When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

31 May 2005

Mountain Philosopher, on a roll

John deVille over at Mountain Philosopher is on a serious roll, apparently getting a big burst of Memorial Day energy.

Aon's Risk Maps

Hat tip: Apul Patel, by way of BoingBoing:
Every filmmaker, from major studios to independent producers, experiences some element of risk while filming in foreign countries. That is why, each year, Aon/Albert G Ruben, the largest entertainment insurance broker in the world, comprehensively measures and maps the risks filmmakers face across the globe.

2005 Risks in Global Filmmaking Map measures crime, corruption, kidnap and ransom, disease and medical care risks, and references terrorism and political risks.
  • Crime identifies the risk for crimes including theft, robbery, street crime and assault.
  • Organized Crime and Corruption reflects the likelihood that business will be affected by bribery, extortion or threats from organized crime elements or government corruption.
  • Kidnap and Ransom identifies the kidnap and ransom risk that participants in filmmaking may encounter.
  • Disease Risk reflects the prevalence of epidemic, communicable or tropical diseases.
  • Medical Care Risk measures the extent to which medical care is available and meets modern standards.
2005 Risks in Global Filmmaking Map (PDF, 2 MB)

Related: Aon also publishes a very interesting Global Political and Economic Risk map, which is available for the asking but requires you to register. This map covers risks of government interference, legal and regulatory risks, terrorism and war, currency and credit risks.

28 May 2005

Medical marijuana in New York State

Dear Governor Pataki,

I write today to urge you to support A. 8265 / S. 5040, the medical marijuana bills recently introduced by State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and State Senator Vincent Leibell, respectively.

To let you know where I'm coming from, I am a law-and-order Republican and a strong supporter of law enforcement. I am also the husband of a wonderful woman who was successfully treated for ovarian cancer five years ago, and I saw first-hand both the debilitating side-effects of chemotherapy and the remarkable efficacy of marijuana in reducing a chemotherapy patient's discomfort and enabling them to eat normally during treatment.

The anti-nausea medication prescribed for my wife at the time just piled side-effects on top of side-effects, and (when she could swallow the pills at all) made her nervous and even more physically uncomfortable in addition to being nauseated.

Because New York does not have a compassionate-use medical marijuana program, I did the only thing that I could do: I risked criminal sanction (arrest, prosecution, loss of standing in the community, even jail time) for both myself and my wife by buying marijuana for her, illegally, "on the street."

I did this with the knowledge and consent of my wife's medical care team at the time, and if, God forbid, I am ever in a similar situation, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Why? Because the relief that she obtained from marijuana was immediate, effective, long-lasting, and without further side effects. It works. Simple as that.

The real point here, of course, is that I shouldn't have to put myself at risk in order to help a sick person feel better. The sick person shouldn't have to put himself or herself at risk in order to feel better.

And that's the point of S. 5040 / A. 8265, too.

Law enforcement has no business whatsoever in this domain, and current laws in New York are both disrespectful and willfully ignorant of the real human needs of people with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and many other serious and even life-threatening conditions whose symptoms or treatment side-effects are being successfully treated with legal medical marijuana in more enlightened jurisdictions.

The growing list of medical marijuana supporters already includes the Medical Society of the State of New York, the New York State Nurses Association, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the Associated Medical Schools of New York, the New York State Hospice and Palliative Care Association, the New York StateWide Senior Action Council, the New York State Association of County Health Officials, the New York State AIDS Advisory Council, and 66% of New York voters, according to a 2003 Zogby poll.

Please do the right thing and commit publically to supporting New York's medical marijuana legislation. The legislature should pass legislation enabling doctors to prescribe marijuana for their sick patients, and you should immediately sign it into law.

Best regards,

Barry Campbell

Related: The Marijuana Policy Project has a page set up to monitor activities in New York State. You can also write your legislators and Governor Pataki directly from their site.

Jim Leff at Cody's Books in Berkeley, CA

Jim Leff...
Originally uploaded by melissa nicole.
Here's a photo of Chowhound Alpha Dog Jim Leff at Cody's Books in Berkeley, California (hat tip and many thanks to flickr member melissa nicole.)

(Jim wears a mask at all public appearances to protect his identity--as a restaurant critic and food writer, he feels it is essential to maintain anonymity.)

26 May 2005

Barbecue enlightenment in the strangest places

You find barbecue gurus in the strangest places.

Here's an excellent review of barbecue fanatic Jim Early's book The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy, complete with a very learned and complete exegesis of the different regional styles of North Carolina 'cue--in, of all places, the Anchorage Daily News. (That's "Anchorage" as in "Alaska.")
"[Down East] they make a vinegar sauce with white sugar, salt and pepper, water and hot peppers like jalapenos. It's very thin" so it can seep down through the chopped meat.

In the midsection of the state -- according to Early, from Raleigh west to the Piedmont region roughly bordered by his Winston-Salem home -- is where the barbecue techniques begin to shift.

"It's called Lexington-style barbecue by some. They cook pork shoulders rather than the whole pig. Sometimes they'll cook a special ham for a holiday, but that's about the only time."

The sauce is also different, he said.

"They call it a dip. It's also vinegar-based, but they add a tomato paste, or ketchup, and mix it up with brown sugar and other spices." What those spices are, he said, are supposed to be big secrets, but he thinks the differences aren't always that significant.

Finally, in the western portion of the state, there are pockets of another technique that Early calls Floridian-style.

I think I know what's going on here...

The Anchorage Daily News is owned by the McClatchy company, which also owns the Raleigh, N.C. News and Observer (located in the heart of barbecue country.) I'm betting that the Anchorage reporter did some time in the Tar Heel state.

That's our robot - he's full of drugs

Every now and then, I get the feeling that I'm a character in a science-fiction novel.

For example...

Was at a client site today in Phoenix (a very modern hospital) walking down the hall with a couple of colleagues.

A largish, unmanned vehicle that I initially mistook for a floor-buffer toodled down the hall, "saw" me and maneuvered deftly around me.

"What the hell was that?" I asked my guide.

"Oh, that's 'Dr. Seuss,' our robot. He's full of drugs."

24 May 2005

The death of the IT department as we know it

Deja Vu: IT may matter, but the IT department may not by ZDNet's David Berlind:

According to Silicon.com's Andy McCue, Gartner has reported that outsourcing, offshoring and the increasing amount of control of IT being handed to business units is leading to the death of the IT department as we know it today.


Kristoff on blogging in China

Nicholas Kristoff has an interesting column in the NY Times today entitled "Death by a Thousand Blogs":

The collision between the Internet and Chinese authorities is one of the grand wrestling matches of history, visible in part at www.yuluncn.com.

That's the Web site of a self-appointed journalist named Li Xinde. He made a modest fortune selling Chinese medicine around the country, and now he's started the Chinese Public Opinion Surveillance Net - one of four million blogs in China.

Mr. Li travels around China with an I.B.M. laptop and a digital camera, investigating cases of official wrongdoing. Then he writes about them on his Web site and skips town before the local authorities can arrest him.

His biggest case so far involved a deputy mayor of Jining who is accused of stealing more than $400,000 and operating like a warlord. One of the deputy mayor's victims was a businesswoman whom he allegedly harassed and tried to kidnap.

Mr. Li's Web site published an investigative report, including a series of photos showing the deputy mayor kneeling and crying, apparently begging not to be reported to the police. The photos caused a sensation, and the deputy mayor was soon arrested.

Read the whole thing.

Blogging may be light this week

On a pretty aggressive schedule this week in Phoenix (external temperature at 5:20 AM MST: 82 degrees; today's projected high, 106.)

My body still thinks I'm in New York. Exhausted as I was last night from travel and lack of sleep, I woke up this morning at 4AM on the nose, absolutely wide awake.

Thank God my hotel room has a little coffeemaker and free Wi-Fi.

Click for Phoenix, Arizona Forecast

23 May 2005

Let molecular biologists be molecular biologists

I'm up at this ungodly hour (4 AM EDT) because in a few minutes, a car service is ferrying me to Newark Airport for a flight to sunny Phoenix (today's estimated high temperature: 111 degrees Fahrenheit) for a business trip.

Couldn't really sleep, so I've been catching up on my reading. And an article in this week's Economist has me hopping mad.

Some context:

Basic scientific research has historically been one of the great intellectual and economic strengths of our nation. With no disrespect intended to the bright scientists and researchers doing fine work elsewhere (and there are many of them), the US has led the world in many areas of research and technology.

Recently, for political reasons, the advancement of two related and highly significant and promising areas of biological research--stem cell technology and cloning--has been essentially shut off to US-based scientists.

Let's not beat around the Bush, okay? The controversy over stem-cell research and cloning is a stalking horse for the abortion issue... a way for social conservatives to demonstrate their intellectual consistency when it comes to so-called "culture of life" issues.

Never you mind about the rights or desires of people struggling with painful, disabling or even deadly diseases (ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's) that might be treated one day with stem-cell-based therapies or cloned tissue; the social conservatives are making a courageous stand in favor of Blastocyst Rights. Apparently, the "life" that interests them most exists as undifferentiated masses of cells, rather than actual human beings suffering actual medical problems.

Okay, okay, stay with me, I'm getting to the point.

This week, the august journal Science published an article in which it was revealed that an enormous breakthrough has been made in human embryonic stem-cell cloning technology.

By a team composed almost entirely of South Koreans, working in South Korea.

Here, I'll let The Economist fill you in:

AMERICA'S loss is South Korea's gain. Unlike many Americans, up to and including the president, Korean scientists--and the authorities that support them--do not wring their hands in agony about experimenting on tiny clusters of cells that might, in other circumstances, grow into people. They just get on with it. The latest paper in the field, published this week in Science, has 25 authors. They were led by Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University, and all but two of them work in South Korea.

The tiny clusters of cells in question are known as blastocysts. A blastocyst is the precursor to an embryo. It contains a number of so-called stem cells that are capable of differentiating into many different types of tissue. Optimists hope stem cells might be used to generate replacement tissues—and even entire organs—for those who have lost their originals to disease. But not just any old stem cells. Using stem cells derived by cloning from the very patients who need the transplants might get around the problem of rejection by the immune system that bedevils transplant techniques at the moment.

I just cut a check to the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research. We need to take the handcuffs and shackles off of our scientists and researchers and allow them to push forward in this very promising area.

22 May 2005

Carnival of the Cats 61

Carnival of the Cats #61 is now up at This Blog Is Full of Crap.

Dial the sunscreen back a little

There's growing scientific evidence that Vitamin D--produced naturally in human beings when plenty of bright sunshine (specifically, light in the dreaded ultraviolet spectrum) hits the skin--may be a very potent preventative against many kinds of cancer, including (gasp) skin cancer.

In the last three months alone, four separate studies found [Vitamin D] helped protect against lymphoma and cancers of the prostate, lung and, ironically, the skin. The strongest evidence is for colon cancer.

Many people aren't getting enough vitamin D. It's hard to do from food and fortified milk alone, and supplements are problematic.

So the thinking is this: Even if too much sun leads to skin cancer, which is rarely deadly, too little sun may be worse.

No one is suggesting that people fry on a beach. But many scientists believe that "safe sun" — 15 minutes or so a few times a week without sunscreen — is not only possible but helpful to health.

21 May 2005

Greenwich Village Idiot podcast, May 22, 2005

Greenwich Village Idiot for Sunday, May 22, 2005, is now available for download at the podcast site.

Direct download: Greenwich Village Idiot, May 22, 2005 (13.4MB MP3, 19:32)

(or subscribe to the podcast feed - RSS/XML)

In this edition:
  • Thanks to our good buddy Chap over at Chapomatic, we sample two different MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) and offer some constructive criticism to the chefs behind the military's standard field rations.

  • Over at the WFMU blog, general manager Ken has discovered that many programs are now being broadcast with "Descriptive Video Services" for the visually impaired, and we offer a snippet of a recent Simpsons episode with this supplemental audio track.

  • We wish a happy birthday to Pete Townshend, who turned 60 this week.

  • Music includes:

  • Blogs and articles referenced include:

Greenwich Village Idiot - the enrevanche podcast

The MRE Gourmet

Was IMing a few weeks back with good friend Chap of the Chapomatic blog.

Chap, a career Naval officer, was concerned to learn that I had been putting in some late hours in the office and actually missing a few meals. He promised to send me some emergency rations from the base PX when he had a minute. Yeah, right, I thought. Ha ha. I've known Chap for (cough, cough) over twenty years now, we kid each other about stuff all the time, and I didn't really think anything more about it.

Until a package arrived in the mail several days later. The contents: two complete Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), the military's standard field rations these days. There was an "international" MRE ("Chicken in Thai Style Sauce") and a vegetarian MRE ("Veggie Burger in Barbecue Sauce") in Chap's care-package.

You know what I had to do.

Herewith, the enrevanche Test Kitchen report on MREs (sample size n=2.)

(Click on the pictures to see larger and higher-resolution versions.)

Thai Chicken MRE Deconstructed
Step 1. Unpack your MRE. (Camo tablecloth optional.)

assemble package for heating
Step 2. Put entree in chemical heating pouch, add water.
Stuff back in cardboard carton.

rest on an incline to heat thoroughly
Step 3. Rest entree heating assembly on an incline for 10-15 minutes.

opening the pouch
Step 4. Open the pouch (careful, contents are hot)...

thai chicken plated up
Step 5. ...and plate it up. (Plate not provided.) Mmm, mmm.

So, how was it, I hear you asking?

The Thai-style Chicken wasn't too bad, actually, once you added enough of the (provided) hot pepper flakes to give it a little punch, though it was still too sweet for my liking. The pineapple chunks were plenty tasty.

dessert course
What's for afters?

The included dessert was somewhat less successful. The French Vanilla Cappuccino beverage powder (I kid you not) was pretty awful, and the creme-filled vanilla wafer cookie was only passable. Peanut-butter M&Ms were fine, however.

The Veggie Burger, complete with two thick slices of shelf-stable bread for sandwich assembly, was, well, kind of a travesty.

veggie burger meal plated up
Veggie burger meal, plated up.

proof I actually tasted it
Proof that I actually tasted it.

With enough Tabasco sauce (also included) it was barely edible, but the smell scared the cat and even Chow Fun, who will eat anything (and was actually pretty interested in my Thai Chicken) turned her nose up when I offered her a taste.

for the love of god more tabasco
For the love of God, more Tabasco!

On the plus side, the included brownie in this meal was surprisingly good, though it didn't survive packaging and shipping intact, and the dried cranberries were just fine.

Here's the complete photoset at Flickr. I recorded the process for this week's podcast, too. (Link: Greenwich Village Idiot Podcast, May 22, 2005 - MP3, 13.4 MB)

19 May 2005

Page Down, Home, Delete

Mister Gato makes himself right at home on our computer desk.

He wields considerable editorial power over what I write. Here, after reading a passage of particularly turgid prose, he sleepily mashes the "Delete" key with his right paw:

This bit has got to go.

If he ever figures out how to hit Ctrl, Alt and Delete at the same time (he is, after all, a quadruped) I'm in big trouble.

(Earlier Mister Gato posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19. See The Modulator and The Carnival of the Cats for more bloggers' cats from around the world. This week, the Carnival of the Cats is hosted at When Cats Attack.)

Happy 60th Birthday...

...to Pete Townshend.

I, for one, am very glad that you didn't die before you got old.

18 May 2005

I will gladly pay you Tuesday...

...for A Hamburger Today.

This new, specialized food blog is all about the burgers. Well-informed reviews of burger meccas ranging from New York City's Corner Bistro and Shake Shack to the fabled California chain In-N-Out Burger.

Here, let the AHT guys drop some knowledge on you about the Burger Joint in the Parker Meridien Hotel:

While Burger Joint is a touch difficult to find, tucked away behind a curtain to the north of the lobby desk with only a small iconic neon sign pointing the way, it's never empty. Between besuited Midtown businessfolk on lunch break and travelers grabbing dinner downstairs from their rooms, you're lucky to grab a stool or a booth in the wood-paneled, '70s rec room–style diner. The Meridien, just off Sixth Avenue, has doors on 56th and 57th, and though its easier to access Burger Joint from the 56th Street side, we recommend you make a grand entrance from 57th Street. That's because you'll find yourself in a soaring mirror-walled atrium with marble floors (top right)—all the better to enhance the cognitive dissonance you'll experience once inside the restaurant.

We also recommend grabbing any open table right away, if you're with someone who can hold it while you stand in line to order. It's counter service, and there's no host to seat you or take names. While you stand in line, you can contemplate your order, but that won't take long. The menu's simple: a hamburger or cheeseburger (both $5 at the time of this review) topped with any or all choices of lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, pickles, mustard, ketchup, or mayo. Also on the menu: Fries, shakes (after 3 p.m. only), beer, and brownies.

A Hamburger Today comes to us from the team behind the excellent pizza site Slice. We expect great things.

(Hat tip: Clay.)

Blogthing: Political Profile

Your Political Profile
Overall: 70% Conservative, 30% Liberal
Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Hat tip: Mira @ The Oubliette. Post your own scores in the comments, if you're interested.

17 May 2005

God's TQM Questionnaire

God's Total Quality Management questionnaire. Excerpt:
3. Did your God come to you undamaged, with all parts in good working order and with no obvious breakage or missing attributes? __ Yes __ No

If not, please describe the problems you initially encountered here.

Please indicate all that apply:
___ Not eternal
___ Not omniscient
___ Not omnipotent
___ Finite in space/does not appear to occupy or inhabit the entire universe
___ Permits sex outside of marriage
___ Prohibits sex outside of marriage
___ Makes mistakes
___ When beseeched, doesn't stay beseeched
___ Requires burnt offerings
___ Requires virgin sacrifices
___ Plays dice with the universe

16 May 2005

Electricity from blood glucose

A Japanese research team has developed a fuel cell that runs on blood without using toxic substances, opening the way for use in artificial hearts and other organs.

The biological fuel cell uses glucose, a sugar in blood, with a non-toxic substance used to draw electrons from glucose, said the team led by Matsuhiko Nishizawa, bio-engineering professor at the graduate school of state-run Tohoku University.

Dude, I could power every appliance in my house!

Oops, my bad. Sorry about the riots and fatalities.

Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker is apologizing to everyone in sight for his magazine's disgraceful conduct.

Newsweek's "inaccurate" (because "fabricated" is such an ugly word, I guess) story, which declared that U.S. interrogators at Guantánamo Bay had desecrated the Koran, triggered riots in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere in which at least 17 people died and scores more were injured.

From this morning's New York Times (registration required, Bugmenot works.)

"We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst," Mark Whitaker, Newsweek's editor, wrote in the issue of the magazine that goes on sale at newsstands today. In an accompanying article, the magazine wrote that its reporters had relied on an American government official, whom it has not identified, who had incomplete knowledge of the situation.

But Mr. Whitaker said in an interview later: "We're not retracting anything. We don't know what the ultimate facts are."

The information at issue is a sentence in a short "Periscope" item on May 9 about a planned United States Southern Command investigation into the abuse of prisoners at the detention facility in Guantánamo. It said that American military investigators had found evidence in an internal report that during the interrogation of detainees, American guards had flushed a Koran down a toilet as a way of trying to provoke the detainees into talking.

Pentagon officials said that no such information was included in the internal report and responded to Newsweek's apology with unusual anger.

I'm feeling some unusual anger myself this morning.

Here's the Official Party Line, in an article in the Washington Post (parent company of Newsweek; registration required, Bugmenot works.)
Whitaker said last night that "whatever facts we got wrong, we apologize for. I've expressed regret for the loss of life and the violence that put American troops in harm's way. I'm getting a lot of angry e-mail about that, and I understand it."
Update, Monday evening: Newsweek has issued a full retraction of the Koran-flushing story (link: BBC News.)

15 May 2005

I get the most interesting mail

A new wrinkle, pardon the expression, in porn spam:

Suddenly, my Yahoo Mail inbox is flooded with sexually-oriented spam written in German. (How can I tell it's sexually oriented? Let's just say that there are a lot of cognates.)

Paging Stan from South Park... this is your cue (WAV, not safe for work.)

Yahoo and Gmail both have really, really good spam filters, but the Deutschespammerung seems to be defeating Yahoo for the moment.

(Which reminds me... anyone want a Gmail invitation? I have approximately eight thousand to give away. Write me... barrydotcampbell-at-gmaildotcom.)

Update, 5/16/05: The German-language spam is the result of a network worm called "Sober." PC World story (via Yahoo News) here.

Cheney's still-undisclosed location

An irresistible grace note about the satellite view in Google Maps, from James Fallows' current "Techno Files" column in the New York Times:
Last month, I mentioned that one small part of the American land mass was obscured in an unusual way. It's not the headquarters of the C.I.A., which is there in such detail you that can tell the color of cars in the parking lots. Nor is the mystery zone a dam or a power plant. Some are clearer than others, but the differences result from varying quality of satellite photographs from place to place.

True, the roofs of the White House and two neighboring buildings have been Photoshopped, to conceal whatever protective systems may be up there. And the view of the United States Capitol grounds is blurry, though the contours of the main buildings are distinct. But to see what real camouflage looks like, zoom in on the satellite view of 1 Observatory Circle in Washington. That's where Dick Cheney lives.
Fallows is the rare, genuine article: a truly tech-savvy journalist who doesn't work for the tech industry press. Well over ten years ago, I was exchanging message board posts with him in the then-nascent online forums of The Atlantic, and over the years I have often read his observations about one aspect of personal computing technology or another and nodded to myself... "that's right, he gets it."

14 May 2005

Greenwich Village Idiot Podcast, May 15, 2005

Greenwich Village Idiot for Sunday, May 15, 2005, is now available for download at the podcast site.

Direct download: Greenwich Village Idiot, May 15, 2005 (25.4MB MP3, 36:16)

(or subscribe to the podcast feed - RSS/XML)

In this edition:
  • Dorian, the singer-songwriter we mentioned in last week's podcast, comes by to play us some new music and talk about making it as a musician in New York City (27 minutes)

  • We take you on a "sound-seeing" tour through the Greenmarket in Manhattan's Union Square (9 minutes)

  • Music includes:

    • "Drip Drop" (unreleased new music from Dorian)

    • "New York Winter," by Dorian, from Seeds (EP), available at thedorianmode.com or by writing to PO Box 44, New York, NY 10101.

    • "Vegetables," by The Beach Boys, from Smiley Smile

Greenwich Village Idiot - the enrevanche podcast

Beauty and bounty at the Greenmarket

It's an absolutely gorgeous day in New York City. Forecast called for rain, but while it is somewhat humid outside, there isn't a cloud in the sky, it's 70 degrees and there's a light breeze blowing.

I just bought couple of new toys for my podcasts (an iRiver iFP 799T 1 GB Flash MP3 Player/Recorder, with a Sony stereo lapel mic attached) and went on a "soundseeing" tour of the Union Square Greenmarket this morning.

(Haven't had a chance to check the recording yet... if it worked out, excerpts will be featured in an upcoming Greenwich Village Idiot.)

Bought: pencil-thin new asparagus, two big bunches of ramps, a pound of fiddlehead ferns, a couple half-pound slabs of beautiful artisanal cheese (a veiny, stinky-in-a-good-way blue and a mellow farmstead Dutch), a bag of homemade pretzels and a couple of apple turnovers from the hippie chicks running the organic baked-goods stand.

Oh, and a slab of pork fatback for seasoning vegetables. (You can take the boy out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the boy. Not yet, anyway.) This, I will slice up into small pieces and freeze (it freezes beautifully); a little chunk will impart a delightful flavor to a huge pot of, say, green beans.

Okay, so I'm a little off the reservation on the diet with the apple turnover (which I just devoured with a cup of coffee) but otherwise I'm an obedient and compliant patient.

Tonight's dinner: whole-wheat pasta tossed with ramps sauteed in olive oil, with a side of steamed fiddleheads. Disgustingly healthy.

The Greenmarket is a great place to practice your foreign-language skills. Lots of French people shopping at the cheese stalls, and a clutch of enthusiastic Russians by the mushroom table.

13 May 2005

Encounter with the next generation

A rare bit of at-work blogging for me, but this is too good to resist (or wait for.)

So I'm riding the M11 bus (PDF link) up 10th Avenue to work this morning. Around 34th Street a little girl (guesstimated age: 5) and her grandmother board the bus. The little girl has a bright pink plastic briefcase, which she is banging carelessly and noisily against every hard surface on the bus as she comes on board.

I smile indulgently and then gasp audibly as she sits down near me, opens up the bright pink briefcase and reveals that what she's toting is actually some kind of ruggedized laptop for small children. She boots it up and happily starts playing a word-matching game, stabbing at the keyboard with her chubby little fingers.

Recovering, I give the grandmother a wink and lean over to address the little girl. "Excuse me," I say, "but could you check and see whether I have any new e-mail this morning?"

"No!" she shouts, delightedly...

...and then, she explains, as one would to a Very Slow Person:

"New York City buses don't have Wi-Fi yet, you know."

12 May 2005

Call MedicAlert immediately for instructions

As a newly diagnosed diabetic, one of the things I've acquired (besides a host of new specialist physicians, sore fingertips from thrice-daily blood glucose testing, and a badly aggravated case of hypochondria) is a set of MedicAlert dog tags.

The legend engraved on the tag basically instructs anyone who finds me unconscious to cram a Twinkie into my mouth and call an 800 number for further instructions.

Note to diabetics who own cats: you might want to consider another medical-information-jewelry option. Perhaps a bracelet.

Three salient characteristics of the dog tags that make them irresistible to Mister Gato:
  1. They are shiny.
  2. They are on a dangly chain.
  3. They are usually attached to Barry.
Below, two pictures of a cat reading my dog tags.

cat reads dog tags
If found unconscious, administer one small can of
oil-packed tuna and five grams catnip, stat!

call medic alert immediately
...call immediately for further instructions.

(Earlier Mister Gato posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. See The Modulator and The Carnival of the Cats for more bloggers' cats from around the world. This week, the Carnival of the Cats is hosted at Aptenobytes.)

11 May 2005

How to fire a teacher in New York City

Common Good, a bipartisan organization dedicated to "restoring common sense to American law," has compiled some facts about the burden of law on New York City public schools.

(Warning: You might want to place a Xanax under your tongue before reading further.)

Here, for example, is the process you must follow if you are a principal who wants to fire an inept teacher. (PDF version.)

Even more frightening: here are the hoops that you have to jump through in order to suspend (not expel, just suspend) a disruptive student. (PDF version.)

(Related: Today's New York Daily News runs an editorial urging Mayor Bloomberg and teacher's union president Randi Weingarten to work together to streamline the process for ridding the system of incompetent teachers.)

10 May 2005

Taking no prisoners

LA Weekly's Nikki Finke on Arianna Huffington's new celebrity group blog, The Huffington Post:
Judging from today's horrific debut of the humongously pre-hyped celebrity blog the Huffington Post, the Madonna of the mediapolitic world has gone one reinvention too many. She has now made an online ass of herself. What Arianna Huffington's bizarre guru-cult association, 180-degree conservative-to-liberal conversion, and failed run in the California gubernatorial-recall race couldn't accomplish, her blog has now done: She is finally played out publicly. This Web-site venture is the sort of failure that is simply unsurvivable, because of all the advance publicity touting its success as inevitable. Her blog is such a bomb that it's the box-office equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar and Heaven's Gate rolled into one. In magazine terms, it's the disastrous clone of Tina Brown's Talk, JFK Jr.'s George or Maer Roshan's Radar. No matter what happens to Huffington, it's clear Hollywood will suffer the consequences.

It almost seems like some sick hoax. Perhaps Huffington is no longer a card-carrying progressive but now a conservative mole. Because she served up liberal celebs like red meat on a silver platter for the salivating and Hollywood-hating right wing to chew up and spit out.
Finke goes on to document (at length) Arianna's allegedly dodgy practices while raising funds for her new blogging venture. Read the whole thing.

While my own assessment isn't quite so harsh, my impression, on taking a quick scan of Arianna's new blog, was that most of the Hollywood types who currently blog there simply aren't very interesting without a script (or a script doctor.)

I was particularly disappointed in John Cusack's entry about Hunter Thompson. Cusack is a smart, funny man whose writing credits include the wonderful High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank; nonetheless, his piece was listless and boring (and how one can be listless and boring when writing about HST, I'll never know.)

(Related: The Huffington Post.)

09 May 2005

Fergus Henderson dinner: Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Sunday afternoon, we took the train up to Tarrytown, New York and visited the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

What was the attraction, besides a lovely spring Sunday down on the farm? In a word: food.

Fergus Henderson, the gentle, possibly slightly mad genius behind St. John Bar and Restaurant in London (and the author of Nose to Tail Eating, a cookbook that has been cited as an inspiration by everyone from Mario Batali to Anthony Bourdain, and by people who aren't celebrity chefs too) was overseeing a dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Carrie and I had planned to eat at St. John during our scheduled spring trip to London... a trip that, sadly, we had to cancel due to illness in the family.

However, we were clever enough to get signed up on St. John's mailing list, and when I got word via e-mail that Fergus would be cooking at Stone Barns, we couldn't pass it up. We've been fans of Blue Hill (the original restaurant in Greenwich Village) for years and had been meaning to make the trek to Stone Barns since they opened there last year; this brought all the threads together and we couldn't resist.

I am from the South (motto: "We eat anything"... I'll write another time about the wonder known as chitlins) and love organ meats and unusual preparations. Carrie, though far from a finicky eater, isn't quite the seeker of culinary novelty that I am, but was totally game and ready to go.

As the title of Fergus's book suggests, he advocates using almost every part of the animal, including bits that we often throw away. He takes offal and turns it into something truly sublime. In fact, his approach isn't "novel" for novelty's sake or "novel" at all... he is returning to the time-honored practice of using everything and wasting nothing, and lavishing his attention on some of the cheaper and more flavorful cuts of meat available.

I knew that we were in for a treat when the opening appetizer arrived... delicate, perfectly cooked slivers of pig heart with green sauce on beautiful little lettuce leaves. We moved through lamb and rabbit kidneys on toast, drank a fair bit of good wine on the patio, and waited to be called in to dinner.

Dinner didn't disappoint, either. It started with beautiful, peel-and-eat soft-boiled eggs ("they might be a little difficult to peel, because they just came out of the chickens this morning," Fergus declared proudly) and an aromatic pickled salad with plenty of chervil in it, and culminated with beautiful thick slices of pork loin atop lightly cooked fiddlehead ferns.

I can't remember enjoying a meal so much in quite some time, made all the more enjoyable by the company of our fellow adventurers, devoted tasters all.

(Flickr photo set: Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture farm tour.)

Flowers in the dooryard garden
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Hay Barn 2 (exterior)
Big mama
Baby bacon
The Greenhouse (exterior)

Also posted on Chowhound.

Can't swat a fly with a blog page, either

Michael Kinsley on the decline and fall of the American newspaper (LA Times, May 8, 2005):
In this great country, there are newspaper editorial pages of every political stripe, from nearly insane far-left rantings to the Wall Street Journal.

But when the United States faces a danger to its most important institutions and values, Americans can count on the newspaper industry to put aside petty differences and speak with one voice.

Now is such a moment. The enemy is invisible, indeed inexplicable, but could be fatal to all we hold dear. In short: Some evil force is causing people to stop reading newspapers! Newspaper circulation figures, which had been drifting decorously downward for years, have started to plummet. At the current rate of decline, the last newspaper subscriber will hang up on a renewal phone call that interrupts dinner on Oct. 17, 2016. And then it will be over.
Happily, Kinsley has a seven-point plan to save us from this disaster. I particularly like Point Four:
Floyd Abrams, the nation's most prominent and enthusiastic 1st Amendment lawyer, must come up with a reason why canceling your newspaper subscription, or failing to renew it, is unconstitutional. C'mon, Floyd - you've kept a straight face through claims about the rights of journalists that are almost as audacious as this one. Now is your chance to go for the gold.
Read the whole thing.

08 May 2005

Relational aggression in preschoolers

Whew. The rules for primate dominance hierarchies are apparently powerfully engraved in our brains.

Study: Meanness in girls starts as early as age 3 (AP, via Yahoo News.)

"It could range from leaving someone out to telling their friends not to play with someone to saying, 'I'm not going to invite you to my birthday party,'" said Craig Hart, study co-author and professor of marriage, family and human development at BYU. "Some kids are really adept at being mean and nasty."

They regularly exclude others and threaten to withdraw friendship when they don't get their way.

The "mean girls" are highly liked by some and strongly disliked by others. They are socially skilled and popular but can be manipulative and subversive if necessary. They are feared as well as respected.

The study is the first to link relational aggression and social status in preschoolers. It appears in the current issue of the journal Early Education and Development. David Nelson and Clyde Robinson of BYU are the other authors.

Thought for the day

"Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."

- Robert A. Heinlein

NY Times: A blog revolution? Get a grip!

From Sunday's New York Times (free registration required; bugmenot works):

At a time when media conferences like "Les Blogs" in Paris two weeks ago debate the potential of the form, and when BusinessWeek declares, as it did on its May 2 cover, that "Blogs Will Change Your Business," [Gawker Media chief Nick] Denton is withering in his contempt. A blog, he says, is much better at tearing things down - people, careers, brands - than it is at building them up. As for the blog revolution, Mr. Denton put it this way: "Give me a break."

"The hype comes from unemployed or partially employed marketing professionals and people who never made it as journalists wanting to believe," he said. "They want to believe there's going to be this new revolution and their lives are going to be changed."

For all of the stiff-arming and disdain that Mr. Denton brings to the discussion of this nonrevolution, however, there is no question that he and his team are trying to turn the online diarist's form - ephemeral, fast-paced and scathingly opinionated - into a viable, if not lucrative, enterprise.

07 May 2005

Greenwich Village Idiot podcast

Greenwich Village Idiot, the Mother's Day edition, is now available for download at the podcast site.

Direct download: Greenwich Village Idiot, May 8, 2005 (14.2MB MP3, 20:48)

(or subscribe to the podcast feed - RSS/XML)

In this edition:
  • We wish a Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there.

  • We relate a recent, pleasant encounter in Washington Square Park and play you some cool new music.

  • We offer important advice about the psychologically deleterious effects of e-mail and instant messaging.

  • Music includes:

  • Blog articles referenced:

Greenwich Village Idiot - the enrevanche podcast

Code... exciting and new...

Come aboard, we're expecting you! (via InformationWeek)
Two California entrepreneurs are developing an IT services business plan that reads like a CIO's paradise: sharply lower IT prices coupled with easy access to software and engineering outsourcing developers just a short boat ride away.

It's the "Code Boat," a plan by David Cook and Roger Green, the founders of SeaCode. Their venture calls for staffing a cruise ship three miles off the Southern California coast with customer IT specialists and then making the ship available to IT headquarters staffers through a short water taxi ride.
What are some advantages of this rather literal take on "offshoring?"
[The promoters] believe they can skirt H-1B visa regulations by categorizing their specialists as "seamen" and who would therefore be able to visit the U.S. mainland on shore passes. They will do a significant amount of hiring among non-U.S. lands to sign up top experts.

Green said, for instance, that SeaCode will look for back office and SAP experts in India, network engineers in China, and embedded developers in Russia. Non-American employees would likely receive much less than their counterparts on the mainland. Still, he added, SeaCode plans to hire plenty of American experts, noting that about half of job applicants so far are from Americans.
You know, it's not often that you see a business plan that relies on defying immigration law, maritime law and union regulations simultaneously. You magnificent bastards! My hat's off to you.

Related: InformationWeek's Patricia Keefe blogs about The Code Boat (among other things.) The really interesting and sad bits are the comments on her blog entry, written by InformationWeek readers (a fair sampling of IT workers of a certain age, I'd wager.)

Also related: Theme from "The Love Boat" (2.1MB WAV)

05 May 2005

Five things

Payback is hell.

Chap, who recently answered my podcast challenge (this guy has the most amazing record collection of anyone I know... it was just meant to be) has retaliated by passing on a blog chain letter.

I've got to pick five items from the following list of potential professions and talk about what I'd do. "If you were a twee..."

The list (and I wouldn't do this for just anyone):
  • If I could be a scientist...
  • If I could be a farmer...
  • If I could be a musician...
  • If I could be a doctor...
  • If I could be a painter...
  • If I could be a gardener...
  • If I could be a missionary...
  • If I could be a chef...
  • If I could be an architect...
  • If I could be a linguist...
  • If I could be a psychologist...
  • If I could be a librarian...
  • If I could be an athlete...
  • If I could be a lawyer...
  • If I could be an inn-keeper...
  • If I could be a professor...
  • If I could be a writer...
  • If I could be a llama-rider...
  • If I could be a bonnie pirate...
  • If I could be an astronaut...
  • If I could be a world famous blogger...
  • If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...
  • If I could be married to any current famous political figure...
  1. If I could be a musician... I'd definitely be a jazz musician. Jazz is musician's music, and I'd want to be a musician's musician.

    I don't think that Charlie Parker or Louis Armstrong would ever have to worry about me being a threat to their legacies as composers or performers, but with enough practice I might make a decent saloon singer out of myself.

  2. If I could be a doctor... I suppose I could write all the usual tripe here about being a dedicated researcher, seeking out the cures for dread diseases, or a family doctor working selflessly with "underserved populations," but in all honesty I think I'd move to a medical marjiuana state and set myself up in a lucrative prescribing practice on an attractive beach somewhere.

    Either that, or a practice that involved shooting lots of Botox into celebrities' faces.

    Underserved celebrities, of course.

  3. If I could be a chef... I'd open up a really good breakfast place at the beach. A good breakfast place in a resort area is almost a guaranteed success. Especially if it's located close to a medical marijuana clinic.

    Or I might find an ultra-Orthodox business partner and open up a glatt kosher soul food restaurant.

  4. If I could be an architect... Hell, these people are ready to give me work as an architect right now! Seriously, though... I've always been fascinated by forward-thinking residential architecture, especially highly energy-efficient designs like earth-sheltered homes. So I might focus on that.

  5. If I could be a bonnie pirate... Yarrrrrrrrrr. Prepare to be boarded.
Now it's time to pick some new victims spread the love.

The Oubliette, Prairiesong, Mountain Philosopher... tag, you're it!

E-mail makes you dumber than marijuana does

Courtesy of vnunet:

Researchers at the University of London Institute of Psychiatry have found that the constant distractions of email and texting are more harmful to performance than cannabis.

Those distracted by incoming email, phone calls and text messages saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, more than twice that found in studies of the impact of smoking cannabis, according to the researchers.

I think this explains much about the blogosphere. (Full text here.)

Sleepy Sunday morning

Thursday cat (and dog) blogging...

Actually, this is a picture from last Sunday.

Below, I've just gotten up to put the coffee on and make breakfast. Chow Bella and Mister Gato take up a strategic position on the bed--on my blanket--and soak up a little early morning sunlight. (Note the companionable vibe, and the fact that they're lying there with their hind feet touching. Also note that this photo is completely unretouched... Chows really do have blue tongues.)

sleepy sunday morning
Chow Bella and Mister Gato enjoy a little Sunday morning sun.

(Earlier Mister Gato posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. See The Modulator and The Carnival of the Cats for more bloggers' cats from around the world. This week, the Carnival of the Cats is hosted at Conservative Cat.)

04 May 2005

Schneier on security

Renaissance man Bruce Schneier is a respected authority on cryptography and on all things security-related. I've been meaning to point you to his blog for some time.

This seems as good a time as any, especially as I've just discovered (through the excellent groupblog BoingBoing) a link to an ITConversations interview with Schneier from last year.

Top observation from Bruce, and your official enrevanche Thought For The Day:

"More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks, which shows you how good we are at evaluating risk."

Attention, music fans

Chap is podcasting.

Trust me on this. Go give it a listen. I can promise you, at the very least, that you will have a Strange New Respect for Maya Angelou after you hear her sing a calypso number (!)

And extra points for the Blossom Dearie track.

03 May 2005

Dead Celebrity Soulmate

Courtesy of Biography.com... find your Dead Celebrity Soulmate.

To my wife's eternal amusement, I was apparently destined to be matched for life with Agatha Christie, the "Queen of Crime."

Alternative career path for programmers

Thanks, Reuters:
(Delmar, NY) Computer programmer Steve Relles has the poop on what to do when your job is outsourced to India.

Relles, one of a rising number of Americans seeking new opportunities as their work shifts to countries with cheaper labor, has spent the past year making his living scooping up dog droppings as the "Delmar Dog Butler."

"My parents paid for me to get a (degree) in math and now I am a pooper scooper," Relles, a 42-year-old married father of two told Reuters. "I can clean four to five yards in a hour if they are close together."


"It sure beats computer programming because it's flexible, and I get to be outside," he said.

02 May 2005

Be happy, dammit!

A happy camper is a healthy camper, say British researchers who have unearthed evidence of a biological connection between a positive sense of well-being and reduced risk for disease among middle-aged men and women.

In this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors report that simply being happy -- at work and at play -- is directly related with specific bodily functions that protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune deficiencies and stress-related illnesses.

(from Forbes, with a hat tip to The Modulator.)

Outsourcing backlash

As companies seemingly rush to outsource and "offshore" jobs (see below), there are signs that we're in the opening stages of a significant, management-driven backlash against the practice of outsourcing in general.

Computerworld reports on the results of a Deloitte Consulting study:
While organizations turned to outsourcing during tough economic times to cut costs and boost efficiencies, a study by Deloitte Consulting has found that few organizations have realized the benefits they expected and some are bringing outsourced projects back in-house.

The survey of 25 large organizations with a combined $50 billion in outsourcing contracts found that 70% have had negative experiences with outsourcing projects and are now taking a more cautious approach. One in four companies has brought outsourced functions back in-house and nearly half have failed to see the cost savings they anticipated as a result of outsourcing.

The study, titled "Calling a Change in the Outsourcing Model" and released last week, concludes that companies will need to alter their approach to outsourcing as the economy expands. While cost savings will remain important, companies need to look at outsourcing more strategically to determine when handing off IT projects makes sense, says Ken Landis, a senior strategy principal at Deloitte.

Read the whole thing.

Offshoring continues apace

Offshoring, a form of outsourcing in which jobs are relocated to countries with lower cost structures, continues apace.

Interestingly, there are no really reliable numbers to indicate how many American jobs have been lost to this practice, to date.

TechsUnite.org, a burgeoning union for technical workers, is trying to track patterns of offshoring and job loss through their Offshore Tracker:
Total number of jobs tracked by the Offshore Tracker
Jobs Offshored: 356,166
Jobs Lost: 172,195

States most widely affected
California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington

Sectors of the economy most frequently listed on the Offshore Tracker (along with names within each sector)

Airline Transportation
Delta Airlines, United Airlines, U.S. Airways

Books: Printing, Publishing
Gale Thompson Group, Thomson West,

Commercial Physical and Biological Research
Biogen, CiVentiChem, Nobex

Computer Integrated Systems Design
Conexant Systems, Evolving Systems, 3Com

Computer Peripheral Equipment
Cadence, STMicroelectronic

Computer Processing and Data Preparation and Processing
Affiliated Computer Services, Quark, Sierra Atlantic, Unisys

Computer Programming Services
Electronic Data Systems (EDS), IBM, Perot Systems, Sun Microsystems

Computer Related Services not elsewhere classified
Earthlink, Keane, Siemens AG

Electronic Components
Delphi, Sony

Engineering Services
BE&K Engineering, Kensa

Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, Ocwen Financial, Sallie Mae

Health and Allied Services
Kaiser Permanente, McKesson Corporation

Aetna, AIG, MetLife, Premera Blue Cross

Investment Advice
Ernst & Young, Fidelity Investments

Management/Management Consulting Services
Deloitte Consulting, Hewitt Associates

Pharmaceutical Preparations
Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer

Prepackaged Software
Microsoft, Oracle

Semiconductors and Related Services
Cypress Semiconductor, Intel

Telephone Communications
AT&T, MCI, Sprint, Verizon Wireless

Other Companies Who Offshored in the Past Year
Anheuser Busch, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Best Western, Black &
Decker, Chiquita Brands, Circuit City, Coach, Coca-Cola, Colgate-
Palmolive, Columbia House, Costco, FUBU, Gap, General Mills, Home
Depot, ITT Educational Services, John Deere & Company, Johnson &
Johnson, Land's End, Lowe's, Mattel, Maytag, Nestle, Office Depot,
Orbitz, Pepsi, Princeton University, Reebok, Safeway, Sears,
Sweetheart Cup Company, Target, Travelocity, and Washington Mutual

01 May 2005

Carnival of the Cats 58...

...is now up at Running Scared.

Chowhound in the NY Post

The Chowhound's Guide to the New York Tristate Area gets some press in the Sunday edition of the New York Post:
When intrepid New York food writer Jeff [sic] Leff founded Chowhound.com in 1997, he wanted to connect with the kind of people who happily drive an hour for a killer hot dog or spend weekends stalking Chinatown for the ultimate dumpling.

Now he's taken the bubbling mass of tips, opinions and rants on the site's message boards and distilled it all into book form. "The Chowhound's Guide to the New York Tristate Area" compiles the inside dope from people who live to dig up hidden culinary treasure.

Playing with podcasting

A test enrevanche podcast is available for downloading (MP3 format, 7.6MB, just over eight minutes long.)

Here's the RSS feed if you want to use a tool like iPodder.