That’s when I reach for my revolver

The classic Arab imprecation: May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits comes to mind today as I migrate my corporate email from one system to another and regard this notice from corporate IT — “You will have to maintain two inboxes until further notice” — with the kind of migraine that one can’t knock down with mere Advil.

Anyway — if you need me, you know how to find me. My first name at my last name dot com always works. The new corporate address is davidchurbuck AT lenovo dot com.
And given my mood, and pounding headache, I thought it appropriate to acknowledge this band, Mission of Burma, who dominated the raucous Boston music scene in the early 80s (Spinal Tap: “So the Boston gig got cancelled, who cares? Not much of a college town….“) but faded away when their lead guitarist, Roger Miller, developed hearing problems because they were that loud.

Check out this video and you’ll see Miller wearing ear-muffs to try to save his ears. It was a shame — this band was beloved by critics and held up as being as influential in their own way as Sonic Youth and the Pixies (another Boston classic indie band). Moby covered this tune and gave it wide notice, but here’s the original.

“The Connection Has Been Reset”

“The Connection Has Been Reset”
I get asked from time to time what the deal is with the “Great Firewall of China.” I’ve personally observed some blockages — primarily blog networks (blogger, and intermittent outages of things like Flickr and YouTube. When I’ve beefed the China hands tell me it is no big deal, everyone knows how to get around it. Using proxies I imagine. James Fallows, the preeminent American journalism working out of China, has a good piece in the current Atlantic Monthly about Internet censorship. I am not surprised to see him report — through anonymous sources — that visitors will experience no issues during the Summer Games.

“In reality, what the Olympic-era visitors will be discovering is not the absence of China’s electronic control but its new refinement—and a special Potemkin-style unfettered access that will be set up just for them, and just for the length of their stay. According to engineers I have spoken with at two tech organizations in China, the government bodies in charge of censoring the Internet have told them to get ready to unblock access from a list of specific Internet Protocol (IP) addresses—certain Internet cafés, access jacks in hotel rooms and conference centers where foreigners are expected to work or stay during the Olympic Games. (I am not giving names or identifying details of any Chinese citizens with whom I have discussed this topic, because they risk financial or criminal punishment for criticizing the system or even disclosing how it works. Also, I have not gone to Chinese government agencies for their side of the story, because the very existence of Internet controls is almost never discussed in public here, apart from vague statements about the importance of keeping online information “wholesome.”)”

The politics of clams and piers

From Your Councilor Precinct 7 Richard Barry – Cotuit – The Barnstable Patriot – Cape Cod & Islands

I am the sworn enemy of all docks and piers built by private waterfront landowners over public waters. The law is clear. Waterfront property rights end at the low water mark and a pier over anything beyond that is a private taking of public property. Piers obscure access, impede navigation, permanently shade the bottom, and involve the pounding of pressure-treated (chemically treated) pilings into the bottom of the harbor.

Piers suck, and a recent effort to zone the coastal waters as shellfish habitat just failed to pass thanks to five boneheaded town councilors, some of whom represent districts in the town of Barnstable that don’t have any waterfront property.

The real villian is the “Ostervillian” – Osterville’s town councilor James Crocker, who’s district shares the three-bays system with Cotuit. Cotuit’s town councilor, Richard Barry, wrote in the Barnstable Patriot:

“On January 17, the Town Council conducted a public hearing on whether or not to adopt a zoning ordinance that would preserve 114 acres of our coast for the benefit of the recreational and commercial shellfisherpersons.These defined areas represents 2.61 percent of our total shoreline and have been designated by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries as significant shellfish habitat. This allows the town to propagate shellfish for the 2,206 families that hold a family shellfish permit and the 48 people that make a living from their commercial license.

The number of properties affected by this ordinance is 53. The Town’s proposed comprehensive plan on natural resources calls for protection of significant shellfish habitat and zoning of our waters. That is exactly what this ordinance does. The planning board voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance. The public weighed in and approximately 20 people spoke in favor of the ordinance and only one in opposition citing diminution in value of the effected properties from not being allowed to construct a dock or pier.

The town assessor had previously refuted this argument. The law is clear. Property owners own to the mean low water mark and the waters of the Commonwealth are held for the benefit of the general public. After the initial vote five councilors voted against the adoption of this ordinance. Because a zoning ordinance needs a 2/3 majority the ordinance did not pass.”

Councilors Tobey, Munafo, Chirigiotis, Tinsely and Crocker: you all blew it. Councilor Barry: keep up the good work.

What I am reading: The Big Oyster

As I packed for this week’s journey to New York (with a 24-hour swing into North Carolina), I went browsing through the bookshelves for something to feed my head and found a book I had bought over the Christmas holidays but forgot about. Nothing is better than the discovery of a new book among old ones, so into the knapsack it went, lasting me a scant three days before it was consumed and returned to the shelves.

The Big Oyster, by Mark Kurlansky, author of the wonderful food histories Cod and Salt, is an account of the role the oyster played in the development and culture of New York City. This being the world’s preeminent clamming blog (as measured In my own mind and by Clamorati, the clam blog search engine), I thought it proper to discuss Kurlansky’s contribution to the oeuvre of bivalve literature and how it may indeed inspire me to initiate the 2008 shellfishing season this weekend on Cotuit Bay.

Kurlansky is a good researcher, exhaustive in fact, and the danger of being an exhaustive researcher is that one stand the risk of turning into an insufferable pedant, but Kurlansky avoids tedium by maintaining a steady barrage of facts and miscellanies ranging from the science of aquaculture to the biology of the oyster drill, to historical nuggets such as from the Civil War Draft Riots to Diamond Jim Brady’s fabled gluttony (the man could suck down 72 oysters before tucking into a meal, I draw the line at 12).

Wednesday night, while dining with the good folks from Google and Neo, I saw oysters on the menu and ordered up a dozen, raising some eyebrows around the table as it seems more rare these days to kick off a meal with a plate of raw clams than a sad green salad. The waiter was excited by the order and seemed happy to describe the choices from the raw bar. A fellow stalker of the living rock? He offered a choice of the American mainstay, the Long Island Blue Point, a Maine belon (French style but not as tasty) or Pacific Northwest Olympias. We settled on a half-and-half order of the Blue Points and the belons, passed on the littlenecks (raw quahogs). I offered them on my tablemates and delivered my own pedantic discourse on the pleasures of the oyster, imparting to their great dismay such pearls as:

  1. There is only one species of American oyster, Crassostrea virginica, but great variations in their taste depending on where they are raised (few wild oysters are sold and indeed, oysters are one of the few things that when cultivated by man are actually improved over their wild counterparts).
  2. Southerners prefer larger, blander oysters than northerners. Cold water oysters grow more slowly than warm water oysters because of a combination of available nutrients and the fact that oysters stop growing when water temperature drop below a certain level. Northerners think Southern oysters taste mushy. Southeners think northern oysters taste harsh.
  3. [At this point the gentleman sitting to my left and the lady to my right are displaying signs of narcolepsy.]
  4. The old admonition not eat oysters in months with an “R” in them is an ancient warning more associated with the fact that warm months without “r’s” (July, August, etc.) are when oysters have sex and when oysters have sex their meat becomes less tasty than when they are celibate. Not because they will make you sick, though a bad oyster will make you sicker than the Black Death.
  5. Oysters are prodigious filter feeders and can turn an aquarium full of green nasty water clean in a matter of hours.

And on and on. Just read The Big Oyster for more fun oyster facts, but also for a very good history of New York City from the days of Verrazano to modern times when General Electric dumped a few hundred thousand pounds of PCBs into the Hudson and signed the death warrant for a lot of marine life in New York City (to be fair GE was only one of a gazillion sources of pollution).

Recreational oystering – as part of this blog’s mandate to cover clamming strategy – is not easily performed in the waters of Cotuit, despite the bay’s former reputation for producing some of the most desired oysters in the world. Those oysters are farmed by the Cotuit Oyster Company, which plants seed from elsewhere and raises it to market size – permitting the oysters to take on the unique flavor brought about by Cotuit’s sweet semi-brackish, spring fed water (don’t get me going). Wild oysters, the ones that probably littered the bottom and shores of the harbor 200 years ago and led to the construction of big shell piles (middens) by the Wampanoags, aren’t so abundant anymore, and Cousin Pete and I manage to eke a bushel out of the harbor before the other clamheads get to them. It’s hard work for a few clams, not nearly as easy to find as quahogs and steamers.

In closing: my tablemate at dinner asked me if I was still a big fisherman. “Not so much anymore,” I replied. She asked why I fished, was it for food? The sport? Communing with nature? I thought for a second, not quite sure, and realized the answer was too weird to say out loud and that is this: I think people are happiest standing in knee-deep water with a fishing rod or clam rake in their hand, because it’s there, half-in-and-out of the brine, that a few million years ago something strange crawled out of the depths and began the process of standing on dry land, on its own hind legs, with something tasty to eat in its claws. It is the place where we started, on that edge between water and land, and the place we’re compelled to return. This, according to my thinking, is why people like to coat themselves with sunblock and lie on the beach reading Grisham novels.

Instead I said, “I like to eat fish.”

Building the Perfect Laptop – Lenovo makes the cover of Businessweek

Building the Perfect Laptop

Businessweek has put us on the cover of their latest issue; Steve Hamm writes about the development of our forthcoming ThinkPad, the X300. This is the first notebook I’ve had serious lust for since I coveted my first T1000 Toshiba (the Intel 8088 with a floppy drive and a handle like a suitcase) back in 1988. It may well be, indeed, the “perfect laptop.” This is a computer that has to be held to be understood. A remarkable piece of engineering. Congratulations to the ThinkPad team and its designer, David Hill, who is also the first Lenovo blogger.

“At Lenovo, Hill and his colleagues have a lot riding on the X300, part of its ThinkPad line of computers. The Chinese company bought IBM’s (IBM) money-losing, $10 billion PC business in 2005 with hopes of using it to build a prominent global brand. IBM’s ThinkPad had long been a favorite of executives and business travelers, but it lost cachet over the years. The goal now with the X300 is to deliver a machine that will burnish Lenovo’s reputation worldwide. “We want to send the message that if there’s a company in the industry that can continuously develop the most inventive and best-quality products with efficiency, it will be Lenovo,” says Chairman Yang Yuanqing.”

The podcast is worth a listen.


Steve Outing has launched an blog focused on launching, managing, and tending a news site. Being an ex-newsie, this is a good thing, and Steve’s reputation as an online news guru is top notch.

“Welcome to This website serves a narrow and fascinating niche: news publishing online. What you’ll find here are regularly posted tips and ideas on how to grow your news website, how to make more money from advertising and other sources, how to grow your user base, etc. You’ll find USEFUL information and advice here. (This is not an industry news source.)

Hi, I’m Steve Outing, editor of If you’re interested in this niche, you may know me already as an online news pioneer and longtime columnist for Editor & Publisher.”

Google’s Data Asset

Google’s Data Asset | Union Square Ventures: A New York Venture Capital Fund Focused on Early Stage & Startup Investing

Brad Burnham, partner at Union Square with Fred Wilson, blogs about the impact of Google’s data driven services. In discussions over dinner last week with Dan Gertsacov from GoogleTV, we got onto the topic of data as differentiator in advertising. Brad nails the same point in this post (which is about the impact of marginal data collection on services)

“Each incremental point of data adds value to the ones you all ready have. It is easy to see this in the context of an advertising network. If the ad network knows that a user is female it can show more relevant ads. But, If the ad network knows that female’s age, it can do even better, and data about location, household income, and recent web sites visited all add value to the existing data points, making it possible to show more and more relevant ads. Google’s services all benefit from additional data albeit in different ways.

“So what does all this mean about the market for web services. It means that we all need to begin to think about the degree to which Google’s enormous data asset will allow it to dominate this important sector.” [emphasis mine]

The hot buttons in the last paragraph are “think” and “dominate.” Data driven ad services (or cloud computing) are squarely in the sights of the privacy stewards and the federal government. Anyone who had to answer reader mail in 1995 when a web user freaked out about a cookie being placed on their harddrive knows never to underestimate the public and government’s paranoia about data.

As an advertiser, Google’s data store and processing capability is extremely valuable in transforming next-marketing-dollar allocation. The other networks don’t possess the same analytical and data driven rigor. It could, if I take Brad’s post to the paranoid extreme, be a harbinger of Google’s future focus on persuading the world that a) their data is anonymous and b) safe with Google.

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