: views from the Hill

Thursday, April 30, 2009

[URL] Dickensurl.com


Convert your URL to a Dickensian quote.


Under an accumulation of staggerers, no man can be considered a free agent. No man knocks himself down; if his destiny knocks him down, his destiny must pick him up again.

From The Old Curiosity Shop

Above quote has been attributed to

[via Bella Stander's twitterfeed]

Job announcement for the times

Ad running in the righthand sidebar of SFGATE.COM.

United States Courts-Ninth Circuit
Bankruptcy Judgeships

Recruiting for 4 vacancies on the Bankruptcy Court.

(We need more judges because we're having more bankruptcies?)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Outrage" Documentary: Outing Gay Conservatives

"Outrage," a new documentary from filmmaker Kirby Dick, takes issue with the secret lives of closeted gay politicians -- especially conservative Republicans who outwardly oppose gay rights.

The film, which premiered last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, features tell-alls from men who say they've had relationships with various Republicans, including Florida Governor Charlie Crist, Bush strategist Ken Mehlman and former Senator Larry Craig.


Whoo. Boy.

What do you think of "outing" closeted gays?
Justified if they're publicly bashing gays and gay rights?
When is privacy a right and a given? When not?

[found through a mention on Huffington Post]

Scrabble ad. Really!

[another gem from Andrew Sullivan's blog]

Terrific Schweppes advert

Not a "water" balloon ad, but ...

[hattip to Andrew Sullivan]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bruce Sterling brings his ray of sunshine to the subject of swine flu.

Practical Tips for Combatting Swine Flu In Your Home | Beyond the Beyond from Wired.com

There is always some flu around and flu is always killing some people. Even when a raw mutant flu manages to kill off more people than a shooting-war, flu has never ravaged whole cities as cholera or the Black Death can do. As awful pandemics go, flu is like the snotty-nosed little sister of awful pandemics.

I've been tracking Twitter and checking what people are twittering about porcine influenza.

We now have multiple Twitter accounts aggregating swine flu news with names like stoptheswine, SwineFlu, SwineFluTweets and more. Someone's even picked up the domain name swinefluoutbreaknews.com.

There's hype hype HYPE! and folks madly re-tweeting such things as How swine flu could be a bigger threat to humanity than nuclear war http://bit.ly/4CKca (something from UK's Daily Mail Online)

Chill, people. Really.

For up-to-date information go to the CDC site

Friday, April 24, 2009

This Is Your Wake-up Call: 12 Steps to Better Book Publishing

This Is Your Wake-up Call: 12 Steps to Better Book Publishing


The underlying problem facing the industry is twofold: there are too many books, and too many of them are derivative of each other. You've heard of Gresham's Law—the idea that bad money drives out good. Our industry has long suffered from Grisham's Law, where opportunistic authors and publishers try to imitate John Grisham and other category leaders with books modeled on someone else's commercial success. That strategy might make sense if there were great demand for these imitators, but in today's overcrowded, competitive marketplace, this kind of thinking is dangerous, because it devalues the environment into which we present our work.


[link via Dystel & Goderich Management blog]

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The classic Alice B. Toklas recipe

I found a good home for my softcover edition of The ALICE B. TOKLAS COOKBOOK. I have an older, hardcover, first edition that I intend to keep but, really, there aren't many differences 'twixt these two.

One difference, the newer edition has a foreword by MFK Fisher.

One other crucial difference, for those of us who spent our young adult years in the sixties and seventies, this edition contains the recipe that (for legal reasons) the publisher could not include in the first edition. Yes, the recipe for Haschich Fudge -- no, not brownies ... fudge, even though the talk was always of Alice B. Toklas brownies.

The Haschich Fudge recipe is not a Toklas original, but rather came to Toklas from painter and film-maker Brion Gysin, according to the notes.

Haschich Fudge (which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)

This is the food of Paradise -- of Baudelaire's Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies' Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one's personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by 'un évanouissement reveillé.'

Take 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of coriander. These should be pulverised in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of canibus sativa [sic] can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as canibus sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognised, everywhere in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope. In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called canibus indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.

Now that I've saved the recipe (although for what reason I don't know), I can pass the copy of the later edition on to someone who will give it a good home.

zoomed in food... look closer

zoomed in food... look closer

Delightful food closeups.

[found via StumbleUpon]

[LONG] Earth Day thoughts and The Stories of a Girl

Sara Zarr blogged (in her blog, The Stories of a Girl) about a number of things yesterday. I was captured by her comment,

Earth Day. I don’t know how I feel about it, as a day, which mostly feels like yet another opportunity for capitalism to taint what should be common sense.

I remember the first Earth Day. 1970. A few months before Sara Zarr was born. Spring semester of my freshman year. We buried a new car (a Ford Maverick?) in the Quad at San Jose State during the Earth Day Survival Fair. Oh, we were root-toot-tooting greenies even back then.

Looking back, though, the green we are today wouldn't even have been dreamed of back then. Sara went through some of the things she's now doing ("a few of the major though easy things") that help celebrate Earth Day year-round. Here's my list of ten greenie things that are part and parcel of my life these days.

1) WATER Like Sara we don't do bottled water -- not at home, not in restaurants. (Well, if someone else is paying for the con-gas/frizzante at an event, I will certainly imbibe. My no-frizzante-at-restaurants is because I'm way frugal too ... Why pay a restaurant for a marked-up bottle of water? Why buy water at the store? I appreciate restaurants that fizz their own water instead of bringing on the French or Italian bottled stuff.

Our local HetchHetchy water is fine water indeed. I understand that some other folks may not have tap water that tastes good. (I've been in Midland, TX. Reverse osmosis water is the ONLY way to go in that town.) But if you don't live in Midland or some place with equally bad water, have you even considered tap (or as an office mate used to say, "sink") water?

Sara doesn't live in San Francisco these days, but where she is her tap water's fine too. Are you missing out on drinking from the tap because it's "sink water"?

We have a couple bottles of chilled water in the frig for (f'rex) when we're going out for a walk on a hot day (to avoid getting so terribly thirsty that we break down and buy a bottle at the wharf). We refill our bottles. Again and again and ...

We have a case of bottled water under the bed as part of our earthquake supplies.

That's it.

2) BAGS: PLASTIC & OTHERWISE We reuse paper bags and packaging materials. And those peanuts &c. that show up in mailorder stuff that we can't use? We give those to a friend who is slowly decluttering his house by selling stuff on eBay. We stuff clean plastic (which isn't recyclable with the city recycle program in this town) into a large plastic bag and when the bag's full, take it down to Safeway, which does, still, recycle plastic. We save the larger grocery-sized plastic bags to line the wastebasket in the kitchen.

We have cloth bags (and, for Trader Joe's, paper bags) for shopping. Most of the cloth bags are from conferences: Bouchercon, AAAS, LCC. We have HUGE STURDY IKEA BAGS that we bought for $0.59-$0.99 each (they dropped the price and we bought two more) which we use to haul stuff in from the car down the stairs and up to the front door when we take the car to Costco or Trader Joe's and buy in bulk. We also use them to haul stuff UP! so we have a couple bags on either end. We have had these bags now for years and they carry a ton of stuff without wearing out or ripping at the seams.

2a) I wrap presents in Sunday comics. Did you know that you can cut long strips of comics (or any wrapping paper, really) and curl the strips with a knife/scissors edge to make ribbony attachments that MATCH!! the wrapping paper? I wrap packages for mailing in paper bags, deconstructed at the seams and turned inside out.

3) RECYCLE We recycle newspaper, magazines, cardboard, flattened boxes, clean paper items, bottles and cans, plastic bottles, &c. We stash the recycle stuffs in boxes and on the day before the twice-a-week pickup, we transfer them to paper grocery bags and carry them up to the nearest street and leave them in a recycle bin there for pickup. We empty the bags that hold bottles/cans into the bin and bring the bags back for re-use. The bags holding magazines/newspapers, we leave in the bin.

4) GREENCYCLE San Francisco has a wonderful compost program -- green bins or, as we call it, Greencycle. What can you put in the green bin for composting? All food scraps, food-soiled paper, garden clippings and cuttings, pizza boxes, paper milk cartons, tea bags, coffee filters, banana peels, food-soiled paper napkins, wooden crates, tree trimmings, sawdust. Oh, the list goes on. Fish bones, lobster and crab shells, oyster shells, bones, wine corks.

The only things that shouldn't go in the green cart are (1) things that are already recycled in the blue bin: newspaper, clean paper items, bottles and cans, empty spray cans, aluminum foil, plastic bottles, tubs and lids, &c. and (2) things that belong in the real garbage:

* Styrofoam
* plastic bags
* diapers
* kitty litter or animal feces
* rocks, stones, or dirt
* &c.

How hard is this? Well, for us, we have to make more effort than someone living in a SFH with curbside pickup. Where we are, the City will not pick up recycle or compost. A bunch of greeny neighbors FINALLY arranged for the City to pick up recycle if we carry it up to the nearest street and tuck it down on the first landing. (The neighbors on either side of the steps complained if we put the recycle bin on the sidewalk next to their buildings.) Greencycle, though, is out of the question at that spot.

Our Greencycle effort goes thusly. We have a large glass casserole dish on the counter that gets the stuff that would go into the green bin, if we only had a green bin. When the dish gets full (or at the end of the day), we transfer the contents to a large, lidded, metal menudo pot (lined with a compostable bag), which sits over in the corner of the kitchen.

When that bag gets full (or in four days, whichever is sooner, because the compostable bag begins to compost at that point), we put the bag into a larger plastic bag and take it out and drop it sans plastic bag in a green bin that we know of that's on our way out-of-town or over to Costco or somewhere else that we'd be heading anyway. I suppose we could find a neighbor with a green bin (Hey! I may know just the one!) who lives within a quarter mile who would let us drop the Greencycle in her bin.

Greencycle is so very cool. I wish everyone used it.

As the article linked above says,

San Francisco's garbage and recycling companies are leading the way in producing a high-quality, boutique compost tailored for Bay Area growers, experts say. In one year, 105,000 tons of food scraps and yard trimmings - 404 tons each weekday - get turned into 20,000 tons of compost for 10,000 acres.

Greencycle recycles 105,000 TONS of food scraps and yard trimmings a year! How cool is that?

5) PACKAGING AND PLASTIC WRAP We don't buy many things that are in non-recyclable packaging. We still eat meat, so there are usually styrofoam trays (why?) to dispose of and the plastic wrap around them. Vegetables go into plastic bags before purchase, but if you rinse them out and dry them, the plastic bags recycle. Cheese is wrapped in plastic. Bulk rice comes in tough plastic bags. But we don't buy a lot of bagged, canned and bottled stuff, and what we do is usually in recyclable containers or something that can be Greencycle'd.

5a) When we heat things in the microwave, we tend to either use dishes with glass lids or put the food on a plate and cover the food with an inverted glass casserole dish from the cupboard. (We have several sizes.) The steam stays in. There's no plastic wrap to deal with. You can see through the glass dish to see how things are progressing. Wash the casserole dish afterwards. Reuse.

5b) All in all we probably have half a grocery bag of "garbage" a week. If that. (And the "garbage" bag is a plastic grocery bag from Chinatown now that the majors aren't allowed to give out plastic bags in our fair ville.)

6) WALK & PUBLIC TRANSIT We don't drive much. His nibs drives to work in the south bay once a week. Unfortunately, even though his company is now near a train station, the logistics are impossible for him to take the train to work unless he got out of here soon after 5A to catch the bus that would take him to the train station. Car it is. We also take the car when we're going to Costco or if we're planning to pick up A LOT of wine, &c. at Trader Joe's. Other than that we walk or take public transit. The nearest Trader Joe's is a mile each way. Coming back up hill with a bag or two of groceries each is doable. (We bring our own bags, 'natch.) We walk to dinner or down to the library or out. We do our veggie shopping in Chinatown and pickup our sweetbreads at Little City and walk (uphill) home. If we're going out to dinner somewhere too far to walk, we take public transit. We've taken one cab ride since we started living here and that was shared with fellow diners after a Subculture Dining experience that ended too late. The J-Church had stopped running. Really.

We currently have two cars (with -- ouch! -- the leased parking fees they incur). Eventually, when the older younger guy gets his license, he's due to get the 2000 Honda and we'll be down to the 2005 Mini Cooper. After his nibs stops working in the south bay altogether, we'll probably go carshare. My Mini Cooper consistently gets about 33 MPG. When we drove down to my cousin's memorial service and back, it got 36MPG, iirc.

We don't belong to a gym. The walking and the stairs and the carrying of groceries is pretty good exercise.

6) ELECTRONICS AND PAINT San Francisco has great hazardous waste dropoff/recycling. San Francisco residents can drop off household hazardous waste at the Tunnel Avenue transfer facility. Hazardous wastes accepted include batteries (large and small), paint, chemicals, motor oil, used oil filters, fluorescent bulbs, antifreeze, &c. Norcal tries to reuse as much of the "hazardous waste" as possible. Collected latex paint, for example, is available free to anyone who stops by (sometimes remixed, sometimes as donated) in large buckets. Customers can drop off up to 30 electronic items per month for free if they are delivered separate from any other garbage. You don't need to wait for the special "hazardous waste" days and hours. If all you are dropping off is electronic items, you can bypass the line of people waiting to use the public dump facility.

If you have BIG ITEMS that need pickup, you make arrangements with NorCal and they'll pick them up. When we got rid of the BULKY air conditioner that had been here when we bought the place (which was really pretty useless and took up space), we called NorCal and they sent someone out to pick it up. We paid extra to have him carry it down from our top floor, down our stairs and up the path/stairs to the street. We're no fools. The extra charge was well worth it.

7) WATER CONSUMPTION We watch water use. Short showers. Large loads of laundry. Handwash/air-dry dishes because we really don't use enough to fill/run the dishwasher even every other day and if you don't run it that often the kitchen stinks, we've found. We hardly ever drop things at the drycleaner. When we do, we've collected a batch over a while and take it all in at one time, saving the hassle of dropoff and pickup.

8) ENERGY We have photovoltaic cells on the roof with battery backup. Our meter runs backwards. The solar covers about half our use, which leaves us with a minimal power bill. No A/C. Turn off the lights. No TV. We use sweaters and sweatshirts on colder days rather than cranking up the (gas) heat. We're using compact fluorescent light bulbs, even though there are still questions how (years down the road) CFLs will be disposed of.

9) MAGAZINE RECYCLE AND ALTERNATIVES We just joined the Mechanics Institute Library downtown. I plan to give up most of our magazine subscriptions and save money and save the paper that then needs to be recycled by reading most of my magazines, and ones I don't currently subscribe to, there. Yes, I know. Magazines are having tough times. My subscriptions weren't enough to sustain them anyway.

10) THRIFT STORES, GOODWILL, FLEA MARKETS, BARTER I love thrift stores. Buy a dress or shirt or whatever that someone else bought first and you're saving all the associated construction/manufacturing costs that went into the original product. The current issue of San Francisco Magazine interviews Cris Zander of Cris, consignment boutique at 2056 Polk St., which has been in business for decades. (Full disclosure: I've never been there, although I might take a peek in to see if the prices are way over my wallet.)

The writer asked Cris about her ladies-who-lunch clientele who use her boutique to sell the clothes they don't plan to wear anymore and (perhaps) pick up alternatives. She quoted one of her clients who wondered why people worried about buying "used" clothes: "All of the clothes in my closet are used," the client said.

Exactly, I thought. But then I always got plenty of hand-me-downs from my three-years-older sister while I was growing up.


I look at the list I just made and think, yeah, fine, but you can do better than that. If we were vegetarian, we'd avoid all the expenses associated with raising meat. We could be more conscientious with buying locally. We still have two cars, fer pete's sake, but that will change. We have plants that are purely ornamental. Bottles and cans don't recycle easily as people would like to think. There's a glut on newsprint and cardboard because the cheap trinket folks are making fewer cheap trinkets in this downturn and don't need as much packaging. And what really happens to the plastic bags we take to Safeway?

And, as always when I buy something (or even pick it up free), do I really need that? Do I need that book? Do I need that stuff I picked up at Bonham's/Butterfield yesterday? Can I cut back?


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

[URL] World Digital Library launched. FREE!

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and 32 partner institutions today launched the World Digital Library, a website that features unique cultural materials from libraries and archives from around the world. The site -- located at www.wdl.org -- includes manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs. It provides unrestricted public access, free of charge, to this material.

from the site: The WDL focuses on significant primary materials, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other types of primary sources.

See also UNESCO's Memory of the World project.

[via LOC's Twitterfeed]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Haven't seen "A Gathering Storm"?

The National Organization for Marriage's A Gathering Storm advertisement against gay marriage has triggered yet another parody, this one starring Alicia Silverstone, Lance Bass, George Takei, Sophia Bush, and others.

Oh, please. Hurry with that giant umbrella that will save us from the storm of gay people about to shower down on us opposites.

(The original ad)

An interactive map of vanishing employment across the country. - By Chris Wilson - Slate Magazine

An interactive map of vanishing employment across the country. - By Chris Wilson - Slate Magazine

Stunning visual impact.
January 2007 >>> February 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

The 411 on 420

HuffPo tells all about 4:20 on 4/20 and wow, man.

Live Vote: Give President Obama a grade

Live Vote: Give President Obama a grade

Found this via a Facebook comment from SJ Rozan.

The teabaggers are giving Obama an F grade. (Currently 44% - F)

Want to leaven the results? Vote!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fog photos

I was making pancakes for breakfast for our overnight guest and we were discussing the fog which wunderground.com hadn't mentioned. ... The unexpected fog had settled in close to the water but was starting to lift. Hark! Sunshine in Oakland! Shipping cranes silhouetted in the distance.

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And behind Treasure Island a surreal light enveloped Berkeley.

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Our guest, someone his nibs has known for forty years, headed off to the airport and home. We frittered time and the fog burnt off for a glorious day.

This afternoon I was settled into my comfy chair, working on a Sudoku, when I heard fog horns. Deep horn from the main channel. Medium horn from a ship. Lighter echo from the bridge.

The afternoon fog was creeping in and slouching over to Berkeley.

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A shot before Berkeley succumbed. (The fog tendrils have reached the Campanile as I type this at about 6:45P. The sun is still shining here. But not there. ...)

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Before I give it to the Friends of the Library

let me just mention that TRANQUILITY WITHOUT PILLS: all about Transcendental Meditation by Jhan Robbins and David Fisher (1972) is a thinly-disguised advertisement for TM and has not much of anything with practical application.

Oh, it talks (vaguely) about what happens in classes. It has testimonials from happy campers. It also has "do not do this at home alone" sorts of warnings and "come in for your free first sessions" come-ons and "you really need to get the Real Authorized training or don't even bother" notes.

Don't bother reading it if you're looking for any substance.

Susan Boyle - Britain's Got Talent ... a one hit wonder?

Susan Boyle aced Britain's Got Talent and the link to the video of her performance is flashing around the Web. The YouTube video was even mentioned in Jon Carroll's column this morning.

But can she really sing or was her rendition of I DREAMED A DREAM from Les Miserables a fluke?


(Thanks, Annie Chernow!)

Update: ?? I guess! Guy Kawasaki Twitters about an analysis of Susan Boyle's viral video. http://adjix.com/c7ti

Holey moley!

New book trailer from Mary Jane Maffini

Mary Jane Maffini and I met over dinner at Left Coast Crime. She'd arrived in Hawaii from Canada and was hungry. I'd arrived from California and was hungry. Why not share a table?

We exchanged names and stories. I told her that I'd almost been named "Mary Jane" by my parents after a distant ancestress. Turns out one of her sleuths is named MacPhee. A name in my family tree too. Zounds. Who couldn't like someone as nice as Maffini, who is also probably a cousin if we go back far enough?

MJM just posted a link on Facebook to her new book trailer.

My star turn on Jungle Red Writers: Writing well is the best revenge

Hallie Ephron asked if I could guest on Jungle Red and introduce Internet Resources for Writers to people who might not know about it.

The gig consists of Hallie's interview with me (already in the can) and me checking in and sticking around during the day answering any questions that might come up.

Today's the BIG DAY!

Should be fun.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

United Airlines To Charge Heavier Passengers Twice To Fly

United Airlines To Charge Heavier Passengers Twice To Fly - cbs2chicago.com


Under the rules outlined by United, passengers who "are unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin; are unable to properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt extender; and/or are unable to put the seat's armrests down when seated" will be denied boarding unless they purchase an extra seat.

If no empty seat exists, the passenger will be forced to take a later flight.

"The seat purchase or upgrade must be completed for each leg of the itinerary," the United policy states. "If a customer meeting any of the above-listed criteria decides not to upgrade or purchase a ticket for an additional seat, he or she will not be permitted to board the flight."


The 18 most memorable movie library scenes in honor of National Library Week

The 18 most memorable movie library scenes in honor of National Library Week

Library of Congress proudly twitters that they nab two of the spots!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

Robert J Sawyer @ Borderlands Books

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No, actually. That's Ripley, Borderlands Books' hairless cat.

Ripley sat in my lap purring and snoozing during Sawyer's talk and was reluctant to leave it when the presentation was over.

We hied off to Foreign Cinema afterwards for a late dinner, Sawyer having signed my copy of WAKE before the event kicked off.

Check out the book and the other seventeen books and zillions of short fiction items Sawyer has written.

The pilot for a FLASH FORWARD series is up for consideration in the next few days. Good luck to Sawyer on that.

After dinner at Foreign Cinema it was home again home again via the #14 Mission and the #30 Stockton, and a quarter mile walk up Telegraph Hill and home. The transit connections, though, were perfect. Maybe a four minute wait for the #14 and another four minute wait for the #30. Can't get much better than that. Thanks, Muni.



Found this just now. Eagle Call. Spring 2006.
Published by and for Civil Air Patrol - California Wing, of which my dad was a member for over forty years.

My dad's article about his 10K' sky dive to celebrate his eightieth birthday.

His original title was probably I JUMPED FROM A PERFECTLY GOOD AIRPLANE. All we know is that the editor changed the title before press time, when he found out that Dad had died.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A road trip home

We were in the Central Valley this weekend for a memorial service for my cousin.

We spent the night in Lost Hills and took the long way home, through the Bitterwater Valley and on to Parkfield, then up 101 and a jog here and another there and finally home.

More photos to follow. Maybe.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Full moon over the Bay Bridge.

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Bronstein takes the fall : Newspaper disaster? It's all my fault. I'm the one.

Bronstein at Large : Newspaper disaster? It's all my fault. I'm the one.

This column is from last month, but I hadn't noticed it until I saw Bronstein link to it from today's piece.

He has some interesting ideas, including this one:

In the meantime, we should look at the problem in simpler terms:

I get two newspapers delivered at home: The Chronicle and the New York Times. The Times hits the step somewhere between 4 and 5 a.m. The Chronicle gets there before 6. Both papers are in existential trouble despite good work and 300 years of accumulated history between them.

So even in the face of the threats to our survival, there are still at least two different people and two entirely different delivery systems in place to get two newspapers to the same address in the same couple of hours. Really? In what rational world does that make sense? Why is that a good idea for businesses on the brink?

He goes on to talk about sharing resources beyond the delivery staff and the printing presses. Pooled news?

We already have pooled news. Take a look at the Chronicle some time and check out how much of the news is fed in from AP or the NYT. (How often do I read an article and think, I read that a day or two ago. Yup, another article from NYT.) We also have the end-of-the-week roundup column telling us what was in the Economist and the half page that covers what the top stories were in a handful of top international papers. We have blocks of print nipped from people commenting on sfgate.com. We have the columnists, writers and editorial and ... but for how much longer? (No more Morford except on sfgate.com, alas.)

Who knows what's to come. The dominant paradigm is failing. We are watching it failing, and blaming the failure on Craig Newmark or Google is not saving the bacon. What needs to change? What will change? What will take the place of the bagged up newspaper delivered to the doorstep?

Bronstein makes mention of both San Francisco Appeal and The Public Press, recently added online news sources for those who don't insist that they get ink smudges on their fingers.

Is that what the future will be? Smaller, more focused local papers? Online "papers"? Behemoth news providers feeding news to newspapers that don't have much staff anymore?

Maybe some brill soul will work out a nice arrangement with Google, which will monetize their news aggregator up the wazoo and then employ their brilliant data mining to figure out how to share the ad $$ equitably with the papers that people are clicking through to.

Will the papers then put their staff on a revised salary plan and "share" their clickthrough income with the staffers who write the articles that people want to read? If I click through to Carl Nolte or Mark Morford (both of whom I enjoy) but not Willie Brown, will Carl and Mark get bigger slices of the pie?


But enough of that, here are my dull and unimaginative suggestions to the Chronicle for generating revenue.

(1) Take the crossword answers and the Sudoku answers out of the same-day newspaper. If someone wants hints and clues and answers THAT DAY, they can log on and pay ($1 -- the cost of a Lotto ticket -- would be a good price point) for the info.

(2) Sudoku? Monetize that. Someone inks in that day's Sudoku, ships their answers to the Chronicle with a ($1 again) fee. All the fees go into a pot. One person's name is drawn. If that person's answers are all correctomundo, that person gets 25% of the pot. There'll be a bit of expense over at the Chronicle for handling the entries, but how much could that be? The rest would be found money. Note: you'll have to buy (or otherwise arrange to read) a physical paper to find out how to contact the paper to send in that day's entry.

(3) Be more upfront about what ads cost. Make the information more available. Anniversary, Birthday, Graduation coming up? Maybe the Chronicle could put messages on Page One or above the fold for the Sports section or next to the comics for a suitable price.

(4) Someone had suggested a poet's corner where someone's poetry would be published, for a price. (And then the year's worth of poet's corners could be gathered into a book and offered for sale to those interested.) Why not?

(5) Have a photographer's corner too.

Oh, and while I have you on the horn, could you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE move Paul Madonna's work out of The Pink? Paul Madonna needs to be on a white background, and last Sunday? The print job was so uneven, I couldn't even read the print that accompanied his work. Don't let that happen again.

Update: An edited (to meet the 200 wd cutoff) version of my suggestion list was published in the Chronicle's LtoE column on April 16. (See 4th letter in. ...)

Louise Bourgeois' Crouching Spider is leaving. Visit soon!

Unlike London, whose Tate Museum owns Louise Bourgeois' Maman (given as a gift by the artist and an anonymous benefactor), San Francisco only had Louise Bourgeois' Crouching Spider on temporary loan (for eight months initially and then for another ten).

Crouching Spider was purchased by a private buyer for $6mil and will be moved to Houston by the end of the month.

Visit soon! Pier 14. Can't miss it!
(Click for larger image)

Have I mentioned the wisteria is blooming?

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We have visitors!

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a fountain pen of good repute

Letter from Joseph Conrad to his agent, J.B. Pinker

Hotel Continental
place de la Comedie
21st Febr '06

My dear Pinker.

    I send you the first 13 pp of Verloc partly that you should see what the story is going to be like and partly as evidence that the Capri fatality is not likely to overcome me this year. After all, considering that we have been just a week here and that it takes some time to feel settled I haven't done so badly. There is a good bit more MS actually written but I can't part with it yet. I've also worked at the text of the M of the Sea. That and the balance of Verloc you'll get in the course of a week. Meantime I hope you won't think I am stretching the point unduly if I ask you to send me £20 on the day you receive this -- which I imagine will be Friday -- either in English notes or by draft on the Credit Lyonnais who have a house here -- whichever is less trouble.
    Don't imagine that the story'll be unduly long. It may be longer than the Brute but not very much so. What has delayed me was just trying to put a short turn into it. I think I've got it. I haven't done anything to Chance of course. I imagine it would go easiest at the Pent. But that or some other MS you are sure to have from here. I feel well and have a few ideas.

Yours always

PS Would you have the extreme kindness to buy for me and send out by parcel post a fountain pen of good repute -- even if it has to cost 10/6. I am doing much of my writing in the gardens of Peyron under a sunny wall and the horrible stylo I've got with me is a nuisance.


n.b. Verloc became The Secret Agent

Latest Morford

Fear the rainbow! / A storm is gathering. Are you afraid, Christian? Are you afraid *enough*?

The best part? It's only been just over three months. These adorable hyenas can't possibly sustain such a silly froth; in terms of extreme vitriol, there is nowhere left to go. Really, how do you top calling Obama a Satan Hitler Mussolini Lenin Iran-loving dictator hell-bent on taking away our guns and destroying capitalism as he forces everyone to drive a pink Prius to the Commie Hut to pick up our gay Chinese babies?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

KCBS - South Bay Phone Outage Likely Caused by Vandals

KCBS - South Bay Phone Outage Likely Caused by Vandals

Way to make people sympathetic to your cause, CWA.


Los Angeles Times Staff: Fake News Story 'Embarrassing and Demoralizing'

Los Angeles Times Staff: Fake News Story 'Embarrassing and Demoralizing' - Peter Kafka

Newspapers are losing money. What to do? What to do? What to do?

Think outside the box. Revisit the dominant paradigm. Make people pay for online content. Make people pay for premium content. Make people pay more for subscriptions. Only put premium content in paper version. Cut the newsroom staff. Stop home delivery. Stop the presses and go 100% online.

Sell ad space on Page One?

The LATimes ad was clearly marked as such. It was below the fold. I =do= have some understanding about the uproar from staff, but ...

How will papers survive as papers? Would you rather the LATimes fold than sell clearly marked ad space on Page One?

Any ideas for our friends in the daily paper business?

According to the article: UPDATE: I'm told publisher Eddy Hartenstein is supposed to be addressing the staff this afternoon.

Write Your Nonfiction Book

New blog from Crawford Kilian: Write Your Nonfiction Book ... Online!

The blog is new (only three posts so far) but I'm expecting some interesting content. Currently online, the book proposal.

Blog also includes links, links, links to blogs, links to online magazines, links to a collection of Kilian blogs, links to Web writing resources, more.

Query Shark

Query Shark

How an agent =really= feels. Query critiques for the strong-at-heart.

e.g. Please don't ever put I look forward to hearing from you soon in a query letter. It sets my teeth on edge. Other agents may not have quite the ..ah...toothy! reaction that I do, but why risk they do. Be safe. Don't say it.

Hosted by Janet (Jet) Reid at FinePrint Literary.

Her voice may sound familiar to you.


Alexander McCall Smith (Lost in Fiction - WSJ.com)

Lost in Fiction - WSJ.com: Alexander McCall Smith on the intense personal relationships readers form with characters and the ways that complicates the lives of authors.


It can be very inhibiting for an author if he or she knows that what happens in fiction is going to be taken so seriously. I write serial novels in newspapers and have learned the hard way that people will readily attribute the views expressed by characters to their authors. In one of my "Scotland Street" novels a character called Bruce, a rather narcissistic young man, made disparaging remarks about his hometown. Although these were not the views I hold about that particular town, I was roundly taken to task, with the local member of the Scottish Parliament suggesting that I should be forced to apologize to the offended citizens. I pointed out that these were the views of a fictional character, who was just the type to make such remarks. That did not help.

In another novel, I had Isabel Dalhousie give up breastfeeding rather too quickly for the liking of the leader of a pro-breastfeeding organization. Again I was told that I should make a public apology to those who believed in persisting with breastfeeding. That sort of thing is quite alarming, and it is such people who need to be told, politely but firmly, that it is just a story.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Read-it-First with Suzanne Beecher

Read-it-First with Suzanne Beecher

Join St. Martin’s Read-it-First e-mail book club and sample a hot NEW release each week. Each weekday morning, we’ll send you a taste of the week’s featured title right to your inbox. By the end of the week, you’ll have read approximately a few chapters, enough to decide whether it is the right book for you…sometimes just before it even hits the stores!

And it’s all completely FREE!

I signed up just in time. Next week (April 13th) is featuring Louise Ure's latest: LIARS ANONYMOUS.

    Click cover image for more info.

Simon Wood on writing with dyslexia

TV interview on ABC News 10's Sacramento and Co.

Simon talks about dyslexia and his writing and the back doors you learn to use to do what you want to do when the dyslexia is holding you back. Simon, for those who don't know him, writes thrillers (as Simon Wood) and horror (as Simon Janus) and (under yet another pseudonym, Simon Oaks) has a nonfiction book out last month, WILL MARRY FOR FOOD SEX AND LAUNDRY.

Simon's Web site