Sushi restaurant idea

Here’s an idea for a sushi restaurant.  It’s my free gift to you. Nobody has done it yet (to my knowledge) so if you own a sushi restaurant, you could be the first one. You could start a trend!

First, let’s stipulate the following about the art of sushi making in a restaurant:

  • Sushi making is performance art
  • Sushi making is fun to watch (I liked watching Jiro and Niki)
  • Sushi chefs train for years to learn and hone their craft. They are proud of what they do and they like to show off their skills
  • When making sushi, all the action is happening from the chef’s elbows to his hands, on the prep table.  But what most people in the restaurant can see is the chef’s elbows to his head. (in other words, nothing of interest).

Now, much to the chagrin of many a sushi restaurant patron, many sushi restaurants have big flatscreen TVs facing the seating area. Now, I’m sure there is the occasional patron who would rather watch whatever muted garbage is playing on the TV than talk to their date, but I’m not one of them. I’m in the other group – the group that is in a restaurant to enjoy the food and conversation;  large, glowing, flashing intrusions from the outside world are  annoying.  

Every person with which I’ve had this conversation has agreed that the presence of TVs are unwelcome. Yet, mysteriously, this trend has only expanded. More TVs in more restaurants. And what is on these TVs? The other night at the otherwise lovely Ginza down the block, it was the local San Francisco news showing police interacting with homeless heroin users which, as you might imagine, had some terribly unappetizing b-roll accompanying the story. The news was followed by Entertainment Tonight where, strangely, the endless parade of stretched, Botoxed flesh was even less appetizing than watching the homeless heroin users doing their thing.

I have a solution that will probably please both groups: the TV watchers (whomever they may be) and the TV haters (me and everyone I know).  Put a camera on a stick above the bar. Point the camera at the sushi prep table. Put the video feed on the TV.  Let all of us in the restaurant watch the performance art.  Make the fun of watching sushi-making accessible to all the patrons who wish to watch. Let the sushi chefs show off their mad skillz.  Give us all a view of the magic space between the chef’s elbows and his hands.  And, give the bored TV-watchers something to do other than to talk to their wretched company. 

Hey Tim, why do you always reply in-line?

As an aside, a colleague @NationBuilder asked me why I always respond to emails in-line. Here was my reply:

BTW – why do you always reply in-line?

In-line reply/comments is an old Internet writing tradition / best-practice from the late eighties. Back in the days of BBS systems and then later on UseNet, cascading comments of four, five, six (or more) out, made it very difficult to figure out who was responding to what in a long conversation among many. So, a protocol emerged:

> > > > > > This is something someone six replies back said.

And this is my response to it.

> > > > This is something someone said four replies back.

And this is my response to it.

SO that becomes:

> > > > > > Granny smith apples are the best.

Are those the green ones I like those.

> > > > Macintosh apples are the best.

Pretty color, but they don’t taste very good.

The practice was a usability improvement to make it easier to read email chains with cascading comments.  It was widely used by writers who wanted their material to be more widely read and respected, and by those who were sticklers for readability (now called usability), and also used by former calligraphers-turned-fastidious-formatting-neat-freaks. I qualified as all three.

As the masses trickled onto the Internet, they slowly adopted the practice as well. Everything was going great until AOL arrived on the scene. That was pretty much the end of it. People who had been on the Internet for a decade, who had been exchanging emails for years and slowly cultivating these best practices – some of whom built their own modems from parts bought at radio shack, were suddenly *surrounded* by people using a service who’s motto was, I shit yee not: “America Online: So easy to use, no wonder it’s number one.”

Regardless, the practice was stubbornly continued by purists and old-timers.

In the mid 2000s, Robert Fisk adopted a form of this on his blog. If he disagreed with another blogger, he would copy their blog post, paste it into his editor, and then issue his refutation, line-by-line. Wikipedia says: This practice was eventually nicknamed “Fisking“, after Robert Fisk, who would use this particular method to deliver point-by-point criticism highlighting perceived errors, or disputing the analysis in a statement, article, or essay. Fisk was so good at it that “fisking” came to denote the practice of “savaging an argument and scattering the tattered remnants to the four corners of the internet”.

Anyhoo, I’m sure this is waaaaay more than you wanted to know. Who knows, maybe I’ll make this into a blog post.

Equifax: in league with spammers

I used a unique email address in my short email exchange with Equifax. I’m now getting spam on that email address, which means Equifax either sold my email address (as well as many others) or one of their computers was hacked.  Neither option is pleasant.

Amazon is Worse Than Walmart

Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers

Amazon Insiders Tell the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy

Amazon Is a Time Thief, by an Amazon Employee

At Amazon, Even the Part-Timers Are Miserable

“I Do Not Know One Person Who Is Happy at Amazon”: Amazon is an amazing company. As long as you don’t work here.

Working at Amazon Is “a Soul-Crushing Experience”

NationBuilder apologizes for downtime

Via NationBuilder:

NationBuilder began experiencing a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack yesterday, resulting in intermittent service outages. Your data and financial information is secure, and we will not rest until service is fully restored for everyone.

We are reasonably certain the attack is directed at one of our customers for their political beliefs, and is meant to disrupt upcoming elections.

We know the impact is immeasurable, and we are very, very sorry. We are fiercely committed to serving all of our customers. Everyone has the right to organize – in fact, this is the very reason NationBuilder exists. We are grateful to all of you who have been communicating your support.

Several of my clients experienced downtime. Well, all of them, actually.  In the process of calming them down I explained a few simple truths about downtime.

I worked in a datacenter for 7 years. I know what an outage actually means: a handful of members of the company running around with their hair on fire, and everyone else holding their breath, looking at their ringing phone like it’s radioactive, and afraid to check their email.  So, as bad as it was for you, it was a thousand times worse for them.  Any one of them with clients were doubled over with anxiety, helplessness, and anger.

And remember: this was an outside attack. It’s not like someone left the door to the server closet closed and the equipment cooked all up, or someone tripped over the wrong optical cable, or someone spilled a coke on the wrong server; it was an ATTACK.

Another thing I explained to my clients is that all data centers (and their websites) go down from time to time. All of them. Every single one.  Ebay and Amazon go down all the time – however, their millions spent on redundant infrastructure prevent you from experiencing down time on your end, beyond the occasional spinning beach ball, a page that doesn’t load properly, or a some other odd behavior. If goes down from time to time, your is going to go down from time to time, as well.

So, yeah, hours of downtime is a big damn deal. But in the grand scheme of things, it ain’t a hill of beans.  A strong candidate should learn to roll with the punches.

Twitter panel API v1.0 and API v1.1 – Time to ditch the twitter panel

Twitter killed the API v1 twitter-panel script about eight weeks ago. The decision was about as popular as one might expect. This is the script I used on almost every single client’s site. I used it because it was awesome.

With the API v1.0 script, I could style every single element of the panel. I could make each tweet dance in its own box or bubble. I could give alternating tweets different colors. The fonts could match the fonts of the page. I could knock out the background. I could dispense with the border entirely. I had absolute control over my scrollbar. I could set my own width, as small or as big as I wanted. Anything was possible and I did a lot of awesome things with my twitter panel.

Then, eight weeks ago, Twitter deprecated API v1.0 and rolled out the API v1.1 as a replacement.

With API v1.1, instead of an elegantly styled twitter feed on my sites, I can place a big brick-of-a-box that is IMPERVIOUS to styling.

I was hoping the Facebook panel would start to go in the direction of styling freedom like the Twitter panel. Instead, Twitter devs have followed in the anti-designer footsteps of Facebook developers, opting to put me in the same straightjacket Facebook wants me in.

Twitter devs: You took away a tool I used daily to make websites better,  your replacement sucks balls, and I am extremely unhappy. I was hoping by now you would have realized how incredibly bad this decision was – from a designer’s perspective – and listened to all the CSS coders who have been screaming about this decision. I’ve been holding off criticism of API v1.1, but this morning I’ve had the following conversation for I think the tenth time:

“Yes, I am aware your twitter stream isn’t there anymore. I’m sorry, I had to remove it.”

“Well, you see, Twitter made the old twitter panel not work anymore, and the new twitter panel could not be styled to match your page like the old twitter panel could. For example, the little icons cannot be made invisible, the background is either dark grey or white I’m afraid, the fonts won’t match, etc. etc. It’s basically a big ugly brick. The whole thing had to go. I had to remove it. Again, I’m sorry.”

“No, like I said, the new twitter widget cannot be styled. That means it will stand out like a sore thumb in the sidebar. We won’t be able to make it display the way it used to. The new panel was a detriment to the site, so it had to go.”

“No, I’m sorry, I do not actually know why they did this.”

“Yes, I’ve been having this conversation with all of my other clients as well.”

“No, I don’t believe they would be willing to reimburse you for the development costs to style the twitter panel. I’m afraid that money is in the toilet.”

I’m really tired of this conversation. I resent you, twitter devs, for putting me in this position.  A pox on you all.


What today’s evangelicals are telling gay people

What today’s evangelicals are telling gay people:

Today the Christian argument against gay people goes something like this email I recently received:

Would you support a serial adulterer who leaves his wife, but is just attracted to other women, because that’s who he is and how he was born?  How about an alcoholic who just can’t help himself? Would you support him as he leaves his wife for alcohol? Would support a glutton? A man of extreme pride? Why does homosexuality get a pass, and not any other sin?

A person with homosexual desires who resists temptation is exactly the same as a married man who resists temptation to carry on affairs with other women — which is to say, a human being battling the temptation to sin. The most compassionate thing that we could tell someone struggling with homosexuality (or any other sin for that matter) is to keep resisting temptation. Keep battling. Don’t give in. This is your badge as a Christian, that you fight temptation.

The argument is that a gay person struggling against the temptation to be who they really are is no different from anyone else struggling to resist a sinfulť temptation. In other words, the present refrain isn’t that gay people should stop being gay. Now it’s that they should stop, acting, gay.

Virtually all sins share a crucial, defining, common quality. That quality is present in every other imaginable sin. That quality is utterly absent from being or acting gay. Insisting upon putting homosexuality into the same category as every other sin — or in the category of sin at all — is like gluing wings on a pig and insisting that the result belongs in the category of bird.ť It doesn’t. It can’t. It won’t. Ever.

Here is that Big Difference between homosexuality and all those other activities generally understood to be sinfulť: , There is no sin I can commit that, by virtue of my having committed it, renders me incapable of loving or being loved. I can commit murder. I can steal. I can rob. I can rape. I can drink myself to death. I can do any terrible thing at all, and no one would ever claim that intrinsic to the condition that gave rise to my doing that terrible thing is that I am, by, nature, unqualified for giving or receiving love.

I’ve been noticing this trend for a while now, too (in print or on the radio: , nobody is ever brave enough to say shit like this to my face). This is the first time I’ve seen it described and categorized in any way.

Despite the run-on sentences, this is an excellent article.

Art’s Guide to Cooking Tacos

Alex and I had tacos at Art and Betty’s house a few months ago. They were cooked perfectly. And his process seemed so much easier than the one I had grown up with. I bugged Betty for instructions and here’s what she sent. Thanks Betty and Art!

8 inch porcelain coated cast iron. Cast iron is best for maintaining an even cooking temp and the coating makes it easy care.
the amount of oil should be about as deep as the tortilla is thick, about 1/16 to 1/8 inch deep.
Oil should be hot enough to really bubble when the tortilla is lowered into the oil.
Hold it down for a bit until it softens and then fold top over
two at a time…
trying to show the depth of the oil – it should remain at 1/16 to 1/8 inch deep.
turning the taco…
Don’t cook it too crispy or it will get hard and break. It will probably be done before you think it is.
Always drain the taco – it’s really hard to keep the right amount of oil so you’ll want to drain here and rest it on a paper towel when done. If you’re cooking a lot you’ll have to add oil during the cooking process and let it come to temp again



shiitake lasagna

This was before it went into the oven. Here’s the basic recipe, with these variations:

  • I put a sprig of rosemary in milk while the milk is heating up but remove it before adding the milk to the flour
  • Instead of 4 cups milk, I used 1c half-and-half and 3c milk.
  • To the sauce, I added:
    • one whole chopped up sautĂ©d onion
    • three cloves garlic
    • couple dashes of allspice
    • about a half teaspoon of cayenne
  • recipe calls for 1.5 lb of portobellos. Instead, I used 1.25 lb of crimini, 1lb of shiitakes, and then a handful of anything else at the store (I grabbed a handful of trumpets, maitake and Lobster mushroom) to throw on top.
  •  I sautĂ©d all the mushrooms before hand and i do them in small batches so they don’t steam each other (bad – lose flavor that way). This usually takes more butter and adds twenty minutes of prep time.
  • I doubled the parmesan, I used the good fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano block, not that horrible shit in the green can, which I don’t allow in my house.
  • when building the lasagna, I added about a cup of mozzarella on top of each mushroom layer.

NationBuilder and Facebook – best practices

There’s been a recent revelation that Facebook has been throttling down the online presence of Facebook Pages (pages by organizations, businesses, celebrities, etc. that Facebook users can “Like”) and crimping the ability of owners of those pages to reach their respective fans:

Spring of 2012 was when bloggers, non-profits, indie bands, George Takei, community theaters, photographers, caterers, artists, mega-churches, high schools, tee-shirt vendors, campus coffee shops, art galleries, museums, charities, food trucks, and a near infinite variety of organizations; individuals from all walks of life; and businesses, both large and small, began to detect—for it was almost imperceptible at first—that the volume was getting turned down on their Facebook reach. Each post was now being seen only by a fraction of their total “fans” who would previously have seen them.

Some are describing this as “broken on purpose:”

It’s no conspiracy. Facebook acknowledged it as recently as last week: messages now reach, on average, just 15 percent of an account’s fans. In a wonderful coincidence, Facebook has rolled out a solution for this problem: Pay them for better access.

As their advertising head, Gokul Rajaram, explained, if you want to speak to the other 80 to 85 percent of people who signed up to hear from you, “sponsoring posts is important.”

In other words, through “Sponsored Stories,” brands, agencies and artists are now charged to reach their own fans—the whole reason for having a page—because those pages have suddenly stopped working.

This is a clear conflict of interest. The worse the platform performs, the more advertisers need to use Sponsored Stories. In a way, it means that Facebook is broken, on purpose, in order to extract more money from users. In the case of Sponsored Stories, it has meantraking in nearly $1M a day.

I like to simplify things for my clients. Broken on purpose is cute, but I’ll be calling it a bait-and-switch because that’s what it looks like to me. (Extortion also sounds rather apt) Regardless of the terminology, the conclusion is clear: it’s a dick move by a rapacious corporation. As such, I’ve lately been recommending to my clients that they approach Facebook differently than they’ve done in the past.

In short: Use Facebook to drive people to your site, never vice-versa.

On your Nation (your NationBuilder site), you control your outreach. You decide your message. You even have control over what a particular set of people see, while showing another set something different. You know who went where, what they saw, and what they did. You have the ability to sign up people for events, ask for donations, sign them up for email, etc. Your Facebook Page provides none of this. Think of it like this: your site is your home and your Facebook Page is there to invite people over to hang out.  🙂

NationBuilder makes it effortless to display a Facebook Like Box.  By default, a NationBuilder user can have this box appear in the sidebar of their two-column pages. Since it’s so easy, most orgs with a Facebook Like Page opt for it.

I’m not going to tell you not to do this. I’m going to tell you the best way to do it:

(Before we start, if you are not using the blog on your Nation, start using it. Your blog is where you post anything relevant that you think your users might want to see. If you’re only using your blog for press releases or official announcements, then you might as well draw cobwebs on it, too, because nobody’s going to look at it, much less follow it or subscribe to it with RSS. Want to know what to put on your blog? Ask yourself: would you add it to your Facebook Page? If yes, then add it to your blog in a blog post.)

When you want to share something with your audience, follow these steps:

  1. post it on your blog
  2. copy the link to your new blog post
  3. go to your Facebook Page
  4. post the link to your blog post on your Facebook Page. You can write a little something about it, too.
That’s it! Simple, right?  It’s simple, but it’s profoundly better.

Each blog post is an opportunity to get eyeballs away from Facebook and onto your site. Your Facebook Page should have no original content, it should only consist of links to the original content that’s posted on your blog (or events page, if you’re posting an event).

Now, a word about the different types of Facebook plugins. You have a few options.

I always recommend the Facebook Like button without reservation:

When a user is on your site and clicks Like, a thumbnail of your website appears in the user’s timeline. Free advertising!

The Facebook Like Box is to the right and you have some control over what it displays. You can have one with an Activity Stream, one with faces, or one with both. I recommend the one with faces only.  The Activity Stream is huge leak in your bucket. It invites people to click on something that will take them away from your site and land them on Facebook, which is likely where they will stay to read all the new updates from their friends. They might not even remember to come back to your site.

Again, your Facebook page should exist for one purpose only: to drive traffic back to the your site. And once they are there, you should do what you can to keep them there and minimize anything that might send them away. The Activity Stream is so big a leak that I’m surprised it doesn’t make its own sucking sound like a sink draining out the last bit of water.

Now, some organizations do this exceedingly well. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Facebook Page, for example, has nothing on it that wasn’t already posted somewhere on their site. Every link goes back to


  1. Post everything to your blog that seems interesting
  2. Post each link to each blog post on your Facebook Page. Don’t forget to Tweet the link, too!
  3. Never post something first on your Facebook Page.
  4. Never, ever post something only on your Facebook Page.

UPDATE: The NationBuilder blog beat me to the punch by a couple months. Dammit!