Frederic P. Claussen

My neighbor Frederic Claussen passed away last week. He was 72 years old. A graduate of Nobles & Greenough, Harvard, and Boston University Law School, he was a flinty Yankee and the longest serving elected Republican in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, serving as Registrar of Deeds for Barnstable County for 39 years, only retiring from office last year.

from the Cape Cod Times.

He drove an ancient Buick, used to live in one of the oldest houses in the village, and loved animals. My daughter used to walk his collie Fancy for him while he was at work at the county complex in Barnstable Village. One day while I was working in my home office he came over with a copy of a story he had published about a lost dog he had adopted.

The grandson of US Congressman Charles Gifford (who was the author of the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution which changed the date of the presidential inauguration), Mr. Claussen lived near his grandfather’s house in the center of the village and will be forever thanked by generations of beachwalkers, shellfishermen and fishermen for granting a right of way to water by the town dock. His profile page on the State website lists his personal interests simply as “swimming and walking the beach.”

He was one of a breed of Massachusetts Republicans that used to personify Cape Cod politics through the 1970s. He was very good at his job – at least the voters thought so — and was helpful to me in 1980 when as a cub reporter I came to interview him about the role of county government on the Cape. My family and I will miss him, it’s sad to see a great presence in the neighborhood pass away.

iErg – how to listen to music on an ergometer

Indoor exercise is tedious and without good tunes, it can be worse than boring and more like torture. Since 1994 I’ve been rowing on my Concept2 ergometer and trying to perfect the perfect “mix-tape.” The last 15 years have also seen me struggle to figure out how to listen to that perfect set of songs without a) horrifying people around me by playing them out loud, in the open and b) killing myself or my personal electronics.

At first I used a Sony portable CD player – one of those little round things – and set it next to the erg on a chair. I’d climb onto the rolling seat, put on the “sports” earphones, and then haul away for 30 minutes to an hour, the thin wire swaying back and forth with just enough slack not to pull the player off the chair and crash it to the floor. Too much slack and the rolling seat would roll over the cable, jam the wheels, bring me to an abrupt halt (not cool when one is pushing a 200 beat per minute heart rate) and trash the earphones.

Then I moved to a MiniDisc player and put it inside of a neoprene fanny pack/belt thing that made me look like an American tourist with black socks and madras shorts in the Bagatelle gardens. That was okay, but when I travelled I had to make sure I had the thing as no belt meant no tunes.

In 2002 or so I joined the iPod movement. I moved to an armband holster thing popular with joggers/runners. That was okay except it constricted the blood supply to my burgeoning biceps and I had to wind the cord around and around the iPod to avoid the aforementioned cord-meets-wheels-surprise.

Forget that little solution at home when I travelled, or lose it, and the iPod would get stuck inside of my rowing shorts – or “trou” as rowers refer to them – a tight lycra-spandex bike short sort of thing without the butt-pad. Rowing shorts are better than petri dishes for growing new biological weapons, and let’s just say you never want to borrow my iPod. Never.

A few weeks ago, while reading the Union Boat Club of Boston’s email listserv, I saw a fellow member recommend a solution called the iErg. This is a fabric cover that fits over the rolling seat of my Concept 2 erg, with a side pocket for the iPod. Brilliant. Ten minutes later I had PayPal-ed an order and within a week it arrived.

Perfect solution. I strongly recommend it. And I paid $25 for it, just so you know I am not blowing blogola/pay-per-post b.s.

Ocean rowing

Like warblers migrating through the beech forests of the Provincelands, French rowers set east across the Atlantic for their homeland from Cape Cod every May, compelled to make their way across the briny deep with nothing more than their backs, legs, and arms and a hybrid ocean-going rowboat.

When I was a kid browsing the shelves of the Cotuit Library, librarian Ida Anderson recommended I read an account of two English rowers who crossed the Atlantic in the late 1960s. The fact that they left from Cape Cod and succeeded impressed me enough to place a self-propelled crossing of the ocean on my list of life’s-to-dos.

Little did I know that it would become an even bigger deal, with lunatics trying to cross the Pacific.

Early this week the latest Frenchman, Charlie Girard, threw in the towel on his second attempt and was plucked from the water by the US Coast Guard. As he explained to the press, his head wasn’t in it and he wasn’t strong enough to make a crossing which can take at least two months to complete.

There is a web site — horribly designed but comprehensive if you can get past yellow text on black backgrounds — for the Ocean Rowing Society. Here is a picture of Girard’s boat, which I assume is adrift now some 1o0 miles east of Chatham off the Georges Banks.

update: Girard’s boat has been found and recovered.

My kind of party

College roommate and professor of pre-columbian archaeology at the University of Kansas, John Hoopes, writes me on Facebook about the mounting online lunacy of the end-of-the-world movement that is based on some Aztec Mayan calendar saying 2012 is when it all goes down.

Professor Hoopes sent me a link to a profile of a new age end of world visionary named Pinchbeck — the new Timothy Leary — who in a Rolling Stone article was described as preparing for a forthcoming drug trip thusly:

Pinchbeck wore Depends and a blindfold, and kept a plastic vomit bucket by his head.

Classic! Reminds me of a college drinking game called “The 100” — where the aim was to drink four cases of Budweiser (and four singles) between 6 pm on Friday and 6 pm on Sunday. This looks easy on paper, but is nearly impossible as it requres two beers per hour (assuming zero sleep). Whatever, I was never in the same league as Pinchbeck, though I did know some guys who donned hockey helmets before opening a bottle of surgical ether in their room in the event of unconsciousness and head injuries.

Update: It is midnight Thursday to midnight Sunday according to drinkwap.com. I recall it was 48 hours, not 72.

Good luck John with dispelling the end of world stuff. We’re all counting on you.

Horizontal designs and scrolling to the right

I’m noticing more and more web sites that rely on a sideways or horizontal-scroll where the content extends off to the side, not down south below the screen, but to the right.

I see this in apps as well as sites.

Example number one: TweetDeck. Need more searches or hashtags to track? Add them and they populate off to the right, not below the scroll.

Second example: Julia Allison – faux internet celebrity has a “lifecast” – Non-Society — that scrolls sideways.

Third example: Google’s News timeline (which I really dig design-wise but haven’t fallen in love with yet as a navigation for my news needs).

Fourth example – The New York Times’ Adobe Air reader – hit the right arrow button and it’s like turning the page.

Example five: Kindle. Hit the bar on the right edge of the device and you flip the page just like one licks one’s thumb and reaches up and to the right to turn the page on that old copy of War and Peace.

Is this trend driven by the gradual death of the 4:3 “square” monitor ratio in favor of the 16:10/16:9 wide “letterbox” mode now standard on most laptops and flat panel desktop monitors? I think so. As we lose real estate on the vertical scroll the horizontal real estate on the screen begins to dominate. Web sites that assumed (in the dark ages of HTML 2.0 and Web 1.0) a 800×600 resolution, tended to constrain their content in a “snake” of text that scrolled downwards, vertically, sinking below the bottom bezel of our monitors and laptop screen. PgDN and the down arrow keys were essential navigation aids for the reader in the first wave of page design. Now? We’re going to the right and I expect to see more of it.

Prizes and awards

After I failed to win a college creative writing contest in 1979 and groused about it, one of my advisors, the late John Hersey, told me words to the effect that “Homer didn’t win squat for the Odyssey.” True that, but Hersey did win a Pulitzer (I was part of a team that got nominated for one….)

I still like to brag and today I get to brag on behalf of the digital media team here at Lenovo who delivered the goods in a big way in 2008 for our Olympic sponsorship with Voices of the Summer Games. We’ve won two big awards in the public relations world for our work – thanks to the diligent applications of our agency, Ogilvy PR’s 360 Digital Influence team of John Bell, Rohit Bhargava, and Kaitlyn Wilkins – the Catchup Lady.

The first award is the Holmes Report Golden Saber . This, to PR people, is a really big deal. And we won the Global Program category with our athlete blogger program – 100 athletes, 25 countries, telling the world about their experiences in Beijing on Lenovo IdeaPads. Simple idea, massive execution project, and it came off flawlessly (well, almost). So, I have a Saber going for me. Here’s Rohit picking up the hardware.

The second award got announced last week, a Bronze Anvil from the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America). We won the Social Media category.

The people at Lenovo who need to take bows are:

  • Deepak Advani
  • Esteban Panzeri
  • Alan White
  • Tim Supples
  • Bob Page
  • Kim Preslar
  • Jim Hazen
  • Geraldine Kan
  • David Rabin
  • Carina Van Vlerken
  • Margaret Lam
  • Sheji Ho
  • Kevin Walker
  • Mike Cunningham

Supporting us:

  • The aforementioned Ogilvy folks
  • Neo@Ogilvy for driving a remarkable media plan (Nicole Estebanell and team)
  • Tom Lowry and the Google team that let us borrow their portal and blogging
  • Federated Media – John Battelle, when I first briefed him, was negative and persuaded me it would wither in the noise if we didn’t do something smart. Federated delivered that)

Cue up the music, escort the man in the tux away from the microphone, cut to commercial ….

In honor of bluefish season …

Lisa in the comments admits to detesting bluefish. This is for her, an oldie from my days as FishWire correspondent for Cape Cod and The Islands at Reel-Time.

“Fish was rarely on the menu in my childhood unless it came out of a box, was pre-breaded, and could be cooked on a cookie sheet in under an hour in a 450 degree oven. My father, the original meat-and-potato man, forbade fish or chicken in the house. Chicken, because he had a phobia of chickens due to his World War II duties as keeper of the household chicken coop; fish, because his mother would can bluefish with a pressure cooker in Mason jars to lay up some protein for the winter months.

My brother and I took the tale of canned bluefish as pure Cape Cod legend, up there with stealing coal and catching cabbages that fell off of trucks as part of the “penny-saved-penny earned” lectures we were subjected to whenever the old gent finished paying the monthly bills and decided we would live without electricity for the next month (his favorite economizing move was to make orange juice with the frozen stuff but forbid it ever being shaken or stirred. The idea was to add more water over time, allowing the orange sausage of concentrate to hang on the bottom of the bottle, pale orange water above it).

The canned bluefish was just a quaint myth until I cleaned out the cellar last winter and found a sixty-year old Mason jar filled with what appeared to be a pickled demon fetus from the Omen IV. We opened it on the front lawn while wearing heavy rubber gloves. The grass is still dead there, like some sort of crop circle left by aliens.

Here are some recipes from the Churbuck Culinary Academy of Ruined Food, courtesy of my predecessors who never met a fish they could stomach:

Honey, the Dog Is Eating Grass Again Bluefish

  • Take one bluefish, preferably one caught early in the morning and then thrown into the stern of the motorboat back by the scupper plugs where it can curl, get stiff in the sun and baste all afternoon in a rainbow patina of gasoline and two-stroke outboard oil.
  • Filet with a rusty knife, taking care to leave scales and the rib bones in the flesh.
  • Leave the dark meat in the fish. For that is where the PCBs are most concentrated.
  • Take a cookie sheet. Preferably the kind that warps into a pretzel shape with a loud “thwang” when heated. Cover with aluminum foil. I don’t know if the shiny or dull side up matters or not.
  • Do not grease the foil. The fish must stick to the foil so your guests will have the electric thrill of finding out what happens when foil meets one of their fillings.
  • With the meat side up cover the bluefish with a one-inch thick layer of Miracle Whip, the evil stepsister of Hellmans Mayo.
  • Bake or broil (it just doesn’t matter) until the Miracle Whip is kind of browned like a meringue.
  • Serve, and then remember you forgot to make any kind of side dish. Dig out some freezer-burned Tater Tots and bake in the oven until lukewarm while the fish gets cold.
  • Eat. Feel bad. Then start drinking. Get angry at nothing in particular and call your nearest relation “a leech who contributes nothing” or “an oxygen thief” and then start a mallet fight with the kids’ croquet set on the lawn in front of the horrified neighbors. Ask them what they are looking at.