When a tornado meets a volcano, or… 

Laura Bennett: Tell me about the first time you saw a Kindle.

Andrew Wylie: I was in Rome, in the back of a taxi, and I couldn’t see it. So I thought, fuck this. This was in 1924 or something when the Kindle was launched. I bought it right away and discarded it immediately. And I haven’t picked it up again. Mea maxima culpa.

The value of history

When it comes down to the close of one social network, people just walk away from accumulated histories onto the next platform — why? Is it because conversations are ephemeral and merely a means to a relationship, not the end? I like seeing those dots in the scheme of things and connecting them, though I’m fully aware that relationships, like almost all else, are not linear nor predictable.

So the underlying relationship has far more value than any record of the messages exchanged. People switch between apps and dump them and their archives on a whim, or even in a deliberate detox. The value is in the contact list on the smartphone – the social services and the conversations and things shared themselves are ephemeral. … But maybe the only stickiness comes from the mere presence of users – more like a nightclub than a bank. If your friends move, you’ll move in a second, and the dynamics of smartphones mean there are no barriers at all to moving. Owing the address book, and perhaps the photos, are the only real levers of control, and it’s very hard to dislodge the underlying platform owners from that. … That of course begs the question – what is the irreducible, underlying, unchanging point of identity? Is there one? An email address? A PSTN number? A Facebook/twitter account? Or is it ultimately a personal, real-world connection?

via Benedict Evans

Me too, Ira, me too

Ira Glass on the one book he’d wish someone else would write:

Could someone please write a book explaining why the Democratic Party and its allies are so much less effective at crafting a message and having a vision than their Republican counterparts? What a bunch of incompetents the Dems seem like. Most people don’t even understand the health care policy they passed, much less like it. Ditto the financial reform. Or the stimulus. Some of the basic tasks of politics — like choosing and crafting a message — they just seem uninterested in.

I remember reading in The Times that as soon as Obama won, the Republicans were scheming about how they’d turn it around for the next election, and came up with the plan that won them the House, and wondered, did the House Dems even hold a similar meeting? Kurt Eichenwald! Mark Bowden! John Heilemann and Mark Halperin! I’ll pre-order today.

My first trip to Politics & Prose

On most days, I live by my (Google) calendar. If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist to me. And if it on my calendar, however incorrect, I will take it as fact. Today was one of those days.

I hurried to Politics & Prose — which I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get to, btw — for what I thought would be a talk by Chris Cillizza on his latest book, which is naturally about politics. I arrived about 9 minutes late because of the swarm of Zoo goers who confusingly exit and board the L2. Because of my hurried arrival, I thought the gentleman giving the talk vaguely looked like Chris sans glasses maybe? I actually don’t remember now. The part I walked in on was about epicurean something or another and I thought, well, food and politics is interesting.

I checked the calendar on my phone — yep, it is tonight. Now skeptical of my own shoddy data entry, I go to the P&P website and pull up their calendar. (Sidenote: they really should do something about their web calendar not being fitted to a mobile device — might I suggest responsive design?) The talk is scheduled for next Saturday. Of course. I can’t tell you why it took me so long to realize that this was not, in fact, the talk I came to see.

The talk I did stumble upon was Jefferson Morley’s on his newest book, Snow-storm in August, which was actually very interesting, as the fates would have it. The book is a history of the race riots that erupted in DC in 1835 following an attempted murder of a socialite by her slave. I’m not going to attempt to summarize the book beyond that, but I will mention that Jefferson made a really interesting point during the Q&A — that the Civil War is being taught incorrectly and that it should be taught with a longer historical arc. The Civil War wasn’t just a moment in time, but a 30 year history of slavery that culminated with the Civil War. Anyway, the talk was lovely and I’m glad I stumbled upon it.

After I finished paying for my books and magazines (they sell Monocole!), I walked by Chris Cillizza’s book — the one I was here to listen to him speak about — so I picked it up and went back to pay for it. On my walk home, I looked at the receipt for no reason aside than in passing to throw it away and realized that the clerk gave me the 20% discount for members. I am not sure whether he was amused that this girl who just spent a bunch of money wanted to spend even more, or whether he just assumed I was a member.

Either way, calendar mistakes are all right.


I joke a lot about a lot of serious things, but yesterday I couldn’t find a joke for my mom changing our legal names — and changing mine incorrectly. I wanted to preserve my given Vietnamese name the way it was intended as Minh-Diep as opposed to Diep Minh. The court papers said “Millie Diep-Minh Tran” meaning not only was the format incorrect, she added a dash! I was so upset last night because identity (and thereby something with which we use to identify) is important. Culture is important. And somehow both of those seem to be imploding in my new name.

I’m less upset with my mom now for messing that up because I believe you CAN change these things, but boy, I was not amused. Today is a new day and I suppose the humor in this is that something like this WOULD happen to me.

Now, how does one change a changed name? This is an identity crisis if I’ve ever had one (though yes, actually — having jaw surgery and not recognizing myself!).