The Coming OS Storm

Cheaper than therapy

Uncle Fester is a ThinkPad fan. Uncle Fester knows his ThinkPads cold. Now he posts a sad commentary, not about the hardware, but what it runs:

“The bigger problem is the laptop. I’m not sure I can leave Thinkpads. Nothing matches a Thinkpad. But eventually Vista will be the only supported game in town and I may not be given the choice. That’s a grim prospect but Vista is really that bad. Apple will probably never permit official virtualization of the Mac OS on other hardware and unless Microsoft makes some dramatic fixes, I really can’t face the prospect of using Vista full-time.”A decade hence, Vista will be viewed as the biggest dud out of Seattle since Bob. And the reason I finally switched back to Mac full time.”

Update: Jim Forbes comments on this post and Lipman’s and says Operating Systems don’t matter to him anymore. I respect Jim — he served time on the mastheads of both PCWeek and MacWeek — and crosses the two architectures as easily as anyone.
I’ll reserve comment on the OS issue but will make one admission. I have used Vista for 30 minutes since it shipped and that was on a desktop my mother bought at retail in Florida and uses for grandchildren-email. Think about that for a second. You know where I work, you know what I do; my exposure to the future of Wintel standard computing has been a grand total of half-an-hour.

I can make no judgment about Vista (I can lay some claim to being an ex-OS junkie due to my coverage of DOS and Windows while a tech reporter in the 80s and early 90s), but I do know this: if fans like Fester are looking at their hardware platform and voting with their feet based on the underlying OS …..

I need to go re-read Ferguson and Morris’ Computer Wars

Consider the Fried Clam

Churbuck.com is about to enter clamming season. As soon as the temps fall a bit and the clam cops remove the closure signs from my favorite spots, it’s wader-and-rake time for some hunting of the tasty bivalves. Let me pen my appreciation to the steamer, Mya Arenaria, aka the soft-shelled clam or the steamer.

The steamer is so dubbed for the popular method of cooking them in a pot with an inch of water. The clam is thus rendered edible, and after the diner pulls the clam from its shell, skins the siphon or neck from its leathery (insert tasteless reference to prophylactics here), the clam is dunked in a cup of warm grey clam broth (derived from the steaming water), then molten butter before being dropped, Roman-grape style, into one’s open mouth. The steamer is staple fare in ye Olde New England Clam Bake, where it accompanies lobsters, ears of corn and spicy Portuguese sausage in what has to be the single best contribution to the global cuisine that Cape Cod has ever made.

If you don’t steam the soft-shelled clam, then there aren’t a lot of options available to the intrepid diner. Unlike their hard-shelled friends the quahog or oyster, M. Arenaria cannot be eaten raw on the half-shell. The shell is too fragile, the clam is too ….disorganized, and aside from assorted fish and sea gulls, few creatures would go out of their way to eat a raw steamer.

This all changed in the summer of 1916 in the coastal town of Ipswich, north of Boston, when “Chubby” Woodman decided to batter some local steamers and deep fry them at his seafood restaurant.

I have never made the pilgrimage to Woodman’s. Nor am I OCD enough to get on the road and go on a fried clam spree, but I have eaten a lot of fried clams, and even have broken through and learned the arcane art of frying them myself. I know what I like and I know what I know. And this is it … for fried belly clams, not their rubber-band bastard cousins, the Howard Johnson’s fried clam strip.

Fried Clam Recipe:

Shuck a lot of steamers. Good luck. This is not easy nor quick. It has been said that Ipswich clams are preferable to Cape Cod clams because they are dug from mud, not sand, and therefore not as gritty as the Cape. I can attest that a sandy fried clam is a very bad thing; something a ruminant animal that eats stones to help it macerate its food might appreciate, but a guaranteed buzz killer when one sees one’s dinner guests crunching their bicuspids on grit. There are various ways to reduce sand and grit. Soaking with corn meal which irritates the clams in the bucket and forces them to cycle a lot of water through their siphons; and scrubbing, which every cookbook recipe suggests for any clam-based recipe but which is never followed in my household. Sometimes the clams are sandy, sometimes they aren’t. Anyway, shucking is boring, but get a couple beers, a sharp knife, a good buddy, and a sunny afternoon, and you can turn a bucket of steamers into a bowl of naked clams in about an hour. The secret: cut the siphons off instead of trying to skin the necks. Neck skinning was a deal breaker during my education until an Alaska Bureau of Seafood website (of all places) said to just get rid the necks.

Soak the steamers. Some recipes call for soaking in milk. Others don’t mention soaking at all. I rinse them under a lot of running water in a colander, then let them sit in a bowl in the fridge until it’s game time.

Dip and batter. Not a lot of debate here. Dip them in evaporated milk (I always screw up and confused evaporated with condensed, but evaporated is the stuff you want) then dip them in a mixture of cake flour and yellow corn flour. That’s corn flour not corn meal. Corn meal is good for de-sanding clams, corn flour is harder to find and I can only get it from the local hippy organic food store.

Fry. Deep frying equipment is a big barrier to entry. Let’s assume you have a deep fryer (I do thanks to Cousin Pete), put clean oil into it. It’s all about the oil. I use peanut which I buy in big plastic jerry cans from BJ’s. Crank the temperature to like 450 degrees, get it wicked hot, and get ready to start dipping and battering, assembly line style. Fry the clams in small batches. Too many clams drops the oil temperature and causes all sorts of problems ranging from overcooked clams, over-oily clams (can you spell Lipitor?), and a general wad of deep-fried nastiness. I do no more than 18 at a time.

Serve: Out of the oil, onto a paper towel or folded brown paper bag for some oil absorption, then onto the plate where a wedge of lemon and a little tartar sauce (mayo mixed with sweet pickle hot dog relish) awaits.

Let me declare that some of my efforts with home made fried clams have been successful, but more often than not, disappointing. The biggest thrill is sitting before a piping hot plate of very fresh clams and declaring, “This would have cost us $20 bucks at a restaurant.”

Fried clams are very, very expensive. Seriously. I just spent a week on Martha’s Vineyard within eyesight of a very, very good clam shack, The Bite, one of my favorites but, man, very expensive. I think a large order of clams will run you over $30!

Here my list of good fried clam joints. The secret is look for clam shacks such as The Bite. Fried clams are best enjoyed outdoors, seaside.

  • The Bite: Menemsha. My personal favorite. Fresh, the “clam plate” is the way to go. Expensive. But best ambiance and extremely well cooked clams.
  • Golden Boy, Route 28, Yarmouth, MA. Great place in an old fast-food joint. Very clean oil and good dependable cooking skills. Some experts point out that it takes a very accomplished fry cook to pull off a decent fried clam and therefore to avoid clam shacks in the early summer when the college help is getting trained. Places like The Bite and Golden Boy are family owned and seem to have the same experts behind the fryolator.
  • Sagamore Inn, Sagamore, Mass. Near the Cape Cod Canal. Great old-time place, but lots of churn in the kitchen over the last decade make it hit or miss. They do a decent fried clam.
  • Ray’s – Rye, New Hampshire: fried clams of my childhood. One of the quintessential clam shacks of all time.
  • Mattakeese Wharf: seasonal restaurant on Barnstable Harbor. Good to great.
  • Legal Seafood: around the state. I just did the fried clams at the Logan Airport location – not the best venue for an otherwise great restaurant. Verdict? Overcooked, little rubber-bandish.

Some other resources:

New York Fried Clams

New York Times: Fried Clam Pilgrimage

Offline blogging tools

This is essentially a test of Microsoft Word 2007’s blog post capabilities — something I played with in the winter of 2006 but dropped when the 30-day beta trial expired. Bloggers and indeed any HTML monkey will attest that Word and FrontPage are TERRIBLE tools for producing W3 compliant code, as Microsoft felt compelled to inject an astonishing amount of formatting junk to maintain WYSIWIG capabilities for the masses.

Most of my offline blogging occurs on airplanes and I have tended to use an ASCII editor called TextPad (recommended to me years ago by Chris Locke) which is known for producing very clean ascii. I can write a long screed on the plane, save as a .txt file, and then cut and paste it into a WordPress compose window without having to clean up anything afterwards.

That said, I can’t do any formatting, nor image production – which is not a big deal as most of my image work is a simple process of uploading to my Flickr account and then using the image location URL in WordPress. Word, in setting itself up for posting to my WordPress blog, has an image upload function, but in true “not invented here” fashion, does not acknowledge Flickr as the de facto image host for most serious blog authors.

Anyway, here goes, pressing publish and then checking to see how it looks. My template is sufficiently squirrelly that more often than not I hose the blog whenever I try to do something semi-fancy like this.

Update: that worked just fine. Now to get image integration and I’ll praise MSFT and eat my negativity.

James W. Michaels

James W. Michaels Is Dead At 86 – Forbes.com

“James W. Michaels, who edited Forbes magazine from 1961 to 1999, has died of pneumonia. He was 86.”

“In editing the magazine for nearly 40 years, Michaels left an indelible stamp on Forbes, turning it into America’s pre-eminent national business magazine.”

If I had a mentor in my life, it was Jim Michaels. I met him twenty years ago next week in his dark corner office with its black leather couches and strange stand-up desk where he stood, owlishly pecking at a green-glowing Atex terminal. Arm garters and a green eye-shade would not have been out of place.

There weren’t many totems framed on the walls, but one, over the couch, a front page, was the biggest story of his life: the assassination of Gandhi.
Michaels was an eyewitness to the murder, a UPI correspondent who decided to stay in India after the end of World War II. His story was the story carried around the world, the only story to be filed before communications were severed between India and the rest of the world.

The story bears reading again today, as I remember first reading in the gloom of his office that October in 1988, kneeling on the couch and making out the words:

“New Delhi, January 30, 1948: Mohandas K. Gandhi was assassinated today by a Hindu extremist whose act plunged India into sorrow and fear.

Rioting broke out immediately in Bombay. The seventy-eight-year-old leader whose people had christened him the Great Soul of India died at 5:45 p.m. (7:15 a.m. EST) with his head cradled in the lap of his sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Mani.

Just half an hour before, a Hindu fanatic, Ram Naturam, had pumped three bullets from a revolver into Gandhi’s frail body, emaciated by years of fasting and asceticism. Gandhi was shot in the luxurious gardens of Birla House in the presence of one thousand of his followers, whom he was leading to the little summer pagoda where it was his habit to make his evening devotions.”

We had India in common after that. He encouraged me when I traveled there in 1991, invited me to meet his Indian friends when they passed through New York, and treated me to a memorable Indian meal one night when he drank me under the table with gimlets, a vile drink that delivers poisonous hangovers.

I jokingly told Tony Perkins at the Red Herring that I called Jim “Yoda” behind his back– more in deference to his age, distinctive voice, and height — but Tony to my horror repeated the remark in his next column.

Jim didn’t care. He thought it was amusing, and for the first years of Forbes.com his 8×10″ black and white press photo was hung over my desk in the first newsroom, a reminder that we were putting his magazine online, not ours. As Forbes wrote in its remembrance of him: “He was one of the earliest and heaviest users of the Internet in the building.”
Story meetings were things of wonder. The entire editorial staff would pile into the lush Forbes conference room, with models of yachts and planes and paintings of founders. Jim sat naturally at the head, his lieutenants beside him, and he’d open with a scathing critique of the issue just closed, a pronouncement about the one to come, and then turn to his managing editors for their news. Brevity was everything. Around the table went the pitches. Some reporters would pass, offering an excuse that they were working on a special project or a potential cover story. Sometimes Jim would snarl that they were slacking, other times he’d tell them to come see him to discuss the big project in private. Babble too long and he’d say “spare me the details” or “I get it.”

The list of great reporters and editors that worked for him is legendary: Gretchen Morgenson, Norm Pearlstine, Allan Sloan, Peter Brimelow, Ed Finn …
It was in the editing that Jim Michaels was renowned. I expect that someone will dust off some of his greatest hits in editorial comments: “That’s not writing, it’s stenography”, his aversion to terms like “corporate culture,” his hatred of weasel words like “however” and “on the other hand.”

I would get summoned a couple times a year, when I had a cover story in the making, and they always emerged from his rewrites a far better piece. Two significant prizes I won in my first years at the magazine should have been awarded to Jim.

He talked me out of quitting twice. He encouraged me with Forbes.com and watched my back in those early, politically fraught days when I was pushing to keep the product free from subscription or registration. He always backed his staff. One reporter, who is still there and who I won’t name, came aboard at my suggestion. He wrote a fairly strong story about a software company that resulted in an utter meltdown by the CEO, threats of pulling ads, lawsuits … Jim called us in, asked us if the story was correct, made us double check the facts, and when we returned with a better story involving resume inflation on the part of the CEO he told us to leave it alone. Forbes was done with the matter.

Ican’t seem to end this because I assumed there was no end to Jim. He was timeless, ageless, like Yoda.

Allan Sloan gives a far better send-off than I.

Here is Peter Brimelow’s

Update: Gretchen Morgenson delivers her send-off in the 10.07.07 Sunday New York Times
My condolences to his wife Jean and his children.

Bubblewatch: The Industry Standard Is Coming Back

Bubblewatch: The Industry Standard Is Coming Back – Bits – Technology – New York Times Blog
Brad Stone at the Times blogs about the Industry Standard rising from the grave at IDG. I’d love to hear a candid take from the veterans of those days, but I don’t know about the predictive market thing. Never bought into that model, saw it at the MIT Technology Review and it never engaged me. Wonder if it revives into print as well as online.

“As if we needed any more evidence that the bubble is back in Silicon Valley, technology media company IDG plans to revive that hallmark publication of the dot.com era, the Industry Standard. (See previous reports of the revival here and here.)”I hear that IDG has hired San Francisco PR firm Porter Novelli to assist with the hunt for an editor-in-chief. Solicitations to interview for the job, along with the requisite non-disclosure agreement, are currently going out to Bay Area journalists with a technology background.”

Invite form here. 

thanks for Tom Hayes for the pointer

Social media marketing in Facebook

My Facebook activity — and I suspect yours — has stepped up over the past four months, seemingly due to a tipping point of sorts being reached in the late spring as more Forty- and Fifty-Somethings in the interactive/tech space flooded the former college network looking for insights and value.

As I told the audience at last week’s WPP Strategy meeting, you can’t accurately fathom the essence of Facebook unless you are a 19-year old freshman and are using the system at its naturally intended level: a replacement of the paper facebook that was de rigeur in the freshman welcome packs when I arrived at college in the fall of 1976.

My college roommate — a professor of archeology at the University of Kansas — actually uses Facebook the way a contemporary student would, posting pictures of our 25th Reunion (which I blew off), staying in touch, sharing videos of Burning Man, and adopting and rejecting new applications at a furious clip. But the rest of my network …. with the exception of some natural networkers like Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard, and interactive marketing pundit Joseph Jaffe, the typical Facebook friend in my network seems to be using the system as a semi-rolodex replacement, or a scalp-collector the way early Linked-In fanatics collected gross contact counts as a validation of their self-importance (until Linked-In wisely capped the reported contact count at 500+)

The usual cliches about Facebook being a time sink are true, and even though I compulsively check the thing, and even listened to a Jaffe podcast through it this morning (Across the Sound), I haven’t felt the utility of it click the way other addictive online apps (Google Reader, Google News, my own blog) have hit me.

I have spent a lot of time analyzing the economic value of marketing within Facebook, requesting rate cards and looking at the efforts of competitors and top brands such as Southwest Airlines in creating sponsored groups. While I have subscribed to, and monitor relevant grassroots groups that have cropped up around our brand terms, I haven’t seen a large amount of activity nor urgency in diving in with a seven-figure investment.

One thing is perfectly clear to me as I use it — display advertising has a very very hard time vying for my attention inside of a tool that is all about news and utility tailored to me and my interests. That same display advertising, in the context of a flat media page — say a news story on Marketwatch.com — is slightly more compelling or attention getting given the linear, one way experience of an HTML web page impression. If I can’t engage with the content then the ads pop out a bit more. Put that same ad in the middle of my profile page, and it suddenly is competing for attention with everything from my iTunes utility to my Facebook inbox.

I won’t delve into MySpace as a) that rivalry is overstated in my opinion, and b) I don’t use MySpace enough to feel informed about it.

I know I embarrass my daughter to no end by being on Facebook — I was her “friend” for about a month before she “unfriendeded” me — and I don’t blame her. I’m an invader, not a native, and nothing is uncooler than inviting a parent to a party. I guess if I want to understand how to market in Facebook I need to hire her or her ilk to insure it is done properly, otherwise the brand could come off looking like an old lady in a mini-skirt.

Now, to see if there are any Facebook gadgets so I can integrate WordPress ….

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