Nov 22 2013

The Mashpee Woodlot Revolt of 1833

Published by under Cape Cod,Cotuit,history

In the annals of native/colonist relations, little can be objectively known about the true nature of the interactions between the English settlers of Eastern Massachusetts and the tribe that “welcomed” them, the Wampanoag. The record is one-sided and dominated by the English and their system of deeds, genealogies, written records and literature. This has led to the perpetuation of the pleasant myth of Wampanoag welcoming and cooperating with the Pilgrims, a myth created in the 19th century in a burst of American patriotism and nostalgia which lives on in the quaint concept of Pilgrims and Indians sharing a Thanksgiving feast.

The Wampanoag now regard Thanksgiving as a day of mourning, and, thanks to recent scrutiny of the actual historical record, it’s apparent the tribe are the forgotten first victims of the American “dream.”

If, as Churchill said, “history is written by the victors,” the Wampanoags left little in the way of a written record of their relations and feelings towards the colonists. They had no written language, only their Algonquin dialect, and no historical tradition beyond the spoken word and creation myths.

The discovery and re-publication of a unique account written by a member of the Connecticut Pequot tribe, William Apes (Apess), has revealed the earliest autobiography in American literature by a native, as well as cast some light on a little known incident that took place 180 years ago on the Wampanoag “reservation” or “praying town” of Mashpee, near its border with the village of Cotuit, is a little known historical incident that occurred 180 years ago, in a wood lot near the Santuit River between a group of angry Wampanoag natives, two brothers from Cotuit, and an alcoholic activist preacher, Apess.

Variously known as the Woodlot Revolt or the "Quarrel" (as Cotuit historian Jim Gould refers to it), it has been dusted off by historians and held up in recent years as the first significant expression of sovereign rights by a native tribe since contact with the colonists occurred more than 200 years before. The preacher, William Apes (who preferred the pronunciation "Apess") was an eloquent and graceful writer, who's work, "A Native of the Forest" has been republished in recent years and is regarded as one of the most important pieces of literature penned by a native writer.

Williamapes

Before I rush to an account of the events that happened that hot July day in 1833, let me set the historical table with a quick summary of how Mashpee, our conterminous neighbor to the west, came to be, and attempt to convey a sense of what relations were between the whites of Cotuit and the natives of the Plantation of Marshpee.

Before the English, with their love of deeds and records and certificates of birth, marriage and death, came to these shores, the history of the Wampanoag tribe -- which means "Children of the Eastern Light" in their Algonquin dialet, Wopanaak -- was purely an oral one, with no record left except the traditions and stories told by one generation to the next. Like their comprehension of private property, boundary lines and fishing rights, the Wampanoag sense of history was passed from one generation to the next through word of mouth and shared understanding.

In 1643, the Pilgrim's military "muscle", Captain Miles Standish, came to Cape Cod to buy land from the natives for the colonists. Land was everything to the Europeans. Land meant status, land meant class, land conferred rights that serfs and peassants could only dream of. In Europe land was inherited or conquered, rarely bought and sold, and the allure of the virgin forests of New England must have been breathtaking to the first settlers who saw before them as limitless wilderness that was theirs to take for a mere kettle and a ho.

miles-standish

Yes, Standish negotiated the transaction with the Wampanoag leader Paupmunnuck that gave the English the rights to settle Cotachester (modern Osterville) and Cotuit for the price of a kettle, a ho, and a promise to build a fence around the Wampanoag camp which may have been located on Oyster Harbors or Point Isabella according to Jim Gould.

The borders were blurry.. Surveyors were a luxury and boundaries and limits were rough descriptions of streams and boulders, landmarks and limits. Little was written down and put on file, and indeed, Paupmunnuck and his people may not have comprehended what such a transaction meant, especially when it came to concepts such as trespassing to a people accustomed to moving from camp to camp with the seasons, moving inland in the winter for shelter and to the coast in the summer for the same reasons we prize the shore today.

The western border between Barnstable and the Indians was set along the banks of the Santuit River and Santuit Pond. Such "rivers" or streams were incredibly valuable sources of protein when the herring run happened every spring, and were also potential sources of power to drive grist mills for the grinding of corn.

jimgouldmap

The settlers may have regarded the Santuit River as a convenient source of these things, but the Wampanoags told the story of how it was created  by a frustrated giant man-sized trout named  , who upon hearing the siren song of a beautiful Wampanoag maiden singing on the shores of Santuit Pond, thrashed and wriggled his way through the forest from Popponesset Bay to find her, only to die just yards from his doomed love. She was also transformed into a fish, but died of grief and both of them buried together in the Trout Mound which stands today a short distance to the south and east of the herring ladders at the southern end of Santuit Pond.

This area of Mashpee and Santuit is where the rest of this story is focused so let's focus on the map for a moment.

settlements

Mashpee was formed in the 1660s by Richard Bourne of Sandwich, a prominent lawyer and minister who was part of the early missionary movement led by John Eliot -- the minister who translated the Bible into Wopanaak -- and which led to the founding of Harvard College as a so called "Indian School." The conversion of the savages was an immediate priorty of the first settlers, and Bourne acted as a liason between the whites of this area and the tribe, administering to them during an epidemic where his survival conferred some god-like attributes in the eyes of the natives, and working on their behalf to acquire land in around the area to establish a "plantation" for their benefit.

Eliot_Bible

In 1660 Bourne completed the purchase of the 16 square miles that roughly comprise Mashpee and established a deed which granted the land to the Wampanoags with restrictions on their ability to sell that land to the English who were always hot for land and indeed, were beginning to trespass and poach on the lands Standish didn't buy in 1648. Bourne addressed the fuzziness of the western border between Barnstable and Mashpee, and  at his insistence the boundaries were re-set to move the line around the "ancient Indian" village at the southeast corner of the pond.

In 1661 a meetinghouse for the tribe was built on Briant's Point on the southern end of Santuit Pond. This was replaced by another structure in 1670 , the same building that was eventually moved in 1770 to its present site on Route 28, the Old Falmouth Road.

In 1670 tensions between the settlers and the tribe deteriorated -- with the Wampanoag leader Metacomet, or “King Philip” as he was called by the colonists, leading the Wampanoags from their headquarters on Mount Hope Bay near modern Bristol, RI on a three year war of burnings, kidnappings, and terror that swept eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island but never involved Cape Cod.

Massasoit Metacomet

Mashpee was viewed as the prototypical “Praying Town” -- one where the influence of the missionaries and the conversion process into Xhristianity was sufficiently advanced that the tribe could be trusted. One can only assume the level of tension and emotions that ranged along the border of Cotuit and Mashpee during those tense years, marked in American history as perhaps the bloodiest per capita according to the historian Nathaniel Philbrick in his excellent history, "The Mayflower."

Post war, as the colonists enacted a terrible retribution against the Wampanoags, resettling large numbers on Bermuda, while permitting alcohol to further erode their numbers, the missionaries resumed their conversions and ministrations, using the institution of the Congregational Church and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel as the civilizing center of life in Marshpee. Because the focus of the Harvard Indian College was the training and ordination of native ministers, the college played an integral role, a very paternalistic one, in overseeing the affairs of the village.

This paternalism persisted throughout the 1700s, manifesting itself in a combination of church and state -- in this case church and colony -- oversight consisting of a board of white overseers who looked after the affairs of the tribe, raised money to pay its expenses and provided the funds to pay the salary of the minister, the parsonage and meetinghouse.

To be continued ...

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Nov 13 2013

NYTimes: Tribe Claims Approval for Martha’s Vineyard Casino, Reviving Fight

Published by under General

NYTimes: Tribe Claims Approval for Martha’s Vineyard Casino, Reviving Fight
http://nyti.ms/17SCr3r

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Nov 11 2013

Why I won’t ride a bicycle again

Published by under Cycling

Daniel Duane wrote in the Sunday New York Times of the risks a bicyclist takes when riding on the roads. His point is the driver of the vehicle is rarely prosecuted, or even charged if they stay at the scene and are sober. It's assumed that cyclists are thrill seekers who get what they deserve, disobeying traffic laws (which some do) and causing dangerous situations by being where they shouldn't be.

"I made it home alive and bought a stationary bike trainer and workout DVDs with the ex-pro Robbie Ventura guiding virtual rides on Wisconsin farm roads, so that I could sweat safely in my California basement. Then I called my buddy Russ, one of 13,500 daily bike commuters in Washington, D.C. Russ swore cycling was harmless but confessed to awakening recently in a Level 4 trauma center, having been hit by a car he could not remember. Still, Russ insisted I could avoid harm by assuming that every driver was “a mouth-breathing drug addict with a murderous hatred for cyclists.”

"The anecdotes mounted: my wife’s childhood friend was cycling with Mom and Dad when a city truck killed her; two of my father’s law partners, maimed. I began noticing “cyclist killed” news articles, like one about Amelie Le Moullac, 24, pedaling inside a bike lane in San Francisco’s SOMA district when a truck turned right and killed her. In these articles, I found a recurring phrase: to quote from The San Francisco Chronicle story about Ms. Le Moullac, “The truck driver stayed at the scene and was not cited.”

Yet as cities open up bike-share programs and paint lines on their streets for bicycle lanes, the problem is going to get more acute not less. It has been said there are two kinds of cyclists. Those who have crashed and those who are about to. Don't look at the Tour de France cyclists a risk takers -- they ride on open roads closed to texting teenagers, road raging pickups and trucks with big blind spots -- they have it easy. Duane cites a friend who commutes by bicycle in Washington, D.C. and woke up in a trauma center. He talks about the phenomenon of noticing headlines about dead bicyclists after having been in an accident himself. It's true, after my run in with a car in 2006 -- he crossed the lane and hit me head on -- I am very sensitive to any news of roadside mayhem and there is lots of it. I would guess three cyclists died on the Cape this summer. Wiped out by a driver who probably wasn't charged. Hell, a good friend and former cycling companion nearly died last spring when a guy ran her over and then admitted he had pulled a "wake and bake" and been stoned at the time.

Whatever the solution, I used to daydream of a post-apocalyptic future where cars were gone and the roads were wide open for cyclists like a character in Stephen King's The Stand.  Until then, no bicycles for me.

2 responses so far

Oct 31 2013

The greatest year of baseball ever … like ever

Published by under Baseball,General,Red Sox

It will take a better statistician than me to make the case that the 2013 Boston Red Sox are the best, or second best, or whatever best team in the history of the club. I can't speak to anything first-hand experience back to 1967, when I was nine years old and playing bad first-base in the Georgetown, Massachusetts rec department's Farm League (pre-Little League) using an antique pancake mitt handed down from my grandfather, a relic I hated at the time but really wish I had today.  That Impossible Dream team will always be the most vivid. 1975 was frankly a blur. The 1986 Buckner team was the most evil in its wicked mental torments. The Curse-bursting 2004 team the most blessed. The 2007 the most capable. But this one....I don't know, they just played wicked good and seemed to have fun and a showed lot of respect for the laundry.

Basking in the morning-after-glow of a great World Series game, everyone wants to roll over in bed,hug the lovable, bearded rascals and say, "I love you. Let's do it again." Sometime in the next few days the team will pile into the duck boats and parade around a happy city and Boston will have its moment finally after a baseball season that started fresh and raw and unknown in April and ended six months later the way the movies would have wanted it to.

Painting the house in April, on the ladder, WEEI kept me company on those chilly weekend afternoons with Joe Castiglione and Dave O'Brien calling the games in between Verizon Wireless and Shaw's Supermarket Little Debbie Snack Cake ads. As I scraped and prepped I kept an ear tuned for that tell-tale rise in excitement in their voices and listened as a lot of new names made their debut .Would I have called it then? Would I have made the prediction they'd go all the way "from worst to first?" Of course not, I was thinking maybe they'd get the wildcard but not make it past Toronto or Detroit. I trusted the new manager, John Farrell, solely on the basis of his killer jaw-line and that calm Gary Cooper demeanor so calm and firmly assuring after the Howdy Doody persona of his ill-fated predecessor Bobby "Did You Know He Invented the Wrap?" Valentine.

Then the Brothers Tsarnaev did their heinous deeds.

Suddenly the Red Sox were carrying a lot more psychic weight than just trying to redeem themselves from the days of Chicken-and-Beer and their last place finish the year before. They came home from the road trip and one could feel the city latch onto them, beseeching them to make it okay, to bring back the calm rhythms of a sunny afternoon game in Fenway, to sing the songs and chant the chants they cheered and sang the year before and the year before that. The Red Sox couldn't to carry the weight of the Marathon. They were happy to accept it and gracious in allowing Fenway to become the city's church and place of mourning; but as John Lester said, the team didn't have much to offer other than provide a diversion to get people's minds off the mess.

Boston is a city of ghosts where nothing really changes, a place with a ring of road salt rime around the cuffs of its pants; a pissed-off, wind chapped, itchy skin, sleet smeared windshield, can-you-fucking-believe-they-closed-the-Hilltop? town that isn't nearly as liberal as the rest of the country thinks it is, a college town that doesn't love the students who infest it, a kind of ugly place that retreats into its clannish neighborhoods, scores an eight-ball of whizzer and looks down at the bandwagon yuppies in their pink hats who sing "Sweet Caroline" in the eighth inning.

That horrible song with no connection what-so-ever to Boston or baseball is never going away. When The Neil Himself showed up and sang the damn thing at the Post-Marathon mourning session I gave up my campaign to ban it and just thank edthe Baseball Gods that we don't need to wave Surrender Towels like every other team's fans seem to need to do along with ring cowbells and follow big LED jumbotron exhortations to Make. Some. Noise.  It is said that Red Sox fans are the tenth player on the roster. This sentimental, formerly cursed nation that cheers from Woonsocket to Millinocket (and who, after breaking the Curse in 2004 lugged team gear and flowers to the graves of their dearly departed so they could join in the celebration too) these fans like the loud, crazed drunk I once watched in a black and orange knit wool Bruins cap sitting behind the visitors bullpen who taunted J.D. Drew non-stop for collecting too much salary, and then who scornfully caught, barehanded, a Yankee homer whacked at him by the despised A-Rod and then hucked it back onto the field without a second thought or spilling a single drop of his $8.50 cup of 'Gansett.

I'm just glad to have the chance watch it all with my sons and my mother and my sister and my brother-in-law and nephews.  Crowded around a television. Screaming and high-fiving. Drinking too much on a school night while layered in a #38 Schilling t-shirt with a Mike Lowell 2007 World Series MVP team jersey on over that, and a nasty smelly blue Red Sox hat speckled with bottom paint.

I doubt this fan will ever see a year of baseball like he saw in 2013 -- a double-headed championship crown that started with the Cotuit Kettleers and ends with the Olde Towne Team triumphant.

And David Ortiz is getting a statue in front of Fenway. Just saying.

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Oct 30 2013

If I were the CIO of the US ….

Published by under China

Over the past twenty years I've been around enough web site launches, redesigns, platform swaps, RFPs, RFQs, consultants, vendors, third-party developers, project managers, stakeholder/steering committee meetings and total crashes and site failures to feel eminently qualified to say the smoking crater in the ground known as the Obamacare website was guaranteed to happen the day it was conceived.

IceDunk

And the fix is simple. Seriously. Pick up the phone. Call Werner Vogel at Amazon or Larry Page at Google -- arguably the two best web infrastructure guys on the planet -- and ask them to fix it. Privatize it.  Make it a marketing triumph for IBM or Oracle. Screw the GSA bidding process, screw the consultants, the parasitic systems integrators looking for $10 million engagements, and the whole federal procurement process that is designed to deliver broken, grey blobs that never work. There's only one solution and that's to go to the private sector and have a single company accustomed to zero-defects and a lot of uptime "nine's" build it.

Some people are saying the government should have gone open source and used WordPress or Drupal to build this pig. Wrong.  Those are wonderful content management systems, but the problem isn't the content and it's not whether or not this thing was built with MySQL or Oracle or a left-handed monkey wrench -- the problem lies deep beneath the timed-out sessions, 404 pages and error messages -- it's the underlying transaction processing engine that lies under the surface like the giant fungus on the Olympic Peninsula that is the world largest living organism. This isn't about code, this isn't about servers or bandwidth, Hadoop, PHP or whatever the technical problem is. It's about a bureaucracy building the ultimate bureaucratic system.

Here's how it works: healthcare.gov is just the visible manifestation of the visible portion of the whole platform, one that is supposed to steer consumers to an informed selection of a health plan offered by a distributed network of commercial health insurance companies.  The platform needs to talk to each insurer's own web infrastructure and accommodate their rules and standards. That's complex enough, but let's assume some middle-ware solution to define a common data-interchange was put in place so the government site could handle all the private insurers systems. Check. But before the consumer can get to the insurers they need to register in order to browse.

And we have failure point number one. Any ecommerce operator knows registration is a total buzz killer to a shopper. Get the crap in the cart, and then, when the trigger is ready to be pulled, you roll out registration. Registration itself is database intensive. It means creating a record via a form of fields -- last name, DOB, SSN, etc. -- and then some form of confirmation via an email that is generated by the system and sent to the user to click on a validation link, etc..  We all know the drill. This is like asking all the fans of tonight's World Series game at Fenway to stand outside on Landsdowne Street and Yawkey Way until 7:55 pm with first pitch at 8 pm. The gates open, but before each fan can pass through the turnstile they need to fill out a form, submit it, wait for a confirmation to appear on their phone, click that, and then the turnstile can turn. People start to panic. They hit submit a few times. They hear the Star Spangled Banner and they start to push, next thing you know people are being trampled like door busters at a Long Island Walmart at 12:01 am on Black Friday.

Some government dimwit(s) decided to make registration mandatory before browsing. Dumb. Register at the point of the transaction, not the window shopping. Most of the traffic wanted to see what the big deal was. Sure, some entered expecting to leave with a transaction successfully completed, but some just wanted to browse. So let them browse.

The reason it was decided to make users register first was determine their eligibility and show them the plans that fit their circumstances. This is where the website is more than a bunch of pretty screens and a Drupal CMS -- this is the Octopus underneath it all that has to take the registration information, (probably the social security number) and run it through a ton of government databases. I have no idea which ones are being pinged, but let's assume they range from the Social Security Administration to the IRS to Health and Human Services, maybe state social services, Immigration, Veterans ....the list goes on. Who cares? It had to happen and it wasn't going to be easy. When the requirements were put together for the exchange, the main challenge was determining eligibility and segmenting the set of plans any consumer could see based on certain factors -- e.g., oh, you live in Massachusetts, you're already in an exchange set up by Mitt Romney, so you can go away. Goodbye.   One can assume -- the government loving complexity because complexity fuels bureaucracies and bureaucracies exists to project the bureaucracy  -- that the Obamacare website is being asked to route and receive a ton of distributed requests because one after another, as the requirements were gathered, a lot of hands went up and said, "Well, we need to include this of course." And so the system started to sprout a lot of hair.

This country put a man on the moon. Now it can't build an online exchange?

Anyway, so Failure Point number two: too much bureaucracy and trying to hit too many external systems to qualify the consumer. Got it. That one was unavoidable but manageable and is by no means a trivial thing to solve.

Gauging from the squirming testimony before Congress and the finger pointing among the contractors that is going on, the biggest failure here was not Cool Hand Luke's "failure to communicate" but a lack of leadership and a strong project management office.  One can imagine what the set of different stakeholders looked like on this project. You've got elected officials who can't find their ass with both hands when it comes to voting on ordinary legislation, let alone technology development; professional government bureaucrats who guard their silos; a bunch of external contractors trying to salvage a 15% profit from their work, all screaming that the requirements are changing too much and the deadline is too aggressive while they offshore the coding to a "low cost operating center"..... This is why communists are shitty capitalists. You can't get stuff done in a Soviet tractor factory.

Failure point number three: lack of governance. There was no "one throat to choke" on this. Otherwise we'd be seeing a single hapless victim being pilloried as the Obama administration throws a sacrifice to the angry gods. This project needed to be owned at the top, managed like an army on a campaign with a strong project management office, and that project management office should have been throwing warning flags all last summer. Rather than launch it when it was ready, it was launched under a political maelstrom of tin-foil hat Congressmen trying to defund the entire program, a President determined to hit deadlines instead of usability levels and the result was a classic case of too many cooks, not enough accountability, and political forces trumping logical best practices in project management.

Final point of failure:  complexity. Too many contractors, too many stakeholders, too many systems .... The President likes to dine with the CEOs of Silicon Valley. He rubs elbows with Gates and Schmidt and the rest of the gang. Hell, Bezos just bought the Post and is officially a heavy hitter in D.C. -- pick up the phone, call one of them, say, "Name your price, just make it work." And tah dah. Let Congress piss and moan that the RFP didn't follow procurement guidelines. At least America would have a website that works instead of a national embarrassment alongside its Congress, it's infrastructure, its banks, it's college loans .... This thing was built by committee and nothing good ever was built by committee.

The fact that Congress is holding hearings to find the smoking gun in the smoking crater is risible. They need some serious infrastructure geeks to get up there and pull a Richard Feynman drolly demonstrating why space shuttles blow up when rubber O-rings are dipped in a glass of ice water. Not the good Congressman from North Dakota who can't operate anything more complicated than his Blackberry.

 

2 responses so far

Oct 25 2013

Fox Island for sale.

Published by under Cape Cod

I saw a piece in the Wall Street Journal that a private island is on the market in Osterville, the town to the east of Cotuit. Called "Fox Island" I had never heard of it before so I went digging. Based on the WSJ description of it having waterfront on North Bay and a dock in Dam Pond, I guess it is the gorgeous and wild neck of land at the eastern shore of the entrance to Prince's Cove. Purchased for $400,000 in the 1970s the place is on the market for nearly $9 million, which I consider actually a bargain, but then again I'm not putting in an offer any time soon. I cruised by the spot earlier this week as I delivered the sailboat to the boat ramp at Prince's Cove Marina. I've fished the beach there in the spring for monster striped bass which come up inside the estuary chasing the herring making their way into the Mills River herring run. It's an awesome little gem of a spot with ospreys and blue herons. I never knew it had a name, but now I do.

foxisland

 

 

4 responses so far

Oct 25 2013

The Illustrated History of the Union Boat Club

Published by under Books,Rowing,sculling

You can't buy it (which is a shame), but the Illustrated History of the Union Boat Club has been published. My copy arrived yesterday via the mail. This is a project I was honored to help draft in the late 1980s when I was fresh from publishing The Book of Rowing with Overlook Press and had just joined Boston's Union Boat Club, the oldest rowing club in a city known for its rowing.

David Thorndike, Charlie Clapp, Cap Kane and countless UBC members contributed to the effort which took a herculean effort over a decade and half to be born. I wrote the first draft of the manuscript, picking through the club's archives, interviewing the most venerable members, and identifying the big gaps in the historical record which needed to be filled in before the project was ready for the printer. I confess to fading out of the picture for a while, but the project was revived and finally pushed over the deadline this past year, emerging as a gorgeous "coffee table" book printed privately for the membership.

Which is a shame, as I'd stack this tome against any book in the rowing history pantheon. The photography is gorgeous, the historical archive priceless.

The project was pushed by David Thorndike in the 80s as the 150th anniversary of the club approached and its first history, published at the turn of the previous century was in desperate need of an update. The club has a unique place in the history of American rowing, coming as it did in antebellum Boston at a time when Harvard and Yale were only just beginning their rivalry on the water, now the oldest intercollegiate competition in the country. The early logs are a humorous and plucky look at sporting life before spinning classes, Crossfit and paleo diets. When men obsessed more about their uniforms than actual exercise, when rowing consisted of leisurely rows up and down the tidal Charles River and through the islands of Boston Harbor, never really racing, just touring around in the novel pursuit of leisure time.

The role of the UBC in the history of American and international rowing is deep and storied. Basically emerging as an alumni club for Harvard rowers, it sent championship crews to the Henley Royal Regatta, counted nearly a dozen Olympians among its alumni, and sits, socially, at the center of Brahmin Boston, its clubhouse standing at the foot of Beacon Hill near the Hatch concert Shell. A tour of the boathouse and clubhouse is a trip back in time to the 19th century, the walls and floors permeated with the sweat of generations after generations of politicians, lawyers, bankers, surgeons and eccentric characters from another era. The club has seen its share of challenges. The state dammed up the Charles and filled in the Embankment cutting it off from the river. The club went coed in the late 80s after years of being a men's club. Rowing faded in popularity in the 60s and 70s as the sport went into a general decline, but today the place flourishes, alongside the sport, anchoring down the competitive rowing scene on the Charles, sending crews up river to do their best.

2 responses so far

Oct 22 2013

I Guano Kill Em All

There's this bird called the cormorant, also known as the "shag", which has been a part of the local wildlife for the last decade or more, arriving from the south and taking up residence along with the gulls, terns and ospreys. They are big black birds with long necks and cape-like wings they hold open to let the breeze dry them off. They feed on the bottom on mussels and crabs, popping to the surface to shake their heads and paddle along until spooked, at which point they windmill and run over the surface until they achieve escape velocity and can get airborne.

I want them all dead.

Cormorants exist to shit on my boat. I have strung up old CDs on strings like the rearview mirror of a teenager's first car to scare them away. I have spent a hundred dollars on bird spikes for the spreaders on my mast. I have festooned my boom with old plastic grocery bags until the poor boat looks like a tree on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens.

But they shit and they continue to shit. And then they shit some more. They deposit prodigious amounts of fish-imbued filth all over the decks, the wheel, the cleats, lines, seats, dodger, windows, spars, winches and lifelines, coating the boat with a thick coat of white guano mixed with undigested mollusks, pebbles, and some sort of toxic waste that is impossible to remove. Flies love the stuff and the whole affair is just an invitation to salmonella, shigella, giardia, diarrhea, MRSA and whatever other flesh-eating bacteria you care to contract.

Yesterday was pull-the-boat day, so Sunday I put-putted out in the motorboat with my son to get things ready for the pulling of the mast at Town Dock. My buddy Tom K. was standing on the shore and bore the bad news. "Good luck with the guano" he said. Sure, I knew they had found a little gap in the bird spikes on the lower starboard spreader and one had managed to spackle the dodger with a blast of ass vomit, but that was okay, I saw that mess the weekend before as I returned triumphant with a bucket o'tautog, but like an idiot I didn't clean it up. Leaving it there was tantamount to declaring the Bald Eagle was now a designated cormorant port-a-potti and they took advantage of the invitation. It's a matter of dwindling opportunities, sort of like musical toilets where as the days go by the music stops and they take away another boat to poop on. Stay in past Columbus Day and the ratio of bird butts to available boat toilets get worse and worse until the last boat standing is a heaping, stinking mess of avian fertilizer.

It reminds me of the islands off the coast of South America in the Pacific Ocean that were so coated in bird shit that fortunes were made mining the stuff and shipping it back to the world as fertilizer. Guano was big bucks. But not my guano. No, my guano is my cross to bear.

So I get the boat into the town dock and start calling around for a power washer in the belief that I can use the dock's faucet and some high pressure blasting to tidy things up before the kibbutzers and bored amateur wharfingers of Cotuit can point out the obvious and tell me it looks like birds have taken a massive dump (why are all dumps "massive?) on my yacht. I tie up. Test the faucet. Dry. The powers-that-be in the Town of Barnstable evidently believe the world stops on Columbus Day and have disconnected the pipes for the winter. Another boat arrives, also frosted with a nice layer, the owner asks me "Is the water on?" Nope. The term "shit out of luck" is invoked and I tie the end of a poo-covered jib sheet to the handle of a bucket and start hauling five gallons of sea water aboard every thirty seconds to try to soften it up and sluice it over the side.

The first helpful rocket scientist arrives with a cock-a-poo or a labra-dump on a leash and says, "Hey, someone got hit hard." Ha ha. Very funny. Really? No fooling? You think? Scrub, scrub, scrub. Flies going up my nose. Backsplash in my mouth. The other boat owner has rubber gloves on. Not me. I just start rolling in the stuff and compose my obituary: he died a coprolagniac.

Six hours later and the sails are off, the turnbuckles on the rigging are loose, the neutral stop-switch in the throttle is fixed and the engine is running but the boat is still smeared with stalagmites of cormorant. I have been told to use lime remover, Comet, warm soapy water, screw-it-let-the-rain-wash-it-off, and to-hell-with-it--just-shrink-wrap the whole mess and pretend it didn't happen. Being a nice day the dock was busy with spandexed cyclists, panting joggers, shoulder season tourists, local wise guys and friends and neighbors. Every single one of them expressed some rueful condolences over my messy boat.

Only one said anything that made any sense. I salute him.

"Next time put out mousetraps. All it takes is one and they get the word and won't come back and if you're lucky, you might see one trying to shake a trap off it's claw."

Thank you. I shall have my revenge.

8 responses so far

Oct 14 2013

It’s a David Ortiz World and We Just Live In It

Published by under Baseball,General

This is why I watch baseball.

One response so far

Oct 14 2013

Tautogology

When I was a kid I saw some fishermen bring a mess of tautog (Tautoga onitis) into the Town Dock and lay them out on the planks for a hose-off. I'd never seen a fish like it before, and was really fascinated by the horrid red tumor-ish looking thing on their white underbellies. They are known as "blackfish," "oysterfish" and the "poor-man's lobster." Yesterday I caught and ate my first one ever.

Tautog is a word from the Narragansett tribe, originally "tautatog"  and first noted by Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, in his 1648 lexicon of the Narragansett language. They are members of the wrasse family and are remarkable looking fish, with thick rubbery lips and snaggle-toothed mouths with blunt teeth for crushing and grinding shellfish and crustaceans, their preferred diet. They spawn inshore in the spring and move off a bit to rocks and wrecks during the summer, migrating to deeper water over the winter. The fish are renowned for being one of the better eating fish in New England, especially in fish chowders, and are said to be tricky to catch given their penchant for diving back into the rocks when hooked up.

With the fall fishing season being measured in weeks if not days, I feel a strange longing to get on the water as much as possible these autumn weekends and put my time in before I put the boats away and settle into another winter of my discontent. So yesterday, on a brisk Columbus Day weekend Sunday, I called around the local bait and tackles looking for crabs -- the preferred fall bait of the tautog -- found some in Falmouth, and off I went for two quarts of green crabs, some six ounce bank sinkers and four pre-tied rigs.

My son and I took the skiff out through Seapuit and the Osterville Cut and immediately questioned the wisdom of pounding through the three-foot seas to the best tautog spot in the area, a ledge of rocks a mile or so off of Centerville. I could only run the boat at slow ahead while trying to dodge the spray and I could feel the negative vibes radiating off of my passenger as one wave after another soaked us down, rendered my sunglasses useless, and foretold an expedition that would probably redefine "fool's errand." But we had $10 worth of crabs to use and I was determined not to throw away good bait just because of a healthy northeasterly breeze pushing a chop into our face. Real men fish when they can, not when it's nice.

After twenty minutes of slow going I saw the surf crashing over the exposed pile of snaggle-toothed rocks -- a bad sight that made me happy to have a VHF radio aboard should something catastrophic happen -- and made a slow approach, looking for the best way to anchor in the building seas without crunching the lower unit of the outboard on the pile of glacial till. My son made ready with the anchor, I motored upwind to one side of the reef, told him to let it drop, and waited until it dug in and the boat pointed up into the wind.  We were too close on the first set as only  five feet lay between us and catastrophe. So I went back into gear, took the tension off the anchor line and had him pick it back up for another set about twenty feet off. The advice on fishing tautog was simple: find the obstruction and get close as the fish lurk right around the rocks picking off barnacles and crabs. Setting the baits too far away is useless because the tautog won't venture very far from their shelter.

With the anchor set and no signs of dragging to our doom like the wreck of the Hesperus, I was confident enough to turn off the engine and make ready with the rods. We were using old fiberglas trolling rods owned by my grandfather -- wooden handles, yellow and blue thread around the guides, with old Penn conventional reels filled with 50 lb. test monofilament. I tied on the rigs, clipped on the weights, and, seeing that the boat was pitching way too much to safely play with hooks, took a safe seat, opened up the chinese-food paper quart container, and took out the first victim -- a little green crab.

Fishing with bait is a bit violent. Guaranteed to get an "eww" out of the audience, and working with crabs is a bit sadistic. I ripped off the claws and legs until I had a half-dollar sized circle of crab body. In goes the hook, one on top and another below in a classic hi-lo bottom rig

I slung-cast both sets of bait right beside the ledge, handed one rod to my son and kept one for myself.

The boat kept pitching and rolling like crazy. An open 18-foot skiff, in mid October on Nantucket Sound without a single other boat around to offer rescue should the worst occur and Cousin Pete out of town for the weekend and thus unable to answer any panicked cell phone calls to come out in his boat and save us (and I didn't renew my BoatUS tow policy this summer).  But we had life jackets and a radio so I wasn't too concerned, just vigilant as we were on the verge of pushing our luck as the white caps built and the wind blew harder off the land in the direction of Hyannisport and the Kennedy Compound.

"Whoa." My son went from skeptical to interested. I turned and saw his short rod bent double.

"Caught in the rocks?" I asked skeptically.

"Hell no. This is a fish."

The rod bounced the way they do when there are fish on the other end as he reeled, fighting the submerged surprise. I got ready to assist. Bracing myself against the rolling of the boat as the anchor line creaked and rubbed in the chock. And then, from the green depths, was a black shape. I leaned over, guided the line through my hand to the leader, and swung the catch inboard.

It was a tautog. A black, slippery, pugnacious tautog with the big red "vent", its exaggerated anal opening all red and protruding due to the crushed shells that pass through it, sort of the fish equivalent of a diet of crushed glass and razor blades mixed with hemorrhoids and fissures. I got a hold of the very cool looking fish, let it calm down, grabbed the fishing pliers and worked the hook out, laid the fish along the ruler on the edge of the cooler seat, and finding it well over the 16" minimum, tossed it in the bucket for dinner.

Then it was my turn. I landed a little one, about a foot long, and gave it the obligatory good luck kiss on the head and sent it back to grow up.

Thirty minutes, fifty unlucky crabs, and the bucket was loaded with the limit of six squirming fish (three each). I tossed the remaining crabs over the side to fend for themselves or appease the hungry Tautog God, then broke out two beers and a pair of chicken sandwiches slapped together from Saturday night's leftovers. All was well with the world.  It doesn't get much better for a guy than to catch fish with his eldest son on a sunny day (and then watch the Red Sox snatch an epic victory from the Tigers later than same day).

The "fun" part began when we got home. I banged a nail into a plank to keep the fish from sliding around while I filleted them and got very up close and intimate with my food. Which is how it should be. The tautogs' stomachs were filled with crabs and shells (CSI Cotuit, Dave Churbuck fish coroner). I stripped out the guts and gills and set aside the heads and racks to make a fond de poisson (fish stock). While that bubbled away we hit the grocery story and bought the fixings for a Bahamian fish chowder. It was good. The tautog went to their maker in a very good and spicy stew and will see further duty tonight in Baja-styled fried fish tacos.

 

5 responses so far

Sep 23 2013

The America’s Cup is Actually Interesting

I may be a traditionalist when it comes to racing sailboats -- I like them wooden, leaky and gaff-rigged -- and I have bitched about how the America's Cup needs to come back to Newport, Rhode Island and be raced in those oh-so-elegant 12-meters of my youth. But after spending a rapt half hour on the couch with my tablet and a half-hour of coverage from San Francisco Bay I take it all back. AC-72 catamarans are amazing things.

Catamarans have the reputation of being the jet-skis of the sailing world. The people who sail them tend to be adrenaline freaks who zip back and forth looking for speed and little else. The boats point into the wind like square-riggers, require elbow and knee pads and a crash helmet, and beg to be sailed while yelling "yee-hah." They entered the America's Cup under desperate circumstances in 1988 when Dennis Conner showed up in one to kick New Zealand's ass after they showed up in a 90-foot mega yacht and convinced a judge to uphold the move away from 12-meters as perfectly legal under the terms of the "Deed of Gift" -- the rules that govern the strange and venerable competition. Dennis and his catamaran sailed circles around the New Zealanders, the credibility of the America's Cup hit an all-time low, and all semblance of dignity went out the window. But catamarans were in.

YouTube Preview Image

Not that the America's Cup was ever a fair fight. As my buddy Charlie points out, the name of the game has been getting a technical edge from the very beginning when the American's sent an overpowered schooner over to England to kick the best butts in the Royal British Yacht Squadron. Half the battles have been in the courts, with challengers and defenders contesting the ambiguous rules every chance they get and giving full credence to the cliche of the "sea lawyer." Winged-keels,  crews of ringers from foreign countries, billionaires with more bucks than brains ... what's not to love?

Whatever. I tip my hat to Larry Ellison for making it a total tech fest on Silicon Valley's home waters. These boats represent the cutting edge of aquatic technology, use nothing but the wind to scream along at more than 35 mph, and thanks to overlaid graphics, helicopters, onboard Go-Pro helmet cams, and crazy color commentary that would be more in place in a UFC cage match, finally putting to rest Mark Twain's old tired complaint that watching yacht racing is less exciting than watching paint dry or grass grow.

The US is behind -- docked two races for cheating -- and it's do-or-die with them needing to win all of the remaining race to stay in the game.

4 responses so far

Sep 23 2013

The decline and dilution of the Byline

Published by under General

Consider the state of the byline. The name of a writer on top of an article or blog post isn't enough anymore to let readers know the implied qualifications of that author  now that publishers are opening up their mastheads and page-views to unpaid contributors, consultants, thought-leaders and advertisers in what New York Times media critic David Carr recently called "an oven that makes its own food."

Carr made that reference to Forbes.com and its decision to open its digital pages to external contributors, and in a brilliant revenue building move, to advertisers who pay to appear in an advertising channel Forbes calls BrandVoice, part of the current craze in digital advertising formats known as native advertising. Forbes isn't the first nor the last online publisher to welcome contributions from witers other than their full-time staff of reports and editors. Nor is it the first to practice native  advertising, formerly known as "advertorial" or "custom" publishing. The Huffington Post was founded as a cacophony of bylines and voices, all vying for attention and traffic in the "look-at-me" economy. For publishers it's a sweet deal, letting them become Tom Sawyers who persuade others to paint the fence for them.

Bylines haven't always been a given in journalism. Jack Shafer, writing for Reuters in 2012, offers up the interesting historical note that General Joseph Hooker demanded reporters covering his campaigns during the Civil War put their names on their stories so he could hold them accountable.  Hooker insisted on bylines “as a means of attributing responsibility and blame for the publication of material he found inaccurate or dangerous to the Army of the Potomac.”

The purpose of a byline is to simply attribute a story to a writer: one part vanity, another part accountability. Bylines aren't biographies of that writer, just a single three-word attribution ("By John Smith")  that imply that the words and fact and opinions that follow were written by that person (Shafer writes about the proliferation of fake bylines flowing from off-shore content farms, but that's another story for another day). In the dinosaur days of mainstream print journalism there was an unspoken sense that if a publication granted a byline to a staff writer then that writer had a certain validation as being judged competent and experienced enough to grace the publication's masthead and pages.

A degree of professionalism in an unlicensed craft was assumed if the byline appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Forbes or Time.  Earning a byline from the Boston Globe implied a different level of professional quality and experience than a byline in the MetroWest Shopper. In short, a byline was a writer's equivalent to a doctor or lawyer tacking MD or JD onto their name. It was hard to earn but ultimately the only public recognition a reporter received. It took me a long time to earn a Forbes byline. Now any extroverted hyper-social networker with a craving for a high Klout score and a taste for LinkedIn/Quora influence points can start bloviating for free and walk away with "Forbes Columnist" on their resume.

Today the appeal of giving it away for free to Forbes is simple -- it's a great resume inflator. Now any aspiring expert can add Forbes to their resume and point to some digital clips as proof. The mounting number of would-be pundits on LinkedIn who proclaim themselves to be Forbes columnists or contributors reminds me of people who send away for mail order coats of arms.

You can call it the democratization of the press, the breaching of the walls of conceit that doomed dinosaur journalism, the wall that said "we're better than you" when it came to publishing the reader's letters of complaint and disagreement, the walls that said the only persons qualified to put a word on paper were those deemed qualified to do so by the editor who hired them and paid them. Mastheads were tough to crack -- ask any young journalist in the late 1970s who dreamed of breaking into the Washington Post and getting a seat at the same table as Woodward and Bernstein. Those seats were rare and hard to obtain, Ben Bradlee didn't hand them out to K-street lobbyists and Congressional staffers. Today? Hey, if you're willing to work for free and can string some words together into a coherent sentence, preferably with a provocative, link-bait point of view, then publishers are more than happy to give you a shot at OpEd immortality.

In this blurry world of "content marketing and native journalism," it is getting harder to tell the reporters from the advertisers. The wall between the journalism and the ads is coming down, and Carr and others (like Andrew Sullivan) are lamenting what we've lost. Sure, the money is nice and helping publishers make payroll (or avoid paying it) -- and some graphical efforts are being made to fence off the advertorial native stuff with tinted boxes, hairlines and little "sponsored by" tags -- but the blurring issue is out there and it isn't so much about segregating the paid words from the "real" words, it's about the qualifications of the byline as well.

Bylines are a relatively new phenomenon in journalism. They rarely appeared in 19th century newspapers, and indeed many writers used pen-names to mask their identity, particularly on political polemics. Thomas Paine, in writing Common Sense, one of the most influential calls-to-revolution in the years leading up to the American Revolution, chose to mask his identity and byline the work as merely: "Written by an Englishman."

As correspondents began to make a name for themselves and were prime draws for a newspaper during the lurid days of yellow journalism, when war correspondents like Richard Harding Davis and Ambrose Bierce were the stars of the press, bylines were marketing devices to build circulation. Some magazines don't grant bylines at all: The Economist is the best known practitioner of the anonymous policy.

I've freelanced under pseudonyms -- I got hired by Forbes when I wrote a try-out story about digital mapping in 1988 under a bogus name because I didn't want my then-current employer to know (that story won second place in the Computer Press Association awards in 1988, so the validity of the byline didn't have much to do with its credibility, though it was indeed a tacit deception on my part and Forbes' on their readers. )I have ghostwritten books, and continue to freelance edit and write assorted articles and whitepapers anonymously for a few clients in the consulting and corporate world. They evidently like my assistance due to my background in the professional press, and I like the fees they pay. There are a lot of ex-journalists like me turning a good buck writing corporate journalism these days and I don't begrudge them a penny.

The point of all of this is that the editorial authority of the old stalwarts is gone like their paper editions. They're trading on fading memories of being brands that stood for something important but are losing their mojo to Buzzfeed and TMZ. Newsweek? Dead. Businessweek? Sold for a dollar to Bloomberg. Forbes? Still alive and flourishing thanks to its experimentation, but still attracting the ire of the Times and other media critics for pushing the limits and definitions of the first medium to get truly disrupted and overthrown by the digital revolution.

No responses yet

Sep 09 2013

With the Red Sox, nothing is a sure thing

Published by under Baseball

The Red Sox bandwagon is officially rolling. The checkout lady at the grocery store told me "Go Sox" yesterday and the simple fact that I am screaming at the television set late in the games is a leading indicator that post-season fever is building.

It was with some superstition that I saw this post-season probabilities chart on MLB.com that give the Sox a 100% chance of making the post-season. Sorry, but the magic number is down to 12 to keep Tampa out and dependent on the wild card. Nothing is 100%, especially since the Sox set the record for the worst September meltdown in the history of the game back in 2011, the season of beer and chicken.

Yet here is proof some statistical, Monte Carlo simulating fool thinks the Red Sox are a sure thing. Bring on the Rays and I have tickets for Friday's game against the Yankees at home:

sox

One response so far

Sep 09 2013

Three Books I’d Like to Write But Won’t

Published by under Books,General

Book writing pays about a nickel an hour, so other than inflating one's resume in this modern attention economy, why bother? Anyway, here's three non-fiction book ideas that should be written but won't be written by me:

1. The Seedy Underbelly of the Internet: someone needs to get into the semi-sleazy, ethically challenged, weird world of spammers, hate bloggers, affiliate marketers, SEO whores, search toolbar installers, pay-per-posters, belly-fat miracle advertisers that buzz away on the edges of the noblest ambitions of the Interwebs. This is the desperate world of the grifters who exploit every technical advance and loophole from permalinks and trackbacks to page rank and SERP. They are work-at-homers, con men and women who produce garish content-marketing blogs, conduct seminars on how you too can make a stack of cash from Facebook and Twitter, whoring out your content link blog, and play the affiliate marketing game. They put pictures of girls with cleavage on their fake avatars, invite you to be their LinkedIn friend, then send you a message extolling their polystyrene packaging plant in South Korea. They scrape your blog posts and call them their own. They run automated spam bots that write semi-coherent comments on your blog. They pick epic flame battles with other scammers and revel in being hated. These are the true geniuses of precision marketing.

I get depressed just thinking about researching that one.

blogger

2. Conference Whore: if I were a rich man, and had nothing to do all day, I would spend my time attending a full year's worth of conferences and idea-fests like Davos, Burning Man, Demo, TED, a Microsoft Sharepoint convention in New Orleans, SIGGRAPH, Le Web, Forrester Consumer Experience, DrupalCon, CES ...... A life spent in airport lounges, business class, fancy golf resorts on the edge of San Diego, Palm Springs, Tahoe, a world of registration tables, name tags hung around the neck, keynotes, panel discussions, calls to raise my hand if I've ever ...., breakout sessions, hashtags and live-tweeting, questions from the audience (please wait for the microphone), networking events, happy hours, breakfast buffets, bio breaks. This would amazingly depressing -- a year on the road tracking the idea circuit, a perpetual junket in the weird alternate reality of the face-to-face event. To make it doubly depressing, combine Conference Whore with the Underbelly pitch and do nothing but attend sleazy marketing seminars on how to make a million buying domain names ....

The year of living at conferences would be very unhealthy, probably worth 25 pounds in ass fat and would probably lead to some sort of psychological warping.

(search for "conference badges" on Flickr. Tara Hunt is amazing)

badges

3. Ziff Knew Weeds: The rise of the tech press in the 70s and 80s hasn't been written, but should, before the original old guard passes away.  The title comes from my ex-boss, the late Bill Ziff, who was a super smart eccentric polymath who legend had it would strike up bizarre conversations with his employees about roadside weeds (he was an accomplished amateur botanist) .

From the first newletters and enthusiast bibles, to breakthrough pieces like Stewart Brand in Rolling Stone, the battling empires of Pat McGovern and Bill Ziff for dominance of the PC industry through PC World vs. PC Magazine, PC Week vs InfoWorld, MacWorld vs. MacWeek, Computerworld, Computershopper, Release 1.0 ..... the power of the tech press, a blend of geeks and old newspaper hacks and the sleazy tactics they deployed from dumpster diving in Silicon Valley to read Apple's trash to bribing teen-age printers apprentices in Iowa with t-shirts to cough up the first copies of IBM's user manuals, partying with Bill Gates at Comdex, refereeing epic pissing matches between boy wonders who would go onto become the richest men in the world, snorting coke in the review lab on deadline night .... The tech press of Boston and Silicon Valley chronicled the wild birth of an industry that changed the world, until they were waylaid by the Internet and put out of work by a new crop of gossipping gadget bloggers.

 

Anyway - there's three free book ideas for anyone with the patience and gumption to tackle them.

6 responses so far

Sep 08 2013

Indoor Rowing Makes It to the Big Leagues

Published by under ergblogging,Rowing

It was only a matter of time before the exercise-cultists discovered the rowing machine, aka "ergometer", aka "erg."  I wondered why the concept of group rowing classes haven't taken off -- Chris Ives sort of pioneered the concept in the 90s, Swiss sculler Xeno Mueller has a devoted following out of his studio in Newport Beach, Josh Crosby breathed a new life into the Water Rower (the stylish piece of furniture rowed by Kevin Spacey in House of Cards) and now, thanks to Crossfit, the wheel-of-pain has come into its own as the flavor of the month for gym rats seeking the next big thing to go along with their smart wristbands and perpetual search for the new and different.

While it would be tempting to point at the Sunday New York Times Style Section article as either the moment in time when ergs came into their own .... or jumped the shark, it is good to see the misunderstood, much maligned erg make its debut in the national press as something other than a weird thing used by masochists.

You can read the piece here.

Here's where Crossfit gets credit for taking the erg out of the boathouse and into the gym:

"Why the surge in popularity? Thank CrossFit — and nearly everybody selling indoor rowing does. That craze’s high-intensity strength and conditioning workouts sometimes require ergs, and CrossFit offers rowing certification for instructors. Some CrossFit boxes, as the gyms are called, offer temporary homes for group indoor rowing start-ups as they already have the machines and the space."

My Yale buddy and fellow-rower Mike Ives gets a prominent mention in the piece:

"And on a steamy recent Tuesday at the West Side Y.M.C.A. in Manhattan, Michael Ives, 55, a former Yale rower (toting the gold medal he and his team had recently won at the Henley Masters Regatta in England) had to turn away some 10 hopefuls from one of his evening classes.

“I don’t think it’s a case of misery loves company,” Mr. Ives said. “It feels good, and it sounds good,” he added, referring to the rhythmic, almost meditative, whooshing of all of the ergs moving in unison. His class — pioneered by his younger brother Chris, widely credited with being the first to offer indoor group rowing, in 1995 — is a polished version of what crew teams might do off-season. There is no music, only the sound of Mr. Ives’s preternaturally calm voice offering pacing instructions."

3 responses so far

Sep 06 2013

Cotuit Water Boil Notice Sept. 6

Published by under Cotuit,General

UPDATE: As of Tuesday 9/10, it is cool to resume drinking Cotit water

http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130909/NEWS11/130909716

The water department found e coli bacteria in the system so don't drink the water without boiling it for at least a minute beforehand.

details are here

2 responses so far

Sep 05 2013

NYTimes: Hollywood’s Tanking Business Model

Published by under General

http://nyti.ms/17JGhdU

An interesting observation in a piece in the New York Times about Hollywood's Summer of Flops (Lone Ranger, etc.) that states the obvious but is worth keeping in mind during this era of severe "digital disruption:"

"The instinct to retrench and overemphasize strategies that have worked in the past is a common problem in companies as they get bigger and have more to lose, particularly as technologies change. Polaroid and BlackBerry doubled down on their time-tested formulas despite market changes, suggesting that this behavior can undermine even the most successful companies. “The more successful and larger they become, the more antibodies they develop to doing anything new,” said Alan MacCormack, a Harvard Business School professor. "

"Because persuading an industry’s largest companies to experiment is challenging, smaller and more entrepreneurial companies are usually tasked with figuring out the next-generation business model."

The biggest impediment to innovation is an installed base (to paraphrase Mitch Kapor), and management strategy consultants have made bank for decades advising the CEOs of the biggest companies on how to make the transition from an ailing cash cow to a refreshed, innovative stance that will drive growth and defend against upstart startups without the baggage of the old cow. The problem is, other than Apple's resurrection by the Second Coming of Jobs, and the Gerstner rebuilding of IBM from big iron to big services .... what old brands have managed to deliver a second act?

The obvious solution for a lumbering dinosaur sitting on a big mound of money is to buy the next-generation start-ups and develop a sort of internal VC radar to identify the hot upstarts out on the edges of the industry and simply buy their IP and talent. The internal skunkworks model of delivering breakthrough innovation (innovation in my book is invention made commercial) may have worked at Lockheed and a few other rare cases, but these are dire times for big players, most of whom are watching formerly dominant players in mobile -- Nokia and Blackberry -- blow marketshare dominance down to the point of single digit irrelevance in a matter of two or three years.

It's silly to try to oversimplify the reasons for big organization sclerosis, but in my experience it has more to do with organizational design, governance, quarter-to-quarter focus on earnings, and the self-preservation instincts of incumbent senior leadership. In other words, it's not about ideas or magic insights, it's about behavior and bureaucracy and the terror of possibly failing.

One response so far

Sep 04 2013

Thriving in a ‘PC-plus’ world: An interview with Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing | McKinsey & Company

Published by under General,Technology

http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/thriving_in_a_pc-plus_world

Great interview from June by McKinsey's Gordon Orr and Rik Kirkland  with Lenovo Chairman/CEO Yang Yuanqing. Genuinely great leader who was part of the original Lenovo crew from the mid-80s.  Probably the tech sector rock star, their version of our Bill Gates/Michael Dell rolled into one.

He makes some key points about Lenovo's rise to #1 in the sagging PC industry.

1. The company followed a "protect and attack" strategy of protecting its enterprise/commercial business in the west while attacking in emerging markets, particularly Brazil and India through acquisitions and organic growth.

2. It diversified out of PCs into mobile early and has been a scrappy player inside of China's fierce smartphone market.

3. It isn't reluctant to invest in R&D to differentiate its products.

4. Being Number One is a self-fulfilling brand builder, as he put it: everyone knows the name of the tallest mountain in the world, but what's the name of the second tallest?

yangyuanqinglenovo

One response so far

Sep 03 2013

What I’m reading, Labor Day weekend

My fellow Kettleer fan and baseball wiseman Jim D. loaned me "The Summer of Beer and Whiskey" by Edward Achorn. Faithful readers know my guilty pleasure is reading baseball books and this has been one of the best, introducing me to the history of the game in its earliest years after the Civil War, focusing on the 1883 pennant race between the St. Louis Browns and the Philadelphia Athletics. The title is appropriate. Some players were drunks, syphilitics, cheats, brawlers, racists and stars. All were colorful and all were hard men -- playing barehanded, pitching until their arms could pitch no more, crashing through fences, and fighting for room to play in outfields mobbed with spectators.

The game was coming out of a low period of gambling and cheating., but showmen such as St. Louis owner Chris von der Ahe knew how to repackage the game for the working man by playing on their only day off (Sunday) and serving beer (he owned a bar and brewery). The result was the birth of the national pastime.

Second up, Alec Wilkinson writes about Cape Cod's Great White Sharks in the September 9 issue of The New Yorker.  Shark porn is an industry unto itself, fueling the annual Shark Week, weirdness like Sharknado, and other oddities that play to whatever deep horror we have about the evils of the deep. I have a family member who has some sort of amazing Bloomberg terminal alert set to shark attacks, and not a day goes by without some forwarded link to a horror story about a decapitated abalone fisherman. Bottom line: "Don't get out of the boat."

Wilkinson tells the story about how Great Whites have always been around the Cape, killing a teenager in the 30s in Mattapoisett, freaking out Henry David Thoreau during his walk down the peninsula, and now coming back in droves to a diner stocked with a ton of grey seals who are booming thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act that made it highly illegal for commercial fishermen to keep their population down with an onboard .30-.30.

The piece focuses on the Ocearch expedition that just wrapped up its second summer off of Monomoy Island catching and tagging Great Whites aboard a specially equipped former Bering Sea crabber.  I printed out a copy from the New Yorker's horrible digital edition and my son and I spent a happy half hour reading it together, me handing over each page to him as I finished them.

No responses yet

Aug 29 2013

Cargo Cult Analytics (best thinking on big data I’ve read in a long time)

Published by under Journalism,Metrics

Former IDG colleague Matt McAllister tweeted a link to a wonderful post by Stijn Debrouwere, a Knight-Mozilla OpenNews fellow who is "loosely affiliated with the Guardian’s data science team in London."

Debrouwere tackles the futility of newsroom analytics and measurement, something I lived at Forbes.com and IDG and then Lenovo when I ran web analytics, mainly Omniture (now Adobe) and Google Analytics. As Debrouwere sarcastically notes, putting dashboards on big flat panel screens and making them really big makes them really important. He compares media executives who cling to their dashboards to New Guinea primitives waving at the sky and waiting for the cargo to come to them the way it used to come during WW II when the US Army was fighting the war.

Some zingers from his post:

  • "If you’re like most people, you don’t stray very far from the dashboard you get when you log in. You stare and squint and hope insight will magically manifest itself."
  • "There’s nothing like a dashboard full of data and graphs and trend lines to make us feel like grown ups. Like people who know what they’re doing. So even though we’re not getting any real use out of it, it’s addictive and we can’t stop doing it."
  • "There’s enough social media analytics tools to merit listicles that helpfully introduce you to the top 8."
  • "You’re supposed to put these dashboards up on a wall, on a huge plasma screen. Because of course numbers are twice as persuasive if you make them twice as big."
  • "Metrics are for doing, not staring."
  • "I honestly can’t recall the last time I’ve looked at our pageviews. I know it wouldn’t get me anywhere."

http://stdout.be/2013/08/26/cargo-cult-analytics/

This Big Data thing has a lot of people confused, myself included. And for good reason. We think of this big database in the cloud, doing something so big and difficult that it requires lots and lots of processing power and a thing called "Hadoop," watching individuals interacting like so many ants with companies and stuff in real-time like some scary NSA spooky datacenter in Utah listening to all our phone calls  (but respectful of our privacy of course), figuring out patterns and trends and opportunities and MAGICAL INSIGHTS in REAL-TIME.  So let's get ourselves some of that there Big Data and save the company, be like Google, A/B test the shit out  of stuff, and get rid of the Highest Paid Person's opinion, blah, blah blah.....

First, a lot of people, including me, suck at math and statistics and so we overcompensate by regarding any numbers and the word "quantitative" as mystical.  If it has a number attached to it (not an adjective) it must be important.

Second, the legends around Big Data and the magical insights they deliver to retailers are kind of cool to consider and become mythical. Target can tell when a woman is pregnant based on her shopping history. Wal-Mart figured out 80% of its store visitors turn right when they enter the store. The promise of finding one of those awesome insights is just too compelling to miss. The problem is staring at a dashboard doesn't equate to discovering an insight. Hence a lot of us are like the Cargo Cultists.

Third, modern management is obsessed with measurement -- former colleague Lew McCreary called it the Tyranny of Metrics -- and the Pokemon Model of Got To Get 'Em All applies to equating Big Data with Big Data Collection, which yields the ugly phenomenon coined by Google metrics guru Avinash Kaushik: "Data Puking." The admonition that, "You can't manage what you don't measure," has built a corporate culture more concerned with looking buttoned-up, on the ball, and obsessively accurate than being intuitive, empathetic and innovative.

I was the guy who built these dashboards, peered at them for magical insights, puked them at my bosses, and over time I started to get really cynical and put  tired old quotes pissing on measurement   into my PowerPoint presentations:

Einstein: "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

Warren Buffett:"They studied what was measurable, rather than what was meaningful" - 

I know Debrouwere's post appealed to me because he was specifically addressing metrics in the newsroom -- a place I spent most of my career. But it also struck a current chord with me because of  my work for clients, all of whom cite Big Data incessantly as a force for disruption and transformation, yet haven't the faintest clue of how to harness it or whom the Oracle will be in their organization who will study the digital tea leaves and come up with the single "AHA!" that will make them Measurement Legends.

 

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