How broken is email? It's so broken. It's so so overwhelming destroyed by spam that I may give it up entirely. After less than 72 hours away from my computer, I have over 5,000 messages, and it took three hours to download them all. A week away from the computer could mean a full-day of downloading and digging out. And anything more time off than that could be an irrecoverable situation, where I could just never get through all the old crap and get back on track. Argh. (And yes, I'm using SpamAssasin and all kinds of complicated filtering, etc.)

Bosox commentary as cartoon

It was Lock who first pointed me towards Soxaholix, a daily comic strip about the Red Sox, complete with links. And I am very grateful, for this site makes me laugh even in the depths of my sorrow. Yesterday's frame following Boston's 10-6 loss to Cleveland begins with, "This team named after the indigenous peoples of the Americas is starting me on a trail of tears." If you love the Olde Towne Team, this is the site for you.

To Boston by bus or bust

Usually when I go home to Boston to visit my family, I spring for the Acela train because you get guaranteed seating and it's fairly fast (~3.5 hours). But it's also very expensive, nearly $200 round-trip. So this past weekend I resorted to my old friend, the Peter Pan bus. And would you believe it, if you purchase your ticket online in advance (all you seem to need is one day before you depart), it's $30 round-trip. $30! Ok, they stick you with a $4 fee for "will call pick-up" but still, that's nearly six trips to Boston for the price of one train trip. And both ways, my journey was four hours exactly. Sure, it wasn't as pleasant as the train, and there's no plug for your laptop, and they showed the movie The Recruit both ways, but what do you expect for that price? I'm going to take the bus more often, I just can't resist a bargain!

Personal Democracy conference

On Monday, May 24th in New York City there will be a
Personal Democracy Forum to, "bring together political figures, grassroots leaders, journalists and technology professionals to discuss the questions that lie at the intersection of technology and politics — to take a realistic look at where we are now and where we are headed." Alas, democracy as we know is not free. The one-day forum costs between $50 (student) – $195 (general admission) to attend. Ouch, that's a lot! I wish more things in the US were like the way they are in Europe, where unemployed people can get in for free, or at least have some discount. That said, it looks to be an interesting line-up of speakers.

Gardens cool and trendy now

"The Blog Generation Takes Up Its Trowels" is a New York Times article on young urban gardners, many of whom are artists. The article describes, "a passion that is blossoming among a certain segment of culturally plugged-in urban 20-somethings and early-30-somethings. They may not own backyards, but they are determined to make things grow." Why that sounds just like me! Alas, I found the article annoying and hipstery, but I'm happy that more people are discoverying the joys of gardening.

Also, what? "The Blog Generation"? Egad.

The Economist says Fire Rummy

There's no shortage of news articles about abuses of prisoners in Iraq. And now several publications, including the New York Times and The Economist are calling for the resignation of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The Economist's op-ed, Resign, Rumsfeld has a clear premise, "Responsibility for errors and indiscipline needs to be taken at the top."

The scandal is widening, with more allegations coming to light. Moreover, the abuse of these prisoners is not the only damaging error that has been made and it forms part of a culture of extra-legal behaviour that has been set at the highest level. Responsibility for what has occurred needs to be taken-and to be seen to be taken-at the highest level too. It is plain what that means. The secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, should resign. And if he won't resign, Mr Bush should fire him.

Sounds about right to me.

Hawks in Cambridge?

Megnut reader Joanna emailed today with a report of hawks near MIT. No, not Donald Rumsfeld-type hawks, but real live hawks, the bird kind! Someone has even set up a web cam of the hawks so that others can watch the baby hawks grow up.

Outside my window at work overlooking Mass Ave in Cambridge, lives a family of red-tailed hawks – a mama hawk, a papa hawk (smaller than the mama) and two chicks, hatched on Easter Sunday…According to some online research, these chicks will fledge in about another 2-3 weeks. They are just starting to practice stretching and flapping their wings, and often tease each other by poking each other and spreading their wings over the other.

For those of you who will be checking in on the web cam, she also cautions:

P.S. A word of warning to vegetarians – we often see them feeding on rats, squirrels, and pigeons and it gets pretty gruesome at times.

Ah, nature! And in Kendall Square, no less.

Update: apparently the cam is only active Monday through Friday from 9-5 (EST).

An appetite for A.J. Liebling

Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris by A.J. LieblingA few New Yorkers ago, David Remnick wrote a retrospective on the author A.J. Liebling, A. J. Liebling at one hundred. Mr. Liebling's writing appeared in the magazine long before I was even born, and I wasn't aware of him. But Mr. Remnick's article was just the thing to pique my interest. Towards the end of his piece, the author gives passing mention to one of Mr. Liebling's final "masterpieces", Between Meals, "a memoir of Paris and of pleasure itself."

On a whim I ordered it from Amazon, ignoring the reviews who failed to see its classicality and felt, "One star is an over-rating!" I'm happy to report I haven't enjoyed a book so much in ages! Here's a passage from page 62, where Mr. Liebling riffs on current (current being 1959, when the book was written) food preferences:

Personally, I like tastes that know their own minds. The reason that people who detest fish often tolerate sole is that sole doesn't taste very much like fish, and even this degree of resemblance disappears when it is submerged in the kind of sauce that patrons of Piedmontese restaurants in London and New York think characteristically French. People with the same apathy toward decided flavor relish "South African lobster" tails — frozen as long as the Siberian mammoth — because they don't taste lobstery…They prefer processed cheese because it isn't cheesy, and synthetic vanilla extract because it isn't vanillary. They have made a triumph of the Delicious apple because it doesn't taste like an apple, and of the Golden Delicious because it doesn't taste like anything.

I'm not so sure times have changed. These days I've been trying to focus on the essential elements of flavor when I'm cooking and eating. I'm growing a whole slew of herbs this summer, and edible flowers, to experiment with in the kitchen. I'm continuing to stick to seasonal, local offerings from the greenmarkets so that I may become an eater who truly tastes the tomato, the ramp, the fava bean. As Mr. Liebling puts it, I've begun my apprenticeship as a feeder, and I hope to be able to share more of the culinary experiences on this site. At the very beginning of his book, Mr. Liebling instructs:

The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite. Without this, it is impossible to accumulate, within the allotted span, enough experience of eating to have anything worth setting down. Each day brings only two opportunities for field work, and they are not to be wasted minimizing the intake of cholesterol. They are indispensable, like a prizefighter's hours on the road.

The challenge is clear. Let the field work begin!

See Spot and his electric sheep

Electric Sheep image by Spot DravesSpot Draves' presentation of his electric sheep was one of the best presentations I attended at last February's O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference. Electric Sheep is a screen saver that uses a distributed computing model (a la SETI@home) to create and render new "sheep."

When the screen-saver is activated, the screen goes black and an animated 'sheep' appears. Behind the scenes, the screen-saver contacts a server and joins the parallel computation of new sheep.

Every fifteen minutes 24/7 a new sheep is born and distributed to all clients for display. Each sheep is an animated fractal flame.

The sheep are amazingly beautiful, and hearing Spot speak about his work is great. Lucky for you, if you're in NYC tonight you can experience it yourself. Spot will be doing his presentation at the dorkbot-nyc gathering. Also there will be a presentation on "Gameboy Hacks" at the same meeting! It's a geek's delight! Wednesday, May 5, 7pm at Location One in SoHo (NYC).