.: 2005 --> february
The Bush team revved up its public relations campaign last December to sell to the nation its plans to revamp Social Security. The campaign -- and it is a campaign -- has received mixed reactions from the press, at times running into a wall of criticism, and in other instances succeeding in passing its message along unchallenged. Last year an estimated 43.4 million Americans tuned in to listen to the president's speech. This year the press will face the task/challenge of dissecting the president's rhetoric and proposals to an equal if not greater number of viewers.
In that spirit we offer our list of things to watch out for that both press and public should be aware of during the broadcast.
[ 02/02/05 ]
@ Is anyone surprised by this? Study: Cells make young drivers react like seniors.
In fact, motorists who talk on cell phones are more impaired than drunk drivers with blood-alcohol levels exceeding .08, Strayer and colleague Frank Drews, an assistant professor of psychology, found during research conducted in 2003.
[ 02/02/05 ]
Remote order-taking at drive-throughs - the latest trend in restaurant technology - is part of a broader effort by the industry to migrate some communication duties from in-store workers to off-site proxies. With the new division of labor, restaurateurs hope to process orders or customer requests more quickly and accurately, and ultimately boost sales.
Good knife skills are a combination of knowledge and practice - the knowledge of which knives to use for which tasks, the knowledge of how to hold and move a knife, the knowledge of how various foods are structurally composed, and many other little bits of knowledge. [...] In this new article, I present specific methods for cutting various fruits and vegetables. Except where noted, only a chef's knife or paring knife are used in any of the methods.
I subscribe to both Martha Stewart Living and Cook's Illustrated, both, as I judge, aspirational publications aimed at the upper middle class. I received a complimentary copy of Cook's Country in the mail last week--presumably because I already subscribe to Cook's Illustrated--and I have been fascinated comparing the two.
This new magazine seems decidedly non-aspirational. It is aimed at grocery shoppers who want their magazines to offer friendly advice, not an implicit message that they could be managing their lives much, much better. 75% of the new magazine exactly recreates the original formula, but in a homier fashion. Articles begin with a reader query (including a snapshot of reader), followed by a lengthy, conversational answer. In addition, Cook's Country features the winners of a monthly reader recipe contest, reader-contributed tips and tricks, and a column of letters describing readers' memorable cooking disasters.
The form factor of Cook's County suggests that they are competing directly with
The form factor of Cook's County suggests that they are competing directly with "Everyday Food", which is designed to fit in the TV Guide-sized rack at the checkout counter; Cook's Country is sized to fit in the rack that holds the tabloids. And the visual design! The colors, comic-sans-like font, farm-animal icons, and layout are all 180 degrees away from the clear, clean design of Cook's Illustrated and anything Martha. Every aspect of the publication screams "unthreatening". In the letter that accompanied my issue, Kimball promised his new magazine wasn't written by snooty food editors who wouldn't recognize a slow-cooker if they tripped over it. Inside the magazine, his welcome note closes with "You're all invited over for supper." (When is the last time you read the word "supper" in a cooking magazine?) The charter issue's Equipment Roundup? Testing Slow Cookers.
If you get the chance, grab one and see. Even a quick comparison of Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country is an enlightening lesson in the semiotics--and power--of design.
[ 02/02/05 ]
The show, which will begin production sometime after Ms. Stewart is released from prison in West Virginia in March and while she remains under house arrest, will feature Ms. Stewart as a less brusque but equally imperious business legend in search of an assistant to help run part of her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Mark Burnett, the creator of "The Apprentice" and the producer of a new morning show for Ms. Stewart, said he had discussed the idea extensively with her before she went to prison in October, and both he and Mr. Trump, his partner in the "Apprentice" franchise, considered her a perfect counterpart to expand the show.
[ 02/02/05 ]
I have a new, nonnegotiable demand. I want solid, one-star dining in my home. That means a respectable two- or three-course meal, with dessert every night. And I don't want to spend a lot of time preparing it.
As it happens, there is an entire industry catering to home cooks like me. While I was busy pushing foie gras around my plate at fancy French restaurants, a culinary movement was gathering force, a coalition of food journalists, cookbook writers and television chefs in pursuit of a single goal: putting a respectable meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. Not so long ago in these pages Pierre Franey addressed the same audience of harried home cooks in a column called The 60-Minute Gourmet. Like the four-minute mile, that standard now seems almost quaint. Thirty is the new 60.
Do people really eat dessert every night?
[ 02/02/05 ]
@ Do you know what word I hate? Atop. Recipe writers, as a class, love that word, and they use it relentlessly.
[ 02/02/05 ]
No wonder we have become, in the midst of our astounding abundance, the world's most anxious eaters. A few years ago, Paul Rozin, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist, and Claude Fischler, a French sociologist, began collaborating on a series of cross-cultural surveys of food attitudes. They found that of the four populations surveyed (the U.S., France, Flemish Belgium and Japan), Americans associated food with health the most and pleasure the least. Asked what comes to mind upon hearing the phrase "chocolate cake," Americans were more apt to say "guilt," while the French said "celebration"; "heavy cream" elicited "unhealthy" from Americans, "whipped" from the French. The researchers found that Americans worry more about food and derive less pleasure from eating than people in any other nation they surveyed.
Compared with the French, we're much more likely to choose foods for reasons of health, and yet the French, more apt to choose on the basis of pleasure, are the healthier (and thinner) people. How can this possibly be?
[ 02/02/05 ]
@ Europe vs America. Tony Judt reviews of The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy by T.R. Reid, The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream by Jeremy Rifkin, and Free World: America, Europe, and the Surprising Future of the West by Timothy Garton Ash.
[ 02/02/05 ]
@ Shameful: A new study shows that about half of all U.S. bankruptcies are caused by medical bills--most of them middle-class workers with health insurance.
The study also showed that A bankruptcy specialist confirmed the study's findings, adding that less than 1% of bankruptcy is caused by credit card debt.
"About half cited medical causes, which indicates that 1.9 to 2.2 million Americans (filers plus dependents) experienced medical bankruptcy," they wrote. "Among those whose illnesses led to bankruptcy, out-of-pocket costs averaged $11,854 since the start of illness; 75.7 percent had insurance at the onset of illness." [...]
Bankruptcy specialists said the numbers seemed sound.
"From 1982 to 1989, I reviewed every bankruptcy petition filed in South Carolina, and during that period I came to the conclusion that there were two major causes of bankruptcy: medical bills and divorce," said George Cauthen, a lawyer at Columbia-based law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. "Each accounted, roughly, for about a third of all individual filings in South Carolina."
[ 02/03/05 ]
@ Meanwhile, the Bush administration is working to dismantle the system of employer-provided health insurance in favor of high-deductible "catastrophic" insurance, with routine healthcare costs paid by tax-sheltered saving plans. This part makes steam come out of my ears: [more...]
Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush's "ownership society," say workers and their families would become more careful users of healthcare if they had to pay the bills.
I remember being one of these careful consumers. Here's just one example of how careful I was: when I got a toothache as a result of an impacted wisdom tooth, the local clinic offered to do the work for only $100--up front. Of course I didn't have that much. I started crying, right there in front of the financial counselor. My tooth hurt, and she couldn't take the $20-a-week payments I offered to make. It was all or nothing. So I went home.
My best friend advised me to save the $20 a week I could afford, and then go schedule the appointment when I had the full amount saved, 5 weeks later. Careful, huh?
But of course, most of my "careful" choices involved just not going to the doctor at all. I remember sitting with that same friend as she held her sobbing toddler, trying to decide whether to take him to the hospital to see if he had broken his arm. Without any insurance, the emergency room fee was far beyond her means. (She did, and--though it wasn't apparent to the naked eye--he had.)
Thank God I never got anything major: as a waitress, I was required to work if at all possible--we didn't have sick days, and missing shifts was frowned upon (Health Department be damned) unless you were literally hacking up a lung. If I'd contracted something dangerous, influenza perhaps, I would have worked just as long as I could, visiting the doctor only when my illness became severe, in the meantime potentially infecting hundreds of people. In addition to having no idea what it's like to live without health coverage, I guess these folks haven't heard of public health either.
Q: What is green and homeomorphic to the open unit interval?
A: The real lime.
Q: What do you get if you cross an elephant and a banana?
A bunch of Polish scientists decided to flee their repressive government by hijacking an airliner and forcing the pilot to fly them to a western country. They drove to the airport, forced their way on board a large passenger jet, and found there was no pilot on board. Terrified, they listened as the sirens got louder. Finally, one of the scientists suggested that since he was an experimentalist, he would try to fly the aircraft. He sat down at the controls and tried to figure them out. The sirens got louder and louder. Armed men surrounded the jet. The would-be pilot's friends cried out, "Please, please take off now!!! Hurry!!!" The experimentalist calmly replied, "Have patience. I'm just a simple Pole in a complex plane."
Good stuff. (via like you care)
[ 02/03/05 ]
First, we need to keep weather in its place. The over-emphasis on weather is as irresponsible as an over-emphasis on crime news. It can leave viewers and readers with a distorted view of the world in which they live -- and we are paying for it. You couldn't blame the benumbed public these days for thinking the universe has blown a circuit. Yet no evidence points to this being an especially eventful period for natural disasters, even in the very limited history of reliable records. The 1990s were a day at the beach compared with the 1930s.
We owe our readers intelligent coverage. We can't give them an endless dose of plywood and traffic reports. That said, well-written features and solid stories that recount what happened do serve a purpose. People want to know what they lived through, the way they like to read about sporting events they've already watched. The coverage needs to give readers some context, however, to let them know whether what they've lived through was truly anomalous.
[ 02/08/05 ]
He also plans to buy a class IV laser to create dishes that are "impossible through conventional means." (A class IV laser, the highest grade under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's classification system, projects high-powered beams and is typically used for surgery or welding.) Mr. Cantu said he might use the laser to burn a hole through a piece of sashimi tuna, cooking the fish thoroughly inside but leaving its exterior raw. He said he would also use the laser to create "inside out" bread, where the crust is baked inside the loaf and the doughy part is the outer surface. "We'll be the first restaurant on planet Earth to use a class IV laser to cook food," he said with a grin.
He is testing a hand-held ion-particle gun, which he said is for levitating food. So far he has zapped only salt and sugar, but envisions one day making whole meals float before awestruck diners.
[ 02/08/05 ]
@ Pizza Operator Workshop kicks off 2005 North America Pizza & Ice Cream Show. Well, hey.
[ 02/04/05 ]
[T]he documentary explores slavery as more than just an institution of evil and persecution. Rather, the film shows how slavery became the central economic base for the entire country's development -- a base that was dependent on the labor and know-how of generations of black Americans.
"This is not African-American history, it's American history. It's the history of all of us," notes executive producer William R. Grant, director of science, natural history and feature programs for WNET in New York, which produced the series.
Slavery and the Making of America will air PBS tonight and February 16 at 9 p.m. EST. Set your TiVo!
[ 02/09/05 ]
...the often multiple blaming and finger pointing that goes on between communities in conflict. Political differences are marked by powerful emotional (often tribal) reactions as opposed to creative conflict over policy and issues.
Some years back the BBC quoted Cardinal Cahal Daly as having described Whataboutery as "the commonest form of moral evasion in Ireland today", referring to how both communities use the terrible burden of past events to lay obstacles in the way of peace.
[ 02/09/05 ]
@ I've written before about my problems with Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder. Now computer scientists and psychologists are trying to create smart interfaces that will minimize distractions when users are focused on a task. Frankly, my problem isn't that email dings me when I am working--I have turned off automatic updating to prevent that from happening. My problem is that I automatically update my email and RSS feed whenever I run into a little problem that is going to take a minute to work out. How do I turn that off? It seems I'm not alone: [more...]
For the past eight years, Mr. Serotta has used a laptop computer. "That means I can take my ability to dodge serious work everywhere," he said. "I really depend on small technical distractions to keep me away from the things I dread doing."
He is currently faced with creating a five-year master plan for his institute at the request of two potential funding sources. The continual checking of his e-mail is rivaled by the micromanagement of his iTunes. "I will certainly do what they ask, but that doesn't necessarily take precedence over figuring out whether I should list Stevie Winwood or Steve Winwood in my iTunes library," he said.
Mr. Serotta has four local weather services on his computer's desktop, all of which he watches like a hawk, even on days when he has no intention of leaving his office, which is down the hall from his apartment. "This is vitally important because one of them might be off by half a degree," he said.
Reducing distractions is probably a good start to solving this problem, but I wonder if it might not be better to create interfaces that focus attention and induce flow-state instead? (thanks, jjg!)
[ 02/08/05 ]
There's nothing I can do about this, but a username and password that never expire is another matter entirely. The e-commerce site wants me to establish an account because it increases the chances that I'll use them again. But I want a way to terminate the business relationship, a way to say: "I am no longer taking responsibility for items purchased using that username and password." Near as I can tell, the username and password I typed into that e-commerce site puts my credit card at risk until it expires. If the e-commerce site uses a system that debits amounts from my checking account whenever I place an order, I could be at risk forever.
[ 02/08/05 ]
And if it seems as if usual suspects like Plath, Monroe and the Brontės have formed some tragic pop-culture sorority (along with Virginia Woolf and Zelda Fitzgerald) there is a reason so many myth-shrouded figures are women.
As each book reveals, their subjects' shifting images are projections of precise social moments. Because women's roles have changed so drastically over the last century, each cultural turn can create a dramatic new view of the subject's life. In charting the evolving images of the Brontės or Monroe, these books also become smart social histories.
[ 02/08/05 ]
@ This was a witch hunt. I don't know what Eason Jordan said at Davos--no one does, who wasn't in that room. Those who believe the claim that there would have been no outcry if Jordan had apologized immediately are naive. An apology would have been regarded as an admission, and that would have been seized upon as evidence of media bias. With an apology, Jordan's resignation would have been loudly called for by the same bloggers who were screaming about his alleged offense from the start. [more...]
Journalists will take this personally. For many of them--and for a large segment of the public--this will cement their view of blogs as nothing more than a written form of talk radio. With regard to the weblogs most often quoted in the press, and apparently read by reporters, this perception will largely be accurate.
Even though it doesn't work perfectly every time, our legal system is designed to replace passion with reason and reflection. To label the Eason Jordan blogstorm as evidence of a new form of "citizen journalism" is the equivalent of describing a lynch mob as "emergent justice".
Reporting is hard work, in large part because it requires individuals to build incomplete facts into a complete story in the shortest period of time. Reflection is built into traditional reporting by the inclusion of an editorial process that is intended to ensure that the reporter has appropriately identified the import of an event, and constructed a narrative out of verifiable fact.
Journalists are most culpable for what happened here. By reporting on the blogstorm without bothering to verify facts or to take responsibility for the charges being made--and mainstream media often does this with charges made by highly questionable sources--they gave the incident credibility it would never have had otherwise. Traditional media will respond "It was being reported elsewhere--we were just reporting that it was being reported!" I would answer: "Grow up. With the emergence of the blogosphere, speculation is a commodity. Traditional journalism's most important role remains the same: to report the facts, as best they are known, without being gamed by those who have an agenda."
[ 02/12/05 ]
Any media movement that involves over 10 million people should be having more of an impact than it has already.
[ 02/14/05 ]
@ Those writing about Eason Jordan have missed the most important angle. It is a collision of expectations that is at the root of the whole incident. The Davos conference, as I understand it, is explicitly understood to be off the record--a place where movers and shakers (and select journalists) can get together and speak openly to each other without worrying about representing their professions, their employers, or their constituencies. The conference is designed to elicit the uncensored remark: for open conversation and debate without fear of public repercussion. [more...]
(Is that elitist? Well, it is. Is that useful? Well, it may be. Should it exist at all? Well, that's your call. It's going to, in one form or another no matter what. This conference brings a large group together in one place, that's all. It would be naive to expect people, influential or otherwise, never to speak to each other confidentially.)
The NYTimes has a good account of the series of events.
It was a businessman attending the forum in Davos who put Mr. Jordan's comments on the map with a Jan. 28 posting. [...] In an interview yesterday, he said that he had challenged Mr. Jordan's assertion that the United States was taking aim at journalists and asked for evidence.
Mr. Abovitz asked some of the journalists at the event if they were going to write about Mr. Jordan's comments and concluded that they were not because journalists wanted to protect their own. There was also some confusion about whether they could, because the session was officially "off the record."
Mr. Abovitz said the remarks bothered him, and at 2:21 a.m. local time, he posted his write-up on the forum's official blog.
That's the nut of it right there: as I understand it, journalists consider information that is given to them off the record as intended to give them background on a situation. In a case where this information is published, it is explicitly understood to be not for attribution: the person who made those claims is not to be identified. However, Mr. Abovitz--not a journalist--interpreted the journalists' silence as a desire to "protect their own", not as a desire to honor a professional ethic. Hence his posting. In the ruckus that followed, Davos refused to release the tape of the Jordan session, thereby honoring their implicit promise to all attendees. This was interpreted by outraged bloggers as "stonewalling", not as a desire to uphold an ethical standard.
And you have to ask, whose idea was it to introduce a Davos weblog? Off-the-record debate mixed with off-the-cuff publication is a recipe for disaster. [Jay Rosen agrees.]
(Oh, and have you been thinking, like me, that after this, Davos is dead? First last year's email recapping the event, and now this. Their choice now is to make it an "open" event or stop inviting anyone who is outside the power elite. Or to take their toys and start a new, private conference where people can talk privately again.)
Weblogs are a great tool--but introduce them willy-nilly into organizations without understanding the ramifications, and you will get a willy-nilly result. That's sort of the definition of a disruptive technology, isn't it? Unfortunately, some of blogging's most influential promoters don't seem to fully understand that they have a tiger by the tail.
Jeff Jarvis's criticism of the NYTimes story is way off the mark--he finds insults in the most innocuous phrasing. As a blogger, I find the NYTimes account to be well balanced. It not only lays out the story, but also clearly illustrates the varied responses within the weblog universe. It would be easy to paint bloggers with a broad brush, and the Times avoids that. This account may not support Jeff's particular ideology, but good journalism is about trying to tell a complete story without regard for other people's agendas.
[ 02/14/05 ]
It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth," Mr. Frankfurt writes. "A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it."
The bull artist, on the other hand, cares nothing for truth or falsehood. The only thing that matters to him is "getting away with what he says," Mr. Frankfurt writes. An advertiser or a politician or talk show host given to [bull] "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it," he writes. "He pays no attention to it at all."
[ 02/14/05 ]
@ Right up my alley: Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project.
The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum have partnered to create an online collection of some of the most influential and important American cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th century. The goal of this project is to make these materials available to a wider audience.
Digital images of the pages of each cookbook are available as well as full-text transcriptions and the ability to search within the books, across the collection, in order to find specific information.
Books in the collection are available online in HTML and PDF.
[ 02/15/05 ]
ChoicePoint, a credit reporting company, said yesterday that hackers had infiltrated its database and stolen personal information about thousands of consumers. California customers were urged to check their credit reports for suspicious activity. [...] There are about 65,000 of you elsewhere in the country who are at high risk of identify theft but don't have a clue. Your state laws don't require ChoicePoint to notify you, so they're not going to.
It's a good idea to check your credit report once a year or so, anyway. Now's a great time to get it out of the way for 2005. If you're a blogger, pass this on.
Update: Queso points out that this isn't a matter of hackers breaking into ChoicePoint's databases--the criminals fraudulently registered as businesses and ChoicePoint sold them the information.
[ 02/15/05 ]
The upshot is that while teenagers in the U.S. have about as much sexual activity as teenagers in Canada or Europe, Americans girls are four times as likely as German girls to become pregnant, almost five times as likely as French girls to have a baby, and more than seven times as likely as Dutch girls to have an abortion. Young Americans are five times as likely to have H.I.V. as young Germans, and teenagers' gonorrhea rate is 70 times higher in the U.S. than in the Netherlands or France.
[ 02/16/05 ]
@ You may remember Ray Kurzweil from his book The Age of Spiritual Machines. Now, he has come to believe that for humans, immortality is 20 years away. His new book is Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. [more...]
You know me. If I achieve immortality, I'll sit around contemplating whether living forever is ethical or not. And since I'm only human, I'll come to the conclusion that it is. Because, even if we do manage to over-ride death, we'll never over-ride our survival instinct. Come to think of it, without that survival instinct we probably wouldn't be interested in achieving immortality at all.
[ 02/16/05 ]
Q. Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine have been held in contempt of court and could be sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for not revealing the sources who leaked to them the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Why isn't Robert Novak, who originally outed Plame by publishing her CIA affiliation, in the same situation as Miller and Cooper? [...]
Q. Why isn't Novak openly stating his position and explaining his legal posture like Miller and Cooper have? What principles is he defending?
Q. Why are the media giving Novak a free ride?
[ 02/17/05 ]
Update: More from the WSJ. Peggy Noonan gets some of it right. Her biggest flaw is falling for the myth of the "self-correcting blogosphere". People typically judge blogs' influence--and their credibility--by the size of their audiences. But this "credibility" (popularity) is not equivalent to accuracy. Audiences are more likely to be attracted to views that reinforce the ones they already hold than ones that challenge their basic beliefs. (Professor Cass Sunstein has been warning of the dangers of the Daily Me for ages.) [more...]
A new study shows that what people remember depends on what they believe. People's view of the world causes them to remember "facts" that support their beliefs, even when they know they are not true. Bloggers who disseminates inaccurate information do not suffer a loss of credibility--read: audience--as long as they continue to espouse opinions that are popular with their readers. In fairness, neither do mainstream media columnists.
[ 02/17/05 ]
@ For the next ten days, I am in Japan. Shockingly, I did not take my computer. Come see me again at the beginning of March, and in the meantime please enjoy the many purveyors of fine weblog products to be found on my portal page.
[ 02/21/05 ]
@ My husband, Jesse James Garrett, has written a new essay introducing how the technology that powers the wonderful new Google Maps is going to change the way you use the Web: Ajax: a New Approach to Web Applications.
[ 02/21/05 ]
[S]earch engines make it all too easy to filter information in ways that reinforce pre-existing biases. A Google search on "voting machine fraud," for example, will turn up popular Web pages that feature those words prominently, most of which will support the view that voting machines make election fraud easier; opposing sites won't tend to feature that language, so will be missed in the search. A researcher exploring the same topic in a library would be more likely to encounter diverse points of view.
Up to now, librarians have taken the lead in developing information literacy standards and curriculums. There's a certain paradox in that, because a lot of people assumed that the digital age would require neither libraries nor librarians. [...] More important, leaving information literacy to librarians alone suggests a failure to understand the scope of the problem.
[ 02/21/05 ]