Monday, March 30, 2009

If You Like Gina Kolata! or Fat is Phat.


Just finished Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss---and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata. Much food for thought.

Most diets succeed only for a short time and then people gain back the weight. Overweight people appear to have a lower death rate than thin and normal size people (and the really obese). According to studies by Dr. Katherine Flegal and her team, the best BMI to have is between 25 and 30. As Kolata wrote both in the NYT and Rethinking Thin, challenging the belief that being overweight makes you unhealthy treads on political questions as much as scientific ones. Kolata reports and others concur that the Harvard School of Public Health using data from the Harvard Nurses Study went after Flegal's research with untold and unprecedented vigor. I am intrigued by the methodology issues here but I am not sure I can solve them since I am hardly a statistician of the sort Flegal is. It is interesting to have your core values challenged. Everyone thinks being fat is bad. But being a little bit fat is not so bad according to Flegal and an anthropology study also published in 2005.
Kolata also reported about the effects of bariatric surgery, a procedure of particular interest to us this week. Bariatric surgery does help eliminate diabetes, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure but the latter two are only affected in the short term. After a few years, BP and cholesterol go back up. Thankfully the diabetes remains treated by the surgery which is as good a reason as any to get it. Also, most people do lose weight that they are more likely to keep off after bariatric surgery than any other weight loss method. Kolata only touches on this issue since the phenomenon has been growing in recent years as surgeons get better and more people elect lap-band than gastric bypass surgery. Lap-band surgery is heavily promoted here in LA. Billboards and television commercials scream at you to Get the Lap-Band! This particular center will take anyone with a BMI of 27 or more which is different from most practitioners who look for someone who is 50 pounds or more overweight. It also takes PPO insurance and promises you the procedure is 100% reversible without telling you that insurance won't pay if you change your mind.
I am happy to be pleasantly plump and within the magic BMI range. Think I will have another Weight Watcher's ice cream bar!

Sedona Dreaming


This is a picture of the view to the left of our "casita" at Enchantment resort in Sedona. The casitas all look the same so the one in the picture is like ours. Each one has 3 rooms which connect if you have a big group. The middle room has the biggest balcony but only a queen size bed. It is the living room and has a decent size kitchen attached. We stayed in a middle room in September and enjoyed even though one of us slept on the coach because the bed was too small for the two of us hefty critters.
Spring definitely had sprung at Enchantment which prompted the picture of the pink tree. The hill in the background is not the most spectacular view of the various parts of the canyon. Again, the room we had in September had the best views I can remember having in any of the rooms where we stayed.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Worlds Apart

A little over seven years ago I was a volunteer at the US Figure Skating championships at the Staples Center here in LA. I was legal counsel for the 2002 Championships which were run by the All Year Figure Skating Club, of which my daughter was a member. I did it largely to get my daughter a spot on the sweeper team. By the time the championships occurred, she was not really skating anymore. In fact, she had to borrow a pair of skates from her former coach because her old skates did not fit her. I had the pleasure of watching several events from the ice while I chaperoned the young skaters who picked up the stuffed Chevrolet logos that were the only thing people were allowed to throw on the ice in the immediately post 9/11 world. I got my own gray flannel jacket with the 2002 Championship logo--gray so that we faded into the background when the cameras were on us. The view was spectacular. I remember watching Michelle Kwan and in particularly Sasha Cohen who was incredibly fast and flexible.

At the time, the organizers of the event were planning to bid on getting the World Figure Skating championship in 2009. One of them told me to plan for it if my daughter kept skating. Fast forward to 2009 and I realized that I had to get tickets to Worlds since it was in LA and these people I worked with on the 2002 championship had planned it so long ago.




Unfortunately due to personal issues, I was unable to make to the first 2 events for which I had tickets. I particularly was unhappy about missing the Men's Free Skate where my favorite US men's skater, Evan Lysacek, won the gold. His performance can be seen here. My daughter reminded me today that she and her friend watched Evan a few months ago at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo practice his quad over and over. She told me he was a powerful and "scary" skater because of his strength but that he could not land the quad. He apparently did not attempt the quad due to injury but landed 8 clean triples. Congratulations to Evan!

Last night we saw the Women's Free Skate. Our seats were just above the "kiss and cry" so I also had a good view of the coaches "conducting" from the sidelines- particularly Brian Orser who was fun to watch. In the Women's Free Skate, my fave, US national champ Alyssa Czisny, had bombed the short program so she skated early in the second group of 4 (the best skaters come at the end). She had what appeared to me from the distance to be a beautiful skate but technically flawed I guess because she only got credit for 3 triples even though it looked like she did more. In any event, she did not get enough points to do more than pull her to 11th place. Yu-Na Kim won with a phenomenal long program to match her apparently phenomenal short program. I do not recall seeing anyone jump so high and effortlessly before making so many rotations. Here is a short and distant clip showing her first jump (a combination jump) of the long program:

video



Mao Asada landed her triple axel in front of the judges and then fell on her second triple axel a few seconds later. All in all an enjoyable 4 hours even including the women in the beginning who were ranked 19-24 in the short program. One of those young women slammed hard into the boards on one of her jumps and had to be escorted off the ice by the medics. But she came back after 3 minutes and finished her program to a round of enthusiastic applause for her courage. My friend Doug Williams was one of the presenters on the podium. He looked dapper holding the purple flowers that went to the top three skaters.


Today was the Exhibition of Champions, a two and a half hour showcase for the top skaters performing show pieces rather than competition pieces. Lots of spinning and footwork. Not too much jumping (except for Brian Joubert). They all looked exhausted but happy. Figure skating is a strange life. While we were on line to get in, my husband asked a young girl with her mother whether the girl skated. She said yes and the mom said she was a skating mom. I said I was a recovering skating mom but I still wake up sometimes at 5 am with the urge to drive someplace far away where I can sit in the freezing cold for hours. Here's to all the skating moms and dads of the champions and all the competitors at Worlds. You all deserve a medal.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

I went for a walk on the Strand this morning to Manhattan Beach. Four miles round trip and with a stop at Starbucks (necessitated by the loss of my companion in coffee due to lap-band surgery) I was out for about 2 hours. I believe we can say that there is a definite turn in the weather. My face got a little sunburned from the walk. I took off my jacket within a few minutes of walking and even began to think that I need to wear shorts instead of long pants.

Several weeks ago I discovered that Los Angeles has a cherry blossom season. Apparently there are cherry blossoms in the Valley at Lake Balboa Park which I imagine is a bit more Urban than my local park. They bloomed early this year and continued to dazzle a week later. (see picture) I understand that cherry blossoms are in bloom in Washington DC, also earlier than usual, with the Cherry Blossom festival moved up to start today.

Pink seems to be a very popular color in flowers this spring. At the studio, we have many bushes with pink blossoms outside my building and in the main executive parking lot (where I finally got an assigned parking spot late last year). I do not remember seeing those bushes in the past so I suspect that they are new or I am particularly unobservant. I took pictures on my studio issue phone but unfortunately have not been able to figure out how to download them to my computer. I suspect that there is an iTunes cable somewhere in this overcrowded bedroom which may allow me to get the pictures off the phone. I have tried emailing them but that never works.

As my friend Sharon used to say in college "Spring has sprung. The grass is riz. I wonder where my owner is?"

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Old West

Yesterday we had lunch at an old hotel in Flagstaff--the Hotel Weatherford.  Zane Grey and William Randolph Hearst stayed there. One of my colleagues from work suggested it for a particular soup (albondigas I believe) which they did not have.  I had french onion soup which was good.  The atmosphere was very late 1800s remodeled of course.  I did not get any pictures so you will have to be satisfied with the website

Flagstaff has the feel of an old western town with a mixture of college town (Northern Arizona University is there) and economically depressed small city.  The view is fantastic from the center of town of two mountains peaks (San Francisco Peaks)which are the homing zone for the kachinas of Hopi beliefs.  A train still runs regularly through the middle of Flagstaff--apparently so regularly that some hotels advertise that they do not have train noise.  The train, of course, was the raison d'etre for Flagstaff, which set up a sawmill for railroad ties once the depot in Flagstaff opened.  Logging was big in the area.

We go to Flagstaff to visit Barnes and Noble, the closest bookstore of any real size to Sedona.   Sedona has a small independent bookstore but after about 5 minutes you have seen all you want to see.  We also go to Flagstaff to go to Josephine's, a lovely restaurant with fresh, high quality cuisine in an old Flagstaff house which is part of the National Historical Register (craftsmen's bungalow architecture).  Flagstaff is about 7000 feet above sea level so we saw snow on the ground even though it was in the 60s there.  The drive from Sedona to Flagstaff on Route 89A tracks the Oak Creek through Oak Creek Canyon up hills and  through forests that may have been the victim of fires given their appearance.  

Flagstaff is also fairly close to the Grand Canyon but even though we have been to Sedona and Flagstaff perhaps a half dozen times I have only been to the Grand Canyon once.  It is a little too far for a day trip from Sedona when Sedona itself has so many pleasures that I am still uncovering.  For example today we went up Schlebly Hill to the end of the paved road.  There were magnificent views of Sedona and the surrounding red rock hills. We took pictures even though there were gale winds but I will have to upload them later because we do not have the connector for Paul's new camera to download to a computer.  

Tomorrow we are heading back to LA.  This week will be a tough one.  Paul is having surgery and work just seems to be getting busier and busier.  I guess that is good in this economy.  One bright light is the World Figure Skating Championships.  I have tickets to four events but most of my companions have bailed on me.  I hope I get to go notwithstanding all the other demands on my life this week. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good Karma


View of Boynton Canyon in Enchantment Resort
We love Sedona, allergies notwithstanding.(And they can be bad this time of year--headaches, achy eyes, runny nose, congestion at night) We always stay at the Enchantment Resort in Boynton Canyon. The drive into the canyon to get the resort is always so beautiful.  I feel like I have come home when I see the red rocks.  Both my husband and I relax so much more quickly here than other places that you wonder if the effects of vortexes are real.  Enchantment supposedly has several vortexes.  Once we climbed up the side of the canyon to get between the masculine and feminine energy sources.  Mii Amo, the spa, also is surrounded by vortexes or so they tell you at the very expensive treatments.


There are wild animals around here too, not like the opossum and the neighborhood skunk at home.  We saw a roadrunner and a  fox running across the road on our way into the canyon yesterday. Years ago one sorry bunny rabbit met its demise in the front grill of our rental car late one night coming back from town. We drive our own car now rather than fly and rent. Luckily no more road kill since that one sad encounter.

Coffee Pot Rock
We tend to have some habits about where we eat.  This morning we went to the Coffee Pot Restaurant, home of 101 omelettes.  The menu asks you to order them by number which of course we never do.  One of the 101 is made with peanut butter. Not a big omelette fan,  I got 1/2 order of french toast, an egg and a slice of bacon instead.  The Cafe is on the corner of Coffeepot Drive which leads more or less to the Coffee Pot red rock formation which looks like an old fashioned you guessed it.

Yesterday we ate twice at the Wildflower Bread Company--lunch and dinner.  I had two different types of soup and treated myself to a loaf of raisin walnut bread to bring back to the room so I could eat something in the morning when I walked to the lobby to get our complimentary coffee. This year we are very close to the lobby so the walk is very short.  One of my favorite things about the morning is the walk to the lobby to get coffee before most people are up.  I love the canyon in the crisp morning air and the light on the red rocks is awe inspiring.  Since my walk is short this year I am not getting that experience and since it is a bit chilly in the morning I am not getting the opportunity to sit on our balcony with the hot coffee looking at the rock formations.  Nonetheless it is still wonderful to be here.

One of my favorite things about Enchantment is that there is no BB or cell phone reception at the resort.  I really cannot be reached easily here and forced to get on yet another conference call or review yet another document.  I have discovered that there is wireless in this particular room so I can be on my computer and touch iPod at all hours.  Last time we were here I could only get wireless reception in the lobby and not in the room which was a ways away from the lobby.  I am not sure which situation I prefer.  Hmmm.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

End Impunity!



We attended the Center for Justice and Accountability 10th anniversary dinner the other night in San Francisco. Paul Farmer was the keynote speaker and discussed legal issues rather than health issues. He is a very interesting and engaging speaker. Here is a clip from the speech:




video



There were also two honorees that evening, One was a doctor from El Salvador who was tortured 25 years ago for giving health support to the "wrong people" according to the then government of El Salvador. He filed and prevailed in a lawsuit in the U.S. and collected on a multimillion dollar judgment which he returned to the people of his country.


The other honoree was a homegrown lawyer from Haiti who runs a human rights law practice in Haiti. Here is more info on that award from the CJA website:


Bureau Des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) has helped victims prosecute human rights cases, trained Haitian lawyers and spoken out on justice issues since 1995. BAI's Raboteau Massacre Case was one of the most significant human rights cases ever in the Western Hemisphere and was a springboard for CJA's U.S. case against Haitian human rights abuser Colonel Carl Dorélien. Leading human rights attorney and BAI founder and director Mario Joseph will accept the award.

The event took place at the City Club of San Francisco where there is a famous mural by Diego Rivera. Here is a picture of the mural that we passed on our way to the room where the speeches took place:


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Last year on this day, I warned my young'un not to drink and drive. She did not heed by warning and got a dui. They hauled her off to an unsavory jail and I got a call at 6 a.m. from her. We left her there until the afternoon to sober up. She lost her driver's license and thankfully no one got hurt from her driving while intoxicated. She moved to SF where there is better public transportation and after working for several months decided to go back to school.

This year, we are going to SF to take the young'un and her new beau to see Paul Farmer speak at CJA, an event where I got as drunk as I have ever been two years ago. I do not plan to drink tonight. I typically do not drink. I expect the young'un will, though, as she continues to figure out what her healthy relationship with alcohol should be. Right now she still flirts with it and sometimes yields to it. But that is her issue just like her new relationship with the "fella".

I am not fond of holidays that glamorize drinking. We have many of them in this beach town where I live- New Years, Cinqo de Mayo, 4th of July, Labor Day to mention a few in addition to today. So I am glad we are off to see Paul Farmer who I hope will inspire and entertain. I feel so cosmopolitan jumping on an airplane to go to a dinner!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bonding with Baby Lelina


GIRLFRIEND: WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO BE ABLE TO GO TO STARBUCKS WITH ME?
YOUR GRANDMA

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Let's hear it for the girl!

Today is International Women's Day. I want to reflect on some data I just learned yesterday about the negative correlation between corruption and the presence of women in government. Transparency International ranks countries every year in terms of perceived corruption. There even a color coded map that I saw a few months ago at a presentation on Sarbanes-Oxley (don't ask) that reflects perceived corruption ranks.

Here is the 2006 map.


The book Traffic reported that studies showed a correlation between corruption and presence of women in government roles. One study apparently correlated TI's perceived corruption index with the number of women in cabinet positions finding that the more women in power in government, the less corrupt the government. The other study showed an increase in the number of traffic tickets in Mexico (that increase itself correlated with fewer accidents) was associated with more women police giving tickets because there were fewer bribes. Unfortunately, since I am listening to Traffic as an audio book I cannot check the references for these studies.

As tempting as it is to want to believe that women are less corrupt and should therefore be more in positions of power in governments, TI itself does not subscribe to the validity of this relationship. TI says:

Surveys of corruption experiences and perceptions of the past years have shown that women are less likely to pay a bribe. These findings have made analysts wonder if men are per se more corrupt than women.

A simple answer would be: no. A more complex one would be: we do not know yet.

Correlations between decreasing corruption levels and the growing involvement of women in politics can not be confirmed. Research seems to rather point to the fact that women have fewer resources as well as less access to institutions or networks where corruption occurs and therefore less opportunities for paying bribes.

It can not be taken for granted that women will be less corrupt than men or not form their own networks, once they have reached a higher level of representation at leadership level in society, politics and business.

So equality for all means that women are equally corrupt. I have certainly known some women whose ethics scare me. Lady MacBeth also comes to mind (notwithstanding her "out, damned spot" speech which is not an advertisement for "Shout"). But it would be nice to test the hypothesis by having more women in positions of power in governments throughout the world.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Moral Indignation

I read today that President Obama has intimated he would talk to the Taliban. Somehow the words "Neville Chamberlain" popped into my head. (oh no! I sound like McCain!) The Taliban for me are like the Nazis. They treat women like animals and insist on ignorance and fear as the foundation of their society and governance. It seems inconceivable that a compromise can be made that allows them to rule. I will try to keep an open mind but I am quite disturbed by this development.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/us/politics/08obama.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/08/weekinreview/08COOPER.html?_r=1&hp

I also was offered two tickets to see Das Rheingold this week at the LA Opera. I used to go to the opera all the time and am toying with the idea of taking the tickets. I am not a big fan of Wagner's music (I recall squirming through Tristan and Isolde) but I had not considered other reasons not to see the opera until my husband refused to go based on ideological objections to Wagner's anti-semitism. So what to do? I am honestly more worried about sitting for almost 3 hours without an intermission than I am about making a politically incorrect statement. If Daniel Barenboim can consider conducting Wagner, I can go see him. But to sit trapped in a long row of people and not have access to the bathroom for 3 hours??? Let's keep our priorities straight!

Read for Freeeee!

I love the library. I still dream about the library of my childhood and its creepy marble staircase. When we moved to suburbs I found the local library and spent hours there in the evening when I was in high school walking its aisles looking for fun things to read. (Yes. I know. I was and still am a nerd).

When I moved to LA, I tried at first to go to the library in Santa Monica but the smell of homeless urine was too overwhelming for me. In 1983 we moved to Hermosa Beach which has a number of nice suburban libraries in the area although none as nice as the one during my teens.

I took my children to the library all the time. We poked through the books in the small children's section in Manhattan Beach every couple of weeks. When I was working, my housekeeper took them for story hour . As it turns out, my daughter loves the library. (We also took her to Borders a lot during her childhood). My son not so much although he talks about getting his son to the story hour.

I now take the next generation to the library. Two weekends in a row now, my grandson and I have gone to the library. Last week we went to Torrance and this week to Redondo. Both of those libraries have large children's sections with toys and ample tables and chairs. They have books at a child's eye level and dvds or videos in a separate section. My grandson loves it there! He pestered me all morning to go to the library. You can't ask for much more than that.

I typically do not take books out of the library anymore for myself. My husband buys so many books that we have more recent releases than the library. But I love the audio books in the library. They carry The Teaching Company audio and video courses, Modern Scholar audio courses and a lovely selection of recent nonfiction. For example, I am listening to "Traffic" and "Musicophilia" courtesy of the Redondo library and watching "Genetics" thanks to the Torrance library. The PV library also has a good selection of audio books and course but you have to pay a $1.00/disc to borrow for a week. The other libraries loan them for free and for 3 weeks.

Did I mention that I love the library?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Deposed!

I am avoiding reading the deposition of one of our executives. It is a 220 page transcript of a full day of questioning that I already sat through. I have to read it to determine which parts of it are highly confidential (you know, like price terms and distribution patterns) and what is merely confidential that anyone from the other side or another studio who is also a party can read. After 25 years at this, I would rather do almost anything else--except answer interrogatories. Even document review can be more interesting. There is something satisfyingly voyeuristic about reading other people's emails and powerpoints. I learn a lot about our business when I read those types of documents. But I am old fashioned. I cannot read them on a monitor. I need to have paper copies. The young lawyers working for the firms we hire do not understand. I try to explain that one day their eyes will get old and fuzzy too and they will have to give up their contact lenses (assuming they have not had lasik) and wear glasses. But it does not compute for them.

So here are some random thoughts on a Friday afternoon before I go to a meeting which mercifully gets me away from the depo transcript for a few hours.
  1. What is really behind the "accident" that injured Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and killed his wife? I hate to be so suspicious and cynical but Mugabe showed up at the hospital very quickly.

  2. There was actually an article in the NYT this morning about Hillary discussing her trip to Europe and upcoming meeting with Russia foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Yay! The major news media know where in the world Hillary is today. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/07/world/europe/07diplo.html?partner=rss

  3. I finished my first book on the Kindle 2- Still Alice which is a novel about a 50 year old woman psychology professor at Harvard who copes with early onset Alzheimers. I will come back to the issue of memory loss in a later blog. We have a meeting this coming Tuesday with psychologists at UCLA about the results of my mother in law's memory testing. Some of the symptoms in the book rang too true for her current condition.

  4. At least for Still Alice the TTS feature in Kindle 2 works. It is not that bad. It captures inflections and pauses for punctuation. I tried both the male and female version.

  5. I have downloaded the Kindle app to my iTouch and tried that too the other day. It did not sync as well as I had hoped.

  6. The only other books I have downloaded to Kindle so far are American Wife and a Kindle userguide. I must say I enjoy the larger font. (see eye issues above)

  7. I suppose there is an inconsistency that I hate reviewing docs on a computer screen and love the Kindle. Kindle is definitely easier on the eyes than a monitor. Maybe I should put the depo transcript on the Kindle!

  8. I was supposed to go to Portland tonight with my husband and daughter. He was to give a talk in Salem and she wanted to look at colleges in Portland and environs. However, my husband is tired and sick from his East Coast trip last week and it is going to rain all weekend in Portland with temps in the 30-40s. BRRR. I do not fancy leaving So. Cal where it is predicted to be sunny and warm this weekend. Besides, it is daylight savings time this weekend. Who would change the 30 or more clocks in our house?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Out of the Kitchen Cabinet


If I play my cards right, and President Obama is reelected in 2012, perhaps I can throw my hat in the ring for a Cabinet position. So far, there are 3 women confirmed and one nominated for the official 15 spots on the Cabinet and another 3 women in Cabinet level positions. Not a lot of women considering how many openings there are. (23 if you include the VP). Apparently Clinton had 9 women in his cabinet at one point. So Obama needs to be looking for more women and since I am a grandmother twice over, I think I should qualify.
Some of these women like Hillary and Kathleen Sebelius are 60ish and thus in the grandmother age bracket. Solis, Napolitano and Christina Romer are 50ish so I am already too old to jockey with them although I was a grandmother at 51 so maybe there is still hope. Fuggedaboudit when it comes to the 40 somethings (Rice and Jackson) --the Obama generation. They still do not have wrinkles in their faces.

Sebelius has my props for being governor of Kansas as a democrat (and for being able to wear so much cyan). I lived in Lawrence KS for a year and never got used to seeing people in the drive through (not many other types of places to eat back then when KS was a dry state) who had shotguns in the back of their trucks. In 1980-1, when I was an assistant professor at KU I was asked to work on a program evaluation of a project in the local public schools where children were taught how to express their feelings in words as part of the school curriculum (e.g Pauly says "I am angry, Grandma" when he does not get what he wants) . Some of our fundamentalist furry friends in KS thought that such humanistic BS had no place in children's lives unless the parents wanted to teach it to them. No school will teach my kid that feelings are ok! So we had to try to determine whether the program harmed the kids and made them want to take their parents' shotguns out of the pickup and shoot the parents. (Wow. I guess I have some strong feelings about this). I left KU before I found out what happened to the school program.
I understand that Sebelius knew well enough to let Kansans have their guns but was brave enough to veto an anti-abortion bill while Governor. Her support of a woman's right to choose is already being touted as a flashpoint for the nomination although it is hard to tell so far how much traction that will get. Polls still show that people in this country support a woman's right to choose. However, we cannot be complacent about these rights and I applaud the efforts of those who still fight the fight to keep the anti-abortion forces at bay.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Continuing Saga of "Where in the World is Hillary?"

Apparently because there is so little coverage of our new Secretary of State, the State Dept. website has now put up an interactive map to let us know where in the world is Hillary. This week she is in the Middle East--Eqypt, Israel, Palestinian "territories", and then onto parts of Europe: Belgium, Switzerland and Turkey. The State Dept. site reports:

In Egypt, the Secretary will participate in the Gaza donor’s
conference being held in Sharm el-Sheikh. Leaders from around the world will assemble at the conference to address the immediate humanitarian concerns in the Gaza Strip. Addressing the pressing needs in Gaza is important to the United States. We also want to move forward the comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace that President Obama spoke about when he and Secretary Clinton named Senator Mitchell as Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. After visiting Egypt, Secretary Clinton will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories
.
http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/entires/clinton_departs_for_middle_east_europe/

But where is the news coverage of this trip? In the NY Times today, Thomas Friedman wrote about the super envoys and Hillary, first raising and then disputing the issue of whether she was not up to the job because she needed help from what Friedman called the "Super Subsecretaries of State". http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/01/opinion/01friedman.html?scp=2&sq=Hillary%20Clinton&st=cse

The LA Times does not appear to be covering this trip. Hillary was last mentioned Wednesday, 2/25/09, again in an article about the appointment of another super envoy, Dennis Ross, for Iran. http://articles.latimes.com/2009/02/25/news/fg-ross25

At least the LA Examiner has the somewhat expansive AP story online. Not sure who reads the LA Examiner. http://www.examiner.com/a-1876907~Clinton_to_visit_Mideast__reconnect_with_Europeans.html?cid=rss-Politics

The Washington Post has a more substantive article discussing the Palestinian humanitarian crisis and difficulties with crafting anything with the new right wing Netanyahu government in Israel. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/28/AR2009022800321.html

The Guardian, as you might expect, buries the mention of Hillary in a story about Tony Blair demanding the end to Israeli blockade of Gaza. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/02/tony-blair-israel-gaza-blockade Likewise, the BBC, which gave a fair amount of coverage to the Hillary Near East/China trip, only mentions her in a story about an Israeli warning over those pesky Gaza rockets. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7917384.stm

All in all, still fairly minimal coverage for our chief diplomat as she ventures into the thicket. I have to wonder if the coverage is limited because it is Hillary or because newspapers are in such a decline these days. I seem to remember endless coverage of Condoleeza Rice's trips. Give Hillary equal billing!

I Can't Hear You!

I have been waiting patiently for months now for my Kindle to arrive. It did not come for Christmas when it was supposed to come because there was allegedly a back order. Then we found out that everyone in the back order queue would get a Kindle 2 to be shipped on February 24, 2009. Mine was actually shipped on 2/23 and arrived at my husband's office on 2/25. My husband was in NYC so my son was supposed to bring it home. However, due to communication slippage (I thought his Dad told him and his Dad thought I told him) my son did not bring home the Kindle. No problem! He could get it the next day.

The next day turned out to be Lelina's birth day so my son did not go to work. Here it is several days later and still no Kindle for me. My husband, who escaped the great NYC spring snow storm this morning, just went to his Venice office to retrieve his mail and my long awaited Kindle. No harm no foul, right?

But wait. In the past 3 days that I did not have my Kindle 2 I lost the right to have my ebooks turned into computer generated voice audio books. Amazon has apparently "caved" to pressure by the Author's Guild and has agreed to disable the TTS (text to speech) function on the Kindle 2 when authors or publishers want. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2009/mar/01/authors-guild-blocks-kindle-voice

Typically I find myself on the author/publisher's side of this debate. I understand that making money in ancillary markets is very important and if the publishing industry needs to protect its audio book market by preventing free TTS in Kindle that should be the right holder's right. However, today I am a consumer who feels wronged. I do not get the benefit of a feature that Kindle 2 was marketed to have. I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore! I am joining Larry Lessig in the fight. What exclusive right under 17 USC section 106 does reading aloud a copyrighted work violate? Lessig says:

We're worse off with the Kindle because if the right get set by the industry that publishers get to control a right which Congress hasn't given them -- the right to control whether I can read my book to my kid, or my Kindle can read a book to me -- users and innovators have less freedom.



I suppose the right that is violated, Prof. Lessig, is the public performance right. I don't know how Kindle 2 TTS works so it may even implicate the public transmission right if the voice is delivered from the internet.

Ray Blount Jr. in the NY Times said:

But there’s another thing about Kindle 2 — its heavily marketed text-to-speech function. Kindle 2 can read books aloud. And Kindle 2 is not paying anyone for audio rights.
True, you can already get software that will read aloud whatever is on your computer. But Kindle 2 is being sold specifically as a new, improved, multimedia version of books — every title is an e-book and an audio book rolled into one. And whereas e-books have yet to win mainstream enthusiasm, audio books are a billion-dollar market, and growing. Audio rights are not generally packaged with e-book rights. They are more valuable than e-book rights. Income from audio books helps not inconsiderably to keep authors, and publishers, afloat.


So what to do? How to feel? On the one hand, I absolutely adore audio books. I listen to 2 different ones everyday--one while walking and another while driving. But the voice that is reading to me makes a big difference. For example, I am listening to Oliver Sacks Musicophilia now in the car and find I cannot concentrate on the subject matter, which I find very interesting, because I hate (and I do mean hate) the reader's voice. It is a British voice which modulates from low baritone to bass on a regular basis. I want to scream at the tone of it. (and since I am in the car, sometimes I do.) However, the reader of that particular book, John Lee, is very popular with Random House's Books on Tape, having recorded 93 other works for them, both of fiction and nonfiction. Maybe he is on retainer. Or I have a "musicophilia" problem of my own and cannot appreciate a voice loved by everyone else. I prefer American voices whether male or female. I can also tolerate British women's voices better than the deep upper crust male British accent. I understand the TTS function on Kindle 2 is computer generated but "listenable" and will be produced in both male and female versions. As a consumer I am intrigued by the possibility of having Kindle read to me when my eyes are too tired. I did not expect to use the function on Kindle much but still would like the right. Then again, I spend my days arguing that a consumer does not have the right to circumvent the DRM on a DVD and back up the DVD to his or her computer. After all, I studied at the feet of the late Prof. Mel Nimmer (who always walked me to my car after my night seminar with him when I was pregnant with my son) , not Prof. Lessig and the rest of the Stanford/Berkeley copyleft group.
Still . . .