Jaan Kross, 1920 – 2007

The world has lost its most preeminent Estonian writer, Jaan Kross.

Sadly, I don’t have the eesti keeles skills to have read him in his native language, but on my most recent trip to Eestimaa, I was happy to have been able to find a copy of Treading Air, which I’m currently reading now.

I’m just a little bit into it — so I don’t have much to say about the novel just yet — but my fascination with all things Estonian makes me saddened that the community has lost such a well-respected writer.

[via Itching for Eestimaa]

Cyrus on NPR – TODAY!

Dear Friends,

I’ve been informed that my radio piece on new WiFi devices will air on Morning Edition All Things Considered today!

It will be available on any of these stations (and their Internet streams).

New York – 4 pm to 6:30 pm Eastern – WNYC – 820 AM – www.wnyc.org
Washington, DC – 4 pm to 6 pm Eastern – WAMU – 88.5 FM – www.wamu.org
Los Angeles – 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm Pacific – KPCC – 89.3 FM – www.kpcc.opg
Boston – 5 pm to 7 pm Eastern – WGBH – 89.7 FM – www.wgbh.org
San Francisco – 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm Pacific – KQED – 88.5 FM – www.kqed.org

It will also be archived at npr.org and here if you miss it.

Lemme know if you hear it!

Update: Audio is here!

WSJ profiles Carl Kasell


The 1 a.m. brrrrrring from the alarm clock — no problem. “I’ve always loved working in the morning,” he said. “You’re waking up in Washington, D.C. You’re looking out the window and watching this sleeping giant wake up. And I’m right in the middle of it, starting people’s days with things they need to know.”

The duality of his existence seems to please Mr. Kasell mightily — delivering the news and edifying listeners during the early part of the week, having fun with the news and with those same listeners on the weekend.

“Carl is the world’s greatest straight man. Bud Abbott has nothing on him,” said “Wait, Wait” ‘s host, Peter Sagal. “All these years, he’s been this calm, imperturbable voice reporting the news, and it turns out that this warm unflappable voice has a sense of humor. It’s like finding out that Santa Claus is real.”

Mr. Kasell, who goes to Chicago almost every Thursday morning to tape “Wait, Wait” (there are also occasional road shows), now has “premier executive” status at his airline. Of almost equal value is his new-found status as a sex symbol, complete with groupies. Take that, Ira Glass.

“Women — and not just women, young women — swarm him,” observed [Executive Producer Doug] Berman. “There are shrieks in the audience when he’s introduced. Whatever it is, Carl’s got it. Peter is insanely jealous. But,” he admitted, “I haven’t yet seen anyone throw underwear.”

The hottie — one mustn’t be fooled by his spectacles and striped seersucker shirt — takes it all in stride. “I just want to keep going to work,” said Mr. Kasell, who’s about as likely to retire as to fumble a word in his newscast. “I tell Daniel Schorr,” NPR’s 91-year-old political analyst, “that he’s an inspiration to us kids.”

[via Peter Sagal]

AutoPrint 2.0

I just found this awesome Greasemonkey script, Autoprint 2.0, which automatically switches to the print version for a whole host of news websites.

As Earth Warms, Virus From Tropics Moves to Italy


After a month of investigation, Italian public health officials discovered that the people of Castiglione di Cervia were, in fact, suffering from a tropical disease, chikungunya, a relative of dengue fever normally found in the Indian Ocean region. But the immigrants spreading the disease were not humans but insects: tiger mosquitoes, who can thrive in a warming Europe.

Aided by global warming and globalization, Castiglione di Cervia has the dubious distinction of playing host to the first outbreak in modern Europe of a disease that had previously been seen only in the tropics.

“By the time we got back the name and surname of the virus, our outbreak was over,” said Dr. Rafaella Angelini, director of the regional public health department in Ravenna. “When they told us it was chikungunya, it was not a problem for Ravenna any more. But I thought: this is a big problem for Europe.”

The epidemic proved that tropical viruses are now able to spread in new areas, far north of their previous range. The tiger mosquito, which first arrived in Ravenna three years ago, is thriving across southern Europe and even in France and Switzerland.

Sarmad Ali’s first Christmas

From Sarmad Ali’s new blog, Baghdad Life:

I celebrated my first Christmas in 2004, after I had moved to the U.S. to attend Columbia University. One of my classmates, who became one of my best friends here, invited me first for Thanksgiving and then for Christmas. We went to Berkeley, Calif., where his grandparents lived. It was a welcome break from the hectic pace of New York, and it was nice to be with a family again, several months after having had to say goodbye to mine in Baghdad.

My friend’s grandparents are devout Christians. They attend services, read religion books, and often recited prayers when we sat down to dinner. They were also interested in learning about other religions. I was peppered with questions about the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, about Muslim religious holidays and about everyday life in Iraq. The more I talked about my background, my family and my life back home, the more nostalgic I felt.

On Christmas Eve, my friend’s family took me with them to services at Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Calif. I was nervous about attending. We sat in the second or third pew. The church was nearly filled. During the service, my friend, who was sitting next to me, chuckled as he saw me reciting the prayers alongside them. My first impression of the service was that it was easy to pray compared to Muslim group prayers in mosques on the first day of Muslims’ Eid, the biggest Muslim holiday, which is being celebrated now. To be able to pray, Muslims had to ablute their arms, feet to their ankles and face and kneel many times. None of that was required in a church service.

My Berkeley Christmas adventure was far different from my experience at home. Growing up in a Muslim country, I always felt there was a divide between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority. For example, intermarriages were almost unheard of. When I went to college — the first time I had female or Christian classmates — some of us seemed ready to disregard our customs. We formed strong bonds with Christians and would have been comfortable marrying out of our faith. Unfortunately, interfaith romances often ended when a Muslim or Christian parent found out. Many parents, and some students, felt that marrying out of one’s faith would be a sin.

Geography matters in Silicon Valley. Um, duh?

No offense to Steve Lohr, but I’m not really sure what the point of his piece in today’s TimesSilicon Valley Shaped by Technology and Traffic” was. As far as I can tell, the main message is “geography matters.” Is this news to anyone, in late 2007? Really?

Alan Wiig had a much more interesting comment on it than I ever would:

Yeah, there is at a book about this from at least ten years ago. I dislike the analogy one of the people give about there being microclimates for wine and microclimates for tech. It naturalizes the tech in a completely artificial way, and ignores that, for better and worse, tech and its attendant development has destroyed the agriculture in Santa Clara. I acknowledge that the tech innovation is pretty wonderful, but it could be anywhere, where the ag is so regionally specific. What will happen if/when all the ag is forced out of the central valley by tract home suburbs built for Silicon Valley commuters? The central valley is the best ag region in the world, and it is being sacrificed for shitty, poorly designed, sprawling housing. Just like Silicon Valley itself…Why is it that the computer engineers can make fast, energy efficient microprocessors (etc) but cannot see the value of urban planning and design? San Jose has some of the worst traffic and freeway design, for no reason — it is a wealthy region full of smart, dynamic people who apparently don’t care about how much the place they live sucks. What is amazing is not that this company profiled it named for Palo Alto, but that these companies don’t relocate into the Bay Area directly — why NOT redevelop some of the poorer areas of Oakland or Alameda or even Hayward? The quality of life is better, the commutes shorter, the public infrastructure more established, etc…

One quarter (roughly) done

Wow. I just finished a very very very rough draft of the Iran section of my book. Yikes. This writing stuff is hard. It weighs in — with a few thousand words’ worth of holes — at about 22,000 words right now.