daps with the dealer.

In another part of the car, a separate, not very good, indie drama was unfolding in which a tall guy in his early twenties, sending off little pings to my gaydar, ran into a co-worker and engaged in some pro-forma flirting with her friend. "No, honey, if you weren't scheduled, you weren't playing hooky!"

An apparent actual mark lost twenty bucks. (Who the hell bets money on a shell game, when the phrase "shell game" is literally synonymous with "scam"? I mean, really.)

The nature of the F - O - X opportunity finally revealed itself: "I wouldn't actually be the cinematographer, but I would be the first cameraman." (Hooray!)

Then everything started winding down in nicely coordinated style. The shell game broke up, the participants putting in a merely perfunctory effort to disguise the fact that they were together as they left the train. The budding director of photography and his girlfriend settled in for some serious making out, and the flirting friends went their separate ways. 

Having written all this out, it occurs to me that my New York friends are no doubt still waiting for the part where something unusually subway-eventful happens. For you jaded Gothamites, please imagine all of the above performed by bingo-playing Jedi getting married and not wearing pants. In duplicate.

Massive happy things on the landscape

I always wish there were more massive happy things (MHT) on the landscape.

I saw these on the Dentsu Dark Matter email this week. Aren't they fantastic? Don't they make you smile?



From Pink Tentacle

I love the Angel of the North.

Angel of the North

By I like

I don't love it because of the regeneration or regional pride it may represent. I don't love it because of it's artistic qualities. I just love it because Massive Happy Things look really cool from the train.


By rojabro

These crosswords in the Ukraine are amazing.

Screen shot 2011-03-13 at 21.22.46

From The Telegraph

Recently there's been the Anthony McCall's Column of Cloud. A mile high! A mile!


Isn't it great?

The point I'm trying to make is that this stuff is great just beacause it looks cool. Just because it brings a smile to your face. Just because it brightens up a dull landscape. Massive Happy Things.



By blech

I wonder if this I why people always like ghost signs, the unexpected massiveness. The surprise of something artistic on the landscape. Something frivolous.

This is a terrible advert in every way. But in the closing scene - wouldn't it be great if there were more massive happy characters painted on buildings? That would be nice.

Screen shot 2011-03-13 at 21.04.27
There's a bigger point in here about the responsibilty of those who create billboards, but that's for another time.

Wouldn't the world be a better place with these Massive Happy Things by the side of the motorway?

Forgive the Sunday night Photoshop.



So, I wrote a tiny Observer piece in a bigger, and slightly doom-laden piece, about confessional blogging. Firstly, if you can find it online without using that link, give yourself a medal. I think a grand total of 8 people have come to the blog from it. It's a good thing I'm not some kind of attention hungry trollop, cravenly intent on building traffic by any means poss.. oh. Sssh.

Anyway. I had a terrible job writing so little: there was so much more I could have said, wanted to say. I'd have struggled with 3000 words, probably, because for the last year or so I have thought about these questions around online identity pretty much constantly, and without any satisfactory resolution.

The thing I found myself thinking mainly, once the deadline passed, and I had turned in something that was incomplete, partial, though true, was this: I think, really, I'm constitutionally unsuited to confessional blogging. If you want to write very candidly on line, you need to have a very robust sense of self, and of your own boundaries. You need, if not a thick skin, at least a slightly reinforced one. You have to know when to take criticism on board, and when to laugh it off as the frothing of lunatics. I have none of those things: I sway in the slightest breeze of disapproval, become completely uprooted by anything stronger. I'm weak and uncertain, I lack perspective and I want everyone to like me. Objectively speaking, I have no place on the internet; it's like I wandered off one day and found myself somewhere I wasn't really equipped for.

I didn't even know to be wary when I started ; there was no calculation, no cost benefit analysis when I wrote. It was a bit stupid, definitely naive. It wasn't like I was in the vanguard of blogging like some of the people mentioned in the Observer piece; I'm a pathetically late adopter and I could very well have known better, but I simply never thought in those terms. I did it for myself, I enjoyed the feedback, so I did it more. It was pretty raw, occasionally mean, entirely honest. Some of those entries make very uncomfortable reading for me, some got me into a heap of trouble. Even so, I haven't taken many down.

And I still write. I don't write quite as unguardedly as I used to: you never quite get over your HR manager quoting sections of your blog back to you, I think (mmmm happy days). But I write, and I have no intention of giving up and the reason (it's going to get a bit sappy here, you are warned)? I have been exceptionally, extraordinarily lucky with what this blog has brought me. I don't think that article as a whole gives a good sense of how very much blogging can confirm or restore your faith in human nature, and how that can be a driver to keep doing it. To the extent the piece sees an upside to blogging, it's as an adjunct to some kind of commercial venture, a brand building exercise or conceivably as a forum for intellectual synergies. That's not why most people write personal blogs, and the benefits they derive are not commercial or even necessarily intellectual; they are about belonging, exchanging, giving and getting comfort. I don't argue with the author's assertion, which is quite elegantly put, that:

"Our digital lives are interwoven at every point with the rest of our lives. When we pretend otherwise, we risk making appalling, life-wrecking mistakes".

Of course that's true. I've written about this, talked about it with experts in order to write about it, and felt and learnt the truth of it personally in all manner of ways. But if I had been as reticent as perhaps I should have been two, three years ago, I would have missed out on some extraordinary exchanges and experiences. I have, as I say, been lucky: every time I have said something revealing, or painful over the last three years, people responded with enormous compassion and kindness. That's not everyone's experience of personal blogging. I'm very conscious of my good fortune, of how lucky I have been to have the readers I have. It has given me hope, and optimism, and an extraordinary set of relationships: intimate friends I can barely imagine how I lived without, acquaintances, people I can occasionally get drunk with, correspondents, sharers of one off meetings, or fellow lovers of capybaras. This is a bit schmaltzy, I know, but when I have a dark night of the soul about the direction my life has taken in recent years, I think of M, of Mrs Trefusis, of B, of Trish, of Beatrice, Katy, Tom, L, F, and lots of others, I think of testing a magnetic penis ring on a goat with Antonia, or Fountain Pen Sue sending me a massive box of Pokémon cards and some knee vitamins, and I can't regret it, I just can't.

I was staying with an internet friend this weekend and we talked about this kind of thing. She mentioned this post - and this gives me a very clear sense of how things have evolved; I looked at it and winced, and wondered about not including the link. But dammit, that's how she came into my life, and I certainly wouldn't want to have not known her. I might not quite be able to publish and be damned any more, but remembering that, and all the other moments like that, reminds me of the value of still trying to publish and be brave, occasionally.

4chan founder: Zuckerberg is “totally wrong” about online identity

christopher pooleChristopher Poole, the founder of controversial online image board 4chan, outlined his vision for Web-based community today at the South by Southwest Interactive conference — and yes, his ideas are in pretty sharp contrast to those of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg has spent a lot of time talking about his stance on identity and privacy, especially recently, as Facebook has taken more criticism for its various privacy policies. (To get the flavor of his remarks, check out VentureBeat’s post about Zuckerberg’s privacy stance from last May, as well as David Kirkpatrick’s book The Facebook Effect.) He’s been pretty aggressive about advocating for users to have one identity wherever they are online, because that encourages them to be more authentic (and also means they can carry their social connections with them to any site).

Poole, who is also known under his 4chan username “moot”, said, “I think that’s totally wrong.” He’s had plenty of opportunity to observe the pluses and minuses of anonymity in action, since 4chan is well-known for its anonymous user base. (In fact, the activist hacker group that emerged from 4chan is known as Anonymous.)

Poole argued that anonymity allows users to reveal themselves in a “completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way.” One of the things that’s lost when you carry the same identity everywhere is “the innocence of youth.” (“Innocence” isn’t the first word that would come to mind when I think of 4chan, but okay, I’ll go with him here.) In other words, when everyone knows everything you’ve done online, you’re a lot more worried about screwing up, and you’re less willing to experiment. Poole compared this to being a kid, moving to a new neighborhood, and having the opportunity to start over. On the Internet, you don’t get that opportunity.

“The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself,” Poole said.

In the case of 4chan, users feel a lot more comfortable trying to create funny images that can become memes, because content that doesn’t catch on disappears quickly, and they’re not weighed down by their failures. Poole said another benefit to 4chan’s anonymity is that content becomes more important than the creator, which is unlike virtually any other online community. Rather than prioritizing the most valued and experienced users, 4chan allows anyone to access the site and post something that might take off.

At the same time, it seems Poole’s attitude towards privacy has evolved. He’s working on a new community site called Canv.as, which actually integrates with Facebook Connect, although users can still post anonymously. Poole said the fact that “you know that we know” the user’s real identity, even if other users can’t see it, discourages people from indulging in the most obnoxious behavior.

The “Wild West” approach, while important for 4chan’s popularity, has had an effect on Poole’s ability to turn the site into a real business. Very few brands are willing to run their ads alongside content that’s so unpredictable and potentially offensive, he acknowledged.

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quick housekeeping note

Hi folks, you might notice a little "rewards" tab on the side of the page -- I'm helping a friend test out a new blog service, so any and all feedback welcome. (That's what happens out here in the Silicon Valley, everything's on the bleeeeeding edge.)

While you're here, enjoy this 1970's pattern:


[from HouseofGlassCards, on eBay]

Just looking at this pattern gets me so earwormed with "Hey Nineteen". But I kinda want to make the sailor collar version ... 

Reeder for iPhone’s new “Slide left to” feature (iTunes link)

Yesterday Reeder for iPhone was updated with a feature I’ve long wanted, namely the ability to assign a specific action to the gesture of sliding an article title to the left in the article list view.

I’ve set mine to “Send to Instapaper,” which means that when an article’s title has enough information for me to know I want to read the article later, I simply slide the title to the left, and can immediately continue scrolling. The action itself is so fast and fluid, and collapses what was four touches (i.e., Title > Services > Instapaper > Back) into just one.

I know I’ve said it a million times, but this app is untouchable. Silvio, I love you.

Update: I’m told that this feature has been in Reeder for iPhone for a while, and that this latest update just added Readability support to the mix. (Thanks MacMacken.) How did I miss this the first time around?!

Graphic: Growing TED by giving it away

Ogilvy Notes brings us Liisa Sorsa‘s graphic realization of June Cohen’s talk this morning at SXSW: “Radical Openness” Growing TED by Giving It Away.” At this talk, June announced TED’s intention to open our API to coders to build new tools. A few more tweets from this talk:

From @SuziDafnis Openness isn’t easy. Takes time. It’s often easier to stay closed, to want to protect things.

From @RedheadWriting From #TED: when openness works – (1) clear goal that inspires (2) draw passionate user base #sxswi

From @jeroenvanerp: @JuneCohen: A global audience becomes a global team! #SXSW #TED

From @frijolita: #TED Talks evoke contagious emotions — when ppl have an aha moment, they want to share it. @junecohen #sxsw

RSS Lenin’s Rope

As I write this column, I wonder: Am I slipping into schizophrenia? My right brain is frying, overloaded by a never ending whirlwind of new digital tools, from hardware to internet applications. My left brain, which powers both my current daily job and this Monday Note, is cooler, skeptical. Both sides look on as the digital wave devastates professional journalism, shredding all value previously associated to it.

Take RSS feeds.

From a right brain perspective, RSS is an extraordinary invention. It provides all the ingredients of modern news consumption: unlimited choices, free access (including to otherwise paid-for sources), easy setup, inherently up-to-date, etc.

The first RSS iterations were rather crude. “Readers” (RSS client software) were spartan but extremely efficient. Now, we’re entering a new phase: RSS “arrangers” or “organizers” transform raw feeds into a rich reading experience, much closer to a newspaper or a magazine. The introductions of Flipboard and, last week, of Zite make Google Reader look like a Finnish psychiatric ward being replaced by a Norman Foster design.

Zite has generated a great deal of reviews (see Fast Company’s ). It’s a marked improvement over Flipboard. The latter is better designed, but offers not hierarchy to help arrange RSS feeds and other sources (such as Twitter, Flickr of Facebook feeds). Zite creates a magazine-like table of contents and, using a recommendation engine, appears to learn from your reading patterns. Further dissection is left to learned tech bloggers debating the pros and cons of the latest iterations of these multi-sources readers.

No matter how perfectible these personal readers are, they undoubtedly gestate the news publishing industry’s future. They successfully address two key factors in today’s media consumption:

- time allocation — I’ll tend to pick the service that helps me to be more productive
- the interface dimension, i.e. the increasing appetence for sleek and fluid designs.(Something Google still doesn’t get: instead of sticking to their Blue Cross Blue Shield-like, data-centric color code, they ought to go get their own Jonathan Ive).

Now, the left brain speaks up and asks two questions:

- what business model for the apps developers?
- how does this way of reading the news impact (positively or negatively) the business models of existing medias?

Advertising is the most likely answer to the first query. In theory, huge readership should yield nice revenue streams. At some point, B2B licensing could become feasible; large firms could fill bespoke versions of Flipboard with internal information, catalogs, manuals, etc.

The second issue is more tricky. Here are some examples.

Below is the Business home page in Zite. No ads, no nothing. In the red rectangle, a headline from Business Week:

Next is the Business Week article as it appears in Zite:

Look, Ma: No ads! No money!

Now, the original story as it appears on the BusinessWeek site:

As you can see, there are ads. Expensive ones, actually. According their official rate cards,  Bloomberg Business Week expects to charge a CPM (Cost Per Thousand) of respectively $115 for the banner and $144 for the square in the right column. OK. These are before-negotiation rates. But even after a 50% rebate, this is still huge: in Europe, rates for business sites are more likely to net a CPM in the $20-$30 range. Bloomberg Business week supports this price with its 12.9m unique visitors audience and its enviable  demographics. BBW brags it reaches 638,000 millionaires, which is half the Wall Street Journal’s purported score of 1.38m millionaires.

The wall Street Journal, precisely. As it appears in the Zite business page:

….Then, in a Zite full story page:

… and the original story, as you can see full loaded with ads (but, for some reason, not behind the paywall):

You get my point: by reinserting a story from an external source in its interface, Zite strips it of any value to the original publisher. Here, I refer to the ads sold in this particular editorial environment. And Zite isn’t even substituting its own value — thank God…

This could be fine for a Twitter feed, Facebook babbling, or any kind of user generated gruel. But it is not fine at all for professional publishers such as The Wall Street Journal Gigaom or Business Insider (I performed the test above for all three.) To a varying extent, these organizations line up writers and editors in order to produce their content. For them, this is the perfect lose-lose situation since their news material leaks into Zite, resulting into content they won’t be able to monetize. In return, they get nothing: no fee, no revenue share, zip.

The agent responsible of this economic absurdity is the RSS system. Medias are profusely generous with their RSS feeds. The New York Time offers no less than 167 streams of various natures. You can reconstruct an entire digital newspaper with those. In doing so, you remove all the value that was sold with this content by the NY Times ad sales people. And if you add feeds provided by great newspapers and magazines such as The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Economist (50 feeds!), The New York Review of Books and some good pure players and professional blogs like Slate, Poltico or TechCrunch…. You’ll end up making the best digital daily you can think of, because, you will end up to be the ultimate editor.

I cant’ help but consider the RSS  generosity shown by all medias (main street traditional as well as digital natives) as another iteration of Lenin’s rope: “Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”…

At the risk of repeating myself, from a user’s perspective, I find this abundance of great content just fantastic. And as a journalism freak, I carry no nostalgia for the good old days. My concern is simply for the news business, for its ecosystem’s sustainability — i.e. the ability to collect and produce original information. That’ll be the subject for a next column.


No related columns.

Announced at SXSW: TED to open API

At SXSW this morning, June Cohen, TED’s Executive Producer of Media, announced TED’s intention to open an application programming interface (API) for its posted TEDTalks and associated data — in the hopes that developers will use the API to build new tools for viewing and sharing. Initially, the API will focus on TED’s content library, giving developers access to TED’s almost 900 posted TEDTalks, as well as their rich metadata, including topic/tag, date, event, length, ratings, translations and transcripts. Access to the API will be granted to individual developers or organizations, based on an application detailing the proposed noncommercial use.

Greg Ferenstein of Fast Company writes:

Speaking before her announcement at TED, June Cohen … told Fast Company that in keeping with the organization’s promise of transparency, “The natural next step is to open up content to the developer community…. Every time we’ve allowed people to contribute, people have surprised and humbled and delighted us.” More to the point, she says, “We know we don’t have the monopology on good ideas.”

The API will be released midyear.

If this announcement makes you as happy as it makes us, please know: We are hiring engineers! Details at on.ted.com/Jobs

(The snapshot above comes from ImageThink.net‘ graphic recording of June’s talk, supported by Ogilvy Notes. Photo by Thaniya Keereepart.)

Japan Earthquake Aftermath

Three days after a massive earthquake that is now estimated to have registered a 9.0 magnitude, Japanese rescue crews are being joined by foreign aid teams in the search for survivors in the wreckage. Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan has called the disaster nation's worst crisis since World War II, as the incredible scope of the destruction becomes clear and fears mount of a possible nuclear meltdown at a failing power plant. It is still too early for exact numbers, but the estimated death toll may top 10,000 as thousands remain unaccounted for. Gathered here are new images of the destruction and of the search for survivors. More images will be added as they come in. [33 photos so far, more to come]

A wave approaches Miyako City from the Heigawa estuary in Iwate Prefecture after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the area March 11, 2011. Picture taken March 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Mainichi Shimbun)

An Interesting Profile of Howard Schultz

“Mr. Schultz concedes that he can no longer run Starbucks through the Cult of Howard. And he readily acknowledges that he badly misread the economy and underestimated the extent to which his customers would pull back during the recession.”

This is a very interesting profile of Schultz and Starbucks.

[Starbucks’s Chief Tries to Recapture Its Heyday - NYTimes.com]

Related posts:

  1. Video: A Look at the Future of Starbucks
  2. Video: Starbucks vs Gun Control in Cafe Grumpy
  3. Profile of Coava Coffee in The Kitchn

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