14 posts categorized "January 2014"

Birches, bitches

Having caught up with Breaking Bad and now watched the final episode, I've figured out what Jesse Pinkman's favorite Robert Frost poem, from high school sophomore English class, must necessarily be.

It must be "The Birches":

"When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves . . .

Breaking-Bad-Series-Finale-Aaron-Paul-as-Jesse-Pinkman-8 (1)

". . . [I was] once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open."

Frost was a complicated person - was he a Heisenberg in the lives of those who knew him? - but he had a gift for toeing a metrical line within conversational syntax in a way that could make words strange and palpable.

There are false notes in "Birches." The grandiose and self-important metacommentary at the end - "earth's the right place for love" - is drivel. But the sheer audacity of committing to a verbal painting of the impact of an ice storm on birch trees, and meditating on how a child's curiousity mediates nature - that's thrilling.

The lines in "The Birches" that give me chills - and you should hear Frost read these lines in a recording available via the Poetry Foundation app - unfold a similie to describe how bent birches, after the ice storm, survive for years under the majestic if indifferent dome of heaven:

"You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun."

Wow. If you show up every day, can you sometimes write lines like that?

Andreessen mission statement for bitcoin in NYTimes

A Broc Romanek tweet this morning gave me the link to this piece:


It's by Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist whose firm includes Chris Dixon, which is investing heavily in developing a bitcoin ecosystem.

I like this piece because it's the first overview I've heard or read that makes an intelligible case for why bitcoin makes a better means of facilitating the many small transactions which make up an economy.

After reading Andreessen's piece, I've decided I want to try participating. I don't think I want to trade in from another currency; I think I'd rather sell a product or service for bitcoin.

Now to go find the QR code app that Andreessen says makes checking out at Target fraud-free.

Andreessen mission statement for bitcoin in NYTimes

The fault lies not in our agencies, but in our Congresses

I sympathize with the sentiment in this tweet from SeedInvest, but the critique is misguided.

There's nothing the SEC can do to make non-accredited crowdfunding under Title III of the JOBS Act cost-efficient.

The essential problem is that Congress wrote a mini-registration law, rather than authorizing the agency to craft a crowdfunding exemption.

Various states are working on crowdfunding exemptions. In my judgment, those are the arenas in which non-accredited crowdfunding advocates should occupy themselves.

The fault lies not in our agencies, but in our Congresses

Toning down the anxiety over accredited-investor verification

There are times to turn up the heat, and then there are times to cool things down.

I happen to be in the camp of those who found nothing wrong with Richard Sherman's in-the-moment taunting of Michael Crabtree. Stoke it up!


But there's too much anxiety over the aspect of new Rule 506(c) which requires issuers to take "reasonable steps" to verify the accredited status of their purchasers.

That anxiety caused the startup community to complain about the first iteration of 506(c) proposed by the SEC, which contained no safe harbors but just a flexible standard that would have been shaped over time by industry practice. That gift horse was looked in the mouth, and the SEC issued final rules that gave folks the safe harbors they asked for.

Result: more anxiety! People now worry about being straight-jacketed into the safe harbors!

So I'm glad leaders in the angel community are working to suck the anxiety out of the accreditation process, from the ACA's guidance last fall, to the new service from AngelList recently announced.

There are third-party services, too, handling accredited investor verification. But angel groups should be shaping industry practice, and it's good that they are stepping up to do so.

This American Hold Music

My brother Tim Carleton is the star of this week's episode of This American Life.

He shows up at the end of Act One, "Do You Hear What I Hear," Sarah Corbett's story about her father-in-law's obsession with telephone hold music.

Product_data_sheet0900aecd802ff012-1Tim composed and performed the music that two decades ago became the default on Cisco IP phones. Apparently, it's still in wide use today.

Tim enjoys checking out the comments under the recording someone posted to YouTube a couple years back - especially the negative ones, he says - but I see the notoriety from the radio show is engendering some warm and fuzzy reactions, too.

Here's the piece, Opus No. 1.

Opus_number_one (1)

Best actor of any gender

Not since the last century have I used the term "actress," though I don't attribute the non-habit to any personal forward-leaning virtue.

I became sensitive to the quagmire and the politics of the word from professional actors I knew; from observing how they referred to themselves and each other.

But the Oscar nominations, when announced, still fall into actor and "actress" categories.

Best actor of any gender

What's more, even media outfits like NPR, which you might think might think critically about gender-privileging conventions, still list, in reporting, "best actor" nominees first, and "best actress" nominees second.

Am I personally gender neutral in my own likes and preferences? Hell no. Though I thought Christian Bale was fantastic in American Hustle, I'll pick Amy Adams to be the focus of the scene at every turn.

Still, it makes no sense to judge acting and give awards by gender!

Here's how I'd re-work the "best" categories for a century of transition:

  • Best actor in a female role
  • Best actor in a male role
  • Best actor in a transgender role

Radiator Whiskey

Last evening I took a dinner break from work and walked down to the Market to, at long last, try Radiator Whiskey.

It's the bistro(?) offshoot of Matt's in the Market, across the hall.

I would have thought I would have been here much sooner because the theme of the place is whiskey: scotch, rye, bourbon, brown sauce.

If I had dropped in accompanied by a friend, I would have been outta luck: standing room only, but for one stool at the bar.

I had a "Talisker Storm," on tap from a barrel. The menu describes this single-malt as having been "crafted by marrying together both rejuvenated and refill, heavily charred casks of different ages."

I believe in the efficacy of heavily charred new wood after recently discovering the acceptably smoky single malt produced by Westland Distillery, in the SODO district of Seattle. Now, that American whiskey is good, and I'm thrilled to find American distilleries making a scotch-style whiskey rather than more rye or bourbon. But, brother, the Talisker reminded me: there's more to a robust scotch than meets the barrel. ("I knew Talisker Distillery. Talisker Distillery was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Talisker Distillery.")

And the brisket, the soft brisket served over soft onion rings under a bed of loose rocket (arugula)!

The brisket I had for dinner here was not the Texas, convection cooked, sugar cookie-rimmed dry butter my friend Jack Timmons smokes. It was wet and the fat was soft, not crystallized. A completely different meal from the same (right?) cut of meat, but also good.

Radiator Whiskey
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