Dec 08 3 2008

Pork & Sons

by St├ęphane Reynaud

I just received his nifty book, with its mix of essays, recipes, and photographs, and drawings of amusing pigs. Naturally, I dove right in, starting with a recipe for a Spanish chorizo tortilla, as it would be prepared in Lyon.

Great idea, nice flavor, but I blew the execution. I believe, in retrospect, that when Stéphane Reynaud said to “beat the eggs,” he meant to whip them like mad, not to hit them with a stick. The result was more onions and sausage and potatoes, with a little egg thrown in, rather than a light eggy tortilla with lots of tasty ingredients baked right in.

But it did go well with margaritas, and there's still two chorizos left for the second attempt.

I didn't cook pork for a long time, mostly because I don’t particularly like pork chops. It’s not religion or mos maiorum, really — good bacon is terrific — just the sense that supermarket porkchops are too dull and too dry to be work eating. But I’ve discovered the unloved bits, shoulder and belly, and sometimes they’re awfully good. Remedial lessons are in order, so this is a welcome title.

Jon Buscall plans a five-hour training session for a corporate client, using Tinderbox.

I don’t think I could plan my talk as effectively without Tinderbox. This multifaceted application is, amongst other things, a phenomenal outlining tool....The eclectic work I do as a copywriter, journalist and translator always benefits from this tool. It’s one of the reasons I love the Mac platform.

Great screenshot of the work in progress. Read the whole thing.

Nov 08 30 2008

Tarte Tatin

Three apples (maybe four) cut in quarters. ¾c of sugar. A half stick of butter. A skillet. You cook it for a while, until everything is nice and brown but not burning. (I've seen people say “about 15 minutes” and other people say “a couple of hours” and probably both are right — depending on how much heat you’re using and how well the apples stand up. Any kind of apples will do fine, especially if they’re really tasty. Peel them, quarter them, core them, you’re good.

Then you lay a pie crust on top. Any kind of crust. I had some left-over puff pastry. If you're like me and pie crust takes over your kitchen, any batter will do. Thick pancake batter. Slump batter. It’s all good.

So, you toss the skillet into the oven for about 20 minutes. Maybe a little less, if you're using pancake batter. Maybe a little more. You want it nice and brown, that’s all. This isn’t rocket science. There can be no stress in the presence of pie.

So, now you take it out of the oven. Let it cool a little. Put a big plate over the pan. Flip everything over. Voila! (Or: your crust comes out, but your apples stick in the pan. No problem: it's supposed to be rustic. Take them out of the pan, put them back on the tarte.) Let it sit for a bit, so the juices soak the crust. You can't eat it right away: it’s too hot. Relax.

Eat. Thank Ruhlman.

Update: Bill Humphries makes the tarte, with photo.

Nov 08 29 2008

Hav Not

by Jan Morris

One of the joys of Jan Morris's Last Letters from Hav is its wonderful faux scholarship. Morris hasn’t merely written a guide to the tourist pleasures of Hav; she has read and weighed the literary and historical authorities, ancient and modern, and she lays these out for our guidance and instruction. On the Havian landmark of “The House of the Chinese Master”, built in 1432, she offers admiring and insightful quotations from Pero Tafur, Alexander Kinglake, Mark Twain, and D. H. Lawrence. She notes that Robert Domett, the subject of Browning’s “What’s become of Waring/Since he gave us all the slip?” (which is a genuine Browning poem) dwelt in Hav for a time and met Kinglake there in 1834, where Kinglake found him unchanged in spirit, “only tutrned a chestnutty hue”. We have anecdotes of Cavafy and Hemingway. We have old Punch limericks about Sir Joshua Remington’s appointment to the Redisdency of Hav. We meet an man of letters named Dr. Borge.

Kinglake wrote a travel book named Eothen, published in 1844. Who knew? There's a national park outside Melbourne that is, I believe, named for him. I think Professor Miles took me there to see the bowerbird, who was not at home.

Hav is, quintessentially, an Eastern European melting pot, a place where civic ceremonies require the presence of three bishops (Roman, Orthodox, Maronite) and a would-be Caliph along with heads of Chinese, Armenian, and aboriginal communities. She takes great joy in exploring the relics of its history, the traces of Hav under the Venetian doges, Ottoman Hav, of Hav under the Russians, of Hav’s administration under a tripartite commission of the League of Nations, of modern independent Hav with its quaint customs and minute territory.

But this is 1985, the year after the Sarajevo Winter Olympics. By 1992, Sarajevo would be under siege, and Morris shows no more awareness of the tensions and ancient hatreds of the region than had the cheerful NBC Olympic announcers. Her allusions to WWII are ambiguous rumors of espionage and diplomacy. But Hav seems to have no ghetto, no Jewish quarter, and while she hunts down the old Anglican cathedral (now converted to a warehouse) she never inquires about the synagogue. Her history seems to be cleaned up and cheered up, accepting that “we’re all friends ’round here” when, very soon, we’d all be at war.

War does come to Hav at the end of Last Letters, but the shadow is the wrong shadow, the shadow of 9/11, and the Mymyridon state is more a banal and benign Security State than the ethnic maelstrom of Kosovo or Baghdad. We used to say the 9/11 changed everything, but history plays us like the oracle played Croesus: perhaps in a few years we’ll see that what 9/11 changed was the American illusion that conservatism would return us to a past that never was. It’s not all about us: the people in Hav have troubles (as who does not?) and their troubles are not always our own.

Nov 08 28 2008


by Jan Morris

In 1985, Jan Morris imagined a great place about which to write, and wrote about it. Last Letters from Hav describes a six month trip to a wonderful, strange little city somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean where people wear gallabiyehs and straw hats, where a lone Armenian trumpeter plays a mournful Provencal tune at sunrise every morning to commemorate a victory of Saladin, where the railroad arrives through a once-legendary tunnel and djows are anchored in the harbor, and where on very special mornings in February the local country-dwellers (who live in caves) bring to market the local delicacy, Snow Raspberries, which sell for extraordinary sums.

A further fantastic element, recalling bygone days as vividly as the accounts of elderly, impoverished white Russian ladies recalling their youthful flirtations with Nijinsky at the Hav Casino: the travel writer spends six months, first in a hotel and then in a comfortable apartment, researching and writing.

She departs prematurely, as a market-place rumor becomes a flap, and that escalates into a tourist exodus:

Before me, over the tussocky moorland, the train stood at the frontier station, a thin plume of smoke rising vertically from its funnel, a clutter of cars and people all around. Once again I was reminded of Africa, where you sometimes see the big stream-trains standing all alone, inexplicably waiting, in the immense and empty veldt. I looked begind me then, back over the peninsula: and like grey imperfections on the southern horizon, I saw the warships coming.

I saw the warships coming. Nicely done, for at this edge of the fields we know (and Hav, often strange, is never very frightening) we see the ship — the black freighter — sail into the harbor. The horns of elfland are blowing.

Twenty years later, Morris returns to the exercise in Hav of the Myrmidons. The revolution has happened, history has swept over Hav. And though much has been lost, a surprising amount remains, and we meet many of the characters we once knew. They are older now, chastened, careful of what they say. They do not love the new regime, but Hav is prosperous and orderly and everything has been rebuilt. The new tourist island — rebuilt on what was once the prison — has every convenience (and every surveillance device) the wealthy could require, and if you have a Blue Pass you can even go to the mainland to see the sights with a member of the Office Of Ideology and Ethnic Authority.

This year we were invited out for Thanksgiving, though I was permitted to cook a few things anyway. Notes after the game:

  • Yes, you can fit a Weber grill into the back of Linda's hatchback, even though the legs are too weathered for disassembly. I worried about this all day Wednesday; in the event packing the grill took five minutes.
  • Yes, grilled turkey is better. But, in the future, I will not let the turkey run long because the rootmoos is late. When the instant-read says the turkey is done, it's done. Get it off the grill. (Looked great, tasted great, but it was just a shade overdone)
  • For vorspeisen, I made a cheese onion tarte. You take a sheet of puff pastry, score it ¼" from the edge, and paint the edge with a diluted egg yolk. Then you add a layer of 1/2c ricotta and an egg yolk, blended in the food processor until smooth, with ¼c creme fraiche folded in. Thinly slice 1/3lb of Cantal cheese, and put the slices on the top. Top that with lots of caramelized onions, a panful of sauteed mushrooms, and a handful of fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme coarsely chopped. Keep frozen until ready to cook, pop into the oven (350• or so) for 35 minutes, eat. Much better
  • Heidi’s pumpkin pie was tasty, but not sweet enough. Taste the filling. When will I learn?
  • Linda volunteered a chocolate pecan pie. “What chocolate pecan pie?” I asked. “The one you made that time.” I didn’t recall ever making a chocolate pecan pie. Warning lights start to flash. Too late to market, anyway. Fortunately, The Joy of Cooking was written for exactly this situation. And it was a damn good chocoloate pecan pie, too.
    • Amazon, amusingly, offers three different editions of Joy. This makes sense; when I say a recipe comes from The Joy Of Cooking, people always ask “New or old?” That’s got to be the ultimate triumph of tech writing: they keep your obsolete editions in print. See also Roger Torey Peterson.
    • Agave nectar makes a nice substitute for corn syrup in pecan pie.
  • Frozen blueberries work find in blueberry pie. 2.5 T of flour is the right amount of thickening. Next time, use more thyme in the filling. And more berries. And the frozen berries need to be spiked more aggressively with citrus and sweetness.
  • However many vanilla pecans you make, it's not too many.

One day in Maastricht, I came across this remarkable statue in a park. (Approaching from the rear, both the giraffe and the girl are very convincing.)

A note on the story
A note on the story
A note on the story

What does the smashup mean for software? Once we start to pick up pieces, we’re all going to need a lot of intelligence, and we’re going to want to gather lots of data and plenty of ideas. There’s lots to do, to plan, to build. And we’re going to have to fix the climate before it gets worse.

What we won’t have is capital; no huge teams, no huge implementation armies rolling out vast integrated enterprise systems that cost tens or hundreds of millions before they get switched on — or that crash into huge implementation failures. And I think we’ll see less buzzword-compliant vaporware, and more cool little tools from hungry little teams.

Could be the golden age of artisanal software. Just saying.

Canteen is a great idea. It’s a tiny diner, off the lobby of a small San Francisco hotel. Booths and a counter, fifteen or twenty covers, a range in the back corner. Formica and naugahyde.


But instead of a bottomless cup of coffee, they do serious food. Three seatings a night at fixed times. A small menu (revised each week): a handful of apps, a handful of plates, four desserts. A nice wine list. Really impressive food.

My chanterelle salad was really, really good — probably as good as the salads I had in Vienna, when it (apparently) was The Week Of Chanterelles. My pork tenderloin confit was lovely, and the potatoes — precise and perfect little cubes, just a hint of crunch bacon, floating along with the pork in a wonderful apple mustard sauce — were impressive. And a vanilla soufflé too.

Tasty! And why do we need identical food in every space all the time?

Nov 08 17 2008


If you've been thinking about OPML and Tinderbox, give me a holler and let me know more about what you’re trying to do: today might be your lucky day.

Umberto Eco writes of “The Open Work”. Here, “open” is used in the sense of “open-minded”, “open-ended”, or “an open and engaging personality”, rather than “open source,” “open box,” or “open season.”

I'd like another adjective — perhaps the Italian Eco used, or an alternative translation — for this sense of “open”, and also the corresponding noun.

Email me. Thanks.

Update: Many excellent suggestion. Thanks to all!

convivial ☙ coadunate ☙ commensal ☙ catholic ☙ broad-mineded ☙ embracing ☙ receptive ☙ ductile ☙ broad

In the end, I think I may opt for aperta and apertura as an alternative to “open” and “openness”.

Nov 08 15 2008

Looking Ahead

One thing I always disliked about LBJ was his low key. Kennedy could burn the barn when called upon to do so. Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for you country. LBJ, alas, sat and pronounced. Slowly. My fellow Americans.

And so began a long era of bad speeches, lame speeches. weak speeches, culminating in Bush and then in Palin:

My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars.

This January, we can hope for something better.

Designer Antonio Carusone offers a free style package for Brent Simmon’s Net News Wire. The stylesheet offers lots of finesse — eliminating widows and orphans, standardizing title typography — in a simple package.

Net News Wires uses a clever mechanism of style packages — bundles of resources that can include stylesheets, templates, and attendant resources such as scripts. They're easy to modify; in fact, I modified Carusone’s Aisle One style right away because, while I really like its look, Carusone clearly has a much bigger screen than I. His design uses lots of white space. I like it. It’s got class. But, honey, I can’t afford that much screen real estate.

Hint: close and reopen Net News Wire to load your modified style sheet.

We’re polishing plans for Tinderbox Weekend San Francisco, November 22-23. We’ll concentrate on problem solving and analysis with Tinderbox, ranging from using the Tinderbox map as a personal dashboard to using Tinderbox to master the complexities of a state budget. Great stuff for beginners, and plenty to challenge even the most experienced Tinderboxer.

We still have a couple of seats at the table; join us!

One of our pressing duties to the future — not just to 2010 and 2012 but for decades to come — is to capture and keep fresh the ghastly memory of an administration that relished torture, rewarded greed, and embraced incompetence. We don’t just need to get rid of Bush; we need to turn Bush and Karl and Scooter and Cheney into cautionary tales with which to frighten children.

Our parents had Joe McCarthy and Stalin. The Founding Fathers has Charles I and Cromwell. Augustus had Marius and the Gracchi. (The wingnuts have FDR and LBJ, and their ancestors had Lincoln and John Brown. Oy)

Writing in the Times [of London], Charles Bremner catches how quickly the rest of the world has understood this.

With Russian tanks only 30 miles from Tbilisi on August 12, Mr Sarkozy told Mr Putin that the world would not accept the overthrow of Georgia’s Government. According to Mr Levitte, the Russian seemed unconcerned by international reaction. “I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” Mr Putin declared.

Mr Sarkozy thought he had misheard. “Hang him?” — he asked. “Why not?” Mr Putin replied. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mr Sarkozy, using the familiar tu, tried to reason with him: “Yes but do you want to end up like [President] Bush?” Mr Putin was briefly lost for words, then said: “Ah — you have scored a point there.”

Thanks, Andrew Sullivan.

I’ve had to completely rethink my attitude toward Javascript in recent months. My former attitude was, roughly speaking, as follows:

  • It's a weak language, designed as a macro facility to let people animate pages back when animation seemed really important.
  • It’s badly standardized, so almost anything written in Javascript will be fragile.
  • Lots of people have Javascript disabled, so you can’t rely on it.
  • Whatever you do, you’re still running in a box hanging off the side of a process. You can’t build products, really, because they're too easy to copy and too easy to appropriate. So what you can do, at best, is sell support and documentation.

I think this used to be more or less true, but it’s not true any more. My new understanding:

  • It’s an adequate language with an interesting mix of strengths and deficits. It’s got prototype inheritance; Tinderbox users know I'm a big prototype inheritance fan.
  • Web 2.0, whatever the term meant, drove convergence toward an effective de facto standard. MSIE isn’t the problem it once was.
  • A ton of work is underway on making Javascript interpreters run fast. Really fast.
  • Javascript provides a really good way to fix the browser, or even the markup. In the old days, if a browser had a bug you either deleted the feature or wrote browser-specific markup or variant pages. Now, you let Javascript work behind the scenes to silently add whatever ugly additions you need.

For the stretchtext project I'm working on, I’ve got lots of ugly link markup:

<a href="javascript:void(0);" onclick="expander('.3');return false;">

Naturally, I hid all the crud behind Tinderbox macros: ^do(expander,....). But it's still unsightly. Instead, simple javascript magic lets us write something clean

<a href="help.html" class="expander">

and transform it behind the scenes into whatever cruft we need. This gives us cleaner markup, and another layer of indirection.

“You cook every night,” Meryl reminds me. “I cook every month.” Nonetheless, Meryl’s going to join us to take a quarter-share in our winter meat CSA. It’s a new experiment — just a dozen people, six months, ten pounds of meat a month. One month mostly lamb, the rest mostly beef. All organic, hand-raised, grass-fed, from the same farm that grows our summer vegetables.

I’m incredibly ignorant of butchering, but as far as I can work my sums, we’re talking about everyone sharing one cow and one or two sheep, right? So, this winter we’re going to be eating Twinkles and Herbert?

I’ve always wondered how the farm kids who did things like 4H dealt with this. But mine is a shabby, second-rate attitude: you ought to understand what you eat. Bob Del Grosso has been writing a lot about this lately, and writing very well indeed.

We did not receive whole animals larger than lambs at Rene Chardin Restaurant, neither did we butcher and cook any animal while we listened to it's mother calling for it as I did last week.

Yeah, you read that right. Hearing that cow calling to it's calf as it lay on the table in my kitchen being cut up was sobering. Anyway...

I'm learning more about cooking in this job than I ever thought possible. I've got this whole other set of considerations regarding the ethical nature of what we chefs do staring me right in the face every day. It has not made my work any harder, but it sure as hell has made it different.

by John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira

This readable and intelligent appeared in 2002, when prospects for any sort of progressive victory seemed dim and distant. In the wake of Obama’s victory, Judis and Teixeira seem prescient, for not only have the Democrats forged a winning coalition, but the outlines of that coalition seem to adhere closely to their vision of an alliance among women, minorities, and professionals. The role of professionals, broadly considered, is central: the repudiation of Bushism can be seem, most of all, in the repudiation of the belief that our leader’s personal character (and perhaps his blessing by the almighty) can substitute for actually knowing much about problems or their solution.

An anonymous blogger at "Beware Of The Blog” offers an insightful appreciation of hypertext. Well worth reading.

The innovation that is hypterxtuality allows for a new experience each time you read the same story. A different variable is added, changing the way someone reads a link or lexia. A cycle described as a Joycean cycle can be achieved by creating a loop of the lexia, thus allowing for different lexia being viewed each time a new loop is activating changing not only the contextual meaning but the overall correlation of the text which has now been changed or altered.

Simon Harper just gave the opening keynote of Webmedia 2008 in Vila Velha, Brazil. He talked about NeoVictorian Enterprise Computing. The slides and his paper are online.

NeoVictorian Computing With a Twist
Simon Harper, NeoVictorian Computing With a Twist

J. Nathan Matias sent me a link to an Eastgate neighbor who found a cache of photographs of Hiroshima. They’re wonderful photographs, much better than the snapshots my dad took.

By the end of the war, my father had worked his way up to the post of division medical officer. I think he hated it. His letters seldom talk about medicine — the only good passage I remember describes an ingenious solution he found for improvising running water for showers in the Philippines when he’d been given the job in addition to other duties. After the surrender, the Army wanted to get trained eyes on the ground right away, since someday it might need to fight on an atomic battleground. And so, a few days after the Bomb, dad found himself wandering around Hiroshima with a cheap camera and stern instructions from Division to report everything, and from Corps to report nothing.

The photographs themselves are small, blurry, and foggy. I don’t know how much is aging, how much is simply lousy technique and a lousy camera, how much is radiation fogging. Everything must still have been absurdly hot.

He never talked much about it.

Roger Angell’s Class Report on the Greatest Generation.

A writer I know recently twittered that she’d tried to make a big batch potato-leek soup, that it had turned out way to peppery even though she’d followed the recipe, and what could she do?

Fixing recipes is always interesting.

First, you can start over. This costs you style points — it’s literally unprofessional. But we’re not professional cooks, we’re just making dinner. Sometimes, you chalk it up to experience.

One of the best parts of Alice Water’s Simple Cooking is a list of pantry dinners — good dinners you can improvise from staples you’ve got lying around. The unsalvageable goof is the perfect time to hit the pantry. Spaghetti Alfredo, or a nice carbonara with whatever greens come to hand, or a gratin of potatoes and whatever else you've got handy will cover a host of ills.

Second, you can often double down, diluting your mistake by mixing it with another batch. A little too much salt in the soup? Make another batch of soup, don't salt it at all, and then add the salty soup gradually until it’s just right. (This won’t work very well, however, if you’ve added the wrong thing entirely. If you meant to reach for the apple cider and got cider vinegar instead and it tastes terrible, diluting it will just give you soup that tastes kinda terrible. Same for burnt: you can take things surprisingly far once you learn about deglazing the pan, but if it tastes like charcoal, you’re doomed.)

Third, treat the mistake as a product and use the flaw as a strength. Your soup has lots of nice leeks and potatoes and cream, but way too much pepper? There’s a whole family of recipes for things like “chicken casserole” which call for a can of cream soup. (Classically, they call for chicken velouté or béchamel, but your mom used Campbell’s Cream Of Mushroom. Listen to Mom. After all, who added all that pepper?) You make the same thing, but instead of canned soup you’re going to use a wonderful home-made stock that just happens to have been pre-seasoned. You’d be adding a lot of salt and pepper anyway; just add less pepper.

Nov 08 9 2008

iPhone Games

I have an iPhone. Despite my occasional jibes at game studies, I like computer games. John Gruber mentioned Wurdz; it's fun. Curt Schilling mentioned Fieldrunners; it’s fun, too.

I’ve noticed, though, that people don’t talk much about what they’re playing. Sorting through the entire store to find an interesting game is too much work, especially since the store is filled with lots of half-finished stubware. So, I asked Twitter for suggestions.

I can't say that any of these inspired me, or even seemed to be intended for players like me.

Seth Godin gets on his high horse and tells Harpers to be more like the music business.

Or, you could say, "if books on the Kindle were $1, perhaps we could create a vast audience of people who buy books like candy, all the time, and read more and don't pirate stuff cause it's convenient and cheap..." I'm a pessimist that the book industry will learn from music. How are you betting?

This sounds great; it's not. People won’t buy books like they buy songs, because you can enjoy a song in three minutes. You can’t enjoy Quantum Thermodynamics in three minutes.

Lots of people have thousands of songs in their iPods, and listen to them. If you listen to music at work, you could listen to a thousand songs in a week. A thousand books, for lots of people who read books, that’s a lifetime supply.

I buy a lot of books — probably a lot more than your average compensated dyslexic — and I read a lot more than a lot of people. But my reading is pretty much an open book: looking at the left sidebar of this page, I see I’ve managed to actually read 458 books since Fall 2000. Nobody reads books like candy.

The natural audience for lots of music is very large. Everyone likes music; even if we break things down by genre, there are a ton of people who like Celtic ballads. The natural audience for most books is small: that’s the nature of books, what makes books special.

Godin wants the publisher to place less emphasis on pub day, but that’s not the publisher’s fault. It’s the bookseller’s needs that drive pub date frenzy, the need to get new stuff into the window (while the newspapers are talking about it) and clear it out because there’s always going to be a new book tomorrow. Publishers who sell direct (like Eastgate) aren’t driven by publication-day promotion because we don’t need to be in the window. Novels do; its not Harpers’ fault.

Nov 08 8 2008

Mules Uphill

John Gruber, who writes primarily about Apple, has a long series of posts about jackassery in the press. Though the term simply means “a male donkey”, Gruber reserves it for a very specific transgression, which I believe is something like this: you are a jackass if you argue not on the facts, but rather on whatever position serves your immediate interests. The most common interest is sensationalism — selling magazines, trolling for web hits.

Nicholas Carr’s piece on “Who killed the blogosphere?”, which appears on his blog, needs a bridle and a pack saddle.

While there continue to be many blogs, including a lot of very good ones, it seems to me that one would be hard pressed to make the case that there's still a "blogosphere." That vast, free-wheeling, and surprisingly intimate forum where individual writers shared their observations, thoughts, and arguments outside the bounds of the traditional media is gone. Almost all of the popular blogs today are commercial ventures with teams of writers, aggressive ad-sales operations, bloated sites, and strategies of self-linking. Some are good, some are boring, but to argue that they're part of a "blogosphere" that is distinguishable from the "mainstream media" seems more and more like an act of nostalgia, if not self-delusion.

This gets lots of attention. I’m giving him more. But it’s obviously and hopelessly wrong.

First, it’s trivial to distinguish the blogosphere from mainstream media. If the blog wouldn't exist without the backing of a vast corporation, it’s mainstream media. Otherwise, it’s a blog. (Some blogs happen to be sponsored or under the aegis of a corporation, but you know that if the corporation vanished the blog would be pretty much the same. Contrast the Times, or the AP, or The New Yorker: big employers, significant physical plants, millions of dollars of assets.)

Second, the natural way to measure whether the blogosphere survives to examine it. Are there millions of weblogs? Yes. Are there links among them? Sure looks like it to me! Yes, lots of long-tail blogs have moved to FaceBook and MySpace; are social sites more or less conversational than Blogger-driven sites? Does Carr look at the data?

Carr wrote in 2005 that blogging was like amateur radio and he’s still flogging this line. But blogging has almost nothing in common with ham radio, which was (and is) chiefly a person-to-person medium, competing with the telephone and with skype. Blogging has tremendous influence: Drudge, kos, and Talking Points Memo were three of the key outlets of political discussion in the recent election. Pick up a good newspaper at any moment in the 2004 or 2008 campaign and, chances are, you’d find a story that was heavily influenced by Drudge. I can’t think of a single political story in which amateur radio played a big part. Ever. When ham radio gets into the news, it’s because some individual amateur received a distress call from some individual who couldn’t reach the pros.

Finally, Carr seems to think that a few million blogs with a typical readership of a few thousand readers doesn’t merit the name “blogosphere”. He suggests “blogipelago”. I kid you not.

And of course Carr doesn’t believe a word of what he writes, because he sure works hard to advertise his books on his blog. It’s topic? Cloud computing. Anyone surprised?

Nov 08 7 2008


Martin Spernau talks about thinking in Tinderbox. He argues that the real benefits in Tinderbox brainstorming come from the process, and that we shouldn’t get too wrapped up in the elegance of the “final” map or outline.

Roger Ebert is back from a series of tough convalescences. He had salivary cancer, it came back, he had surgery, there were complications and complexities. Somewhere along the line, he broke a hip.

He’s all better now. Well, not quite entirely; some infirmities are to be expected. He can’t talk. And, apparently. he can’t eat. But he sure can write.

Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee...
Half way home, we'll be there by morning...
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea. — Steve Goodman

This is a lovely, polished parable about the arts, country music, singer-songwriters, Pullman porters, the Old South, and the Shrub. Quite possibly written overnight, since the topic is a recent, lamentable political appointment by lame duck George Bush. Literature on a deadline.

In The Emerging Democratic Majority , Teixeira and Judis argue that a key Democratic constituency moving forward will be professionals. Doctors, lawyers, and professors used to vote Republican. They're now overwhelmingly Democratic.

This is important to American politics, and it explains one of the vast (if quiet) changes we’ve seen recently. Suburbs used to be Republican strongholds, red rings that surrounded blue cities. It’s not true anymore, because the suburbs are filled with new professionals, often following new professions. Computer programmers, tech writers, industrial designers, analysts, artists, actors, architects, Web developers. They've all got something in common.

But what, exactly? The old answer was, they all had jobs where they could keep their hands clean all day. But that’s not quite right, and it doesn’t explain why they’re progressives. Another old answer was that they were independent, either self-employed or able to switch jobs whenever they felt like it. But that’s not right either — and it’s not really true anymore.

Teixeira and Judis offer an intriguing new definition: to them, “professionals” are people who are chiefly motivated to create great things or great ideas. This contrasts to the assembly-line worker, motivated to get the best deal in exchanging time for money. It contrasts, too, with managers and entrepreneurs who are motivated chiefly by performance.

It’s a handy division. Michael Ruhlman, for example, has often explored the question: “Is cooking an art? Is a chef a craftsman, a business executive, a performer, or a salesman?” Obviously, all are true some of the time, for some people. The Teixeira/Judis definition is really handy here: the line between chef-professional and chef-manager is the line between cook and shoemaker, the line between the obsessive (It’s not right; do it over. The patron will wait.) and the pragmatist (time’s up, good enough, get it out of my face).

Nov 08 6 2008


Roger Cohen, in the NY Times:

The other day I got an e-mail message saying simply this: Rosa Parks sat in 1955. Martin Luther King walked in 1963. Barack Obama ran in 2008. That our children might fly.

Tough days lie ahead. But it’s a moment to dream. Americans have earned that right, along with the renewed respect of the world.

Roger Ebert:

America was a different place when I grew up under Truman, Eisenhower and, yes, even Nixon. On Tuesday that America remembered itself, and stood up to be counted.

When was the last time we had a president who could laugh at himself?

Terrific. I'm fired up and ready to go. Time to cook.

  • carrot cilantro “daily kos” soup
  • little green crudites
  • home-smoked lame duck breast
  • won’t get burnt again burnt onion relish
  • TPM red cranberry orange relish
  • smoked, braised “no pony for atrios” brisket
  • “real Virginia” apple pie
  • “Biden our time in the pumpkin patch” pie
  • chocolate hazelnut “wingnut” tart
  • 538 curried walnuts
  • plain vanilla pecans
  • Californian “marriage des fruits” clafoutis
  • hope

On a technical note, kudos to Nate Silver and for a really nice blog tech innovation. Where lots of sites use “there’s more...” links to force a page refresh (generative more ad exposures but making the reader wait), 538 uses stretchtext to expand the story without delay.

In the New York Times, Republican operative Mark McKinnon is quoted:

I think we’ll be analyzing this election for years as a seminal, transformative race. The year campaigns leveraged the Internet in ways never imagined. The year we went to warp speed. The year the paradigm got turned upside down and truly became bottom up instead of top down.

I hear a scriptural echo here, though it's not the scripture we might expect.

It was the year of fire... the year of destruction... the year we took back what was ours. It was the year of rebirth... the year of great sadness... the year of pain... and the year of joy. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed

(A correspondent, worrying already about the potential for Republican gains in the election of 2014, worried about the danger of Nehemiah Scudder. What's a little science fiction among friends?)

What is most interesting about netroots and politics in this election, I think, is that we’ve achieved a sort of balance. In 2004, we had pockets of large-scale success — the Dean operation and Drudge. In 2008, everyone was reading the net, and perhaps that’s helped keep everyone honest. Truth is the antidote for truthiness, and knowledge the antidote to smears.

Nov 08 3 2008


Don’t forget.

Don’t skip it.

The Republicans will try to make it inconvenient. Go early. Dress comfortably. Bring cookies to share with your neighbors while you wait.

If you're reading this in Norway or Thailand or Christchurch or Capetown and you’re not an American citizen, sorry about all these provincial politics. You probably understand why it matters to us. And to you, I know. We’re going our best.

One day more.

Tomorrow. One more dawn, one more day, one day more.

Update: Obama in Florida: Tomorrow, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope

I think that, Wednesday morning, we’ll wake up to a realignment. Something is about to happen that has not happened for a long age.

In the 1850’s, the US decided that the moderate position on slavery, an elaborate don’t ask, don’t tell, was untenable. The Whigs collapsed, the Free Soil movement didn’t get traction, and a new party coalesced to find a new way.

In 1932, the US decided that running the government for the benefit of the banks might not be the best way to arrange things.

Those were realignments. We had a failed realignment in 1968-1982 in which the Republicans tried to build an alliance between the bankers of 1932 and the embers of the Southern racial and sexual hostilities that drove 1860. It failed because those embers were too cool, and because the policies that appealed to bankers in 1932 didn’t really help bankers in a global environment. Wall Street bubbled and burst; the real winners were oil barons and connected outfits like Halliburton and Blackwater.

Above all, we’re really tired of the notion that common sense is all you need. Sometimes, you need to make choices based on reality, not faith. Sometimes, you need to judge people by performance, not by their family or their accent.

But now, we’re going to have a realignment. Not because of the size of the victory, but because there’s no longer an argument for the losing side. There will be a new Republican party, perhaps with a new name, perhaps not. The old GOP will linger on for a decade or two; it might even win a few elections if it can find lucky and charismatic candidates . It’s a spent force.

There will be a new home for conservatives, but their alliance with the know-nothings and bigots has failed. It will be even harder to win with this formula going forward. It’s a losing strategy.