You are currently browsing the yearly archive for 2008.

The first time our kid heard us talking about the Condé Nast Building — 4 Times Square — he thought we were talking about the “Candy Ass Building”. So that’s what we’ve been calling it, ever since.

Anyway, NowPublic has a story about cutbacks there. The main photo is one I took. See my comment there for more.

Nova or lens flare?

I’ve been shooting stars and planets the last few nights (see here and here), as the Moon passes by Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. It’s the kind of thing obsessives do, when they combine devotions to astronomy and photography. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to identify a few of the stars in the neighborhood Venus was visiting, when I found a star where none should be.

Take a look at the two photos above. The original one on the right is here. On that one I note names and other data for all the main stars in the shot other than the bright blue one near the middle. It’s not on any start chart I’ve consulted. Sooo… what is it?

My fantasy was a nova of some kind. But I doubt that’s it. Judging from the color alone, I’d say it’s a lens flare. Meanwhile it was fun doing detective work with The Kid.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Earlier this month I blogged about something I’d like called a “Micki”: a wiki that works like an outliner. Now, thanks to mind-opening help from Dave, I’m looking to edit existing wikis with an outliner. That’s a great place to start. I’m writing this blog in an outliner. Why not a wiki?

MediaWiki is what we like to use at the Berkman Center. It’s what we use for ProjectVRM, and it’s what Wikipedia uses. And it has an API. This is good.

The first thing I want to do is edit pages. Wiki pages have outline characteristics. For example: section headings, subsections and smaller subsections. Each is a level — same as with outlining — and each is created by flanking the heading with larger numbers of equal signs:

  ==section heading==

  ===subsection heading===

  ====smaller subsection heading===

Lists also follow an outline mode, again with levels. As it explains here,

  * ”Unordered lists” are easy to do:
** Start every line with a star.
*** More stars indicate a deeper level.
*: Previous item continues.
** A new line
* in a list
marks the end of the list.


  # ”Numbered lists” are:
## Very organized
## Easy to follow
#: Previous item continues
A new line marks the end of the list.
# New numbering starts with 1.

No, that wasn’t all too clear to me either, but what matters is that wikis do outlining. So it only makes sense that outliners can do wikis. Why not? That was Dave’s question for me, and I’m running with it.

There is another reason, in addition to my own personal wants and needs here. I think outlines are excellent ways to organize personal data stores — a subject of work and discussion at ProjectVRM.

Along those lines I had an interesting conversation with Brian Behlendorf yesterday, about how we manage receipts for online purchases. I think what most of us do is just search through old emails for keywords, or sort by moving receipts and other commercial correspondence to a dedicated mailbox.

I’d like to organize them in outline form. And re-organize them as well. By vendor. By date. By item purchased. By category. By how much I paid. The list can go on. If we come up with a standard or consistent way for vendors to report the data to us, so much the better. (That’s downstream, but it’s very much in the scope of our ambitions for VRM. We want to tell vendors how to help us in consistent ways, instead of different ways inside each of their silos.)

That’s a digression, but it’s relevant to the degree that outlining is a model for organizing the miscellaneous-yet-organizable nature of all the subects we care about more deeply than at a single level.

There’s something about the flat nature of wikis that serves to disorganize things. I think outlining can help with that. So let’s start inside individual pages and see what new we can do.

Back to the API. I see stuff here about searching, actions such as login and logout, doing queries for text, data, edits and site info, formatting output…

I don’t see anything here that looks like it welcomes editors. So here’s where the dumb questions start. Can you use text editors such as vi or emacs to edit wikis? Or are wikis so bound to their own editing system, with its own markup conventions, that they don’t welcome editors (including outliners, which I think of as a kind of editor, though that might be too limiting)? Dunno yet. Just starting here.

Mike Arrington says Bloggers Lose the Plot Over Twitter Search:

  Wow. Loic Le Meur asks for a simple feature on Twitter search – the ability to filter results by the number of followers that a user has to make sense of thousands of messages – and the blogosphere calls for his head.

  For the record, I agree with Loic. Being able to filter search results, if you choose, by the number of followers a user has makes sense. Without it, you have no way of knowing which voices are louder and making a bigger impact. It’s a way to make sense of a query when thousands or tens of thousands of results are returned.

  Of course, I’m pretty sure I can live without this feature, too. I’m failing to get too worked up over it. But the outpouring of emotion from bloggers is surprising me, and I thought I’d seen just about everything when it comes to blogging.

Jeff Jarvis says Attention + Influence do not equal Authority, and sources a thoughtful John Naughton post, where John sources “Steven Lukes’s wonderful book in which he argues that power can take three forms: 1. the ability to force you to do what you don’t want to do; 2. the ability to stop you doing something that you want to do; and 3. the ability to shape the way you think.” My post below also visits that third point. Another old post, We are all authors of each other, expands on it. The gist:

  I don’t think of my what I do here as production of “information” that others “consume”. Nor do I think of it as “one-to-many” or “many-to-many”. I thnk of it as writing that will hopefully inform readers.

  Informing is not the same as delivering information. Inform is derived from the verb to form. When you inform me, you form me. You enlarge that which makes me most human: what I know. I am, to some degree, authored by you.

  What we call “authority” is the right we give others to author us, to enlarge us.

  The human need to increase what we know, and to help each other do the same, is what the Net at its best is all about. Yeah, it’s about other things. But it needs to be respected as an accessory to our humanity.

I think the reason we get upset about What Twitter is Doing, or What Google Is Doing, is that we are too dependent on them.

The Net and the Web are environments that encourage and support both our independence and our interdependence. Single-source one-to-many forms of dependence, such as we have on Google and Twitter are old-skool scaffolds of dependency, within and around which we will build forms of infrastructure where we become ever more fully independent and interdependent — without BigCo or HotCo intermediation. They may be involved, but not as Absolute Necessities. Not as silos. Not as walled gardens we can’t leave.

Data portability is part of it. So is service portability. We will always have BigCos like Google and HotCos like Twitter, to help us out. They are necessary but insufficient members of the future infrastructure where we are free to take or leave any of them — while also appreciating what they do.

We aren’t there yet. How fast we progress depends on how much we embrace our need for independence.

Beyond mediation

We are all media now, right? That’s what we, the mediating, tell ourselves. (Or some of us, anyway.) But what if that’s not how we feel about it? What if the roles we play are not to pass along substances called “data” or “information” but rather to feed hungry minds? That’s different.

Michael Polanyi* calls that hunger our heuristic passions:

  Scientists — that is, creative scientists — spend their lives in trying to guess right. They are sustained and guided therein by their heuristic passoin. We call their work creative because it changes the world as we see it, by deepening our understanding of it. The change is irrevocable. A problem tat I have once solved can no longer puzzle me; I cannot guess what I already know. Having made a discovery, I shall never see the world again as before. My eyes have become different. I have made myself into a person seeing and thinking differently. I have crossed a gap, the heuristic gap which lies between problem and discovery.

Polanyi was a scientist before he took up philosophy. But his lesson applies to all of us who inform purposefully — rather than just mediate — because it recognizes natures of inquiry and influence that far exceed mediation alone. Even The Media aren’t just conduits. Newspapers and magazines have institutional imperatives of the same mind-enlarging sort.

Back in 2003 I wrote, “Blogging is about making and changing minds… about scaffolding new and better understandings of one subject or another”. Jay Rosen ran with that, adding that blogging “is an inconclusive act”.

It’s with this in mind that I read through John Bracken‘s rundown of 2008′s Most Influential Writing About Media. Lots of great stuff I missed, or would want to visit again.

Earlier this morning I answered a call for advice from a friend at a major newspaper. This led me to revisit the “ten helpful clues” I blogged in October 2006, and expanded slightly in March 2007. I’m not sure if this had any influence, but it’s encouraging to seeing nearly all ten suggestions followed, at least to some degree. (I knew the ice had truly thawed when the LA Times hired superblogger Tony Pierce, who now also tweets.)

Two that stand out as unfinished business: 8) Uncomplicate your websites, and 10) Publish Rivers of News. These two are becoming essential now that Apple will be selling iPhones through Wal-Mart. Nothing from a paper loads faster or says more in less time than a news river. (Here’s more from Dave, whose innovation it is.)

There are “mobile” versions from some papers. The Washington Post’s, for example, is well suited for mobiles, and may qualify as rivers. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the iPhone defaults to http://ww2.ajcmobile.com, which is a much better way to read the paper, even in a full-sized browser, than the paper’s main page, which has the curretly customary spread of clutter — especially advertising. (Although the AJC kindly puts the advertising below front page editorial, rather than crowding editorial within acres of advertising.) My old home-county paper, the Bergen Record, is NorthJersey.com online, and has an awful ad that peels down a corner of the front page to reveal a pitch for VW. This makes me dislike both the site and VW. Color me gone.

Anyway, I’m still encouraged. Progress is being made. And I have a feeling that the current economic downturn will make it move faster.

* Forgive me: as an undergrad philosophy major Polanyi was about all we studied — or that I remember, anyway. Classmates Stephen Lewis and Tom Brown stuck with the discipline and remember far more.

Bonus link.

Sez here Israeli Consulate to host Twitter Press Conference on Gaza. I learned that from Gilad Lotan‘s helpful compilation of perspectives at Global Voices on Israel’s Gaza Operation.

Management wall

I love this video.

JD Lasica at Social Media has put up a list of front-line 2009 conferences.

For what it’s worth, I’ll be attending fewer of those kinds of conferences this next year, while I get more heads-down with and Linux Journal work. The current calendar includes several VRM-related conferences (plus the usual IIWs), Public Media ’09, Supernova, LinuxWorld, OSCON, Reboot and Lift. When VRM takes off, it will become a topic of other conferences as well — and that alone should push me past another 100,000 miles on United next year.

That’s actually small potatoes compared to what many other business travelers compile, especially ones who travel frequently across oceans. I flew to Europe four times last year, from Boston to London, Paris and Amsterdam (hubbing through Frankfurt, Zürich, Warsaw, Chicago and Washington). That seems like a lot, and it is; but I’m guessing that two trips from anywhere in the U.S. to anywhere in Asia would yield the same sum of miles, or more.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to make travel better with VRM: by providing passengers with the tools required to improve airline service. I might have more to say about that in the next few days, or after we get back to Boston from our very pleasant family vacation in Santa Barbara. (Which is just a  paradise right now.)

Bonus link to an old but still relevant Conor Cahill post, plus the comment I just appended to it (currently pending approval):

I realize this is an old thread, but it comes up at the top of a search for United Global Services, so it’s still current in that respect.

I’ve been 1K for three years running, and flew at least two full-fare business class flights overseas from the U.S. in 2008. I’m also rather publicly a United flier, with over a dozen thousand photos taken from the windows of United planes. (Plus thousands of photos tagged United, UAL and United Airlines.)

Before that I was a Premier or Executive Premier flier on United, going back to the early 90s.

But in the current economy no clients are funding business class flying for the near future, and my total miles with United are still a bit short of a million. So I figure if I reach GS, this will have to be the year for it. Otherwise, ain’t gonna happen.

By the way, my experience with United has included nothing bad in all the time I’ve been with them. My only persistent complaint is an odd one: I don’t want upgrades to business or first class if it’s not to a window seat. I’ve been offered several upgrades this past year to aisle seats and have turned them all down. (I accepted one that did go to a window seats.) One time this past year I was upgraded to an aisle seat and it annoyed me badly because the seat I gave up in economy had a windwow. Yet I still managed to shoot this set in a hurry while the woman with the window seat next to me was asleep.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Does fine wine have traffic?

Dave naming Jay Rosen Blogger of the Year made me think of wine. As I said in a comment to Dave’s post, Jay is a sommelier of fine links. Especially in his tweets. They are always interesting, always helpful at driving a Larger Understanding of What Journalism Is At Its Best, and What Journalism Is Becoming.

Jay is also a helluva fine blogger.

The best blogs — to me, at least — are ones that enlarge your understanding of the subjects they visit. They are less about attracting visitors as they are about attracting interest — in subjects, rather than in themselves. They have high substance/vanity ratios. While some may make money from advertising, that’s not what they’re about.

They also challenge conventional wisdom and popular beliefs, including their own. The second sentence of Jay’s latest post starts with, “But I’ve since realized…” To grow is to change. Who wants to be who they were ten years ago, much less say what they said back then?

Anyway, I gotta go off and run more errands. Just wanted to pause in the midst and say amen to a good choice.

Merry Linksmas, everybody.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

But is it food?

That was what my wife asked about a nice gift that was also comprised of an unfamiliar substance in a circular tin container that had arrived at the house recently. Our kid still described the contents’ appearance as “Silly Putty with nuts in it.”

Tasted better than that. Pretty good, actually.

A pause, in the midst of the day’s third and longest flight delay, to note that David Weinberger has a wise and helpful piece about the Rick Warren matter at NPR. Dig it.

Video 1.0 is TV, low-def camcorders, VCRs, analog and HDTV as it now stands: in the form of “HD” that’s much prettier than SD but is still packed with artifacts because it flows through pipes (both wired and wireless) that limit how good it can look, and that flow only in one way: from producer to consumer. It’s everything we’ve seen up until now.

Video 2.0 is vividly described by Simon Aspinall of Cisco, who rocked Telco 2.0 last month with a vision of what TV over telecom can become. It’s also unpacked nicely in Video will be nearly 90% of Consumer IP traffic ty 2012, in the Telco 2.0 blog. Note the “to”. This is still TV. In Video 2.0, TV still predominates, even if there are a zillion “channels” and much of it is widening the sphincters of the cell phone system.

Video 3.0 is two way. Or many-way. It’s with, not just to. And its “def” is truly high, and not compromised by current channel-defined bandwidth constraints. This is what will disrupt both telecom and cablecom in a huge way, unless they get on the side of all producers — including the people they now call consumers. The opportunities here are enormous. I think telcos are especially advantaged in this sense: telephony is naturally two-way, and has been ever since the 1880s. Now is the time to think about how we return to that in a big way. Telcos may be getting hammered flat right now, but there’s a groundswell underneath there. Just watch.

Let it Snow

We were flying along in the bus when wham: it started snowing. Heavily. Now we’re creeping along through Westchester, and the road is clearly getting a little dangerous. There’s an inch or so on the ground now, and it’ll probably get a lot deeper before it starts raining later and turns it and turns it all into slush. Or “wintry mix,” as they now call it.

Love the weather map above, though. Looks like a flag.

Arg. I’ve got the picture, but WordPress won’t let me put it in this post. Dunno why.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Picture These

So I’m here in the Bolt Bus from Boston to New York. There’s wi-fi on board, and power outlets in the backs of most seats. But the wi-fi is slow, so I’m on a Sprint EvDO card. Getting about 1Mb down and .6Mb up. Not bad.

Anyway, I’ve recently uploaded a pile of photo sets to Flickr, where my inventory of photos is now approaching 26,000. Here is a list of just a few sets, mostly shot from airplanes and other moving vehicles:

Wow. It’s snowing now. Hard. We’re still in Connecticut, approaching the Westchester border. The Weather.com map is quite colorful:

Hm. Not taking. Guess I need a separate post for it.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Energy into Energy

A friend close to What’s Happening in several industries, plus the Obama Transition Team, tells me all the action is around Energy. It isn’t just that everybody’s Going Green. It’s just recognizing that everything infrastructural we talk about these days, from rebuilding bridges to waste management to the auto industry bailout, involves recognizing that what we’ve been doing since we replaced horses with cars has about run its course, and that it’s actually a Good Thing that the economy is grinding to a near-halt, forcing not only a reassessment of many formerly given assumptions, but that new ideas are springing up where large failures are being buldozed aside.

It is with this in mind that we should welcome posts such as Transition Team Weighing Blockbuster Housing and Stimulus Proposal, at SolveClimate. See what you think.

Wahyd of Manifest has an original idea for saving the Out of Town News landmark at the heart of Harvard Square.

I’ve been amazed since the Net first came along at how poorly it’s understood, even by people whose job is understanding it. Which includes me.

The more I’ve looked into the problem of Understanding The Net, the more I’ve realized that it’s a kind of infrastructure — yet not very structural. How can protocols be structural? Easy: when you rely on them, which is what infrastructure does for you. It’s common stuff that everybody relies on.

Anyway, I just put up Why Internet & Infrastructure Need to be Fields of Study, in Linux Journal. See whatcha think.

Call it a micki

I’m sitting here with Tom Stites talking about wiki maintenance, and what a pain it is. And it occurs to me that what I want in a wiki is MORE, the ultimate outliner — a program I dearly loved from when it was ThinkTank all the way up until I finally gave up on Mac OS9/Classic, which was the last thing it ran on. Nearly all my writing was done in MORE, because it allowed me to organize and re-organized hierarchies of topics, quickly and easily. It also helped me think, which is what one should be doing when one is writing stuff.

Wikis are flat. All topics are at the same level. This is fine for an encyclopedia, but lousy for, say, projects. Joint efforts such as are not flat. They have topics and subtopics. These change and move around, and this is where an outliner like MORE is so handy. With a few keystrokes you can move topics up and down levels, back and forth between higher-level headings… You can hoist any single topic up and work on that as if it were a top level. You can clone a topic or a piece of text and edit it in two places at once. I could go on, but trust me: it freaking rocked. There was no faster way to think or type. Hell, I’m typing this in one of its decendents: an OPML editor, also written by Dave Winer.

Anyway, just wanted to say, here in the midst of an unrelated local conversation, that wiki that works like MORE remains on the top of my software wish list for the world. Trust me: it would make the world a much more sensible place. And make both individual and group work a helluva lot easier.

Quote du jour

Lessig: Take the money out of politics (and here’s a specific proposal for doing that), and then come back to me to talk about the good, public regarding reasons why Congress is stepping in to “save the auto industry.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Stephen Lewis has made a decades-long study of both the charms and absurdities of national and ethnic legacies. His most recent essay on the matter, Apple’s iTunes, NPR, Barriers to Giving, and the “Appliancing” of National Boundaries, unpacks the growing distance between the ideals of the Internet and the realities of dysfunctional nationalisms, and the failures of the former to transcend the latter.
He begins by describing his frustrations at trying to obtain podcasts of This American Life while overseas:

As it does with its iPhone, Apple “appliances” its services to geopolitical strictures inherited from the pre-Internet age and to a jingoistic concept of national identity quite contrary to the expansive spirit of This American Life and to the “worldwide” as in Worldwide Web. Podcasts of This American Life are available for purchase and download via iTunes only from IP addresses within the boundaries of the United States. Also, even within the US, Apple does not accept for payment credit cards issued by overseas banks. Last, even when listeners from within the US attempts a purchase a credit card issued by a US bank, Apple will not sell them podcasts if their iTunes Stores accounts were originally registered from abroad.

By jigsawing its services to fit national boundaries, Apple fragments the efficacy and global scope of the internet and denies NPR broader listenership, international impact, and potential revenues. By outsourcing exclusive sales of podcasts of the This American Life to Apple’s iTunes Store, NPR denies the benefits and insights of listenership and the pleasure of contributing to the support of Public Radio to Americans living and working abroad, not to mention citizens of all other countries.

Meanwhile, you can hear This American Life for free over the Net on hundreds of streams from the U.S. based public radio stations to which NPR wholesales the program for the stations to sell to listeners (who contribute on a voluntary basis), making the restrictions even more strange. Steve continues:

The Internet — in its role as prime infrastructure for the formation of community and conveyance of the information, entertainment, knowledge and transactions — is intangible and without physical location.  However, the infrastructure that supports it is quite physical, an ad hoc non-purpose-built amalgam of fiber, copper, and wireless  strung together, enabled, and animated by protocols.  By resting on a “borrowed” infrastructure, the Internet has inherited the “gatekeepers” that own and control, charge for, and regulate these legacy elements – telecom operators and service providers, cable TV companies, governmental authorities, etc.).  Such organizations still carve up the world according geopolitical entities and borders defined between the late-eighteenth century and the mid-twentieth and gerrymander services and access accordingly.  Apparently, so does Apple.  Apple’s method of “appliancing” country-by-country reinforces anachronistic borders and undermines the potential of the internet to transcend past divisions.

Steve also spends a lot of time in Turkey, a country where his own blog (the one I’m quoting here) gets blocked along with every other blog bearing the .wordpress domain name. Lately YouTube and Blogger have also been blocked. (For more on who blocks what, visit the Open Internet Initiative.)

These sites and services are easy for governments to block because they’re clustered and silo’d. Yet on the Internet these clusters and silos, once big enough, take on the character of countries. In this New York Times piece, Tim Wu says. “To love Google, you have to be a little bit of a monarchist, you have to have faith in the way people traditionally felt about the king”. Talk about retro.

Steve continues,

This has turned Google, a private company with no accountability to any constituency, into a negotiating partner of national governments whose laws or policies do not  reflect or respect the ethical stance claimed in Google’s own slogan.  Thus, Google now functions on a diplomatic level with the ability and clout to forge country-by-country compromises affecting internet activity and the free flow of information and opinion, Turkey’s YouTube and Blogger ban not least among them.

Well, Google does have accountability to its customers, most of which are advertisers. Which makes the whole thing even more complicated.

Meanwhile the promise of the Net continues to be undermined not only by wacky forms of counterproductive protectionism, but by our own faith in “clouds” that can often act more like solids than gasses.

Tags: , , ,

So the Wall Street Journal runs Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web, by Vinesh Kumar and Christopher Rhoads. It’s dated today, but hit the Web yesterday. Among other things it says,

Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers.

At risk is a principle known as network neutrality: Cable and phone companies that operate the data pipelines are supposed to treat all traffic the same — nobody is supposed to jump the line.

I declined to post on this yesterday because I suspected that this was simply a matter of edge caching: locating services as close to users as possible, to minimize network latencies and maximize accessibility. Akamai‘s whole business is based on this kind of thing. Much of what we now call the “cloud” — including conveniences provided by Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others — are back-end utilities that benefit from relative proximity to users. It’s all part of what Nick Carr calls The Big Switch.

As Richard Whitt of Google puts it here,

Edge caching is a common practice used by ISPs and application and content providers in order to improve the end user experience. Companies like Akamai, Limelight, and Amazon’s Cloudfront provide local caching services, and broadband providers typically utilize caching as part of what are known as content distribution networks (CDNs). Google and many other Internet companies also deploy servers of their own around the world.

By bringing YouTube videos and other content physically closer to end users, site operators can improve page load times for videos and Web pages. In addition, these solutions help broadband providers by minimizing the need to send traffic outside of their networks and reducing congestion on the Internet’s backbones. In fact, caching represents one type of innovative network practice encouraged by the open Internet.

Google has offered to “colocate” caching servers within broadband providers’ own facilities; this reduces the provider’s bandwidth costs since the same video wouldn’t have to be transmitted multiple times. We’ve always said that broadband providers can engage in activities like colocation and caching, so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis.

All of Google’s colocation agreements with ISPs — which we’ve done through projects called OpenEdge and Google Global Cache — are non-exclusive, meaning any other entity could employ similar arrangements. Also, none of them require (or encourage) that Google traffic be treated with higher priority than other traffic. In contrast, if broadband providers were to leverage their unilateral control over consumers’ connections and offer colocation or caching services in an anti-competitive fashion, that would threaten the open Internet and the innovation it enables.

But there is a political side to this. The WSJ is playing the Gotcha! game here, “catching” Google jumping “the line” across which its postion on Net Neutrality is compromised. According to Whitt, it’s not.

Net Neutrality as a topic is complex and politically charged. One can argue with Google’s position on the topic. But I don’t believe one can argue that edge caching deals are a compromise of that position, simply because these deals are nothing new, and do nothing to squeeze other companies out of doing the same kind of thing (so long as Google doesn’t make the deals exclusive, which it says it’s not doing).

Hat tip to my colleague Steve Schultze, who is on top of this stuff far more than I am.

Tags: , , ,

While repairing Searls.com (which should be back up soon), I had my sister, who has a searls.com email address, delete her old account and create a new one. She did this in Apple’s Mac Mail program, which I don’t know or use.

All her sent and received emails are now gone. Or invisible. I don’t believe they’ve been erased, but I don’t know. Can anybody help here? Where are the files stored, and what would the files be called, so she can search for them?



Under reconstruction

nbsp;Searls.com is down, and has been for a number of days. There was a RAID failure, and things got worse from there. We had to take the whole thing down and rebuild it. I’m hoping it will be up again in a few hours. Meanwhile, all mail to searls.com addresses is giong nowhere. Just letting you know.

Oh, and redirects from doc.searls.com to the much longer and non-memorable address of this blog aren’t working either. That should change shortly as well.

Thanks for your patience. If you’ve got any, you’re doing better than me.

- Doc

Utilities in deed

Change.gov is the main place where the President-in-Waiting takes advice from the public. One item there is MPAA’s Key International Trade Issues, detailed in this .pdf. You can’t search or copy the content of that file because it’s a graphic. I guess the MPAA decided it would rather not post the text somewhere.

Alas, Change.gov doesn’t let you link to individual comments, so you’ll just have to hunt or scroll down to find the one by “skywriter”, who says,

I like the public utility analogy. The DEA can’t shut down a person’s electricity because they ‘suspect’ a person is growing pot in a back room of their house, nor can they shut off their water, why should a ‘non-governmental agency’ (No, MPAA, you are not a government agency no matter how much you like to think so) push for an ISP to cut off a person’s internet because you ‘suspect’ they might be doing bad things with their connection? Treat internet access like a utility, I say.

One goal of Net Neutrality, Wikipedia currenty says, is “A neutral broadband network is one that is free of restrictions on content…” By that angle alone the MPAA’s is a bad idea. Hard enough just to get the Net to people and keep it running for the good of everybody. Let’s not turn the Net into TV (which is censored… try saying “fuck” over U.S. airwaves), or worse — into a branch of Hollywood. Least of all by legislation.

There’s a good chance that the best picture you can put on your HD screen doesn’t come from your cable or satellite TV company, but from your new HD camcorder. As time and markets march on, that chance will only get larger. That’s because the there is a trade-off between the number of channels carried and the quality of each channel. That quality compression shows up as “artifacts” in the picture itself. Gradations of shading and color, such as in a blue or gray sky, turn to a mosaic of blocks. (In this shot, I show how grass on a football field has pimples.) Carriers compete more by the number of channels they carry than by the quality of each channel.(There are exceptions to this, but on the whole that’s what we’ve got.) Meanwhile your camcorder quality only goes up.

And as camcorder quality goes up, more of us will be producing rather than consuming our video. More importantly, we will be co-producing that video with other people. We will be producers as well as consumers. This is already the case, but the results that appear on YouTube are purposely compressed to a low quality compared to HDTV. In time the demand for better will prevail. When that happens we’ll need upstream as well as downstream capacity.

So here’s a piece in Broadband Reports that shows how carriers can be out of touch with the future, even as they increase the capacities of their offerings. An excerpt:

In upgraded markets, Comcast is not only upgrading existing speed tiers ($42.95 “Performance” 6Mbps/1Mbps and $52.95 “Performance Plus” 8Mbps/2Mbps tiers became 12Mbps/2Mbps and 16Mbps/2Mbps), but is adding two new tiers to the mix ($62.95 “Ultra” 22Mbps/5Mbps and the aforementioned $139.95 “Extreme 50″ 50Mbps/10Mbps).

One recurring theme we’ve seen in our forums is that the new speeds have many users downgrading. In both forum threads and polls, many customers on Comcast’s 16Mbps/2Mbps tier say they’re downgrading to their 12Mbps/2Mbps tier — apparently because they don’t think an additional 4Mbps downstream is worth $10. Customers used to be willing to pay the additional $10 for double the upstream speed, but there’s no longer an upstream difference between the tiers.

That last line is the kicker. Comcast apparently still thinks that downstream is all that really matters. It isn’t. For anybody producing a lot of photography or video, upstream not only matters more, but supports activities where the user can see the difference.

In fact there isn’t a lot of perceived difference between 12Mbps and 16Mbps on the downstream side. Either is fast enough for a YouTube video. But on the upstream side, you can see the difference. In my case, that difference appears in the progress bars for pictures I upload to Flickr.

A few months ago I upgraded my Verizon FiOS service from 20/5Mbps to 20/20Mbps. The difference was obvious as soon as it went in. The difference will be a lot more obvious to a lot more people once those people start sharing, mashing up and co-producing higher-definition videos.

Just watch.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Quotes du jour

“Do we settle with the scumbag or make lawyers rich?” – a friend who has been probing this question.

And “If it has to go through legal, it isn’t a conversation.” From Justine at BrainsOnFire. Via John Moore, via Valdis Krebs.


Lessig returns to Harvard. Local souces confirm. Heres the tweet. Watch the blog for more. (Here it is.) Overheard among the locals: Aslan is on the move.

I don’t envy providers of wi-fi at conferences. Nor do I envy anybody else in a risky business, even when they charge a good buck for it. But I do appreciate them. I forget the name of the outfit that provided wi-fi at PC Forum in days of yore, but they delivered the goods. Wi-fi nearly always worked there. Bravo to Esther and her suppliers. We miss them.

On the other hand, wi-fi at most conferences sucks rocks. There are all kinds of reasons, usually boiling down to demand hosing supply. Sometimes it’s because the hotel just doesn’t have the pipes for it. Sometimes it’s incompetence, equipment failure, software failure, or some combination of the three.

Last year at here in Paris, the wi-fi failed on Day One, and worked on Day Two. While waiting for a plane afterwards (which I’m doing again now), I talked at some length to a young guy who worked with Swisscom, which provided the Net to LeWeb. He told me that they hadn’t anticipated all the iPhones that would be trying to connect at the same time as all the laptops.

This year I was told that Swisscom was again the supplier. But this time Day One and Day Two both sucked. Connectivity was occasional at best, and completely down at worst. I found it useless. The startup competition was hampered severly by it, since the companies couldn’t strut their stuff.

Some context: LeWeb was bigger this year, and I would guess that well over a thousand laptops and other devices were trying to get on and do stuff simultaneously, much of the time. Yet Swisscom no doubt promised to deliver, and Loic and crew had every right both to expect them to deliver — and to refuse payment should Swisscom fail.

I haven’t talked with Loic about this, but I would hope that he could collect damages for Swisscom’s failure. Because when you’re putting on a show caled LeWeb, your Net provider should guarantee that Le Web is available to attendees and participants. I dunno if Loic got that guarantee, but I hope he did. Because what happened was surely damaging to a bunch of people, including both attendees and organizers, who didn’t deserve it. They put on a great show.

Here are pix from Day One. I’ll put up Day 2 after I get back home to Boston.

[Later, now in Boston] Here’s LeWeb’s post on the same topic. Its bottom line: Nothing worked basically, it has been totally unprofessional and unacceptable from a major supplier such as Swisscom.

The predicable catastrophe of Sam Zell buying the Tribune Company was perhaps best forecast (or at least remarked upon) by Hal Crowther. My response at the time was (and still is) here.

Bonus link. Another.

On departure from Zürich to Paris yesterday the ground was shrowded in gloom and haze, but above it the sky was clear and crystalline. I sat purposely on the left side of the plane to get a view, even though I knew I’d be photographing the scene against the sun, which would be low in the early afternoon on a day approaching the Winter Solstice. Worse, the window looked like it had been cleaned with fine-grit sandpaper. Still, I got some nice shots with my old Tamron zoom and the Canon Rebel Xti (borrowed from the excellent and generous Rebecca Tabasky, a colleage at the Berkman Center).

I’m guessing the plane was about a hundred miles from the shot above. Closer for some of the early ones, and much farther for some of the later ones, some of which feature Mont Blanc, the only peak I could easily identify. I’m hoping some of the rest of you can fill in the blanks.


One of the most common expressions in geology is “not well understood”. Which is understandable, because most rocks were formed millions to billions of years ago, often under conditions, and in locations, that can only be guessed at. One of the reasons I love geology is that the detective work is of a very high order. The work is both highly scientific and highly creative. Also, it will never be done. Its best mysteries are rooted too deeply in the one thing humans — relative to rock — severely lack: time

Anyway, I’m here to suggest that two overlapping subjects — infrastructure and internet — are not well understood, even though both are made by humans and can be studied within the human timescale. The term “infrastructure” has been in common use only since the 1970s. While widely used, there are relatively few books about the subject itself. I’d say, in fact, that is more a subject in many fields than a field in itself. And I think it needs to be. Same with the Internet. Look it up on Google and see how many different definitions you get. Yet nothing could be more infrastructural without being physical, which the Internet is not.

Anyway, as I write and think about this stuff, I like to keep track of what I’ve already said, even though I’ve moved beyond some of it. So here goes:

More from allied sources:

And now I have to fly to Paris, to have fun at LeWeb. We’ll pick up this and other subjects there.


Coming to our senseless

The New Hacker is a nice segment in On The Media featuring wisdom from Chris Soghoian, a fellow Berkman Center fellow. Chris’s main point: by the lights of the Lori Drew decision, you’re a hacker if you violate any terms of service, because that’s essentially what the jury decided.

TOS (terms of service) are silly messes in any case and need to be unscrewed.

Speaking of which, Chris has two blog posts worthy of piontage, both along the same unscrewy lines: DMCA exemptions desired to hack iPhones, DVDs and Harvard team: Let consumers hack abandonware. Check ‘em out.

Back in the 80s junkies were stealing radios from cars. Now it’s GPS units. At Logan Airport, bright signs greet you in the parking lot: REMOVE YOUR GPS UNITS, or words to that effect. I forget exactly. But the point is, they’re bait for thieves.

We have had two stolen in the last two months, both from our parked car in the driveway. The first was a Garmin 340c, and it was sitting on the dashboard. The second was a Garmin Nuvi 680, stolen along with a bunch of other stuff, even though it was hidden.

That was yesterday. I found out when a cop showed up at our front door asking if we’d had a GPS stolen. I said, “Yes, last month.” He said “How about last night?” I said I don’t know. So we went to look at the car, and sure enough, it was gone, along with cables and chargers for varioius stuff, plus a mount for a Sirius satellite radio.

Turns out the cops caught some people in the act, though not at our place. But they found our GPS freshly stolen. They looked up “Home” on it and found our address. Handy.

So we went down to the station to retrieve it last night. Not all the pieces were there (it’s missing a mount piece), but it’s fine. The cops told us not to have any mounts on the dashboard or the windshield, or any exposed power cabling that suggests anything of value is hidden somewhere in the car. So now we’re charging the GPS indoors, and not connecting it to anything inside the car. We just lay it in a space between the front seats and let it work there.

Not exactly the way it was designed to be used, but safer anyway. Sad it’s come to that, though.

[A month later...] Now we have a new routine. The GPS and all cabling (including a splitter and charger cable for our iPhones) go in a dark bag that gets thrown among junk in front of the back seats. The GPS mount, a bean-bag affair, gets turned upside down (where it’s black and looks like nothing other than more junk) and stuffed under one of the front seats. It takes about 40 seconds to set up the GPS, but at least it charges in the car and works like it should. So far, no more thefts. It helps, however, to have a messy car.

Tags: , , ,

In The Office of Connectivity Advocacy, Bob Frankston argues for something we’ve needed a long time: prying the Net from the regulatory grips of telecom and cablecom, both of which are inside the FCC and part of a regulatory mess that traces back past the 1996 and 1934 telecoms acts, all the way to the railroad thinking and legislation that modeled those acts.

What we need, Bob says, is to re-frame the Net outside of telecom (which includes cablecom as well). The Net needs to be more than just the third act in a “Triple Play” sold by phone and cable companies. It needs to be more — and other — than just a “service” we get from monopolists operating in an old regulatory habitat.

Inside our homes we do not negotiate with, or pay, a “printing service” to use our printers. Nor are our phone and cable companies required to hook our computers and other appliances together inside our homes. As a result, there is no issue of speed, no need for “broadband”, because we enjoy much limitless network speeds without a “service provider” in the middle.

Some specifics:

We need a “Connectivity Strategy” with a champion; a “Connectivity Advocate” who is outside the FCC and is thus can focus on a positive agenda. “Internet Connectivity” is not a telecommunications service but something new. It is based on the idea that we can create our own solutions out of imperfect resources. And it has proven to be an exceptionally powerful idea.

It has allowed us to create new solutions by focusing on the end points of relationships rather than all the myriad points between. We’ve seen a similar dynamic with the interstate (defense) highway system that has been credited with adding trillions of dollars to the economy. The Internet-connectivity has the potential to do far more because it doesn’t have the limits of the roads and demand creates supply.

The challenge is to overcome the artifacts that we confuse with the powerful idea. We happened to have repurposed existing telecommunications infrastructure and thus the idea has become captive of the incumbents whose business of charging for transporting bits as a service is threatened. To add to this confusion we can easily spoof existing telecommunications services ourselves but still act as if only a carrier can provide the services.

Instead of spending so much time and effort forcing connectivity into a service framing we need to be able to focus on connectivity from first principles. After all, the Internet (as connectivity) and Telecom have no intrinsic relationship beyond their common use of electromagnetism to transport bits.

By having an Office of Connectivity Advocacy (I’m open to a better title) outside the FCC we can have a positive and proactive strategy. We have abundant existing resources that are lying fallow either because we don’t recognize what we have or are forbidden from competing with those who control are very means of communicating and the vital information paths we use for commerce.

So look at it this way. What we have inside the free spaces of our own homes is connectivity. What we have outside of our homes, through telco and cable systems, is broadband. The latter may seem desirable, but only in the absence of free (as in liberty, not price) alternatives.

Bob sees the Internet less as a physical infrastructure of CFR (copper, fiber and radios) than as a “bit commons” to which we all contribute. It’s an ocean rather than canals across a desert. Its nature is one of abundance, not scarcity. One can only make it scarce, which is what phone and cable companies do, even as they increase our broadband speeds to larger fractions of what we have at home for free.

Bob has specific recommendations for what an Office of Connectivity Advocacy would do. Read them and give Bob (and the Transition Team) constructive feedback. Here’s part of his post:

Initially the OCA would be charged with:

  • Empowering communities and individuals to create their own solutions using common facilities – the bit commons.
  • Education and research focused on achieving and taking advantage of end-to-end connectivity.
    • Educating Congress to understand the meaning and value of connectivity. Ideally it would play the role of providing a first-principles reality check rather than just checking for conformance to regulations. For example, a call is completed when the message gets through, not when a phone rings.
    • Assist the government in its own use of technology both for its own use and as an example for others. It could encourage technologies that have wide market appeal rather than just those that can conform to government RFPs.
    • Developing enlightened investment strategies which don’t try to capture all of the value.
    • Supporting research in using networking rather than the networks themselves.
    • Supporting research in how to get more out of existing physical facilities as well as encouraging new technologies.
    • Developing decentralized protocols for connectivity rather than today’s provider-centric IP
    • Working to simplify building applications using public connectivity (the bit commons). This could be mundane telemedicine, community information or …
  • Acting as an advocate for a transition from a telecom framing to a connectivity framing:
    • Evaluating existing assets and business practice afresh without the century old technical and policy presumptions.
    • Working towards a bit commons or common infrastructure including removing the artificial distinctions between wired and unwired bits.
    • Assisting in transitioning the existing telecommunications industry to industries supporting and taking advantage of connectivity.

At first glance the idea of the OCA may seem fanciful but it’s far easier to start afresh than trying to struggle out of the mire of the existing Regulatorium. We didn’t build the automobile by modifying stage coaches – we just used our understanding of wheeled vehicles to start afresh.

Starting afresh is essential to the telcos and cablecos as well. They need to see the Internet as something more, and other, than just a “service” they provide. Their existing phone and cable TV business models are in trouble. Charging for Net access is no gold mine, either. They need to start looking for ways of making money because of the Net and not merely with it. This is what Google and Amazon have done with “cloud” services. (Many of Google’s are in this list here. Amazon’s are here.) The only thing keeping the phone and cable companies from being in similar or allied businesses is a lack of imagination. Also a lack of appreciation for advantages of incumbency other than the ability to charge folks for broadband alone. These companies have waterfront property on the Net’s ocean. They also have direct relationships with customers. Those relationships can be used for much more than billing and essential services alone.

It would be much easier for these guys to start thinking outside their boxes if the Net were split off from the phone and cable regulatoria. And that Nick Carr’s Big Switch would happen a lot faster. (By the way, for thinking outside the box, it’s fun to read Nick’s post on Microsof’ts “trailer park” based cloud infrastructure.)

I wrote here,

Phone and cable companies today are in a lousy position to run the Internet business. Telephony and Cable TV are railroads and steamships. They “carry” the Net as a “service”, but the Net isn’t essentially a service. It’s just a way to connect things. Connectivity is what matters. Not “broadband”, much as it appeals within the context of phone and cable companies’ limited offerings and imaginations. Who will imagine what can be done when connectivity is freed up? Phone and cable companies? I’d rather bet on the people leaving those companies.

If phone and cable companies want to attract rather than lose its most original engineers, they it would help if they got out of the old regulatory frame and into a new one that separates the Net from their legacy monopolies.

More about Bob.

Bonus link: Beyond Telecom: Bob Frankston on the Future We Make for Ourselves. It’s is an interveiw I did with Bob earlier this year, for Linux Journal.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Quote du jour

David Pryce on Live Government: For the first time in modern industrial society, governments have the chance to realise the potential embodied in Bill Joy’s observation that there will always be more smart people outside government than within it…

House cremation revisited

Nothing, I hope, will ever impress me as much as the Oakland firrestorm of October 20, 1991. At its peak a house was blowing up ever four seconds.  Hiller Highlands, a dome of land the looks straight west at San Francisco across the length of the Bay Bridge — one of the most desirable views in the entire world — was obliterated. The fire was so aggressive, so overwhelming, that at least one fire truck had to be abandoned.  The fire lobbed so much burning debris in its path that it leaped over two highways — 24 and 13 — and the Temescal Reservoir, to bring devastation to Oakland’s Piedmont section as well.

Close to 4000 residences (including houses and apartments) were burned in that one, in an area not much more than a mile across. I was on the Palo Alto Red Cross board at the time, and among those brought in to check out the devastation a day or two after the fire was out. Houses were erased by it. Cars were melted into puddles. Square holes in concrete, with puddles of metal around them, marked where deck timbers had stood. For some of the dead, there was no sign. Heat at the center of the fire passed 6000°, several times that required for cremation.

I’ve written about this before. I’m writing about it again (and again) because the subject is, well, close to home for me. We were in the evacuation area for the Tea Fire in Santa Barbara last month, and thoughts about how close it came — for the whole city –  still give me chills.  I was reminded again of the devastation by this Gigapan photo from West Mountain Drive. And revisiting this remarkable Google Map by grizzlehizzle. If you want an example of citizen journalism at its best, this is one fine example — from somebody who declines to say who they are, exactly.

Tags: , ,

I need to get a haircut today. That fact got me thinking about my favorite barber, Kenneth Wood. I used to get my hair cut by Mr. Wood every time I visited my mother and sister in Graham, NC. I haven’t been back there so often since Mom passed in 2003, but I was sure, when I looked him up a few minutes ago, that Mr. Wood would still be at it. Sure enough, he is.

Two stories — After 55 years, a thoroughly unusual day
and Small-town barber attracts attention — ran last month in the Burlington, NC Times-News (which commendably does not bury its archives behind a paywall), remarking on Mr. Wood’s 55 years in one location  the Graham Barber Shop, still tucked under one corner of the Graham Cinema Marquee. It also notes that Mr. Wood has been cutting hair for longer than most people will live: 81 years in all. (He started in 1927.) During that time he also cut my father’s hair, my uncle’s hair, and all five of my cousins’ hair. He only left the business (though the shop stayed open, waiting) while serving his country during WWII. He must now be one of that war’s oldest veterans as well.

I blogged about him here in January 2003. Good to know he’s still going strong.

I shot a little photo set of Graham and Mr. Wood’s shop in January 2003. To see it click here, or on the picture above.

Tags: , , , , ,

Phil Windley, in The Conservative View on Guantanamo: “…a position consistent with basic conservative philosophy would argue for human rights and due process — not against it.”

It’s good that thoughtful conservatives like Phil are examining what went wrong with an administration that turned out to be conservative in label and loyalty, but not in principle. Looking forward to more of that.

Bonus Quote, by Thomas Paine, arguing amidst the French Revolution against the execution of King Louis XVI: “An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates his duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Via Harry Lewis.

Tweet on

I’m at the WBUR open house “tweetup”, where I just learned about Tweetworks from Mike Langford. Thus the lego-like greater Twitter add-on zone grows.

After Murad Ahmed wrote Citizen journalists told to stop using Twitter to update on Bombay attacks in TimesOnline, and David Stephenson blogged a similar concern, Bruce Schneier responded with Communications During Terrorist Attacks are Not Bad. Specifically,

  This fear is exactly backwards. During a terrorist attack — during any crisis situation, actually — the one thing people can do is exchange information. It helps people, calms people, and actually reduces the thing the terrorists are trying to achieve: terror. Yes, there are specific movie-plot scenarios where certain public pronouncements might help the terrorists, but those are rare. I would much rather err on the side of more information, more openness, and more communication.

I’m sure there was wrong information coming across Twitter during recent California fires as well. But whenever bad things happen — whether caused by bad luck or bad people — good will and good people out-care and out-perform the bad.

The best mainstream media piece I’ve read yet about this topic is Citizen Journalists Provided Glimpses of Mumbai Attacks, by Brian Setzer and Noam Cohen in the New York Times. The first four grafs:

  From his terrace on Colaba Causeway in south Mumbai, Arun Shanbhag saw the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel burn. He saw ambulances leave the Nariman House. And he recorded every move on the Internet.

  Mr. Shanbhag, who lives in Boston but happened to be in Mumbai when the attacks began on Wednesday, described the gunfire on his Twitter feed — the “thud, thud, thud” of shotguns and the short bursts of automatic weapons — and uploaded photos to his personal blog.

  Mr. Shanbhag, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said he had not heard the term citizen journalism until Thursday, but now he knows that is exactly what he was doing. “I felt I had a responsibility to share my view with the outside world,” Mr. Shanbhag said in an e-mail message on Saturday morning.

  The attacks in India served as another case study in how technology is transforming people into potential reporters, adding a new dimension to the news media.

Actually, a new medium. And a new methodology. And a new way to invest the best, far more than the worst, in human nature.

Going from San Francisco

Got some nice shots of San Francisco and Marin on Sunday, as we flew off to Chicago on the first leg of the trip home from Thanksgiving in California. Actually, my kid shot most of them, since he had the window seat. Shot some other stuff too, which I’ll put up later.

Mount Tamalpias (better known as Mt. Tam) looms in the background, and Mt. Beacon in front of it.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

has some principles for (our government-in-waiting). I just signed the petition.

Mostly I’d like documents to be in .html or .txt, instead of .doc and .pdf, or worse. That would be a great start.

My son found the perfect way to interrupt my absolute concentration on work this evening: by pointing out that the Moon, Venus and Jupiter were forming a jewel-box of an arrangement in the evening sky. And sure enough, they were. So I took a bunch of shots, of which I kept the two that comprise this set here.

If you’re in the West, somewhere amidst the Pacific or the Far East this evening, you’ll see it too.

Tags: , , , ,

So I’m looking around for a fact. Specifically, an answer to this question: Who came up with CRM — Customer Relationship Management — as an idea (and later as a software and business category). It must have come from somebody, or somecompany, somewhere, right?

I just looked up History of CRM on Google. I’ve tried other search terms. It’s a slog to swim upstream against the torrent of promotional BS. Wikipedia’s entry is blah, and without any historical references.

Anybody know?

Grinding at the hub

We left SFO at 11am yesterday, and got into BOS at 3am. The delay in the middle was at ORD: O’Hare. We arrived at 6pm to find that our 7pm flight had been delayed to 9:10. After going to dinner at the Macaroni Grill (chosen after tweeting a request that was answered nicely by Todd Storch), we parked our butts at the gate, where the departure time kept moving back until it was nearly 11pm. For a long time there was no gate agent at all. But the board behind the counter kept rolling the departure time outward. I finally became one of those travellers who stretches out and sleeps with head on knapsack.

The plane for our flight never arrived, so United put us on another one with fewer rows, which made for even more fun. I felt sorry for whoever didn’t get to Chicago on the plane we couldn’t take.

I did sleep for the whole flight to Logan, then got to bed at 4, and up at 6. Now I’m back in the saddle, at my desk in our apartment.

The biggest relief here is Internet speed. On the road everything seemed slow. The hotel in Morgan Hill, CA barely cleared dial-up speed. The house where we hung out was okay (about 500k up and down), but seemed to take forever to bring anything up. My Sprint data card outperformed every wi-fi connection I encountered.

Here at the apartment we have 20Mb symmetrical service from Verizon FiOS. The hub-router thing craps out a lot, but otherwise it’s rock-solid and makes Net access into a relatively wide smooth highway. The only better connectivity I’ve experienced is at universities.

Anyway, good to be back. Now off to work.

Fun with personalities

Keeping Linux Safe Since 1994 is my latest at Linux Journal. It’s fun with Typeanalyzer. Try it on your blog, and see what it says. Don’t be surprised if the results are different than those for yourself.

Back in September or so I blogged in favor of the $700 billion stimulus package. In those days, now so long ago, I thought, against my otherwise better judgement, that we needed to do something.

Now I don’t.

Now I think we need to let the train wreck finish happening before we “stimulate” anything. If we even bother at all.

I say that for two reasons.

First is that nobody knows wtf to do, really. If we do anything.

Second is that “doing something” is overrated. For that insight I thank this excellent piece in the Washington Post, by Shankar Vedantam. And to Russ Nelson for pointing to it.

The gist:

  The action bias, or the desire to do something rather than nothing when you have just been through a terrible experience, plays a powerful role in our lives. It influences individuals and companies, investors and leaders. You can see the action bias on display in current thinking on the housing and economic crises, in the bitter debates over the war in Iraq — even in discussions about how to fix a football team that’s a perennial loser.

  When people suffer losses and confront the possibility of even greater reverses — it doesn’t matter if you are talking about a terrorist attack or a meltdown in retirement savings — it is psychologically difficult to do nothing, to hold course. This is true even when the action you contemplate produces an outcome that leaves you demonstrably worse than you were in the first place...

  When things are going well, there is a tendency to stagnate, rather than innovate and make things even better. When things are going poorly, on the other hand, our bias is to flail.

We’re flailing, and we’re doing it with trillions of non-existent dollars. Spending them risks making them even more worthless than they already are.

What if every product category, every business, is a bubble — and some just last longer?

We know the newspaper business was a bubble. It lasted over a century, but here we are, at the end of it. Papers will still be around, for the same reason that railroads and mainframe computers are still around. But they’ll never be what they were in their golden decades.

Television will follow. That golden age is coming to an end as well. Same with radio. These will also persist, in somewhat different forms. But the golden age is over.

I’m thinking now that we’re seeing the same thing with cars.

A few days ago I took in my old Volkswagen Passat to get the water pump replaced. Turns out lots of other stuff was worn out or broken and needed fixing too. The final bill came to around $5000, which is what I paid for the thing three years ago.

For a minute I thought about getting a new car. They’re cheaper than ever, with lots of good deals, and guarantees that would relieve me of the need to pay much for upkeep. But I decided to fix the old car instead, becuase it’s good enough. Spending $5k is better than spending $20k, especially if I don’t have to borrow the difference.

The mechanic told me his business is booming. Most car owners have awakened to the fact that cars are cars, and most of what we do with them is just drive from place to place. New cars purchases are impelled mostly by advertising and fantasy. Drive a lot of rental cars and you get hip to the obvious: the differences between cars, especially fairly new ones, isn’t large. After a few years they all plateau at a certain level of partial suckage and stay that way for the duration. You forget the quiet cabin and tight handling that turned you on in the first place. You care less about its color than just being able to find it in the parking lot. You know the noise in the heater is some rocks your kid put down the vents and won’t ever get fixed.

Now, what happens if an absence of new car fantasy prevails for the duration? What if the whole automobile business has jumped the shark, and the problem isn’t just Detroit’s?

Even if it hasn’t now, the business will falter eventually. They all do. Disruptions happen. Trees do not grow to the sky. That’s Nature’s nature, in business as well as the wilderness.

Bonus link.

Required re-reading

A pause this Thanksgiving weekend to appreciate The Word Detective, which has been around forever, which is to say since 1995.

I remember The Word Dectective from way back in the Early Daze, when there were relatively few websites (say, 103 or 104, 5 or 6 of them) and it was already obvious, to their few million visitors, that The Net was not only going to change everything, but was a worldwide virtual environment that would change the existing physical one even as it changed itself.

I re-discovered The Word Detective this morning when I wanted to find the source of the saying “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. I looked it up on Google and found that The Word Detective had the closest approach to a canonical result, way back on 23 May 2001.

Being an online periodical of sorts, TWD is now produced on WordPress (View Source tells me), which is way cool, because it has always been, essentially, a bloggy kinda thing. It has a sideblog as well.

Check ‘em out. If your interests run in an etymological direction, the TWDs are worthy of bookmarks (remember those?) or better.


EOLcat is a palindrome.


Ze says this blogger is 12. His hedge, which I second: I will say that if this is some weird viral H&M marketing scheme, I will be very angry.

Obituaries on hold

Shel Holtz lists all the techs whose reported deaths are still exaggerated. Hat tip to Zane Safrit.

Nice validation

Of The Open Source Force Behind the Obama Campaign, Joe Trippi writes,

  I’ve never read a more accurate explanation of how the Linux movement and Open Source influenced and formed the foundational thinking for the political movement that, now, has helped produce Barack Obama’s Victory.

The government crash

The amazing thing about crashes is that you can see them coming. They’re not surprises like earthquakes or meteor impacts. A sure sign of their approach is too much speculative lending, which contributes to the boom that sets up the bust. We saw it in housing in the 70s and 80s, which led to the S&L crisis, and again in the 00s. We’ve seen it over and over in tech, most famously with the dot-com crash.

Now we’re about to see the U.S. government crash, for the same reason.

According to Bloomberg (which ought to know),

  The U.S. government is prepared to provide more than $7.76 trillion on behalf of American taxpayers after guaranteeing $306 billion of Citigroup Inc. debt yesterday. The pledges, amounting to half the value of everything produced in the nation last year, are intended to rescue the financial system after the credit markets seized up 15 months ago.

  The unprecedented pledge of funds includes $3.18 trillion already tapped by financial institutions in the biggest response to an economic emergency since the New Deal of the 1930s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The commitment dwarfs the plan approved by lawmakers, the Treasury Department’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. Federal Reserve lending last week was 1,900 times the weekly average for the three years before the crisis.

That’s trillion. With a tr.

Our debtors won’t be able to pay most of it back. Nor do we expect it to be.

And we can’t pay it back, unless we print all the money we need, or do the electronic equivalent.

Which will turn the dollar into the peso. Or worse.

What comes after that — or even during that — I hate to think about.

Or so it seems to me, on a cold Wednesday morning. Hope I’m wrong.

Meanwhile I would like to see more transparency than we’ve seen so far. Lack of it is the other story in the Bloomberg piece. Scary reading.

Hat tip to Dave for the pointer.

…that remain hidden from public view.” That’s just one phrase just uttered by , author of and speaker at lunch here at the Berkman Center.

The talk, which is a debate/q&a, is going on now (12:44pm), and being . Strong stuff. Many of the bloggers he’s talking about are in jail or worse. From the lunch brief:

  In 2007, Australian journalist, author and blogger Antony Loewenstein traveled to Egypt, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and China to investigate how the net was challenging authoritarian regimes, the role of Western multinationals such as Google in the assistance of web filtering and how misinformed we are in the West towards states considered “enemies” or “allies”.

His subject is what may be “partly true in the west, but not true in the rest of the world.” Such as the “death” or “mainstreaming” of blogging. Which remains no less revolutionary than ever. Learn how. Tune in.

What Antony just read to the group will be posted on this afternoon.

We have an IRC at #berkman on freenode. If you’re watching and want to participate, jump on.

Signs of the Places

I was early for a talk by Irving Wladawsky-Berger at Harvard Law School a couple hours ago (just one among many terrific talks that go on around here) when I got in a conversation with Victoria Stodden about localities. Both of us have lives and affections split between Cambridge and California. As the weather gets colder and more miserable here in the Northeast, long-time Californians yearn for the warmth and ease of our western homes. She spent twelve years at Stanford. I lived in the Bay Area for sixteen years (all within a couple zip codes of Stanford) and in Santa Barbara for another eight. In fact, I still live there. And here. Makes for fun comparisons.

In the midst of the conversation Victoria brought up Cities and Ambition, a piece by Paul Graham from May of this year. I brought up what Paul wrote about Silicon Valley — not in that piece (which is still terrific), but somewhere… maybe in a talk at eTech or something… about how you can get off a plane at SFO and sense an invisible generator nearby, like the one in Star Wars that sustained the ice planet Hoth. It’s the tech generator that energizes the Valley and makes it a produce tech and wealth like nowhere else.

But Victoria made the more important point, about what makes Cambridge so amazing, and why I feel just as energized here as I did in Silicon Valley when I lived there — but in a different way. Paul explains:

  I’d always imagined Berkeley would be the ideal place–that it would basically be Cambridge with good weather. But when I finally tried living there a couple years ago, it turned out not to be. The message Berkeley sends is: you should live better. Life in Berkeley is very civilized. It’s probably the place in America where someone from Northern Europe would feel most at home. But it’s not humming with ambition.

  In retrospect it shouldn’t have been surprising that a place so pleasant would attract people interested above all in quality of life. Cambridge with good weather, it turns out, is not Cambridge. The people you find in Cambridge are not there by accident. You have to make sacrifices to live there. It’s expensive and somewhat grubby, and the weather’s often bad. So the kind of people you find in Cambridge are the kind of people who want to live where the smartest people are, even if that means living in an expensive, grubby place with bad weather.

  As of this writing, Cambridge seems to be the intellectual capital of the world. I realize that seems a preposterous claim. What makes it true is that it’s more preposterous to claim about anywhere else. American universities currently seem to be the best, judging from the flow of ambitious students. And what US city has a stronger claim? New York? A fair number of smart people, but diluted by a much larger number of neanderthals in suits. The Bay Area has a lot of smart people too, but again, diluted; there are two great universities, but they’re far apart. Harvard and MIT are practically adjacent by West Coast standards, and they’re surrounded by about 20 other colleges and universities. [1]

  Cambridge as a result feels like a town whose main industry is ideas, while New York’s is finance and Silicon Valley’s is startups.

I moved to the Bay Area in 1985 from Chapel Hill, another college town. I had lived for most of the previous eleven years there and in nearby Durham. Upon arriving in the Bay Area I looked with my teenage kids at Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Palo Alto, and decided to land in the latter for two reasons: 1) my company’s office was there, and I didn’t want to commute; and 2) my kids took one look at Palo Alto High and said “This is Stanford High. We want to go here.” And it was done. (One kid went on to UC-Berkeley and the other to UC-Santa Cruz, for what that’s worth.) All due respect for Chapel Hill and Durham, Carolina and Duke — places I still love and miss — Palo Alto and the Bay Area are a whole different game. There my horizons opened in many directions, and so did my kids’. It was energizing and stimulating in the Xtreme.

Then came the opportunity to come to Cambridge.

Wow. When we were thinking about getting an apartment here, and putting the kid in a local school, David Weinberger advised thusly: “Just remember that this is the most intellectually stimulating place in the world.”

He was right. I remember one rainy day walking across the Harvard campus, between one interesting gathering and another, and saying to my wife on the phone, “It was clever of God to hide all this great stuff under such shitty weather.”

Paul again:

  One of the exhilarating things about coming back to Cambridge every spring is walking through the streets at dusk, when you can see into the houses. When you walk through Palo Alto in the evening, you see nothing but the blue glow of TVs. In Cambridge you see shelves full of promising-looking books. Palo Alto was probably much like Cambridge in 1960, but you’d never guess now that there was a university nearby. Now it’s just one of the richer neighborhoods in Silicon Valley. [2]

  A city speaks to you mostly by accident — in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It’s not something you have to seek out, but something you can’t turn off. One of the occupational hazards of living in Cambridge is overhearing the conversations of people who use interrogative intonation in declarative sentences. But on average I’ll take Cambridge conversations over New York or Silicon Valley ones.

Me too. But the Silicon Valley ones are way above average, and cover topics no less interesting. Same goes for the Santa Barbara ones. (UCSB turns me on too, and that’s just of SB’s many charms.) Or the London ones. Or the Copenhagen and Amsterdam ones. No place has cornered the market on Interesting.

Nor is Cambridge the extent of it here. As I write this my ass reposes in a leather chair in a reading room at the Boston Athenaeum, where our family goes often to feast on books. (One librarian calls our twelve-year old the library’s “best reader.” Based on consumption volume alone, I wouldn’t dispute it.)

Anyway, I’m just enjoying being amazed at both Cambridge and Boston, and appreciative of my time here. And of Paul’s provocative observations. Need to chew on those a bit. Good conversational fodder there.

Rebooting everything

Things really are going from bad to worse.

Trees do not grow to the sky.

True for countries as well as companies.

Bonus exchange.

Tags: , , , , , ,

From Chris Brogan via JP, a call to re-tweet: Sew hoping for a miracle.

Here is an earlier picture (and post about) Marielle, by her mom, the blogger Sue (aka Sew), of The Domestic Diva.

Marielle is dying, literally, for a kidney match.

Pass the word along. Somebody somewhere should be able to help.

Tags: , , , , ,

I just posted The Open Source Force Behind the Obama Campaign over at Linux Journal. I wrote it in August for the November issue, which would come out in time for the election. But it was too long for the magazine, and too off-topic as well. So we shelved it, and planned to put it on the website after the election.

Originally I was going to update it; but after noodling around with that for awhile, and not quite getting it the way I wanted it, I realized it was more interesting as a piece of history: a snapshot in time. So that’s what I just put up there, adding only an introduction.

In going through this process, one thing that surpised me was how much I wrote about the Dean Campaign back in ’03-04. Since the Obama Campaign was what Britt Blaser calls “Dean done right”, you could say I had started covering the Obama campaign more than four years ago.

And maybe I was unintentionally influencing it as well.

In digging around for old stuff, I ran across Gary Wolf’s How the Internet Invented Howard Dean, in the January ’04 issue of Wired. One sidebar is The Howard Dean Reading List: How a bunch of books about social networking rebooted the Democratic system. Among those six is The Cluetrain Manifesto. So perhaps by that thin thread I can claim grand-paternity to Obama’s success.

Though not as credibly as, say, David Weinberger, who actually advised the Dean campaign. David, who is quoted in the Wired piece, not only co-wrote Cluetrain, but sole-authored Small Pieces Loosely Joined, which is another book on the Howard Dean reading list.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Four knowing and provocative posts by Steve Lewis:


One quotable line: States are administrative inheritances from a past age and are increasingly obsolete as clusters of interests or self-identification. Applies to countries as well.

Read on.

When I was driving up from Santa Barbara to San Francisco on Sunday, I was listening to for awhile, and caught an amazing version of “Singing the Blues“, which was a huge country-pop crossover hit for Guy Mitchell in 1956. It was casual and enthusiastic and about as “country” as it gets. Loved it, and couldn’t wait for the announcer to say who did it.

Turns out it was Paul McCartney. Here he is, singing it on YouTube.

Meanwhile, I found out by way of Wikipedia that Guy Mitchell‘s real name was Albert George Cernik, and that he was as huge in Croatia as he was in the U.S. and the U.K.

A commenter on the McCartney item also said Fretkillr did a killr version. True. Like his Ain’t Misbehavin’ too. Reminds me of Leon Redbone.

Gotta love the Internets.

According to this my geek cred is 27 out of 50. Like Alec (who scored 41), I come up short on the gaming and entertainment hacking front. I woulda done better if there were items like, “Have changed bulbs on a broadcast tower,” “Rembember Ohm’s Law,” “Built a Heathkit” or “Know what ‘millimhos’ are”. (Clue.) Except for Ohmian matters, most of the rest is obsolete knowledge or headed that way.

In VRM is Personal, I say this…

“Social” is a bubble. Trust me on this. I urge all consultants on “social ______” (fill in the blank) to make hay while the sun shines. Even as the current depression deepens, lots of companies are starting to realize that this “social” thing is hot stuff and they need to get hip to Twitter and the rest of it. (Just ask the Motrin folks.)

And it is hot. But much of that heat is relative to its absence in other areas. “Social” has sucked a lot of oxygen out of the online conversational room.

Meanwhile, here’s the challenge: make the Net personal. Make relationships personal. Equip individuals with tools of independence and engagement. That’s what VRM is about.

… and go on. Read the rest there.


There wasn’t much to see during the redeye from Boston to Zürich and on to Amsterdam yesterday. Too bad, because the Swissair window was one of the cleanest and clearest I’ve seen yet. But I did get a nice quick series of the East Sussex coast, with its white cliffs, from Brighton to Beachy Head, along the English Channel.


Looks like the evacuation notices have been lifted. And The Map (which is very well done) now has two pages showing the status in the area, including (near as I can tell) all 211 burned structures, nearly all of them homes.

My shots of the aftermath are here.

Hard to believe I’m in Boston now, and about to be in Zurich, then Amsterdam. See some of ya’ll there.

This makes me glad I don’t have advertising on this blog.

Collateral damage?

Ever notice how many car ads you see on the evening news? On sports broadcasts? (Between the ones for beer and “erectile dysfunction” relief — nice promotional symbiosis there.) How much of that is Detroit money? How much of that money will go away, whether or not Detroit gets bailed out? And will Asian and European car makers spend enough to take up the slack?

Just wondering.

In any case, watch for commercial broadcasting to take more hits.

This is @#$% insane.

I’m at the Lufthansa lounge in Boston’s Logan Airport, where T-Mobile provides wi-fi service, just like it provides wi-fi service in countless other places around the U.S., including (near as I can tell) most airports and airport lounges. The “welcome” page looks normal. I try to login. It doesn’t work. Then I notice that I can login as a “visitor” from T-Mobile USA. But I’m IN the @#$% USA. I pay T-Mobile $29something/month to use their @#$% service already in the U.S.A.

It’s bad enough that I have to pay $.18/minute to “roam” on T-Mobile when I’m overseas. But in the U.S.? Why? Because T-Mobile wants to shake down customers held captive by the conveniences of an airport lounge? I’m guessing. I don’t know.

Really, I don’t care if the lounge is operated by Lufthansa, and Lufthansa is a German airline, and they have their own deal with T-Mobile Deutschland, which treats this little outpost as some kind of consulate or whatever. I’m guessing that’s the reason, but I don’t know. I can only guess. What is clear is that The System is rigged to trap and shake down customers.

So I’m on with my Sprint datacard. It’s not free, but it’s also not T-Mobile. To its credit, Sprint hasn’t screwed me yet. T-Mobile has. It’s not much of a screw. Just $.18 per minute. But that’s $.18 more than I’m already willing to pay.

Let’s see. I’ve been with T-Mobile (and MobileStar before that) since MobileStar first began serving wi-fi to Starbucks customers. I forget what I paid, but let’s say it’s averaged $25/month since November 2001, or seven years. Comes to $2100.

“Life is for sharing”, T-Mobile’s slogan says.

I now plan to share less of my life, and my money, with T-Mobile.

If they want me back — and other customers like me — they’ll have to stop thinking like an old telco and start thinking like the Internet service company they’re going to become anyway.

Quote du jour

Yochai Benkler: Spectrum is not a resource. It is an engineering assumption. True.

This afternoon at 4:30 I’ll be talking (though not alone… it’s a discussion, not a lecture) at the in Cambridge (the new one with and , born in 1630-something; not the older one The topic will be The Intention Economy: What happens when free customers prove more valuable than captive ones.

Are you tired of carrying around “loyalty cards” for retailers who speak to themselves about “acquiring,” “owning” and “controlling” their “relationship” with you? — and do little more than clog your wallet and slow down checkout lines?

Are you tired of login and password hell? In the everyday world you don’t have to become a “member” of a store to shop there, or to click “accept” after not reading “agreements” that are anything but.

Wouldn’t it be cool to rent exactly the car you want (for example, one that seats six and has an AUX input for your iPhone), rather than whatever the rental car agency decides to give you?

If you answer Yes to any of those questions, you should know about VRM, for Vendor Relationship Management. It’s how we manage them at least as well as they manage us.

VRM tools are being developed right now by a community of developers and other volunteers, organized around ProjectVRM at Harvard’s Berkman Center and led by Doc Searls, the originator of the VRM concept and a fellow at the center.

More here.

That same pitch would also do for the in Amsterdam on Thursday. I’ll be there too. Big thanks to Maarten Lens-Fitzgerald and friends for putting that together, even as Maarten continues to withstand medical insults in the midst.

If you’re interested in music, or in radio — especially if you’re interested in both — listen (or watch) in on Tim Westergren’s talk, going on right now. Tim founded Pandora, and is its Chief Strategist. My notes…

“We want to fix radio. And we want to fix it globally. And do it for musicians as well as listeners.”

What they’re doing is heroic, actually.

Tim just talked about Pandora’s brief experience with a subscription model. They let you listen for awhile and then began to charge — and found out listeners would find workarounds to stay in the free zone. “Systemic dishonesty”, he called it. This makes me think that VRM is systemic honesty.

“There is going to be a flight to quality,” Tim just said. Good line.

Tags: , , ,



I just put up a gallery of shots I took as the sun was going down today, and the evacuation barricades were lifted — at least from some of the Tea Fire burn area.

The aerial shot above is from the excellent Live Search Maps. If you want to look around, the top shot is in this view here.

Most of my shots were after the sun went down, so they’re not the best. But they reveal some of what went on at the western edge of the fire perimeter.

Most of the houses north of Sheffield Reservoir (which is now buried beneath a park) were spared. But many along Gibraltar, El Cielito and West Mountain Road (such as the one above, a beautiful house with a view across a pool and Parma Park) were burned. It wrenched my heart to see residents visiting some of these homes. They weren’t all “mansions”, as the out-of-town media called them. Many were not even especially upscale. But most were beautiful, and all were in a beautiful setting. And they were homes. They contained the lives of their residents. Lives that will have to start over in many ways.

We know people who lost homes here. Our hearts go out to them.

One thing that amazed me was how good a job the firefighters did protecting many homes in this area. One official said it would have been reasonable to expect to lose 500 or more homes in a fire like this one.

I head back to the place our kid calls “alt.home” or “shift_home” in Boston tomorrow. Meanwhile I am appreciating every minute I’m here.

Meanwhile, here’s a thankful shout-out to the firefighters who did their best to save what they could. Which happens to be the rest of Santa Barbara.

Bonus pic: Here’s exactly the same area, after the Sycamore Canyon fire in 1977.

[Later...] I’m on a pit stop at the Starbucks Coffee & Reggae Disco in King City, where the music is so loud that people go outside to talk on their cell phones. Just did that myself.

It was weird to hit SCAN on the rental car radio and have it stop at 87.7, where KSBY/Channel 6 in San Luis Obispo was running a live press conference on the Tea Fire from Santa Barbara. I stayed with it until the signal gave out around San Ardo. Meanwhile, here’s what I picked up that matters: Homes were lost on the folowing roads:

  • Coyote Road
  • Coyote Circle
  • East Mountain Drive
  • West Mountain Drive
  • El Cielito
  • Gibraltar Road
  • Las Alturas Road
  • Orizaba Road
  • Orizaba Lane
  • Conejo Road
  • Stanwood Road
  • Sycamore Canyon Road
  • Ealand Place (not sure, but I think so)
  • Mt. Calvary Road (including the Monastery and Retreat Center)
  • Westmont Road/Circle Drive (not clear about this, but I believe so)

They said 210 structures were lost. More than 5000 homes were evacuated across a large area outside the fire perimeter, ours among them.

Only residents with government-issued IDs will be let into the main burn areas: Mountain Road, Conejo, Coyote, a few others.

Okay, hitting the road again. Next stop, SFO. Then BOS and back to work.

[Later...] I’m at SFO now. No time to say more than to look at this map, this City 2.0 summary, and these images and headlines.

Oh, and look at this. It’s the same scene after the 1977 Sycamore Fire. Some home sites have burned three times: In the 1964 Coyote Fire, the Sycamore Fire, and now the Tea Fire.

Tags: , , , ,

Well, the Tea Fire has been upstaged by the Sylmar Fire. (Both links are to LA Times stories. Do LA Times stories still drift behind a paywall after a week? Not sure. If so, I’ll change them to more permanent pages later.) Here’s the latest I’ve heard from KCLU radio…

  • The official toll of burned structures is now 111, although the real number is likely higher than 150.
  • There are still small ground fires to put out along the north side of Mission Ridge Road, and that’s what’s keeping the evacuation roadblocks up.
  • The fire is officially 40% contained.
  • Officials are hoping to lift evacuation notices by the end of the day.

Noozhawk says the number may be as high as 200. Here’s more.

I’m heads-down, finishing a major writing assignment, and won’t be revisiting fire matters until later today. Meanwhile it’s clear that the Tea Fire is in the mopping-up stage, as the life-rebuilding stage has barely begun for hundreds of people here.

A friend just called and said that the barricades are still up, but the cops there also said they expected some areas to be opened within an hour. If you’re in an evacuated area, check with SB County Fire or Montecito Fire.

Other links: fire.ca.gov on Tea Fire, Edhat news, Noozhawk news, SB Independent news, City 2.0 bulletin boardHere are some pictures of the Westmont campus. Amazed it wasn’t much worse.

More later. (Including the pictures I just put up.)

[Later...] Back home. Other parts of town are still barricaded, but ours isn’t. I’m at my desk now, getting to work.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The fire in Santa Barbara is officially called the Tea Incident, because it started near (or at) a (or the) tea house, on Mountain Road in Montecito. (Here? Ah, no, here.)

There are lots of good places to see what’s happening. One of the best is this Google Map. KEYT, Edhat, the Independent, Noozhawk and others are helpful. Inciweb has nothing so far, perhaps because the Tea Incident is not yet an official wildfire. It’s usually very helpful once it gets rolling on a fire. And the MODIS maps are great. That’s a screenshot of one, above.

It’s also a little too interesting that temperatures will be as high as 90° today (unusually hot for here) with strong winds from the northeast. Which will be bad, if any of the fire is still going. Some of it will be, but it’s clear that this is not a rolling conflagration like the Oakland fire in 1990 or the San Diego fire last year. Watching the Montecito and Santa Barbara fire chiefs and Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum in a press conference right now. The phrases “damage assessment” and “mopping up” are being used. Also “narrow window of opportunity” to contain the fire.

So right now the top thing people want to know is, Which houses have burned down? Can we be exact about what has burned? Saying “over a hundred homes” gives us a quantity of nothing.

If anybody has something exact — streets and neighborhoods, if not addresses — let us know in the comments below. Meanwhile I’ll be headed out shortly to check things out, or at least to sit at a coffee shop and hang out with concerned and/or evacuated neighbors.

[Not much later...] The County Sherrif is on now, and giving specifics. The Mount Calvary Retreat House and Monastery is completely distroyed. (A beautiful place, and a terrible loss.) Areas where many homes burned: Las Canoas, East Mountain Drive, Gibraltar Road, Scofield Park. Mostly inside a triangle between Westmont Collage, the East Riviera and St. Mary’s. (By Rattlesnake Canyon.) Over 100 homes lost, but many also saved.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Just learned there’s a fire in Santa Barbara. Our house is not in the evacuation area (that’s Cold Springs, and some surrounding sections in Montecito and SB C ), but we’re still concerned. I’m taking public notes, before I head down there. (I’m in the Bay Area.)

I’m listening to from Los Angeles right now. “The main body of this fire is in wilderness, but there are homes below the thick black smoke… 60 mph winds… East of Mountain Drive and Cold Springs Road… the KCAL helicopter is fighting turbulence. Heavy winds.” Now they’re talking to the retired fire chief. He says the winds are high and “downcanyon” toward the ocean. “There are structures involved in this fire.” Now burning Southwest. That’s toward town. Bad.

To watch: Inciweb, MODIS western region fire maps. Also here.

Twitter Search for Santa Barbara.

If you have news sources, or news you want to share, post it in the comments below. Thanks.

[Later...] It’s 3am and I’m in Santa Barbara now, getting ready to crash at some friends’, sitting on a chair out front in the cool smoky moonlit night.

I could see the fire high on the mountain face as I drove into town, but smoke obscured it when I tried to see more from the Mesa, above downtown. The town itself, and the Riviera above it, looked normal from what I could tell, even though I know at least a couple houses within sight had already burned. Beyond that, in Montecito and beyond the back side of the Riviera, 70+ homes gone. Or so reports say.

I listened mostly to KNX on the way down. They became, in effect, a Santa Barbara station. Then, once in range, I lisened to local reports to /91.9 and /990.

I noticed that many stations on Gibraltar Peak were off the air, and learned on KTYD that their sister station KSBL/101.7 had lost its antenna to the fire. That antenna was closest to the woods, and to the source of the fire. Also gone were KQSC/88.7, KSBX/89.5, religious station translators on 89.9 and 91.5, KCLU’s translator on 102.3, and KMGQ/106.3. Still on the air were KDB/93.7 and KTYD/99.9. All those off the air are near brush on the side of the peak facing town. KDB is on the back side of the transmitter building, away from brush. The fact that it’s on the air tells me that the transmitter building survived, but that most antennas outside did not. All but KDB’s were close to the ground. KTYD is farther up the hill, and high on one of KTYD’s three towers.

Hard to imagine fire up that high, and in country so thick with flammable chapparal, not spreading and consuming the whole mountain, especially if the winds are right. But… I dunno. Meanwhile, read while I go to bed.

Terry Heaton calls Keystream‘s SmartAds “the dumbest idea I’ve heard in years”. What’s “smart” about SmartAds is that they appear in “blank” spaces in online videos. Those blue skies over the ocean? The wide green fairway of a golf course? The wall beside your sweetheart’s smile? Slap an ad in there. Same idea as billboards by highways, only worse, because it’s rationalized as a “dramatic improvement in user experience”. Robin Wauters at Techcrunch doesn’t like it either, and says so in Keystream Unveils SmartAd, Wants To Turn Watching Videos Into A Painful Experience.

It’s one thing to come up with a sucky advertising idea, but to fail so spectacularly at PR is two-fer of fatal dimensions.

One quibble with Robin, who writes, Obviously, there is a need to open the advertising spigot when it comes to Web videos, but this is not the way to do it. It’s 2008. Isn’t it time we thought past advertising, toward revenue models based on serving customers, rather than guessing at them?

Advertising even at its best is still guesswork. That’s the “pain point” we should be trying to relieve, and where ideas should show up that VCs can fund. Improving a pain in the ass doesn’t make it a kiss.

These are a few among the many salt ponds that ring the south end of San Francisco Bay. Once considered and agricultural innovation and an economic boom, the practice of “reclaiming” wild wetlands for industrial purposes is now considered ecologically awful by environmentalists, especially here on the West Coast of the U.S., which has precious few wetlands in any case. Many environmentalists have been working to get Cargill to close the ponds and return the Bay to its more natural state. Cargill hasn’t budged. In fact, <a href=”http://www.cargill.com/sf_bay/saltpond_ecosystem.htm”>Cargill has its own views</a> on the matter, plus some interesting facts about the ponds themselves.

It’s worth pointing out that the Bay is actually one of the youngest features on the California landscape, having flooded within only in the last couple thousand years, as sea levels rose. (Global warming has been happening, in fact, since the last ice age.)

I took this shot two days ago on approach to San Francisco on a flight from Boston. Here’s a set of all the photos I’ve taken of salt ponds, both here and in the desert. And here is the whole set of shots I took from coast to coast. Most were at the ends of the flight, since the sky was undercast most of the way.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Getting past telecom

While unscrewing bad Internet policy probably isn’t top priority for the Administration-in-Waiting, it’s pretty high up there for me, and for quite a few other ‘Net obsessives out there.

In fact, I heard through the grapevine that the Obama transition team was looking for some Big Input to the Internet policy mill, due today.

A couple weeks back I floated FORWARD WITH FIBER: An Infrastructure Investment Plan for the New Administration. It’s a kind of Interstate Highway proposal, audacious in two respcts: 1) it proposes spending a few hundred billion on capacious fiber-based infrastructure that reaches everybody, or close enough; 2) It embraces rather than excludes the carriers that are already in the middle of this thing.

Regardless of what we do, we must liberate the Net (including the carriers) from telecom reguation. It’s too new, too different, and too important to be shackled by the boat-anchors of the 1934 and 1996 telecom acts — and by addenda to those acts, even if they are meant to improve existing law on behalf of the Net.

The Net needs a Declaration of Independence. John Perry Barlow’s (on the day the ’96 act passed) was inspiring in its day (and still rings true), but now we need something on which new policy can be built: policy that respects not only the freedom and openness of the Net, but of the markets that grow on the Net’s infrastructure.

Just stinking out loud

A few minutes ago I got off the phone with a friend headed into a bullshit meeting he didn’t want to attend, where he planned to listen and say as little as possible, because there was, basically, nothing to say. Still, wondering what to say if asked to offer something, I recommended, “I’m just a fly on the wall, abstaining from the shit on the floor.”

(This post began as a response to this comment by Julian Bond, in response to this post about Mad Men. When it got too long I decided to move it here.)

Smoking and drinking were standard back then. “Widespread” doesn’t cover it. They were nearly universal.

It’s easy to forget that Industry won WWII, and that the military-industrial complex crossed the whole society. All young men served in the military, either voluntarily or via the draft. Industry and its companion, Science, ruled. And — to an unhealthy degree — the former drove the latter.

Tobacco was an leading agricultural product, and cigarette manufacture was a leading industry that drove consumption through advertising so thick and ubiquitous — on TV and radio, in magazines, newspapers and on billboards — that for most people the only choice was which brand to smoke.

I remember thinking, as a child, that lighting sticks on fire and breathing the smoke was absurd and unhealthy on its face — and later being the only one of my high school friends who didn’t smoke. But I was weird. Common sense then was pro-smoking.

Drinking and driving was only a little harder to rationalize. I remember statistics that said one in twenty-five drivers at night in the U.S. were drunk.

Industry and Science also together decided, among other things, that –

  • Breast feeding was bad for babies, and “formula” was better. Thank you, Nestle.
  • Children at birth should be taken from their mothers and stored in nurseries.
  • All boys should all be circumcised at birth. So much for the Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm.”
  • Tonsilitis” was a disease, and every severely sore throat should be treated surgically, involving removal of adenoids from the nose as well.
  • Intestinal infections were likely to be appendicitis, so the appendix had to go too.
  • Education is a manufacturing process, the purpose of which is to fill the empty vessels of childrens’ heads with curricula approved by the State.
  • Childrens’ intelligence — their most unique and human quality — was a fixed quantity (a “quotient”) that could be measured, as if by a dipstick,  with IQ tests, so herds of students  could be sorted into bell curves to better manage their progress through systems that regarded them — with the acquiescence of themselves and their parents — as “products” of their education.

I could go on. For what it’s worth, I have my appendix, but lack tonsils, adenoids, spleen and foreskin, all of which were considered “vestigial” or otherwise bad by the medical fashions at the times of their removal. My known IQ scores have a range of 80 points. If my parents hadn’t believed in me, my low IQ and standardized test scores in the 8th grade would have shunted me to a “vocational-technical” high school to learn wood shop, auto mechanics or some other “trade”. I shall always be grateful for that.

Mad Men is close to home for me in another way: I was long in the advertising business too, though a generation after Mad Men’s time, well after the “creative” revolution of the mid- to late 60s. It was one of the great periods in my life, but I’ve moved on. Similarly, I had a hard time watching the Sopranos, because I grew up in New Jersey, knew people like those, and was not entertained.

I think drugs and self-abuse are rituals of youth rationalized in their time by a sense of exemption from the due invoice we call aging. How long before fewer people are being tatooed than those having tattoos removed? I’m giving it 20 years.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dave Barry:

  I miss 1960. Not the part about my face turning overnight into the world’s most productive zit farm. What I miss is the way the grown-ups acted about the Kennedy-Nixon race. Like the McCain-Obama race, that was a big historic deal that aroused strong feelings in the voters. This included my parents and their friends, who were fairly evenly divided, and very passionate. They’d have these major honking arguments at their cocktail parties. But unlike today, when people wear out their upper lips sneering at those who disagree with them, the 1960s grown-ups of my memory, whoever they voted for, continued to respect each other and remain good friends.

  What was their secret? Gin. On any given Saturday night they consumed enough martinis to fuel an assault helicopter. But also they were capable of understanding a concept that we seem to have lost, which is that people who disagree with you politically are not necessarily evil or stupid. My parents and their friends took it for granted that most people were fundamentally decent and wanted the best for the country. So they argued by sincerely (if loudly) trying to persuade each other. They did not argue by calling each other names, which is pointless and childish, and which constitutes I would estimate 97 percent of what passes for political debate today.

  What I’m saying is: we, as a nation, need to drink more martinis.

I agree.

By the way, Dave Barry and I are not merely of the same generation; we were born about 20 miles apart in July 1947, were raised as Presbyterians, went to suburban New York high schools, went to Quaker colleges, registered as conscientious objectors with our draft boards, and became journalists.

By now I’ll bet I’ve heard about 40 hours of my kid reading Dave Barry out loud from the back seat of our car. Beats reading out loud from this blog, no?

Infinite play

Video Is Dominating Internet Traffic, Pushing Prices Up says the headline of a piece by Saul Hansell in the New York Times. Its first three subheads say, File sharing has been usurped by legitimate video services, The very heaviest users drive up network costs and Unlimited data plans may have a limited life.

This is the wrong framing, by the wrong mentality. We’re not far from the day when most of us are “heavy users”, and when voice telephony (which has a relatively low data rate) is just one among countless data applications. It’s already that on laptops and many handheld devices (including mobiles using the likes of Fring).

In time the bulk of radio and television listening and viewing will move from analog to digital, and from broadcast bands to broadband. Some will be live, some will be stored and forwarded. Much will be mashed. Upstream needs will match downstream needs, especially for the millions who now producing as well as consuming video. Some top-down few-to-many asymmetries will persist, but many more any-to-any uses will arise, requiring symmetrical connectivity.

There are services besides raw bandwidth that can help with this — services that assist in mash-ups, that work with customers’ social graphs, that provide actual professional services (instead of higher-priced tiers that do nothing more than punish customers for saying they’re a business … a shakedown racket that should have died along with Ma Bell). There should emerge services that answer to customer-driven choices and preferences, that help demand drive supply, that support service needs in marketplaces opened by easy connectivity and fat capacity.

Carriers need to recognize that in the long run they are privileged to be in the Internet business, rather than cursed by something that undermines their old business models. They need to break out of their “triple-play” mentality and realize that on the Net there are an infinite number of “plays’, especially if those aren’t excluded by connections optimized for television or telephony, or subordinated to those other purposes.

Three things need to happen here.

  1. First, the carriers need to realize that they are Internet companies first, and phone or cable companies second — or will be, soon enough
  2. The carriers need to welcome and partner with independent Net-savvy developers who can help them think outside their own boxes, yet make the most of their privileged positions. We’ve all known there are benefits to incumbency besides charging rents. Now it’s time to find those and start making hay. (Oh, and lining up with Hollywood for lots of subscription distro deals is neither creative nor interesting.)
  3. The Net needs to be moved outside the framework of telecom regulation, to be freed from what Bob Frankston calls The Regulatorium. The Net was unimaginable to the 1934 Telecom act, and barely grokked by the 1996 update of that act. Questions about whether the Net is an “information service” or a “telecommunication service” are wacky, retro and not helpful, unless it’s to liberate it from the telecom trap.

But they shouldn’t wait for #3.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Yes in deed

Phil Windley: no battle plan survives contact with the enemy & no campaign survives contact with governing

Good point. In the next two months the Obama transition team needs to separate the campaign chaff from the governance wheat, the pandering from the policy. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

Speaking Truth to Palaver

The Onion: Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress. An excerpt:

  Although polls going into the final weeks of October showed Sen. Obama in the lead, it remained unclear whether the failing economy, dilapidated housing market, crumbling national infrastructure, health care crisis, energy crisis, and five-year-long disastrous war in Iraq had made the nation crappy enough to rise above 300 years of racial prejudice and make lasting change…

  Carrying a majority of the popular vote, Obama did especially well among women and young voters, who polls showed were particularly sensitive to the current climate of everything being fucked. Another contributing factor to Obama’s victory, political experts said, may have been the growing number of Americans who, faced with the complete collapse of their country, were at last able to abandon their preconceptions and cast their vote for a progressive African-American.

Quite the contrast from last January, when the Onion reported that bullshit would be the most important issue in the election. How time fries.

It finally occurs to me to turn on the TV. I’ve been listening to NPR and CNN on the laptop, with the htoel room’s flat screen blank in the corner. BBC Channel 3 is following the man we call #barackobama to the stage in Chicago.

Now Obama is speaking. We are and always will be the United States of America. With nature waving the flag behind him. Hard to blog what follows. Too choked up.

An amazing speech, as excellent as he has led us to expect. And to keep expecting.

Not a call to unite, or a command. Just an assertion spoken on coins in our pockets. e pluribus unum. Out of many, one.

0400GMT, 4am London time, seconds after the polls close on the West Coast and Hawaii (and not a vote yet reported from any of those reliably blue states) CNN calls Barack Obama the winner. On the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the NAACP, four months past the 232nd birthday of a country whose first fifteen presidents could have owned slaves, forty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, an African American is being elected President of the United States.

George Will, conservative columnist and historian from Chicago, just quoted King (I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land…) in a warm and humble voice.

His quote is from King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. It’s about history:

I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” — I would take my mental flight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.

But I wouldn’t stop there. I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and esthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even go by the way that the man for whom I’m named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church in Wittenberg.

But I wouldn’t stop there. I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating president by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there. I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

But I wouldn’t stop there. Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.” Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a away that men, in some strange way, are responding — something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same — “We want to be free.”

And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we’re going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demand didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence.

That is where we are today. And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I’m just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period, to see what is unfolding. And I’m happy that He’s allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember, I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn’t itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.

And that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the salves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.

After silencing the boos, John McCain gives a concesson speech for the ages. In the end McCain — a man who has given more for his country than any presidential candidate in history — expresses the kind of grace that is the true source of honor: kindness, generosity, modesty, self-sacrifice. Country First, indeed.

He talks about promise. About how Americans never quit. He places a bookend to the history that has passed since King’s speech, given in Memphis the day before being shot dead there. King’s last paragraph begins,

… I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.

And here we are.

Tags: , , , ,

I hate to sleep through history, but that’s the plan. I’m sitting here in a hotel in London at 10:20pm GMT with a connection too slow for video and barely fast enough for audio. Meaningful results won’t be coming in here until about 3am, which is when I’ll get up and try not to listen too closely while I get some overdue work done. Then at 6am I’ll join some locals and ex-pats at a pub nearby to celebrate the Obama victory.

I’m expecting by that time the U.S. media will be calling it a landslide, and then exercizing all the superlatives that come with such an unprecedented candidate, campaign, movement and promise.

And they’ll be right.

Look at the size of the crowds, the length of the lines. No ‘fence to John McCain, but he’s not making that happen. This is Something Else. This is the movie that’s real. This is the moment. The turning point.


And see ya ’round the bend.

They oughta know

Fox News:

A recently released report by the 304th Military Intelligence Battalion contains a chapter entitled “Potential for Terrorist Use of Twitter,” which expresses concern over the increasing use of Twitter by political and religious groups, the AFP reported.

“Twitter has also become a social activism tool for socialists, human rights groups, communists, vegetarians, anarchists, religious communities, atheists, political enthusiasts, hacktivists and others to communicate with each other and to send messages to broader audiences,” according to the report.

“Twitter is already used by some members to post and/or support extremist ideologies and perspectives,” the Army report said.

Here’s Fox’s Tweet feed.

Hat tip to Tom Watson.

Tags: , , ,



… is getting tiresome.

Tags: ,


Thanks to for pointing to . Go there and watch the @#$% tweets flow.

Infinite play

If you get your Internet from a cable company, or from a phone company that connects you to the world through fiber, you’ll find your Net service is the third act in what they call “triple play“: phone, cable TV and Internet. Nothing wrong with triple play. Just something limited. Triple play reduces the biggest part of the carriers’ future — the Net, to just another service. It puts blinders on imagination. There’s no limit to the number of “plays” the Net makes possible, especially for companies that already own beachfront property on the future.

So that’s what’s on the docket at Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm in London on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’ll be there (as well as elsewhere, doing other things, including overdue work). But I got a head start by posting Getting Past Telco 1.0, at Linux Journal. Check it out,

One reason I got the iPhone was that it’s GSM. Meaning it should work outside the U.S. I also thought I had a plan with AT&T that allowed that. Well, now I’m in Europe and my iPhone just says “Searching…”. Did it in Frankfurt, and does it in London.

Anybody have any clues for a fix on this?

[Later...] Fixed. See comments below, and thanks to everybody.

Tags: , , , , ,

I got to use my minimal Deutsch this morning: “Der Bahnhof ist Kaput.” The train is broken.

The only way to get from Terminal A to Terminal B was to go through security twice and passport control once. Then began the hunt for Gate 62, from which my connecting plane to London will depart, presumably. My ticket says that. The departure listings do not. They just say “B”. Gate 62 is identified by a hand-drawn sign. One needs to go through passport control to get to it. Right now it’s closed. Along the way I followed directions to “go downstairs” on an escalator. There were two. Neither were well-marked. I took the one on the right and realized halfway down that it went to the street. So I ran up the moving stairs, got to the top and took the other one.

That’s on top of a flight in a cramped seat in an overheated Lufthansa 747. Am I wrong or are Lufthansa’s steerage seats extra narrow? For what little it’s worth, the “entertainment” system was broken too.

Food wasn’t bad, though. Service, good. Inside the plane, anyway.

Oh, my iPhone says “Searching…” So much for a GSM phone working in Europe. Guess I needed to clear something with AT&T first. Not sure how to do that from here. Or London.

And I’m paying 18¢/minute to “roam” on the t-Mobile system to which I pay $29.99/month already. Nice.

Anyway, cheers.

Tags: ,

Hitting the road for a long road trip, with just a brief visit back home in Boston next Friday. I’ll be hitting…

See some of ya’ll in some of those places…

Voices and dreams

Say Hear is page that patches together voice messages from people who want to say why they’ve voting for whom. Interesting to click around.

I just wrote in my vote for Obama. Somewhere back early this year I explained why I favored Obama. I liked what I said then, but can’t find it now.

What Colin Powell said about Obama being a “transformative figure” comes close.

What Martin Luther King said in his I Have a Dream speech comes closer, and perhaps says all that needs to be said. This is the line:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

If Obama wins on Tuesday, that dream will have come true.

Tags: , , ,

Rich Sands posts Cluetrain Derailed? I respond here.

Tags: , ,

Several days ago I posted RIP, Sidekick, which lamented the passing of our favorite section of the Boston Globe. As part of the Globe’s redesign, it got rid of Sidekick and added a new section — a tabloid insert like Sidekick had been — called “G”.

As I had recalled, Sidekick was localized. After reading Ron Newman’s comment to that post, which asked gently “Are you sure…?” I have to say that I’m not. I just checked with my wife, who said that the things she liked best about the Sidekick were its features and format; and that it was not localized, but addressed all of Boston.

Yet I still recall some localization. But again, I don’t know.

A search of Globe archives for “Sidekick” yields results that suggest it was. The first result is titled “News in brief: Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville news in brief“. Most of the stuff that follows, however, is Boston regional, rather than addressed to those of us north of the Charles. Several of the pieces are by Meredith Goldstein, who is still writing for the paper.

So I’m sending her an email to ask the same question I’ll put to the rest of ya’ll who live around Boston and pay attention to these things: What went away with Sidekick? Or did nothing go away, and can the pieces still be found in G or elsewhere in the paper? Also, What has the Globe done to increase or decrease local coverage? By local I mean regions within the paper’s coverage area. As Ron points out, there is still a “Northwest” section that runs twice per week. I don’t believe that’s changed, but I also don’t know.

And, as I re-discover (while wiping egg off my face), knowing beats believing: Journalism 101.

Tags: , , , ,

FORWARD WITH FIBER: An Infrastructure Investment Plan for the New Administration is my second essay at the Publius Project. The first was FRAMING THE NET.

This one is a bold proposal: putting $300 billion into bringing fiber to every possible premise in America. Unlike other proposals of this sort, this one goes out of its way to embrace rather than to exclude the phone and cable companies. It challenges them to look past “triple play”, toward supporting an infinitude of businesses and opportunities that will open up when we all break free of telecom’s regulatory boat-anchors and conceptual blinders, and start thinking about wide open connectivity and capacity as a new frontier: the 21st Century equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase. And about as cheap.

Against all the ways it might not work — expectations of government incompetence and industry provincialism correctly run high — the idea is easy to dismiss as naive. But I still think it’s worth considering.

The problem isn’t what’s wrong with the current system. It’s what’s not right with it yet. That’s where we need to start looking for solutions. And that’s the direction I’m pointing here.

Interesting to read the “18 conservatives, libertarians, and independent thinkers” gathered bu The American Conservative. The current cover, The Right Choice, begins,

This election offers particularly dismal prospects for conservatives: the Senate’s most liberal member versus a Republican who combines the worst policies of George W. Bush with an erratic temper and a thinly veiled contempt for the Right. No third-party candidate has been able to break past the margins to mount an insurgent campaign.
Given these impoverished alternatives, no easy consensus emerges…

Then, the roster, how they will vote, and some excerpts –

Peter Brimelow, Nobody:
I would write in Baldwin, except that most states make that almost as difficult as getting on the ballot and don’t always count write-in votes anyway.
Oh, and Obama and Whatshisname? I’m indifferent. I don’t think President Obama will dare push an amnesty through because the Republicans would oppose it, whereas enough stupid Republicans will fall in line behind a McCain amnesty to give the Democrats bipartisan cover. But at least a McCain presidency would make it clear even to Republican loyalists what Pat Buchanan concluded in 2000: there is no solution for America but a new party.
Reid Buckley, McCain:
Loyalty, I suppose…
I am plenty mad at the Republican Party and would enjoy watching the entire double-talking leadership and its unctuous apparatus throughout the states fried in oil. I still disagree with maverick McCain plenty on the issues, and every time he says “my friends,” I wince almost as wretchedly as when George W. Bush ends his sentences with that awful moue of his upper lip, producing a smirk which in turn suggests a revolting fullness of self-satisfaction…
Barack Obama, on the other hand, for all his muddy shifting with the political winds, has made his vision clear, and it is doctrinaire Democratic left-wing socialism and therefore too depressing for words. I hew to the belief that he is also a decent man and probably politically more savvy than John McCain. He may learn. He may be knocked off his horse on the way to Damascus. But I can’t vote for the prospect of Obama’s education. So I vote McCain. Unlike the Beltway snobs (an insular pathology that now defines the East Coast from Bangor, Maine to Key West), I place my trust in Sarah Palin. Dadgummit, by golly, she speaks the American language of the plains and the frontier. I trust it, and her.
John Patrick Diggins, Obama:
Republicans have no trouble losing a war and calling it a victory, and some of them are voting for McCain for that reason. Obama, in contrast, is stuck with a war he opposed, and politics may force him to stay the course. Still, I prefer the professor to the warrior. McCain claims he is thinking only about the good of the country, then chooses as his running mate a gun-happy huntress who supported the Alaskan independence movement, which advocates secession from the United States. No wonder she is idolized by those who disdain the very federal government that built the Alaskan Highway. As Orwell observed, those receiving benefits always hate the benefactor.
Rod Dreher, Nobody:
As both a conservative and a Republican, I confess that we deserve to lose this year. We have governed badly and have earned the wrath of voters, who will learn in due course how inadequate the nostrums of liberal Democrats are to the crisis of our times. If I cannot in good faith cast a vote against the Bush years by voting for Obama, I can at least do so by withholding my vote from McCain.
Francis Fukayama, Obama:
I’m voting for Barack Obama this November for a very simple reason. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush. It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term. But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come. As a general rule, democracies don’t work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure. While John McCain is trying desperately to pretend that he never had anything to do with the Republican Party, I think it would a travesty to reward the Republicans for failure on such a grand scale.
Kara Hopkins, McCain:
When John McCain appears on screen, all vacant grin and Eeyore cadence, I reach for the mute button. I hate his wars. I don’t trust his maverick pose. When he says “my friends,” he doesn’t mean me. But I am voting for him.
Call it damage control.
Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn, Obama:
Without doubt, my decision to vote for Barack Obama for president began when I watched his televised speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004. Today on the cold page of the computer printout, it loses something. Outside of the electrifying moment of his delivery, the speech contains less than I remembered. But what is there explains the reverberations in so many parts of my inherited mental and moral universe.
Leonard Liggio, Barr:
In the presidential contest, the Libertarian Party is the clear choice for opponents of the Paulson plan and the government policies that precipitated the crash.
Daniel McCarthy, Paul:
I’m writing in Ron Paul for president and Barry Goldwater Jr. for vice president. Why agonize over whether Barr or Baldwin is the better constitutionalist, when you can cast your ballot for the very best? A vote for Paul is an endorsement of all he has accomplished (and might yet achieve) and a rejection of the often honorable but never effective course of the third parties.
Scott McConnell, Obama:
I’m voting for Obama. While he doesn’t inspire me, he does impress. His two-year campaign has been disciplined and intelligent. He has surrounded himself with the mainstream liberal types who staffed the Clinton administration. Like countless social democratic leaders before him, he probably was more left-wing when he was younger. Circumstance and ambition have pushed him to the center. If elected, he will inherit an office burdened with massive financial and foreign-policy problems. Unlike John McCain, he won’t try to bomb his way out of the mess.
Declan McCullagh, Nobody:
I am not voting for president in 2008.
This was not an easy decision, but all the candidates are flawed, at least if you believe in limited government, civil liberties, free markets, and a foreign policy far less bellicose than what we have today.
Robert A. Pape, Obama:
I strongly support Barack Obama for president. In the past, I have supported both Republicans and Democrats, choosing the candidate with the leadership qualities and foreign-policy principles most likely to advance the national security of the United States. Of course, we have no crystal balls, but leaders with sound judgment on core policies and courage to look beyond political winds of the moment greatly improve the odds of long-term success. Obama scores uncommonly high on the “judgment-courage” index, qualities that will be needed as our next president seeks to repair the damage from the triple train wreck of our overstretched military, underperforming economy, and floundering international reputation that is now undermining our national security.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr., Nobody:
Nonparticipation sends a message that we no longer believe in the racket they have cooked up for us, and we want no part of it.
You might say that this is ineffective. But what effect does voting have? It gives them what they need most: a mandate. Nonparticipation helps deny that to them. It makes them, just on the margin, a bit more fearful that they are ruling us without our consent. This is all to the good. The government should fear the people. Not voting is a good beginning toward instilling that fear.
This year especially there is no lesser of two evils. There is socialism or fascism. The true American spirit should guide every voter to have no part of either.
Gerald J. Russello, Nobody:
In this election, we face choosing between a “maverick” with a penchant for militarism who has been part of the Washington power structure for over two decades, and an inexperienced figure who wants to save us from ourselves, or, as my friend Gene Healy puts it, “the Messiah vs. the prophet of doom.” The only thing they agree on is that Washington is where the power is. Add to that a supine Congress busy giving away its war-making power to the executive, what’s left of the economy to the Treasury secretary, and the decision over any controversial issue to the courts. It is hard to see why voting for one rather than the other would make any discernible difference.
Steve Sailer, Connerly:
Thus, I intend to do in 2008 what I did during the Bush-Kerry whoop-tee-doo: write in the name of a public figure who is actually trying to solve a major, long-term problem, my friend Ward Connerly. Just as Social Security can’t afford too many retirees per worker, America won’t be able to afford its affirmative-action system when the racial ratio of minority beneficiaries per white benefactor reaches excessive levels. As America becomes majority minority (by 2042, by latest Census projection), the cost of affirmative action will become crippling. By helping get government racial preferences banned by voter initiative in California, Washington, and Michigan, Ward has made the future a little less grim.

Total: Obama, 5; Nobody, 4; McCain, 2; Barr, 1; Paul, 1; Baldwin,1; Connerly, 1.

Bonus quote, from Andrew Sullivan: “If the GOP decides that Palin is the future of their party, the GOP won’t have a future.”

Our favorite section of the Boston Globe is no more. It was called “Sidekick”, and it featured local news and events in our corner of the metro: the one called “Northwest”.* It had local restaurant reviews, club, theater, school and museum notices, plus other graces that made the paper especially relevant to our family.

Well, now the paper has “improved” itself cosmetically while diminishing itself substantially. Sidekick is gone. In its place is “G”, a new “magazine style section” that covers the whole metro and includes a bunch of other stuff, such as TV listings and funnies in color, neither of which interest us. The Globe explains,

Our new magazine-style section will be called “g” — for Globe — and it reflects what you, our readers, have been telling us about how you prefer to receive your reviews, previews, profiles and arts, culture and features coverage.

You want to find stories of interest quickly and easily. You want it in a format that can be carried easily as you move about town — while on the train or on a lunch break.

Every day, “g” will highlight things to do around town.

Problem is, “town” is Boston. While we love Boston, and go there more than a lot of folks who live north of the Charles, we don’t live there. Did readers really tell the Globe to cut out the local stuff? I kinda doubt it.*

Last weekend we were in Baltimore visiting relatives. I was surprised that they didn’t get the Baltimore Sun, which I recall used to be a good newspaper. So, while we were out at a local Starbucks I bought a Sunday Sun $1.88 ($2 with tax). While we waited for our drinks to be made, I field-stripped out the advertising inserts, and read pretty much everything that interested me. There just wasn’t much there. Very disappointing. Back at the ranch my son-in-law told me that the Sun had laid off over half their editorial staff, and made up the difference with bigger pictures. That’s the main reason they don’t subscribe.

I don’t know if the Globe is going through the same thing, but I suspect it is. The shame for them is that the Sidekick was our main reason for keeping the paper, our morning connection to the neighborhood, and what made the Globe most relevant to us. Now it’s gone.

“All politics is local,” Tip O’Neill famously said. Same goes for newspapers. Alas, the Globe seems to have forgotten that.

* Ron Newman, in a comment below, asks if I’m sure about this. I was, but now I’m not. As I say in the follow-up comment, I made some assumptions in this post that may not be true. So I’m following up with a new post that will ask for facts and make no assumptions. Meanwhile, my apologies.

Tags: , , ,

Somewhere between Barry Goldwater and Sarah Palin, conservatism changed from a philosophical anchor — what Goldwater called a “conscience” — into a pure partisanship, defined at least as much by what and who it’s against (Liberals, Democrats, Hillary, Obama) as by what it’s for. The latter now includes a list of causes (opposition to abortion and gay marriage, religiously-defined “family values”) that bear no resemblance to Goldwater’s essentially Libertarian philosophy.

I was raised by Republicans who voted enthusiastically for Goldwater (who lost resoundingly to Lyndon Johnson) in 1964. I read The Conscience of a Conservative (which was published in 1960) as a teenager and felt its influence even as I became an active opponent of the Vietnam War in college (I was in the Class of ’69) and became a hard-core Democrat through my 20s and 30s.

In the first chapter, of Conscience, Goldwater writes, “for the American Conservative, there is no difficulty in identifying the day’s overriding political challenge: it is to preserve and extend freedom. As he surveys the various attitudes and institutions and laws that currently prevail in America, many questions will occur to him, but the Conservative’s first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?

Is that what conservatism is about today? Hard to tell. It’s certainly not from what I hear and see from Rush, Fox News, Dobson, Hewitt and most of Republican broadcasting’s amen corner.

For those who care to separate the partisan wheat from the philosophical chaff, David Frum’s latest is required reading. In it he points to this Stanley Greenberg poll, which shows how isolated Republican partisanship has become, and how far it has drifted from the mainstream of the American electorate’s sensibilities — the same electorate that gave us Reagan, both Bushes and Bill Clinton (who offended the Right’s moral sensibilities even while he governed as a centrist making plenty of rightward decisions — especially in respect to social welfare and the economy).

Right after the 1994 “Republican Revolution”, I found myself at a party in San Diego, talking to Milton Friedman. This wasn’t the famous economist, but rather a former speechwriter for Gerald Ford and other notables. He told me that this revolution was doomed to fail in the long run, because it brought together two value systems — one economic and the other religious — that were in conflict.

What held them together so long was pure partisanship.

That’s coming to an end. The split has opened. Rush, Hannity and Dobson are proving to be a branch, not a trunk. The roots in Goldwater and William F. Buckley still hold, and the branch is breaking away. For more about that, read Christopher Buckley’s How Limbaugh tried (and failed) to replace my dad. Pretty much nails it.

I have no idea if I’ll ever vote for a Republican again. Haven’t for a long time. Haven’t voted for all that many Democrats, either. Many of my votes have been for None of the Above, which has often been the Libertarian. (For what it’s worth, I voted for Gore and Kerry, because I thought we needed not to elect George W. Bush. I don’t believe I voted for Clinton either time, but I don’t remember. And I’ll vote for Obama this time, not just for the candidate but to oppose McCain, and especially .) But I’ll be watching to see if the Grand Old Party rediscovers its roots — in personal freedom, minimal government, responsible economic policies and other solid sensibilities.

Hope it does. After Obama gets elected, we’ll need those people to hold him in check. Not the nyah-sayers on Fox News and AM radio.

Last may I wrote Reunion.com spam alert, which ended this way:

  I am among the least litigious people on Earth. But I can’t help but wonder … Could I (or we) sue these bastards for false representation? Invasion of privacy?

I’m still getting comments there, I guess because (I just discovered), my post is the lucky top result in searches for reunion.com spam. The total number of results is 374,000.

It’s obvious from recent comments that Reunion.com is still behaving badly. At this point, however, I have no interest in suing or otherwise going after the company.

For those interested, I suggest reading the Wikipedia article on Reunion.com, especially the sections Privacy, E-mail Spoofing and Better Business Bureau. The Los Angeles branch of the latter gives Reunion.com a “D.” I’d vote for an “F,” but any bad grade is better than none.

Earth to Obama…

[Note... Not sure what's wrong here, but the last few sentences of this post aren't appearing, and somehow the next post is screwed up too. No time to fix right now. Sorry about that. Suffice to say that the problem here is MoveOn and not the Obama campaign. Still, it's Obama's problem. - DS]

So I just got an email that goes like this:

Dear Doc,

Your friend _______ sent you the following video from CNNBC: “Obama’s Loss Traced To Doc Searls”

Watch it here.

The first time I saw one of these was when a likely Obama voter pointed it out to me. They were royally pissed, confused and offended.

I’m technically savvy enough to know that this is a fill-in-the-blank video, generated by a robotic process. But less technical voters might not know that. This same person told me it looked like somebody had invaded their personal records somehow. It felt like an invasion of privacy, even though the source of the video was actually a friend — as it was for me. Worse for Obama, it made this person want to vote for McCain.

After showing the video, “CNNBC” says,

Doc, It’s Your Turn To Customize This Video For Your Friends

Don’t let any of your friends be that one missing vote on Election Day. Enter their names and email addresses below to send them each a personalized version of this video with their name in it.

And don’t worry—after your friends watch their videos, we won’t email them again. And we’ll never sell or distribute your email address or your friends’ email addresses.

I’m not worried about that. I’m worried it’ll backfire on the Obama campaign.

I don’t know what the connection is between “cnnbc” and the Obama campaign, if any. (Somebody at one campaign office just told me there is none.) But it’s in the interest of the campaign to discourage it.

Update: I just ran whois on http://www.cnnbcvideo.com, and got this:

Registrant: MoveOn.org
Political Action
PO Box 9218
Berkeley, California 94709
United States

Small print at the bottom of the page to which that URL redirects (the one where you put the names off all your friends in boxes) says this:

Paid for by MoveOn.org Political Action, http://pol.moveon.org/. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Co-sponsored by TrueMajority PAC.

 Tags: ,


Interesting NY Times piece on the emergence of the blog-based op-ed business, courtesy of Ariana Huffington and Tina Brown.

Paper margins

You’d think, from the looks of the endorsement picture, that Barack Obama is gonna sell a lot more newspapers over the next four years. Whether or not, the picture’s not pretty for John McCain, who has clearly lost his “base”:

Be sure to scroll down. Lots of wonky grist for obsessive mills in there.

Hat tip to Andrew Leyden.

After reading this comment by Jonathan MacDonald, I followed the linktrail from here to here, where dwells one of the most remarkable testimonials I’ve ever seen. One short clip:

Competitors had absolutely no idea what the secret sauce was because they were not able to see the hundreds of thousands of micro-interactions and conversations happening between staff, customers and suppliers.

Other retailers wrote vitriolic letters to the trade magazines claiming that the ‘internet’ was ‘the enemy’ and hundreds of them got into debate about ‘how to stop this online threat’.

I was centrally placed as one of these ‘new media rebels’ and even fuelled the fire by extolling the virtues of online in all trade publications whenever possible. Right in their faces.


We were able to be completely disruptive and for a while we pretty much had the online market to ourselves.

After I had won the ‘Best UK Salesperson’ award in 2002 I was voted to be the Chairman of the entire UK Retail Industry Committee.

I wrote a short book called ‘Survival Guide for the 21st Century Retailer’.

And this:

By applying the principles found within the copy of the Cluetrain, especially the 95 theses (quoted from time to time in this volume), I was able to establish an almost un-beatable business. It was a business of the people. They guided the progress and determined the way they wanted it to be.

To compete, one had to not just take on our brilliant team of paid experts but the 100k+ customers who were constantly advocating our services. To hundreds and thousands of others.

We were on a path toward some form of Communication Ideal that allowed business to self-perpetuate by itself.

Our ‘marketing’ was the environment customers co-created and our ‘advertising’ was conversation.

Other retailers took out full-page adverts. We fired up a coffee machine, created forum boards and sparked up discussion.

Other retailers invested heavily to fight the trend of computers. We let customers create their own websites on our servers.

Purchases happened when purchasers wanted them to. We didn’t ask for it – people didn’t ask for it – we mutually agreed to transactions.

Clue 57 from Cluetrain states: “Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner”.

From the way people walked through the shop (on or offline) to the way they wanted to order goods – we were not solely in control. We shared control with the customers and the customers allowed us to share control with them.

And that was just in the first chapter. The story goes on, with downs (following the above) and ups.

Hope Jonathan can make it to the VRM Hub event on 3 November in London. I’ll be there, along with many others still riding the Cluetrain.

Bonus link. Another. Another.


Quote du jour

“…the Because Effect feeds on openness. And it’s more than an API.” — Dave Wallace

I think Michael Specht may have come up with the best way to pound through all 95 of Cluetrain‘s theses.

Tags: , , ,

OPEC Orders Cut in Oil Production.

ISPs are pressed to become child porn cops is a new MSNBC piece by Bill Dedman and Bob Sullivan. It begins,

New technologies and changes in U.S. law are adding to pressures to turn Internet service providers into cops examining all Internet traffic for child pornography.

One new tool, being marketed in the U.S. by an Australian company, offers to check every file passing through an Internet provider’s network — every image, every movie, every document attached to an e-mail or found in a Web search — to see if it matches a list of illegal images.

The company caught the attention of New York’s attorney general*, who has been pressing Internet companies to block child porn. He forwarded the proposal to one of those companies, AOL, for discussion by an industry task force that is looking for ways to fight child porn. A copy of the company’s proposal was also obtained by msnbc.com

But such monitoring just became easier with a law approved unanimously by the Congress and signed on Monday by President Bush. A section of that law written by Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain gives Internet service providers access to lists of child porn files, which previously had been closely held by law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Although the law says it doesn’t require any monitoring, it doesn’t forbid it either. And the law ratchets up the pressure, making it a felony for ISPs to fail to report any “actual knowledge” of child pornography.

*That would be Andrew Cuomo.

(An appeal to journalists everywhere: When you refer to a piece legislation, whether proposed or passed, please link to the @#$% thing.)

So I looked around, and believe that the legislation in question is S.1738, described by Thomas as A bill to require the Department of Justice to develop and implement a National Strategy Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, to improve the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, to increase resources for regional computer forensic labs, and to make other improvements to increase the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute child predators.

It was sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden and co-sponsored by 60 others, not including John McCain. But Thomas says S.519, A bill to modernize and expand the reporting requirements relating to child pornography, to expand cooperation in combating child pornography, and for other purposes, is a related bill (there are two others), and was sponsored by McCain. About that bill it says, Latest Major Action: 2/7/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. Note: For further action, see S.1738, which became Public Law 110-401 on 10/13/2008.

So I’ve read the text, and I see two things there. One is this Task Force business (which to me says “gather the wrong people for a noble purpose, and task them with creating a technical mandate that may not get funded, and if it does will be a huge kluge that does far less than it’s supposed to do while complicating everything it touches”). The other is a wiretapping bill for the Internet. I get that from Section 103, which says one Task Force purpose is “increasing the investigative capabilities of state and local law enforcement officers in the detection and investigation of child exploitation crimes facilitated by the Internet and the apprehension of offenders”. Hence the move by Andrew Cuomo in New York.

This is one more slippery slope at the bottom of which the Internet is just another breed of telecom service, subject to ever-expanding telecom regulation, all for Good Cause.

And we’ll see more of this, as long as we continue framing the Net as just another breed of telecom.

The Net is too new, too protean, too essential and too economically vital for it to be lashed — even by legislation that attempts to protect its virtues — to telecom law that was born in 1934 and comprises a conceptual box from which there is no escape.

Hat tips to Alex Goldman and Karl Bode.

Bonus wisdom from Richard Bennett: “The Internet is indeed the most light-regulated network going, and it’s the only one in a constant state of improvement. Inappropriate regulation – treating the Internet like a telecom network – is the only way to put an end to that cycle.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

New(s) business models

Jeff JarvisNew Business Models for News Summit is going on now, live. Wish I were there.

Samir Arora is on now. I haven’t seen Samir in years. Still, I’ve followed him, and he’s always smart and provocative and has a great nose for business opportunities. For the last few he’s been CEO of Glam.com. At the moment he’s giving proper criticism to the “distribution model,” but also talking about a buncha stuff that’s related to advertising. That’s still supply-side stuff, so I tend to tune out. I’m about the demand side these days.

Now Tom Evslin is up. Another friend, biz veteran and smart guy. Listen in.

While you do, read Dave, who has some great ideas about how to embrace and enable amateurs as essential contributors.

Also check out , where we’ve had a community that’s been (mostly quietly) working on new models for the last two years, and are making headway. More here.

The satellite will be launched into orbit tomorrow, October 24, at 19:28:21, or 21 seconds after 7:28pm, Pacific time, from Vandenberg AFB in California. Says here that the rocket will be a Delta II, which puts on a great show. While the launch will be spectacular from nearby viewing locations, it will be visible all over the southwest U.S. and northwest Mexico. More from that last link:

COSMO-SkyMed, one of the most innovative Earth Observation programmes, is financed by the Ministry for Education, Universities and Scientific Research, the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Ministry of Defence.
The programme involves the launch of a constellation of four satellites, equipped with radar sensors that can operate under any weather conditions and with very short revisiting times.
COSMO-SkyMed was conceived as a dual use programme intended to meet both civil and defence objectives. The application services that can be derived from COSMO-SkyMed will contribute significantly to the defence of the territory in areas such as fire, landslides, droughts, floods, pollution, earthquakes and subsidence, management of natural resources in agriculture and forestry, as well as monitoring of urban sprawl.

Guess this is the third in the series.

In any case, I assume that this one has a polar orbit, which is the only kind of orbit that allows scanning of the whole earth over the course of time. That means it will be launching toward the south. This is good. Even if it’s in that direction, it will still be impressive.

Here’s a photoset of two launches from Vandenberg AFB, and two launches there, both shot from Santa Barbara. And here’s a video of one of those.

One cool thing: As the rocket enters space, exhaust is no longer contained by atmosphere, and it expands into something shaped like an elongated light bulb. Then the exhaust drifts in strange and wandering ways, determined by edge-of-space movements in atmosphere, altered by the directions of rocket exhaust, and then space itself, where the exhaust moves win all the directions the rockets shoot (which in most cases is in four directions at once). It’s fun and strange to watch.

I’m in Boston now, so we’ll miss it here; but if you’re anywhere southwest of Utah, enjoy.

Hat tip to the SBAU for the heads-up.

Tags: ,

Identity Workout

IIW, November 11-12, 2008, Mountain View, CASo we’re coming up on our Nth IIW, which happens on November 10-11. I’ve lost track of how many we’ve had so far, which I think is a good sign. Every IIW has been new and different, and unusually productive.

The idea behind IIW is getting work done. Moving not only converations forward, but work as well.

The focus has been on what we call “user-centric” identity, but I prefer the term user-driven, especially as it relates to VRM. So much has come out of IIWs over the years, or has been improved by conversation and codework there. Cardspace, Higgins, Oauth, OpenID…

And the IIWs have been great environments for working on VRM as well. (Though I need to point out that VRM is not a breed of idenity. They overlap, and I’ve played a leading role in both movements, but the differences are essential as well.)

As usual this IIW is happening at the in Mountain View, which is an outstanding location. There is a huge floor filled with round tables for hosting conversations, and rooms on either side for meetings, all organized on the Open Space model.

Anyway, it’s a terrific event, highly recommended. Look forward to seeing many of you there.


David Sedaris on undecided voters:

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

Hat tip to Rob Paterson.

In this election “cycle” (as the professionals call it… used to be a “season”), the only times I’ve found the cable news networks watchable were during and after the debates. CNN was generally good at that, even though the post-debate punditry got tiresome and I turned it off. But otherwise I haven’t been able to contain the sense that the need to talk, and the need to advocate for a candidate, has made hypocrites of the blathering heads the networks feel obligated to feature.

It doesn’t even matter if they get caught. They just go on and on and on, and none of the interviewers say, “Didn’t you say the opposite thing a few weeks back?”

Ah, but for that we have Jon Stewart. Bless the man, his writers, and his clip collectors. Here’s an old Daily Show (from early September). You’d think it might be stale, but it ain’t. The dude nails it.

Tags: ,

I call Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004 a crock.

Paul Boutin wrote it. He’s an old friend, and I hate to crap on anybody’s work. But he’s wrong about this one. A sample from my reply:

As personal journals on the Web go, blogs have no substitute. Twitter is fine for 140-character micro-postings, and for the ecosystem surrounding it. But micro-posts are not journals. Flickr is great for posting, tagging, organizing and annotating photographs, and for allied services such as creating groups and the rest of it, but it ain’t blogging. Facebook has some blogging features, but at the cost of forcing the blogger to operate in a vast hive of non-journalistic activity — and flat-out noise.

Bonus link.

It isn’t adveristing itself. It’s the way it’s too often done.

I almost never click on an ad, for three reasons. First is that I almost never find what I’m looking for. Second is that I don’t want to waste the advertiser’s money on a bad click-through. Third is that I’m tired of looking at so much waste of pixels, rods, cones, cycles and patience.

So, about two minutes ago I wanted to find what the sales tax is for Cambrige, MA. So I looked up sales tax cambridge, ma. At the top of the results was this sponsored link:

  Massachusetts sales tax
SalesTax.com Get Current Sales Tax Rules & Rates for Specific Addresses & Zip Codes!

The first few search results didn’t look promising, so I decided to take my chances on the ad.

Wasted my time. Salestax.com redirects to a tax.cchgroup.com page that’s headed by “CorpSystem® Sales Tax Solutions, Compliance without a burden”, plus piles of sales info about CCH group products and soluitons, but nothing obvious about what I’m interested in: the advertised “Rates for specific addresses & zip codes”.

I’m not going to waste more time digging into this, or looking for other examples of the same. My point is that this is baiting and switching, and it’s not a unusual example. It’s also one more reason why I believe the advertising bubble is due to burst. There’s a limit to how much abuse, misleading and general wrong-ness we’ll put up with. This has been tested for the duration, but at some point the failures become intolerable.

And those failures are not just of performance on the sell side.

What we need is for demand to find supply, not just for supply to “drive” demand. We’re not cattle, and we don’t like being herded, even if it’s by friendly chutes like Google’s. This was true before online advertising went nuts, and it will be true after the chutes get trampled.

Two stories.

From 17 May 1999, The CRTC will not regulate the Internet.

From four days ago, CRTC to review new media broadcasting in February, and CRTC to examine broadcasting in the new media environment. (Both the same story.)

David Warren responds with Time to Say Goodbye. Sez he,

The CRTC already has powers of regulation over broadcasting content that are offensive to a free people; powers that go far beyond the simple and once-necessary task of apportioning finite broadcasting bandwidth.

Advances in technology have made it less and less necessary to impose rationing on the airwaves. We have got beyond the “rabbit ears” age. Digital technology for cable and satellite have moved far beyond this, and the Internet itself becomes capable of delivering a range of material unimagined only a generation ago. Nor is telephony what it was in past generations. The CRTC is a fossil relic from an antediluvian era.

By all means keep its archives in a museum, so that our children’s children may some day see how charmingly primitive our technology once was — in the “CReTaCeous” period of our national life, when such big blundering bureaucratic behemoths as this superannuated regulator roamed the electronic plains. But it is time now for the CRTC to become extinct.

We must demand this media censor be closed — not downsized, but permanently erased from our public life. If any remaining bandwidth tasks can be identified, they should be transferred to the secretarial pool in some corner of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The problem for the CRTC is that it does seem to frame the Net in terms of broadcast. The FCC here in the U.S. does something similar, only by framing the Net in terms of telecom. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s of the “if all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” variety. Both frame the Net in terms of what they know best.

The problem is that the Net is not well defined. Go to Google and look up “The Internet is”. It’s all over the place. In Framing the Net I visited some of the reasons. But we need to go deeper and wider than the FCC or any ideological (or even rhetorical) corner can alone provide.

It’s so early. We’re so far from what the Net will be.

I was thinking this morning that it’s a shame that the term “cyberspace” has become passé. John Perry Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace said that we were creating a whole new world with the Net. This seemed true. In any case the essay changed my life. It was one of the documents that convinced me that the Net isn’t just a game-changer for everything it touches, but a subject of transcendent importance, so unique, so unlike anything that preceded it, that it wasn’t like anything. All metaphors are wrong, of course. That’s what makes them metaphors. They’re meaningful, but not accurate. Unlike simile, metaphor doesn’t say this is like that. It says this is that. Time is money. Life is travel. The Net is place. Or space. Or pipes. Or a service. I liked cyberspace because denoted a new kind of space, one with its own nature, its own new rules.

Could it be we’re all both right and wrong about it? If so, wouldn’t it be better not to regulate it as a breed of broadcast, or telecom, or whatever?

Anyway, I’m out of time here. Just wanted to dump this out of my brain while it was rattling around in there.

Steve Lewis writes, Obama’s “Homeostasis”: It must be the Roedjak! — a deep and wonderful detour from the usual punditry about a candidate’s temperament, informed by Steve’s years working in Indonesia, as well as his exposure to many countries and cultures unfamiliar to most Americans. I hope Steve doesn’t mind my lifting most of his post to repeat here. Dig:

So far, Obama’s seeming detachment has been exploited by his opponents as proof that “we don’t know who he his” or as a sign of his supposed smugness and intellectual superiority.  And, for, quite a number of Democrats Obama’s politeness and fixed smile are an unsettling suggestion of a lack of the politically requisite instinct to go for the jugular.  I would suggest something quite different and far more positive … namely, that Obama knows how to eat Roedjak.

Roedjak is an Indonesian fruit salad, slices of not yet fully ripened tropical fruits served with a sauce of sweet thick soy ketjap, tamarind paste, crushed chili papers, and a dash of dried dessicated shrimp.  Roedjak’s harmonic fusion of superficially contradictory tastes is more than culinary.  Roedjak restores equilibrium even while exciting the senses.  Preparing and eating Roedjak is a tonic during moments of personal emotional turmoil; domestic disagreements and work conflicts are calmed by sharing Roedjak when tensions to escalate. On the symbolic level, Roedjak embodies all that is positive of the values and social mores of southeast Asia.

Political commentators — other than those Republican cranks who have accused Obama of having attended fundementalist Muslim Koranic schools — have overlooked the “Indonesian” facet of the Democratic presidential candidate, his formative years on the island of Java, and his being a member of a family with Indonesian connections as well as Kansan and Kenyan ones.

In Java, outward emotional evenness and display of respect are inherent to the workings of families and of villages.  Frontal confrontations are avoided and adversaries are given room to retreat.  Such stances are central to the the stylized conventions of Java’s traditional complexly hierarchical society and to the realities of domestic, social, and political life on an overpopulated agrarian island and in crowded mega-cities such as Jakarta.

On the surface, Java is devoutly Muslim but Javanese Islam rests on older strata of Hindu and Buddhist culture.  The characters of the Buddha and of the heroes of the Bhagavad Gita still resonate as strongly as those of the Prophet Mohammed and Ali.  In Java, one learns that displays of restraint are incumbent on leaders and are signs of strength in people at all levels of society.

And so, for the sake of the US and the world, I’d rather see the American presidency in the hands of a Roedjak eater than a heart-beat away from the rule of an eater of mooseburgers.  Join me for a mango, anyone?

I dunno if Roedjak explains Obama, but I do like getting an interesting new angle on an exceptional man.

Tags: , , ,

Political roundup

Rush: “Would somebody explain to me how it is that you make poor people rich by making rich people poor?”

Colin Powell endorses Obama.

Roger L. Simon isn’t impressed, and adds,

  Meanwhile, Obama’s real, quite verifiable and public religious background (and mentor) was not even mentioned by the Secretary of State – namely, the execrable Reverend Wright. That is far more disconcerting than some vague Muslim association (whether by birth or otherwise) and indicates a lack of judgment on Obama’s part that any person of gravitas (like a Colin Powell) should find difficult, almost impossible, to defend. Yet the racist Wright, we all know, was Obama’s chosen minister for twenty years, married him, baptized his children, gave him spiritual guidance and provided the inspiration for his memoirs – even the title of the second one. It’s hard to imagine a closer relationship with a pastor, except perhaps a spousal one.

Obama polls seem to be post-peaking, even though he has raised more than $.6 billion. David Bernstein says the Democrats should be cautious about declaring an early victory.

Josh Marshall agrees. “Stripped down to its components McCain’s message to voters is this: ‘Don’t forget. He’s definitely black. And he may be a terrorist.’ That’s the message.” With pals like Michael Savage, pointing to jive like this, kinda seems that way.

Here’s a transcript of one (the only? dunno) McCain robo-call:

  Hello. I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202-863-8500.

Garrison Keillor on Sarah Palin:

  It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket, hoping she could skate through two months of chaperoned campaigning, but the truth emerges: The lady is talking freely about matters she has never thought about. The American people have an ear for B.S. They can tell when someone’s mouth is moving and the clutch is not engaged.

Virginia Postrel on portraiture and partisanship:

  Partisans demand that magazine portraits glamorize their heroes for the same reason my friend hired a professional photographer. Humans seem hard-wired to assume that good-looking means good and, conversely, to equate physical flaws with character flaws. We may preach that beauty is skin deep, but we’re equally certain that portraits “reveal character.” In a media culture, we not only judge strangers by how they look but by the images of how they look. So we want attractive pictures of our heroes and repulsive images of our enemies.

Rock onward

Thanks to Richard Sambrook for turning me on to The Story of the Guitar, from the . You might get some of it on BBC One and Four, which are carrying the series on the air and the BBC iPlayer. The easier sampler is a set of videos, all Good Stuff.

New Hampshire has a Brookline, too. It’s just north of the Massachusetts border, and it’s this pretty little New England town, complete with a covered bridge and a lighthouse.

The former was born in 2001 and carries foot and bike traffic, and the latter has less modern provenance, judging from its look. And it is obviously ornamental, sitting at the corner Potanipo Pond, at what I gather is the source of the Nissitissit River.

Interesting to compare two photo sets, taken one day away from exactly one year apart. Here’s my series of the site from 2007, and here’s the one from 2008. Except for the footbridge the subjects were a bit different, but one thing stands out: the colors were better this year.

Gain of face

Just checked in with Facebook…

That’s 465 items, not including the couple dozen friend requests I accepted yesterday, after checking for the first time in a month or two. It’s sort of metasticized from the last time I expressed my annoyance with Facebook, almost a year ago.

Maybe in another month I’ll check back again.


The Oral Office

Palin as President is like some kind of weird interactive oval office advent calendar from a parallel polyverse. Click on anything and get surprised by some palinism, in Sarahs voice, explaining. Sort of. Have fun.

Tags: , , , , ,


This is fun.

More here

Andrew Baron’s open letter to James C. Mullen of Biogen begins,

Mr. Mullen, my name is Andrew Baron and my father Frederick (61 yrs. old), has final stage multiple myeloma has been recommended the drug Tysabri as a last chance effort for life.
Please read this carefully.
Last Thursday, his doctors at the Mayo Clinic determined that he may only have about 24-48 hours to live.
In what can only be defined as a miracle in timing, a few days ago, one of his doctors who has been studying his tumor cells in the lab for years found an antibody with an exact match: Tysabri which is manufactured by your company, Biogen Idec. In the test tube, it attached to the antigens on the surface of the tumor 100%.
Though the drug has never been used before in this way, and because time is running out, the head of the FDA, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach has granted special approval for use of the drug for this purpose but you have personally decided “no”.
Lance Armstrong, who you spoke with on Friday, has also pleaded with you to say “yes” to my father, but you personally said “no”.
President Bill Clinton, Senator John Kerry, Senator John Harkin, Senator Ted Kennedy, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach and others who you spoke with on Friday and again yesterday on Monday have all pleaded with you to say yes”, assuring you that there would be no legal risk and no negative consequences to your company if something went wrong, but you continue to say “no”.

Andrew’s dad and I are exactly the same age. He’s also a great guy:

My father is a saint who has given his life and his resources to better humanity. He has spent his entire life seeking to protect the rights of others from harmful death and has spent an enormous amount of money and time in helping to shape our government to protect the rights of people everywhere. He is a philanthropist at heart.
1. Call Mr. Mullen or anyone at Biogen and ask them to please say yes (or provide a justification for whynot). Speak with anyone in the company in any department that you can find: http://www.biogenidec.com/site/contact.html

Here’s more on Mr. Mullen, from FastCompany.


Blogging the debate

Came in after it started. Picking it up with the question about negative campaigning. McCain nailed Obama to the wall on that one, and Obama is changing the subject. McCain is also coming across much more knowledgeable and direct. And experienced. McCain is also speaking in final draft, while Obama stumbles. Obama is a great public speaker, but a poor extemporizer.

McCain stepped in it with Ayers and Acorn. Obama gave his best response yet. Ayers and Acorn are red herrings, and they won’t wash.

Good question: about running mates. Obama gives the first response. All about Biden. It’s a good-enough answer. But not great. He said nothing about Palin. Smooth move. McCain’s response about Palin is better than Obama’s on Biden. Fact is there’s no comparison, but I’m giving this one to McCain, so far. Obama’s follow up is weak. He needs to say what’s wrong with Palin, I think now. He didn’t. Changed the subject to the costs of funding on special needs. Bad move. Now McCain is point by point doing to Joe Biden what Obama should have done to Sarah Palin.

Question on oil and energy. McCain’s response is strong.

Just noticed: they’re both left-handed.

Time for Obama to respond on the energy question. For the first time I see Obama looking into the camera. Taking money from China and giving it to Saudi Arabia again. Too simplistic. But Obama is being emphatic and clear. “We can’t drill our way out of the problem.” He still stumbles over his brain cramps when he’s uttering long sentences. Needs to fix that, if he can.

Obama: “I believe in free trade.” Really? The rest of his answer says no. But he made a good point about lack of automobile trade reciprocity with Korea.

Now McCain is nailing Obama on facts, or what sound like facts. The Columbia free trade agreeement, for example. McCain is acting smug and self-satisfied in pointing out that Obama has never traveled “south of the border”. Not sure it works. Obama’s defense against the hits are subject changes. Addressing energy consumption is good by Obama, but sounds blah.

McCain is now saying that Obama wants “to restrict trade and to raise taxes”. Obama just smiles. A hit with no counterpunch. And a credible one, given Obama’s other responses.

McCain: Real, but angry. Obama: Cool, but flat.

Health care is up. Obama talks to the camera. The usual halting pauses. The “Uncommitted Ohio Voters” are giving Obama high marks though, if the green and red lines at the bottom of the CNN screen are to be trusted.

McCain is giving a fairly strong response. Scoring with men (green line) and tanking with women (red line). Interesting, in a hypnotic way.

Obama is stronger on the health care question. Detailed, direct. Informative. Slipping when he goes into the McCain plan. “For the first time in history you’ll be taxing people’s health care benefits.” Ouch. But Obama still has those halting pauses, like somebody who has incompletely overcome stuttering. “His clutch is slipping,” my friend Joe (sitting next to me here) just said.

Andrew Sullivan: “I feel as tired of this as John McCain and Barack Obama look.”

Roe v. Wade is the current question. McCain is saying he doesn’t have a “litmus test.” Points out that Obama voted against appointing Breyer and Roberts for “ideological” reasons. McCain is sputtering on the abortion question. He has too much history on both sides of this one.

Obama won’t apply a litmus test, but says he believes Roe v. Wade was “rightly decided.” Obama is much stronger on this question. Obama: “The court needs to stand up when nobody else will.”

McCain: “We need to change the culture of America.” Going after Obama’s voting in Illinois. Once again McCain is scoring big with undecided Ohio men and the opposite with women. Obama’s defense is detailed and convincing. He opposes late term abortions except where the mother’s life is threatened.

Question on education, the last one.

Obama’s right thumb bends in, while his left thumb bends out. Basketball injury? (I ask because I have one of those. With a thumb.) His answer is blah. Good points about students taking on debt. The $4000 credit for tuition in exchange for community service is almost interesting. His point about parental responsibilty is a sop to the Right.

McCain: “Choice and competition among schools…” Charter schools… Give parents a choice… “Reward these good teachers.” Something about the military. “We need to have…” a roster of blah points.

Obama: “We agree on charter schools.” zzzzzz.

It’s weird that CNN has red on the left and blue on the right, even though Obama is positioned on the left side of the screen and McCain on the right.

McCain: “It’s a system that cries out for accountability.” A subject close to home for me. If it were up to “accountability,” I would have been washed out of high school in the 9th grade, because my grades and scores on standardized tests were bottom-tier. Anyway, whatever.

McCain’s closing remarks: “America needs a new direction. I have a record of reform…” He looks more tired now. He’s got a few hickups. “I’d be honored and humbled.”

Obama’s. “Same failed policies and same failed politics.” Yawn. “Our brighter days are still ahead… a new energy policies… It’s not gonna be easy, not gonna be quick… renew a spirit of sacrifice and responsibility… I will work every single day tirelessly… I would ask…” would? Feh. Weak ending by both men.

Okay. Bottom line: much more even than the earlier ones. I call it a toss-up, with maybe a slight edge to McCain.

Will it make much difference? I doubt it.

[Later...] Drezner: “The big winner was Joe the Plumber — the rest of us are screwed.”

Jay Rosen: “After Gore and Kerry, it became an accepted maxim in politics that you must hit back hard or lose. But this maxim has itself lost.” True. Obama payed rope-a-crank with McCain.

Mudflats has 805 comments so far.

Roger L. Simon: “The Obama-McCain debates will not be remembered like Lincoln-Douglas. In fact, I doubt they will be remembered at all.”

David Bernstein in Volokh: “Obama plays an excellent defense.”

The Onion: Bush Calls for Panic.

Okay, off to bed.

Rex is right

Older guys are smarter. More.

The best state-by-state, poll-by-poll rundown

Electoral College Predictions Tool. Dig.

Sailing the Charles

The moon rose while the sun set yesterday evening as we were treated to steady 12-knot winds, tacking back and forth in an MIT sailboat on the Charles. Cambridge to the north, Boston to the south. Skylines all around. Perfect.

Creamed wheat

A few days ago, in Wheat vs. Chaff, I excerpted Christopher Buckley‘s Sorry, Dad, I’m voting for Obama, and added this:

What’s happening now is a wheat/chaff divide on the Right. We see the wheat with Chrisopher Buckley, David Brooks, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Andrew Sullivan and other thoughtful conservatives who stand on the rock of principle and refuse to follow errant leaders over a cliff. We see the chaff with Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and other partisans-at-all-cost.

Now Buckley reports that, as a result of his Obama endorsement, he was in effect fired by the , the magazine founded by his famous dad. Rich Lowry, the magazine’s editor, says otherwise. Whatever, Christopher’s sharpest points are not about what happened to him, but what’s happened to his party:

So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.
While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.
So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

Maybe, after the electorate creams McCain and what’s left of his party, they can strike the yurt and start building something a bit more spacious again.

Tweeting the vote

TwitterVoteReport provides a way to live microblog what’s going on in your polling places. The details:

  So, go to twitter and use the hashtag #votereport and tell us:

  1. The time of day (9:20 am, 1:12 pm)
  2. The zip code you just voted in (e.g. 10591, 10012)
  3. The issue: Wait (e.g. a waiting time of over [omega] hour) Reg. (e.g. a problem with your registration) Machine (e.g. voting machines are broken or jamming)

That’s it. In my case it’ll be reporting the putting of an absentee ballot in the mail, but still.

Following the #marekfire

Just found out about the Marek Wildfire from Sky News on Twitter. Tag: . Hashtag: #marekfire.

Got the image above from MODIS. It shows hot spots found by satellite. As we see, the hot spots (all orange dots) are up the Little Tujunga Canyon in the mountains next to Sunland and San Fernando, just above the Foothill Freeway.

So far the only blog report I see by that tag is Mary Lu’s. (Why does Google Blogsearch still not search for tags?) Others reporting: Firefighter Blog, W.I.S.E. Fire Tracking Site, Wildfire Today and LAist.

I learned from the CA Santa Ana/Fire thread on a weather forum that it’s also called the “Little T Fire”, I’m sure because it’s in Little Tujunga Canyon.

Whoa: Angel Island, in San Francisco Bay, is also on fire. Here’s a webcam aiming, sort of, at it. Here’s KCBS’s report.

GEOmac doesn’t seem to have anything about either fire yet. Nor MODIS’ big map. Too small, I guess. But you can download the .kml file that displays the satellite-detected hot spots plotted in Google Earth. (You can do .wms from that same page too, but I’m new to that one.)

Fall in New England is a visual cliché of the first order, and exactly as advertised. Only better this weekend, because it’s been unseasonably warm, as well as clear and perfectly gorgeous, complete with full moons each night.

We’ve been out at a church retreat at Otter Lake, New Hampshire. And it’s been a healthy break for me, coming as I am off one of the worst colds in a long time. The fever broke yesterday morning, and the cough ended last night. It was the first night in a week when I actually slept the whole night and it was blissful.

Meanwhile, I’ve loved walking along the lake and in the woods. The loud colors at a distance usually turn out to be comprised of leaves with blisters, chewed-out edges and other signs of wear & tear. What I love about the forest here is that it’s mostly evergreen with deciduous trim. You can see one felicitous effect of that in the shot above, where pine needles hang like ornaments from the stems of maple leaves.

I’m pretty sure the shot above is of a sugar maple, though it might be a Norway. Maybe one of ya’ll can help here.

Anyway, we’re home again tomorrow and back to work.

Oh, by the way, all the shots in this series were taken with a little pocket camera rather than my big (and somewhat broken) SLR. Still, does the job.

Required re-reading

In Defense of Piracy is ‘s latest, in . Some bottom lines:

  …our attention is not focused on these creators. It is focused instead upon “the pirates.” We wage war against these “pirates”; we deploy extraordinary social and legal resources in the absolutely failed effort to get them to stop “sharing.”

  This war must end. It is time we recognize that we can’t kill this creativity. We can only criminalize it. We can’t stop our kids from using these tools to create, or make them passive. We can only drive it underground, or make them “pirates.” And the question we as a society must focus on is whether this is any good. Our kids live in an age of prohibition, where more and more of what seems to them to be ordinary behavior is against the law. They recognize it as against the law. They see themselves as “criminals.” They begin to get used to the idea.

  That recognition is corrosive. It is corrupting of the very idea of the rule of law. And when we reckon the cost of this corruption, any losses of the content industry pale in comparison.

  Copyright law must be changed. Here are just five changes that would make a world of difference…

Specifically, deregulate amateur remix, deregulate “the copy“, simplify, restore efficiency, and decriminalize Gen-X. Under “simplify”, he says, “Tax-code complexity regulating income is bad enough; tax-code complexity regulating speech is a First Amendment nightmare.”

All helpful reform fodder for the new Congress and Administration.

Christopher Buckley in Sorry, Dad, I’m voting for Obama:

…I have known John McCain personally since 1982. I wrote a well-received speech for him. Earlier this year, I wrote in The New York Times—I’m beginning to sound like Paul Krugman, who cannot begin a column without saying, “As I warned the world in my last column…”—a highly favorable Op-Ed about McCain, taking Rush Limbaugh and the others in the Right Wing Sanhedrin to task for going after McCain for being insufficiently conservative. I don’t—still—doubt that McCain’s instincts remain fundamentally conservative. But the problem is otherwise.

McCain rose to power on his personality and biography. He was authentic. He spoke truth to power. He told the media they were “jerks” (a sure sign of authenticity, to say nothing of good taste; we are jerks). He was real. He was unconventional. He embraced former anti-war leaders. He brought resolution to the awful missing-POW business. He brought about normalization with Vietnam—his former torturers! Yes, he erred in accepting plane rides and vacations from Charles Keating, but then, having been cleared on technicalities, groveled in apology before the nation. He told me across a lunch table, “The Keating business was much worse than my five and a half years in Hanoi, because I at least walked away from that with my honor.” Your heart went out to the guy. I thought at the time, God, this guy should be president someday.

A year ago, when everyone, including the man I’m about to endorse, was caterwauling to get out of Iraq on the next available flight, John McCain, practically alone, said no, no—bad move. Surge. It seemed a suicidal position to take, an act of political bravery of the kind you don’t see a whole lot of anymore.

But that was—sigh—then. John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?

All this is genuinely saddening, and for the country is perhaps even tragic, for America ought, really, to be governed by men like John McCain—who have spent their entire lives in its service, even willing to give the last full measure of their devotion to it. If he goes out losing ugly, it will be beyond tragic, graffiti on a marble bust.

This is why I thought, early on, that McCain would win, regardless of how well Obama ran his campaign. Christopher continues,

I’ve read Obama’s books, and they are first-rate. He is that rara avis, the politician who writes his own books. Imagine. He is also a lefty. I am not. I am a small-government conservative who clings tenaciously and old-fashionedly to the idea that one ought to have balanced budgets. On abortion, gay marriage, et al, I’m libertarian. I believe with my sage and epigrammatic friend P.J. O’Rourke that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.

But having a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect, President Obama will (I pray, secularly) surely understand that traditional left-politics aren’t going to get us out of this pit we’ve dug for ourselves. If he raises taxes and throws up tariff walls and opens the coffers of the DNC to bribe-money from the special interest groups against whom he has (somewhat disingenuously) railed during the campaign trail, then he will almost certainly reap a whirlwind that will make Katrina look like a balmy summer zephyr.

Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.

Well, I’ve tried to read Obama’s books, and “first rate” is not what I’d call them. “Tiresome and quoteproof” is more like it. But still, he’s the best we’ve got running right now, especially since McCain has turned into a cranky bastard.

There were so many ways that McCain could have whupped Obama’s ass, but they were all on the high road: McCain’s own. For whatever reasons, McCain has done what he said he wouldn’t do, which is go low. The result is a candidate defined not by his own virtues, but by the alleged faults of his opponent. And he’s done a lousy job of it, made worse by Sarah Palin’s plays to the right wing’s scary fringe.

What’s happening now is a wheat/chaff divide on the Right. We see the wheat with Chrisopher Buckley, David Brooks, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Andrew Sullivan and other thoughtful conservatives who stand on the rock of principle and refuse to follow errant leaders over a cliff. We see the chaff with Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and other partisans-at-all-cost.

In a speech at UCSB a couple years ago, Christopher Buckley winced when asked about what had happened to his dad‘s party at the hands of George W. Bush and friends. “I think we need some corner time,” Christopher said.

That time was put off for the next Presidential election. Now that the McCain campaign has turned into a self-defeating tar-fest, that time is finally approaching.

Grand Icing

From the air there’s a strange kind of vast sameness to the Grand Canyon. It’s a carved up layercake of variously colored rock that’s less dramatic viewed from above than from its edges or its insides. There’s one anomaly, however, that stands out for me every time I see it: the Uinkaret Volcanic Field, which flows over the edge of the canyon and cascades down to the Colorado, looking like tar poured over a birthday cake. The most dramatic corner of the field is called Lava Falls, atop which sits Vulcan’s Throne. That’s what we have in the shot above.

It was taken on September 18, on my way from Boston to Las Vegas by way of Los Angeles. I’ve shot the scene before. The whole collection is here. The larger Grand Canyon set from this trip is here. It’s pretty freaking dramatic too, actually. Someday when I have time I’ll identify some of the features there. Meanwhile if any of the rest of ya’ll feel like doing the same, please do.

By the way, one of my earlier shots is featured in Wikipedia’s Uinkaret Volcanic Field article.

That’s where this vector points.

Unless we Do Something, of course.

Meanwhile, there’s this source of inspiration:

Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know enough about prediction markets, but here’s what one of them says about the likely outcome of the election:

The tide is running. It’s Obama’s to lose at this point, and he’s too smart and well organized for that.

Hat tip to .


Slept between the last post and this. Just took a shower and sat down at the computer. Here’s my brain dump before I move on to projects where I can make more of a difference.

1) Both these guys are dull. The McCain of the Straight Talk Express and Dunkin’ Donuts with press buddies is gone, replaced by a cranky old bastard. Obama is Kerry with better speechwriters. The difference is in vector. Obama is young and can learn on the job. He also has a managerial hauteur, substantiated by a campaign that is amazingly well-organized and effective at every level. I don’t doubt that he’ll manage the country well. Not so sure about leading the country, though. He’s no Reagan, but he’s a bit of a Clinton, in the sense that he’s smart, articulate and at least kinda warm up close. To me the most important fact about the debate was that Barack and Michelle stayed and worked the crowd. John and Cindy split. It’s not smart for Elvis to leave the building while the Beatles are still on stage. Not when the audience is voting on both.
2) Clinton excepted, Republicans since Nixon have been better at connecting with ordinary folks. Nixon’s “moral majority” resonated with the voting majority, and helped create the red state base that still stands. McCain should have been connecting last night, but didn’t do very well at it. Not as well as he should have, anyway. Obama, dry as he is, does come across as empathetic. And he talks empathy better than anybody since Lyndon Johnson.
3) McCain’s “that one” line was peevish and nasty, and will become a grass roots slogan for Obama. Forgotten will be the point that McCain made, about how the two voted on something. (What was it? I don’t remember, and on that rest my case.)
4) I cringed every time I heard McCain say “my friends”. It should create warmth, but sounds insincere.
5) Obama needs to work on his brain cramps. It seemed like there was a moment in every one of his answers when his mind siezed and he lost his flow. I suspect he’s been working on not saying “um” all the time, and not saying “and” when he means “um.” Whatever it is, he needs to get past it. I’m guessing Obama’s younger than Jimmy Carter was when Carter took lessons to overcome a lifelong mumbling problem.
6) The pandering was predictable, but the gratuitous and misleading simplifications got to me. When Obama talked about “borrowing money from China and giving it to Saudi Arabia,” I wanted to throw something at him. Likewise when McCain talked about “victory” in Iraq when misapplication of that very concept is one reason we got into the mess in the first place. And Obama’s stuff about going after Bin Laden is wacky. Listen to this edition of Fresh Air. It’s an interview with Robert Baer, author of The Devil We Know. In it Baer lays out a calm, rational and constructive approach to Iran and Middle East powers and politics. The reason I bring it up is that it makes sense — yet it fits into neither candidate’s narratives (although it’s in better alignment with Obama’s willingness to “negotiate with enemies”). Also because Baer, a CIA operative for two decades, says Bin Ladin is dead. If tha’s true, it inconveniences both candidates’ narratives.
7) The best question from Brokaw was about health care: Is it a right, a privilege or a responsibility? McCain said it was a responsibility (of individuals, not government), and talked up free market economics. Obama said it was a right, and talked essentially (seemed to me) about socializing the system. Neither made me feel better, but both revealed extreme differences in where the two come from.

Obama won, but not by a huge margin. The difference is between future and past. McCain looks like Bush, cont’d. I don’t think he will be, unless he vacates the office and Palin takes over, which is a frightening prospect. Still, that’s what he represents. Obama does represent Change, and something more: purge — the need to flush out the last administration and bring in a new one. I think more people want that than don’t.

If Obama wins, the best thing he can do is bring in Bill & Hillary as transition team advisors. They learned a lot of stuff the hard way, and Obama’s gonna need all the help he can get.

Tags: , , , ,

Watching the “debate” between McCain and Obama. Hard not to. After eight years of a truly bad presidency, it matters more than usual who our next prez will be. But these guys aren’t saying much.

Worse, I don’t believe either of them are going to do what they say they’re going to do.

Anyway, I’m shunt-blogging the debate mostly on Twitter.

Bonus link.

A daft French regulation

Banning Copyright Infringers from the Internet : a View from Europe is the subject of a luncheon talk at the Berkman Center, going on right now. (Webcast live.) At issue is a new French regulation that would block copyright infringers from using the Net (as if this were enforceable). It’s an EU hot potato right now. Of course the proposal is completely wacky, as Professor Jacques de Werra is busy making clear, though very fairly and thoroughly.

Here’s Cory on the matter.

I’m tellin’ ya, when all you’ve got is a slammer, everyone looks like a prisoner.


Who else reads your e-mail? is an op-ed by my colleague Harry Lewis, in the Christain Science Monitor. At its core is a loophole that’s sort of a peephole:

  The Fourth Amendment states:

  “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, ….”

  You might think that means the government can’t clandestinely search your e-mail, but it doesn’t.

  Suppose you use Gmail or Yahoo! mail. If the government wants to see your e-mail, it can have the warrant served on that company. Of course, the service provider has to respond to the warrant, just as you would if the feds came to your house. The difference is that the company decides whether to resist the court order, not you.

By coincidence today is also the release date for Blown to Bits, Harry’s new book, co-authored with Hal Abelson and Ken Ledeen.

Bonus tune.

An asteroid is about to burn up over Africa.

If just some of this is true, it’s bad news for McCain.


Guest-hosting Saturday Night Live.

Might make up for her running mate’s chickening out on David Letterman.

It’s hard to feel shitty when the Steve Miller Band is playing Jet Airliner in the middle of your head. Or smart, either — at least in my case.

Jeebus, all these decades I’ve been thinking the chorus was

  Big old jet had a light on
Don’t carry me too far away
Oh oh oh big old jet had a light on
‘Cuz it’s here that I’ve got to stay.

Turns out “had a light on” is “airliner”. Well, duh. Of course. That’s the freaking title. But phonetically, Steve is singing “biggo jed adda line oh”. I say this with confidence because I just replayed it about ten times to make sure. That’s the audible, as they say in football.

Who knows what the hell Steve’s saying, anyway? Well, some of us do, and to explain, we have the Internet. For example, The Joker begins,

  Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me maurice
Cause I speak of the pompitous of love

Or is that pomitus? Hell, The Pompatus of Love is a whole movie devoted to the question. The Straight Dope sez that “pompatus” (that’s how it sounds) actually goes way back:

  Speculation about “pompatus” was a recurring motif in the script for The Pompatus of Love. While the movie was in postproduction Cryer heard about “The Letter.” During a TV interview he said that the song had been written and sung by a member of the Medallions named Vernon Green. Green, still very much alive, was dozing in front of the tube when the mention of his name caught his attention. He immediately contacted Cryer.

  Green had never heard “The Joker.” Cryer says that when he played it for Green “he laughed his ass off.” Green’s story:

  “You have to remember, I was a very lonely guy at the time. I was only 14 years old, I had just run away from home, and I walked with crutches,” Green told Cryer. He scraped by singing songs on the streets of Watts.

  One song was “The Letter,” Green’s attempt to conjure up his dream woman. The mystery words, J.K. ascertained after talking with Green, were “puppetutes” and “pizmotality.” (Green wasn’t much for writing things down, so the spellings are approximate.)

  “Pizmotality described words of such secrecy that they could only be spoken to the one you loved,” Green told Cryer. And puppetutes? “A term I coined to mean a secret paper-doll fantasy figure [thus puppet], who would be my everything and bear my children.” Not real PC, but look, it was 1954.

Anyway, I’ve had a bad cold the last few days, and right now I’m sitting on the couch with a fever, trying to think and write while a vacuum cleaner roars in the next room. But now I’ve also got these Etymotic ER6i earphones jacked deep into my head, muting the noise and substituting ol’ Steve, singing about getting on “that 707″ — a plane nobody outside of Iran still flies. And it’s getting me high, just from the driving energy of the song.

Beats thinking about death, which comes easy when you’re 61 with a fever, a gut, and a history of exercise that consists mostly of getting dressed. But music helps. Music is the best evidence of immortality that we have.

Music is life. And vice versa. Listening to three-decade old Steve Miller on good earphones is life transfusion.

So is listening to an even older song: The Doors’ When the Music’s Over, from Strange Days, a brilliant, beautiful piece of work. To me Strange Days ranks among a handful of perfect albums, first song to last.

Which is When the Music’s Over, of course.

  When the music is your special friend,
dance on fire as it intends.
Music is your only friend,
until the end.

Strange Days came out in late ’67. I bought it in the summer of ’68 after Ken Rathyen, a guy on my ice cream route (he was a lifeguard at PV Beach in Pompton Plains, NJ) told me to get it. “Every song is a gem,” he said. He was right. (Kenny, if you’re out there, Yo!)

That fall I shared an apartment in an old house on Spring Garden Street in Greensboro, near Tate Street. Next door was a big Victorian, already boarded up. On Halloween night, a bunch of turned off all the lights and listened to Strange Days. After When the Music’s Over was over, we were deep in a creepy Halloween mood, and decided it would be fun to break into the “haunted house” next door. So we got a flashlight out, sneaked over, and found a way in.

There was no furniture, just empty rooms, with a coating of dust on everything… except for the footprints on the stairs. They were barefoot and small for an adult. We followed them up to the second floor, where they stopped. No other footprints went down.

Feeling creeped out, we pressed on, exploring this big old house. Still, other than the footprints, there was nothing.

Then we found the door to the attic. It was narrow, and opened to a narrow staircase. At the top was a camped room where there were a few items of furniture and some boxes. In one box was a diary by a girl who had lived there. She reported daily on what she saw out the window at the front of the attic, looking down on Spring Garden Street. She also gave weekly summaries of her favorite TV show, Whirlybirds, which last ran in 1960.

One name that appeared often in the diary was Jan Speas, who lived next door. I wondered if this was the same Jan Speas who taught creative writing at Guilford College, where I was a Senior at the time. (Jan, whose maiden name was Jan Cox and wrote as Jan Cox Speas, was best known as a writer of historical romances. More here.)

So we took the diary with us, and I brought it to Jan. Yes, Jan said, she remembered the girl well. They were good friends, and the diary was touching because the girl had later died.

Three years later Jan died too, of an unexpected heart attack. She was 46.

In August, 2004, ‘s Piedmont Bloggers Conference was held in the same exact spot as the condemned houses: the one I lived in, the haunted Victorian next door, and Jan Speas’ house on the other side of that one. I wrote about it here, and told the same creepy story here (but it doesn’t come up now, which is why I’m repeating myself).

But I’m still here. Dancing on fire. And getting back to real work, now that the vacuum cleaner is off.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Is there anything more phallic than a skyskraper? Other than, like, the Real Thing?

Anyway, Sky News reports plans in Dubai to build a skyscraper more than 1km in height. A kilometer is 3281 feet or so. That’s a lot taller than the .818 km (2,684 ft) Burj Dubai, currently around 707m high, and the record-holder.

The builder is Nakheel, he same outfit that makes palm-shaped islands and such. The site at that link has annoying music and nothing about The Plan, but I’m sure it’ll show up.

They say it’ll take ten years to build. Those of us who watched the World Trade Center go up (from ’65-74) recall a similar time frame.

You don’t have to wonder what The Point is. That’s what they’re building.

It’s been suggested that Sarah Palin hasn’t had much media training. On the contrary, she had plenty enough as a sports reporter. Check this out:

In that video, from her days reporting for an Anchorage TV station, she’s clearly not Major Market. But you can see how her persona today is a combination of aw-shucks-doggone-it hockey mom, smart political operator and TV personality. And the latter cannot be discounted.

Tags: , , ,

Here’s a Web Pro News interview of yours truly by Abby Johnson at Blogworld in Las Vegas a couple weeks back. I think I said “um” about a hundred times. Gotta work on that.

In September I took two flights across the country that featured lots of clear views of the sights below. I think I took 700+ pictures on each of them.

I’ve been posting them to Flickr in slow motion, trying to minimize the labors involved in tagging and captioning them. It helps that many of these sights I’ve seen before, so I could just copy and paste from one shot to another.

This set is of Comb Ridge, in southeastern Utah. Other sets I put together, all in Utah and Arizona, are of Goosenecks, Lake Powell and Navajo Mountain.

Funny thing, when I went to look up Navajo Mountain on Wikipedia, I saw that one of the pictures there bore a strong resemblance to one of my own because that’s exactly what it is.

Peggy on Palin

Peggy Noonan in the WSJ:

  She killed. She had him at “Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?” She was the star. He was the second male lead, the good-natured best friend of the leading man. She was not petrified but peppy.

  The whole debate was about Sarah Palin. She is not a person of thought but of action. Interviews are about thinking, about reflecting, marshaling data and integrating it into an answer. Debates are more active, more propelled–they are thrust and parry. They are for campaigners. She is a campaigner. Her syntax did not hold, but her magnetism did. At one point she literally winked at the nation.

  As far as Mrs. Palin was concerned, Gwen Ifill was not there, and Joe Biden was not there. Sarah and the camera were there. This was classic “talk over the heads of the media straight to the people,” and it is a long time since I’ve seen it done so well, though so transparently. There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics. But it was an effective infomercial.

Remember that Noonan wrote speeches for Reagan and Bush the Elder.


  Sarah Palin saved John McCain again Thursday night. She is the political equivalent of cardiac paddles: Clear! Zap! We’ve got a beat! She will re-electrify the base. More than that, an hour and a half of talking to America will take her to a new level of stardom. Watch her crowds this weekend. She’s about to get jumpers, the old political name for people who are so excited to see you they start to jump.

  Her triumph comes at an interesting time. The failure of the first bailout bill was an epic repudiation of the Washington leadership class by the American people. Two weeks ago the president of the United States, the speaker of the House, the secretary of the Treasury and the leadership of both parties in Congress came forward and announced that the economy was in crisis and a federal bill to solve it urgently needed. The powers were in agreement, the stars aligned, it was going to happen.

  And then the phones began to ring, from one end of Capitol Hill to the other. And the message in those calls was, essentially: We don’t trust you to fix the problem, we suspect you may have caused it. Go away.

  It was an epic snub, aimed at both parties. And the bill tanked.

  We have simply, as a nation, never had a moment like this, in which the American people voted such a stunning no-confidence in America’s leaders in a time of real and present danger. The fate of the second bill is unclear as I write, but the fact that it has morphed from three pages to roughly 450, and is festooned with favors, will do nothing to allay public suspicions about the trustworthiness of Congress. This, as a background, could not have helped Mr. Biden.

I think she gives Palin too much credit, and that Palin will be further exposed to discredit over the next month. Still, an interesting read.

So we just passed a bail-out package that’s marginally better than the one voted down on Monday. But it’s still a bail-out package.

When McCain “suspended” his campaign last week and said he was “going back to Washington” to straighten out this thing, I thought, Uh oh. If he goes back there and truly kicks ass, and sells what Bush can’t, it’ll show he’s a real leader and blow Obama out of the water.

I thought, What McCain should do is something like Colonel Travis did at the Alamo (or at least in the movies about it). He should have drawn a line in the sand, and challenged his party to do what Bush couldn’t make them do. He should have stood on the steps of the Capitol, in front of the TV cameras and the eyes of an expectant nation, and said “Now is the time to put country first. This is how it is done. Our president and his top advisors, and the leaders of both parties, say this bill needs to be signed. It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s the best we can do got to save our financial system in a brief window of opportunity. I want everybody’s who’s with me to line up behind me, so we can tell the country with one voice that we’re ready to do the right thing.”

But instead he did approximately nothing.

Was there a better time to show leadership than with a real crisis and a lame duck president and his own election on the line? And when, as some Republicans claim, Pelosi was trying to sandbag the bill? Can’t think of one.

Disclaimer: These are a few thoughts of one blogger with a low-grade fever. Redraw your own conclusions.

I’ve been reading John McPhee’s Giving Good Weight, the title essay of his book by the same name. That last link (to McPhee’s own site) calls it “a story of farmers selling their produce in the Greenmarkets of New York City as told by a journalist who went to work for an upstate farmer, and — in Harlem, in Brooklyn — turned into a salesman of peppers. greenmarketplace in New York.” It was written in the mid-seventies, now more than thirty years ago, but half a dozen years after I worked for a fresh and frozen produce wholesaler at Hunts Point Market in the Bronx, and more still since I drove an ice cream truck in the summers out to the anomalous and amazing Pine Island, out beyond the New York exurbs. Two generations later, McPhee’s prose is still so strong I can smell the setting as if I were there this afternoon:

West of the suburbs, thirty and more miles from Manhattan, the New Jersey-New York border terrain is precipitous and glaciated and — across a considerable area — innocent of high-speed roads. Minor roads run north and south, flanking the walls of hogback ridges — Pochuck Mountain, Bearfort Mountain, Wawahanda Mountain — but the only route that travels westward with any suggestion of efficiency is the Appalachian Trail. The landscape is remarkably similar to Vermont’s: small clearings, striated outcropings, bouldery fields; rail fences under hard maples; angular roads, not well marked, with wooden signs; wild junipers signaling, as they do, penurious soil; unfenced cemeteries on treeless hillsides; conflagrationary colors in the autumn woods. Moving along such scenes, climbing, descending, losing the way and turning back — remarking how similar to rural New England all this is — one sooner or later tops a rise where the comparison in an instant blinks out. Some distance below, and reaching as far as the eye can conveniently see, is a surface perfectly flat, and not merely flat but also level, and not only level but black as carbon. There are half a dozen such phenomena in this region, each as startling to come upon as the last. Across their smooth expanses, distant hills look like shorelines, the edges of obsidian lakes. The black surfaces were, indeed, once fluid and blue –lakes that stood for many centuries where north-flowing streams were blocked by this or that digital terminus of the retreating Laurentide glacier. Streamborne silt and black organic muck gradually replaced the water… The surface of the mucklands (as they are called) is not altogether firm. It will support a five-inch globe onion. For that matter, it will support a tractor — but it is not nearly dense enough to hold up a house. There are only a few sheds on the wide flats. People live on “islands,” once and present islands, knobs that break through the black surface just as they did when it was blue. Pine island, New York, is a town in a black-dirt sea — the largest and most productive muckland of them all. Maple Island, Merritts Island, Big Island, Black Walnut Island are spaced across it as well, and their clustered houses resemble small European farming communities. The fields surrounding them seem European too, for the acreages of black dirt are ruled off in small, familial segments, like vineyards in Valencia or the Cote d’Or. NO fences, no hedgerows interrupt the vista or separate one farmer form another. Plots abut. The vegetables that come out of this rich organic soil are in their way as special as wines: tall celeries, moist beets, iceberg lettuce as crip as new money, soft Boston salad lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots — and, above all, onions. What the beluga is to caviar the muckland is to onions.”

Such sweet insult to both my own style — all short paragraphs, like advertising copy — and worthies such as Kurt Vonegut, whose central piece of writing advice was to avoid semicolons.

Anyway, I got to McPhee after reading Transportation, SUV’s, Jingoism … and Chickens, Stephen Lewis‘ latest. Steve, a native of the Lower East Side and more recently of the People’s Republic of Brooklyn, is my New Yawk docent, both on site and on blog.

So, sez Steve, “I came across this article which links the rise and fall of America’s petrol-guzzling, pollution-spewing “Sport Utility Vehicles” not to fluctuations in the prices of motor fuel but to Detroit auto makers’ decades-long successful but ultimately backfiring exploitation of a US backlash against European tariffs on … American chickens!”

Sez the article,

It started in 1961 with chicken. Trying to stop a surge of chicken imports into Germany, the European Common Market bowed to the European poultry lobby and almost tripled the tariff on frozen chicken from the United States. Washington, of course, struck back. In 1963, it raised tariffs on a range of European products: brandy to hit the French; dextrine, a food and glue component, to hit the Dutch.
To target Germany, the Johnson administration imposed a 25 percent tariff on light-truck imports, a barrier that fell on Volkswagen, which exported vans to the United States. “Why should we be the scapegoats in the chicken war?” lamented Heinz Nordoff, Volkswagen’s chief executive at the time.
The chicken war ended, but the tariff survived. It explains a lot about why Detroit chose to stake its future on S.U.V.’s...
Years of cheap gas (unleaded didn’t breach $2 a gallon until 2004) helped a lot — as did government tax breaks and looser rules on fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions. Perhaps most important, Washington used the chicken tariff to wall off the light-truck market, giving American automakers a protected and profitable niche to exploit...
The downside of this is evident today. Light trucks account for 57 percent of sales at General Motors; 62 percent of Ford’s; 72 percent of Chrysler’s. It’s not a good place to be with gas at $3.50 a gallon.

Reminds me of the textile industry a couple decades ago, when import quotas were imposed on other countries to protect businesses at home that were long gone. The other countries’ governments then sold those quotas to highest bidders, with these artificial costs passed on by foreign manufactuers to American intermediaries and customers. Maybe that’s still going on. Probably is. Dunno.

Maybe one or more of the rest of ya’ll can tell me.

Of course we’ll see more unintended consequences of forgotten policies in the next administration as well. Stay tuned for those.

Tags: ,

Joe Biden might not have been lying when he said global warming was “caused by man”, but he was at best only partially right.

The globe has been warming for the last 20000 years or so: ever since the last ice sheet began to retreat, leaving Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Cape Cod, the Great Lakes and most of Canada behind — a process that’s still going on:

While there is plenty of evidence to support the belief that humans have contributed to global warming over the past couple hundred years, we’re talking about a phenomenon with a lot more geologic scope than that.

By the way, we’ve had seven ice ages in the last 650,000 years, and we’re probably in for another one after the current interglacial period passes. And by “we” I mean life forms. There’s no guarantee that humans will last that long.

Caffeine Nation

I was just standing on line at a Starbucks where the entire conversation, involving everybody in the line, was about their iPhones. Two topics: operations and applications. Operations was about managing battery life and connectivity by manipulating settings. Applications was about everything: Who has what and recommends what.

The lesson: this is a data device: a hand-held apps-runner. The apps can be anything. What matters most is what gets used most. Maps and navigation appeared to be a big one. We are now blue dots on the surface of Google’s World.

For now. Perspective: The iPhone is a window into The Future, even if (as am I ) you are creeped out by one company controlling everything. The iPhone is a prototype.

I really want to see what can be done with an Android.

Bonus fun.

Watching the vice presidential debate. Biden is talking policy and numbers, while Palin is talking people and stories. Most of the time I don’t know what Biden’s talking about, other than more or less standard liberal Democratic policies: fairness, tax the rich, windfall profits. I do know what Palin’s talking about, which is getting government out of people’s lives and other tunes from the Reagan song book. Both stumble now and then, but she has the stronger personality and is much more human and plainly spoken. He seems like a Washingtontonian policy wonk. Very blah. She seems like a governor who’s been working hard for her state. Bottom line: so far, she’s kicking his ass.

Unless she blows up, which now seems unlikely, this will go down as a Palin win, and may turn things around for McCain.

More notes…

Both have had their teeth whitened. Biden also appears to have had a facelift and hair plugs. Nothing wrong with that, but hey, we’re watching a hi-def TV screen here.

Biden is finishing much stronger, and Palin’s folksy stuff is getting annoying. Still, I think, on an emotional level she’s delivering. She knows a tiny fraction of what Biden knows, but she has spunk to spare, and that counts for a lot.

And her voice gets old.

Andrew Sullivan: “I think he has now won the debate.”

I’m not so sure.

And Gwen Ifill, the moderator, didn’t hold their feet to a fire.

[Next day...] FactCheck.org says they both lied, repeatedly.

A diet of raw pork

Mike Taht is actually reading the entire 451 page (yes, as in Fahrenheit) bailout bill (amended and revised), which he calls porkolicious. I read the first few dozen pages, and what sticks out for me is that it gives the Treasury Secretary a whole buncha power, further advancing the concentration of power in the executive branch of the government.

But, we need it, right?

And we get a new government, one way or another, in February.

Traditional journalism is static. Its basic units are the article, the story, the piece. The new journalism is live. It doesn’t have a basic unit any more than a river or a storm have a basic unit. It’s process, not product. Even these things we call posts, texts, tweets and wikis are less unitary than contributory. They add to a flow, which in turn adds to what we know.

In 1959 Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” and compared managing in business (a subject about which he remains the canonical authority) to leading a jazz band. You surround yourself with skilled folks who only get better at what they do. Drucker lived a long time, but it’s too bad he’s not around to see what the Live Web is doing both for knowledge and the work that increases it constantly.

To bring this into focus, dig Jeff Jarvis’ Replacing the Article. Specifically, Jeff is looking for a new “unit of coverage” that includes at least three subunitary components: 1) “Curated aggreagtion”, 2) “A blog that treats the story as a process, not a product”, and 3) “A wiki that give us a snapshot of current knowledge”. He’s looking for discussion as well (as he must, else all he’s got is another article, no?). “Where do you think the best – most intelligent and illuminating – discussion is going on?” he asks.

Problem is, the Live Web is getting more and more flowy and decentralized. The unit Jeff wants may be all of the above and a lot more that isn’t here yet. Somebodies have to go invent them. And they will. When they do, it’ll be in the river, not alongside it.

I found my way to Jeff’s piece through my FriendFeed, which I visited after scanning Twitter Search; and from Jeff’s post I pivoted off to MoneyMeltDown, Calculated Risk, Monitor Credit Crisis Blog and Inman blog, all off Jeff’s links. None, he says, do the job he wants. “Can anyone point me to a reporter or expert who is using a blog to both report and discover?” he asks?

Well, there’s Scoble and his FriendFeed top 165 list, about which Paul Boutin says,

If you follow Robert Scoble at all — and you sort of have to unless your DSL is dead — you know he can’t help overproliferating everything he does. While the entire staff of Vanity Fair takes months to assemble its 100 most powerful list, Fast Company’s token webhead spews 165 names in one pass for his “hand-picked list of the people who provide the most interesting tech blogging/tweeting/FriendFeeding.” Robert, let me put on my old Condé Nast editor’s hat and redline this back to you: GREAT START, BUT PLS TELL US WHO THE FK THS PPL ARE

Jeff’s point exactly. (Aside: I once had lunch with Jeff at a cafeteria in the Condé Nast building, where Jeff worked at the time and that our kid called “The Candy Ass building”.)

Here’s what’s even more new: Scoble isn’t managing the people who inform him. It’s the other way around. He’s being managed by the jazz in his band. Scobleization is more like what happens in Being John Malkovitch, where all these people take trips down a portal into Malkovitch’s head. Those of us being FriendFed are all being Scobleized, but (as Dame Edna says) in a nice way. That is, we’re being fed knowledge even as we flow with the river as well. Process, not product.

Yet we aren’t subordinating ourselves to the process, unless all we want to do is SEO and AdSense fishing. We’re increasing the worth of ourselves as the sovereign and independent units we call human beings.

To be Scobleized is to be human, and to grow. Because that’s what we do at our best.

The other day I was hanging with Scoble when he said “Isn’t this a great world?” Louis Armstrong, the great jazz player, couldn’t have sung it better.

Just a pause in the midst to express appreciation for ‘s storm-tracking services, and handy pile of Good Stuff, such as the WunderMap. Their site is far less crapped up with junk than Weather.com.

Right now we’re getting a late summerlike storm, complete with thunder. Thanks to the map’s animation and storm tracking features, I can see exactly what’s happening, and educate my judgements about whether to walk to the bus or the train — and when.

Anyway, dig it.

Quote du jour

Jeff Jarvis:

  We knew the White House was a vacuum. Congress is a vacuum. Wall Street is lie. Detroit and the era it represents is dust. Journalism is sinking like a wet witch.

  Who’s in charge? It’s falling to us, the people. We’re in charge. Problem is, we’re not ready. We’ve used the internet so far to organize some knowledge and yell at each other. We are just beginning to create the tools to organize ourselves. If only the meltdown of every authority structure could have waited a few years. Then again, necessity is the mother of organization. New structures don’t replace old structures while they’re still in place. New structures fill voids. And, boy, do we have some voids to fill.

Room for the new world we need to terraform.

I feel safer already



I just like that headline and wanted to write it down while it’s still in my front-of-mind. Feel free to re-use it.


The #4 item on Twitter (behind Bailout, McCain and iPhone) is Selamat Hari Raya. #5 is #atlgas, for gas in Atlanta.

The 2012 campaign

Got an email from my sister Jan the other day. She’s a Navy veteran who knew McCain, along with other notables. She’s also quite astute about politics, and follows it more closely than I do. I asked her if it’s cool to pass the email along, and she said yes, so here goes…

After seeing the visuals of yesterday’s (Thursday’s) White House meeting, I came to a conclusion: The Republicans need McCain to lose. Not in a landslide, just narrowly; but they really want and need him to lose.

Why? Well, first of all, because they don’t like him, or Palin. And they don’t think he represents their interests or true conservatism. And they know he is unpredictable and uncontrollable. And old and aging fast in the stress of campaigning, which does not bode well for life in the oval office. So if he dies, there would be Palin, which does not bear thinking about for them: she would set the case for leadership by women and neocons both back a generation and make the GOP the laughing stock of the world.

But the best reason to want McCain to lose is because they know that whoever wins this election will have four years of no-win:

  • even if the bailout works, the economy will be a mess and hard times will hit everyone (but economic advisors and pundits)
  • recovery of Katrina is still stagnant and the real extent of the Texas coast’s devastation is just coming to light; the new President will have to do the recovery right this time, which will cost billions
  • at the best in Iraq all four years will be an expensive extraction quagmire
  • our military will be struggling with recovering from this war’s damage for at least 4 years, if not the next decade
  • Afghanistan is going to be a very hard war and Pakistan is on the brink of radicalism
  • Iran will be very eager to test the next president;
  • Kim will die and North Korea is a great, and dangerous, unknown that will cost us manpower and money to either keep isolated or help restorePutin will take the opportunity of our distractions to expand Russia’s power and influence and control
  • Labor’s time is up in the UK
  • Chavez will challenge the new president for supremacy in Latin America;
  • Global warming will become more and more visible and action more urgent and because of the delays of the last 8 years, action will be more expensive
  • Social security and medicare will be taxed beyond capabilities because bulk of the baby boomers who will become eligible
  • taxes will have to go up, for some folks anyway
  • because there will be no funds for the new President’s promises or programs, education, health care and infrastructure will not be addressed as aggressively as they should and the people will feel betrayed

So whoever is elected this time will, at best and with superb leadership, management and luck, avoid a real disaster and might just be able to start us on the road to recovery. But it will be a time of fingers in the dike, not developing a real flood control system, not visibly anyway.

So in 2012 an opposition candidate will be able to ride in on the white horse of told-you-so and have a good chance of winning.

And right now there are at least two generations of Republicans in congress, governors mansions and the private sector, just salivating at the thought of 2012. And very willing, almost eager, maybe even praying, for McCain to give them that chance.

I think she might be right. On the phone she just told me to notice that Rove is quieting down. Check the trend chart here.


Quote du jour

Shel Israel: I think that www.whitehouse.gov should just show the Fail Whale from now through the next inauguration.

Bail Off

The bailout was shot down in the house. Redraw your own conclusions. Mine is that it’s a Bad Thing.


Eric Norlin points (via Howard Linzon) to this piece by Andy Kessler. Eric’s summary: Smile. Think abundance, not scarcity. Get optimistic. I’m an born optimist, so this has an appeal.

Saint Paul Newman

Great remembrance of Paul Newman by Manohla Dargis in the NY Times. (I’d like to beg forgiveness for the annoying login required by the Times, but I won’t. It’s just plain wrong for the Times to retain that friction after it’s bothered to open its content anyway.)

My own favorite Newman moves are later ones: The Verdict, Nobody’s Fool, Empire Falls. As a journalist, I have a special appreciation for Absence of Malice, where the best performance actually belonged to Wilford Brimley, playing himself, essentially. In it Newman is by turns both passionate and, as Dargis puts it, cooler than dry ice.

He was, finally and enduringly, a good man. You knew that. It came across in his acting and his life. He’s a guy I wish I had known. Sad to see him go.

In his comment here, Mike Warot encourages me — and the rest of us — to watch this video by Karl Denninger, whose blog is here.

I did. It’s good. But I’m not sure Denninger is right. Or all-right, let’s say. Just somewhat.

Here’s the problem as I currently see it. (And I’m no economist. This is just me, one citizen trying to make sense of something that I’ve hardly paid attention to in the past. So take this with an acre of salt if you like.)

Yes, the system is rigged and corrupt. Yes, the Fed and Treasury have been messing up for decades. (As Kevin Phillips will tell you.) Yes, federal power has gone over the top here. Whoever heard of the Office of Thrift Supervision before it swooped in and sold WaMu to JP Morgan Chase? At least there’s some common sense involved with banking, and “trift” (a term that now feels euphemistic in a statist way, like “corrections”). Banking got sucked into runaway shell games, in which empty vessels multiplied and divided, as whole institutions with MBA-packed buildings grew to manage and manipulate them. Solidity and liquidity were both replaced by gasseosity — but in sectors of Xtreme Arcana that nobody outside fully understood. Thus we’ve had inflation for years, and have put off facing it, because it was hidden and the System seemed to be working.

Meanwhile the whole country became infected with the sickness of making money only for its own sake, backed by little resembling work or manufacture — a trend we’ve been seeing since the Carter administration.

The “free market” in finance has always been rigged by its Alpha beasts, its lobbied legislators and its regulators, to favor growth. But lost in this long round has been elementary horse sense about what’s actually valuable, what actually produces goods and services, what’s free and what’s not. Growth in this long round has had many costs, and we’re not even close to visiting all of them.

Perhaps it’s in our nature, with economic evidence going back to tulip bulbs. But I think it goes deeper than that. Our species pestilential and rapacious on a scale the planet has never seen before. It can rationalize chewing irreplaceable valuables out of the ground and seas, using them up and spreading its wastes everywhere. This cost-blind nature — is made manifest in a financial system that best rewards games built on games that are almost nothing but rationalizations — worse, of a sort that only its rationalizers can understand. The financial sector has become a casino in which the highest rollers have bought the house and rigged every game to pay off by splitting winnings to bet on other rigged games, while the rest of us say “Great!”, because we’re in there playing too: betting on worthless stocks, buying overpriced houses on easy credit with negative equities, running up credit card bills while thinking nothing of paying monthly interest rates north of 20%.

This “free market” was a free-for-all in which even its hands-off regulators participated. All while the country went from being the world’s leading manufacturer and creditor to the world’s leading out-sourcer and debtor — with the load now running into the dozens of trillions of dollars. Remember that we voted for the people who presided over that.

It’s tempting to blame and punish, but that isn’t what we need now. What we need is for credit to keep moving while the financial sector gradually shrinks to sane dimensions, with value that rises from 1/1 relationships between reality and perception — or at least a fair chance that good ideas will turn into good business. (I don’t want to throw smart investor babies out with the dumb investor bathwater.)

I don’t know if this $.7 trillion bill will do that. I do have a strong hunch about what will happen if it doesn’t. Or if we do nothing and let nature take its course. The entire financial sector will collapse, and the government won’t be able to print enough money to pay off its own and everybody else’s creditors, starting with China. Businesses of all kinds will close, and all but a few public utilities will cease to run smoothly. With weak manufacturing, absent small farming and other graces of traditional functioning societies, we’ll fall into a depression as bad or worse than the Great one. Cities will fail and crime will go rampant. And we’ll bore our grandchildren with stories of what it was like to hike ten miles through the snow to work at the only shit jobs that were left.

I believe this is what Warren Buffett also sees when he compares the current crisis to Pearl Harbor. I believe Buffett because he got wealthy by being sensible and prudent, and very much not of a type with those that have made a mess of the financial system.

Or so it seems to me on a Sunday morning just short of the precipice.

Oh, and I don’t hear either candidate talking about what’s really going on here. Nor do I expect them to.

Fewer degrees of separation

Stephen Lewis latest, New York Women: Self-Vetting, My Aunt Estelle, and Haikus for Sale, visits the locus and origins of his firmly grounded sensibilities — for example, our distinctly New York senses of humor and our mutual stubbornly-held convictions that work involves heavy-lifting and adding of value rather than flim-flam, image building, and manipulation.

The first comment says the post “flows as naturally as anything I’ve read”. Agreed. The second is my reminder to us both that there’s still another connection, through Nathalie Goldman’s Writing Down the Bones.

Quote du jour

James Fallows: After thirty years of meeting and interviewing politicians, I can think of exactly three people who sounded as uninformed and vacant as this. All are now out of office. One was a chronic drunk.

Bonus link.

I think McCain won the thing. Not on substance, but on style. McCain sounded like Reagan, and Obama sounded like Kerry. The CNN talking heads seem to be giving the edge to Obama, but I just saw Guiliani on MSNBC, who made it clear that Obama gave the right wing talk machine a pile of fodder for the next week’s shows. Every time Obama said “John is right,” I winced.

FWIW, I listened to most of it on the radio, so the stuff about McCain never looking at Obama I missed.

Dave supports the bail-out, which many are calling the Splurge. At this point, so do I. That puts me in the company of Warren Buffett and detaches me from Kevin Phillips, who says (below) that it won’t work. Elsewhere Kevin says it just cuts off one tentacle of an octopus. Maybe he’s right. From this report, it appears that McCain and some Republicans agree.

I trust Buffett. His wealth is a red herring here. What matters are his insight, intelligence, and ability to perform for stockholders — qualifications that are beyond dispute. Buffett knows better than anybody how the system works, how it’s broken — and (surely) how to make money on the upswing that inevitably follows the current collapse.

If Obama and Bush are together on this, so be it. Hey, maybe tonight we’ll have a real debate between Splurge (Obama/Bush/Buffett) and Purge (McCain/Phillips). Doesn’t look like it, but if both men are in command of their facts and ideas, it would help the country.

[Later...] Cool: looks like the debate will happen. More from the NYTimes.

A little prep from Sara Silverman.

The other day I was sitting in the company of leaders in one industrial category. (I won’t say which because it’s beside the point I want to make.) A question arose: Why are there so few visitors to our websites? Millions use their services, yet few bother with visiting their sites, except every once in awhile.

The answer, I suggested, was that their sites were buildings. They were architected, designed and constructed. They were conceived and built on the real estate model: domains with addresses, places people could visit. They were necessary and sufficient for the old Static Web, but lacked sufficiency for the Live one.

The Web isn’t just real estate. It’s a habitat, an environment, an ever-increasingly-connected place where fecundity rules, vivifying business, culture and everything else that thrives there. It is alive.

The Live Web isn’t just built. It grows, adapts and changes. It’s an environment where we text and post and author and update and tweet and syndicate and subscribe and notify and feed and — and yell and fart and say wise things and set off alarms and keep each other scared, safe or both. It’s verbs to the Static Web’s nouns. It is, in a biological word that has since gone technical, generative. And thus it calls Whitman to mind:

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess
the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun…
there are many millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand
nor look through the eyes of the dead,
nor feed on the spectres in books.

You shall not look through my eyes either,
nor take things from me.
You shall listen to all sides and filter them for yourself…

I have heard what the talkers were talking.
The talk of the beginning and the end.
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance…
Always substance and increase,
Always a knit of identity… always distinction…
always a breed of life.

This is what I see when I look at Twitter Search. It’s what I see in my aggregator, in FriendFeed, in Technorati and Google Blogsearch (and in feeds for keyword searches of both), in IM and Skype, in the growing dozens of live apps — for weather, sports, radio and rivers of news — on my phone. And when I watch myself and others mash and mix those together, and pipe one into another.

And I say all this knowing that most of what I mentioned in that last paragraph will be old hat next week, if not next month or next year. C’est la vie.

Speaking of this week, I just discovered Google InQuotes via one or more of the Tweeters that I follow. And it struck me that the reason Microsoft has trouble keeping up with Google is as simple as Live vs. Static. Google gets the Live Web. Microsoft doesn’t. Not yet, anyway. It’s comfortable in the static. It’s cautious. It doesn’t splurge on give-aways because it doesn’t know that life is one long give-away in any case. We’re born with an unknown sum of time to spend and we’ve got to dump it all in the duration. That’s why now is what matters most. Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans, John Lennon said. The game of business is the game of life.

Years ago somebody said that everybody else was playing hockey while Bill Gates was playing chess. I think now the game has changed. I think now the game isn’t a game. It’s just life. The Web is alive. It’s a constantly changing and growing environment comprised of living and static things. Meanwhile what said long ago still applies: …companies so lobotomized that they can’t speak in a recognizably human voice build sites that smell like death.

I don’t think Microsoft is dead, or even acting like it. Nor do I think Google is unusually alive. Just that Google is especially adapted to The Live Web while Microsoft seems anchored in the static. As are most other companies and institutions, frankly. Nothing special about Microsoft there. Just something illustrative. A helpful contrast. Perhaps it will help Microsoft too.

If you want to participate in the Live Web, you can’t just act like it. You have to jump in and do it. Here’s the most important thing I’ve noticed so far: it’s not just about competition. It’s about support and cooperation. Even political and business enemies help each other out by keeping each other informed. There may be pay-offs in scarcity plays, but the bigger ones emerge when intelligence and good information are shared, right now. And archived where they can be found again later. All that old stuff is still nourishment.

Veteran readers know I’ve been about for . (And credit goes to my son Allen for coming up with the insight in the first place, more than five years ago.) I think Live vs. Static is a much more useful distinction than versions. (Web 1.0, 2.0, etc.) Hey, who knows? Maybe it’ll finally catch. It seemed to in the room where I brought it up.

By the way, a special thanks to , , and the audience at our panel at BlogWorld Expo for schooling me about this (whether they knew it or not). I got clues galore out of that, and I thank the whole room for them. (Hope the video goes up soon. You’ll see how it went down. Good stuff.)


Who nose?

On the right, Charles Krauthamer:

  Paulson is a lame duck. In four months, he is gone. Paulson is asking for the money not for self-aggrandizement but for the same reason Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the markets are asking for it: to prevent the American economy from going over a cliff.

  Some disdain that assessment as hypothetical. Paulson and Bernanke, who actually peered into the abyss on Black Thursday (September 18), think otherwise. They’re not infallible, but prudence dictates not risking the economy on the opposite bet.

  The stock market dive and the seizing up of the credit markets convinced them that their ad hoc Bear-yes, Lehman-no rescue of investment firms had not only reached a dead end, but was actually making things worse. It had added uncertainty to a situation in which pre-existing uncertainty was already causing panic.

  Hence the need to go below the institutional superstructure to the underlying toxic assets, which Paulson proposes to take off the private sector’s books by having the government buy them for, yes, $700 billion.

  Congress has every duty to be careful with taxpayers’ money and to suggest improvements in the administration plan. But part of Congress’ reaction has nothing to do with improving the proposal and everything to do with assuaging the rage of constituents — even if it jeopardizes the package’s chances of success, either by weakening it or by larding it up with useless complicating provisions designed solely to give the appearance of sticking it to the rich.

  Window dressing such as capping pay packages, which the Bush administration has already caved in to. I’ve got nothing against withholding golden parachutes from failed executives. But artificially capping the pay of people brought in to lead these wobbly companies back to health is a fine way to tell talented executives to look elsewhere for a job. In the demagogic parlance of this election year, it is a prescription for outsourcing our best financial minds to London and Dubai.

  The mob is agitated, but hardly blameless. While the punch bowl — Alan Greenspan’s extremely low post-9/11 interest rates — was being held out, few complained about cheap loans and doubling home values. Now all of the sudden everything is the fault of Wall Street malfeasance.

  I have little doubt that some, if not many, cases of malfeasance will emerge. But what we conveniently neglect is the fact that much of this crisis was brought upon us by the good intentions of good people.

  For decades, starting with Jimmy Carter’s Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, there has been bipartisan agreement to use government power to expand homeownership to people who had been shut out for economic reasons or, sometimes, because of racial and ethnic discrimination. What could be a more worthy cause? But it led to tremendous pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — who in turn pressured banks and other lenders — to extend mortgages to people who were borrowing over their heads. That’s called subprime lending. It lies at the root of our current calamity.

  Were there some predatory lenders? Of course. But only a fool or a demagogue — i.e., a presidential candidate — would suggest that this is a major part of the problem.

  Was there misbehavior on Wall Street? The wheels of justice will grind. But why wait for justice? If a really good catharsis will allow a return of rationality to Capitol Hill — yielding a clean rescue package that will actually save the economy — go for it.


On the former and future right, Kevin Phillips:

  McCain has never been much on economics, but Paulson’s indicated arrangement with the Democrats — financial firms will get to turn in the toxic debt and financial instruments they can’t peddle for reimbursement by an American taxpayer-funded entity — is so bad that if the former Navy pilot grins and accepts it he will look like a wobbler and a Grade A sap. He’s already lost the edge he had coming out of the Republican convention. Barack Obama, by contrast, can get away with being evasive because the Democrats look like they’re accepting a measure principally authored and promoted by Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

  Now for a little bit of background. We’re not just looking at a real estate mess. Over the last quarter century, the total of public and private credit market debt in the United States — most of it, in fact, is private — has more than quintupled from $8 to $48 trillion, the biggest such orgy in world history. Over that period, domestic financial debt – the money borrowed by the financial sector for expansion, consolidation, empire-building, leverage, exotic mortgages, gambling, you name it – swelled from just $1 trillion to some $14 trillion. Employing these economic steroids, the financial sector ballooned itself from 14-15% of what back in the mid-1980s was the Gross National Product to 20-21% in 2004 of the newer Gross Domestic Product calculation. In the meantime, the once-dominant manufacturing sector fell far behind, dropping to just 12% of GDP. In a nutshell, the economy has been hijacked in recent decades by the very groups who now purport to have remedies – Wall Street, from whence Paulson emerged, and the money-bubbling, don’t regulate the dangerous practices Federal Reserve Board, from whence Bernanke comes.

  The public is finally starting to understand what’s been going on in this perverse milieu of Wall Street socialism where private individuals get the profits and the taxpayers underwrite the bail-outs. It has a long history; in Bad Money I have a chart that lists fifteen or so rescues over some 25 years. Finance has now grown into an octopus, with dozens of debt, speculative, credit card, mortgage, interest group and Washington lobby tentacles that will lock onto any new bail-out proposal and turn it into another food supply. Even as the new “legislation” is being drafted, you can bet all the lawyers, lobbyists and big donors are already on the phone to key people in Congress, the White House, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Anybody with a good nose can almost smell the fixes and corruption, and of course, political critics and the public will be told that there’s just no time for debate, no time to go over the details. Don’t pass it tomorrow, pass it yesterday. We can assume that George W. Bush will sign it, possibly with a fleeting smirk.

  Will this bail-out solve the current mess? Of course not. For the last year, Paulson and Bernanke have been Fumble and Bumble. They won’t strike at the roots of the problem – indeed, one could almost say the two men represent those roots — so their rescue gimmicks fail and the crisis extends and deepens.

  Ironically, the best hope for resistance comes not from the left but from free-market elements of the Republican Party. I have not had much good to say about the GOP for years, but recent events may hint at their political and ideological renewal. Sometime back, when Congress passed the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bail-out program, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, ultimately voted against it. He had worked on its early stage, but ultimately voted no because seeing a pay-off to “Wall Street and K Street (the Washington lobbyist corridor)”. Then the Republican National Convention, in a rejection of Bush, Paulson and Bernanke, put an anti-bailout section in its 2008 platform. A few days ago, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Richard Shelby of Alabama, called on the Fed to reject bail-outs and allow the markets to work even if the consequences are “brutal.” And on September 18, a hundred Republican members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Paulson and Bernanke requesting that the two men “refrain from conducting any additional government-financed bail-outs for large financial firms.”

  I suppose there’s a chance that McCain could decide to oppose the administration and truly fight this latest round of Wall Street socialism. Maybe instead of asking George W. Bush to fire SEC Chairman Cox, McCain could come out against Paulson and Bernanke. But the odds are much greater than an embarrassed McCain will flounder toward November defeat.

  That would mean that the anti-bail-out forces in Congress and at the grassroots will take over the national party helm in 2009, and it’s not too late to start right now. If they strike a tough stance in the next few days, they could expose, delay, amend and even block — by any available means — what amounts to a massive mutation and even perversion of the U.S. economy. The leader of the hundred House Republican conservatives, Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, summed it up quite neatly: “Enough is enough. It’s time to bail out the American taxpayers from bail-out mania.” Hopefully, we’re looking at a September battle cry.


Is that what McCain is up to? Jim Manzi says “it’s hard not to credit him for running a tactically ingenious campaign”.

Palin = Evita?

That’s what Naomi Wolf says. It sounds alarmist and paranoid, and in line with The End of America, but as creeped out as I already am by what I hear on the radio (e.g. ordinary Americans saying Wall Street should fail just because fat cats need to be blamed… ignorant of their dependence on an at least a minimally healthy financial system), I gotta wonder.

Do we want to move beyond Bush-Cheney-Rove? Or do we want four more years of that? There’s your choice, America.

By the weigh…

There will be no debate between McCain and Obama tonight. Odds are there won’t be a debate between Palin and Biden, either. Because either one will burst the McCain/Palin bubble.

Just my hunches.

Bonus guess.

Closer to home

Now J.P. Morgan is the bank that ate the bank that ate my bank.

For what little it’s worth at this point, WaMu — Washington Mutual — was a bozo bank. What can you say about a bank that never got its online banking to work right? Plenty, but it’s too late to bother.

More here.

A press release and reassuring words from the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Who’s next?

Meanwhile, Rome burns.

Circling the drain

Before. After. Best comment under the latter:

  Look, there are times when you put country ahead of party. The Republicans did it in 1974 when they told Nixon to get out. The Democrats did it in 1988 when they agreed to drop all the Iran Contra investigations in exchange for Howard Baker agreeing to clean up the mess as Reagan’s new chief of staff. Some Democrats (myself included) felt that Clinton should have resigned.

  Now is a time for Republicans to accept an Obama/Biden presidency and resolve to fight to win seats back in 2010 and the Presidency back in 2012. Despite what the hysterics say, Obama is not a muslim, he is an American centrist on economic and foreign policy matters and center-left on social matters. Biden is the same. Both are competent consensus builders, and even if you don’t agree with their politics, both are the type of people who lead well in emergencies. McCain, perhaps due to an age-related condition, is now completely self-centered and random in behavior, even worse under stress, while Palin could seriously lead America to the apocalypse — she’s that dumb and crazy (in the extreme religious sense*). For the good of America, Republicans, find a way to lose gracefully this fall, regroup, and fight back with some serious leaders. This is what democracy is about.

Actually, it’s about war. Makes much better television. Also mashups.

Anyway, like Jay said.

Bonus kink: The Ice President. Via Steve Garfield.

* My asterisk. Makes me think of here.

Quote du jour

: The customer really is in going to be in control. Deal with it.

I’ve been obsessing about infrastructure lately, with help from Stephen Lewis, whose experience and scholarship on the matter exceeds mine. The Etymology of Infrastructure and the Infrastructure of the Internet is his latest post on the matter. An excerpt:

Within the concept of urban studies and the contemporary home ownership and loan flim-flam, defaults, and financial disaster in the US, I am looking at the tension between two historical approaches, i.e. housing as infrastructure and housing as commodity. As an analogue, I am also looking at the paradigmatic abandonment of socially financed public transport to privately-owned automobiles.

My own observation — that infrastructure is far more adaptable, plastic, replaceable, substitutable and repurposeable than the word itself implies — is substantiated by the relatively new, changing and variously understood meaning of the word itself:

Infrastructure indeed entered the English language as a loan word from French in which it had been a railroad engineering term. A 1927 edition of the Oxford indeed mentioned the word in the context of “… the tunnels, bridges, culverts, and ‘infrastructure work’ of the French railroads.” After World War II, “infrastructure” reemerged as in-house jargon within NATO, this time referring to fixed installations necessary for the operations of armed forces and to capital investments considered necessary to secure the security of Europe.

It is especially interesting to me that the Net is clearly a form of infrastructure, yet has no physical properties of its own. As a utility it could hardly be more useful (that is, be a utility in the literal sense), yet it is not a utility in the manner of a water or gas service. And while today most of us enjoy the Net thanks to phone and cable companies, the Net is not a breed of telephony or television. Quite the opposite, in fact. Telephony and television are today forms of data that happen to be carried over the Net’s protocols. One no longer requires phone wiring to get phone service, or coaxial cable to get television. But because phone and cable companies bill us for the Net, we think of it as a ‘service’ of those companies. In fact it’s a pile of protocols. Are protocols themselves infrastructure? Seems so.

The fact at hand is that on the whole neither Infrastructure nor the Net are well understood. In fact, they are poorly understood, even though they are widely used.

Do we want the Net to be regulated as if it were something physical? I suggest that we want the Net to be understood first, on its own terms. And to do that, I also suggest we visit anew the nature of infrastructure itself.

Bonus pix.


The G1 gets covered by the Guardian. The new phone was launched today by T-Mobile.

Democracy at Rework

Now you can wonk with the best of them at the very Xcellent PublicMarkup.org

Thank you, Ze

Digging this collection of videos that make you feel better.

With friends like these…

Says Chrisopher Hitchens,

  Why is Obama so vapid and hesitant and gutless? Why, to put it another way, does he risk going into political history as a dusky Dukakis?

Maybe because we don’t need an incautious loudmouth as president?

GACL rolling

My piece is now up to 95 693 713 772 804 1191 2188 Diggs, #6 #5 #5#2 #1 among Tops in Technology. Not bad for something I decided to leave unfinished and just go ahead and put up before I flew out of LAX yesterday, barely making the plane. (The original was much longer, but needed more work.) Anyway, it’s definitely a snowball.

Sold American!

BuyMyShitpile.com. I like this one.

I expected the McCain campaign to lie and distort as a matter of course, but (call me naive) I was hoping for better from the Obama campaign — not only because Obama started and stayed on the high road for the most part, but because so much of his support comes from grass roots supporters who have been energized by the prospects of positive change he has been promising from the beginning. No presidential campaign in history has done a better job of engaging voters as participants — especially as sources of funding — than Obama’s.

But now we’re in politics’ Mud Season, and Obama’s road is as low as McCain’s — or maybe even lower. When I look at FactCheck.org and PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter, I see Obama shifting strategies. Even if he’s still uttering the uplifting aspirational rhetoric that first nourished his grass roots, it now looks like he and Biden now hope to win by out-fibbing their opponents. For examples look here, here, here and here. If I were a source of Obama funding, I’d be pissed at how my money is being spent.

So I have an idea for a new campaign by the grass roots of the Obama campaign: cut him off until he stops treating the grass roots as a gas well.

Whaddaya think?

Bonus link.

GACL: Google Open Mobile platform

stands for Gears, Android, Chrome and Linux. At that first link — a new post over at Linux Journal — I suggest that Google’s new browser is “cream on the top of a new mobile software stack” that results in an “open season for developers, and an open market for everybody”. Read the rest here.

A High Fly Five…

… to McCarran International Airport, for providing free wi-fi.

And dig the speed:


Guess I can upload some photos while I’m busy with actual work here (at 4:49am).

What knew?

I love , by by G. Nolst Trenite’ a.k.a. “Charivarius”, it says at that link. And I thank , sitting next to me in the speaker room at Blog World Expo, for turning me onto something fun and old that I’m amazed not to have run into before. Speaking of which, I just turned her on to BuzzPhraser, one of the Web’s oldest still-functioning instruments of linguistic fun.


Sarah Palin said yes, thanks, to a road to nowhere in Alaska, a story in Thursday’s LATimes, is one among countless gotcha!s which in sum comprise a sea of bad news across which Alaska’s governor is obliged to walk like Jesus. So here’s a thought. What if the Gravina Island Bridge, the $398 million “bridge to nowhere”, was not much worse than any other piece of pork — just easier for hand-wringers to target?

I mean, hey, if you were a citizen of Ketchikan, where your whole town depends on tourism for its existence, and where your airport is on an island that can only be reached by sea — and where your whole state has always depended on large sums of federal largesse and involvement — this bridge may not have been pork. It was business as usual, and just your town’s turn to score.

Could it be that Senator Stevens was doing his job, and doing it well? Looks to me like the bridge would have gone forward, and never would have been a Big Issue, had Katrina not wiped out New Orleans and required large efforts to rebuild infrastructure there, highlighting porky projects elsewhere in the country.

In other words, what we’re looking at here is Politics as Usual. That is more than enough to explain Sarah Palin’s initial support for the bridge, her change of position after the winds of popular opinion shifted, and her truth-shading after the fact. More importantly, the whole thing says little about her ability to serve the country as Vice President, or as President in the not-unlikely chance that John McCain will fail to serve out his first term.

I won’t be voting for McCain/Palin. But the governor’s porky political past is not one of the reasons.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Smoke screening

Sitting in a bar raised above the gambling floor at the MGM Grand, killing some fizzy water on ice while clearing time for my room to be cleaned. The bar is comfortable, with thick carpeting and heavy drapes pulled back to view rows of machines where patrons pour coins into slots. I haven’t heard the sound of coins pouring into trays yet. Do they still have that? I wouldn’t know. I hate to gamble on anything that’s not only stacked against me, but where I don’t control at least some of the odds. And I don’t get the thrill either. But hey, that’s me.

I also don’t get the appeal of cigarette smoke. I grew up at a time when smoking was standard. My father was a heavy smoker, and I’m sure our house and car stank of it, but I don’t remember. I do remember hating it, and vowing that I would never take up the habit. (And I never did.) Meanwhile I lived with it, as do all people in cultures such as this casino, where smoking is the rule rather than the exception. Back home in Boston and California, I live and work in places where smoking is exceptional, exiled to the outdoors or to “designated smoking areas”. That’s why I picked out my own little “designated nonsmoking area” in a corner of this bar, as far as I can get from other patrons, about half of which are either smoking or have packs and lighters parked next to their drinks.

I think in the long run smoking will become a fringe practice. Even in Europe and Asia, where smoking is still standard, the percentages of people who smoke will come down, both for the obvious reasons and because in the long run rationalizations tend to fail. Think of smoking as a bubble that will eventually burst and crash.

We’re only beginning to face the problems exposed by the failures of giant financial institutions such FreddieMac, FannieMae, Bear Stearns and AIG — and government bail-outs backed by the continuing ability to borrow from China and other creditor nations. Of which we used to be the biggest. Quite the opposite now.

If you’re looking for a far-sighted bubble-burster, Kevin Phillips is your man. He launched his career as a Senior Strategist for Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. There he led Nixon’s successful “southern strategy” and followed that with The Emerging Republican Majority in 1969. In that book he not only predicted forty years of future, but named the Sun Belt as well. His latest book is Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, which Tim Rutten in the LA Times calls “a rhetorical shot across the bow of the current presidential campaign, which Phillips convincingly argues is failing to address the causes and implications of our current distress”.

Here he is on Chris Lydon’s Open Source program, on May 8 of this year:

  There’s a growing sense in the United States that the Imperial Era is over almost before it started. We’re seeing the weakness that is the United States allowing the financial sector to take over the private economy. That is now the largest portion: 21-22% of the GDP is finance, pushing manufacturing way down. I don’t think that the financial sector is responsible enough, safe enough, broad-minded enough to fill that position. I think what you’ll see happen to the United States is over-financialization: too much debt, too much over expansion and a degree of an implosion that will involve everything from too much debt and collapsing home prices to rising oil prices and the declining dollar. It’s all converging. It’s all trouble. It doesn’t spell the end of the United States, but it does spell the end of the United States as the Total Big Cheeze in the world. And we are going to lose some of the yardsticks that everybody enjoyed for a long time.

About “financialization”, he says,

  You’re looking at the transformation of the American economy from one that produced things to one that moves money around. But it didn’t happen overnight. One of the major relationships is between the rise of debt and the rise of the debt culture. The debt culture meant rising deficits and “spend now and play and pay later”, the public’s debt tolerance to an extraordinary degree, and this general lackidasicalness of putting a framework around your culture and your economy — they’ve all sort of gone to seed together. And I think that the net outcome of this is a country that is in every way living beyond its means. We used to be the leading world creditor, the leading world manufacturer and the leading world producer of oil. Now we’re the world’s leading debtor, the largest inporter of manufatures and the world’s leading importer of oil. It’s a disastrous transformation. The only part of the economy that has profited is the financial sector, because an awful lot of the transition is toward more debt, more credit, more living on things you can’t afford, more keeping up pretenses, and more ambition around the world with less to back it up. And the consequenses of this in many ways is the George W. Bush administration.

Not that Phillips thinks the Democrats are any better. About Paul Krugman, for example, he says,

  There is a good reason for Paul and the Democrats in general to be upbeat here. Maybe to an extent if things were a lot further advanced in the decay process, you could just flip a leaf and say all of a sudden that we are ferociously concerned about this decay. But they think that liberal policies and the Democratic approach can turn it around. Frankly, I don’t… The Democratic magic is more of the old razmatazz, and government will step in and there’s going to be a Green Deal as well as a New Deal, and we’re going to have five million new jobs for things relating to the Greening of America… The Democrats don’t want to admit that what they di8d for the most part in the two Clinton administrations was for the most part a continuation of the Reagan and first Bush administration — and then was continued and built upon by the second Bush administration. You had a lot of financial deregulation under the Clinton administrations. They repealed Glass-Stiegel, they deregulated credit cards, lots of stuff. They stepped on the gas in terms of private debt. The increase is extraordinary. So I can’t separate out the Clinton years from what preceded them and what came after them. And of course the Democrats need to be able to tell America in this election that … they have the answer. I understand that. But I don’t agree with it.

As for Obama, he says “I don’t think he’s raised enough of these issues to have a mandate… They’re not acting now like people who understand that there’s a problem.”

He also adds, “That clearly goes for the Republicans. It’s hard to believe McCain. His economic program is almost a non-program.” That’s on top of George W. Bush: “I don’t want to do another number on George W. after American Dynasty, but he’s the wrong person at the wrong time andin the wrong place — and unqualified essentially for having been president of the United States during these eight years.

I could go on, but a bunch of smokers just parked at the tables on either side of me, and I’m sure my room is done now. Meanwhile, go check out that podcast.


Jeff Jarvis:

  Newspapers and newspaper companies are about to die. The last remaining puddles of auto, home, job, and retail advertising are about to be sucked down the drain thanks to the economic crisis and credit is about to be crunched into dust. So any newspaper or news company that has been teetering will fall. If Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, and AIG can fall, so can a puny newspaper empire — and there’ll be no taxpayer bailout for them. When this happens, will it be Sam Zell’s fault? Hardly.

  The Times veterans should not be suing Zell. They should be suing themselves...

  Want to see who’s to blame for the state of your paper? Get a mirror.

I’m not quite so pessimistic, although I agree about the direction of history’s vector. Meanwhile, in respect to this…

  When the internet came, did you all – every one of you as responsible, smart journalists, on your own – leap to get training in audio and video? Did you immediately hatch new ways to work collaboratively with the vast public of bloggers able and willing to join in local journalism? Not that I saw.

… credit where due to the LATimes for hiring Tony Pierce to run the paper’s bloggig and blogging-outreach operation. It might be a matter of deck chair rearrangement, but at least it was one good move.

Just arrived at LAX, taking a few minutes before flying off to LAV (to which I would like to append oratory) to post a couple of pointers to what I read and heard on the plane.

First is A Conservative for Obama, by Wick Allison, who actually gave the maximum sum to McCain earlier this year, “…when there was still hope he might come to his senses”. A few grafs:

  Liberalism always seemed to me to be a system of “oughts.” We ought to do this or that because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether it works or not. It is a doctrine based on intentions, not results, on feeling good rather than doing good.

  But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts — a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war — led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

  Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for democracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.

  This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.

  …I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

  Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

The other is this interview with Tom Friedman on Fresh Air. I’m not sure he’ll succeed at making green “the new red, white & blue”, but if you don’t have enough reasons to vote against McCain already, he’ll load you up with a few more good ones.

Bonus link.

Canon has unveiled the 5D Mark II SLR. Whoa: 21.1 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor; ISO range from 100-6400, and expandable to 25600 (that is, shooting under appoximately no light); 1080p HD video shooting with live view on the back (3″ across), HDMI and USB connectivity…

Also welcome: a sensor-cleaning system (my 30D is constantly plagued with sensor dust).

$2700 or so.

No price yet from Amazon, but you can pre-order it.

Time to exhale

Yesterday Calvin Dodge said,

  I look forward to seeing your posts on your disappointment with the Obama campaign’s ads, as well as his attempts to silence people who are reporting on his associations with the radical Left. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for those posts.

… later mentioning how the “…Obama campaign has urged people to swamp WGN’s switchboard when guests on the Milt Rosenberg show…”

Looked that one up, and sure enough, here’s Andrew Sullivan — a conservative Obama supporter — telling his man to Leave Fredosso Alone, pointing for sourceage to this piece in Reason about David Fredosso, author of “the lone decent anti-Obama book”, and a scheduled guest on WGN. The Chicago Tribune takes it from there:

  Chicago radio station WGN-AM is again coming under attack from the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama for offering airtime to a controversial author. It is the second time in recent weeks the station has been the target of an “Obama Action Wire” alert to supporters of the Illinois Democrat.

  Monday night’s target was David Freddoso, who the campaign said was scheduled to be on the station from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Chicago time.

  “The author of the latest anti-Barack hit book is appearing on WGN Radio in the Chicagoland market tonight, and your help is urgently needed to make sure his baseless lies don’t gain credibility,” an e-mail sent Monday evening to Obama supporters reads.

  “David Freddoso has made a career off dishonest, extreme hate mongering,” the message said. “And WGN apparently thinks this card-carrying member of the right-wing smear machine needs a bigger platform for his lies and smears about Barack Obama — on the public airwaves.”

I’m not familiar with Fredosso. (Look him up if you like.) But there’s a difference between responding to critics and choking them.

John McCain was once — no, for many years — one Republican in Congress that Democrats and independents could like, if not love. Why? Because he was truly bi-partisan. Far more, in fact, than Barack Obama.

It’s hard to square his campaign with that.

Is the difference just raw ambition, political hardball, do-anything-to-win? I’m sure that’s true. Still, disappointing. The promise to the counrty of McCain vs. Obama was a campaign based on ideas and ideals. That at last we might rise at least a few inches above the mud. Alas, not this time.

Les Misbarack.

Here’s JuiceTorrent. Here’s how it works.

I like that it’s a grass roots project to create a new and less centralized advertising economy. (Or maybe it’s decentralized. I’m not sure which, because the site doesn’t yet say what happens behind the curtain. Is it like BitTorrent in its architecture? If so, does it use the BitTorrent protocol in some way? And what’s actually centralized? Who sells the advertising? How is relevance determined? How is pricing determined?)

I also like anything that can start breaking what amounts to a near-monopoly on advertising by Google. At U.S. v. Microsoft, 10 Years Later, Brad Smith, Microsoft’s top legal honcho, became impassioned at just one moment during the 1.5 day event: when he was asked about an advertising deal between Google and Yahoo. This would combine the #1 and #2 online advertising companies, leaving Microsoft a distant #3. Disregarding the irony of crying “waah” because Microsoft is losing at a game it failed to buy (or innovate) its way into, Brad still has a case.

What I don’t like is the corrupting influence of the advertising economy itself.

Right now online advertising is a river of gold flowing out of the ground in California, and millions of bloggers — along with countless new and traditional businesses — are rushing to grab some. In addition to the other economy-distorting consequences of this rush, it is corrupting blogging’s original nature, which is amateur in the best sense or the word. Amateur is derived from amatorem, the Latin word for lover.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making money by blogging. I am saying there’s something wrong with blogging mostly to make money, or to let advertising determine the purpose of your blog and what you say with it. If your business is the latter, you’re flogging, not blogging.

There is an old and subtle distinction here. Businesses and professions at their best are ways to pursue passions and organize talents — not just to make money. Of course they can’t thrive unless they make money. But few of us go into business just saying “I can’t wait to return value to my shareholders.” Investors are the main exceptions, but the best of those know that human passions other than greed are at the heart of every good business.

And it’s a distinction I’ll be making at BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas at the end of this week, somewhere in the Citizen Journalsism Workshop.

Meanwhile, check out JuiceTorrent. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes, since right now it’s single mention on the Web comes from Emil Sotirov of People Networks, which created the service. (I discovered Emil and his work through a comment here.) If this be a snowball, we can mark where it started.

[Later... Emil answers many questions above in the comments below.]

Seems like last millenium

Sitting and shooting at U.S. v. Microsoft, 10 Years Later, at Austin Hall in Harvard Law School. Extremely interesting, and free as well. If you’re nearby, stop by.

Smarty pants

Apple has applied to patent the ‘smart garment’.

Nick Carr explains:

  Apple views tennis-shoe DRM as a way to head off what it sees as a potential plague of sneaker hacking. “Some people,” the patent application observes, “have taken it upon themselves to remove the sensor from the special pocket of the [iPod-linked] Nike+ shoe and place it at inappropriate locations (shoelaces, for example) or place it on non-Nike+ model shoes.” Oh my God: Geeks are ripping the sensors out of their sneakers and sticking them on their shoelaces! Unleash the shoe nazis!

Quote du jour

“What G.E. ought to do is give MSNBC its freedom and the authority to kill its Mama…” — Terry Heaton

Say ______?

Twice in the last half hour, John Wayne Airport asked everybody to observe a minute of silence in honor of the airplane strikes against the World Trade Center exactly seven years ago, to the minute. On the way here I heard on the radio that this is now a regular thing in New York, but it’s the first time I experienced it at an airport.

I looked around to see what people did after they heard the message, announced following what must hold the record for Most Loud And Annoying Alert Sound (MLAAAS) at any airport on Earth: three long blasts that sound like a brontosaurus bellowing into a bad microphone. The answer was, mostly, nothing different. People in conversation kept talking, to each other or their phones. People behind counters continued to deal with pressing issues. A page for a list of passengers also came on immediately after the call for silence by the PA announcer.

Is it just how it goes here? Dunno. Just thought it was worth observing.

It can happen

Ordered a double short decaf cappuccino at the Starbucks in John Wayne Airport a few minutes ago. “I’ll have to charge you for a tall,” the woman behind the counter said. “Okay”, I replied. Turned out to be perfectly made and much more tasty than I tend to expect from decaf. The ratio of espresso, milk and foam was close to ideal. The foam still in the cup, ten minutes later, looks like coffee-marbled shaving cream, and still tastes delicious, cold. I don’t think I’ve had a better cup from an airport coffee vendor, including Peets. Was it worth the $4.85 I paid for it? ($3.50 for the cap, $1.00 for the extra shot and $.35 tax, the receipt says.) Guess so.


How the world changed, seven years ago today.

Framing wins

Here’s an interesting piece on framing by Rickard Linde. I think he and George Lakoff are both right about the expert framing job that the McCain campaign is doing on Obama, and that Republicans since Reagan have done in major elections. Rickard also has some excellent framing advice for the Obama campaign.

Both Rickard and George, however, are discounting the importance of bullshit. The Onion nailed it months ago. It doesn’t matter if Sarah Palin is unqualified as a presidential candidate (and remember, that’s what she’s running for — sitting on the bench behind an elderly president). She’s a star. A celebrity. That counts in America. A lot.

Who’s running for VP on Obama’s side? Nobody. Not compared to Palin’s celebrity, name recognition and face time on TV and magazine covers. Suddenly Obama’s got half a ticket.

I don’t know if the McCain campaign actually intended for this to happen, but the way it looks to me right now, it’ll work. Palin is single-handedly turning Barack Obama into John Kerry: a policy wonk quarantined to the bottom end of the FM dial. It’s amazing to watch.


New fashion in hardware: PCs that appear built to eat other PCs. Or chew your leg off under your desk. ht to jy.

Capitol Reef and its amazing rock suite

I shot more than 500 pictures out the pitted and blistered windows of the United Airbus 320 I took from Chicago to Orange County, day before yesterday. The shot above is one of them. It’s part of this series here, all of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

What I’m hoping is that somebody somewhere has troubled to identify all the rock strata on display here. If not, I’ll do it eventually. Meanwhile, I’ll at least tell you that the lightest color rock — the spine of the “reef” that stands out most in the larger feature known locally as the Waterpocket Fold — is Navajo Sandstone. Read more about it at that last link.

Credits where due

Here’s more reason I still love blogging. Not only did I find the telling graphic above, but discovered its source, GraphJam, via Tom McMahon, Chris Blattman, Scarlet Lion and Jillian C. York — in that order. That is, Tm credited Chris, who credited Scarlet, who credited Jillian, who credited GraphJam.

Some bloggers don’t credit their sources; but the good ones — who blog to exercise and share their curious hearts and minds, and not just to make a few bucks off SEO or whatever — do. So here’s a high five to every blogger who keeps doing what made blogging worthwhile in the first place.

Bonus fact.


I’m at O’Hare, en route from Boston to Orange County for DIDW, where I’ll be speaking on Wednesday. Beautiful day in Chicago, just like it was in Boston when I left at dawn. In the plane now with one of those rare bulkhead seats that give you lots of legroom and room to store a carry-on under the seat in front of you. The only bummer is the windows, which are not ideal for shooting. I actually have three of them, but they’re all pitted and blistered.

Interesting to observe an unintended consequence for airlines now charging for checked luggage: everybody is carrying on board the largest possible bags. This slows things down and screws the people last on board. That was me out of boston. My carry-on bag was taken from me and checked as luggage. Hope it gets there. I kept my back pack, though.

The lesson: get as close to the front of the boarding line as you can.

See ya on the far coast.

For a while now the Firefox URL address bar has also served as a shortcut to Google search. I’ve never liked that default, even though I found it handy, and have wanted to change the setting from time to time. But I never got around to it, mostly because I didn’t know how — and still don’t. (I also wanted to get rid of — or at least find the option to get rid of — the gray shade that comes down when I click on the little icon to the left of a URL, and says “This website does not supply encrypted information. Your connection to this site is not encrypted.” For all sites, pretty much. So, if I want to copy a URL by first clicking on the icon, I have to do that twice. I think this “feature” showed up around Firefox 2.5, but I forget. It predates 3.0, I’m pretty sure.)

Anyway, now suddenly my Firefox address bar’s default search engine is no longer Google but , with results identical to Yahoo’s. Why is that? I’m thinking it might be due to activating , which is a Yahoo property. Could it be that I’m using OpenDNS name servers? (Been doing that for a while, actually.) There’s also this in Wikipedia’s OpenDNS entry, under Privacy Issues and Covert Redirection,

While the OpenDNS name resolution service is free, people have complained about how the service handles failed requests. If a domain cannot be found, the service redirects you to a search page with search results and advertising provided by Yahoo.[citation needed] A DNS user can switch this off via the OpenDNS Control Panel...
Also, a user’s search request from the address bar of a browser that is configured to use the Google search engine (with a certain parameter configured) may be covertly redirected to a server owned by OpenDNS without the user’s consent (but within the OpenDNS Terms of Service).[12] Browsers configured to omit this parameter do not get redirected and address-bar searches are sent to Google as normal.[12] . Firefox and Flock users can fix this problem by installing an extension.[13]

That extension is the Feeling Lucky Fixer, from Cotcaro. While the two reviews of the thing both give it five stars, it’s still an “experimental” add-on, which requires a log-in (and has had only 170 downloads as of this moment).

So now I’m slowing to pass through that detour (not an instant process, since I run mail to my main address through Gmail for spam filtration, which can delay mail for up to several minutes)… but now I’ve done it and restarted Firefox… and encountered Glitch #1: Firefox didn’t remember my tabs, even though I told it to. Grr.

Also, the extension doesn’t work. When I type cotcaro, for example, in the address bar, it takes me to the OpenDNS search page.

So, does anybody know what’s going on here? I feel like my address bar has been hijacked, but I’m not sure that’s what’s going on. Yet.


I had a long list of I wanted to run down over at the VRM blog, but lost them (at least for now… I’m sure they’re around). Meanwhile, I covered the latest high points with VRM Catch-up.

In response to my last political post, the subject of High Road vs. Low Road was brought up. One comment suggested that I thought Obama’s was the former while McCain’s was the latter. In fact I was suggesting that both roads were tactics used by both candidates, and that I feared the election would be won and lost, as it usually is, by fighting along the low road to election day.

My current favorite reporting about road-taking comes from the St. Petersburg Times, which keeps up with both campaigns via the Politifact.com Truth-o-Meter. To each statement by each candidate and their campaigns (including emailings by candidates and parties), they sort statements into True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, False and Pants on Fire. Currently those3 sort out this way :

Obama Biden McCain Palin
True 39 7 25 4
Mostly True 23 4 19 0
Half-True 20 4 19 3
Barely True 12 3 19 0
False 18 4 22 0
Pants on Fire 0 2 4 0

Some of the rulings are generous. For example, they found Sarah Palin’s claim that she put the state’s jet up for sale on eBay is true, even though it wasn’t sold on eBay.

As H.L. Mencken said, Looking for an honest politician is like looking for an ethical burglar. (More good quotes — all correct — here.*)

For what it’s worth, I favor Obama for two main reasons. One is that I’d rather see the country run on the ethics of empathy rather than those of fear. The other is that McCain and Palin are both warriors at heart (McCain was ready for war with Iraq right after 9/11, and Palin preached that the Iraq war was part of God’s “plan”) — and we’ve had eight bad years of that already.

I also think Obama is more likely to nominate top-notch non-ideological judges and to reform government in general. Also that he is less likely to screw up the Internet, which is the single best thing the world has going for itself. Finally, that he’ll restore the faith of the rest of the world in the sanity of the U.S. electorate and its government.

As for the economy, I think McCain understands the private sector — and the good it does — far better than Obama. If I were voting by my economically consevative and Libertarian sympathies alone, I’d favor McCain. But this election isn’t about that. This election is about throwing the old bums out and trying some new ones.

Back to the War Issue.

A few decades back Penelope Maunsell said of a former employer that “His management style was to find a problem and intensify it”. Same goes for politicians. There are exceptions, but that’s close to a rule.

I don’t doubt that John McCain is a first-rate military man. His experiences as a prisoner of war obviously strenghtened his character and equipped him with a high degree of sympathy for those suffering injustice, as well as for members of the armed forces. But John McCain shared with George W. Bush the urge to solve the problem of terrorism with the use of force, and lots of it. I don’t doubt that this response was exactly what Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders were looking for.

Even if the Surge is working (and I’m inclined to agree that, on the whole, it is), that does not excuse McCain from having supported the Iraq War in the first place. That war has not only killed countless thousands (beyond the counted thousands of our own casualties), but put the country terribly in debt, weakened our military positions elsewhere, and diminished our reputation throughout the world. It was strategically wrong, in a huge way. McCain’s bad judgement on this count alone is reason enough not to elect him.

[Later...] Calvin Dodge points to RedState’s take on FactCheck.org’s take on Palin’s acceptance address.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Moving along

From The Long When:

  Either we get green or our layer of the lithosphere wraps early. We have to learn to respect a scope of time that geologists and too few others even begin to conceive. That’s why I love what the Long Now folks are trying to do. Our species has been operating on a free lunch program for the duration. We’re a start-up species, exploiting everything we found when we came here, and giving back approximately nothing. If we don’t come back from lunch pretty soon, lunch is what we’ll be.

Wrote that 7.5 years ago.

The Publican Convention

I love Dave Barry. A couple of random paragraphs:

  The Democrats pounced immediately on the choice of Palin, charging that she is unqualified, especially compared to the ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, who have a total of nearly 40 years of experience in the U.S. Senate, or, if you subtract Biden, nearly four years of experience.

  But the McCain camp is defending Palin’s résumé, which, aside from being a governor and a mayor, includes being a mom, playing basketball, hunting moose and being runner-up for Miss Alaska 1984. There was some grumbling among Republican insiders that McCain would have been better off choosing somebody with a thicker résumé, such as Mitt Romney, who actually won Miss Alaska 1984.

But seriously, it’s disappointing to see the GOP present itself as the War Party. The most sensible Republican I heard tonight was Ron Paul, talking to Tavis Smiley on the motel TV. The least sensible was Rudy Giuliani, whose mockery of Obama’s work as a community organizer pissed me off. I was once a community organizer. I wasn’t very good at it, but I developed enormous respect for those who were. It’s good, hard and important work.

Obama is still doing it. And he’ll need to do a lot more if he’s going to win in November.

Between now and then it’ll be high road vs. low road. Hate to say I’m betting on the latter.

Lighten up

“We need solar power as cheap as paint, and a way to store it.” Overheard in conversation today. Just wanted to get it down.

Cloud cover

The Bigger Switch is my Linux Journal column on Nick Carr‘s The Big Switch. It concludes:

  I don’t see utopian ideals behind what Alvin Toffler called the Information Age (in The Third Wave, which came out in 1980). Rather, I see practical ones, modeled on the construction industry, complete with “architects”, “designers” and “builders”. The difference is in the materials. In the physical world, we are bound by the laws of physics and the periodic table. In the networked world, we are bound by what the human mind can produce. We have no equivalents of rock and wood, because our raw materials are far less limited and far more abundant than both. This creates new problems and opportunities in equal profusion.

  But, for better and worse, the source is us.

Bonus link: Nick on Google’s Chrome browser.

Flight hackers guide

I fly a lot, and I’m delayed a lot, including now, sitting in the terminal at Santa Barbara (waiting to take a redeye that will land me in Boston at dawn tomorrow). So I’ll take a few minutes to share some of what I’ve learned along the way.

First, dig . Not the best UI, but a very handy resource. It was via FlightAware that I found that my plane wasn’t only “delayed” (as the board said at the airport), but that the plane that would become my Denver flight was still on the ground in San Francisco, and would be an hour and thirty-seven munutes late taking off. Since I only had an hour layover in Denver, I had to seek alternatives.

Second, and . Since the Long Tail fills in blanks that the airlines miss, I was able to get a seat with extra legroom on the United Airbus 320 I’ll be taking tonight.

Third, if you’re waiting on line, call the airline and get business out of the way while you’re idle. I was able to do that in this case, and it was a merciful break for the passengers queued up behind me.

Fourth, dig AviationWeather.gov. All the links are interesting and rich with informative maps. There’s even a space weather link. Handy if there’s an aurora going on and you’re flying a route within sight of a magnetic pole. Here’s an example, complete with Space Weaher screen shots.

It’s the Mind, stupid

George Lakoff:

  …the choice of Sarah Palin as their vice presidential candidate reflects their expert understanding of the political mind and political marketing. Democrats who simply belittle the Palin choice are courting disaster. It must be taken with the utmost seriousness…

  …the Palin nomination changes the game. The initial response has been to try to keep the focus on external realities, the “issues,” and differences on the issues. But the Palin nomination is not basically about external realities and what Democrats call “issues,” but about the symbolic mechanisms of the political mind — the worldviews, frames, metaphors, cultural narratives, and stereotypes. The Republicans can’t win on realities. Her job is to speak the language of conservatism, activate the conservative view of the world, and use the advantages that conservatives have in dominating political discourse.

Either it’s nuts or political jujistu of the first water. And even if it’s the former, it could turn into the latter. Obama and the dems can’t wonk their way to victory, even if that’s their nature. (And it is.)

Power Trip

(Note: this post was made mistakenly as a page, and didn’t go up at first. Now it’s here. Thanks to commenters for the help.)

I’ve flown over these coal in New Mexico and Arizona many times, but never checked to see what was up with them. Or down. Or choose your direction.

Turns out the one above, a giant W in the Arizona landscape, is the Black Mesa Mine, and it has been mothballed since 2005 when the destination of its coal (via an unusual route), the Mojave power plant, was shut down. The Kayenta Mine is still running, as are the other mines I saw off to the east around the Four Corners areas.

I’m flying back to Boston today. Weather looks bad for shooting over the West. It’ll be dark over the rest of the trip anyway, though sometimes I get some good city shots at night.

Flying out here on the 19th, I sat on the sunny side of the plane, which never makes for good shooting, but I still got some decent shots of Gloucester Bay, Mt. Blanca in Colorado’s Sagre de Cristo range, Great Sand Dunes National Park, center-fed farms (such as the one above) in the San Luis Valley, the San Juan River running through a hogback, Shiprock, the painted desert, the Black Mesa Mine, the Kayenta Mine, the Grand Canyon, salt evaporators, Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. San Gorgonio, mountains of coastal southern California and Los Angeles freeways. Some are good. Enjoy.

Steve Lohr in the NYTimes:

  That challenge, legal experts say, is one of several for trademark policy and practice in the Internet age. Instant communication, aggressive business tactics and an unsettled legal environment, they say, mean that trademark disputes on the Internet will increase in number and intensity...

  The new areas of conflict, according to legal experts, include trademark owners trying to assert their rights to stifle online criticism of their products, and to stop trademarked brands from being purchased as keywords in Internet search advertising.

For example, live mesh.

Value subtraction

, which has amazingly bad PR chops, has done it again. Comcast to Place a Cap on Internet Downloads, headlines the NYTimes story. An excerpt:

  Until now, Comcast had not defined excessive use, but it had contacted customers who were using the heaviest amount of broadband and asked them to curb usage. Most do so willingly, the company said. The ones who do not curb their usage receive a second notice and risk having their accounts terminated.

  Although the 250 gigabyte cap is now specified, users who exceed that amount will not have their access switched off immediately, nor will they be charged for excessive use. Instead, the customers may be contacted by Comcast and notified of the cap. The company did not say how 250 gigabytes was selected.

  According to Comcast, a customer would have to download 62,500 songs or 125 standard-definition movies a month to exceed the caps,

So then, why bother? Why give customers one more reason not to use Comcast?

For what it’s worth, at our apartment near Boston I have a choice of Comcast, RCN and Verizon FiOS. I use FiOS because I get 20Mb of symmetrical service from a fiber optic line to the house, minimal technical restriction (they block port 80, but so does everybody) and rock-solid service. Far as I know Verizon doesn’t care how much data moves in either direction from my house. Comcast doesn’t compete with that. At least not yet.

All they did with this move is give me one more reason not to switch.

Maybe one of ya’ll can explain to me why this post I put up last night does not appear in the blog. Nor does it appear among my list of posts in the WordPress admin dashboard. Yet clearly it exists. Strange.

A little guide to New Orleans radio & other Hurricane Gustav sources.

If you’re using a regular over-the-air-type radio, and you’re within 750 miles or so of New Orleans, tune in 870am to hear WWL. It’s one of the original (literal) clear channel stations. In the old days you’d get them from coast to coast at night, but in recent years the FCC has chosen to allow new stations to clutter the AM band at night (when signals skip off the ionosphere). But still, worth a check if you’re within range. WWL also has a hurricane coverage network of other stations in the area.

If you’re listening over the Net, your station choices are WWL and WIST. Here’s a link to a browser thingie that plays WWL (using Windows Media or Silverlight). Here’s WIST’s audio page. Wish either used .mp3, but this isn’t the right time to complain. Both have excellent local coverage right now, from what I can gather. Lots of listener call-in stuff.

Here’s AP hurricane video.

Can’t get Technorati to chart less than 90 days, but this chart shows Gustav action.

Full Circle‘s Tracking Hurricane Gustav on Social Media.

Rex Hammock’s Where to go for Gustav information. Includes the Gustav Information Center, Nola.com, Wikipedia’s Gustav entry, GustavWiki.

I’ll add more as the night goes on.

American Red Cross Flickr photos. Those with “Hurricane Gustav” tags. All photos with hurricanegustav tags.

Andy Carvin wants to make the ultimate Gustav mashup map.

See the comments below for more.

Amidst the Palin din

I listened to McCain’s veep selection live on the radio. Struck me as pretty smart, though maybe a little too smart for McCain’s own good. His attacks on Obama’s lack of experience ring kinda hollow after he’s picked a backup president (which is all a veep is, Cheney excepted) with even less experience. Since then I’ve read a few blogs and stuff, and pretty much steered clear of politics while enjoying freedom from media and technology during my last few days at home with family and friends in Santa Barbara. Anyway at this point I’d say my take on Sarah Palin kinda parallels Richard Bennett’s:

  She’s young, good-looking, inexperienced, a bit ideological, and a member of a marginal group; just like Barack Obama, actually. But she’s running for VP, not to be the big dog. She’s not at all embarrassing, not a Katherine Harris, Harriet Miers, or Dan Quayle. All in all, a good contrast to Biden who’s tainted with the scent of corruption.

  This just might work for McCain.

  UPDATE: But seriously, what was McCain thinking? Palin is a nice woman, but there’s no way in hell she should be allowed inside the White House if not on a tour. McCain has effectively conceded the election. Welcome to the Oval Office, President Obama, listen to Sen. Biden carefully and don’t screw too many things up.

FWIW, she’s got some taint too.

Also FWIW, I know a lot of Hillary partisans, and if anything the Palin selection helps them rationalize voting for Obama.

Looking forward to the debate between Palin and Biden.

Bonus link (hat tip).

We have a MacBook Pro in need of a device driver that will make a GT Ultra Express data card work. The card is made by Option. Documents here show it working on the laptop. The 4th and last AT&T person we spoke to (escalating up through the call center ranks) said that Apple provides the device driver, and that it should come with the machine. But it doesn’t. Not that we can tell. (A borrowed Sprint card works fine, for what that’s worth.) Apple’s site offers no clues we can find. Option’s wants us to enter the SNR and EMEI numbers before help moves forward, but when we do a login failure results.


If the presidential election ends in a tie, as it kind of did in 2000, I suggest settling it with a game of one-on-one basketball between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.

Maybe it has Alzheimers

Why does Facebook bother with a “remember me” checkbox when it never does?

Related: I now have 212 friend request, 3 friend suggestions, 6 event invitations, 1 music invitation and 190 “other requests”. Saying this is too much doesn’t cover it.

Off we go

Well, approximately nothing mechanical or electical is working right. Both laptops are flaky and both cameras are screwy too. But the car works, so I’m taking the boys on a trip to the Antelope Valley Fair. We have tickets to Wierd Al‘s show tonight as well. See ya on the far side.

[Later...] Pix.

Putting the buyer in charge

The Buyer’s Envelope, Please is a post over at the VRM blog in which I do some thinking out loud about a topic I’m still learning about.

A slolam

Lots of pretty thunderheads between Phoenix and Salt Lake City. We’ll be dodging those shortly.

My first piece about the Obama Convention. (I know that’s a terrible headline, but I’m busy and don’t have time to make it better. And it doesn’t matter anyway.)

Marc Canter and family stopped by a couple days ago, and everybody had a lot of fun. Naturally we talked shop as well. In the midst Marc shared a one-liner that I love: “Open is the new black”.

Which brings me to Google Earth. I have more than 22 thousand photos on Flickr. Of those, more than 6.5 thousand are tagged “aerial”. If I had the time or energy I’d go back and give another few thousand the same tag.

Yet, far as I know, I can’t add any of these to Google Earth — at least not in the way that Panoramio shots get added. Panoramio is a cool service, but its feature set is small compared to Flickr’s, and less appealing to me as both a photographer and a geology and geography freak. I’d much rather upload shots to Flickr than to place them on Google Earth (or any mapping service) using open APIs.

Yet, far as I know, I can’t (with Google Earth, that is). That’s how it looked the last time I tried to make a go of it. (Also, Google Earth doesn’t like aerial photos, which also isn’t helpful, especially in places where its own resolution is low.)

Anyway, I’m not here to carp about Google Earth, which is one of the most amazing and helpful programs ever. I’m here to carp about exclusivities. Services such as these should be maximally mashable. By favoring Panoramio over Flickr (and other services like it), Google does neither Panoramio nor Google Earth any favors. In fact it isolates both from competitive pressures that would lead to improvements in their own code and in the marketplace.

Adam Fields and Barry Welford have convinced me to try making a habit of searching with Clusty. No time to put together a research-driven case, but so far I find myself liking the results.

That said, I’ve felt from the beginning that search has always been something of a kluge required by the absence of a real directory for the Web — one to which anybody can add anything in a durably findable way. That’s why I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of XRI/XDI since I first heard about it.

Someday somebody is going to base a deeply cool and useful product or service on XRI/XDI standards — an invention that mothers necessity for the standard. Just watch.

I grew up in New Jersey, which I think of as “New England without the universities”. There are many places in New Jersey with beauty equal to, say, New Hampshire’s. But New Jersey never had the same ethos of preservation, the same not-quite-a-mythology that explains why Norman Rockwell and his sentiments fit New England like a shoe while to the rest of the country they remain a maudlin approximation of bygone times elsewhere.

I transferred my state citizenship from New Jersey to North Carolina in early 1974, when I left our small rented house on Route 94 in Yellow Frame, out in Sussex County, the beautiful northernmost county of the state. Back then Sussex County had more cows than people, and featured fall colors and pastoral scenes worthy of calendars and post cards. Best of all it shared the with Pennsylvania. The shores of the river were settled first by the Indians and later by the , descendents of which continued to farm the islands and lowlands alongside the river, right up to the point in the 1970s when the United States government, with help from both states, condemned the land, including perfectly good towns such as Dingman’s Ferry, and let it all fall to ruin while fighting and failing to build the unnecessary. It was, and remains, a disgrace.

Can you imagine the feds, or Vermont and New Hampshire, doing the same to the ? Of course not. We’re talking about New England here.

The difference was brought home to me this past weekend when we picked up The Kid from camp in Vermont and took our time heading back to Boston. We visited Middlebury, Waterbury (including the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream headquarters), the Rock of Ages Quarry near Barre, and various towns along the Connecticut River before having some okay Thai food in Keene. New England is truly a beautiful region, even with almost no available hotel rooms.

Much of that was recorded photographically. Here’s the set. Here’s the slide show.

Nice to know New England is there. Less nice to know that much of the same beauty has long since been paved or otherwise profaned in other states. (Of course, I also realize that much has been lost in New England as well. Just less of it than elsewhere.)

The shot above is of the Congregational Church in Middlebury, Vermont. I shot a series of photos of the church, most with white and grey clouds boiling up in the sky beyond. I wasn’t sure which was best (which is why I kept them all), but I am sure that several are better than the one the church uses for its own website.

I also did some experimental shooting with this brick building in downtown Middlebury, which is about as nice a little college town as you’re gonna find anywhere. The best of those shots, by the way, were taken not with my Canon 30D SLR, but with a little Canon Powershot SD850is. Partly that’s because the little camera likes to yield more vibrant colors than the big one; and partly it’s because the big one wasn’t fixed right and read the light wrong.

Anyway, I’m back out in California, where I am now a citizen, even though most of the next year will be spent back at the Berkman Center in Cambridge.

Harvard blogs were “having a massage”, the message said yesterday. Today I’m looking at a new WordPress dashboard/UI, and puzzling my way around it. Categories and Tags are now separate things. Tagging is comma separated, rather than space separated, as it has long been with Flickr, where one puts names such as in quotes if one wishes to tag them. I’d rather add the rel=”tag” element to the link. Never have been a fan of listing tags at the bottoms of posts.

Uploading and posting pictures (or, as WP has it, “Add media”) doesn’t work yet. I have at least two I want to share, but no rush.

Anyway, figuring it out.

Meanwhile, over in I’ve posted It sucks because it’s good: a defense of Jakob Nielsen‘s stalwart and sensible usability principles against the scorn of those whose sense of design owes more to ancient print sensibilities than to Web nativity.


I’m currently #2 on this list, behind Clay Shirky. (In spite of what may be the worst picture ever taken of me.) Context from Dan Thornton.

Tags: ,

Conseil du jour

Mary Schmidt: There’s no shortcut to real relationships – online or virtual. I think “social media” is great – but the fundamentals haven’t changed. You gotta be real… and if you’re selling something, it’d better be good.

Years ago, when the search engine category was a lot more competitive, I did a lot of comparing between contenders. For awhile HotBot was ahead, then AltaVista, then AllTheWeb/FAST… Not necessarily in that order, but you get the point.

Then Google won. Huge. They were just bigger and better than everybody at finding nearly everything.

But lately Google has frustrated me. When I do lookups for subjects, it gives results that include misspellings and other approximations, even when I use the “advanced” settings. Worse, it’s been useless at something it used to do perfectly: find old blog entries of mine.

For example, when I was writing this post about cameras and lenses, I wanted to see what I’d written on my blog back when I first picked up my Canon 30D. I kinda remember that it was in early ’06, but beyond that I wasn’t sure how to go hunting, since Google seems to have lost track of that blog, even though its archives are online with inbound links. See, my old blog was moved off of weblogs.com and mothballed (with welcome help from Dave Winer) at the domain doc-weblogs.com. Some links got 404′d, but Google re-made enough connections so that people could at least search for specific words and strings and find stuff. But somewhere along the way, that ended. When I looked for doc searls tamron zoom canon lenses on Google, I found page after page of nothing.

So I went where I haven’t gone for a long time: Yahoo, and did the same search. Voila! The blog post I wanted to find was right up top. That rocked.

I just repeated the experiment with the same two searches, and found that Google has caught up, and now lists what I was looking for in the first page of the 17 results it brings up, with yesterday’s post pointing to it as the top result. Obviously Google followed the link and indexed the old page.

So I decided to do a search for another day in that same time-frame, for another bunch of words that only occur on that day’s blog postings. The day I chose was Thursday, May 18, 2006. The words I searched were doc searls rob cottingham profitable tragedy. Google found nothing, but gave me three pages of results, including misspellings of Searls. Yahoo delivered four results, including exactly the page I was looking for. In fact, every test I do, for every day of my old blog, brings up a Yahoo result. (One sample.) To Google, my old blog pretty much doesn’t exist unless there’s a new inbound link to one of its pages.

Obviously, Yahoo is doing a better job of following links here.

And that means it’s doing a better job — to me at least — of competing with Google than most folks give it credit for.

My hat’s off to them.

Green Mountains, blue sky

A perfect day in Vermont. In Middlebury at the moment. At Carol’s Cafe. Perfect coffee. Before that, lunch at Mama’s Cafe. Also outstanding. I have a feeling nothing sucks around here.

Not sure what’s next, but we’re doing that.

[Later...] I don’t know why, but this text disappeared, and the comments under it now appear under the one following it, which now appears to precede it, because I was able to recover the text, and post it again. Not sure what went wrong there, but … whatever. Better just to enjoy life. And sleep. I gotta crash now. Tomorrow: something in New Hampshire.

Several weeks ago, while we were walking around Mystic Seaport, in the mist of shooting these pictures, I dropped my camera, a Canon 30D — a workhorse that has served ably for more than two years. Afterwards it seemed to work fine mechanically, but it could no longer read light properly. For whatever reason, it overexposed shots by two stops or more. (All the shots I took with it after that were in manual mode using guesswork about light, trial and error.)

So I took it in to a camera repair shop near Boston, and they sent it to Canon. On Friday (yesterday) I got it back. It was an almost entirely new camera. New back, new top, new electronics. I didn’t have time to test it out before hitting the road for the weekend in Vermont and New Hampshire, but I didn’t expect any problems.

I was wrong. The problem wasn’t fixed. It still reads light wrong and overexposes by two or more stops. How could they replace so much of the camera and not fix the one thing that was wrong with it? Amazing.

I suppose I should bring the camera back on Monday and repeat the process, but I really want to have it in California this next week, and on the trip that follows that one. In fact, the first day I’ll be able to pick it up is September 12.

Right now I’m hoping that Samy’s in Santa Barbara (where I bought it) will be able to send it into Canon and expedite a fast turn-around on a fix.

Meanwhile I’m wondering if I should just go ahead and get a soon-to-be-discontinued Canon 5D, which is getting down around $1000 now. It’s a great camera, much better than the 30D. And use the 30D as a second camera. But… I dunno. Probably not, mostly because I’d also have to invest in all those good lenses that will make the 5D sing. Right now I have only one really good lens for the 30D. The other two are cheapies: a Tamron 18-200 (sharp, but not fast, and with fuzziness at the long end and barrel distortion at the wide) and a Canon f1.8 you can still get for just $80 or so.  They do a good job for the money, but they’re not real good lenses.

I’m a pretty good photographer. Not great, but pretty good, on the whole. And I feel like a pretty good musician using an almost good instrument. The 5D is a good instrument. Not the best, but close enough. To get a 5D and the “glass” that would do it justice… say, three primes (fixed length lenses) and a zoom would cost several thousand dollars. That’s out of my range, at least until my get-rich boat comes in.

I’m sure it will. And for that to happen, I need to focus on other work.

Radio now

I listen to a lot of WBUR in my car. ‘BUR is Boston’s main NPR station, and where I’m I do most of my public radio listening. While weather isn’t the main thing on ‘BUR, it’s a frequent thing, and what makes me feel at home when I listen. Lately the report has been what we’ve heard most of this summer: more rain. Flash flood watch, even.

Still, as I looked around here, it’s sunny and clear and perfect in the same way that Boston weather this summer has been sucky. That’s because I’m listening in Santa Barbara. At home I use our Sonos system, and in the car I use the Tuner app on my new iPhone. Tuner costs money and is missing some pieces (just like the iPhone), but it’s a great way to listen to radio.

I got an iTrip AutoPilot to go with it. The design is good, but its FM signal is way too weak. Not sure if I’ll take it back, but I’ve abandoned it while jacking the iPhone into one of those fake tape cassettes on a wire, which I shove into the car’s cassette player. (The car is a ’95 Infiniti.) ‘BUR is easy on the cell system because its stream is just 24kbps. I’ve also done a lot of listening to faster streams, all the way up to 128kbps, and I gotta say those work pretty well too, over the 3G system. My fave at the top rate is , which is just an awesome music station.

The main result for me is a new set of prelminary conclusions about the final stage of radio.

1) Live still matters. I have lots of stored music and podcasts on my iPhone. They’re great to have, but there’s no substitute. Stored and live are not the same. Both have their virtues, and now both can be maximized.

2) Human still matters. When I listen to WBUR in the morning, I expect to hear Bob Oakes, even if what he’s saying could be said by anybody.

3) The primary medium for radio, as with every other form of digital communication, is now the Net. Over-the-air (OTA) will still matter for a long time, but it will be become secondary rather than primary.

4) The cell phone system will become a data system that carries telephony, rather than the vice versa we have now. The same goes for the Net at home as well. What we still have in both cases is dial-up: data piggy-backing on telephony or cable TV. In terms of provider priorities, that’s the way it’s been for awhile, but the flip is going to come, and the sooner we make that happen, the better.

5) The iPhone is less a phone than a platform for mobile Internet applications that start with telephony. Voice will always be the primary personal mobile communications activity; but it will be one application, or set of applications, among many. Radio is another of those applications.

6) iPhones and other MIDs (mobile internet devices) will become bags of tools for doing all kinds of highly personal and engaged stuff. Today I’m in Toronto blue-sky-ing at PlanetEye (I’m on their board), thinking about all this. Long ago Larry Josephson told me “Radio is personal. That’s it.” But when all you had were transmitters and non-interactive receivers, there was a limit to how personal it could be. Not any more.

I’ll add more, but I gotta go.

Dave Barry is back, covering the Olympics.


In May of last year I flew from London to Los Angeles and shot a lot of pictures out the window. While still ascending toward the sky over Scotland and beyond I shot a city I later discovered was Manchester.

Since then the photo has acquired 21notes by 3 different people. Go through the 49 shots at that last link and find many more notes from more people than I can count. Amazing. I love that kind of help.

Speaking of which, many shots like this also serve duty in Wikipedia. I just discovered where they live.


Just so I don’t lose them…

I was 4.5 years younger when that interview was shot, at a Linux Desktop Summit near San Diego. I haven’t watched more than a few of the clips, but I doubt I’d change much if anything of what I said back then. I was talking about what was happening to the software industry over a long period of time. Those trends were clear to me then and clearer to me now.

So, if you want to save yourself thousands in consulting fees, or millions you might risk wasting on proprietary lock-ins, give them a look.

Piques and valleys

Fun to look at Google’s news archive timelines. Here are some profiles for Obama, JFK, Ubuntu, and Katrina. That should get you started.

Remembering Gluetrain

Every once in awhile I like to point back to the best Cluetrain parody ever: The Gluetrain Manifesto. It went up in mid-’99, and has lived in the Internet Archive ever since it went dark sometime between October and December of ’04. Most of the links to other Gluetrain parts still work too.

Since CNN bothered to make James Burgett one of its heroes (an honor he richly deserves) why not maintain the video that says so? Why does a video have to “expire”? For that matter why should the rest of the CNN links on that story, other than the one to the ACCRC, go to expired or 404′d CNN locations?

Bulletin to CNN: I’d gladly pay to see that video (or after seeing it). But on my terms, not yours.

Spammers du jour

Today I got three attempted spam comments from MindCafe.org and one from Jaworski Coatings. I just want to make sure they’re publicly flagged as spammers. (Note: I’m not bothering with others that are purely evil and impossible to shame in any case.)

With linkful sourcings of Darren Rowse, Richard McManus and Mark Rizn Hopkins, Duncan Riley in The Changing Blogosphere and Blogging 2.0 shows me how full-circle blogging has become:

  Blogging 2.0 runs counter to the prevailing ethos in blogging, which is maximize your Google juice, your page views, your links in, and refrain from sharing that traffic with others, without putting the end user first. Blogging 1.0 is all about maximizing the opportunities for the blog owner while ignoring community, where as blogging 2.0 maximizes the experience for the end user (reader).

  In focusing on the experience for the end user, via linking, sharing and enabling the conversation across many places, blogging 2.0 rallies against today’s accepted norms.

So… what was blogging back when there was no advertising on it, and few of us wanted any? Back then the prevailing ethos was nothing more complicated than writing linky, interesting and helpful posts for readers rather than just for traffic. For a lot of us, that’s what it’s been all along.

Sounds to me like “Blogging 2.0″ is a lot like blogging before it became flogging.

A wise warning from Shelley Powers:

  At issue is not that broadband companies are becoming overwhelmed, but that the same companies providing broadband are beginning to perceive that online video offerings such as Netflix WatchNow, Hulu, iTunes, and so on could become an eventual threat to their bread-and-butter operations: offering entertainment packages. Capping broadband use to prevent competition is against the law in this country. If this is the situation, when reason fails, the courts will then need to become engaged. I have to think the ISPs know this, and such knowledge will give them pause.

The trick for carriers is not to protect doomed business models, but to pursue benefits to incumbency other than trapping and milking customers the usual way.

The Net is a sea of bits: a rising tide that lifts all but the boats that defy its nature. The carriers have enormous advantages here, and not just in billing out the usual scarcities, or leveraging the lame assumptions all carriers, cable included, inherit from the late Ma Bell.

For example, I have Verizon FiOS at my apartment in Boston. I get 20Mb of symmetrical service for about $65 a month. On top of that they offer some premium services, only one of which I want: offsite backup. I’d try to get it, but there’s no link to the service on that page; just a promo. So I’ll give up on that for the moment (I’m in Santa Barbara anyway) while I point to the Verizon FiOS Internet for Business pricing page. Here the prices start at levels much higher than home pricing. What’s the difference? I can see reasons for charging a bit more, but why that much? How much business does this kind of Old Skool captive-market tiering prevent rather than encourage?

For that matter, why should my Internet service take a back seat to television, which soaks up most of my actual fiber-to-the-home bandwidth. Says here that’s 2.4Gb downstream and 1.4Gb upstream. Most of the downstream is devoted to live TV that I don’t watch. Most of the upstream is wasted.

Think about what could be done with that capacity. Don’t think about any business that now exists, much less of protecting it. Just think about what new uses and businesses could grow in those wide-open spaces. Think about how those new businesses would justify even more fiber-to-the-home build-out by Verizon and everybody else.

We have a friend over here who is new to chat. So we got her going on Gmail so she can talk with a variety of others with different clients. But her new Gmail account tells her in the chat window that chat is off and that she must sign out and sign back in again to make it work. It doesn’t, and still says the same thing. Any ideas? Thanks!

During the long drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara yesterday we looked forward to vegging on the couch and taking in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, recorded earlier but presented in prime time by NBC on its local affiliates.

With our nice Sony flat screen, fed by our top-end Dish Network receiver, we figured to be watching the show in high-def. But Dish wasn’t obliging. Seems that getting the locals up in HD is a bit of a chore. Dish doesn’t publish a schedule for that, but DirecTV does. Here’s the list of 150 markets where DirecTV will be introducing local HD channels to the whole HD line-up, gradually, month by month. Santa Barbara’s not on it. Being the number 200-something market, we’re pretty far down the priority list. Since DirecTV and Dish compete pretty much across the board, I’m sure Dish will be just as slow at getting those to us.

To Dish’s credit, my call for help got escalated to a high-level support person who was far more helpful than the first person I talked to. He said that a steady fiber-optic link had to be established between each local affiliate and Dish’s uplink center near Denver. This takes time, and accounts for the hold-up.

Turns out CNBC and USA have a lot of Olympics coverage too; but not, apparently, of the opening ceremonies. Not that I could tell, anyway.

Some of the time we can get HDTV over the air from San Diego and Tijuana, which are more tan 200 miles away, across the open Pacific. But last night (only a few hours ago as I write this) only the ABC signal came in. NBC is the Olympics network, and the San Diego NBC affiliate, KNSD, wasn’t there. (Over-the-air (OTA) digital transmission is kinda binary. You get it or you don’t.)

Our “local” NBC affiliate is KSBY from San Luis Obispo. Its low-def signal on Channel 6 is a long way off in any case, and at the end of its journey here slams into the 4000-foot high Santa Ynez mountains. The station’s HD signal, on UHF channel 15, might as well be coming from Alaska, since UHF signals don’t travel nearly as well as VHF (channels 2-13).

So we settled for KSBY’s low-def picture, which reaches us by a route that leaps mountains by running a 50,000 mile route from San Luis Obispo to Denver to a satellite over the equator and then down to us here in Santa Barbara.

It’s all actually a pretty messy system, considering.

And I’m expecting it to get a lot messier after next February 17th.

Here’s a photo tour of another Channel 6 transmitter site, also doomed to go dark in February.

Olympics in low-def

During the long drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara yesterday we looked forward to vegging on the couch and taking in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, recorded earlier but presented in prime time by NBC on its local affiliates.

With our nice Sony flat screen, fed by our top-end Dish Network receiver, we figured to be watching the show in high-def. But Dish wasn’t obliging. Seems that getting the locals up in HD is a bit of a chore. Dish doesn’t publish a schedule for that, but DirecTV does. Here’s the list of 150 markets where DirecTV will be introducing local HD channels to the whole HD line-up, gradually, month by month. Santa Barbara’s not on it. Being the number 200-something market, we’re pretty far down the priority list. Since DirecTV and Dish compete pretty much across the board, I’m sure Dish will be just as slow at getting those to us.

To Dish’s credit, my call for help got escalated to a high-level support person who was far more helpful than the first person I talked to. He said that a steady fiber-optic link had to be established between each local affiliate and Dish’s uplink center near Denver. This takes time, and accounts for the hold-up.

Turns out CNBC and USA have a lot of Olympics coverage too; but not, apparently, of the opening ceremonies. Not that I could tell, anyway.

Some of the time we can get HDTV over the air from San Diego and Tijuana, which are more tan 200 miles away, across the open Pacific. But last night (only a few hours ago as I write this) only the ABC signal came in. NBC is the Olympics network, and the San Diego NBC affiliate, KNSD, wasn’t there. (Over-the-air (OTA) digital transmission is kinda binary. You get it or you don’t.)

Our “local” NBC affiliate is KSBY from San Luis Obispo. Its low-def signal on Channel 6 is a long way off in any case, and at the end of its journey here slams into the 4000-foot high Santa Ynez mountains. The station’s HD signal, on UHF channel 15, might as well be coming from Alaska, since UHF signals don’t travel nearly as well as VHF (channels 2-13).

So we settled for KSBY’s low-def picture, which reaches us by a route that leaps mountains by running a 50,000 mile route from San Luis Obispo to Denver to a satellite over the equator and then down to us here in Santa Barbara.

It’s all actually a pretty messy system, considering.

And I’m expecting it to get a lot messier after next February 17th.

Here’s a photo tour of another Channel 6 transmitter site, also doomed to go dark in February.

This is worse than sad news. One winces to read Elizabeth Edwards post about it on DailyKos. It ends,

  I ask that the public, who expressed concern about the harm John’s conduct has done to us, think also about the real harm that the present voyeurism does and give me and my family the privacy we need at this time.

Celebrity voyeurism is the neon-lit armpit of every culture infected by it, especially when its light and stink surround the wounded. As voters, however, we can breathe a sigh of relief that the country was spared another Bill Clinton: a man whose little head told his big head what to do — at risk to everybody else’s, starting with his own family.

Greater radio

Nice to learn that Joe Frank, one of the greatest radio artists of all time, is back. In a way. You can listen in a browser to .wma selections from albums he sells. It would be nice for Joe to make those available as .mp3s as podcasts.

Maybe when we get this put together we can find a new way for him to make money with his art.

This here suggests I’m right brained. I can’t get the dancer to spin left.

Not sure where to go with that, other than nowhere. Maybe if I were left-brained I’d have a strategy.

Hat tip to Sheila Lennon… who [later...] adds this bonus link.

My Wikipedia entry is once again the stub it was. The threatening stuff at the top of the page is gone. The deletion debate page is now archived. At the top it says,

  The result was Clear case of snow. Article needs some improvement, but doesn’t require deletion to address issues.. TravellingCari 01:58, 7 August 2008 (UTC)

I’m not sure what “clear case of snow” means. Is it that there were twelve votes to keep the entry and none for deletion? Or is it wikipedia-speak for something else? No matter. I’m glad the entry was saved, and grateful to the folks who helped save it — both on that page and in comments elsewhere. Much appreciated.

I used to think I should do more writing and editing in Wikipedia; to put my shoulder to the vast wheel of a project from which I draw many benefits and contribute almost nothing. I know lots of well-sourced material I could bring to many subjects, and I could help with copy editing on many more. In fact I could spend the rest of my life doing nothing but editing poorly-written articles on Wikipedia. So could lots of other people.

I hate to say it, but there are more highly leveraged things I can do. Most of those involve writing as well — writing that’s mine and not anybody else’s. I turned sixty-one last week. While I have just as much energy and drive as I’ve ever had, I also know that I’m ratcheting down the short end of life’s stick. I need to do more of something I’ve always sucked at: investing my time wisely and deliberately, even as I continue to enjoy spelunking down the digressive tunnels of my insatiable curiousity about damn near everything. As digressive intellectual tunnels go, Wikipedia has no rivals in the online world. Among those digressions is figuring out how Wikipedia works, and how to participate in a fully engaged and meaningul way. I feel like I need to be a lawyer to figure out all the rules.

So here’s what I’ve learned and now need to put to work.

First, I need to write newspaper op-eds. Here’s a good one by Dan Gillmor that ran the other day in the San Francisco Chronicle. And here’s another, by David Weinberger, in the Boston Globe. I should follow their lead.

Second, I should start writing books. For real. Since Cluetrain came out, Chris Locke and David Weinberger have put out two books apiece. Me: none. I’ve been accumulating text toward The Giant Zero, which is about the Net and its infrastructure (which I believe is inadequately understood — by everybody, including myself). I’m part of an offline community that’s working toward establishing a think tank or an academic center (like Berkman and CITS) we’re calling the Internet Infrastructure Institute. A lot of the writing is excellent fodder toward that book. My corpus of writing for Linux Journal contains more than enough material to gather into a book. There’s also the history quietly being made by the VRM community as we work toward giving customers far more power in the marketplace (among other good things).

So the will and the ways are there. I just need to make the time and use it wisely. Advice is welcome, because I’m sub-optimal at both.

Yesterday I not only learned that my Wikipedia entry was nominated for deletion, but that Tara Hunt‘s went through the same process a while back — and failed to survive. She’s still here in the physical world, still on the rest of the Web, but gone from Wikipedia.

I’m also sure her experience with Wikipedia deletion — being marched to the gallows by a finger-pointing Wikipedian, then standing there while the gathered crowd gave a thumbs-down before the trap door dropped — was reason alone to write The Whuffie Factor, a forthcoming book that comprises the entire Usage section of Wikipedia’s whuffie entry. There is a link for Tara there, and for the book too. You can follow Tara’s to the deletion log, where you’ll find records of its execution. The book is graced with pure potential: it has no entry yet.

I’m impressed at how well Tara took her sentence, while awaiting her entry’s execution:

There are oodles of entries on Wikipedia like this, though. Debatable ‘notables’, some who obviously do use their pages as their resumé, many people who have, obviously, accomplished a lot in their lifetime, but who are not widely known for these accomplishments and missing any ‘notable third party sources’. Others I searched for are nowhere to be found, who are well-known authors, presenters, inventors and real thought leaders. But they haven’t been quoted or featured by some national publication to be verified as mattering to history. And all judgements on “delete” or “keep” are still made by a handful of individuals.
Is Wikipedia the people’s encyclopedia? Well, no. Not really. I mean, it gets closer than the Encyclopedia Britannica, but it uses similar editorial guidelines. Its advantage is that there are more sources (people) to add entries so that it can grow and encompass knowledge faster than the small, paid editorial team at EB. But I don’t think it was meant to be the people’s encyclopedia and this is where our tempers run high.
I could think, “I’m being deleted? What do these jerks know about my accomplishments?” and be personally offended and upset by this. But Wikipedia is no measure of my worth. It’s an encyclopedia that is editable and online. Period.
Should there be an encyclopedia of people? Well, there is already. It includes the internet, but extends into phonebooks, government records and personal anecdotes. Maybe we can’t all be written into history like we want to be, but know that this is a century’s old issue: History is not ‘a fact’, it is a point of view. History has been written by a small percentage of the population over time and, because of ‘scaling problems’, will probably continue in the same fashion.

Fine points, gracefully delivered.

I think the main problem for Wikipedia isn’t just scaling. It’s that Wikipedia is worst at something it is also best at: dealing with living subjects. On the one hand I’m astonished at how well Wikipedia stays on top of changing topics such as the world’s tallest structures. (Here’s a second entry, and a third.) On the other I’ve often winced at how lousy Wikipedia can be at presenting accurate biographical information about living people (Dave Winer comes to mind), and at maintaining both accuracy and neutrality on topics such as, well, neutrality. Too much of what gets written are iterative errors and approximations by partisans.

That’s why I’ve always been happy enough with a Wikipedia stub. Soon as you get past the minimal, errors and approximations set in.

All of reality is a work in progress. Especially the tiny corner of the universe that supports life. We need to remember that the Net is still new, the Web is even newer. That both have profound effects on life is undeniable. But it’s a few seconds after the Big Bang and all we have a few light elements, a lot of heat, and no galaxies. The best we can do, as Kurt Vonnegut taught, is just to be kind to each other.

Making the D list

For as long as I’ve had an entry on Wikipedia, that entry has been a “stub”: a minimal placeholder. Humbling, but at least what little it says about me is mostly accurate. And I’ve quietly enjoyed seeing what happens (or doesn’t) when one lets nature take its course with this kind of thing.

Now I learn from Rex Hammock that somebody (or bodies) at Wikipedia think I might not be “notable” enough (or something… not clear to me). So my entry now begins with “This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia’s deletion policy.” The deletion notice is as big as the entry itself.

It continues,

Please share your thoughts on the matter at this article’s entry on the Articles for deletion page.

Feel free to edit the article, but the article must not be blanked, and this notice must not be removed, until the discussion is closed. For more information, particularly on merging or moving the article during the discussion, read the guide to deletion.

So I guess we’ll see.

New daze

We’ve been having a lot of thunderstorms this summer in Boston. On Sunday we followed the last ones out of town, veering west after departing from Logan, while the clouds puffed off to the east. The dawn weather was dreary at ground level, but quite pretty, as clouds go, from altitude. So here’s a set of pictures I shot on the way out of town.

Most of the rest of the trip was cloudy, wasting a perfectly okay window with no obstructions. But I still got nearly 200 shots. I’ll be putting the rest of those up soon.

When you charge somebody for a service, your charge embodies your costs. That’s just the way business works. You bear the costs of overhead, and you charge enough to make a profits above that overhead. So, if you’re a hotel, your room rates embody the costs of heating, air conditioning, water, electricity, maid service and other necessities. Those are all overhead.

It’s time to look at Internet service the same way. Providing it should be as astandard at hotels as providing water and electric service.

Actually, more and more hotels are starting to realize this. Oddly, they’re mostly low-end hotels. But bravo for them. At least in those cases they seem to have worked out the kinks. I’ve had many fewer problems getting online over free Internet at cheap hotels than I’ve had getting online over paid Internet at expensive hotels. In fact, the costs of running a pay toilet business around Internet service are themselves pretty high, I’d reckon. You’ve got all these labor-intensive value-subtracts to maintain, starting with servers that throw login pages at users, and bump users offline if no activity is detected. These things are Murphy bait.

Of course I’m in the middle of one such mess right now, in San Francisco, where I’m paying $9.95 per day, per device, to not get online. (Luckily I have a Sprint EvDO card. But I’d rather get on a solid Net connection with more upstream speed than the EvDO card can muster.)

There is nothing wrong with a hotel hiring some outside company to make sure guests have working Internet service. But there is something wrong with a hotel offloading the entire service, and then charging guests for it. Can you imagine a hotel charging extra for water or electricity — and then sending you to some outside company to get it running if it isn’t working?

I’ve said it before and keep repeating it until it sinks in: Charging for Internet in hotels is like charging for toilets. Hotels need to get out of the pay toilet business.

What are some companies that help hotels provide free Internet to guests? Let’s have their names and pass them along. I’ll start with my hotel right here. (Where I’m currently waiting for a call from this hotel’s outside company.)

[Later...] So, at least empirically, we’ve found the solution that is also the problem: the hotel’s wi-fi system was only tested with Internet Explorer. We couldn’t get it to work with a Mac laptop or with a Linux one, each running Firefox and the former also running Safari. But when the Mac laptop fired up an ancient copy of Internet Explorer, it worked. How lame is that?

Right now I can’t log into this blog. Not through the WordPress browser dashboard, anyway. For some reason, my logged-in state was lost, just like my password to it.

My outliner knows the login and password, though. So I’m able to blog that way, which is how I post generally. But I need to be logged in to make comments as myself, or to post pictures.

Anyway, it’s a weekend, and I don’t think I’ll be able to get stuff staightened until Monday. Meanwhile I’ll be flying and driving a lot, as well as working. So, happy trails.

I’ll be at Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas in September. Gotta say that I wouldn’t be going if it didn’t coincide with another obligation in town. But since I’ll be there, I’m interested in seeing if a sharper distinction can be made between blogging and flogging. You can see the split by looking Blogworld’s own promotional jive. On the one hand there’s this…

  …if you want to influence decision makers, sell a product or service, if you want to promote yourself as an industry expert, or build your brand using new media…

And on the other hand there’s the Citizen Journalism Workshop, with a program developed by David Perlmutter, Ph.D. In addition to being the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at Kansas University’s School of Journalism with a distinguished adacemic pedigree — and a blogger — David is busy doing research on a grant from Knight Foundation to “study the relationship between reading blogs and newspapers”.

Generally speaking, I’ll be a lot more interested in the latter than the former.

Looking forward to seeing some of ya’ll there.

[Later...] I just learned that I might be on a panel. You can guess what I’ll be saying. Though I’ll be listening too.

A unit of what?

A knol, Knol says, is a “unit of knowledge”. I don’t think so. But I do think Knol is already becoming a den of spam.

My cursory research, at that link, suggests that the answer is yes. “Anemia“? No results. “Hair“? 12, including several (supposedly) by the top guy at the Beauty Network. “Cancer“? 38, so far, inncluding three in the first page of results for the biggest spam giveaway, Mesothelioma. Search for anything. Watch the results.

If this is about a fight with Wikipedia, I’d say it’s no contest. But it’s not. It’s about the corrupting influence of pure scammy ambition. Even if Google doesn’t have that, it plays host to plenty. And Knol (born on 23 July) was barely out of the womb before it got infected with it.

The only antidote, perhaps, is more knols like Bernie DeKoven‘s one on Pointless Games. That’s how I found Knol, by the way. News of its birth had escpaped me.

Bonus link.

Dan Gillmor:

  Newspapers have at least two more huge opportunities.

  First is to open the archives, with permalinks on every story in the database. Newspapers hold more of their communities’ histories and all other media put together, yet they hoard it behind a paywall that produces pathetic revenues and keeps people in the communities from using it — as they would all the time — as part of their current lives. The revenues would go up with targeted search and keyword-specific ads on those pages, I’m absolutely convinced. But an equally important result would be to strengthen local ties.

  Second, expand the conversation with the community in the one place where it’s already taking place: the editorial pages. Invert them. Make the printed pages the best-of and guide to a conversation the community can and should be having with itself. The paper can’t set the agenda, at least not by itself (nor should it), but it can highlight what people care about and help the community have a conversation that is civil and useful.

Those aren’t just opportunities. They’re advantages that papers still have. Even if they’re not using them.

Do any of ya’ll have an HD radio? If so, whaddaya think?

If not, what are the chances you’ll ever get one?

Bonus link.

I woke up with the song “Sixteen Candles” running through my mind. I didn’t get the dyslexic pun until I realized that I turn sixty-one today. Technically, I’ve got several more hours at sixty, since I’m writing this at 6:22, and I was born at about 11am (at Christ Hospital in Jersey City).

In an unrelated matter, last night I attended an Obama gathering in Boston that was enjoyable except to the degree that three followers of Lyndon LaRouche kept bending conversation sideways toward their own ideological vectors.

When the evening was ending, I stood outside talking with one of the three (who had been told to leave by one of the meeting’s organizers). At first I thought we could have a conversation, but it wasn’t possible. The guy was not only convinced absolutely of his own (and presumably LaRouche’s) rightness, but resolutely paranoid. (Later he gave me a small pile of LaRouche literature. Not surprisingly, it was thick with paranoia.)

Aside from the nature of his opinions, I found it sad that a mind so young was so completely closed.

I remember realizing, at about age sixteen or younger, that I would never know everything, and that I should always stay curious about the world and open to facts that challenge my opinions. One might think that this would get harder as one gets older, but it doesn’t. It gets easier.

We need our opinions, our certitudes, our belief systems. Can’t get along without them. But even belief systems need new information. Being right is overrated. Being open is essential if we wish to grow as human beings. At any age.

What Google Does (and needs to keep doing).

It’s about domain name registration, and how Google does that right — or closer to right than anything else I’ve found. An excerpt:

  Did I use Google just because it’s a “trusted brand”? No. In fact, there are no “brands” that I trust. Sorry, marketers, “branding” is a term borrowed from the cattle industry, and I’m done being impressed that way. (And trust me, it’s a taint that the trade isn’t going to shake.)

  I used Google because I trust them not to treat me like cattle — or worse, as a potential sucker.

  This is not to say that Google’s domain registration process is perfect, or that Google is being not-evil or anything fancy like that. My point is that Google offers a straightforward and uncomplicated service in the midst of a business that has needed one for the duration.

Just some credit where due.

This shot here (and above) has found a home here as well.

Opening the Cellwaves.

Big Business Idea

I like the hotel we’re staying in. The wi-fi signal is strong, fast and free. The bed is firm and the sheets are fine cotton, topped by a soft comforter. The AC works well and isn’t too noisy. I have no complaints except for the lack of a good desk and chair for working on my laptop.

This is standard. Very few hotels have desks with surfaces low enough to allow comfortable work. And few have chairs that aren’t uncomfortable for sitting at a laptop for more than half an hour or so.

My point: I would gladly pay more to stay in a hotel with a good desk and office chair. In fact I think an office-standard desk & chair should be listed among amenities at hotel sites and in services such as Orbitz and Travelocity.

Of course, no industry changes overnight. But it’s never too late to start. Meanwhile, consider this a primitive Personal RFP.

A few dozen million years ago, in the Eocene — not far back, as geology goes — a large lake covered much of what’s now western Colorado and eastern Utah. A lot of organic muck fell to the bottom, and now that muck is oil. Problem is, it’s locked in shale, and extracting it is no bargain… yet.

If and when it ever gets to be a bargain, look to see some of The West’s prettiest landscape ripped up.

Edge-on, the old lake bed presents itself as the Book Cliffs*, which overlook I-70 for a hundred miles. I took some shots of the region when we drove past them last year. And one of those shots now illustrates this post by Brandon Keim in his Wired blog.

[* My geography and my geology were corrected below in the comments by Ron Schott, a genuine geologist. Brandon Keim wrote about oil shales using my photo. There are oil shales, but not in these Book Cliffs deposits, which are older. The oil shales are in strata above the ones exposed here. Apologies for the errors.]

What we’re presented with here is a set of costs that can only be rationalized in terms that regard the extraction of all the world’s oil as an economic necessity — and nothing else.

I hear arguments for mining oil from places like this and a few memorable lines from the Doors’ “When the music’s over” come to mind:

What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her.
Stuck her with knives in the
Side of the dawn and
Tied her with fences and
Dragged her down.

Great song, by the way. Also the one that foreshadowed the demise of Tony Soprano on the penultimate episode of Tony’s show.

Is there foreshadowing here too?

I’m in Mystic Seaport with family, looking at boats and learning history. It’s a great place that I remember well, even though I’m pretty sure the last time I came here was in the 5th grade, which would have been a little more than 50 years ago. Most of the antique boats currently on display here are younger than that. Perspective.

Anyway, earlier today I dropped my main camera, a Canon EOS 30D, and it no longer takes accurate light readings. It works, but I have to use another camera to read light, or guess at exposures and use trial-and-error. So I need to send it in for repairs. Any recommendations on that? The unit is long since out of warranty.

By the way, the shot above was taken not with the 30D, but with a little PowerShot SD 850IS, through one lens of my polarized sunglasses. The lens of the camera is small enough to do that. Other shots in that same series were taken with the 30D, but lacked the polarizing filter. They are much sharper and less grainy, but also less colorful.

I should be adding many more before the weekend is out, even with the 30D limping along.

Mark Finnern has scheduled one of my heroes, John Taylor Gatto, for a talk at SAP’s HQ in Palo Alto, on August 21. I’ll be in Santa Barbara around that time and will do my best to make the 600-mile round trip. Believe me, it’s worth it.

I’ve never heard Gatto speak, but his essays and books have all knocked me out. I’ve talked about that here, here, here, and many other places. In any case, see him if you can. And read him if you can’t.

Bonus link.

Checking out Polymeme, a new brainservice of Evgeny Morozov. One purpose is to “push you to discover news from areas that you may not otherwise discover”, it says here.

JP Rangaswami points to This is Zimbabwe as proof that the blogosphere isn’t just “an echo-chamber, full of shallow and superficial like-minded people who couldn’t write an accurate and in-depth story about anything to save their lives”.

So, I’ll see that one and raise him one Baby Kamba.

Absolute reform for radio

The new business of free radio.

Rohit Bhargava calls it “egommunication”, and defines that as a form of communication where you can share a message or piece of content with someone based on their own consistent habit of checking mentions of themselves and their content online.

It’s an insightful post about how to reach the otherwise unreachable. But I think we move off an important base when we label a form of listening with “ego” or “vanity”. Listening for one’s name is something we all do naturally, all the time. It’s the way our brains are wired, by necessity. Online we have to do it manually, by setting up a feed of searches for our names, along with other subjects that interest us.

This is not to say that ego and vanity play no role in communications of all kinds. Just that listening to hear one’s name dropped, or called, is not by nature an egotistical activity.

Speaking of dropping (or its opposite), that’s Rohit on the left in this photo, with the big camera. I’m there on the right, farther back, also floating in the air of a 727 treating its occupants to zero G-force. I think by this time my own little camera had floated away.

Getting around

I shot some Puffins the other day, from an old lobster boat piloted by my cousin George, who is a local on Maine’s Muscongus Bay. We skirted just past the surf surrounding Eastern Egg Rock, from which puffins disappeared in the 1800s after settlers ate all their eggs. The birds have been re-established there with great help from Project Puffin and the Audubon Society. There was a nice story in the Boston Globe yesterday about puffin restoration at the small, rocky island. I was there a few days earlier, and I’ve got the pictures. Fun combo.

Puffins are smallish birds with large colorful bills. Except when they’re laying eggs or fresh from hatching between hard rocks, they spend their whole lives on the open sea. The Globe story mentions one bird that’s 35 years old. That’s a long time on Earth for a sea creature that lives mostly on or above the surface.

Anyway, travel. I do a lot of it, along with plenty of photography. For those and related reasons I am on the board of PlanetEye, a new company that just launched on the Web. Check ‘em out. Give’m feedback, too. They have a link for it, and I know they listen.

Sheila Lennon on improvements inside the Projo (Providence Journal online) blog mill:

  The most interesting new feature, to me, is the MultiBlog: Whenever a new post, photo or comment publishes to any projo blog, it will simultaneously publish in realtime to Multiblog. You get an eagle’s-eye view of all today’s news there in one chronological stream.

  This was inspired by Dave Winer‘s River of News aggregator…

I still think the news river is one of the most underutilized Great Ideas.

But give it time. It’ll hit.

Somewhere back there I said that local TV evening news would be toasted by the inevitable end of subsidies for local TV dealership advertising. Then I was just pointing at the wall. Here’s the writing that’s starting to appear. Hat tip to Terry Heaton for that one.

Also for this, which points in another direction:

  After years of careful planning, Media General’s NBC affiliate in Raleigh, WNCN-TV, has quietly launched what is one of the most creative and exciting approaches to relevant and hyperlocal information anywhere on the Web. MyNC.com is a highly organized portal featuring user and staff-generated content from even the smallest communities in the area. The site launched earlier this spring with just one neighborhood but has expanded since to include a big chunk of the overall market. There’s no reason it can’t eventually cover the entire state of North Carolina.

  The brainchild of WNCN President and General Manager Barry Leffler, the pioneering idea was funded by Media General in hopes of discovering new business opportunities. It’s one of the few new enterprises I’ve seen coming from a local media company that really hits a business development home run. The site aggregates content from the entire region and isn’t branded as a part of the TV station.

  Content is king when it comes to hyperlocal, and Leffler’s approach was to assign staffers to deal directly with each community to prime the pump and find contributors. These employees are called “Community Content Liaisons,” and they are a key to the success of the entire project.

Bonus clue: they need to make that a news river, for mobile devices.

Who new?

Digging Baby Name Guesser. Says here, “It’s a girl! Based on popular usage, it is 4.373 times more common for Doc to be a girl’s name.” Hm. I can think of Rivers, Holliday, Watson and the Dwarf. But not one girl. Yet.

Check the results for Festus.

Hat tip to Leonard Lin.

Getting up and tripping

Since last Wednesday I’ve been on the road, mostly hanging out at my aunt’s house in Maine. She’s way back in the woods, with a satellite Net connection that features a minimum of 7% packet loss (and >1 sec latencies), plus cell service that’s spotty at best. I was there to do other things anyway, mainly enjoying visits with the extended family and celebrating my father’s 100th birthday. (Much enjoyable time was spent there scanning very old photos of my father and his ancestors’ family members.)

Anyway, I’m back in Cambridge now, getting back to work on many things at once.

On the health front, it’s important to report that I’m fine now. Fifteen pounds lighter and feeling better than I’ve felt in a long time. People keep asking, so I thought blogging about it would help.

The dude above is my grandfather, George W. Searls. He was born during the Civil War, in 1863, and died in 1935 at age 72, twelve years before I was born. This shot was taken when he was about 40, I’d guess. It’s from a group photo of a bunch of workers, some holding wrenches and posing one way or another. But there is nothing posed about this guy.

Even my aunt, George’s daughter Grace, never saw this shot — at least not this way, enlarged by the miracle of scanning. She also told me she never knew her father at this age, since the old guy was already 49 when she was born in 1912. It’s one among many I scanned these last few days at Grace’s house in Maine. Connectivity there is by satellite. It beats the alternatives, but it’s poor for uploads. So now I’m home and catching up.

I wish I’d had more time to go through and scan more of the many shots Grace pulled out of boxes in her basement. Two I was glad to catch are these here: shots of the original Cyclone roller coaster at Palisades Park in New Jersey. My grandfather helped build it. (He can be seen in one of the two pictures.) Perhaps my father too. We were told for many years that Grandpa was a master carpenter on the job. It’s plausable. He was an accomplished carpenter who had worked on many varied jobs over the years, including building railroad bridges, working on the Panama Canal, and constructing sets for Universal Studios when Hollywood was still in Fort Lee. He would have been turning 65 when these pictures were taken.

More background: George was born in Syracuse, New York, to Allen and Esther Bixby Searls, the youngest of seven children. The first five were girls, the next two were George and Charles. Grace told me that George left home at 14 after tiring of being “henpecked” and went off to make a life for himself. He did stay close to he family, however. So did some of his sibs. I still remember his older sister, Eva Quackenbush. Aunt Eva was born in 1852 and was 12 or 13 years old when Lincoln was shot. I’m sure she told that story often because I recalled it when JFK was shot in 1963, ten years after Eva’s last visit not long before she died, a couple weeks shy of 100. She said it changed everything.

Anyway, this shot of Grandpa is one of my favorite of all time.

You can see the whole (growing) series at this photoset celebrating my father’s 100th birthday.

Polar Xtreme

J. Dana Hrubes has been reporting on his work and life at the North and South Pole for the last few years, but I just discovered his site this morning via the 12 July Aurora Gallery at SpaceWeather.com.

Here’s his report on 2007-2008. Here is the June page, with some amazing pictures of the aurora australis in the midst of stars. Plus this paragraph:

  June is the month when we celebrate the midwinter solstice. It means that we have lived through 3 months without the sun and there are 3 months until sunrise on September 21st. As for me, I get sad when the sun starts to rise because it means that the magic of walking miles each day to work and back under the beautiful skies of the South Pole will be over. But for now, we still have plenty of darkness left and the two coldest months are just beginning, July and August. I hope to beat my record low of -110.7 F (almost -80 C) which was in early August, 2005. I personally would like to experience -118 F and break the all time record since records at the Pole began in 1957. That also happens to be the temperature that carbon dioxide freezes at this altitude (over 10,000 ft equivalent). By the way, these are actual static temperatures, not any of that wind chill nonsense. Even at temperatures below -100 F, we still hike out to the telescope every day. I haven’t missed one day at South Pole Telescope since I got here on December 8, 2007.

His weather widget says it’s -89°F right now, or -65°C. Still, good to be there, if only vicariously.

Happy Birthday, Pop

Today is the 100th birthday of my father, Allen H. Searls. He only lived about 71 of those years, but they were all good ones, and I miss him still.

I’m writing this from Portland, Maine, on our way up to his sister Grace’s place near Booth Bay, where the family will gather to reminisce and otherwise enjoy the world we all occupy for too short a time.

Here is a photo gallery of shots from Pop’s life, including some amazing ones from his job working as a cable rigger on the George Washington Bridge — a structure that went up, almost literally, in his front yard. (A few decades later, when the lower deck of the bridge went in, the house he grew up in was demolished to make room for more roadwork.)

I’ll be adding more to this collection over the next few days as we scan and upload more shots from this collection and Grace’s as well.

Here’s my report (with links to as much as I could gather in a short time) on the VRM Workshop, over at the ProjectVRM blog.

It was an outstanding event. Lots of projects and subjects were not only vetted with the whole group, but moved forward very effectively. Thanks to everybody who came, or participated over the Web.

And thanks to the Berkman Center for hosting the event, and to Harvard Law School for providing excellent facilities. Well done.

National Public Radio has announced a new API. The gist:

  …almost everything that you can find on NPR.org that we have the rights to redistribute is available through the API. This includes audio, images, full text, etc. That said, there are elements, series and programs that we could not offer due to rights restrictions.

Archives go back to ’95. Hat tip to Andy Carvin.

Still waiting for Riverbend to show up again.

It’s an old question, not asked recently.

Here’s one. Another. Another. Odd how a blogger with such a high profile, once awol, seems forgotten by all but a few. But not by all.

I find myself among the “top ideators” on this list here. Flattered, but why no links? I can see a lot of names and sites on that page I’d like to follow.

Hey, what’s a hierarchy without links to subvert them?

Here’s the FISA bill that Barack Obama voted for after saying he wouldn’t. It’s hugely complicated.

Here’s a Volokh post that says coverage of it has been misleading.

What isn’t misleading is that he voted for a bill that he said earlier that he would oppose. (TPM has a timeline.) In his last statement he said that the bill had changed.

How, exactly? What was the tipping point, and why?

Did he do it to get votes? Surely he should have known that it would cost him the grace and support of his base. And slow his money river as well.

Did he do it on principle? Obviously two principles were involved. The civil liberties one he espoused last January and the security one that drove his vote six months later. One is a left principle, the other a right. The right one won. No pun intended.

Obama’s campaign is about getting past partisanship, at least in part. But this vote hardly did that. Instead it pissed off his most fervent partisans.

I’m also not sure the bill made the country safer, either. But I dunno. As I said, it’s a complicated bill. Maybe one or more of the rest of ya’ll can figger it out.

Meanwhile, it hurt him, bad. That helps McCain.

Mars needs code

Missing Code Challenge is my latest at Linux Journal. One excerpt:

  We each need to be independent variables, not dependent ones. What makes me trustworthy to a service like Blogger shouldn’t be code that lives entirely on Blogger’s side, while all I’ve got is one among a zillion ID/password combinations, most of which I don’t remember. I need to be trusted when I show up. Automatically.

  Maybe the means for making this happen will live out in the cloud somewhere. Or in many places. (I can see a lot of potential business here, actually.) But none of it will work unless it starts with the individual. Each of us operating in the digital world needs tools for engagement that belong to us, are operated by us, and give us autonomy, capability and control.

This is so pathetic…


That was my first, and perhaps only, successful video embed. Not my style, but I had to give it a try.

Less is mobile

This is my blog.

This is my blog on mofuse. Suddenly, cell-friendly.

Interesting. What do ya’ll think?

Freeman Dyson in the New York Review of Books, via Kevin Kelly:

There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world. Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists–most of whom are not scientists–holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

Kevin, continues, riffing off other Freeman insights from the same piece:

But while progress runs on exponential curves, our individual lives proceed in a linear fashion. We live day by day by day. While we might think time flies as we age, it really trickles out steadily. Today will always be more valuable than some day in the future, in large part because we have no guarantee we’ll get that extra day. Ditto for civilizations. In linear time, the future is a loss. But because human minds and societies can improve things over time, and compound that improvement in virtuous circles, the future in this dimension is a gain. Therefore long-term thinking entails the confluence of the linear and the exponential. The linear march of our time intersects the cascading rise and fall of numerous self-amplifying exponential forces. Generations, too, proceed in a linear sequence. They advance steadily one after another while pushed by the compounding cycles of exponential change.
Balancing that point where the linear crosses the exponential is what long-term thinking should be about.

His bottom line:

A timeline of where we expect these cost/benefit/risk-thresholds to fall in each sector of our civilization, or a field map of places we can see where our linear lives cross exponential change — either would be very handy to have

After reading this, I wonder whether caring and generosity come into play here. Becuase those are not reckoned with the logic of exchange and transaction employed by most economic arguments. What we do for love tends not to involve exchange. The purest forms of love are what we do without expectation or desire for payback. This is the kind of love we give our spouses, our children, our good friends. As St. Paul said (and says again and again at countless weddings), love does not “seek its own interests”. It does not boast. It is “patient and kind”.

There is a morality to exhange, to cost/benefit/risk-threshold economics. This is the morality of accounting, by which we repay debts and owe favors. It is the morality of fairness, of rules in sports and business contract. It is the morality of Lady Justice, holding her scales.

But the morality of accounting is different than the morality of love, which is found most abundantly in relationship. Wise teachers, religious and otherwise, have been inveighing for the duration on behalf of a larger kind of love, in which we give to strangers, or even enemies, what we give to those we know and care about. It is embodied in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, in the atheist Kurt Vonegut‘s “You’ve got to be kind!” — and, most appropriately to the topic a hand, Hafez’ famous passage:

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth “you owe me”.
Look what happens with a Love like that!
— It lights the whole Sky.

Urgings to extend selfless love to the world — to extend one’s relationship beyond the scope of the familiar and the desired — have fallen on deaf ears for the whole of human existence.

Though not entirely, or we wouldn’t have religion. It’s there in the “compassion and mercy” of karuna, the “universal love” of Mohism, the “giving without expecting to take” (via Rabbi Dressler) of Judaism. And, as Freeman points out, in environmentalism.

Is selfless love by definition religious? That might be one reason Freeman assigns environmentalism to the “high moral ground”.

Either way, we need it. The environment itself provides a long and endless record of vast changes and stunning catastrophes. Twenty thousand years ago, the northern ice cap sat like a large white hat on the Earth. Snow dumped on its middle pressed its bulk edgeward, like dough spreading under a roller. The ice picked up and crushed mountains, scraping the shattered remains across landscapes, carving grooves and lakes and fjords. At its edges were dumped the rocks and soil that today bear the names Long Island, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. The hills of Boston and the islands in its bay are mostly drumlins left by the glacier. Likewise all the inland ponds began as melted landlocked icebergs.

The Great Lakes are puddles left by the same ice cap, revealed as that cap shrank, between 14,000 and 9,000 years ago. The cap is still shrinking, revealing more of Canada every year. While what’s left of it may be melting faster than expected, we’re dealing with a trend that’s been going on for longer than humans have been walking on the Americas, which began in what is essentially the geologic present.

Human despoilation of the planet is a catastrophe that happens to coincide with the end of an ice age. Regardless of what or whom we blame, Antactica will continue to shrink, Greenland will continue to melt, and the seas will continue to rise. Compared to what’s coming, Katrina was just a hint.

As the police chief said to the captain in Jaws, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”.

Fires, cont’d

The Gap Fire is now 55% contained, and making less news, although the latest InciWeb report has this among its remarks: “Critical communication infrastructure such as Broadcast Peak are being assessed for fire protection.

Broadcast Peak is next to Santa Ynez peak, and the highest point on the possible westward path of the fire. Many TV and FM stations are up there. Much of the green country in the first picture here has recently burned.

Meanwhile, the fires up in Big Sur also continue. For more on that check out the SurFire2008 blog.

Firefighter Blog is another very good source.

I also recommend this podcast of Michael Krasny’s Forum on KQED yesterday. Lots of great stuff about Big Sur and its fire, from people who live and work there — at Esalen, Nepenthe, the Henry Miller Library, among other places.

That’s the question I get around to visiting near the end of Saving the Net III: Understanding its Frames, over in Linux Journal. It’s the long and unpacked version of Framing the Net, which ran recently at Publius.cc.

It’s the third in what’s now a series. Here’s the first and here’s the second. The second one got a lot of buzz going when it ran. This third one expands on points made at the end of the second one, almost three years ago. Unfortunatley, the points it makes are academic and likely to be dull for many. But trust me: they’re important.

Ahh, cool.

This morning we finally got the air conditioning going at our apartment here in Boston. One window unit is next to my desk here in my attic office, which had been an oven up until today. We had another one put in at the far end of the attic as well, so that space can now serve as a useful guest room. The third one went in the “master” bedroom (which isn’t much bigger than a closet). This means I might be able to sleep under covers tonight, rather than laying spread out in the path of a window fan.

The rest of the house will continue to suffer, with summer misery lightened by cheap window fans in every room.

It’s amazing to me that most of my life has been lived without much benefit of AC. We didn’t have it in any of the three houses where I grew up in New Jersey. (Well, my parents put in a unit for the dining room about the time I was shipped off to high school. Before that the home was cooled by an exhaust fan.) We didn’t have it in any of the public schools I attended, or in the high school where I lived for three years. We didn’t have it in my college dorm, or in most of the classrooms. Or in any of the places I lived off-campus. This was in Greensboro, NC, where it gets plenty hot in up to four seasons of the year.

I didn’t have AC that worked in any of the cars I drove, until I finally bought the first and only new car I ever had: a 1985 Camry.

With the single exception of a double-wide back in the woods that we lived in for a year north of Chapel Hill, there was no AC worthy of the label at any of the houses and appartments I occupied during my 20 years in North Carolina. Nor in the additional 5 years I spent in New Jersey before moving south.

Among all the houses I’ve occupied in California, I think only one had AC that was worth a damn. Our house in Santa Barbara has none and doesn’t need any. The climate there does the job.

Anyway, I’m enjoying the luxury, even if it’s noisy and environmentally unfriendly. (Though I’m told that window units are more efficient than central ones. We can always use good rationalizations.)

I catch up on some VRM postings at VRM linkage and thinkage in the ProjectVRM blog. Meanwhile we’re busy getting ready for the first VRM Workshop, hosted by the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School, on Monday and Tuesday of next week. It’s free, but we’ll want you to pitch in and help work on one or more of the many VRM projects that are getting underway. Hope to see some of ya’ll there. Tag: VRM2008.

Last laff

Nobody parodies TV news better than The Onion. They’re just wicked.

Anyway, just caught Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency on a podcast here on the plane (still boarding), and laughed so hard I just had to pass it along. It’s almost up there with this one, which still wins for truthiness.

Okay, they’re making me turn this off. See ya on the East Side.

My plane to Boston may or may not be delayed, depending on weather. Meanwhile, I forgot my laptop charger in Santa Barbara. So much for getting much done here and in the plane.

Some airports have places where you can buy laptop chargers, but not this corner of LAX. “International has a place”, says a United person behind a counter. But I’m not going to go there and come back through Security again. Too much time, too big a hassle.

Anyway, just a grr in the midst.

Noah Brier has an interesting post titled Metcalfe’s Plateau, which he describes as –

a place where the value of the network no longer increases with each additional node. In fact, thanks to spam (as deemed by me), the value of the network had started to decline, I was looking for other places to spend my time online.

In it he cites a variety of sourses, including quotage from Bob Metcalfe, Paul Saffo and Clay Shirky’s A Group is its Own Worst Enemy. Here’s that excerpt:

You have to find a way to spare the group from scale. Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations. In conversational contexts, Metcalfe’s law is a drag. The fact that the amount of two-way connections you have to support goes up with the square of the users means that the density of conversation falls off very fast as the system scales even a little bit. You have to have some way to let users hang onto the less is more pattern, in order to keep associated with one another.

Good stuff. I responded with a comment that is currently in moderation, while Noah (we hope) figures out it’s not spam. (And he’s right: having to do that is a big value-subtract.) Meanwhile, I thought I’d go ahead and post my comment here. It goes –

Metcalfe is right about networks, while Clay and Paul are right about groups.
I submit that groups are also different than “social networks,” a term that used to be synonymous with groups but now means two things: personally collected associations, also called “social graphs,” and online habitats such as Linkedin and Facebook. Both of the latter prove Clay’s point.
For what it’s worth, Linkedin has no conversation density for me because I do no conversation there. It’s just a CV viewer, and it’s good enough at that. Facebook also has no conversation density for me because keeping up with it takes too much work. This might be my fault, for somehow allowing myself to have 396 “friends,” when the number of my actual friends is far lower than that — and most of them aren’t on Facebook. Add “2 friend suggestions, 187 friend requests, 2 event invitations, 1 u-netted nations invitation, 1 blog ownership request, 180 other requests” and “23 new notifications” … plus more “pokes” than I’ll bother to count, and Facebook compounds what it already is: a gridlock of obligations in an environment architected, blatantly, to drag my eyeballs across advertising, most of which is irrelevant beyond the verge of absurdity. (On my entry page is an ad for dresses by American Apparel. It replaces one for singles. I’m male and married. You’d think Facebook could at least get *that* much right.)
The only way we can immunize ourselves from overly “scaled” services — or improve them in ways that are useful for us and not just their clueproof “business models” — is by equipping ourselves as individuals with tools by which each of us controls our ends of relationships. That means we assert rules of engagement, terms of service, preferences, additional service requests and the rest of it. This is what we are working on with ProjectVRM.
While it’s hard to imagine a world where a free market is not “your choice of silo” or “your choice of walled garden”, imagining one is necessary if we wish to fulfill the original promise of the Net and the Web.

And with that I’m outa here. Should be landing at Logan around midnight, and in Cambridge for most of the rest of the month.

Since I lack a car here, I haven’t gotten out much, and not at all to any place that gave me a vantage on the fire. Until today, that is, when we went to Goleta and I had a chance to pause on Hollister Street by the airport where the Forest Service runs P3 Orion air tankers up to the fire sites to dump bright fire retardant on the landscape. (It’s not bad, by the way. Essentially, it’s fertilizer.) Here’s the photo set. (Also added more maps to this photo set.)

Tag: sbgapfire.

Closing the Gap

This is my last full day in Santa Barbara this month (I fly tomorrow, and will be back for most of August), and I’m pleased to see the Gap Fire in what appears to be retreat. The warnings at InciWeb are less dire, evacuation orders have been reduced to warnings, and the latest MODIS Active Fire Map in the series shows new flare-ups only on the northern edge of the burn area, and away from the densely populated areas. Lots of work left to do, but I think this one is on its way to ending.

Tag: sbgapfire.

What happens after TV’s mainframe era ends next February? That’s the question I pose in a long essay by that title (and at that link) in Linux Journal.

It’s makes a case that runs counter to all the propaganda you’re hearing about the “digital switchover” scheduled for television next February 17.

TV as we know it will end then. It’s worse than it appears. For TV, at least. For those already liberated, a growing new world awaits. For those still hanging on the old transmitter-based teat, it’ll be an unpleasant weaning.

InciWeb just updated 8 minutes ago, with this report:

Fire continued creeping to the north, east, and west with limited movement due to competing wind that kept the fire from making any significant runs. On the south flank significant containment was gained due to the diminishing down canyon winds.

Fire progression continues on the northeast and northwest perimeters. The west perimeter of the fire has progressed into Tecolote Canyon.

Just added a bunch more maps to this photo set.

Tag: sbgapfire.

I’d put more on Twitter, except it isn’t working for me when I go there. :-(

First, kudos again to Edhat‘s news list for not only gathering info from many sources, but for giving equal weight to both professional and amateur sources — and for hosting a great many comments on some of the postings. As an interactive local news service, “Ed” does a fine job. When surfing for the latest on the fire, it’s a good place to start. Others among these are good as well:

Second, I have been somewhat remiss by not including GeoMAC among sources for following the fire. You can follow maps from multiple sources, as I make screen shots and upload them, here. The latest from MODIS shows new fire activity (red dots, meaning in the last 0 to 12 hours) near highway 154 and on the uphill (north) and west sides of the fire perimeter. Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass) remains open.

The LA Times this morning has ‘Critical day’ dawns for Goleta fire, enlarged by overnight wind gusts, with a dramatic photo of an air tanker (see last paragraph below) dropping red fire retardant near a house. The summary:

The blaze, while 24% contained, grew to 8,357 acres. Firefighters plan to concentrate on protecting homes to the east before another night of ‘sundowners.’ At least 2,663 homes have been evacuated.

Note that there are 97 comments so far to that story.

KEYT has a summary of evacuation areas as of 5pm yesterday. That story also has a map.

Note that chapparal wildfires, especially in steep rocky country like this, do not only spread from their edges. They also spread by dropping burning material at distances from source flames, which can have powerful updrafts. This makes fighting these fires very hard on the ground.

Inciweb’s page for the Gap Fire currently gives its size as 54oo acres, with 1072 personnel working on the fire. Under Fire Behavior, it says,

Down canyon winds continued through the night pushing the fire front into the north side of Goleta and widening the flanks east and west. Fire also continued to the north into the wind overnight with limited movement.

Planned actions:

Structure protection, create safety zones and establish contingency lines In the Goleta foothills. Construct control lines when conditions permit. Damage assessment from last night will be conducted.


Firefighters are from several agencies including the United States Forest Service and Santa Barbara County Fire Department and several local cooperators including the San Marcos Volunteer Fire Department. The California Highway Patrol, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, and the American Red Cross are assisting. ICP has been established at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Dos Pueblos High School will remain a staging area.

Current wind is gusting at 30mph from the north (down the mountains, toward Goleta). The temperature is 75° and the humidity is 25%.

InciWeb has no maps for the fire, but does suggest visiting these sources:

It’s sad that InciWeb remains both slow (often overwhelmed) and behind its own curve. I’ve had a number of email exchanges with folks working on InciWeb, and have great respect for the hard work they do within what is essentially a bureaucratic morass. I think the lesson here is that we have to do our best with many sources, and the messiness that involves.

Somewhere among the sources above I read that an aggressive aerial attack was planned to start at dawn this morning. I’m too far east (~5 miles) of the fire to see that; but it helps that Santa Barbara’s airport is in Goleta itself, almost next to the fire, and is home to one of the main Air Attack Bases for the U.S. Forest Service. Here is a photoset I shot of that base, and the P3 Orions used for bombing fires with supressant. I am sure these are in use right now.

Finally (at least for now), I want to say that I’m optimistic about this fire, even though I must disclaim any qualifications for that other than as an amateur observer. I feel a need to do that because I’ve also shot photographs that could easily be seen as scary. These two sets, for example. Please note that I shot those with a long telephoto lens to maximize the apparent size of the sun — reducing the apparent distance between subjects in the photo (such as Mission Santa Barbara, the fire and the Sun). Also because, hey, I wanted to take good photos.

Speaking of which, I also shot the fireworks from up in the hills last night, where there was also a pretty rocking party. Life goes on.

Tag: sbgapfire.

I’ve loaded too many pictures onto this blog, so for this round I’m going to just point to shots elsewhere: in this case to a photo set of  maps built with .kml files from the MODIS Active Fire Program and Google Earth.

The latest one, from about 6pm this evening, has fewer active hot spots than the previous one from 4am this morning, or the one before that from yesterday afternoon. Not sure how to interpret that, but whatever. It’s data.

This afternoon we took a walk along the beach, where hundreds of families and other social groups had set up homes and kitchens and play areas along the beach and in the park, in preparation for the fireworks tonight. It’s an annual festival, and a lot of fun. There was hardly a sign of the fire, since the wind was mostly onshore.

But this evening the wind shifted, and now we’re getting orange clouds of low smoke and ash fall.

The fire hasn’t stopped the fireworks though. Going next door now for a party. Watch for pictures of that show too.

Tag: sbgapfire.

Here is a Fox News video* that tours the Gap Fire area from the air. It’s clearly submitted by an amateur using a helicopter, judging from the monolog, flavored with casual explitives. To those (like me) familiar with the landscape, the video does an excellent job of showing how “perimeter” is a mileading notion. The fire is in many places at once. Wish that Fox or the shooter gave us a time/date for the footage. (Maybe they do and I miss it.) Seems to be from yesterday morning.

A lot of commenters on Edhat take exception to Santa Barbara’s decision to go ahead with the city’s fireworks on the waterfront. I don’t. It looks right now like the fire’s moving away from the city, which means plenty of work for firefighters keeping the rest of us safe to enjoy the holiday. Huge kudos to them for some of the hardest and most dangerous work that humans can do.

* I lost the direct link. The link to the video was in a narrow banner atop this story on Fox News, which I found via an Edhat comment. The banner is gone, and I can’t find anything through searches on the Fox site. I can still see the video, which comes up in a separate window, but copying the URL doesn’t seem to work. The URL I see is not what copies. Instead it’s the story that no longer has the banner with the link in it. (I hate this too-clever video crap on sites like this. Not to mention the lame search as well.) If anybody else has luck, let us know in the comments below. It really is an interesting video.

Jesse’s gone

Among the most amazing things to me, during my many years as a North Carolinian, was the eagerness with which a majority of voters there elected, and kept re-electing, Jesse Helms to the U.S. Senate. Hal Crowther did the best job, I thought, of summarizing Helms’ politics, even if Hal went over the top in some ways. (I can’t find my favorite Jesse piece by Hal, alas. It was written too long before the Internet, I’m sure. Meanwhile here are a few among Hal’s more recent and all-too-rare columns.)

I met Jesse Helms once. He seemed — as he was to all acounts — a nice guy. And he did save Internet radio from obliteration before retiring from the Senate. I appreciated that much.

He died early this morning, at age 86.

The above is the latest from http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/wms.php. These are updated every hour. Download the .kmz and you’ll have what I show above on Google Earth. Details:

The data links below provide access to MODIS MOD14 fire and thermal anomaly data in both a Web Mapping Service (WMS) and Keyhole Markup Language (KML) format for each specified geographic area. Both the WMSes and KMLs are updated hourly.

What’s new here, and very consistent with Ray Ford’s report below, are the red spots spreading in all directions from the fire’s origins and earlier dimensions (other colors). Note the new red ones on the right, or east. They are very close to Painted Cave, which is on the east side of highway 154. Painted Cave is currently under mandatory evacuation orders.

Bear in mind that winds are currently from the northwest, and quite gusty. The conditions are very much like those that prevailed during the Painted Cave fire, almost exactly eighteen years ago.Read the story at that link. We had friends over to the house last night. They barely escaped the Painted Cave fire, and said that the look of the smoke last night was nearly identical to what they saw during Painted Cave.

More than six hundred homes were lost in that one.

[Later...] at 7:50am the skies look clear to the west. Between this picture and story at Noozhawk (using this among other pictures by Tim Burgess) and this story at the Independent — and nothing so far on the radio (that I can find) — it looks like the winds blew the fire in a westward direction overnight, which is good for Santa Barbara, though not for the houses and ranches to the west.

Click on the shot above to see the sunset I witnessed on Upper State Street in Santa Barbara last evening. I had gone to Radio Shack for supplies, and paid cash in a dark store, since the power was out. Stopped on the way back, stepped out of the car and shot this series.

Tag: sbgapfire.

Ray Ford has an excellent report on the fire in the Independent. A sample:

Rather than forcing the fire downhill into the ranch lands where it could be dealt with by the forces that were massing along Cathedral Oaks, the flames followed lateral channels east and west along saddles formed by erosion of softer rock materials, turning what was a half mile wide fire into one with a three-to-four mile wide. By 8pm, in the Ellwood area, rancher Ken Doty, his son, and son-in-law were busy spending the night building dozer lines to protect his property from the advancing flames.

On the other end, at the top of the Fairview area, neighbors were out in the street, dumb-struck by the huge flames they could see on the hills immediately above them. The questions were mounting.

Here is Ray’s photo gallery. Also excellent. And as scary as the text.

It is significant that Painted Cave is now under mandatory evacuation orders. If the fire jumps 154 and moves into the Painted Cave area, then winds blow down toward the city from the ridge, that would be extra bad.

[Later...] 9am. Looks like the wind is blowing the fire to the west now. Except for the firefighters, it looks like this will be a nice 4th in Santa Barbara.

Tag: sbgapfire.

 [Note.. Somehow I killed this post, but managed to find the HTML in cache somewhere and restore it. I can't get the comments over, but I can point to them here and here. Meanwhile, my apologies. — Doc]

Here’s the latest MODIS-based map of the fire, which you can obtain as well, staring on this page:

Here is the latest Google Earth image, with .kmz data from ActiveFireMaps.fs.fed.us:

To their credit, KTMS/990am and 1490am are covering the Gap Fire live, between national Fox newscasts. (Though they just broke into one to cover a press conference live. They’re talking about maps and other resources, but with no references to where those might be on the Web. Also Edison “had a harrowing time” getting power back up.)

Other items from the press conference:

  • The Gap Fire is the top priority fire in California, because of its threats to populated areas.
  • West Camino Cielo (which runs along the ridge) is a workable fire break, should the fire start heading North. The fire so far has been on the south, or city, side of the ridge. If it jumps the ridge, it will be bad on the north side, where the Santa Ynez valley spreads below. This is the valley that starred in the movie “Sideways”.
  • Goleta 4th of July fireworks and other events canceled for tomorrow. Can’t find the city website, but the guy on the press conference says it refers to other sites anyway. He also said that the city’s new Reverse 911 system is ready, though new and untried. He’s also begging people to stay away from viewing the fire from Cathedral Oaks Road (the main drag below the mountains where the fire is burning).

Now KTMS is breaking away. Says 2400 acres have burned so far. KTMS has no live stream, far as I can tell.

The News-Press‘ radio station, KZSB/1290, can be heard via Windows Media from a link on the home page of the newspaper. But while KTMS and KCSB were covering the fire live, KZSB was airing an interview with a guy who’s pushing for offshore oil drilling. For what it’s worth, it was a major oil spill from an offshore platform here in Santa Barbara in 1969 that gave birth to lots of protective legislation, as well as Earth Day and much of the environmental protection movement that has peristed ever since. Odd choice, odd timing. KZSB may be the only news station in the whole country lacking a website. Sad.

For up-to-date fire maps from a national perspective, with satellite coverage by MODIS, go here. More:

Tag: sbgapfire.

Click on the above to dig one of the best photosets I’ve shot in a while. I was driving to a Radio Shack to pick up a volt-ohm meter, so we could monitor the browning out of electrical service, when I saw the sun setting through the smoke from the fire, and knew instantly that I could get a good angle on that through the Mission in silhouette. So I turned the corner, and sure enough. Got it.

Any blogger or news service that wants to use any of those shots should feel free to grab any of them. Give me photo credit if you like, but it’s not necessary. Just here to help.

(tag: sbgapfire. Hashtag: #sbgapfire)

Here’s the latest MODIS-based map of the fire, which you can obtain as well, staring on this page:

Here is the latest Google Earth image, with .kmz data from ActiveFireMaps.fs.fed.us:

To their credit, KTMS/990am and 1490am are covering the Gap Fire live, between national Fox newscasts. (Though they just broke into one to cover a press conference live. They’re talking about maps and other resources, but with no references to where those might be on the Web. Also Edison “had a harrowing time” getting power back up.)

Other items from the press conference:

  • The Gap Fire is the top priority fire in California, because of its threats to populated areas.
  • West Camino Cielo (which runs along the ridge) is a workable fire break, should the fire start heading North. The fire so far has been on the south, or city, side of the ridge. If it jumps the ridge, it will be bad on the north side, where the Santa Ynez valley spreads below. This is the valley that starred in the movie “Sideways”.
  • Goleta 4th of July fireworks and other events canceled for tomorrow. Can’t find the city website, but the guy on the press conference says it refers to other sites anyway. He also said that the city’s new Reverse 911 system is ready, though new and untried. He’s also begging people to stay away from viewing the fire from Cathedral Oaks Road (the main drag below the mountains where the fire is burning).

Now KTMS is breaking away. Says 2400 acres have burned so far. KTMS has no live stream, far as I can tell.

The News-Press‘ radio station, KZSB/1290, can be heard via Windows Media from a link on the home page of the newspaper. But while KTMS and KCSB were covering the fire live, KZSB was airing an interview with a guy who’s pushing for offshore oil drilling. For what it’s worth, it was a major oil spill from an offshore platform here in Santa Barbara in 1969 that gave birth to lots of protective legislation, as well as Earth Day and much of the environmental protection movement that has peristed ever since. Odd choice, odd timing. KZSB may be the only news station in the whole country lacking a website. Sad.

For up-to-date fire maps from a national perspective, with satellite coverage by MODIS, go here. More:

Tag: sbgapfire.

Inciweb’s latest on the Gap Fire (tag: sbgapfire. Hashtag: #sbgapfire) is 10 hours old, it says (as of 12:17am Thursday morning). Most of KEYT‘s 11pm newscast was devoted to the fire. Currently they’re reporting 1200 acres burned, 5% containment. The winds are not Santa Ana grade, but do come down from the NNW, flowing SSE over the Santa Ynez mountains (where the fire burns, above Santa Barbara and Goleta), directly toward town (and also in to the path of areas already burned by backfires, one hopes). KEYT also reported 10-13mph winds, with possible gusts up to 35. But the reporter on site said winds below, where houses are threatened, were calm.

Meanwhile ash is falling and the smell of smoke is strong. It’s stuffy, but we have all our windows shut here.

We also had a power outage. KEYT reported that nearly all of Santa Barbara and Goleta were knocked out by smoke affecting the main power lines into town, which come over the mountains from the North. (The other main power lines come over the mountains near Gibraltar Peak.) We came back on, but around 70,000 homes are still without power. The County of Santa Barbara has more on the front page of its website (that last link), but no direct link to any single report.

I’ll put up some pictures shortly, taken from our neighborhood close to the center of Santa Barbara itself, about 10 miles by air from the fire center. [Later: It wasn't easy, since the Net's speed has been way down... no doubt Cox is affected by this... but I got at least one picture up: the one above.]

Tuning around the radio dial, I only hear fire news right now on KCSB/91.9 from UCSB, alternating between English and Spanish. The station’s many Web streams are here.

More from The Independent (also on its fire page), Noozhawk, Edhat

Here is a very deep history of wildfires around Santa Barbara. Scary and important. And here is my post about them, from the last time a fire threatened. I also had some ideas last year about public radio filling the hole left by departed news and “full service” commercial stations (all of which are gone from Santa Barbara). It was on my old blog here, but seems to be gone right now.

[Later...] The Net from Cox, our cable Internet provider, is down. The borrowed Sprint EvDO card, however, works perfectly. I even managed to upload the rest of my fire smoke photo set to Flickr.

Free as in markets

My latest in Linux Journal: Time to school the FCC on what “free” really means. One excerpt:

  The easy take here is to say “On the one hand, it’s free; on the other hand, it’s filtered.” But there are more than two hands here. FCC rulemaking is octopus farming, often resulting in a tangle of tentacles that suck in more ways than you can count.

As a Free Range Customer, I’m following Uncle Dave’s lead and starting up at Identi.ca. Follow me there as dsearls, same as my Twitter handle. We’ll see how it goes.

There are orange clouds to the West. Turns out this is the Gap Wildland Fire. (Tag: . Hashtag: #sbgapfire) It’s only 35 acres so far, but it’s very close to civilization. Here’s an LA Times story that shows the fire itself, near Lizard’s Mouth, a favorite local hiking site off West Camino Cielo. (Here are some pictures I took a couple years ago.) It started late yesterday afternoon and evacuation orders stand for Glen Annie and La Patera canyons.  There is also an evacuation warning for residents above Cathedral Oaks Road, between Glen Annie Road and Fairview Avenue. Here’s a Google Map with the evacuation order marked. Lizard’s mouth is the bare area above that on the map.

Cool: Kevin Marks just turned me on to the user-created Maps search for Glen Annie Canyon. (Tried to embed it, but that didn’t work. Not sure one can embed stuff in Harvard blogs.)

If you are among the hundred thousand or so in the potential line of fire (pun intended), here are some links:

I’d include the Santa Barbara News-Press, our local newspaper, on that list, but the website is down right now. Of course the News-Press itself has been one long sad story over the past three years.

I’ve also just set up an experimental Twitter source, sbgapfire. If it works it should serve the same purpose that sandiegofire did last year. If any of ya’ll want to help me set it up right, or to set up something else that’s better, please do. (As of 10:02am PDST, Twitter is “down for maintenance.” Grrr.) Thanks.

Sky show

Since moving to the Boston area for the school year, we have done appoximately zero astronomy. Now that we’re back in Santa Barbara, it’s fun to pick up where we left off.

Last night I sat outside with The Kid, just like we did for most evenings of his first ten years on Earth and re-acquianted ourselves with the ranking stars and constellations. Boötes, Hercules and Corona were high overhead. The Big Dipper was about as high as it gets at our vantage at 34° north. It was a bit hazy and lights from the city blanked out the Milky Way, but objects brighter than the third magnitude were visible, and two of those were the TRMM and Genesis II. We’d seen TRMM (NASA’s Tropical Rainforest Measuring Mission) many times before, but the Genesis was new to us. Turns out it’s a commercial venture by Bigelow Aerospace, and was launched only recently, in June 2007. Among its payloads are “Fly your stuff” and a bingo game you can play from the ground. Really. More here.

In case we forget

There are aparent connections between forms of cholesterol and memory.

In The right to blog: freedom’s next frontier , Evgeny Morozov came away from Global Voices Online‘s Citizens Media Summit in Budapest with a perspective on blogging that is refreshingly free of U.S.-centric tech and political preoccupations, and grounded in truly serious social and political concerns elsewhere. Some excerpts:

  …these idealistic people did not talk much about gadgets, fashion, or campaign-financing; nor rush to praise or scorn Barack Obama or John McCain; nor fret over the latest celebrity-hunt or political trick in the style of Gawker or the Huffington Post. Instead, they got into heated discussions (often in heavily accented English) over a different set of topics: internet filtering, human-rights violations, and the future of freedom of expression.

  This, then, was a different kind of blogger and a different order of reality. The background of many of the participants told the story: for in their countries of origin many at the Budapest gathering sustain their blogs in face of the threat or reality of arrest, intimidation and beating from the authorities. Their enemies are real, not imaginary. Their blogs are exercises in courage.

  …Even in places with low internet penetration, blogs can still have a significant impact in creating channels to voice dissent and influence wider media networks. Kenyan bloggers, for example, have built synergistic relationships with the country’s radio journalists, who have come to rely on blogs for materials for their programmes, thus making blogs accessible (albeit indirectly) to virtually anyone in the country.

  …The Budapest experience suggests that the movement slowly emerging on the margins of the blogosphere shares much in common with an older generation of those who sought to “speak truth to power”.

  …The ubiquity of the internet – accessible via computers or mobile-phones in almost any corner of the planet – is being matched by the growth in explicit and implicit restrictions on free speech.

  …The long-term balance of forces in this contest is poised. If not all governments have the time, money, or patience for systematic censorship, they may resort to an easier and cheaper way to collect a person’s email password: imprisonment and, eventually, torture. Today, the greatest threat to freedom of expression online is not web censorship but mistreatment of bloggers.

And finally,

  The Citizen Media Summit raised the idea that the equivalent of the Reporters without Borders group – a “Bloggers without Borders” – might be created to lobby for bloggers’ release from jail and right to speak freely. But would bloggers get the same protection as journalists and political prisoners; could traditional groups expand their role and make such a new organisation unnecessary? Such are the questions that western governments and many traditional human-rights organisations – as well as bloggers themselves – must answer as soon as possible.

Blogs are journals (as I’ve said many times). As we saw at this summit, blogs in many places are about as serious as journals can get — and among the most essential of emerging institutions in civic life. So, rather than start a new borderless organization just for bloggers, how about expanding Reporters Without Borders to include bloggers as well? I’d say more about it, but I can’t get the Reporters Without Borders site  rsf.org, for reporters sans frontieres) to load. Here’s the Wikipedia page. That’s where I discover that to some degree it’s already happening. Reporters sans frontières – Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents is an RSF publication with sections contributed by Dan Gillmor, Jay Rosen and Ethan Zuckerman, a co-founder of Global Voices Online.

In any case, blogging matters for the same reason journalism has always mattered. Discussions at the Citizen Media Summit highlight that fact.

I’d forgotten how it is, dealing with Cox High Speed Internet here in Santa Barbara. We got spoiled with Verizon FiOS in Boston. It’s never down. Customer support is solid. And the data rates rock: 15-20Mb/s, symmetrical, for about the same as we’re paying here.

But here we are, back in town for as much of the Summer as we can take in. Everything is beautiful, except for the Net.

First, I’m paying the “premium” rate for the best they can get me. After a long talk with customer service and tech support in San Diego on Friday afternoon, they repeated to me what they’ve told me before: while they offer up to 12Mbps download speeds elsewhere, and plan for more — and while I’m paying for 10Mbps on the download side in order to get 1Mbps on the upload side, my area is only provisioned for 5-6Mbps down. And that, in fact, Santa Barbara is on the bottom of Cox’s list of areas to upgrade. No change there. We heard that two years ago. Santa Barbara is hind tit for Cox.

Second, outages. These happen now and then with Cox, always without warning. Nothing on the website. No emails saying when it’s going to happen.

So one happened today. Fortunately I have a borrowed Sprint EvDO card here. (My Verizon one won’t work on my newer laptops.) I just checked and it gets 1.096Mps down, 533Kbps up. Not bad, considering. Anyway, I used that connection to get on the Cox service website and eventually found a chat interface. I wanted to copy and paste the text, but the interface doesn’t allow that. So I took a series of screen shots and put together the whole dialog as a .jpg, leaving out the personal info that it asked for. Speaks for itself:

Obviously, Edward is doing the best he can, given the narrow and stilted pro formalities he is required to utter. I’m not knocking him. Heck, I’m glad he’s there, and I really do think he’s sorry for the inconvenience. But really, why not notify people that you’re doing work in the area, which is what a “planned outage” involves? Why not send out an email that says something like, “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but we’ll be upgrading service in your area starting at 1pm Monday afternoon. We’ll work to minimize downtime. Thanks for your patience.” I notice that’s what universities do when they have planned outages. Why not do the same?

And why use a chat client that won’t let the user copy anything? One can guess, but one wouldn’t be kind.

The thing is, Internet service is secondary for Cox. They’re a Cable TV company first, and an Internet Service Provider second or third (after telephony).

There have to be better ways. A small group of us have been working on that here in Santa Barbara for several years. Given the troubles that municipal “broadband” has run into elsewhere in the U.S., it’s probably just as well that we’ve taken it slow.

Meanwhile, here’s an interview I did with Bob Frankston in May. Lots of grist for many mills there.

Here’s what’s essential, and too often lost in arguments over “Net Neutrality”: companies like Cox need to find benefits to incumbency other than the traditional monopoly/duopoly ones. Here’s one: beat Amazon and Google in the offsite storage and compute businesses. Or partner with them to deliver more and better utility Web services.

Essential guidance for that: ‘s .

[Later...] A guy with a hard hat, a tool bucket and a long bright orange ladder just came down from the pole behind our house and told us we should be getting much higher speeds as soon as they finish working on something back up the street. Good to know.

The trip across the country on Friday yielded very little photography, at least for me: a set just 26 shots long. Our 3-person family had row 12 on the left side of a United 757-200. That’s one of the rows with a blank wall where a window might otherwise be. Our only window was usable only if we reclined the seat, and then it was pitted and dusty, and on the sunny side of the plane as well, which makes for terrible aerial photography. (Here is a shot that focuses on the window itself. Amazing we got anything through that.) Also we were on the leading edge of the wing, with the left engine intruding into much of the view of the land below. On top of all that, it was pretty hazy and/or undercast from coast to coast. The main exception was our flight path southwest across the Wind River Range of Western Wyoming, which features more than 40 named peaks in excess of 13,000 feet. Many of those are in the shot above, along with Willow and Boulder lakes on the far side of the mountains. I am sure Gannett Peak, highest in Wyoming, is near the center of the shot, which also takes in the Continental Divide

The Kid shot nearly all the pictures, by the way. He had that seat.

Cacheing up

This was my first piece about The Giant Zero, from October 2006. Holds up pretty well.

Home again

It’s great to be back at our house in Santa Barbara, with our pool and a climate that is almost criminally nice … cool, dry and breezy while most of the rest of the country swelters.

Spent a bunch of time yesterday in Cambridge trying to find a portable 250 Gb hard drive so I could take most of my photo achive west with me to work on here, where I have a comfortable desk and chair and a nice big screen.

After spending much of yesterday evening pulling all the archives together, and putting them all on this nice little new drive, I forgot it. Not the worst bummer, but still a downer.

Could be worse

Sitting with the family between planes while delayed at SFO. One good thing: checked the speed and I’m getting 2841kbps down and 3670kbps up. Not bad for airport wi-fi.

Can’t wait to get back home to Santa Barbara. The Kid calls our Cambridge place “alt.home” or “SHIFT_HOME”. But, much as I love Boston (even the weather), SB is still Home.

Quote du jour

Alpha male philandering is the oldest form of recreational arrogance. — Britt Blaser. From a now-old post. But I think it’s still true.

I’m not a car nut — I could never afford to be, lacking both the money and the time — but I do enjoy and appreciate them as works of arts, science, culture and plain necessity. So, about a month ago the kid and I joined Britt Blaser at the Concours d’Elegance in Newport Harbor, looking at an amazing collection of antique cars and motorcycles, all restored or preserved to a level of perfection you hardly find in new cars off the production line.

We also got to hang with new friends from Iconic Motors, who are making a very hot little sports car designed and made entirely in the U.S., mostly by small manufacturers of obsessively perfected goods. Took a lot of pictures of both, which you’ll find by following the links under the photos.

Days vs. Daze

Maarten is going into Day 10 of chemo. Writes Lori,

  He slept a little, and is finally eating something, but I think this has been the toughest day for him physically so far. According to the nurses, tomorrow, day 10, is when his immune system will be at it’s lowest point in the cycle.

  All of your positive thoughts, messages and love are being recieved and keeping him afloat.

Lots coming from here, big guy. I’m out and getting better. You should be too. :-)

So now it’s time to put lessons to work.