Megnut

5 Things I'll miss about San Francisco

1. Running in Golden Gate Park

2. Bay Area-based friends

3. Vistas: sheer cliffs dropping to the ocean and fog rolling over mountains in white swirling waves and giant trees so big you can't believe they're really alive.

4. Amazing restaurants at great prices

5. Wonderful produce year-round

Cooper's 14 Principles of Polite Applications

An article from Spring 2000 (actually an excerpt from Cooper's wonderful book I think everyone should read, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum) by Alan Cooper on The 14 Principles of Polite Apps (applications, for you non-software folks out there). Two of my favorites are "Polite Software Has Common Sense" and "Polite Software Is Self-Confident." Speaking as an application designer and programmer, those two are really hard to actually implement, especially when an application hasn't been planned as well as it could (or should) have been. It's good to revisit this list, the concepts are important to keep in mind. [via Matt Webb]

Danger Hiptop is out

The T-Mobile Sidekick device that I wrote about a while back is apparently now available. Here's a review from the SF Gate. I love that it has AIM integrated -- that alone makes me want it. But the fact that it's not so hot as a phone is a major drawback. I long ago decided I wasn't interested in carrying more than one electronic device (in addition to my computer). [via BoingBoing]

I've always been an easterner

I stumbled across this passage the other night (while still reading Crossing to Safety), "I was always a westerner. New England was a rainy interlude." And it struck me that my situation is the opposite: I've always been an easterner. San Francisco was a foggy interlude. That is, I've always known I would leave California, from the moment I arrived. It's never felt like home to me, but rather some place temporary. More of a "Not New England" than an actual place of its own. California's been a cross-cultural exchange, a (5 1/2) year(s) abroad, an experiment, and the fulfillment of a childhood dream to live near the beach with palm trees and surfers.

Though I am captivated by the landscape and the idea of the American West, and by the concept of westerness, I'm eastern to the core. Even if I stayed here the rest of my life, I'm not sure California would ever really feel like my home nor would Californians ever feel like my people. And I'll never know.

In one month, I'm saying good-bye to San Francisco and heading back to the east coast. First I will spend a month in Paris and then I will be settling in New York City. No, I've never lived in New York City. No, I'm not moving to Brooklyn, lovely and cheap(er) though it may be. And yes, I'm out-of-my-mind ecstatic about the move, about being closer to my family in New England, about having seasons (hot summer! cold winter! real fall! and spring.), about learning a new city and new friends, and about starting a great new chunk of my life and sharing it with someone I love.

Gold Box Goodies

Finally! My Amazon Gold Box offered me two things I would actually buy, if I didn't already own them: an Apple Airport base station and a KitchenAid stand mixer. I have high hopes for tomorrow.

Dan Gillmor on Jack Valenti

Dan Gillmor's latest column, Studios' copyright goal is total control nails exactly what's going on with Congress, copyright, and the giant media companies. Gillmor calls Valenti & Co.'s agenda, "radical...one that overturns tradition and would ultimately wipe out the public domain, without which our culture would be vastly poorer." This is a battle we can't afford to lose.

Confederates in the Attic

All this Civil War activity reminds me of a wonderful book I read several years ago entitled, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. It's a collection of true stories about modern-day Southerners and the current state of the Civil War. One bit that still stands out in my mind is the examination of a "southern" town that prides itself on its Confederate heritage, somehow forgetting that it was actually on the Union side during the War.

The Civil War

Over the weekend PBS re-broadcast the entire The Civil War series by Ken Burns and of course, we've got it on TiVo now and are making our way through each episode. I'd only caught bits and pieces of this masterpiece over the years and knew it was good. But it's simply amazing, especially when the episodes are watched in order, back-to-back. I thought I knew a lot about the Civil War but I wasn't familiar with Union General George McClellan and his continued refusal to engage the enemy and requests for reinforcements when he already outnumbered the Confederates by tens of thousands of men.

Watching this documentary now, as America pushes towards a war with Iraq, raises many important questions in my mind. What does it really mean to fight for freedom? And what causes are so great that we commit men (and now women and civilians) to the inevitable destruction and slaughter of war? I won't pretend to have easy answers to those questions.

Some astonishing Civil War facts:

The Future of Life, a lecture at the Kennedy School, Cambridge MA

Another dispatch from megnut's Boston correspondent, this time at the Kennedy School on Tuesday October 1, 2002 at 8 PM:

The Future of Life: The Global Conservation Challenge, The 2002 John Sawhill Lecture by Edward O. Wilson, Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science and Curator in Entomology, Harvard University.

Software doesn't steal, people steal

Maybe my ire is up from the Gillmor article, but I can't help but respond to this sentiment I came across on Ev's site today. In regards to Kazaa Evan writes, "the software is designed to steal things." That logic just smacks of Hollywood's alarmist language and approach to technology.

Kazaa isn't designed to steal things. It doesn't go into your house and take your DVD player. It doesn't connect to an online bank and funnel funds to an off-shore account in the Cayman Islands. Kazaa connects two computers and allows people to transfer files between them. An FTP client does nearly the same thing. If Kazaa is transfering files that people have illegally placed online, the fault does not lie with Kazaa (or Napster, or LimeWire). It lies with the individuals who placed property online without appropriate permission. And it lies with individuals who download files without ascertaining whether they have the right to do so. It is possible for P2P software to be used in a legitimate fashion, for example if a muscian wants to put all her music online, or a video artist wishes to share his work with a wider audience.

Is Blogger designed to steal because people can publish copyrighted (not their copyright) material to the Web? No, of course not. An individual makes the decision to respect copyright laws. Blaming software leads down the slippery slope to controls on technology, controls that limit our digital rights and legitimate uses of software and hardware. Let's not give in to the scare-mongering language used by the Jack Valentis of the world.

Now, Kazaa redirecting affiliate links? That's just plain obnoxious, and a lot closer to stealing than anything else to date.

Crossing to Safety

Re-reading Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner I came across a sentence I'd underlined during some prior read, "Hard writing makes easy reading." Something I think I'll keep in mind these next few months as I try to do more writing.

Supersize the world

Seen recently at eBay: "Click to supersize this picture." Have we abandoned all use of the word enlarge?

Silly English Language Ideas

I've always thought there should be two versions of "so" in English, like with "to." We've got our to to indicate direction (e.g. "I'll send all my loving to you") and our too to indicate some kind of extra or excess (e.g. "Those Prada heels are too expensive.") So why not so and soo? That way something could be "soo choice" and you could be "soo sorry" while still getting a nice segue with "So, what are you doing?" And imagine the possiblities here: "I'm feeling so-so" and, when you're really feeling so-so, "I'm feeling soo-soo." Of course, we need to still pronounce the second "soo" as "so" and not "sue" or none of this makes sense. Actually, upon further consideration, there might be no way this makes sense. Except perhaps to me. You might even say it makes soo much sense to me.

Happiest when busy

In theory I think it's nice not to be busy, but I find my mood is best when I am. I find tremendous satisfaction in having a lot to do in a little time and finding the perfect schedule that will accomodate all tasks. When I'm in this mode, I get more done in a day then I'd normally get done in a month. Crossing things off the to-do list, especially the complicated items that require multiple phone calls and lots of online research, raises my spirits and makes me feel capable of anything. I almost feel like a machine -- I'm up-to-speed and humming along, churning through any task that presents itself.

Mail Theives

Lately a lot of our mail has gone missing. Netflix DVDs never arrive. Credit card statements mysteriously miss a cycle. And now worst of all, a book sent as a gift failed to arrive on our doorstep. Am I paranoid in thinking that someone is stealing our mail? I fear it may be the case, though I'm not sure why it would be happening all of the sudden, or where the point of stealing may be. From the mailbox? From within our apartment building (there has been a bit of tenant turnover recently)? From the truck itself? Or is there simply a new mail person who is terrible at getting mail on time to the correct address?

Friedman in Boston

Boston-based megnut correspondent Richard writes in with news that Thomas Friedman will be speaking at the Boston Public Library on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. "New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman will talk about his new book, Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11. Booksigning to follow reading. Books will be available for purchase."

There are lots of other really cool events listed on the page, including a conference on Sacco and Vanzetti during the weekend of October 4-5, an Adults' Book Discussion on To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m., and films made by a Cambridge-based world traveler named Elmer Hawkes on Cuba and Vietnam (November 20 and 21).

Was it the Romas or the technique?

I made the best batch of red spaghetti sauce I've ever made last night. Perhaps it's because the ingredients are all so perfect right now? Anyway, here's (roughly) what I did:

Quartered a bunch of Roma tomatoes. Put them in a large frying pan with a bunch of torn basil. Cooked over highish heat for approximately 10 minutes, until they had all broken down. While tomatoes were cooking, minced up four large cloves of garlic and diced half a yellow onion. Once tomatoes were done, I passed them through a food mill (medium-holed disc). Heated a good amount of olive oil (1/3 c.? Maybe even 1/2 c.?) in my (rinsed out) frying pan, added garlic and onion. Cooked over low heat until onions were transparent and kitchen smelled yummy. Tore up more basil, added to pan. Added tomato sauce, post-food mill. Add good pinch of salt and several cranks of fresh pepper. Mixed together and let cook down for about 10-15 more minutes while I rolled and cut pasta and cooked it. Result: sweet sauce, nice tang, smooth on tongue. Not just tomato flavor, it was a rich melange of all the ingredients, and perfect on the fresh linguine.

Amazon Gold Goodness

Recently my Amazon Gold Box increased its offering to 15 items! It continues to try and tempt me with useless items like a Lightweight Stroller - John Lennon Collection. I hadn't realized the late Beatle produced a baby line. Now if they offerred a Led Zeppelin stroller, that'd be tempting.

Thomas Friedman in Santa Clara

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman will be giving a free talk on "How globalization is changing our world" on September 25 at Santa Clara University (in Santa Clara, CA). "Friedman will outline his vision of a healthy global society and discuss the balance needed to achieve that dream." Sounds like it could be very informative.

Also, if you're looking for great speakers in the Bay Area, check out the rest of the page. The Commonwealth Club consistently offers fascinating talks by public figures. They recently sponsored Dick Cheney, and September 23 Al Gore is coming. Some very good looking stuff...

Separating Design from Management

Joel on Software has some good comments about the "offshore design" problem, as he calls it. In my experience, the biggest problem with offshore design (hiring cheaper labor to do your work remotely rather than pay higher rates to hire someone local) or any remote project development is the time zone difference. No matter how detailed your spec is, no matter how "signed-off" everyone is on the prototype, inevitably changes and questions arise.

When you have easy access to people to communicate changes, whether through IM, phone, or around the water cooler, it's a lot easier to keep on time and budget. But even an 8-hour time zone difference means one team is mostly working while the other is not, and that's where the trouble lies. Open, continuous channels of communication are essential on development projects. I don't think you need to have everyone in the same office to achieve this. But having teams with large time zone differences can wreak havoc on a project schedule.

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