January 2009

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Coal ranching

On Tuesday I got my first good look into the coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. This is literally where the deer and the antelope played, until the human appetite for power began eating it up. Featured are the Jacobs Ranch and Black Thunder Mines. The latter is featured in John McPhee’s Uncommon Carriers. Great reading. Go get it. (The chapters appeared first in The New Yorker.) Black Thunder (that’s it, above) is the world’s largest coal mine. It’s owned by Arch Coal. About its Powder River mines, Arch says,

Arch had sales volume of 99 million tons of coal in 2007 in the southern Powder River Basin in Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal-supply region. This tonnage is produced at Thunder Basin’s Black Thunder and Coal Creek mines. Arch controls approximately 1.75 billion tons of reserves in the PRB.

I also shot Coal Creek, which is on the other side of another huge mine, Jacobs Ranch. Got many shots of that one too. In fact, I have all these shots in RAW, in case anybody wants a high-quality copy.

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This review was helpful to me.

Hat tip.

Updike at rest

John Updike was a writer of astonishing gifts, discipline and scope. The sum of his work — novels, essays, poetry, criticism — is enormous. Besides his sixty-one books (including 23 novels), for more han half a century he was a reliably frequent byline in The New Yorker. Sourcing the magazine, USA today says Updike contributed “862 pieces, including 154 poems, 170 short stories and 327 book reviews.” His latest book, The Widows of Eastwick, came out last October in hardcover and still graces tables by the front doors of bookstores. I’ve picked it up and read parts of it several times, declining to buy it because I’d rather read its prequel, The Witches of Eastwick, first. I’ll guess I’ve read at least half of his novels, but neither of those two.

I picked Widows up again last night while paying a visit to Kepler’s Bookstore with JP Rangaswami (a book lover of the first water) and Martin Geddes. As usual with books in stores, I opened to several sections at random, just to sample the writing. And, as always with Updike, I could hardly stop, no matter where I turned. His descriptive precision, the forward motion of his dialogue, the troubled yet charming depth of his characters — blew my mind, and made me grateful that he was with us so long. And yet I’m also pissed that he’s gone at just seventy-six years old, and in apparent full vitality before a lung cancer diagnosis in November.

He died in a hospice, not far from where we live in Massacusetts. Both these facts bothered me. A hospice is so anticlimactic, so plotless. (Did he write in those last two months? Did he record his thoughts in full knowledge that he was due to expire soon? He must have. I cannot believe otherwise. He wrote too well and long about death.) And I had always wanted to meet him.

How odd that lung cancer is what got him. The assumption, naturally, is that he was a lifelong smoker, like so many in his generation, especially writers. The picture in his Wikipedia entry, from 1955, when he was twenty-three years old, shows a skinny kid with a thoughtful expression, sitting on a bench, a burned-down cigarette between the fingers of his left hand. In Self Consciousness, a memoir published in 1989, he recalls with amazement that he had been a smoker as a young man, and how he barely remembered what that was like.

And yet he could describe anything, regardless of whether not he had experienced it first-hand. In The Coup and Brazil, he inhabited the minds of casually murderous protagonists utterly unlike himself — or most readers — with a veracity bright as daylight.

Most of Updike’s characters had strong libidos, or so it seems in retrospect. Of all his sexual passages, one line stands out: “Masturbation! Thou saving grace note upon the baffled chord of self.” From A Month of Sundays. (I got that quote here. I remembered it as “… thou grace note on the tortured chord of self.” Not sure which is right.)

The depth of his understanding probed constantly and sometimes creepily toward the absolute. Look at the opening of The Widows of Eastwick. The first paragraph ends with “Wicked methods make weak products. Satan counterfeits creation, yes, but with inferior goods.” And then continues, “Alexandra, the oldest in age, the broadest in body, and the nearest in character to normal, generous-spirited humanity, was the first to become a widow. Her instinct, as with so many a wife suddenly liberated into solitude, was to travel — as if the world at large, by way of flimsy boarding cards and tedious airport delays and the faint but undeniable risk of flight in a time of rising fuel costs, airline bankruptcy, suicidal terrorists, and accumulating metal fatigue, could be compelled to yield the fruitful aggravation of having a mate.”

Strunk and White advise us to put the emphatic words at the ends of sentences, and to make “every word tell.”

Goods. Mate.

Omit needless words, they also advise. “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

Ah, but Shakespeare was no hack, and Rembrandt was no cartoonist. If the machine does complex work, you build a complex machine. Updike, trained originally as an artist, did that. His books, his stories, his paragraphs, were all machines of precision and force. And yet they were not machines. They were, and remain, living things.

I only have two literary heroes, both Johns. Updike is one. McPhee is another. Both are, or were, about the same age. And fixtures at The New Yorker. I hope to read the rest of both before I rest myself. I’ve read eighteen of McPhee’s twenty-nine books, including all the most recent ten.

As with Updike, I read McPhee partly for the joy of running great writing through my mind, and partly because I always feel improved and enlarged by it.

It’s a small thing, but I still hold a small hope of one day meeting McPhee. Meeting Updike will have to wait, hopefully for as long as possible.

Here’s a collection of brief posts about Updike by other writers, at The New Yorker. Great stuff.

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Comment du jour

I dunno if this is a spam or not, but I got a chuckle out of it, so I let it fly.

Quotes du jour

“If you just want to write and not re-write, blog.” That was uttered by Anne Thompson, deputy editor of Variety, moderating a panel of screenwriters at the . Another: “What’s the point of living but to love one another?” That’s from Andrew Stanton, who wrote Wall-E. Both quotes from a report by George, who was there. By dark coincidence, Anne has been laid off. Will she continue to blog at Variety? What will happen to her blog archives there? Just wondering.

Toward post-largesse journalism

My sources in Santa Barbara tell me “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times”, a new documentary by Peter Jones, is an amazing piece of work — partly because of its quality as a picture, but especially because of its subject: the brilliant and dysfunctional Otis and Chandler families, who did more to build Los Angeles than Hollywood or even William Mulholland (he of Chinatown and Cadillac Desert).

They did it with a newspaper: The Los Angeles Times.

I’ll leave the details up to Lisa Knox Burns (in Edhat), The Independent, Patrick Goldstein (of the LATimes), Collier Grimm, Kevin Roderick, the California Documentary Project, Nikki Finke, Kristopher Tapley, ThompsonOnHollywood (in Variety) and others.

What matters is that the story of a great newspaper was the story of a family.

So also are the stories of nearly all the great newspapers in the U.S. You can’t visit the subject of daily newspaper journalism without paying respect, if not homage, to the Ochs and Sulzbergers, the Chandlers, the Annenbergs, the Loebs, the McCormicks, the Gannetts, the Grahams, the Knights, the McClatchys, the Storkes.

These people at their best weren’t in it just for the money, or even the influence (though both were serious motivators). They were in it for the good of their cities. They carried out a public service. They ran great civic institutions that served both public and private interests.

Most of those families have sold out or died off. A few remain, but the gig is mostly up. Papers will remain, in some form, but as companions to new civic institutions, also with charters that combine public responsibilities and private ambitions. These institutions are only starting to be built.

Newspaper Families were creatures of the Industrial Age during a peak that lasted so long we might call it a plateau. As that age phases out, and the Information Age phases in, it’s fair to say we won’t be seeing the likes of these families again. Certainly not as a class, or a category.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is that we can’t leave the role of these families out of any consideration, much less study, of the Great Institution of Daily Journalism. They were involved.

What does

– this graphic mean? That we do better under Democrats (Reagan excepted) than Republicans? That the times are reflected in their leaders? Neither? Both?

I gotta say that I’m torn. My inner Libertarian agrees with Peter Schiff, who saw the crash coming, warned everybody about it, says

  We have an economy that’s based on the same principles as Bernie Madoff’s investments… It’s a Ponzi economy. It’s not real. We don’t save and we don’t produce anything anymore. We simply borrow from the rest of the world, and then we spend it. We’ve had a giant party. We bought all these plasma TVs and iPods. We remodeled our houses and took vacations. But you know what? The bills are coming in.”

He’s right. We partied on easy credit, and we’ve got a helluva hangover. But what about Schiff’s plans? As Fortune puts it (at the last link), those are — Shrink the government radically, cancel all bailouts immediately, take plenty of tough medicine, and let the free market do its job – however harsh it may be for, say, autoworkers in the meantime.

Meanwhile my inner Democrat (fwiw, I’m a registered Independent) can’t dismiss Paul Krugman either. Krugman wants Obama to cancel the tax cuts and spend more. Some dismiss Krugman’s Nobel prize, but I think it makes him worth listening to.

One of my concerns about Big Spending by the feds is what inducements to corruption it produces. Will there be earmarks out the wazoo? Betcha. (Hillary is no longer in a position to produce them, but she was sure good at it. Check progress on that last link here.)

Anyway, just wanted to blab that.

Pixel pi

Check out David Bergman‘s 1,474-Megapixel GigaPan picture of the 2 gigaperson presidential inauguration last Tuesday. You can all but look in the noses of the people there.

What impresses me most is how many cameras with extremely long lenses were there. Yow. Canon and Nikon were cleaning up.

Hat tip to Sheila Lennon.

Filling out this

yielded this:

Barack Obama’s Inauguration Speech
My fellow Americans, today is a fibrous day. You have shown the world that “hope” is not just another word for “chair”, and that “change” is not only something we can believe in again, but something we can actually annihilate.

Today we celebrate, but let there be no mistake – America faces unavoidable and level challenges like never before. Our economy is spiffy. Americans can barely afford their mortgages, let alone have enough money left over for monsters. Our healthcare system is plapulous. If your ulvula is sick and you don’t have insurance, you might as well call a sheet-metal worker. And America’s image overseas is tarnished like a trocar newspaper. But pressing together we can right this ship, and set a course for Kansas.

Finally, I must thank my sideways family, my flatulent campaign volunteers, but most of all, I want to thank munchkins for making this historic occasion possible. Of course, I must also thank you, President Bush, for years of drooling the American people. Without your flaccid efforts, none of this would have been possible.

Post your brilliant speech in our community message forum and it might get featured on Atom.com.

Your flappage may vary.

Hat tip to Adriana Lukas.

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The perils of publicity

I’m pretty good at getting buzz when I want it. The irony of running ProjectVRM, however, is that I don’t want much of that. Not yet, anyway. About a year ago I did promote it a bit, got a lot of great response, and also spent a lot of time debugging bad understandings of what VRM is and what’s going on with it.

Since then I’ve kept a pretty low profile with it, and encouraged others to do the same. That way we get fewer people showing up, but a better chance that they’re the right people.

But still, the buzz is out there. And, since it’s a new and as yet unproven idea, it attracts detractors as well. Here’s one that lays out “four fallacies” of VRM, all based on wrong understandings of what it is, and what its roles will be. So, I just tried to debug those understandings with this post here.

As I said there, I urge folks to hold off on their judgement until we’ve got working code and actual stuff that does what VRM is supposed to do. Trust me, it’ll come.


This blog’s dashboard has a line that says this: Akismet has protected your site from 128,720 spam comments already, and there are 4,868 comments in your spam queue right now. I rarely look at the spam queue. The only time I’ve found false positives there are when some of my own comments have gone into the spam queue, because the system flags as spam anything with more than two links in it. Now I know where to look for linky comments that go missing.

Some spams get through, though. They’re easy to spot. Most of them respond to an old post about a topic of interest to the spammer. Let’s say I mentioned fly fishing sometime last year. I’ll get a post by zxzzyks452 at Hotmail or Gmail, and a blog address like flyfishingflyfishing.blogph0rm.com. The entire response will be “I agree. Keep it up!” or something equally innocuous and positive.

The top spams in the queue right now say, “Hehe! Good work!”, “I want to say – thank you for this!”, “Great site. Good info”, “Thank you!”, “Great site. Keep doing.” “Realy, realy nice work! I was impressed! My own are… (bunch of spammy links)”, “Excellent site. It was pleasant to me.”, “Incredible site!”, “Perfect work!”… and so on.

That last one came from a user calling himself or herself “GetXanax” at http://openlibrary.org/, which may not know it’s been hijacked by a spam system.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying that I delete nearly every comment that responds to an old post with language that looks like the examples two paragraphs up. I don’t think I’ve killed any good ones yet, but every once in awhile I wonder. Wish it were otherwise, but it ain’t. Life in the vast lane, I guess.

The Columbia Journalism Review whines,

WhiteHouse.gov presents itself as a kind of social networking portal in which citizens can essentially “friend” the government–and it frames the ensuing dialogue as one that takes place directly between the people and the government. The press, it suggests by way of omission, need not be part of the exchange. One hopes–hey, one even dares to assume–that the conspicuous absence of the press from Obama’s transparency agenda is due to his conclusion that the democratic vitality of the Fourth Estate is so obvious as to render explanation or elucidation of that fact unnecessary.

Chris Anderson (he of Wired?) replies,

I don’t understand: why should “the press” get any special mention on the Obama website? And by “the press” you mean who: Talking Points Memo, the New York Times, Wonkette? The DC Independent Media Center? Or what?
And really, I’m sorry, this is just dumb: “created the impression that its members were, to him, a buzzing nuisance. Instead of the voice of the people.” When has “the press” ever been the “voice of the people,” and by what institutional arrogance does it CONTINUE to give this role to itself? Perhaps the press would be better off it started seeing itself as a particular category of content producers (a noble, unique and important one to be sure) and drop all this voice of the people foolishness. You might make a better argument about why Obama should mention you on his website.

Jay Rosen begins his comments with Please stop beating up on the techno-utopian strawman. It’s not that useful... and then pulls some of the particulars apart, concluding,

The “calm down digital utopians, let CJR sort the rhetoric from reality” tone is very familiar and we don’t really expect you to quit it, even though it would do you a world of good. What I found new and intriguing about this article is the “direct democracy” thing. I think I have this right: just as the United States is not a direct democracy but a republic, where the principle of self-government is modified by the rule of representatives who distill popular sentiment into wise decisions, so it is in the information sphere: “direct” access to information about the executive branch may appeal to a few digital utopians out there (don’t you wish they would calm down?) but it is not what the United States is about; rather, we need representative access, via the skeptical, curious, unhysterical and professional press, which sorts through the information and asks the wise questions. Do I have that right?
Good luck with that concept. May we see it elaborated, please?

I also like Dave Winer’s construcive critique of .

Bonus link. Another. And another. (Could Blackberry have better product placement anywhere? Ever? Yow.)

No concept is more loaded than ownership. Or more absurd. Or harder to establish. Or more important. Just ask Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Stephan Kinsella and Karl Marx.

Kevin Kelly offers a practical angle on the whole topic in Better Than Owning, a long and substantive essay. One sample:

  Our sense of ownership is a funny thing. If you purchase an ebook and download the book’s PDF file to your computer, you’d say you owned it, and expect the rights of ownership. However if you went to a link where a PDF of a book was opened on your screen for free and automatically, you might not feel you owned this book, even if it was copied to your disk. Possession of a copy turns out to be less important in the feeling of ownership than does the price. Free things don’t generate strong feelings of ownership. Gifts do, which we think of as “free,” but our sense of ownership is related to their “replacement costs” – how much they would cost us to buy elsewhere, their market value. If an item has a marketplace cost of zero, we tend not to feel we own it. So as more economic activity gravitates toward the free, less will feel owned. As more is shared, less will act like property.

  Sharing is not very different from renting. We could say that the sharing economy currently emerging from social media is really a renting economy. But we don’t use the word “rent” logically. When we watch a movie on a pay-TV channel we are actually renting it, although we don’t use that word. Yet in fact we use a movie (movies are used by watching them) without owning it; instead we pay for the right to borrow it. That is rent. It doesn’t feel like rent because there is no visible unit to swap.

The problem is that human beings are grabbing animals. Literally. Our senses extend outward through our grabby hands and pushy feet to include everything we operate skillfully. It is not for nothing that many languages (including English) have a possessive case, and linguistics has a large body of work devoted to possession as well. When drivers speak of “my fender” or pilots speak of “my rudder,” they mean it in a way that’s more substantive than mere control.

From our earliest ages, we have clear understandings of what’s mine. Try teaching Marx to a 3-year old. (You’ll do better with Groucho than Karl.)

Anyway, I have lots more thinking around this stuff, but I have to finish a book chapter, get a kid off to school, write some magazine articles, think more about outlining, run a business and clean up a wiki or two. At sixty I still feel like I’m still getting started. (Pulling on a rope to get a two-cycle Briggs & Stratton engine going.)

Hat tip to the Head Lemur.


My aerial photo of Giants Stadium, aka The Meadowlands, where both the Giants and the Jets play, made WikiNews Shorts today.

On inspiration

Of Obama’s non-reductive rhetoric, Gene Koo writes,

  Whatever the accolades for the speech that Obama delivered at his inauguration, it seems it won’t generate a singular sound bite as in JFK’s “Ask not…” or FDR’s “Fear itself” (Many of the major papers picked themes, rather than pluck quotes, although a few took to “hope over fear”). Pundits have hailed Obama as a gifted orator and skilled speechwriter, but generally overlook one aspect of his speaking that distinguishes it from his peers’: its complex structure resists distillation down to a single quotable phrase.

David Weinberger agrees, sort of, about Obama’s Inaugural speech yesterday. His summary:

  …there was nothing I would take out. And there was also, therefore, little I would excerpt in pursuit of a soundbyte.

I thought “Gee, that speech was full of one-liners”… we gather because we have chosen hope over fear…we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals…our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please…The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works…We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense…you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you…the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve…know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy…we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist…we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds…we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect…there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task…

Seems to me Obama is the master of both dialectic and rhetoric, wringing the irony out of conflicting sympathies, speaking in veracities that transcend differences and move listeners to new sympathies and fresh actions. So even when one can’t recall one-liners there are phrases that stand out in paragraphs that are models of dialectical and rhetorical perfection. For example,

  As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

In that one the phrase was “whisper though the ages.”

As with many — perhaps most — of us, I come from a family with a rich history of military service. My father fought in World War II. (In fact he had already served and re-enlisted at age 36 — so strong was his sense of a need to serve.) My sister and only sibling is a retired Commander in the U.S. Navy. Three young male relatives served in Iraq. Yet I marched, spoke and protested against the Vietnam war, and war itself. I still think the will to war is a vast flaw in human character. Yet I could not be more moved and proud of the selfless will to risk and sacrifice that characterizes military service, the fealty of soldiers to “meaning in something greater than themselves” and “this spirit that must inhabit us all.”

Even if Obama is pointedly vague, one knows there is Truth in what he says there. There is transcendence.

I am in awe of the fact that this country has elected this man, and yet I feel less led by him than inspired to constructive action. For once we have a political leader who isn’t closing doors for the sake of ideology or factionalism. This is a good and amazing time.

On the other head, The Daily Show take. This too.

Clueship fishing

Over at the ProjectVRM blog, two posts: Who in CRM 2.0 will help VRM 0.1? and What’s completely screwed about this picture?

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The Onion on the Inauguration:

Funny shit.

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I don’t have a sweet tooth. Most candies don’t tempt me unless I’m very hungry, and then I know I won’t be satisfied anyway.

My weakness is spice. Petty much anything with black pepper, chili, garlic and stuff like that… love it.

But every once in awhile a candy comes along that I can’t get enough of. Such is the case with Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Almonds. Made with Belgian chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt and turbinado sugar, the label explains.

I’m on my third box of the things in less than two weeks, which is pretty fast for me, as candy goes.

Turns out there are reviews out there. Candyblog gives the nuts a mixed review:

  They smell woodsy, a little astringent. I expected them to be messy like the cocoa rolled version of chocolate covered nuts, but these were mercifully neat, only bearing a scuffed appearance but not powdery residue.

  Without the waxy glaze on the outside, the flavor and melt of the chocolate was readily accessible — and the chocolate was tasty and smooth.

  The deep crunch of the nuts were balanced with the high pitched staccato interruptions of the salt and sugar crystals. Not knowing if that little nugget was going to be sweet or salty was kind of fun. But some nuts were extremely salty, to the point where the neighbors and I made faces from time to time. But it wasn’t so bad that we didn’t keep eating them.

  I think I’ll probably stick to the plain ones from now on, the Russian Roulette is just to stressful, or if I need an additional salty pop, I’ll go for Sconza’s Toffee Almonds.

ChocolateRatings pans them. Definitely not a winner, it says.

Both complain that some of the nuts aren’t crunchy enough. I wonder if both critics got the same bad batch. All the ones I’ve had are plenty crunchy.

Anyway, I like ‘em.

Changes at Whitehouse.gov are the top item on Techmeme.

My tweets watching The Event:

Say Amen.
search isn’t working too well at http://whitehouse.gov
This may be the greatest speech ever given about the United States.
“We are willing to extend a hand if you will unclench your fist.” What is this form of homiletics called? “This, then that…”
“the lines of tribe will soon dissolve…” whoa.
“We reject as false the distinction between our safety and our ideals.” Another great one-liner.
“the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” Well put. Hope it’s even partly true.
Wow. Check out http://whitehouse.gov. Change has come. Here’s the blog: http://tinyurl.com/6tdmhy
World’s greatest orator flubs the oath. O well. It’s cool. Roberts didn’t look like a teleprompter, I guess.
My attorney, to my right, says “It’s the end of an error.”
We’ll all remember where we were for this. The place is Together.
Those people have faith. Which he called “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” In this case, next 8 years.
The view up the mall… Stunning.

Not sure if that beats blogging it, but it sure was easier.

And I’m still glowing, three hours later.

[Later...] Apparently I topped the retweet radar list for a moment there. And Twitter itself peaked without pique.

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Chilling out

When it got down near zero (Fahrenheit) a few days ago, the ice formations on the windows were too delicate and interesting to resist shooting. Click on the shot above for a look through the whole series.

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Eight years’ differences

In the Atlantic. Tweeted by Werner Vogels.

Good, tight story of what happened on . In the International Herald Tribune.

By the way, somewhere in this weekend’s Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor sings a delightful tribute to the crew of flight 1549. Heard it live yesterday. The show is running again today on many public stations. Public Radio Fan has times and stations. If you have an iPhone, catch it on your free Public Radio Tuner.

Speaking of which, our first planned VRM feature for the tuner is a “listen log”, to answer “What was that?” questions and to provide fun data that’s yours (not anybody else’s) to do with what you wish.

If you have other features you’d like, on this tuner or on future ones (not just on the iPhone — that’s just where you’ll see it first), let us know.

The soft white silence is settling outside on a cold winter mornng. I’m guessing about two inches so far, atop the eight or so that remain from last week’s storm.

The above is from Intellicast, my fave new online weather toy.

Talked to a friend in San Diego last night. He was taking a break from playing tennis. Back home in Santa Barbara, it’s been in the 80s lately. At one point a couple days ago, the temperature difference between there and here was close to 80 degrees.

Still, this is a kind of loveliness I grew up with. There’s still a 10 year old inside me who sees this and wants to go outside, go sledding down the hill, build snow forts and not do a damn thing that isn’t fun.

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Erik Cecil Unleashed

My pal Erik Cecil, one of the smartest and most energetic attorneys I’ve ever known (as well as a deeply insightful dude), is now at home on the blogging range as well as the foothills of the Front Range, where he and his large family (including large dogs) live. Welcome him abroad.

Afterposts on (more popularly, just )…

Bio of the pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger, aka “Sully”, the captain of flight USA1549 yesterday afternoon. Via TheSmokingGun.

Charles Bremer, pilot and editor for the London Times, on the flight. Includes interesting background, such as why Airbuses can float “in the unlikely event of a water landing”. Expect Boeing planes to be fitted retrofitted soon with the same feature. Hat tip to Andrew Leyden for that one. (Note: This comment says I have my facts wrong here, and offers corrective details. Interesting stuff. Go read it.)

Airbus 320 fact sheet. Includes interesting safety record info.

Sully’s Facebook fan page.

Nice series of photos and a graphic from one commenter on this FlightAware discussion page.

USA1549 down but not out

That’s almost as far as it got.

From Twitter search:

From FlightAware:


US Airways flight #1549 (an Airbus A320) from New York, NY (LGA) to Charlotte, NC (CLT) crashed into the Hudson River today (January 15, 2009) around 3:30pm EST, less than six minutes after takeoff. The maximum altitude was 3200 feet before the aircraft began a descent into the water.

Plane appears intact. Helicopters and ferries responding. FAA is reporting all passengers are out of the plane, and a secondary search is underway.

Early unconfirmed reports are that the aircraft hit a flock of geese. CNN reports that a pilot of the airliner reported a bird strike to air traffic control after takeoff.


Related Links

  • FlightAware Discussion Forums: Airliner Down
  • If FlightAware calls the flight USA1549, that’s how I’m going to call and tag it.

    More as I can write about it, sitting here at a pharmacy in Cambridge. As of now, it appears that all passengers and crew got out alive. Amazing. Some great piloting there. And a sobering lesson in listening to pre-flight safety pitches.

    Reallhy helps that the plane stayed intact (from what we can see). Amazing job landing — actually, ditching — the thing. Wow.

    5pm, on FlightAware:

    USA logo
    USA1549 (web site) (all flights)
    US Airways
    Aircraft Airbus A320 (twin-jet) (A320/Q)
    Origin La Guardia (KLGA)
    Destination Charlotte/Douglas Intl (KCLT)
    Other flights between these airports
    Route BIGGY J75 GVE LYH SUDSY3 (Decode)
    Date Thursday, Jan 15, 2009
    Duration 1 hours 44 minutes
    11 minutes left
    1 hour 32 minutes
    Status En Route (No recent position)
    Scheduled Actual/Estimated
    Departure 03:04PM EST 03:26PM EST
    Arrival 04:38PM EST 05:10PM EST
    Speed 455 kts 153 kts
    Altitude 36000 feet descending 300 feet

    Want to get that down before it scrolls away.

    How long before video of the plane landing, shot from a ferry or shore, shows up on the tubes?

    From a FlightAware post, ship number 106 (N106US, Airbus A320-214, delivered August 2, 1999)

    Jumping in the subway now. More later.

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    JP Rangaswami: There’s a big Because Effect coming along in music. Artists are going to make more money because of music rather than with music, although they will continue to make money with music.

    The path to that may just start here.

    Barack Obama wants to wait on the DTV shift currently scheduled for 17 February. On the grounds that it’ll be a mess, this is a good idea. But nothing can make it a better idea. It’s not that the train has left the station. It’s that the new OTA (over the air) Oz is mostly built-out and it’s going to fail. Not totally, but in enough ways to bring huge piles of opprobrium down on the FCC, which has been rationalizing this thing for years.

    I explain why in What happens when TV’s mainframe era ends next February?. Most VHF stations moving to UHF will have sharply reduced coverage. The converter shortage is just a red herring. The real problem is signals that won’t be there.

    Most cable customers won’t be affected. But even cable offerings are based on over-the-air coverage assumptions. Those may stay the same, but the facts of coverage will not. In most cases coverage will shrink.

    FCC maps (more here and here) paint an optimistic picture. But they are based on assumptions that are also overly optimistic, to say the least. Wilimington, NC was chosen as a demonstration market. Bad idea. One of the biggest stations there, WECT, suffers huge losses of coverage.

    Anyway, it’s gonna be FUBAR in any case.

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    All of Fame

    So Jim Rice made the hall of fame after fifteen years of falling short in the voting. Here’s more from a report on .

    Rice was a “borderline” candidate, a sub-obvious selection. There are a lot of those. Among those I’ve cared about (and there are few), Brett Butler comes to mind. I cared about Brett because he started his pro career in 1980 with my minor league team, the Durham Bulls. (Yes, that Duham Bulls, years before the movie was made.) He was too good to stay with an A-league (lowest in the farm caste) team, so he skipped AA Hampton and went straight to Richmond and played AAA for a short while before the Atlanta Braves brought him up as a leadoff batter. His career continued for 16 years, with the Indians, Giants, Dodgers and Mets. He was a great fielder and one of those reliable leadoff guys who scatters ten fouls then hits a single. His career batting average was .290, but during his best years he stayed within a few points of .300. (His top year was .311, with the Indians.) He also had 2,375 hits and 558 stolen bases. And he was a quotable guy. One line I remember was, “Jeff Leonard is a good player having a great year. Will Clark is a great baseball player.” It was true, too.

    Anyway, I actually met another borderline player when I was a kid visiting my cousins in North Carolina. I think I was about nine years old when this older guy sits down next to me in my cousins’ back yard and says, “You like baseball?” It was a tough question, because I liked the game, but couldn’t play it for shit. I could hit and run well enough, but in my one summer in Little League I did something to my shoulder that limited my ability to throw the ball a long way.

    “Yes,” I said.

    “What’s your favorite team?”

    “The Dodgers.” Which were still in Brooklyn then. My father was a Dodger fan, and it pissed us both off hugely when they left town. Although the Mets later made up for the loss.

    “What about the Yankees.”

    “I hate the Yankees.”

    “You know who Babe Ruth is?”


    “How many home runs did he hit?”


    “Do you know who pitched his 60th home run?”


    “I did.”

    The old dude was Tom Zachary, who in fact had sold the land I was sitting on to my cousins’ family in the early 50s. Tom still lived next door, in fact.

    I guess he wasn’t borderline, since he lost more games than he won. But he had a long and good career, and was a fine source of baseball stories.

    Of course, there’s only one I remember.

    At least he’s in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

    Lots of folks in China get around the Great Chinese Firewall by using circumvention tools. But at what risk? That’s one of the biggest questions raised by Hal Roberts in this post here.

    Seems the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, or GIFC, which offers this laudable PR…

    … is also selling users up who-knows-what rivers. At least that’s what Hal finds when he checks the FAQ at the Edoors Ranking Service, which lets you browse the “top anti-censorship sites”. The FAQ begins,

    Q: Who is the owner of this service?
    A: This service was developed by World’s Gate, Inc. with help from other Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC) partners.

    Q: Where did you get the raw data for the analysis?
    A: The raw data came from the server log of GIFC member companies. Right now, data from three of the five tools of GIFC (DynaWeb, GPass, and FirePhoenix) are included for analysis.

    Which sounds okay, so long as the data used is of the aggregate sort. In other words, as long as it’s not personal.

    Alas, there is this smoking gun, pointed right at the heads of DynaWeb, GPass and FirePhoenix users:

    Q: I am interested in more detailed and in-depth visit data. Are they available?
    A: Yes, we can generate custom reports that cover different levels of details for your purposes, based on a fee. But data that can be used to identify a specific user are considered confidential and not shared with third parties unless you pass our strict screening test. Please contact us if you have such a need.

    That means they track browsing data of individual users, and sell it. Hal adds,

    …the data about circumventing users is much more sensitive than the data about most ISP users. These are the histories of users browsing sites that are not only blocked (and therefore mostly sensitive in one way or another) but blocked by an authoritarian country with an active policy and practice of persecuting dissidents. The mere act of anyone, let alone projects proclaiming themselves for internet freedom, storing this data is very bad practice. Any data that is stored can be potentially be shared or stolen. The best way to make sure that dangerous data like this does not get into the wrong hands is not to store it in the first place.

    But these projects are not only storing the data. They are actively offering to sell it. None of the projects has anything like a privacy policy that I can find, and none of them provides any notice anywhere on the site or during the installation process that the project will be tracking and selling user browsing activity.* But all of the sites have deceptive language…

    I’m sure what these companies are after is advertising money from companies wanting to “target” individuals personally. That’s what it smells like to me.

    We live in a time when personalized advertising is legitimized on the supply side. (It has no demand side, other than the media who get paid to place it.) Worse, there’s a kind of gold rush going on. Even in a crapped economy, a torrent of money is flowing into online advertising of all kinds, including the “personalized” sort. No surprise that companies in the business of fighting great evils rationalize the committing of lesser ones. I’m sure they do it it the usual way: It’s just advertsing! And it’s personalized, so it’s good for you!

    Ah, but what happens if one of those advertisers is a front for the Chinese governent, looking for dissidents to jail — or worse? If you’re one of those (or anybody) would you trust the “strict screening test” at Edoors Ranking Service?’

    Me either.

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    Stephen Lewis was wise to turn down the opportunity to participate in a Ponzi scheme in a time and place where the downside of failure was absolute. The lesson:

      Fast-forward a decade to 2005, Bulgaria is about to enter the European Union and bank and insurance moguls whose memories are the only remaining links to the identities of initial depositors and investors are being shot wholesale in gangland-style slayings. On a wintry Sunday, I join a friend for an early morning hike part-way around the base of Vitosha mountain, just outside of Sofia. At the town of Bistritsa we leave the hiking path in search of a restaurant serving tripe soup and grappa (shkembe chorba and rakiya to afficionados). As we enter Bistritsa we pass a neighborhood of immense homes worthy of present day Las Vegas or 1970s American television soap operas about the scandalous lives of California rich. On the gated entrance way of every third or fourth such mansion are posted Necrologs — paper fliers announcing or commemorating the deaths — of the home’s owner. Most of the deceased seem relatively young and few likely to have died from natural causes. My hiking companion, a retired journalist explains … some of the deceased are businessmen, some are gangland heavies and “narco-millionaires,” and others are “credit-millionaires” i.e people who had borrowed large sums of money from banks on behalf of others and made fortunes on commissions for doing so.

    This is one in a series of thoughtful posts that combine Steve’s wide travels and deep cultural understands with his photography. While some are timely, all are timeless. Samples here, here, here and here.

    Most books come and go. Others stay — meaning that you’re likely to find them in most bookstores. Big ones, anyway. Quotable books have staying power. Especially the quotable ones that express unattainable ideals.

    The Cluetrain Manifesto, it turns out, is one of those. The book hit the streets in January 2000, just in time, somebody said, to cause the dot-com crash. (I’d like to say we intended that, but if it were true I would have sold my dot-com stocks, which I didn’t. Instead I waited until their purpose in selling was reduction on captial gains for selling a house. This was back when houses could still be sold.)

    I’m a born optimist, so I did expect Cluetrain to sell well. I just didn’t expect it to keep selling ten years after we first nailed up its 95 Theses on the Web. Nor did I expect writers to keep writing about it. But they have. And they do. More, it seems, than ever.

    The most remarkable of the current crop is Alex Hillman’s Cluetrain-A-Day 2009, at his blog, Dangerously Awesome. His latest unpacks Thesis #5, People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice. (Context: this thesis follows #3 Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice and #4 Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.) In the post Alex answers a question that too often flummoxes me: “Name one good example of Cluetrain’s lessons put to work.” Alex offers Zappos:

    Tony Hsieh (pronounced “Shay”) is the proverbial “Tweeting CEO”. Beyond Tony himself being extraordinarily accessible and candid about his life and his business on Twitter, he’s gone one step further. He’s encouraged his employees to tweet, too. And not just about business stuff, but about whatever they want. Whatever they are thinking. Whatever they are doing. It’s up to them.

    But Zappos didn’t stop there.

    Zappos built a website that consumes all of their employees’ tweets and republishes them. A megaphone for the collective voice of Zappos employees, in real time, for anyone to read.

    But Zappos didn’t stop there.

    Zappos also runs a blog network within their company, with contributions from the CEO and COO, all the way through the depths of the company. These blogs share not just company news, but insights, event announcements, musings, and more. They rarely link back into their product catalog. Instead, Zappos uses these opportunities to provide value, and establish natual dialogue between their customers and their employees.

    Why? Because people are interested in other people. We recognize the human voice in others, and identify with them. Companies are not human, so we humans do not identify with their voice. But if the voices within the company, the human voices, are allowed to shine, customers can once again identify with “the company”.

    Rather than have an ivory tower with now windows or doors, Zappos purposely put not just one human face on their company, but hundreds (435 at the date of writing this). What are the odds of calling in an order or customer service request to Zappos and getting a twittering CSR? Reasonably high. And that’s the Zappos way. Tony explains that Zappos culture, the collective voice of Zappos, is Zappos brand.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. More importantly, I wouldn‘t have, because I’m not engaged with the marketing market the way Alex is. He’s reforming it from the inside. I left the field a long time ago. Now I cheer star performers like Alex from the stands.

    Nine years ago most responses to Cluetrain were of the thumbs up or down sort. Few offered constructive follow-ups, mostly because what one could do was pretty limited. We knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore, but Oz wasn’t built out. There weren’t even witches or munchkins. Just a scattering of yellow bricks and a wide-open landscape. Nevada without Las Vegas.

    Blogs were around, but still new. In fact, Dave Winer urged me mightily to start a blog during the whole summer of ’99 when we were busy writing the book. But I didn’t relent until that Fall, when he literally sat me down and got me going with what became this blog here. Ev Williams started Blogger around that time too. Twitter (another Ev creation… lightning does sometimes strike twice, or more) came along much later. That’s why we have truly constructive Cluetrain-sourcing posts like this one by Michael Stephens, who thinks out loud, and eloquently, about libraries in an age when they are surrounded and suffused by the Net and a growing box of tools in the hands of readers.

    Now here’s a fired reporter for (and now against) the Danville Register & Bee, sourcing Cluetrain in a schooling of the paper’s management.

    And here’s Mirek Sopek , who blogs as the CEO of a business, saying,

    This book is compulsory reading for all sales people in my company ….

    See the citation:

    “Although a system may cease to exist in the legal sense or as a structure of power, its values (or anti-values), its philosophy, its teachings remain in us. They rule our thinking, our conduct, our attitude to others.

    The situation is a demonic paradox: we have toppled the system but we still carry its genes. “

    Ryszard Kapuscinski, Polish journalist, 1991

    Exactly. That’s why it’s so hard to change, or even to understand change when it happens anyway. For example, many of us can say we support “Net Neutrality”, but it’s almost impossible to talk aobut it without bringing in the faming and language of telcos. Laudable as Net Neutrality may be, few of us have ever experienced it. (Most “broadband” — a telco term — is not “neutral”. It is skewed to favor some uses and discourage others.) Imagine talking about the Net in, say, 1985. “Um, it’s like AOL or Compuserve, but nobody owns it, everybody can use it and anybody can improve it.” Or consider Richard Stallman‘s persistent need to explain free-as-in-freedom vs. “free-as-in-beer.” Some concepts take time to sink in, mostly because they require successful implementation, and then understanding of that success on its own terms. In the meantime, it’s explained in terms other than its own. Such is the case with both free software and Net Neutrality. In time both will be both established and well understood. (Though, speaking for myself, I think free software was better explained in the first place than Net Neutrality, but … whatever.)

    Anyway, it’s all one big learning process. We educate each other.

    I was just listening to this Utah Couchcast, for example. At the beginning one of the hosts suggests that Cluetrain is cyclical, coming along in booms — because Cluetrain was written during a boom. But this made me think about what seems to be a surge of recent interest in Cluetrain during a bust cycle. When we look back at Cluetrain’s success as a book, most of it came during the dot-com crash of 2000-2001.

    Which brings us to the long view — something older people tend to have. (And that’s coming to include Cluetrain’s authors, two of whom have hit their sixties.) Cluetrain was diagnostic rather than prescriptive. This was intentional. One reason was time: we needed to get the book out on a tight deadline. Another was the plain and sad fact that the tools required for the revolution were not there. Some, such as blogging, were beginning to appear. But even there, syndication (another innovation by Dave) was not yet part of it. Nor was podcasting. Nor was “the cloud” of back-end services now only beginning to become widely used.

    Cluetrain gets a lot of credit today for ushering in “social” stuff. That’s cool, but let’s face it: today’s “social” tools are still crude. All are miles away from whatever end states they’ll eventually reach, probably by evolving so far that they barely resemble the ancestors we use today.

    All this, by the way, is a not-quick-enough brain dump as I work on a longer Cluetrain piece for print publication. Right now Google Blogsearch finds more than 50,000 results for a “cluetrain” search. Many, like the ones cited above, are too damned interesting. Collectively, they know far more about the subject than its authors, mostly because so many folks are putting Cluetrain to use somehow. In real estate, for example.

    I could go on, but I have actual work to do.

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    Sad news

    Rest in peace Roland Piquepaille is the final post on Roland’s blog. It’s by Larry Digman, who also posted notices for Russell Shaw and Marc Orchant when those two also passed. My sympathies to Larry as well.

    I barely knew Roland. Our paths crossed from time to time. (Such as here.) But he was a fellow journalist and blogger and another temporary visitor to our lush planet. He was two years older than me: just 62.

    My best to his family and friends.

    Investigating the Financial Crisis and My Passion for Borsalino Hats is an outstanding post by Stephen Lewis — one that characteristically combines several things I didn’t know, starting with a helpful suggestion for incoming administration: a sweeping inquest into the twin housing and stock market crashes to create both the intellectual context and the political constituency for change.

    Those words, and the original suggestion (which Steve endorses) are Ron Chernow’s, offered in Where is Our Ferdinand Pecora?, in the New York Times. Turns out Pecora was the former New York proscecutor brought in as chief counsel for the Senate Banking and Currency Committee, which investigated the financial meltdown that ushered in the Great Depression.

    I won’t give away the rest of Steve’s story. I’ll just say that anybody who grew up around New York in the mid-to-late 20th Century should be familiar with the setting, if not the characters: Barney’s, the men’s clothing store at the corner of 7th Avenue and 17th Street — a location I recall from having it drilled into my head by decades of radio advertising.

    Go read the post. And my “lid” is off to Steve for writing it. Great story.

    Getting serious

    I love Dave Winer’s new apporach to high-substance/reduced noise tweeting. I say more about that in Screw popularity. Just make yourself useful.

    Also, I’m on one short list for Surgeon General.

    So now my dream app is ready on the iPhone. It’s just the beginning of What It Will Be, but it’s highly useful. If you have an iPhone, go there and check it out. It’s free.

    As you see here, I’m involved, through the Berkman Center, which is collaborating with , which is working under a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (). Major props go to the PRX developers, who have been working very very hard on this thing. Some of the most diligent heads-down programming I’ve seen.

    An interesting thing. In the old days, when an app came out, in any form, on nearly any platform, there was this assumption that it was a Done Thing, and should be critiqued on those grounds. Not the case here. This is a work in progress, and the process is open. In the long run, we should see much more opened up as well.

    Paranthetically, I think right now we’re looking at some cognitive dissonance between the Static Web and the Live Web, when the latter seems to look like the former. You have a website, or an app. These seem to be static things, even when they’re live. An app like the Public Radio Tuner is more of a live than a static thing. But it’s easy, as a user, to relate to it as a static thing. Because at any one time it does have more static qualities than live ones. Imagine a house you can remodel easily and often, and at low cost and inconvenience. That’s kind of what we have here. A cross between product and process — that looks the former even when it’s doing the latter. Anyway…

    Though this grant is for an iTunes app, work is sure to go on to other platforms as well — such as Android. So, rather than criticize this app for coming out first on the iPhone, please provide feedback and guidance for next steps beyond this first effort (and join me in giving the developers a high five for delivering a functional app in a remarkably short time). And in the reviews section at iTunes, provide honest and constructive reviews. At this stage I’m sure they’ll be good. (Some of the bad reviews were on the very first version released, which has since been replaced.)

    To VRM followers and community members, VRM is very much on the agenda, and we’re thinking and working hard on what the VRM pieces of this will be, and how they’ll work. This may be the first piece of work where VRM components appear, and we want to do them right. Also bear in mind that this is the first step on a long, interesting and fruitful path. Or many paths. Interest and guidance is welcome there too.


    Since I’m an aviation freak, I’m also a weather freak. I remember committing to getting my first color TV, back in the mid-70s, because I wanted to see color radar, which at that time was carried by only one TV station we could get from Chapel Hill: WFMY/Channel 2 in Greensboro. These days TV stations get their radar from elsewhere, and have mothballed their old radar facilities. (Here’s one mothballed TV radar tower, at the WLNE/Channel 6 transmitter, which is istself doomed to get mothballed after the nationwide February 17 switchover to digital TV — marking the end of TV’s Mainframe Era.)

    Online I’ve been a devoted watcher of both Weather.com and Weather Underground. Both those last two links go to local (Cambridge, MA) maps. They’re good, but they don’t quite match Intellicast, source of the map above. Play around witht the pan & zoom, the animation and the rest of it. It’s a nice distraction from weather as ugly as we’re getting right now here: sleet and then rain atop enough snow to cancel school today,.

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    The good news is that I had a backup for my email, which suffered some kind of data corruption on Monday. The bad news is that the last backup was December 14, before I went to California (my backup drive is here in Boston, and I haven’t got S3 backup set up yet). Not everything since then is lost. Mail filtered to some boxes was unaffected.

    It’s actually more complicated than that, but the bottom line is that there’s a good chance that anything you’ve sent me between December 15 and January 5 may no longer exist at this end. So re-send anything you consider worthwhile. Otherwise, we’ll all truck on.

    I may be wrong, but I’ll betting that Esther Dyson is already the most frequent flyer on Earth.

    Now she’s looking to fly at higher altitudes.

    Here’s the latest on her Edventure site:

    UPDATE: I’m currently living in Star City outside Moscow, training to be a cosmonaut as backup to Charles Simonyi. His flight launches March 25. For details of my EDventures, see the LINKS for Hpost and FS blog. (I’m cross-posting.)

    And here is her latest at the Flight School blog. Plus an earlier post about committed to blogging as well. Among other things. Read around. Many links to follow.

    Hat tip to Chris Locke.

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    That might be an overstatement, but it’s how we felt yesterday after four days of efforts to surmount canceled and delayed flights finallydelivered us back to Boston: our alt.home sweet home.

    So we went out to breakfast at a new place for us: the plainly named Neighborhood Restaurant & Bakery, in Somerville.

    My wife and I are both foodies of sorts (she more than I, since she has been in the restaurant biz and is an excellent cook), and we couldn’t remember a better breakfast place, anywhere. Sure, there are excellent spreads at four-star hotels, and some favorite places to chow down egg and pancake variants (the Cajun Kitchen and Shoreline Grill are two in Santa Barbara), but nothing better than the NR&B. Even Johnny D’s Jazz Brunch, also excellent, and also in Somerville.

    My wife had a Portuguese special with perfectly cooked linguica (homemade? not sure. but outstanding), while I had an omelette also with linguica and other ingredients, plus crab and cod cakes, all outstanding. I’m an egg freak, and I like them soft. That means I like runny yolks in my fried and poached eggs, wet scrambles and omelettes that aren’t browned and hard. I looked around at other omelettes in being served in the tiny restaurant, and all of them were perfectly soft and un-browned. The kid had crepes crusted with something, and filled with large fresh strawberries and blackberries, among other things. It was perfect too.

    They start you off, regardless, with fresh fruit or cream of wheat sprinkled with cinnamon. We opted for the latter. Great stuff. I even grabbed a few bites of the kid’s, which he didn’t finish, after it was cold. I called it “desert”. It was that good. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice to say it’s worth the trip, even if you don’t live around here.

    Much of the activity that used to happen out in the wild unfettered Net, over email, open (XMPP-based) IM and blog posts is now happening inside the Facebook silo. It is AOL 2.0.

    I avoid the place, but that’s getting harder. On this current visit I see 7 friend suggestions, 273 friend requests, 6 event invitations, 5 good karma from debo requests, 1 good karma request, 220 other requests, 4 new updates, 235 items in my inbox, 7 pokes and 522 friends to start with.

    Okay, I just said yes to several friend requests, congratulated a friend on his new twins, and started chatting in FB for the first time.

    To FB’s credit, it’s working on a Jabber/XMPP interface, so you can chat to FB-based friends through any client that talks XMPP. That’s cool, but The Borg still grows.

    I also notice that FB now has a tiny pale gray thumbs-up and thumbs-down for its advertising. When I click on the down thumb (which I always do — I haven’t yet seen a relevant ad), it just says “Loading…” in a big box that won’t go away.

    So I just punched out. I suspect I’ll be doing less of that.

    Fears over earthquake ‘swarm’ at Yellowstone National Park says TimesOnline. (That’s the London one.) In a report on the same development, David Isenberg begins,

      The local (Cody WY) newspaper says that there’s “no indication the park’s famous caldera is likely to erupt.” But in Honolulu, where the reporters know something about volcanos, the paper tells a different story under the headline, Quake swarm at Yellowstone may signal blast.

    This wouldn’t be a Mount St. Helens. This could be much bigger. More at Yellowstone Caldera, the B Bar Blog, and Time.

    The more I fly, the more useful, or at least interesting, the NOAA‘s AviationWeather.gov service becomes. At any given moment it has dozens of different reports on weather at altitude, across North America. The one above is among the many that show potential or reported turbulence.

    I also just discovered TurbulenceForecast.com, with the TurbulenceForecast Blog. There’s a lot of overlap with AviationWeather.gov, since it uses a lot of maps and data from there.

    Here’s the FAA’s page on flight delays. Plus FlightAware, the best of a bad bunch — too much flash and other stuff that doesn’t work on too many browsers, especially ones in handhelds. Speaking of which, I’ve lately been appreciating FlightTrack. The list could go on, but I need to move on. See ya in Boston. (At IAD now. The last two paragraphs were written at SFO, where connectivity was minimal.)

    Oh, click on the map above and check out the current maximum turbulence potential between here (Washington) and Boston. So far there’s just one pilot report, of moderate turbulence, over Connecticut.

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    We were supposed to fly out of Santa Barbara on Thursday. New Years Day. That flight was cancelled. We rebooked for Friday. That flight was delayed for so long that we would have missed connections. We rebooked for Saturday: today. That flight was delayed beyond our connection as well. Now we’re sitting at the airport, waiting for a flight to San Francisco in time to catch a red-eye to Dulles in Washington. After that, a flight to Boston. If we arrive on time, it will be four days after we were to depart from Santa Barbara.

    I have driven across the country in less time.

    Part of the problem is timing. It’s winter. There’s lots of weather, and lots of weather-caused delays and cancellations. And it’s the end of a holiday season, with lots of people travelling home from trips.

    And part of the problem is traveling as a family. There are only three of us, but that’s enough to exclude us from many flights that a single passenger, especially one with a high frequent flyer status, could make.

    So I’m not complaining. Aviation has made the miraculous mundane. But I do regret slowing down all the work I was going to get done over the weekend. That already replaced earlier plans to go skiing with The Kid after we got back.

    C’est le vol.

    The first I heard about Mike Connell and his plane crash was in a tweet that pointed to Rove’s IT Guru Warned of Sabotage Before Fatal Plane Crash; Was Set to Testify, by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, in Truthout. The original is here at Alternet.

    So I went looking for more at Google News. All I got were more blogs. Nearly every item currently on top in a Google News search for “Mike Connell” crash is a blog source. And all of it has a political axe to grind. The Facts are buried in there, but to find them you have to get past writers’ talk radio biases.

    Why aren’t newspapers listed? Two reasons, near as I can guess. One is that the papers’ stories don’t get many inbound links, and fail at PageRank (which I presume plays a role at Google News). The other is that the stories are no longer there for the linking.

    The crash happened near Akron. It also appears from an archive search that the Akron Beacon Journal had some plain-facts coverage of Connell’s plane crash,; but those are archived behind a paywall now. Not helpful. Searching the Cleveland Plain Dealer isn’t any help either.

    Newspaper folks have a legitimate gripe against blogging: that it’s much more of a partisan op-ed practice than a reportorial one. (Hell, I’m op-eding right now.) But papers aren’t doing themselves any favors by continuing to hide one of their best weapons in the war against reader attrition: archives. Also called “morgues”, most of these deep and helpful resources are still “monetized” only by direct payment, and invisible to Google and other search engines.

    Newspaper Archives/Indexes/Morgues is the Library of Congress’ listing of deep newspaper resources. The top item, U.S. News Archives on the Web, is maintained by the excellent Ibiblio.org, and details a depressing picture. Many papers are listed. “Cost” is a column heading, and many have entries such as “Searching is available to all for free, but only registered subscribers can retrieve articles” or “$2.95 per article with multiple-article pricing options available, articles published within the last seven days are available through the site’s search engine for free”. Many also say “free” (or the likes of “free registration is required to access the free archives”). But most still require registration, or are just plain lame.

    But you can find some stuff. Here’s a first report on the Connell crash in the Kentucky Post. Cincinnati.com has this. There I found that Connell ran NewMedia Communications. Its index page (that last link) is now a memorial.

    I’m not going to keep digging, because I have too much else to do. But my long-standing recommendation to papers still stands: open the archives. Stop giving away the news and charging for the olds. Leave bad money on the table and go for depth and relevance. Those are aces in your hand. And hell, sell advertising in the archives too. You’ll make far more money that way than by shaking down readers for $2.95 per item: a price that prevents far more demand than it satisfies.

    Bonus link, just because Sheila’s first-rate as both a journalist and a blogger.

    On New Years Day we had breakfast on the Wharf, then walked around the harbor to the breakwater, and then out across the rocks to the beach at the tip of the breakwater that forms one side of the opening to the marina. Part of our purpose was exercise and general sight-seeing, but we were also curious about the amazing explosion in the population of pelicans.

    The birds have been common as long as we’ve lived here (since 2001), but outnumbered by gulls, which are by far the most common shore birds, pretty much everywhere in temperate climes. But here the gulls now seem crowded out by the California Brown Pelican, once an endangered species.

    Thousands, it seemed, now all but owned the beach at the end of the breakwater. So the kid and I went out there to investigate the matter. This photo set follows the walk, and shares some of what we discovered.

    I neglected to take my good camera with me, which is a bit of a bummer: no art shots or close-ups. But I still got some good-enough shots with the little pocket Canon, plus a video I’ll put up after I get back to Boston and better bandwidth.

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    Companies, Peter Drucker said somewhere, are ways of organizing work. They do things you can’t do any other way. Same goes for governments. We need the things we depend on to work well, including those things — and “the media”. Whatever they were, and will be.

    I submit that The Olde Media worked well at their best, but still never fully . I’m not sure they ever did. Too much gets missed, mis-quoted, skewed. Even at the best papers and magazines. “Stories” are what’s best and worst about journalism, and perhaps about all human narratives. (I explained why in Stories vs. Facts.) And, as we come to depend on The Media less and less (or to depend on more and more media, to lesser degrees in each case, which include each other), we yearn for re-institutionalizing the whole thing, somehow. It’s going to take awhile, obviously.

    In the meantime, consider the importance of independence. As a supplier of story fodder, do you want to be locked into a single conduit to readers, listeners and viewers? In professional cases, sometimes. But not in amateur ones.

    So I’m thinking about this while reading on Demotix about rallies in Taipei in support of PTS, Taiwan’s Public Television Service. Seems Taiwan’s feds are holding up funding for the service. Here in the U.S., public broadcasting has been far more independent, both editorially and budgetarily, from the federal government. This is a good thing. But it’s not the only thing. The most public media are the public itself. What forms will the public’s new media systems take? Many. Experimentation is required.

    Demotix is an interesting experiment. “YOU share your images with the Demotix community WE licence thm to the mainstream media for you…”, it says on Demotix front page. It explains, “Basic, non-exclusive rights to your photos will sell for anything between $150 and $3,000 USD”, and “In all cases, you get exactly 50%”, and “you retain the copyright”.

    Sounds nice. Looks to me like a new market for paparazzi. There’s still lots of publishing money in celebrity obsession. Not sure about the rest of the business, though.

    I’m a professional journalist with Linux Journal — mostly as a writer. But as a photographer I’m mostly an amateur, which is cool with me. My 26,000+ photos on Flickr include a few dozen that have appeared in NowPublic and Wikipedia, to mention a couple of places. I don’t want or expect to be paid for those, and I’m not exceptional, in the sense that I’m not alone. But there are many clusters of not-alone.

    Meanwhile, I am sure that what matters most for citizen journalists (and for all of us as individuals in any case) is independence. As Neo said to the Architect (in the second Matrix movie), the problem is choice. So I’ll be watching Demotix as well as NowPublic and other new mediators to see how things go.

    Quote du jour

    “…when everyone sees Opportunity; they are only seeing the reflection. True Opportunity appears at the market bottom, not at the top.” — Peter Rip on The Coming Venture Capital Boom. Via Tim O’Reilly.

    The Daily Redux

    For the second day in a row we couldn’t fly out of Santa Barbara. At least we have a home here, so I can get some work done. Lots of stuff due now or early next week.

    Taking it slower

    We were supposed to be on a plane for Boston right now, but our flight was cancelled. Gave us another day to enjoy Santa Barbara.