MarkBernstein.org
Dec 06 31 2006

Banyuls

For the last dinner of 2006, I braised a bunch of duck legs. I started out by making some fresh stock, using a duck carcass I'd saved from some months ago. I seared the duck legs in olive oil until nicely brown, and then braised them for about 3 hours in the chicken stock and two cups of Banyuls along with a skillet-ful of carmelized onion, carrot, and fennel and lots of thyme.

Banyuls is a fortified, sweet, grenache-led red wine. I didn't know, either. It's good with chocolate, too.

After the braise, the duck legs were crisped in the oven while I strained and reduced the sauce. With the duck, we had a nice gratin of potatoes, turnips, and prunes, baked in cream and seasoned with some more thyme.

All of this is from Susan Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques , which has been my favorite food book of 2006 (winning by a nose over the wonderful "Charcuterie: The Art Of Salting, Smoking, and Curing" by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, chiefly because I find it hard to wait long enough to salt, smoke, and cure stuff). The book presents weekly dinner menus (for six) for each season of the year, featuring lots of interesting but accessible seasonal ingredients. The recipes are good but not fussy, ideal for a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen, and the food is very tasty indeed.

Last night, we saw the ART's new production of The Onion Cellar. They've taken the new space at Zero Arrow and turned it into a cabaret, complete with tiny tables and a real bar (and that must've been interesting to negotiate!).

It's a vehicle for the Dresden Dolls, and it's exactly the sort of thing I love to see ART do. Amanda Palmer seems to be immensely talented, and I can easily see the ART triumvirate wondering if they could catch lightning in a bottle. It's not quite there, because it's not quite a play. But it's fascinating and new, and you've got to take your shots.

I've had good luck this year at the theater.

  • The Onion Cellar
  • Wings of Desire
  • bobrauschenbergamerica
  • No Exit
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Orpheus X
  • Island of Slaves
  • Frank's Home
  • No One Will be Immune and other short plays
  • I Am My Own Wife

I'm having great fun with Robert Harris' Imperium . It's a fictional biography of Cicero, notionally written by Cicero's famous slave Tiro, the inventor of shorthand.

Over lunch, I pulled the Oxford Classical Dictionary off the shelf. (How many software developers have OCD on the shelf? Is this a great job or what?) Because Cicero has been taught as a model for school kids from the first century down to the present — oh, those long nights puzzling out Pro Archia!

Si quid est in me ingeni, iudices, quod sentio quam sit exiguum, aut si qua exercitatio dicendi, in qua me non infitior mediocriter esse versatum, aut si huiusce rei ratio aliqua ab optimarum artium studiis ac disciplina profecta, a qua ego nullum confiteor aetatis meae tempus abhorruisse, earum rerum omnium vel in primis hic A. Licinius fructum a me repetere prope suo iure debet.

and because Tiro did his job so well, we know quite a lot about Cicero. We have a bunch of his speeches, several volumes of his letters (many of which were not written for publication), and some of his books. We know Cicero better, in other words, than anyone else in antiquity: we see him depressed and over-excited, we seem him making mistakes.

Who is the next person who comes into detailed historical focus? Leonardo? Cosimo de' Medici? Pepys?

by Robert B. Parker

Though this delightful volume is nicely printed between hard covers, it's not a book. Spenser no longer appears in books.

Almost everything here is dialog. When Parker needs to describe a place, he chooses a brand-name landmark that will be familiar to his readers -- the bar at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston, Viand in New York. When Parker needs a minor character, he reaches for one of the characters he developed in earlier volumes. We've got quite a crew of them this time: April Kyle, Patricia Utley, Hawk, Tony Marcus, Susan. The other characters are cyphers and placeholders, strictly off the rack.

When other writers need some psychological depth, they let their characters interact and reveal their neuroses and quirks. Parker, instead, trots out Susan to pronounce a diagnosis, which the characters can then validate at their convenience, now that the audience knows what to watch for.

And yet, this is a lot of fun. Hawk is Hawk, Spenser is adorable, and April Kyle is always interesting. The epigrams are plentiful and terrific, the winter equivalent of beach reading.

We have a name for literary work that's almost entirely dialogue, that relies on stock characters and a fixed plot arc, and that rewards us with epigrammatic wit. We call this theater. We call it, specifically, comedy. Parker set out to be a minor Chandler, but nowadays he's a minor Wilde.

Microsoft gave away a bunch of free, new Vista laptops to weblog writers.

I didn't get one.

Megnut has been writing useful posts with gift suggestions and such — useful year-round, not just for Christmas. One of her recent notes has a typo with wonderful historical echoes:

Buzzfeed indentifies the latest trend of dining alone, and offers links to help you deal.

Armed Forced ID cards of the WWII era were boldly labeled, "For Indentification Only". I've always wondered whether this was a preposterous bureaucratic blunder or a clever ruse for trapping forgers.

We started with bluefish paté and a few cheeses, served on a nice box of biscuits that Amazon grocery had sent us in a promotional care package. This was a fine excuse to try the Chard Farms Judge and Jury Chardonnay we carted home from New Zealand earlier this year. A merry time was had by all.

Then, gigot a sept heures, much like last year, but better. A nice Colorado leg of lamb, tightly sealed in a dutch oven (grouted with bread dough so it's really sealed) along with lots of thinly sliced onions, plenty of diced carrots, and a generous cup of white wine. And don't forget the duchess potatoes, which plenty of cream and bubbling with Emmenthaler cheese, or the very pleasant Bordeaux.

Meryl made a lovely ginger cake for dessert.

Then, back to the kitchen — not just to clean, but to prep the morning's caramel French toast and to brine tomorrow night's roast chicken.

Dec 06 24 2006

New season

by Marisha Pessl

I had picked up a new novel recently, but we weren't hitting it off very well. No major incompatibilities, no fights and arguments, no bitter snubs, but no sudden burst of affection. So, this morning I reached for the light, reached for the book, put it back down, and grabbed the next book on the stack: Marisha Pessl's Special Topics In Calamity Physics .

Oh my, Pessl can write.

Specifically, she's got a real knack for tackling a core problem in getting started: the characters know what's going on, and the reader doesn't. It's tempting to have the characters explain too much. It's tempting to just let the read be confused. Pessl does a terrific job of giving you all the information you need, while the characters pretend they aren't cutting you any slack at all.

It began with simple sleeplessness. It had been almost a year since I'd found Hannah dead, and I thought I'd managed to erase all traces of that night within myself.

Hannah? Who's Hannah?

We'll get to that later. Meantime, we sure have plenty of narrative springs being nicely wound, while we're looking the other way and having a good time.

I had an interesting chat yesterday with an industry leader who thought my me-too piling-on with 37 Signals on blog comments was harsh.

One message of the post was intended to be, I've been saying this for years, I've given two blog conference keynotes where this seemed to be the message people remembered (whether I wanted that or not). When they write the history, I'd like a footnote, please. Thanks!

But my friend had an interesting point. I argue that blog comments are dangerous because they lead to bad, boring, and destructive writing. You can ignore an insult or a lie, but it's harder to ignore in your own home -- or in the pages of your own blog. If you want to comment on a weblog post, the right place to comment is either in private correspondence with the author or on your own weblog.

My friend's point is simple: doesn't my insistence that the right place to comment is on your own weblog mean that the "rich" — people who have weblogs and whose weblogs have readers — may comment while the "poor" may not?

Why not simply ignore the lies and insults? This is easy, as long as you don't care very much. But caring deeply about something is usually a prerequisite for writing a decent blog, so that’s no answer. You could simply delete the lies and insults, but there's been a social sanction against deleting posts. If you're perfectly free to revise or delete comments, then comments are far less dangerous to the blogosphere.

The decline of Feedster, PubSub, and Technorati reinforces my friend's point. Part of my belief in commenting on your own weblog was confidence that modern blogosphere search tools would readily bring your writing to the attention of those who were following the discussion. PubSub is dead, and in my experience Feedster and Technorati are so riddled with spam blogs that they seldom find useful links. I still read my vanity feeds, but I rarely discover much besides spam.

The rise of social bookmarking, like del.icio.us and ma.gnol.ia, and the new prominence of social navigation tools like digg and reddit, partially compensates for our loss. But digg and reddit by definition reward mostly the rich; it's much easier for celebrities to generate digg momentum than it is for kids or scholars. Still, these social systems resist spam, and conceivably could fill part of the gap left by the collapse of specialized blog search.

We could fix this. For starters, the blog search tools could find a better way to kill spam blogs. It's not easy, because the spam blogs are also targeting Google, and since Google competes with blog search it might not mind seeing waves of pollution swamping their competitors' indexes. But one answer might be to discriminate modestly against blog hosts that shelter blog farms. Blog farms could be discouraged by charging a modest fee to set up a blog — perhaps refunded automatically after a few months good behavior — or by banning violators, or some other way. This might mean (temporarily) discriminating against Blogger blogs, which once would have been unthinkable. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the collapse of blog search (and trackback) and the sudden popularity of private blog enclaves suggest that the public blogosphere is in trouble.

Several observant readers have noticed that this blog is now published with Tinderbox 3.6. They write immediately, "Where can we get Tinderbox 3.6?"

You can't, quite yet. We're still testing. Soon!

37 Signals has a nice survey asking, Why do blog comments seem to bring out the worst in people so often?

I've been saying this for four years, on three continents. It's still true. (MySpace is not a counter-example. Vox is not a counterexample. DailyKos is a counter-example, but only because "diary rescue" lets people read one or two comments culled from thousands.)

Roger Ebert's annotated list of Four Star Movies of 2006 is out.

  • Akeelah and the Bee
  • Army of Shadows
  • Bubble
  • The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
  • 49 Up
  • An Inconvenient Truth
  • L'Enfant
  • Man Push Cart
  • Marie Antonette
  • Overlord
  • A Prairie Home Companion
  • The Proposition
  • The Queen
  • Three Times
  • Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
  • Tsotsi
  • United 93
  • Volver

I've seen only one: Bubble. A few more are in my queue, and after reading Ebert I've added some more.

It's a problem, though. I work until 7 or 8 (that's 19:00 or 20:00 for those of you who are following along at home in Europe). Cooking dinner takes an hour or two. Weeknights, there's not much time for a movie.

So far this year (see left), I've seen 40 movies. That's not enough to keep in touch with all the great new art that is appearing, much less make inroads into the lists of films I ought to have seen. This will, I think, require a deliberate effort and some planning.

by Tony Hillerman

Hillerman tries his hand at a bit of narrative experimentation -- in this case, a mystery thriller told entirely in flashback, as Joe Leaphorn tells Jim Chee and his new wife Bernie about what Leaphorn was doing while the newlyweds were enjoying their Hawaiian honeymoon. Hillerman's sense of place is unmatched, and continues to be the principal delight of his writing. The plot, this time, has holes, but it's good to see Hillerman again turn outward from his heroes' psyches and look around the rest of the reservation.

Dec 06 20 2006

Tinderbox ✓

On modern browsers, the title of this post contains a checkmark character (✓), which I can conveniently include by typing

^do(check)

This Tinderbox macro expands to ✓ , which is the HTML entity for the Unicode "checkmark" symbol. ♨ ☒ ❧

Dec 06 19 2006

Love and Prison

A 17-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl, at a party in Georgia in 2003, did some of the things that teenage boys and girls sometimes do with each other. The consequence for him: ten years without parole.

by David Mamet

An intriguing, incoherent book from a great writer. Mamet has long argued that anti-semitism is alive and vital -- not merely amongst the poor and ignorant but also -- perhaps especially -- in educated and sophisticated circles. His attack on Schindler's List ("It is to my mind Mandingo for Jews") strikes me as provocative and worthwhile: it might be right, it might be wrong, it is certainly worth hearing. His essay on Jews in film, "The Jew For Export" (in Make-Believe Town: Essays and Remembrances) is essential. Here, his discussion of the real meaning of Santa Claus (and the real reason parents delay telling the kids the truth about Santa) is well worth the price of admission.

But this book, which tries to expose the wickedness of the "wicked son" of the Passover Haggadah, the son who asks "What does this mean to you?" , founders because Mamet cannot bring himself to sympathize, even distantly, with the son. Mamet tells us that the son is wicked because he is aggressively removing himself from the family, the community, the tribe, under cover of "simply" asking a question. And this might indeed be wicked if the son were removing himself because he believed he'd receive some benefit from electing himself out of the family, if the son dishonestly chose to pretend that he did not belong to this family even while feasting at the family table.

What Mamet affects not to understand -- what he doesn't even mention -- is that the wicked son need not be the sullen teenager trying to distance himself from the family he is trying to disown. He may instead be asking a pertinent question. "You say that you are doing these things to commemorate the intervention of The Eternal One in a labor dispute long ago and far away. This is patently improbable, and such evidence as we possess has clearly been contaminated by many generations of political tampering in support of causes and kingdoms long forgotten. We have known this in our family for generations: the only thing that anyone remembers of my great-great grandfather was that 'he was a learned man,' and his descendants read and studied and wrote. When you study Rosa Luxemburg or Abe Lincoln or Pericles, you apply different standards than you are applying tonight. What makes this night different from all other nights?"

Magdalena Donea's house had a large redwood in the back yard. The tree fell down. Um. Okay. We have no house. 

Everyone is OK.

Maggy tags this post with "tree, house, wtf, oops, bellevue".

Here's another problem with folksonomy: nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Which is to say, the tags for something improbable, exotic, and bizarre are unlikely to be very useful. (Taxonomy isn't much better, of course. "Uh, does this get filed under "Redwood: impact on residential building: deleterious" or "Nocturnal adventures: domestic: frightening"?

by Nick Hornby

Sequel to the hilarious The Polysyllabic Spree and delightful fun. this slender volume collects Norby's witty columns from The Believer in which he describes what books he's been buying, and reading, each month. The lists seldom coincide.

Cathy Marshall attends a social software symposium and observes that something is not right.

Folksonomies are indeed like folk songs and folk singers: it’s hard to dismiss this kind of earnest populism without feeling like something of a cad.

She takes on David Weinberger and his forthcoming book, Everything is Miscellaneous .

David Weinberger’s point seemed to be that folksonomies and social tagging can cut up the world in more and different ways than the more authoritative taxonomies (say, Linnaeus’s taxonomic trees that classify the species according to observable characteristics). That folksonomies are fluid and can record important distinctions. That by shaking all the leaves so they fall off the trees, you can pile them up in new ways that makes more sense. And that authoritative categories can turn on you: Pluto can be a planet one day, then defined out of a job the next by virtue of its lack of two essential characteristics (that it rounds itself and that it clears space around itself).

Much of Cathy's discussion circles around her search for a photo of a mural in San Francisco's Mission District, in which cheerful pigs show how pigs should be butchered and cooked. You don't need to take photos anymore -- you can find even obscure curiousities like this on the Web -- but tags don't seem to help a lot in tracking them down.

Dec 06 13 2006

Leslie Harpold

Magdalena Donea sends word that pioneer Web designer Leslie Harpold has died. (Del.icio.us web shrine) (Merlin Mann) (Lance Arthur)

Dec 06 12 2006

Beta

We're moving swiftly toward a new Tinderbox release. But we've set a new record for betas this time: b10 goes out to the testers today.

And this was supposed to be a cute little release! Oh dear.

While we're on the subject, and looking forward to the next beta round, I'm thinking of writing some notes about how one might be a terrific beta tester. Do you know anything good on the subject? Email me.

Interested in a Tinderbox Weekend in or near London, perhaps 21-22 April 2007? Email me.

by Peter Heather

The end of the Western Roman Empire was not a mere political experiment. A vast zone of economic prosperity and artistic innovation suddenly collapsed and vanished, leaving Europe to centuries of grinding poverty.

The Romans had central heating, a form of banking based on capitalist principles, weapons factories, even spin doctors, whereas the barbarians were simple agriculturalists with a penchant for decorative safety pins. So, while the barbarians had something to do with it, they couldn't really have caused the fall of the Empire. Surely the barbarians merely took advantage of more fundamental problems rife within the Roman world.

But did they? This book will reopen one of history's greatest mysteries: the strange death of Roman Europe.

Heather builds a compelling argument that the barbarians were responsible — not because (as Gibbon thought) the Romans were so indolent and decayed that they could no longer resist, nor because the Germans were such great warriors, nor yet because Roman taxes were too high. The barbarians destroyed the Empire because they wanted so urgently to join it.

Rome's frontiers expanded to the edges of the ancient West because, in the end, people on the frontier wanted to be Roman. This expansion benefited everyone for centuries: the new Romans got central heating and theater, and the Romans got an every-growing economy. What stopped expansion in the East was a superpower. In the North, what stopped expansion were the Barbarians — people so poor, in lands so cold and barren, that the Roman economy couldn't make any headway. You could make a denarius from British pottery or Spanish wine or North African wheat, but what could you do with safety pins?

It was clear to the Romans that the ledger sheet would never work, that at some point they'd be trying to turn a profit in frozen wastes. But that didn't help the folks left on the outside. They wanted to be inside; the more frozen the wastes, the better that central heating sounded. It was, in short, a mess.

The mess was tolerable as long as life on the outside remained tolerable. What changed? The Huns . We don't know much about the Huns — not even what sort of languages Hunnish might have been — but we do know that nobody wanted to live anywhere near the Huns. Germans, caught between Horde and the Roman police, opted to face the police and try asylum. The Romans couldn't keep them out, and the Huns had force-fed their political development until the Germans had become formidable, unified forces. Those German politicians wanted their own tax bases, and the whole central edifice collapsed.

Our best sources for the late empire are roughly as good as our worst sources for the Augustan age. We often have to rely on epitomes and summaries written centuries after the event, or on biased polemics intended to prove theological or political points in which we no longer have much interest. Worse, many of our sources are simply unattractive. You might not have wanted to vote for Cicero but he'd be an interesting guy to have to dinner. You might not want your teenage daughter to be dating Juvenal or Catullus or Ovid, but you can see why she might have other opinions. But Symmachus and Cassiodorus are difficult at best, florid and flyblown. For many things we ought to know (who were the Huns, anyway?), we simply have no sources.

Occasionally, Heather tries to relieve the rhetorical excesses of the age by reaching for an informal tone. Often, this works, though I do think the word "consequences" is generally superior to "knock-on effect". I'd love to have a little more archaeological detail and to hear a little more about the evidence, but the text already runs to 459 pages with another 100 of apparatus and a couple of dozen plates. This is an admirable book: readable, sensible, thorough, and level-headed.

Tim Bray and Anil Dash are exploring compact indexes for their weblog archives. Bray calls this a Dash View, which is a great name — we should name things more often for people. I'm a little miffed, I guess, because I've been using this kind of view for years, both in the right sidebar (for Book archives) and the footer (for weblog archives).

2013 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2012 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2011 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2010 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2009 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2008 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2007 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2006 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2005 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2004 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2003 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan

2002 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | MarFeb | Jan

2001 Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | old

This is a live example, transcluded from the current navigation footer. Someday, no doubt, the navigation scheme will change; someone will have a great new idea, I'll implement it, and this weblog post will have a broken or incorrect example. For now, though, it's a nice specimen of experimental information archicture.

Dash View has a certain ring to it. We could call it a dash board.

Chronological access is literally geeky: we're exploring it because we can, not because it's useful. It's far more useful to provide good topical access, and still better to link things together. But if dates are what you have, then it's better to represent and use the dates than to treat your archives as fish wrap.

Dec 06 8 2006

Web Volatility

Kathryn Cramer wonders why her Web traffic is so volatile. What accounts for the sudden, inexplicable, surges in traffic to your weblog?

I've been wondering about the noise level in Web traffic — it's not just weblogs — for years. In fact, the puzzle was one of the research topics I proposed in my 1999 Hypertext Conference keynote, "Where (again) are the hypertexts?"

We should expect lots of fluctuation. Businesses, for example, see all kinds of fluctuation. One day is busy, another is slack. One ad works, another doesn't. People try to find reasons for everything, but sometimes there is no reason at all.

Suppose you have a sandwich place and you expect 50 people to come to lunch on a typical day. Hundreds or thousands of people could come to lunch, but most of them won't; they'll go to another place, or they packed their own lunch, or they are visiting their mother in Fargo. One day, six or seven people from Topeka happen to be walking past and one says they feel hungry and so they walk in. One day, Mrs. Zinfandel's bridge party is cancelled because the Red Sox are playing the Angels and so Mrs. Zinfandel doesn't bright her eight friends. It's a swing of 20% of your business, but it's not anything you did.

The fluctuations are too big to be random. Random fluctuations are proportionally larger at low traffic levels. Some noise, for example, arises because you can't see half a reader. That noise matters more for low traffic levels, obviously.

People surf in virtual cohorts. Eastgate gets weird traffic spikes, for example, when classes at various universities all visit more-or-less at once. Kathryn gets spokes when she's in the news, or when she's the target of a right-wing harassment campaign, or when she's discovered a unique presentation of important data. This is the modern equivalent of the old slashdot effect: gangs of surfers launched on a common trajectory over a comparatively short span of time.

Traffic begets traffic. If extra people visit Kathryn's page, she has extra chances of being mentioned in their weblogs. Those extra inbound links might lead to more traffic — and even more inbound links. The same activity can lead search engines to deliver extra traffic. This can lead to explosive feedback loops (the political blog echo chamber). Because weblog links last only a few days, the blogosphere's feedback tends to be spiky.

We really don't understand Web volatility. I think we ought to have a better quantitative explanation.

In the New York Review Of Books, Mark Danner offers a wonderfully-written, lyrical examination of Iraq: The War Of The Imagination. His starting point is an interview with an energetic, young, American expert on the eve of the constitutional ratification vote — a vote, the expert assured Danner, that would attract considerable support even in Sunni Anbar province.

And I thought of his words again several days later when it was confirmed that in Anbar province—where the most knowledgeable, experienced, indefatigable American had confided to me what he had plainly ardently believed, that on the critical vote on the constitution 'a great many people would vote yes'—that in Anbar ninety-seven out of every hundred Iraqis who voted had voted no. With all his contacts and commitment, with all his energy and brilliance, on the most basic and critical issue of politics on the ground he had been entirely, catastrophically wrong.With all his contacts and commitment, with all his energy and brilliance, on the most basic and critical issue of politics on the ground he had been entirely, catastrophically wrong.

The Bush Administration imagined a successful war in Iraq that would transform the Middle East, and apparently assumed that simply imagining a good outcome would suffice.

Last weekend at the Goodman, we saw Richard Nelson's brand-new Frank's Home, a play about the aging Frank Lloyd Wright, his colleague Louis Sullivan, and his family. Wright was an interesting man and, of course, a fascinating architect, an important artist whose building continue to inspire but whose influence is largely negative. You see decorative allusions to Wright everywhere, but nobody builds houses or shops that look much like Wright.

Frank's Home
Frank Lloyd Wright, 241 Maiden Lane, San Francisco
Frank's Home
Frank Lloyd Wright, Window,
Art Institute of Chicago

The play's world premiere was only a couple of weeks back. There are some hints of tryout script tinkering here and there.

Linda pointed out that this is, at heart, a sentimental play. It's telling you how a father should feel and act; when Wright doesn't behave as well as we ourselves would, our recognition validates our wonderfulness.

Still, it's a rich and interesting play. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and with seats at $10 and $20, it doesn't require a consultation with your banker to attend. I wish there was more theater like this in Boston.

While we wasted half an hour in the security line at O'Hare, a businesswoman was calling for someone -- anyone -- to lend her a zip-lock bag. She'd been caught without one, and she really didn't want to abandon her cosmetics. "I'll pay!", she called out, until a passing student gave her the zip-lock bag she'd been using for her iPod headphones.

A handy $100 bill can be a useful aid to travel. They get lots of attention.

Wouldn't it make sense to have a few spare bags at the security checkpoints? It's been months since we started this business about liquids and gels. (Never mind that you could do some unpleasant things with 3oz=90ml of any number of innocuous-looking liquids.) How many thousands of times has this scenario been played at O'Hare?

Cui bono? Who benefits from not having spare bags on hand? My guess: I bet there's are going to be lots of "confiscated" cosmetics under some christmas trees this year, unless it's already been Organized into a wholesale black market.

At Logan's terminal B, they've 'temporarily' moved the taxis far away, which leaves lots of great spaces for the limo touts to lure confused tourists who can't find the cabs. The touts are working in full view of the Massport dispatcher. I wonder who gets paid?