Sunday, September 26, 2010

Practicing What They Preach: Jonathan Rauch on the Tea Parties

Jonathan Rauch in the National Journal writes an excellent piece on the the tea parties, Inside the Tea Party's Collective Brain.

I know it's the all the rage for media outlets to try an "get inside the head" of the tea parties these days, but this article is set very much apart from the rest. It has far more to do with organizational structure than politics.

This video provides a brief synopsis:





The ideas in the article seem a lot more Clay Shirky than Glenn Beck:

"Essentially what we're doing is crowd-sourcing," says Meckler, whose vocabulary betrays his background as a lawyer specializing in Internet law. "I use the term open-source politics. This is an open-source movement." Every day, anyone and everyone is modifying the code. "The movement as a whole is smart."

Can it work? In American politics, radical decentralization has never been tried on so large a scale. Tea party activists believe that their hivelike, "organized but not organized" (as one calls it) structure is their signal innovation and secret weapon, the key to outlasting and outmaneuvering traditional political organizations and interest groups. They intend to rewrite the rule book for political organizing, turning decades of established practice upside down. If they succeed, or even half succeed, the tea party's most important legacy may be organizational, not political.

Watching both the Left and the Right wrestle with concepts central to understanding a distributed organization is fascinating, because the nature of the tea parties is just so alien to people who think that top-down hierarchy and bureaucracy are the only forms of organization possible:
From Washington's who's-in-charge-here perspective, the tea party model seem [...] bizarre. Perplexed journalists keep looking for the movement's leaders, which is like asking to meet the boss of the Internet. Baffled politicians and lobbyists can't find anyone to negotiate with.
There are lessons in this article that can both serve as a model for truly decentralized political movements, as well as function as a warning to those who would write about the tea parties as if it were just another political interest group (or even more off-target, "astroturf").

While there seems to be a natural connection between the sentiments of the tea parties' feelings towards an overly strong centralized government and a radically decentralized political movement, there's nothing here that make this kind of organization exclusive to the political Right.
Radical decentralization embodies and expresses tea partiers' mistrust of overcentralized authority, which is the very problem they set out to solve. They worry that external co-option, internal corruption, and gradual calcification — the viruses they believe ruined Washington — might in time infect them. Decentralization, they say, is inherently resistant to all three diseases. 
Whether you agree with their politics or not (or whether the varied tea parties even agree with each other's politics) is beside the point. This is a pretty fundamental leap forward in organizations, and it likely won't be the last of it's kind, on the Left or the Right.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wine Country Vacation - Monday

Today we had two objectives. 1) To eat lunch at Coppola's newly redone Rustic, and 2) to round out my case of wines I was bringing back.

Coppola's Rustic, formerly Russo & Bianco, formerly Chateau Souverain. They remodeled and took the castle towers down, so the place doesn't look like the Bastille anymore. 


The interior dining area is entirely new

This view hasn't changed, thank God. This is table #81. Ask for it.

Fearless Leader! He'll probably ask me to take this picture down as well. 

Chris (and our waitress. Oops)

Trouble.

Some knick knacks that Coppola had laying around. :-)



The tasting room. This is the only place on earth that has more bottles of Coppola's Claret than my recycle bin.

Stepping out of the elevator to get down the hillside is a lot like entering a Holodeck when the doors open. I know, I'm a nerd.

The vinyards at UNTI. God, I love this winery's stuff. 

The Barrel/Tasting room at UNTI

My favorite winery in all of California. Taldeschi.

In the tasting room Dan Taldeschi was signing bottles for some event. I insisted I wouldn't but anything that wasn't signed after that. He obliged. :-)

That's all! I'm packed up and heading back to San Francisco shortly to catch my flight back home to Detroit: City of Tomorrow[tm]. It's been a great trip with excellent food, wine, and company. That being said, 10 days is a long time to be away from home, and tonight I get to sleep in my own bed. I can't wait.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Wine Country Vacation - Sunday

Today we headed into Napa for lunch with Hal and Carol Varian. They are long-time friends of my hosts, and just delightful company. Most of my trips out here seem to involve a meal with most of this crowd together. This time we were at Bouchon, which was an extraordinary place, for being so perfectly down to earth. The food was simple and perfectly prepared, the service was attentive but unobtrusive, and the wine list was extensive but not out of my league. Considering this place is about a block from Keller's French Laundry, I was a little worried.

Moreover, I had a geeks dilemma to face: I had made arrangements to visit the TWiT Cottage today and catch an airing of Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech over in Petaluma. However, the only time we could hook up with Hal and Carol for a meal was Sunday afternoon. I had to decide between Leo and TWiT, or lunch in Napa with Google's chief economist?!?! So I asked myself, WWJJD? (What Would Jeff Jarvis Do?)

Lunch it was!

To the pictures!

First, my morning run today included wild turkeys. 

Why do I suddenly crave bourbon?


Across from the French Laundry is Thomas Keller's garden. 

You don't get much more "locally sourced" than "across the street".


The French Laundry. 
I had to mess with friends by checking in here on foursquare. There was jealous rage. Just kidding folks! I'm heading up the street to Bouchon!

The bar consists of seafood and booze. Nice way to start the afternoon!

Chris, my lovely hostess while in Northern California

Chris's dessert. Vertically oriented.

From left to right: Richard Roehl, Eric Reasons (me), Chris Roehl, Hal Varian, and Carol Varian. 
Kudos to our waiter who snapped a great shot with a cell-phone camera!

Chris posing for her new Facebook profile picture.

The line for the Bouchon Bakery outside of the restaurant. The scent of baking bread coming out of that little building should be considered some sort of psychological warfare. None can resist!


That's all the adventure I could take for one day! Great food, great wine, great conversation. Time to chill out back at the Santa Rosa office. Tomorrow is my last day, and I intend to it count!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Wine Country Vacation - Saturday

Okay, I remembered to take more pictures today.

Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival!

This morning's run was before the fog burned off. The vineyards don't look as pretty.

Wine Country Historic Baseball! I think the La Dee Dahs need to make a road trip!

The garden at Willi's Wine Bar, where Richard and I had lunch, tasted wines, and discussed what I was going to make for dinner. That's how you know you are food obsessed - you spend lunch talking about dinner.

After our discussion, we decided that Balletto was the winery to hit to look for something to accompany dinner. I wandered out into their vineyard for a shot.

A little fountain outside the tasting room.

Balletto! We loved these wines and grabbed a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Zin for dinner. I got two bottles of the Zin to bring home with my. My fellow Zin addicts are going to need to come over and sample this stuff when I get back - it's fantastic!

Fair Warning! Don't let your kids run free at Balletto. They mean it!

Prepping for dinner!

This shot is just to make David jealous. 
It's The Knife[tm], David. It remembers you.

Chris set the table before dinner out on the back patio. This is the last picture of the day, because dinner turned out very very tasty, and we had three bottles of wine. 

Wine Country Vacation - Friday

I'm playing catch-up a bit, it's been a fun couple of days. I've made a conscious decision to cut down on the number of wineries I visited this trip. It saves on the budget, but it also let's me concentrate on just a few good wineries. Friday we hit only one, and it was outstanding. Hanna Winery didn't pour something in the tasting room that I didn't want to bring home. Sadly, this made me forget to take any decent pictures.

Here's the photos I did manage to take from Friday.





From the morning run along Old Redwood Highway

I have to eat here every trip. Duskie is going to be on Iron Chef this month on Sept. 15th. Everyone who's in the Michigan chapter of the Zazu fan club (you know who you are), should tune in!

Hmmm... I think someone at the office has been holding out on us!

Richard and I in front of Zazu after dinner. I am 10 lbs heavier than when I went in.

Zazu in it's entirety. So much goodness in such a small package!

Friday, September 3, 2010

VMWorld Thursday - So Long San Francisco

The last day of the conference was short and sweet.

We had a great closing keynote from Pranav Mistry, as well as a few other innovators in human-machine interfaces, probably to most valuable breakout session of the whole conference, and I even squeezed in a lab. To the pictures!

Captured a great shot on my morning run.



Pranav Mistry on stage presenting.

I tried to capture the slide they kept coming back to. "Innovation!" It's everywhere.

A view of the city from the Embarcadero.

The Gold Dust Lounge. This was my base of operations for most of the trip.

Union Square had an art show on Thursday. 



Another shot of the city from the Bay.

Tad's Steakhouse. This is where my room service came from. Notice my hotel right next door.


A better shot of the hotel. I'll miss you, Hotel Union Square!

Checking out.
So long San Francisco! As I type this, I am up in Santa Rosa, staying with friends. I don't know what the agenda is for the weekend yet, but I'm sure we'll get it sorted out rather quickly.

Thanks for a great conference VMWorld, and thanks for a great time, San Francisco!