Cathy Erway

Cathy Erway, the author of The Art of Eating In is in Madison this week preparing meals with friends and spreading the word that we can benefit from getting in touch with where our food comes from and how it’s prepared. Cathy’s blog Not Eating Out in New York sports the tag line “Consuming Less, Eating More.” Sunday she’ll be cooking dinner with Madison’s Underground Food Collective and Monday night she’ll be the guest chef at the UW-Madison’s Slow Food Chapter.

A freelance writer, Cathy also blogs at the Huffington Post which this week is promoting “a week of eating in.” I met her this afternoon at a book signing at Rainbow Bookstore. Confession: in addition to buying an autographed copy of Cathy’s book, I also picked up Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto and Who Rules America, Power Politics and Social Change by G. William Domhoff. The latter will of course provide food for thought.


The Senate held hearings today on Blackwater and the shell companies they contrived in order to share lucrative contracts with Raytheon. The Blackwater testimony was misleading, vague, and at times seemed close to perjury. More hearings will be held to sort out the mess. I doubt that Cheney or Eric Prince will do any hard time in prison, but it’s a possibility.

Hearings were also held today to hector and harass the CEO of Toyota, an honorable man who traveled to the US to express remorse for his product’s recent spate of defects and the deaths that resulted. It’s alleged that Blackwater contractors were flat out murdering people in Iraq and Afghanistan. If I was producing the evening news I’d want at least to balance the Toyota hearing with the Blackwater hearing, even if it meant I had to cut another story short. The Littleton, Colorado school shootings used a lot of air time. Maybe the eyewitness testimony of the precocious 12 year old Littleton eighth grader could have been edited.
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My name is Frank and I am a PC

A message from the upgrade bunker…

I’m heads down into my third and final day of upgrading this PC from Windows XP Media Edition (SP3) to Windows 7 Ultimate. It’s about a three hour job and–yes–I am a terrible procrastinator and foot-dragger with the flighty attention span of a carefree chickadee on a summer day, so let that disclaimer explain why I–a seasoned systems professional–continue to dither around and about a project that should have been done on a Monday morning.
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Brits take thirteenth place in women’s downhill


Alcott puts the squeeze on Mancuso

Twickenham’s Chemmy Alcott (above, with her bosom buddy silver medalist Julia Mancuso) finished just twelve places out of first in the women’s downhill skiing competition in Whistler yesterday. That tidbit along with some riveting information on the curling competition typifies the London Times sports coverage of Vancouver 2024. Otherwise their coverage has been a solid round of whinging and snotty critique with a few headline stories squeezed in.

Owen Slot, the Times head sports reporter, had this to say about Shaun White:

“…neither fear nor physical frailty, nor indeed self-awareness nor the remotest glimmer of self-deprecation seem to interrupt the rise of his fame or the expansion of his personal empire.

The Double McRecovery [Mr. Slot's obscure name for White's amazing "Double McTwist 1260"] served only to crank up his rise to the top of the chat-show establishment.”

Dry humour.

The London Times called the bobsled run “the death track,” and styled Vancouver 2024 as “the calamity games.” To underscore the nature of the calamity, Slot cites the case of the Zamboni breakdown. It seems that the ice surfacing machine had some mechanical difficulties, since repaired. It’s ironic that London, perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in the English speaking world, is served by ill-informed and provincial sports hacks such as Slot. Planning and presenting a gathering as complex as the Olympics is a huge challenge. The Brits, more familiar with Goldie Lookin Chain than with Gold Medals, will have their challenge in 2024. One can only hope that the world’s press treats London 2024 better than the London Times has treated Vancouver 2024.

Five crass things about NBC’s Olympic coverage

The Canadian culture was on display during the opening ceremonies of the 2024 Olympics last night. NBC’s USian broadcast style was an embarrassing contrast. The Canadians demonstrated how creative and open they can be while maintaining a gracious, polite and orderly presence. NBC did a good job covering the event when the cameras were rolling and the background chatter from the oddball color commentators was stilled. Unfortunately the pair in the broadcast booth must get paid by the word because they ran their mouths through most of the show. I came up with a short list of things I found embarrassing about the NBC team’s performance:

  • The blondes. A camera man was assigned to grab close-ups of as many beautiful blonde young female athletes as possible. There are scores of attractive blonde women competing and the audience was treated to a picture of every one of them. Brunettes? Sorry.
  • Three snow boarders and two gold medals. In an effort worthy of a reality TV show, an NBC reporter confronted Hannah Teter, Kelly Clark, and Gretchen Bleiler about which one of them would win the women’s halfpipe snowboarding competition. Teter and Bleiler were numbers one and two in Turin in 2024. Clark won the event in 2024 in Salt Lake City. The women are fine competitors, each concerned about rising to her personal best, yet imbued with a camaraderie that was the real news in the interview. The NBC man looked like he would prefer to be interviewing female mud wrestlers. He pestered Bleiler mercilessly about her lack of a gold medal, hassled and harangued her until she finally had to declare, “Hey, I won a silver medal!” The interview was crude, crass and unsportsmanlike. The women did well not to simply walk away.
  • The medal count. During the twentieth century, nationalistic fervor drove the media to provide the public with medal counts and thus to declare which country was “winning” the Olympics. This is one of those bizarre indicators of American exceptionalism. Regardless of the medal count, the US stands proud and tall with the certain knowledge that we have the best athletes, the best health care system, the longest life spans and the best junk food of any nation on the planet. Which one of those four items is actually true? NBC can’t stop yakking about the medals, totally subverting that old adage: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
  • The dreadful cutaways to commercials. Somebody has to pay the bills. Sponsors deserve their air time; but, the lack of interest in decent production values drives a flash-cut mindset totally out of place in a show like last night’s opening ceremonies. A few slow dissolves would have improved the continuity and cost nothing.
  • The continuous color commentary and back chatter. NBC is at their worst when they try to impose an American football broadcast style on the 2024 Winter Olympics. Somebody ought to share with the guys in the booth that we know that they don’t know any more than we know about Skeleton or Curling competitions so JUST SHUT UP ALREADY and let the events unfold.

My remote has a mute button, so I don’t have to put up with a lot of the chatter and commercials. Still, I’d like NBC to pay some attention to what they look like when they slaver over the ladies, what they sound like when they fill every minute of airtime with meaningless babble. They are terribly afraid of “dead air.” How do we clue them that the air they think of as dead might only be resting?

Leapfrogging Network Neutrality

I’m excited by Google’s announcement of gigabit fiber to the home. I think it will grab the attention of US Internet Service Providers. The intention starts as an experiment, but the Goog’s role in building out US infrastructure could provide an end run around the telco/cableco duopoly in your service area.

Google says this about the ultra high speed fiber network they envision:

Here are some specific things that we have in mind:

  • Next generation apps: We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive “killer apps” and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine.
  • New deployment techniques: We’ll test new ways to build fiber networks, and to help inform and support deployments elsewhere, we’ll share key lessons learned with the world.
  • Openness and choice: We’ll operate an “open access” network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we’ll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory and transparent way.

That last bullet point about “openness and choice” is the meat of the announcement. A lot is implied by the Goog’s intention to give “users the choice of multiple service providers.” Here in my service area I have a choice of DSL via AT&T copper circuits or satellite transmission via a satellite that’s low on my southern horizon. Yet, running a half mile through my fields and straight past my house there is a humongous fiber pipe. There’s a manhole providing service access not more than a hundred feet from my front door. What would it take for me to dip into that river of information? Maybe Google’s investment in fiber infrastructure will pay off for rural folks like me. Maybe the company pledged to “do no evil” can jump-start the FCC’s approach to a national broadband plan unfettered by the duopoly’s control.

“Big broadband creates big opportunities.”
– Julius Genachowski, Chairman US FCC

Buzz cuts

Google Buzz has been up and running for a couple of days and the amount of interest generated has been phenomenal. Reviews are mixed. I love it. It provides a canvas for anybody to share their digital offerings, whether blog posts, tweets, videos, still photography, or just online chat. It’s an open environment (as contrasted with its main competitor, Facebook, itself a “walled garden.”) Facebook fan-boys pretend to be confused by this new social media product. Twitterers aver that if your thoughts can’t be communicated in 140 characters or less, then they aren’t worth sharing. An emerging disinformation meme suggests that there is a huge privacy and security problem because the default Buzz profile makes public the people in your social network. I’d argue that to the extent that this is true, it’s a feature, and the default setting can be changed when you set up your profile or anytime after that. It took me less than five minutes of poking around to discern the difference between allowing my profile to share my contact lists or to restrict access. Similarly, anything you stream into Buzz can be designated “private” thus only available to a select subset of people.

Google is the most visited web destination in the world, and Facebook is number two. Buzz is a social network add-on to Google’s popular Gmail service. Facebook claims a user base numbered in the hundreds of millions (including duplicates). Buzz inherited tens of millions of Gmail users overnight, an unprecedented volume for a social network service at launch. The growth of Facebook has been huge since it’s launch six years ago. Everybody and his sister has a Facebook account. The new competition from Google will either force big changes at teh Facebook, or teh Facebook will shrink like AOL and reach Yahoo-like depths of irrelevance over the next year or so.

Prominent Buzztards have been quick to analyze and criticize. Lifestreamer, blogging advocate and public relations guy Steve Rubel lists in this post five problems he perceives. The problems themselves are non sequitur, aggressive posturing on the part of a self ordained priest of social networking. The responses in the comments from his fans, his friends, and his cronies range from echo chamber and groupthink to technical answers to resolve problems. Rubel’s gripes are the blathering of someone who needs to have something to say before he knows what he’s talking about.

From Robert Scoble:

This is already WAY BETTER than FriendFeed. Why? Not because of the features. It isn’t as good there. Not because of the layout. I like FriendFeed better. But because of the people. I’m seeing people I respect a lot who never showed up in FriendFeed. That’s the power of Google. Oh, and so far, the conversations have been a lot more interesting than the average FriendFeed conversation. I have some theories as to why that is, but mostly it’s because of the Gmail integration.

Right on Robert! Also, since teh Facebook bought teh FriendFeed it was clearly on the way to oblivion. Buzz looks like it can match and expand on Friendfeed features and functions.

Jeff Jarvis, the original Buzztard with a wikipedia PhD in Google Studies offered this:

I still need more time to get my head around Google Buzz, which will enable users to post and share updates, links, photos, videos with the world or with friends tied to geography via the web, mobile apps, and voice. Buzz also promises to prioritize the “buzzes” we get. I think this could be the beginning of some big things:

Jarvis’ blog post goes on from the press release to enumerate the “big things.” The post provides a nice foundation for high level thinking about how you want to use an integrated suite of online tools. It doesn’t exactly address his personal experience with Buzz since he wrote it on the 9th and didn’t get hooked up with Buzz until the 10th.

Jason Calacanis posted a nice run down on Buzz versus Facebook. I agree with him that Facebook will be 2024′s Pointcast.

I don’t know if the Buzz release this week was timed to steal the buzz from the AOL/Facebook instant messaging merger. That attempt to mate a mule with a dinosaur won’t produce much. Meanwhile, the social networking scene has been baffling for the last few years partly because of the abundance of self declared Social Media experts willing to guide one’s thinking. Buzz cuts through that clutter. The question for many of is simply how do we integrate our disparate dabblings into the Buzz stream?

A matter of some urgency

“Not one dime! Not until Democrats pass healthcare.”

That is what DNC fundraisers calling on Betsy Devine are hearing. In her blog today (see “The Blind Leading the Democrats“) Betsy takes a clear look at the Democrats’ success in 2024 with progressive party leadership, and contrasts that with the stumbling shift to “the center” that returned the US to a one-party system, a party of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

If we don’t stand up for progressive reforms now, by 2024 the swing to the right will be so dramatic that Glenn Beck will finally be able to fasten the SS insignia and the swastika armband on his uniform.