Wednesday, October 31, 2007

tweetin' off

I sounded off peevishly this morning in Facebook’s direction with this Tweet:

[dear facebook] take a page from the flickr playbook[1] and send me my *mail* (and my gifts and my wall sh*t) -- not a *link* to my mail

Martin of (...) fame picked up on my peevishness and poked it with a (very friendly) stick, and we threaded for awhile about user engagement and satisfaction -- in the staccato 140 character bursts that Twitter requires. As a result a somewhat muddled thread emerged.

I promised to clarify my position in a blog post, so here it is. (And for those dear folk who come here for other things, I apologize. And promise will try to be brief.)(Update: Not brief. Sorry. Tried.)

Here’s a little more of that Twitter thread:

martingruner @suttonhoo: But then u wont go to & look at all the ads. And that, of course, would be just wrong. 'member: its not about you.

suttonhoo @martingruner: lol -- motivation acknowledged -- but it would be interesting to compare engagement numbers AND satisfaction across each UX

martingruner You lost me. Engagement numbers = how many people look at your ads? More ads = less satisfaction?

Martin reasonably assumes that I’m referring to eyeballs on ads when I refer to engagement. And I manage to perpetuate that assumption by lobbing these links over the wall:

suttonhoo engagement e.g.; for satisfaction something ACSI-like ...

The first link refers to a Washington Post piece on the recent revision to the Nielsen/Net Rating (favoring user engagement over page views), and Nielsen’s all about taking measurements that advertisers can use; the second is a link to a run down on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which is a way of measuring how happy folks are with their interactions with the folks who sell them stuff. Some look to the ACSI as an important economic indicator.

Martin also put his finger on exactly what I’m complaining about -- Facebook’s gimmick to get folks to login to retrieve their goodies from their friends, like email messages.

Let’s compare user experiences -- this is Facebook’s notification that I’ve received an email through their system:

Emily sent you a message.

To read this message, follow the link below:

And this is Flickr’s:

You've been sent a Flickr Mail from DHVan:


:: Nice work

hey i was just doing research for my architecture paper and I stumble on to your pictures from google on your Farnsworth House pictures and they're amazing. But what I wanted to comment on was your "budding bonsai" photo. That picture is just awesome in a serene way. Its very awe inspiring in a way. Thats all I wanted to say. Keep up the good work.



To reply to this message, click here:

To update your email settings, click here:

The Flickr Team

The difference from where I’m sitting is tremendous: with Facebook I need to follow the link to see what Emily had to say, and I probably have to login to get there. From a GOMS[2] perspective this is a drag -- click, keystroke, keystroke, keystroke, keystroke, click, click, READ. There’s no way for me to gauge at a glance whether her email is something that needs my immediate attention or can wait until later -- I have to work for it.

With Flickr the pay off is immediate: This is my first encounter with DHVan. If I didn’t have immediate access to his email I probably wouldn’t hassle with retrieving it for a good long while because I have no prior experience about what to expect from Mr. Van. But Flickr sends me his message directly -- so I can immediately bask in his beautiful flattery (and yeah, of course it made my day). If I choose to act on it -- and I did -- I still need to login to Flickr to get the job done, because Flickr mail acts as a shield between me and DH. Either one of us can choose to expose our email to the other if we trust enough, but by default Flickr operates as a go-between.

Both Flickr and Facebook accomplish the same purpose -- getting me to the site, where they have an opportunity to hook me and lure me deeper and engage me with all their good content -- which, yeah, is what matters when you’re measuring these things and trying to turn them into something that will feed you, your family, and your fellow employees. It's just that Flickr does it better.

Back to the Twitter thread:

suttonhoo ...wild ass guesstimate: better user experience at flickr means higher ACSI, offsetting possibly lower (nominally) engagement

martingruner Ok! But why does Flickr have lower engagement? Lower engagement = #ads being seen? 1 of good things w/Flickr=minimal ads.

suttonhoo dunno the actuals and wouldn't measure engagement as ad exposure alone -- just guessing given this:

I don’t know for a fact that Flickr has lower engagement -- although I know that it has less audience reach than Facebook because Alexa tells me so, and I’ve heard enough about its audience and their goals and objectives to assume that users hang around for a good long while doing their thing. Longer than Flickr users? I dunno. Nominally longer, at best, I would guess.

But what I was trying to get at in 140 characters or less is that as a user of both sites I find the Flickr site more compelling experientially -- the interface is more responsive, I’m better able to connect with the people and the content that I care about than I can over at Facebook -- and that makes me happy. The email design is just another expression of how Flickr is doing a lot of things right.

The Facebook user interface lacks the flow and nimbleness that the Flickr interface possesses -- it simply doesn’t make me happy.[3]

So why does any of this matter? Well certainly this strange non-sequitur makes it all clear:

suttonhoo ...and captology. I think Flickr has the more successful extended experience. tell ya what: I'll blog on it. need more ch.:)

B.J. Fogg’s written a great book[4] and spearheaded the evolution of a whole movement in HCI[5] called Captology, or Computers as Persuasive Technology, which attempts to measure things just like this, and determine whether or not they matter in the way that can be measured.

In Persuasive Technology Fogg recaps a study that the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab ran on the reciprocity principle. The premise is simple -- as Fogg writes:

One social dynamic that may have potential for persuasive technology is the rule of reciprocity. This unwritten social rule states that after you receive a favor, you must pay it back in some way. Anthropologists report that the reciprocity rule is followed in every human society.

In my laboratory research, my colleagues and I set out to see if the rule of reciprocity could be applied to interactions between humans and computers. Specifically, we set up an experiment to see if people would reciprocate to a computer that had provided a favor for them. [6]

So they did just that -- structuring a study involving an information search on a couple of different computers in which “one group would feel the computer had done a favor for them; the other group would feel the computer had not been helpful.”

The findings were what you might have expected if both participants were human, but surprising when you consider that one of the participants was a computer: “people performed more work for the computer” -- almost twice as much work -- when they felt the computer had done them a favor.

So, long story short: my bias as someone who develops user interfaces and email campaigns has always been to provide something of use, value and general helpfulness. I like to do so because it frankly makes me feel like *I’m* doing something of use, value and general helpfulness -- which is important to me as a human being -- and also because as a customer/user I appreciate these things too.

Because I make a living at this stuff it helps that doing the useful thing also pays off -- in ways that can be measured: Like dollars through the door, time on the site, and return visits.

I.e.: returned favors.

So while Facebook may be more banner ad-centric than Flickr[7] and feel like it needs to do whatever it can to get folks back to the site, my wild ass guess (based on 14 years working in the online space.)(oh good lord I just dated myself, didn’t I?) is that the folks who provide the best user experience will wind up at the end of the day with the greater business success.

They’ll get there in part because they’ll piss me, the user, off less -- and all the better if they make me grateful and glad, ‘cause I’ll love them right back.

That’s a long way around it, but that’s all I was trying to get at this morning. Although I should confess: the email that triggered it was a Facebook gift notification, and when I pulled up the email in gmail just now and it showed all the important component parts -- including a picture of the gift and a message from the giver. I originally saw the email on my handheld device, which doesn’t support the html that gmail does, so the message fell apart and I assumed the worst, based on prior experience with Facebook email messages relating wall posts and inbox notifications, which are missing those vital pieces.

Which opens up a whole other can of worms about the importance of delivering your content in a way that doesn’t degrade across points of access -- mobile being particularly important in the social networking space. But this discussion, frankly, is beginning to tire me out too, so I bid you all a fond goodnight.

[1] actually twittered a malapropism -- “gamebook” and then corrected it in a follow up.

[2] GOMS analysis measures keystrokes, mouse movements, etc. in an effort to quantitatively describe the interaction between computer and user

[3] Could divert here to Don Norman's Emotional Design: Why We Love or Hate Everyday Things, but that would make this even longer. Instead I'll just recommend it. Highly.

[4] BJ Fogg, Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do

[5] HCI = human computer interaction

[6] Fogg, p.108

[7] Flickr is just beginning to generate revenue through a variety of lovely merchandising tie-ins like Zazzle Tees and things, Target photo printing, and Qoop & Moo on-demand printing

txt me

picture of snowman
Originally uploaded by glowingstar.
The fixed line phone "is a collective channel, a shared organisational tool, with most calls made 'in public' because they are relevant to the other members of the household."

Mobile calls are for last-minute planning or to co-ordinate travel and meetings.

Texting is for "intimacy, emotions and efficiency".

E-mail is for administration and to exchange pictures, documents and music.

Instant messaging and voice-over-internet calls are "continuous channels", open in the background while people do other things.

Conclusions reached by Stefana Broadbent, an anthropologist who leads the User Adoption Lab at Swisscom, Switzerland's largest telecoms operator as reported way back in June the Economist's 2007 Technology Quarterly. The study was based on observation, interviews, surveys of users' homes and asking people to keep logbooks of their communications usage across several European countries.

Also reported in the piece, entitled Home truths about telecoms:

• 80% of an individual's mobile communications are with the same four people

• 60% of men carry their cellphones in their pocket; 61% of women carry their phone in their handbags -- and women tend to miss 50% of their calls because of the difficulty of retrieving the phone from those dark depths

• Not surprisingly, the frequency with which belt-pouches are used for carrying phones diminishes according to city's fashion sense: 31% of men used them in Ji Lin City; 19% use them in Beijing; 4% use them in Milan; and they're practically non-existent in Tokyo.

Of her research Broadbent commented: "The most fascinating discovery I've made this year is the flattening in voice communications and an increase in written channels."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Barack Obama is following me

Barack Obama on Twitter »

my costume

via Atypyk

Monday, October 29, 2007


Originally uploaded by johanna.
Posted without comment.

From the inimitable johanna.

my new flickr crush

Brunch with Polaroidjesus
Originally uploaded by Lou O' Bedlam.
Dip into Lou O' Bedlam's Flickr photostream for some of that tasty polaroid goodness, with a side of Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

Oh the humanity »

mies, sunny side up.

mies, sunny side up.
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
I'm pretty sure this is a Mies designed chair
-- but the yellow, in place of the traditional
staid black, threw me for a loop.

Posting by cameraphone from
the Gerald Ford Airport
Grand Rapids, MI

Update: Okay. This is embarassing. The chair was designed by Eames, of course.

passing through airport security on a monday morning

I remove my shoes
in defense
of my country

sweet land of liberty

my black socks shuffle
over grey laminate
through the gates
the TSA guy winks
and smiles

He can detain me
He lets me pass

and I recall the fierce
to bare my feet
my grandfather's bed
the power in that room

heard only in the air
that rattled
in his lungs

how I stood
then, too

of thee I sing

in stockings


Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Grand Rapids today.
Home in time for
(a late) dinner.

Posting by cameraphone
from O'Hare Int'l


wish I had a lens wide enough to
capture this moon in all that sky

Sunday, October 28, 2007

stories in stone

fly away home

Wandered around the local cemetery this afternoon reading stories in stone in the brilliant autumn light.

The wives of John Rodgers: Ruth and Maria. What we're missing are -- is? -- the wedding date.

Loved Elizabeth's lines.

I was struck by how often the stones read "Died". Of course they did, and of course that's important information -- but isn't it fairly straightforward to extrapolate that fact from the context in which they're found?

Caroline, the wife of M.R. Webster. Maybe she was Aged 42 when she died; maybe she was only 12. The stone is soft and hard to hear.

Ebenezer had an interesting, albeit heartbreaking story. The bottom of his tombstone read in a beautiful old script: “He sleeps beneath the lone blue Sea. He died on his passage from California on board the Palmetto, and his remains are in the Pacific Ocean.”

It doesn't say where he was headed from California, and I wonder if he was a 49er, given the date. But what the heck was he doing getting on a boat, then?

Nearby stood a stone with the name of his wife Mary, who died 7 years after he was lost at sea, and their six children: Three of whom died in their first few years of life, long before Ebenezer ever left for California.

Sweet dreams, li'l Nell.

sleep in the dust.


aka Lakeshore Drive.

Autumn. Circa 65 MPH.

dahlia season

dahlia season
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
I love dahlias. The way they show up late in the season like little old ladies in their leopardskin pillbox hats, making their way to their theatre seats with their walkers, attended to by younger ones than they -- yesterday it was an impatient squirrel who flitted about the dahlia beds on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

The dahlias stood serene among all that activity. As old as the ages, flashing the last of their splendor, knowing it all will unfold just as it has before: the frost will come, their petals will fade and fall, and then: the winter.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

happy birthday, dad.

My dad had a birthday today. Which is its own kind of miracle.

Oh happy 'day.

(And yeah -- no cracks about the spaz kid with the giant pumpkin head and the pug nose and the shag haircut. In my defense: I've been able to do something about the haircut.)

shout out

Mies' Farnsworth House

Sending some love to the good folks at Museu Oscar Niemeyer (MON) in Curitiba, Brazil, because they were kind enough to pick up a photo from my Farnsworth House set for publication in an "art educational primer that will be distributed free for the public schools of Parana State, encouraging students to visit the museum frequently."

Don't know which one they picked up just yet, but they were kind enough to promise me a copy.


That set's getting a lot of airplay: Heard from some folks in Denmark a while back who made a similar request to use one of the Farnsworth exterior shots for "a children's (educational) book about architecture and air" by "Danish writer/architect Bente Lange", and have also granted permission for its use in The Fundamentals of Architecture by AVA Publishing out of Switzerland.

No word on whether I'll see the ink on either one of those.

Oh. Yeah. And before you think I'm one of those easy girls who gives it all up for nothin': Just sold a shot for real money that will grace the cover of a literary magazine, but they're sending 10 whole copies, so I'm holding back naming names until I have something to show for that one. :)

Double dog yay.

odd pauses

odd pauses
odd pauses
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Stuart Hall
University of Chicago

Posting by cameraphone from the Humanities Weekend

Update: Five bucks to whoever can tell me what the heck this means, 'cause I'm baffled. It was stenciled on a wall alongside a staircase in a lecture hall at the U of C.

spoiler alert

In Hong Kong the film The Crying Game was retitled Oh No! My Girlfriend Has a Penis.

Back cover of Wendy Doniger's "The Bedtrick: Tales of Sex & Masquerade".

Posting by cameraphone from the bookstore on the UofC campus.

(Oh yeah: of course I bought the book.)

barber service

barber service
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Photo series that I've been wanting to do for *years* but have never gotten off my butt to do: wide-angles of old-school barber shops, empty of men.

Don't know why I want to do them emptied out, because there are few things sexier than a guy lathering up and shaving old school; but I expect empty would show off the shops best, with all their tools and furnishings and, by extension, their echoing shaving ghosts.

Posting by cameraphone from the University of Chicago, Hyde Park.

Friday, October 26, 2007

newly minted vintage

Mt. Tahoma Diner, 1960's
Originally uploaded by Roadsidepictures.
Is there a word for this: Gorgeous Polaroids of vintage signage before time passes and the "retro" designation settles in?

And if there is, then I'm sure there's a word for girls like me who get all damp when they hear the words "signage+polaroid" in the same sentence.

Roadside Pictures has posted a found collection of polaroid prints on Flickr, taken by someone who worked for a sign company in the 1950s and 60s.

And to make it even better: they're all from my home turf of Washington state (just down the road from Seattle, it looks like -- near Tacoma, Puyallup and Gig Harbor.)

No. Wait. To make it EVEN better, many bear ballpoint sketches of what may have been works in progress.

Retro-fitted retro.

Clickthrough for the slideshow, baby »

mash it up for commerce

One more example of how European advertising is infinitely cooler than what we do in the U.S.

Sony's asking folks to record tracks for their new jingly-score-like thingy -- soon they'll be letting folks mix up that indigenous content[1] with other tracks from other folks.


Here's the link »

[1] Ran across this somewhere online -- think it was Squandrous -- the proposal that "user generated content" be recoined as "indigenous content". I'm trying it out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

how I know we're kin (for sure)

My sister just sent me this book (in a box which contained, among other things, chocolate and a jar of homemade chutney) which, significantly, is subtitled: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences.

Emphasis my own.

More on bacon »


the road to nowhere

"There is no shelf."

Information Revolution by Mike Wensch, the same guy who brought you The Machine is Us/ing Us.

mantra on the rocks

Originally uploaded by Roy.
Om Mani Padme Hum.

Shot by Roy and featured in his remarkable Qinghai set on Flickr.

Hear it »

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

time to eat.

Originally uploaded by dalaka.
I was feeling a little plaintive and dull-witted yesterday, given internal and external pressures, so I did the thing that I generally do when the dull-witted demon strikes: I ate. And insisted that those in my immediate periphery eat along with me.

Dressed up a creamy tomato basil sauce with a shot of tequila and served it over gnocchi, then paired the potato dumplings with this gentle mâche & pomegranate salad -- because it seems true that no matter how plaintive your mood, there is something eternally optimistic about the brilliant pomegranate.

Mâche Salad with Blood Oranges, Pistachios and Pomegranate from

2 tablespoons fresh blood orange juice or regular orange juice (went with the reg)
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons pistachio olive oil (sorry -- not that snooty)

2 blood oranges or regular oranges
1 4-ounce package mâche
1/4 cup shelled natural pistachios, toasted
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries

Whisk orange juice, vinegar, shallot, and honey in small bowl. Gradually whisk in pistachio olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Using small sharp knife, cut off peel and white pith from oranges. Working over small bowl, cut between membranes to release orange segments. Divide mâche among 4 plates. Divide orange segments, pistachios, and pomegranate seeds among plates. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

speaking of upcycling

Finding a $1 million painting in the garbage is very unusual.

FBI agent James Wynne commenting on Elizabeth Gibson’s discovery of Rufino Tamayo’s Three People in the trash on the Northwest corner of Broadway and 72nd Street one March morning in One Person’s Trash Is Another Person’s Lost Masterpiece in this morning's New York Times.

Update: The BBC reported on 21 November that, indeed, the painting did manage to fetch $1M at auction.

electric sheep

Video: Just a robot. Not an evolving one. But this one can do a cool trick with a pendulum.

I asked the World's Best Mechanical Engineer to weigh in on the self-evolving robot idea. This is his response:

The You-Tube presentation really whitewashes the real difficulty with self evolving robots. What he showed, and described, were robots that used evolving strategies for movement. But the robot design did not evolve at all. And in reality, the different strategies the robot used were limited to the imagination of the programmer. So the robot was really just an automated test rig for different movement strategies.

Now what would be really interesting would be a self reproducing robot. Though dauntingly difficult, it probably is probably at the fringe of today's technology.

If you had a machine that could mine it's own iron ore, refine it, and build a duplicate of itself, then you would be constructing the conditions for true evolution. Random variations would occur in the manufacturing process. The good variations would survive and replicate, the bad variations would be inoperable and die out. The significant barriers to something like this would be having the onboard ability to make silicon chips, the onboard ability to process some sort of organic materials for electrical insulation, and the onboard ability to build a power supply. The shear size of the machine could be so vast that it could never lumber from place to place to gather the raw materials.

Possibly this could be solved by subdividing the tasks into two machines that work together. Each machine specialized for special tasks. This would reduce the complexity of each machine substantially. Parts of the two machines that serve identical purposes (such as movement) would be identical for ease of manufacturing. You would have effectively introduced sexuality to the machines, where a male and female are needed to reproduce. This allows one machine to gather resources of one type, while another gathers resources of another type, or actually works on the replication process. Maybe this explains sexuality in animals.

The rate of evolution would have to be very slow, because you would want to be sure that at least one successful machine was built each generation. Random variation would probably be sufficient to drive the evolutionary process.

So when you think it through, the conditions for successful evolution of a machine very much mirror the conditions that nature has created for the successful evolution of plants and animals.

The World's Best Mechanical Engineer

See more from the World's Best Mechanical Engineer »

Monday, October 22, 2007

city on fire

Debaird just twittered about a Flickr map that details the impact of the fires in the LA area -- and tells the story so much better than those 'copters can.

Flickr Map of LA Fires »


She was contractually obligated to submit a draft of the book to the Central Intelligence Agency’s Publications Review Board. That draft came back heavily expurgated. She was then expected to rewrite her book so that it made sense despite many deletions.

But Ms. Wilson and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, contend that much of the censored information is in the public domain — and that the suppression of information is itself part of Ms. Wilson’s story. So “Fair Game” has been published with the censor’s marks visible as blacked-out words, lines, paragraphs or pages.

The publisher amplifies the book with an 80-page afterword by Laura Rozen, a reporter, who uses matters of public record to fill in some of the gaps.

From Her Identity Revealed, Her Story Expurgated, Janet Maslin's piece (can't really call it a review) on Valerie Plame Wilson's new book, Fair Game, in this morning's New York Times.

in case you've always wondered

The game of cricket explained, by Coudal Partners »

The same folks who bring you Layer Tennis.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

love me a maira

I’m trying to figure out two very simple things: How to live, and how to die. Period.

Maira Kalman talks at TED »

Kalman’s at my fantasy dinner table (which, I have been told, has "too many girls". Too bad.). She's sitting right between Christiana Amanpour and Lou Salome.

Maira Kalman's books and stuff at Amazon »

Maira Kalman's New York Times year long blog: Principles of Uncertainty »

brotherly love

Big weekend for brothers around here. Test your knowledge of brotherly love by taking the Sibling Rivalry Jeopardy Quiz:

1. A madcap adventure in which brothers test their rivalries, seek spiritual enlightenment and bury their dead. Set in India.
  • What is »

  • 2. A madcap adventure in which brothers test their rivalries, seek to be god on earth, and eat their dead. Set in Greece.
  • What is »

  • noodle kugel

    When folks want to know I tell them I split my growing up between the saltwater air of Seattle and the brilliant Rocky Mountain sunshine of Denver, but what’s harder to convey is the way that Queens, New York fed my childhood.

    Physically we lived West of the Mississippi, but my stepmother, who raised us, was a NY expat who brought Forest Heights with her -- along with certain expectations.

    Bagels were one. My dad ferreted out what was probably the only bagel bakery in Denver at that time, and I got myself in trouble in second grade when I answered a question in class -- one that baited us with something like “what’s a round breakfast food with a hole in the middle?” -- with the word “bagel”. Red ink followed, and when I approached the teacher about the misunderstanding she said: “the answer was donut -- what’s a bagel?”

    She may well have said: “What the *#(@)! is a bagel?”

    The Arts were another, and hard to come by in Denver. Used to hopping a subway into Manhattan from the time she was a young girl, my stepmom had to make due with loading us kids into Feff and searching the crevices of Denver and Seattle for whatever little cultural attraction they afforded. There were tours of the Mint and the Capitol building; plays and ballets with surprising frequency (albeit, not all of them any good); museums, the Science Center, street fairs and anything else that might harbor a pulse.

    And then there were the home cooked meals. Which in many ways harbored the crux of her conflict.

    There was the part where Mom was passing -- trying her darndest to cook like a good hippie should. You could say we lead the health food revolution. And it wasn’t always pretty.

    Course homemade breads, school lunches packed with avocado and alfalfa sprout sandwiches on that bread, unfiltered juices, and split pea soup laced with tofu instead of ham. Unattractive, hardly palatable, and nothing you want to be seen eating in public, as the new kid, in the school cafeteria. It’s with shame that I admit here in this public space that those school lunches usually languished in my locker while I scored a Hostess chocolate donut snack pack for fifty cents and called that my lunch.

    Now I’m grateful for that cupboard full of raw honey from the co-op and the kind of peanut butter you have to stir to eat from my childhood, because the foods I dig the most are foods that just happen to be good for me. (Like kale. Crave it. Odd. Yes.) But then it was, frankly, difficult to eat, because it had no flavor. The difficulty was compounded by the fact that sweets were largely banned from our household [1], with the exception of ice cream (always holy, always good), and that most eagerly anticipated Fall harvest: Halloween candy.

    These habits were exacerbated as the difficulties in my parents’ marriage mounted: As my stepmom grew increasingly unhappy, the meals she prepared grew bitter and more difficult to choke down.

    But there were a few dishes that she made that were always spot on, delicious and made for devouring. That would be: Anything Jewish.

    Matzoh-brae and latkes; noodle kugel and blintzes. These became my true comfort foods, because they were always so well made and so good -- probably because Mom knew them in a way that was true and familiar. And she got them right. So right.

    Yesterday driving home from Evanston I spotted a sign along Dempster for Kaufman’s Deli that bragged “Chicago Magazine Number One Deli 2007.”

    So yeah: I stopped in. It was part of a bakery binge, actually: I dropped by Bennison’s earlier, for their killer carrot cake cupcakes and a loaf of Challah and it made perfect sense to keep the madness going. I came away from Kaufman’s with some tremendous turkey pastrami, a couple of knish large enough to feed a small hill tribe, and the Noodle Kugel of my dreams.

    I didn’t share the kugel -- that creamy, cheesy, pudding like thing. I made a lame offer, of course, a weak: “do you want some?” But I didn’t try to sell it to my sweetie, and he had no interest, Midwestern boy unfamiliar with kugel that he is.

    Which meant I got to eat it all, just as soon as I got home.

    Without regret.

    p.s. The NY Times posted a noodle kugel recipe not too long ago. I haven’t tried it yet -- why bother when there’s Kaufman’s? -- but it has all the right pieces, so here you go:

    Crunchy Noodle Kugel à la Great-Aunt Martha
    Time: 1 hour

    1 cup raisins
    Sherry or orange juice
    1 pound egg noodles
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, more for pan
    4 large eggs
    3 cups cottage cheese
    1 cup sour cream
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    Grated zest of 1 lemon
    Pinch of salt

    1. Put raisins in a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan and cover with sherry or orange juice. Heat on stove top or in microwave oven until liquid is steaming hot (about 1 1/2 minutes in microwave or 3 minutes on stove). Let cool while you prepare kugel mixture.

    2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter an 11-by-17-inch jellyroll pan. Cook noodles according to package directions and drain well. Immediately return noodles to pot and add butter. Toss until butter melts.

    3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt. Drain raisins and add to bowl along with buttered noodles. Mix well.

    4. Spread mixture in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until top is crusty and golden, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

    From A GOOD APPETITE; Extra Crunch For the Kugel in the 12 September issue of the New York Times

    [1] Like all forbidden fruits the candy thing came back to bite us. We could regularly expect ten bucks in cold cash from our grandparents for our birthdays, and more than once I took all ten and blew it on candy at the UTotem with my best friend Heather. We ate all we could in the park in an orgy of big chunk and Hostess fruit pie wrappers, and then, with much regret, dumped what we couldn’t consume in the trash.

    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    driving by the cemetery just now

    this is what I saw

    a woman squatting
    over the grave
    hands clenched

    she wore purple

    a man lay alongside
    her in his
    winter jacket
    behind his head
    studying the sky

    change & grow

    I {heart} robots
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    I think we need to get away from this idea of designing the machines manually, but actually let them evolve and learn like children.

    And perhaps that’s the way we’ll get there.

    Hod Lipson talks about evolving robots at TED »

    Great brain candy -- video's about eight minutes long. The ideas that Lipson touches upon remind me of Theo Jansen's ideas, albeit as applied to freaky PVC piping creatures.

    BTW: Jansen spoke at TED too, and he's on YouTube »


    (Ignoring the nurdle problem.)


    chindogu, n. "Queer Tools". A term popularized by Kenji Kawakami whose hundreds of intentionally and impractical inventions have won him international attention as Japan's answer to Rube Goldberg.

    From this morning's New York Times piece: Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place. The online version of the story is accompanied by a photo slideshow of the anxiety-ridden apparel designed by Aya Tsukioka that enables women to hide as vending machines, children to hide as fire hydrants, and valuables to masquerade as manhole covers.

    What the New York Times neglects to reveal is that the designer, Aya Tsukioka, is an artist. Her work is referenced elsewhere online -- here's a piece from 2004 »

    Friday, October 19, 2007


    I don't know about you, but I've never been any good at it.

    Passing, I mean.

    Shot on the road to Taos, NM, earlier this summer.

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    soylent grid

    Looking to inject a little meaning into your hapless existence?

    (Yeah: me too.)

    Plenty of ways you can make a contribution without ever leaving the comfort of your own laptop:

    Help the blind with their grocery shopping »

    Be a cog for Google's image search »

    • Or translate a chapter of the Bible in an effort to reach the heathen LOL cats »
    An Ceiling Cat sayed, Beholdt, teh good enouf for releaze as version 0.8a. kthx bai.

    speaking of raymond carver

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.

    Raymond Carver

    Found in the December 2006 issue of The Sun Magazine, in Instead of Dying by Tess Gallagher, about her final years with Carver.

    In the piece Gallagher gave intimations of the actions that she's now taking -- and really shaking up a few folks by doing so -- to restore Carver's original intention behind the short stories that were published -- heavily edited -- in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The book, if it comes to pass, will be published as Beginners.

    Plenty of folks are hoping it won't come to pass -- the New York Times reported on the controversy yesterday in The Real Carter: Expansive or Minimal?

    (And two points to mrtn, who saw right through the set up.)

    what we talk about when we talk about love

    One thing that prompts people to fall in love are similarities in personality and knowledge, and all of this is programmable.

    Another reason people are more likely to fall in love is if they know the other person likes them, and that's programmable too.

    Artificial intelligence researcher David Levy at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands commenting on what it will take to fall in love with a robot in Forecast: Sex and Marriage with Robots by 2050 in LiveScience.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    love in the age of social networks

    Let's join a social network built just for two: Listen in »

    by Ze Frank.

    source: Squandrous

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    universal p.o.v.

    Steel Pipe
    Originally uploaded by create_up.
    A new Flickr group with a singular purpose:

    A social documentary photographic study of photographs taken from the toilet seat.

    Caught with my pants down »

    Knock yourself out.

    (Many thanks to Tarky for the invite, and yes, of course I made a deposit -- what kind of Flickr citizen would I be if I hadn't?)
    round transit complete
    the house winter silent, still
    cold light of welcome

    cinderella story

    I had the great good fortune of meeting up with my aunt M and her partner M (M&M) for dinner at Broder’s in Minneapolis Sunday night, on my way to a business meeting the next morning. (And yeah, the butternut squash ravioli in a sage butter sauce topped with spiced walnuts was pretty much out of this world. Did I mention the sage butter sauce? Yeah. Blast off.)

    I’ve been feeling so lonesome for family out here in the Midwest, and a little bit silly for forgetting that my aunt was right next door, but that’s been remedied, and it’s been *so good* to catch up and hang out and talk about things that matter with someone whose life intersects mine in one of those Venn diagram kind of ways -- shared family, places, and passions; different perspectives, variable angles, always illuminating.

    The theme that we kept circling around over dinner like Io around Jupiter was the courage it takes to be yourself -- really really really be yourself.

    M (my adopted aunt M, M’s partner) shared a story of a friend of hers who came out late in life. Prior to summoning the courage to leave her ultra-conservative husband and embrace what she knew to be true about herself, she wrote a little note and carried it in her shoe. I don’t recall the exact language, but the gist was declarative, something like: “I’m actually interested in women.”

    She wanted it to be there, so that it would be found in case she died while living the life she found herself constrained in. A life that was not entirely true to who she knew herself to be. A life that imprisoned her.

    In case she died, she wanted people -- anyone, “Goodwill even”, M said -- to know: “This is who I really am.”

    And she carried it, wore it, walked on it daily. In her shoe.

    Hearing the story leveled me. Living like that. Knowing what you needed to do. The silent calling out, hidden from everyone else, until you’ve summoned the courage to live out loud. And then, finally: doing it.

    Without the payoff the story’s a tragedy. A scrap of paper that falls to the floor at the Goodwill.

    With the payoff it’s just right.

    Makes me wonder about the messages I've hidden in my own shoe.

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    clean, quiet, economy rates

    clean, quiet, economy rates
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    That's why it's "delux".

    Shot earlier today in Marshall, MN.

    Posting by cameraphone from the Minneapolis airport.

    did you know?

    That little arrow next to the gas pump icon? Tells you what side the gas thingy's on.

    Maybe you already knew this -- I learned while on the road with someone who spends even more time on the road than I do.

    Posting by cameraphone from the Minneapolis Airport.


    delurk. v. Entering an online discussion after time spent lurking.

    Source: Urban Dictionary

    global population, mapped

    Lifted from a panel discussion slide deck: Perspectives on Designing for a Global Audience, moderated by Annette Priest, Global Online Research Manager at Dell, and presented at last year's SXSW Interactive conference.

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    on the road again

    on the road again
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    Not my hotel, but afforded a better
    photo opp than the AmericInn.

    And no, that is not a typo.

    Welcome to the heartland, baby.

    Posting by cameraphone from
    Marshall, MN

    early morning radio

    guest room

    I'm up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday to polish off a client presentation before boarding my flight for my Monday morning meeting.

    Not particularly happy about it, but soldiering on.

    Speaking of Faith is on, one of those Public Radio shows that they air at the crack of dawn on a Sunday, when most folks are sleeping in and dreaming of pancakes.

    Author Matthew Sanford is being interviewed about his book on Yoga -- Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence -- talking about how he found his body again through Yoga, lost to him at 13 when he was in a car wreck and lost the use of his legs.

    It's full of those remarkable moments that make you stop and lift your head and just listen. Corporeal and existential and insightful. Finding himself, his heart, his spirit and the world of others, by finding his flesh and bone.

    The broadcast, podcast and video are here »

    So worth the listen.

    Friday, October 12, 2007

    staying alive

    Guys like to blow things up; women like to figure things out — it's a broad generalization but I think it's true.

    Robert Bach, President, Entertainment & Devices Division at Microsoft, at yesterday's Forrester Consumer Forum, talking (broadly) about the kinds of games that men and women prefer.

    To be fair: I have to admit to a wicked preference for those two person shooter games. But that's just me being a girl again: I like it when decimation goes hand in hand with cooperation.

    ladies who lunch

    Cheating on the event[1] lunch to grab my own down the road at Osaka, a tiny little pocket of a place on Michigan Avenue (a block South of the Art Institute) that makes magic out of an incongruous juxtaposition: Sushi & Fresh Fruit Smoothies.

    Today's lunch: sake sushi with avocado and tamago maki, accompanied by a peach/mango smoothie.

    The fish with sushi thing has a strange way of spilling across boundaries at Osaka: they have a crab and mango roll -- which I tried once and was sorry I had -- and they offer avocado in their smoothie assortment, which I've been assured pairs beautifully with mango.

    Maybe next time.

    The background music is the only juxtaposition that *doesn't* work at Osaka -- today it seems the Beatles have collided with one of those music boxes where the ballerina spins when you lift the lid.

    But I'll put up with quite a bit for a lunch like this.

    Posting by cameraphone from the Loop.

    [1] A Forrester Forum on social networking -- more to come on that one.

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    context is everything

    The patterns of light that fall to your eyes are meaningless.


    When the brain looks out to the world, it doesn't see the absolute of things. It sees relationships and uses relationships to build context.

    R. Beau Lotto, lead author on a study out of the University College of London, that “suggests all visual distinctions aren't hardwired but rather represent the statistical accumulation of an individual's earlier experience.”

    According Dale Purves, director of Duke University's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, who was cited in the brief National Geographic write up on the study, Lotto’s findings represent a “radical departure from the approach to vision taken in the last 50 years.”

    Oh yeah -- and they tricked robot brains with optical illusions to figure it out »

    brought to you by the number...

    brought to you by the number...
    Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
    On the road home.
    Just inside the Loop
    Chicago, IL

    Posting by cameraphone.
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