New Hampshire

With all the attention on the putative front-runners in both parties, the Main Stream Media (MSM) short-shrifted some of the candidates further down the New Hampshire results list. As usual. Who, for instance, bothered to cover the vote in the hotly disputed Kucinich-Thompson beauty contest? Who even thought of analyzing what the outcome could mean to the country?

No one.

Don’t go scrambling for your Daily Cyberbugle, I’ve got the numbers right here:

Kucinich: 3,845

Thompson: 2,808.

That’s with 96 percent of precincts reporting, but I think it’s safe for Kucinich to cut loose and douse his Secret Service detail with biodynamic sparkling apple juice. He won. He took down big, sleepy Fred. Kicked his behind, really, winning 57.2 percent of the votes cast in the race.*

One might be tempted to scoff and say, “Well, Mr. Pundit, they didn’t really run against each other — they’re in different parties for heaven’s sake.”

That point must be conceded, and I’m pondering what it means. For now, I just want to bask in Kucinich’s victory. And Thompson’s defeat, which isn’t the same thing.

*The Kucinich-Thompson race.

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Urgent Message from Voice-a-Roni!

If you get close enough to Silicon Valley and its associated industries and companies to meet someone in the tech public-relations game, you’ll hear at some point about how much better and smarter PR is now that we have email and social networking and other electronic magic wands with which to communicate a marketing message.

Uh huh.

About three years ago, I contributed to a blog focused on IP telecommunications. I had done some reporting on VOIP — voice over Internet Protocol, the technology behind Vonage and other Net phone companies — and a friend who had started the blog offered to pay me pretty well for posting. But the gig didn’t last long. What did last is the appearance of my name on the blog, along with one of my email accounts.

After I stopped posting altogether, a trickle of email pitches and press releases started to arrive; the trickle turned to a stream and the stream into a torrent. The messages, with subject lines like “Symmetricom Technologist Featured Speaker at SCTE’s Conference on Emerging Technology”* and featuring companies with names like Voice-a-Roni UltraCom**, just keep coming. The people behind them, like Tammy Snook and Lindsay Whent and Julie Nicholson (to name three who are in my trash right now) don’t seem at all discouraged that I’ve never ever responded to their messages.

Not that they would be discouraged. I am loaded into an email address list with hundreds of other people who have made the mistake of showing the faintest tremor of interest in a topic and talking about it publicly. All of us get spammed on the slim, slim chance that someone, somewhere might write about Symettricom or Voice-a-Roni.

In the grand panoply of events, it’s a minor annoyance. But it illustrates one of my gripes about the way technology is used. PR people are famous for asking journalists about how they like to have stories pitched. They usually mean: would you like to get our news release by fax, phone or email? But that’s beside the point. What no decent journalist wants is some boilerplate message blindly shotgunned into the void. What each good journalist wants, if they’re open to a pitch at all, is a pitch from someone who knows what the journalist is interested in and what the journalist has written on the subject. That takes research and social skill and real interest in the recipient of one’s message. Without that thought and interest, email and the other “tools” are just dumb and robotic.

*Actual subject line

**Not a real company

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Left on our phone the other night:


“Hey, it’s E____. I had to call you guys and share my happiness about Obama winning at least the first caucus, because we were all sitting there in pain about Gore back in 2000, and finally I have an election that I have a little bit of hope that the person I want may win. Anyway, I just had to say that and I hope you guys have a good night. Bye.”

That was a fun call to get. And E____ and I are in the same camp. Although as I told a John Edwards canvasser, I can’t spell out logically while I’m leaning this way. And after years and years and years of looking for the rationale for my votes and often coming up short, I’ve given myself permission to just go with my instinct on this one.

(One of the best pieces I’ve read about Obama recently came from David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who has played the role of centrist/conservative (the paper recently hired a real conservative for the op-ed page). Brooks argues for Obama on the basis of his personal experience, temperament and intellect:

Moreover, he has a worldview that precedes political positions. Some Americans (Republican or Democrat) believe that the country’s future can only be shaped through a remorseless civil war between the children of light and the children of darkness. Though Tom DeLay couldn’t deliver much for Republicans and Nancy Pelosi, so far, hasn’t been able to deliver much for Democrats, these warriors believe that what’s needed is more partisanship, more toughness and eventual conquest for their side.

But Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. He does not lash out at perceived enemies, but is aloof from them. In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual.

Obama did not respond to his fatherlessness or his racial predicament with anger and rage, but as questions for investigation, conversation and synthesis. He approaches politics the same way. In her outstanding New Yorker profile, Larissa MacFarquhar notes that Obama does not perceive politics as a series of battles but as a series of systemic problems to be addressed. He pursues liberal ends in gradualist, temperamentally conservative ways.

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One of my favorite quasi-rock ballads from way back is “Hummingbird,” by Leon Russell. But in one sentence, I digress. What I really want to point out today is a cool posting by the son of one of my long-distance riding partners, Rob. The lad hung a hummingbird feeder just outside his bedroom window (he fashioned a perch and the from old bike spokes). Then he started taking pictures, and came up with some pretty amazing closeup shots. I’m confident I’m the first person on the Internets to link to his page.

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The National Weather Service reports, and eyewitness accounts confirm, that we’re having a storm. The forecasters have this to say about the current atmospheric proceedings: “A WALLOP OF A STORM CONTINUES TO BARREL ITS WAY THROUGH THE BAY AREA EARLY THIS MORNING.” That’s right — a wallop. Wind gusts up to 75 mph. Rain blowing sideways. If you live east of here, and nearly everyone does if you look at the map the right way, the wallop is headed your way.

More later. I have to brave the tempest for a trip into the city. [Pictures (click for larger versions]: Above, Codornices Creek in northwest Berkeley, over its banks. Below, the entrance to Golden Gate Fields.]


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Since 1969


At 17th Street and South Van Ness, San Francisco. I’ve walked by this sign a couple of dozen times in the past month without seeing it; I pass it at a sort of diagonal, and there’s always something happening on the sidewalk that I’m keeping my eye on. Then today, there it was. Faded. Peeling. Shabby. The joint it advertises is several blocks away. If it still exists, I imagine it resembles the sign.

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Happy New Year. That’s it, except to wish everyone who happens by this corner a healthy and interesting 2008.