James Fallows

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

James Fallows: Guest bloggers

  • Where Are They Now? Atlantic Guest-Blog Alums Make Good

    They grow up so fast.

    Two years ago I was holed up for a few months in Beijing, finishing the writing of

    China Airborne. For a ten-week stretch I was fortunate to turn this space over to a series of guest bloggers, who appeared in squadrons of three or four each for week-long stints.

    Relevant to the recent focus on paid and unpaid web contributions, my pitch to each of them was this: I have admired and been interested in the issues you explore and the ways you discuss them. I'm going on a several-month leave from the magazine and won't be running a blog during that time. I can't offer to pay you for what I'm about to suggest, but: if it would be fun or valuable to you to be part of what is shaping up as a stellar guest team, and to to present your views and sensibility to the audience of what was then the Atlantic's "Voices" section, I hope you'll consider this opportunity. 

    Not everyone was interested, and one or two people who thought they could do it ended up not having the time. But an amazingly high-end group of people joined in. The full list, which I can hardly believe in retrospect, is here.

    This is build-up to noting a landmark for one of those contributors. In those days he wrote as Tony Comstock. The name was a sarcastic homage to Anthony Comstock, the 19th-century postal inspector and anti-indecency crusader. This Tony Comstock made his living producing sexually explicit documentary films. In the last of his posts here, he said that he was getting ready for a change. As he put it then:

    Faced with mounting evidence that my films were born of a time and circumstances that had passed, I resolved that Brett and Melanie: Boi Meets Girl would be the last film, and that it was time to move on to something else.

    So what did I decide to do?

    I decided to start a sustainable energy eco-tourism project in the community where I live. This project has a educational component for local school children which I hope we'll be able to provide at little or no cost. That's my attempt to skip as much of that "flinty middle stage" of life as possible and get on with the giving back part of my life while my heart still beats strong and true.

    Now he writes and works under his real name, David Ryan; and this week he reached a milestone in the project announced two years ago. His Polynesian-inspired catamaran Mon Tiki,  whose building he chronicles here, passed an important Coast Guard safety-certification test despite several unconventional environmentally-friendly design approaches. You can read all the details here, and see the boat below. Congratulations to him and his family.


    MONTIKI01.jpg

    And meanwhile I will see about the sort-of similar ambition I announced at the same time ... Actually, there is related news on that front coming in a little while .
  • Atlantic Guest Honor Roll

    Forty-plus people, ten weeks, hundreds of insights

    I've meant to do this through the whole week I've been back in Washington, but things keep coming up. So before anything else comes up and it moves too far into the past, I want to make a point of expressing sincere thanks to the amazing range of people who have shared their views in this space over this recent ten-week stretch.

    To prove that I've been paying attention, I've added a brief table-of-contents type description of the theme each explored, after his or her name. In the list below I give the contributors' names, the week (from 1 to 10) in they appeared, and a reminder of their leitmotif. For more extensive biographies, please see this master list.

    My own reason for listing their names again is to emphasize my thanks. But I also thought it was worth presenting them as a group as a reminder of the range of people who contributed their time, experience, opinions, and views. As I've argued recently in the magazine, there is a lot not to like about the new media environment. But there is also a kind of exchange, exemplified here, that would simply have been impossible in another age. My lasting thanks to the people listed below, and to all readers for their attention. Plus, as I can't say often enough, to Justin Miller and John Hendel of the Atlantic for their role as guest-wranglers and -shepherds.

    David Allen
    , week 10, on the thought-habits and practical steps that help us "do"
    Phil Baker, 1, on the evolving nature of the international creative/technology industries
    Lizzy Bennett,* 3, on life in a start-up, and life with a bike
    Mark Bernstein, 4, on the future of reading and thinking, and technology's influence on both
    Keith Blount, 7, on the mundane and elevated realities of creating software
    Eric Bonabeau, 9. on new insights about how we think
    Don Brown, 6, on what travelers should know about air traffic, and don't
    Liam Casey, 7, on the manufacturing center of the universe
    Ella Chou, 3, on young-China's view of politics and economics
    Tony Comstock, 3, on new meanings of the sacred and the profane
    Parker Donham, 8, on the meaning of life, as manifested in Canada and the US
    Kate Dougherty, 5, with Alan Klapmeier, on aviation as a specimen of innovation
    Xujun Eberlein, 2, on a hidden history of US-Chinese interactions
    Deb Fallows, 6, on life, language, and love in China
    Eamonn Fingleton, 5, on a hidden-in-plain-sight economic history of Japan
    Julian Fisher, 5, on the interactions among technology, data, health, and disease
    Julio Friedmann, 10, on how we should think about energy, if we could think about it
    Piero Garau, 8, on the glories and struggles of modern Italy and the world
    Brian Glucroft,* 3, on the China most non-Chinese never see
    Edward Goldstick, 4, on thinking-machines in an unthinking world
    Sriram Gollapalli, 7, on life in a startup and life between India and the US
    Jorge Guajardo, 1, on what Mexico, China, and the US understand and misunderstand
    Paola Guajardo, 1, on the US from a Mexican perspective, with Chinese characteristics
    Glenna Hall, 9, on what you don't know about being a judge, and being a pilot
    Shelley Hayduk, 8, on the ways software should help us think
    Bruce Holmes, 2, on whether we're capable again of great national projects
    Jeremiah Jenne, 5, on the current Chinese upheaval, as it was underway
    Alan Klapmeier, 5, with Kate Dougherty, on America's future in aviation
    Christina Larson, 9, on the Chinese journalists and environmentalists you don't know
    Damien Ma, 4, on the cultural meaning of China's economic rise, including the "babe tax"
    Adam Minter, 6, on the hidden industry of scrap that makes the world run
    Grace Peng,* 7, on the role of science in American life, and women in the future of science
    Lucia Pierce, 6, on the cultural contradictions of US-Chinese education
    Guy Raz, 8, on the life of the stay-at-home-dad cum radio host
    Sam Roggeveen, 8, on the truths Americans don't want to face but should
    Sanjay Saigal, 7, on immigration, linguistics, and optimization
    Kate Sedgwick
    , 4, on the post-Communist scene in Bratislava
    Chuck Spinney, 2, on whether we are capable of thinking rationally about our interests
    Andrew Sprung, 2, on the words through which we are inspired, or let down
    John Tierney, 1, on "kids today," and the interior life of the student
    Kentaro Toyoma, 10, on the exceptional meanings of "virtue"
    Michele Travierso, 10, on gliding as a parable for modern China
    Lane Wallace, 1, on courage, daring, adventure, and life

    One more time: sincere thanks. Because of their assistance, I am much closer toward finishing a China-related book than if I hadn't away and immersed in China again, but still have some distance to go. So I will have off and on presence here for a while.

    I might do this again, for a briefer week-or-two stint, after a while. Certainly from my perspective this experience has been encouraging.

    * Update: After the jump, links to interesting posts today by several people on this list, from their normal sites.
    _____

    More »

  • Bringing On the Final Guest Crew: Allen, Friedmann, Toyama, Travierso

    A "life coach," an energy expert, a technologist skeptical of technology, and an entrepreneur-adventurer

    For this, the final week of the guest-blogger era, I'm going all-out and taking the author-photo route. First some discreet little thumbcuts of the group that has performed so well in this past week. Then showier display pics for the anchor-leg crew I am about to introduce. I give you:

    Larson-author-de.jpg

    Christina Larson (left) has provided enlightening analyses from her time in Asia, ranging from the complex world of the Chinese journalist to the chastening view from Mt. Everest to the comparative histories of environmentalism in China and the United States.

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    Eric Bonabeau (right) has explored many aspects of the connections among technology, behavior, instinct, judgment, creativity, thought, risk-taking, and security -- for instance here and here and here.

    Glenna Hall (below, with her airplane) has shared what she has learned from her experiences as a judge, a pilot, and an unwitting contract worker for the CIA. I am very glad to have heard the insights and hypotheses of this group and believe many readers feel the same way. I also had to weigh in myself on several news developments.

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    Now the tenth and final crew of guest bloggers is at hand. There is no letdown in quality or range of experience, as you will see. Please welcome:








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    David Allen. Yes, the David Allen (right), of Getting Things Done, the David Allen Company, and what I referred to in an Atlantic article as "The David Allen Way." Since reading his book, attending one of his seminars, and writing about his approach to life seven years ago, I have stayed in touch with him and have felt fortunate to become a friend. I've seen him perform in venues large and small -- including one two years ago, where he said he'd just gotten interested in a new system called Twitter. He has something like 1.3 million followers there now (@gtdguy). I expect that he'll tell us whatever is on his mind.
     
    Julio Friedmann. Yes, the Julio Friedmann (below -- and I'll retire the "Yes, the.." joke at this point). I wrote about him several months ago in an Atlantic cover story about "clean coal" as a source of environmental hope in a dirty world. It included this picture of him at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, where he is Carbon Management Program Leader.We met in Beijing several years ago when he started telling me about projects like those I described in the article, to coordinate clean-up efforts between Chinese and American groups. He has been a university research scientist, and a researcher for Exxon and ExxonMobil. I expect that he will tell us how to think about energy and climate issues, and about the timetable and practicality of steps America and other countries can take.
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    Kentaro Toyama (right), a Japanese- born, American-raised and educated computer scientist whom I first met several years ago in Bangalore, at the Microsoft research lab he had helped set up there. (I was in India to visit my son; I learned of Kentaro and his work through our mutual friend, the Atlantic's Scott Stossel.) This picture is from a 2008 NY Times story about him and his projects in India. At the time he was mainly working on technology projects meant to improve the prospects of the world's rural poor. Despite that experience, or because of it, he became skeptical of whether technology could really do much to end poverty (as he has written here). He has left Microsoft and is now at UC Berkeley writing a book on what the solutions are, if they're not technology. I expect that technology-and-life's-problems will be his theme.

    Thumbnail image for Mtravierso1.jpg

    Michele Travierso (left), originally from Milan and now based in Shanghai, became a friend when my wife and I were living in Shanghai in 2006 and 2007. He juggles a variety of identities and passions. He has worked as a freelancer for the Economist, the NYT, Wired.com, and others, plus some Italian publications. He is an entrepreneur and technology project manager. And -- the way we originally got to know each other -- he is an aviation buff and glider pilot. As he puts it about these and other interests: "I have lifelong passion for skiing and flying (or more broadly put: mountains and everything that flies). I dabble with photography. I'm always torn between the craft of journalism and the art of entrepreneurship." He is based for the moment in Hong Kong on an internship for Time magazine, where "I find myself staring at the great view of the old Kai Tak runway 31 in the in the Victoria Harbour, that seems to be floating like a pontoon from the Kowloon peninsula, more than I should."

    I am grateful to this past week's guests, and their predecessors, and the guests who are about to take the stage. I now turn it over to them.

  • Our Penultimate Crew: Bonabeau, Cham, Hall, and Larson

    I turn the stage over to another four voices

    I am again grateful for the eloquent, varied, carefully wrought and illustrated, and -- as I look back on them as a whole -- strikingly humane perspectives we have heard this past week. To give just an example or two from each of the week's guests:

    From Piero Garau in Rome, suggestions on why Italy was troubled on its 150th birthday and what might make it feel better, plus this tribute to an international legacy that has enriched Rome's architecture; from Shelley Hayduk in LA, several suggestions on how we all might feel better about the onslaught of digital over-stimulation, plus what technology lets us know, and makes us know, about ourselves; from Sam Roggeveen in Sydney, tough love for Americans about our diminished world status, plus the secret reward for conservatives of embracing the UN; and from Guy Raz in Washington, the joys and challenges of being a stay-at-home dad who happens also to run a radio show. Plus, from Parker Donham in Nova Scotia, insights on many life fronts, including one that, if you missed it in the wee hours last night, I very much hope you will go back to read (and view -- you will not forget this). Sincere thanks to them all.

    We have two more rotations left in this, the inaugural guest-blogger era for our site. When it is all over I will find some appropriate way to express thanks to the diverse participants as a group. For now, I turn the stage over to another four voices. Please welcome:

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    Eric Bonabeau, originally from France and now of Santa Fe, NM, a mathematician and physicist who is the founder and chairman of the Icosystem company. If I tried to get too specific about what Icosystem does, I would no doubt trip over a detail. For now I'll leave it at saying that Eric's recent professional life has involved various aspects of artificial intelligence and predictive analysis. At an "isn't that cute!!" level, this includes his renowned "Ominous Panda" image-generating system (right) plus an addictive baby-naming system, Nymbler. He also is responsible for the Infomous idea-visualizing device you see on the Atlantic's home page. We met years ago, when he was working on "Swarm Intelligence" concepts at the Santa Fe institute and I introduced him to the late Michael Crichton, who had cited his writings in Prey. I expect we'll hear from him about how we can (begin to) make sense of an overly info-packed world.

    James Cham, of Silicon Valley, was introduced here several weeks ago but has had to postpone his actual blogging until now. He is a principal with Trinity Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, Ca. He previously was part of Bessemer Venture Partners and is generally in the middle of the culture of high-tech startups that we all hope will improve our lives. That's how he's known to the world. He's additionally known to me for having taken time years ago to set up an early pre-Atlantic version of this site. I expect he will be describing the nature of start-up culture now, whether we're in another tech bubble, and related topics.

    Glenna Hall, originally from New Jersey, now lives in the the (incredibly beautiful) San Juan Islands northwest of Seattle. (Hey, nothing against Santa Fe or Silicon Valley.) Like many people who have appeared here in previous weeks, she has had a lot of different roles over the years. She has been a political scientist, a researcher at an organization funded by the CIA, an editor, a private-practice lawyer, and for a dozen years a judge. She has retired from the bench but is still a mediator -- and an active pilot and a software buff. I came to know of her though a software-fanatics forum on, gasp, Compuserve, back at technology's dawn. Her topics could range from the state of the courts to the state of aviation, with other subjects in between. And:

    Christina Larson. Last week, there was no China person in the rotation! Thus I am all the more pleased to introduce Christina Larson, who was traveled extensively in China and Southeast Asia and written often about environmental issues there, including in this recent post here on the Atlantic's site. She is originally from Atlanta, is now based mainly in Washington, and has experience with a number of great journalistic and policy institutions, including the New America Foundation and the fabled Washington Monthly magazine. Her reporting from Asia has mainly been bottom-up, covering the local organizers, administrators, researchers, and plain citizens who have tried to address Asia's environmental emergencies. I expect that we will hear some of these personal views of China and its environs.

    Thanks to this past week's crew, and welcome to the new group.

  • This Past Week

    Please welcome: Parker Donham, Piero Garau, Shelley Hayduk, Guy Raz, and Sam Roggeveen

    By James Fallows

    The news of this past week is out of scale, with the still unfolding human (and technological and economic and probably environmental) catastrophe in Japan making other concerns seem trivial. Except for the tragedy also underway in Libya. It does no good to say it, but it has to be said: the world's heart goes out to Japan now.

    Anyone who has lived in Japan is aware of the consciousness of national disaster in its popular culture, ranging from regular earthquake drills for school children to novels and movies with the "Japan sinks beneath the seas" theme. It is harrowing to see how close the current videos are to those nightmare-fantasy scenarios. Sincerest sympathies to the people of Sendai (including our former next-door neighbors in Tokyo, who returned to their hometown near Sendai) and Japan as a whole.

    Nonetheless other affairs go on. As I have done each of the past seven weeks now, let me say how grateful I am for the contributions of this week's guest team. More than most other times, this group's postings had a surprisingly interconnected and complementary aspect, creating an evolving conversation. In different ways, Liam Casey, Sriram Gollapalli, Sanjay Saigal, Keith Blount, and Grace Peng explored three themes:
      - the individual and collective traits necessary to create and sustain new enterprises these days (for example here, here, here, here, here, here, and here);
      - the advantages, complications, and non-obvious changes created by the international flow of culture, ideas, and talent (for instance here, here, here, and here); and
      - the connection between technology and the aspects of life we don't consider purely technical (for instance here, here, here, and here). Plus more items than I'm listing at the moment!
     
    This has been a very rich conversation, and I'm grateful to its participants. Also, Liam Casey broke some news, from my point of view, with this recent post.

    Now, please welcome the next week's team -- the eighth weekly group of guest bloggers, out of a planned ten-week sequence:

    - From Nova Scotia, Canada, we are joined by Parker Donham. I met him eons ago on the college newspaper, until he dropped out of school in 1968 to join the Eugene McCarthy presidential campaign. His account of his journeys since then: "That same year, he bought an exotic vacation property: a farm on Nova Scotia's Bras d'Or Lake [where he now lives]. In the early 2000s, he led communications for a long stalled cleanup of industrial waste left behind by a defunct coke ovens plant, putting him at odds with many local environmental activists, and spurring an interest in how we face risk. Other interests range from make-and-break engines to American Chestnut trees and organ and tissue donation. He is the grandfather of identical twins with Down Syndrome, and this has led him to appreciate men and women with developmental disabilities. He runs an independent film series and blogs at Contrarian.ca." I expect he will write on political and environmental topics.

    - From Rome, Italy, a few hundred yards from the walls of the Vatican, we have Piero Garau, an architect, urban-planning specialist, artist, musician, and former UN official who has worked around the globe. He was posted for more than a decade in Kenya for the UN's "Habitat" organization, and has also served in Geneva and in New York during the 9/11 attacks, before returning to a university role in his native Italy. He was a high-school exchange student in upstate New York and became an America-phile and NY Yankees fan. I have known him about as long as I have Parker Donham; I expect we'll hear from him about European news and culture, plus world politics and culture from the perspective of a friendly critic of American power and instincts.

    - From Marina del Rey, California, we greet Shelley Hayduk, co-founder of TheBrain Technologies. As I have explained a few million times, I am a sucker for  fascinated by "software for thinking." In previous weeks we've heard from the creators of two of the programs I find most useful and intriguing, Mark Bernstein of Tinderbox and Keith Blount of Scrivener. Personal Brain, of which Shelley is Vice President and Harlan Hugh is inventor and CEO, is another in my personal pantheon of useful-and-interesting programs. Her background is in cognitive psychology, user interface design, and information management; her regular blog is here. I expect that we will hear from her more on the software-and-thinking front.

    - From Washington DC, we have Guy Raz, familiar to NPR listeners as a correspondent from Berlin, London, and the Pentagon and more recently as host of Weekend All Things Considered. He joined NPR out of college as an intern for the late Daniel Schorr and by age 25 was a foreign bureau chief. He also spent two years as a Jerusalem correspondent for CNN, has put in his academic time as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and with a master's degree from Cambridge, and is a music and fiction fan. I expect he will chronicle the weekly cycle of putting together a news-and-culture show. I know him from appearing often on the show for news discussions.

    - Finally, from Sydney, Australia, we welcome Sam Roggeveen, who is editor of The Interpreter, an excellent international policy blog/zine published by the Lowy Institute for International Policy. His self-intro: "Sam was working as an intelligence analyst in Australia's sleepy capital, Canberra, when in 2001 he stumbled on his first blog - Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish... In 2007, the Lowy Institute made the far-sighted decision to not publish an in-house print magazine (too expensive) or academic journal (nobody reads them). Instead, the Institute became one of the first foreign policy think tanks to run an edited blog, which Sam helped to develop and has edited ever since. Sam's professional expertise is in international security, and his academic background is in conservative political philosophy. He hopes to draw on both during this guest blogging slot." I know Sam through my involvement with the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

    Thanks to all. And, while I have deplored the use of "God bless America" as a cliched ending for presidential speeches, in this case I think it is right to say: God bless and save the people of Japan.

  • Next Up: Blount, Casey, Gollapalli, Peng, and Saigal

    A software designer, "Mr. China," a member of a startup team, a scientist-mother, and a technologist-pilot take the stage.

    painting the fence.jpgOnce again I have the opportunity to say how impressed, grateful, and (to be honest) happily surprised I am by the range and quality of another week's team of guest bloggers. Also, as one of this week's team, Don Brown, accurately observed in a note, I feel increasingly like Tom Sawyer about the whole thing, delighted to find so many smart people willing to do such good work. (Cf, "Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?" In the illustration at right, that's me, lolling on the barrel, while one of the Guest Blog team goes purposefully to his task.) But I digress.

    Thanks to Adam Minter for an exceptional seven-part series on what the world of "recycling" looks like, on the other end of the used-can-and-bottle bin, and on who is exploiting whom; to Don Brown for his exceptional series on the realities of air traffic, which I think will leave all travelers thinking differently about their next air trip; to Lucia Pierce for her keen explorations of what one exceptional culture, that of getting into high-end colleges, reveals about two others-- America's and China's. And of course to Deborah Fallows on general (and exceptional) principle and also for talking about large and small aspects of China's changing culture. Thanks to all for painting the fence so well.

    Now please welcome:

    Keith Blount, who four years ago, as a self-taught programmer, unveiled the (Mac only) Scrivener writing program, and in recent months has put out an even better followup 2.0 version, plus a beta release for Windows. Over the years I have lionized and, when lucky, befriended the creators of "interesting" software, starting with Bill Gross (of Lotus Magellan) and Mitch Kapor (of Lotus Agenda) and continuing through many others, including Tom Davis of Zoot. Several weeks ago, Mark Bernstein, creator of Tinderbox, appeared as a guest here. I have never met Keith Blount, who lives in Cornwall in far western England; but his program is by far the best tool and environment for writing -- as opposed to "document prep" -- the computing world has yet produced. And it costs all of $45. If you think I'm nutty, check out the book writers' testimonial page for the program. More on Blount here, and an early review of Scrivener here. I expect he will talk about what it is like to run a small software house, the endlessly fascinating relationship between software and thinking, etc.

    Liam Casey was the central figure of my Atlantic cover story "China Makes, the World Takes" back in 2007. He grew up on a farm in Ireland, worked for a while in the US, and more than a decade ago moved to southern China and put himself in the middle of China's industrial and "outsourcing" dealings with the rest of the world. Since then he has won an "Entrepreneur of the Year" award from Ernst & Young and has spoken at universities and conferences in many countries. You can see him in a recent Bloomberg interview here. I imagine he'll tell us what it is like to be helping design, produce, and ship the products we'll all be buying six months from now.

    Sriram Gollapalli is a young computer scientist, trained at Carnegie Mellon (where he is on the alumni advisory board), who has worked for the federal government, large corporations, and for the last few years in a startup technology firm. He is American -- I first met him because he was a high school friend of one of my sons, and they now work together -- but he still has family ties and frequent contact with India, including being married in Hyderabad last summer. I expect he will discuss the culture, challenges, and opportunities of tech startups these days; plus US-Indian interactions; and some of his sporting interests, which range from scuba to cricket.

    Grace Peng, who lives in Southern California, is a scientist who has written often and engagingly about the intersection of science, public policy, and personal life. Her academic training is in in mathematics, chemistry, and physics, with a PhD in chemical physics; and her on the job expertise is, as she put it to me, in "satellite meteorology, numerical weather prediction, and geoinformatics." Over the years she has often written about scientific/policy topics I wanted to understand better. She and her husband, also a scientist, both work in what she asked me to describe as as "a Los Angeles area non-profit Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) -- and work a second shift raising a highly spirited 10 year old daughter." She will be writing about STEM [science / technology / engineering / math] education and workforce issues, with a focus on the plight of women and mothers, and why she loves math and science. Her own droll site, Bad Mom, Good Mom, is here.

    I know Sanjay Saigal through the small-airplane piloting world. We were both participants a decade ago in sr20.org, an early site for enthusiasts of the then-brand-new Cirrus SR20 airplane -- which as it happens was designed by Alan Klapmeier, a previous guest blogger here. His self-introduction: "Sanjay Saigal was born in Patna, India, educated in Delhi and Houston, Texas, and spent much of his career in Silicon Valley. In addition to consulting with companies to improve operating efficiency (his PhD is in Applied Mathematics), Sanjay leads a start-up delivering accelerated management training to working professionals. This effort is based in Delhi, where he loves to drive. While at his first start-up in Reno, Nevada, Sanjay fulfilled a childhood dream by learning to fly." He has a wide range of interests, from tech to politics to aviation to language, and we could well hear about them all.

    With gratitude to the team that's leaving, I pass the paintbrush to Sanjay and his colleagues.

  • Please Welcome: Brown, Cham, Fallows, Minter, Pierce

    An air traffic controller, a venture capitalist, an expert on the Chinese scrap business, a high school counselor, and a linguist join us.

    There is no better way to recognize the contributions of one of this past week's group of guest bloggers -- Alan Klapmeier, lifelong airplane nut and successful airplane designer -- than with news this weekend of a successful flight by a kindred spirit in northeast China. No lesser source that China Daily reports that Ding Shilu, an auto mechanic in Shenyang, has built his own airplane out of spare parts, including motorbike engines, and test flown it on a frozen reservoir. This is the "nothing can't be done!" spirit of aviation that Alan has celebrated.

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    In addition I am very grateful to Kate Dougherty for collaboration with Alan; to Jeremiah Jenne for reports on many less encouraging developments on the Chinese front, from drought to errant ambassadors to drenched protests; to Julian Fisher for looks at the technological, political, and economic aspects of neurology and other life sciences; and to Eamonn Fingleton for the ramifications of history in many forms. Seriously, thanks for a great set of contributions.

    We're halfway through the guest-blogger era. If only I were halfway finished with a book! I should say that the longer this goes on, the more I respect the willingness of contributors to take a one-week arc (as opposed to the long, slow, no-pressure circumstances in which the normal incumbent of a space can look for a voice and tone) and establish a presence and argument, before an unfamiliar audience, in that time. Thanks too to our readers for your attention. I am proud to announce our new team. Please welcome:

    Don Brown, a career (now retired) air traffic controller and safety expert, based in Atlanta, who is known for his writings in aviation sites and now his own Get the Flick blog. He probably will explain what "get the flick" means in the aviation world. I've never met him but have found him very enlightening in explaining over the years why air travel works, and doesn't, from a controller's point of view.

    James Cham is a principal with Trinity Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, Ca. He previously was part of Bessemer Venture Partners and is generally in the middle of the culture of high-tech startups that we all hope will improve our lives. That's how he's known to the world. He's additionally known to me for having taken time years ago to set up an early pre-Atlantic version of this site. I expect he will be describing the nature of start-up culture now, whether we're in another tech bubble, and related topics.

    Adam Minter, a writer originally from Minnesota and in recent years based in Shanghai, is familiar to Atlantic readers for articles like this and dispatches like this, plus his regular Shanghai Scrap site. I believe he has a scrap-related plan in mind for this week's dispatches. (Indeed I see that he has admirably beat me to the punch.)

    Lucia Pierce, now also based in Shanghai, has worked for years on cultural and educational connections between America and China. For years she directed the influential Chinese-language program at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, and she has also been head of education programs at the Freer & Sackler museums of the Smithsonian system. She has run an international high school in Shanghai, and now she counsels Chinese families whose children are aiming for high-end American universities. College admission practices, Western-vs-Chinese approaches to mothering, "kids today" -- she's on top of all of these topics.

    Plus as an out-of-alphabetic-order bonus guest blogger: Deborah Fallows, who has a doctorate in linguistics and speaks many languages, will be writing about language issues as they affect understanding and misunderstanding between China and the Western world. She is the author of Dreaming in Chinese; and, as I probably should mention, the view out her window, whether in Beijing or Washington DC, is usually the same as the view from mine.

    Welcome to this new crowd; and as an envoi, one more glimpse of the inspiring Ding Shilu.

    SelfMadePlane2.jpg

  • Please Welcome: Dougherty and Klapmeier, Fingleton, Fisher, and Jenne

    Aviation innovators, a veteran analyst of Japan, a doctor who loves software, and a historian who loves the news join us this week

    Once again I'm grateful for the range, quality, sophistication, and care of posts by a team of guest bloggers. I could go on at length -- and at a later time, will -- but for now I'll simply say that among other things in this past week I enjoyed: from Damien Ma, Sinica of many sorts including the rough patch for China's vaunted high-speed rail system and the possibilities of the 美女税, or "babe tax," and the obstacles for Chinese soft power; from Edward Goldstick, many examinations of the man-vs-machine conundrum, including this detailed debugging of Mac and Windows systems and this and this on the Jeopardy showdown; from Mark Bernstein, a complementary series of man-plus-machine essays, including this provocative discussion of the promising future of reading and this on the meaning of the Watson triumph; and from Kate Sedgwick, these scenes in Bratislava illustrating the lingering psycho-social effects of the communist era. Sincere thanks to them all.

    TinderBoxImage.jpgMark Bernstein deserves additional mention for handling my user queries about his fascinating and powerful Tinderbox software (logo left) while also doing his entries. I am chagrined to note that during this process I manifested one of the mistaken views about how software works that he lists here!

    Next up, please welcome:

    CirrusChute.jpgKate Dougherty and Alan Klapmeier. I have mentioned that an earlier guest blogger, Bruce Holmes of NASA, was one of the heroes of my book Free Flight. Alan Klapmeier, plus his brother Dale and their many associates including Kate Dougherty at the Cirrus Design corporation of Duluth, were also triumphant central figures. Over the past decade, Cirrus has become the world's leading innovative producer of small propeller airplanes. At right is a picture of an early Cirrus (like the one I bought 11 years ago) under the company's pioneering parachute for the whole airplane. As explained by Lane Wallace here and by me here, Alan has left Cirrus and started a new small-airplane company. Kate Dougherty, who was with Cirrus from its early days (and is Alan's sister-in-law), has joined him there. I imagine they will write about the nature of startups, about new possibilities in travel, about the ancestral struggle between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and other topics.

    Eamonn Fingleton has written extensively about Japanese finance, manufacturing, economics, and politics from Tokyo, where he has lived and worked since the 1980s. I met him there in the "Japan boom" days when he was an early voice warning of an impending crash. Since then he has consistently argued that the extent of Japan's "collapse" has been greatly overstated, since the country now maintains a surprisingly rich and technologically advanced society with many of the world's leading export corporations. I imagine he'll be writing about Western/Asian interactions of various sorts.

    Julian Fisher, who lives in Boston, is a neurologist and serial entrepreneur, and also, as he puts it, "a devoted Yalie who just happens to be on the Harvard Medical faculty." Many people who have made guest appearances here operate on frontiers -- in the realm connecting software and thought, innovation and regulation, America and Asia, etc. Much of Julian's work has involved the connection between medical science and information technology, and I imagine we'll hear more about that.

    Jeremiah Jenne, has been based for several years in Beijing, where he teaches, writes, and continues his doctoral work in Chinese history. He is best known in China circles for his wonderful site Jottings from the Granite Studio. Its motto, "a Qing historian reads the newspaper," accurately suggests the frontier on which he operates: the interaction between Chinese (and Western) history and current events.

    I feel very fortunate that people like these have offered to share their views. Please welcome this new crew.

    And to follow up from yesterday's news: I would like to think that it's foggy here today in Beijing. But the overnight AQI readings have all been "beyond index." Here is the 9am view, and below that the overnight BeijingAir readings. Hmmmm.

    BJFeb21.png

    BJ0204.png

    To put these in perspective, the AQI right now in the capital of the world's other major power, the US, is 27, "good," vs these 500+ "beyond index" readings for Beijing. All part of the mixed nature of modern China's achievement.
  • The Torch is Passed: Welcome Bernstein, Goldstick, Ma, Sedgwick

    A software designer, a tech-world veteran, an expert on China, and part of the U.S. diplomatic team come on stage this week

    It's hard to know where to start in acknowledging the efforts of this past week's crew of guest bloggers. They covered a tremendous range of topics -- from an incredible scene on the beach in Holland to varying aspects of the Chinese "threat" -- in high volume and with a lot of creativity and edge. I'm grateful, and I hope you have found it interesting. Some final posts by them may appear later this evening.

    There are too many entries to summarize or note, so I will mention just one per person: from Lizzy Bennett, this wonderful helmet-cam video of her bike commute to work each morning in San Francisco; from Ella Chou, this summary and analysis of what Chinese netizens were saying, in Chinese, about the news from Egypt; from Tony Comstock, this direct challenge to a piece in the print issue of the Atlantic; and from Brian Glucroft, this charming video showing the marriage of 21st century technology and 17th-18th century artistry. Sincere thanks to all.

    Now let me welcome and introduce the next week's guest crew:

    Mark Bernstein is the chief scientist of Eastgate, a software company in Watertown, Mass., and author of a book called The Tinderbox Way. Over the years, I have been a serial romantic about "interesting" software -- programs that seem matched to the way people think, or rather the way I think. Over the years the objects of my fascination have included Lotus Agenda, which I wrote about in the Atlantic nearly 20 years ago, just before Lotus Development cruelly removed its life support. (Background on Agenda, and my 1992 article, here. Possibility of an Agenda reprise here.) Or Zoot, a Windows-program I've written about often, starting here. Or Chandler, by the intellectual godfather of Agenda, Mitch Kapor.

    I try not to draw conclusions from the fact that the programs I love best have not been huge market successes. (Zoot survives, with an all-out new version on the way.) Happily three of the programs I now find most open-endedly intriguing seem to have escaped my curse and are going strong. They are: Scrivener, Personal Brain, and Tinderbox. Even more happily, creators of all three of those programs have agreed to serve guest stints here. First up is Mark Bernstein, creator of Tinderbox. For more on his background, check his bio here and his personal blog here. If you have any interest in the Zen of software, you won't regret reading his book, which is half about his own program and half about the connection between thinking tools, whether electronic or paper-and-pencil, and actual thought.

    Edward Goldstick, also of the Boston area, is a veteran of America's high-tech, software, defense, and energy-technology worlds. We have corresponded frequently over the years, often about technology and its implications, which I imagine he will discuss here. When I asked him how he should be introduced, he suggested this:

    >>I'm a 55 year old Jewish-American from Massachusetts with a BS in Physics at an engineering school that included internships within the "godforsaken" DC and at a national laboratory in IL, an attempt at both graduate study and government service at a well-known defense-oriented nuclear lab in CA... a four-year experience developing transportation simulation software at a large international engineering company... a nearly two decade sojourn in France discovering a foreign language, a life partner, and a surprising capacity to participate in the conception of sophisticated mission-critical systems while making money hawking US-made software... and a decade of semi-retirement back in the States while accompanying our two sons through their teens and my parents into their later years... <<

    Damien Ma is familiar to Atlantic readers from his role as correspondent and frequent contributor here. In his day-job he is an analyst with the Eurasia Group; in that role he travels frequently to China and other parts of Asia. He speaks Chinese and has degrees in Asian studies (and journalism) from institutions in both the U.S. and China. I am always interested in what he has to say about developments inside China and their implications for the world, which among other topics he may discuss this week.

    Kate Sedgwick grew up in Georgia and has been based in recent years in Washington DC. In her professional life she has worked as a public health expert, with a master's degree from Harvard. But now she is living in Bratislava, representing America along with her husband, Tod, a long-time publisher and entrepreneur who is the new U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic. The Sedgwicks have been family friends of my family's for years; Kate will be presenting scenes from the diplomatic and current-Central-European life. Atlantic connection note: Sedgwick bylines have a long history in this magazine. Tod Sedgwick's grandfather, Ellery, owned and edited the Atlantic for three decades starting in 1908. On his watch, the circulation increased about ninefold, from 15,000 to the 130,000s. An example to us all.  

    Sincere thanks to the crew that's been on duty. You also have set a good example for your successors.

    And before I go: Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow, to all likely recipients of that wish but especially my sisters Sue and Katie, my daughters-in-law Lizzy and Annie, my mother-in-law Angie, and of course above all my wife Deb.

  • Please Welcome the New Team: Bennett, Chou, Comstock, Glucroft

    An online marketer, a Chinese graduate student, a documentary filmmaker, and a "user experience" expert take the stage

    I am very grateful to this second week's shift of guest bloggers, who have written about so many issues in such diverse ways. (For thanks to the first week's crew, click here. My gratitude extends beyond a single week!) Xujun Eberlein has presented an extraordinary historical and personal drama in five installments, with links to them all here. Bruce Holmes, who has devoted his career to managing "Sputnik moment"-style technological advances, has examined how the process does and doesn't work -- what it meant for Lewis and Clark, what it might mean futuristic transportation options. Chuck Spinney, who now mostly lives on a small sailboat in the Mediterranean but has spent his career analyzing America's strategic weaknesses and strengths, has itemized many of those. And Andrew Sprung, a professional analyst of communications and rhetoric, has talked about the connection between John Kennedy's famous tropes and our current consciousness and prospects, plus our ability to "learn" from history. Each has done more items than I am linking to here; I am grateful for them all.

    Now, time for the new crew! We've had a full and complete measure of policy examinations in recent weeks. There could be a somewhat different tone and emphasis this week. Please welcome:

    Lizzy Bennett, who is the online marketing manager for the Timbuk2 bag company in San Francisco. Timbuk2 is interesting not just for its design and products but also for its manufacturing strategy: it does its largely made-to-order production right in San Francisco (video here),  rather than on the other side of the Pacific. Lizzy is in the middle of various worlds -- style-conscious start-ups, social media and blog-based marketing, young San Francisco -- I am interested in but obviously not part of. She is from Santa Barbara and is a former college athlete (Stanford tennis team) and a mountain climber, as part of the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks challenge.

    Ella Chou, a second-year graduate student in East Asian studies at Harvard. She was born in Hangzhou, which anyone who has visited China has heard referred to as the "most beautiful" of the country's cities (a cliche that is preferable to being called one of the "three furnaces" of China -- as Wuhan, Nanjing, and Chongqing are because of their summer weather)  and came to Beijing at age 17 for studies at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. She has worked with a variety of Chinese and international news, environmental, and civil-society organizations -- which is how I first met her in Beijing nearly three years ago --  and her ambition is to be involved in efforts combining law and social change. She too is part of various circles I am fascinated by but am not part of -- notably the very educated Chinese 20-somethings who are at ease in the wider world and have high hopes for their country. , a documentary filmmaker, whose company, Comstock Films, specializes in erotic documentaries. I have corresponded with him over the years (and quoted him here and elsewhere) about the evolving conceptions of the decent and the profane in an internet-connected age, when both state agencies and private corporations exercise the ability to censor -- and the corporate censorship is usually the less transparent of the two. He was raised on the West Coast but is now based in New York. History buffs will have guessed that his adopted professional name is an homage to Anthony Comstock, famed late-19th century leader of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.

    Brian Glucroft, who has been based in in Shanghai for several years, was trained at Johns Hopkins in both cognitive science and as a musician (dual degrees in cog. sci. and in clarinet performance) and has worked mainly as a user-experience specialist for software firms, including Microsoft China. He has traveled extensively through China and -- as I hope will be part of his contributions here -- has taken remarkable photos from the parts of the country left off standard tour routes. I had corresponded with him -- about China, software, and beer -- over an extended period but first met him last year during a long day together at the Shanghai World Expo.

    Welcome; thanks to this past week's group; and I turn the stage over to Lizzy, Ella, Tony, and Brian. Wait -- just before I go, let me mention this very nice item in today's NY Times Book review about the phenomenon of "dreaming" in foreign languages. It starts with an anecdote from, naturally enough, Dreaming in Chinese. Plus, go Packers! (I like Pittsburgh the city just fine, and Mike Tomlin, and the Rooneys. But between Aaron Rodgers and Big Ben? Please.)

    Tony Comstock

  • Welcome to the New Team: Eberlein, Holmes, Spinney, and Sprung

    Thanks to the first week's crew, and introducing their successors

    We're nearing the end of the first week's shift of guest bloggers. Not rushing them off the stage: I believe that they may have a few entries still to come today.

    I couldn't be more grateful to this initial group: Phil Baker, who wrote about technology, perseverance and excellence, Apple's corporate culture, and US-China manufacturing links; Paola and Jorge Guajardo, who reported from Beijing about an underappreciated bond in US-Chinese relations, the "hey, wait a minute!" factor when US legislators lecture the Chinese, and prevailing Chinese skepticism about the (preposterous) "Chinese mom" fad in the US; John Tierney, who covered politics, the postal service, and academic culture in various aspects, plus tussling with the readers, plus bringing us Pomplamoose; and Lane Wallace, who wrote about sacrifice, daring, security and security theater, and courage and achievement in fields from swimming to schoolwork to space flight, while like the other writers showing an amazing range. I feel fortunate to have these people as friends.

    Appearing soon will be their successors for the coming week, another impressively varied group. We will hear from:

    Xujun Eberlein, who grew up in Chongqing, in central China, where she was a child during the Cultural Revolution, and came to Boston to earn a PhD at MIT more than 20 years ago. She has worked in a tech startup and published an acclaimed collection of short stories, Apologies Forthcoming. She writes about Chinese and American literature and culture at her site Inside-Out China; more background on her here.

    Bruce Holmes, who for many years was an "entrepreneurial bureaucrat" inside NASA. Bruce was one of the heroes of my book Free Flight, a decade ago, and of this story in the Atlantic more recently. He paid his way through college flying crop dusters and other planes in Kansas, and is still involved in promoting some of the most innovative steps in aviation. More about him and his new company, NextGen AeroServices, here.

    Chuck Spinney, who was on the cover of Time magazine in the Reagan era for his attempts to bring sanity to the defense budget, and who was a central figure in my book National Defense in 1981, along with colleagues like John Boyd and Pierre Sprey. Chuck has retired from the Pentagon and has spent much of the past five years on a small sailboat in the Mediterranean with his wife, Alison, and their small dog, Zoey. He writes about American strategy and solvency at his site 'The Blaster.' I have cited Chuck and his views often, including here, here, here, and in a very high-traffic post here.

    Andrew Sprung, who writes about politics, culture, language, and democracy at his site Xpostfactoid, and in his day job is a media consultant. I became aware of him through his frequent interesting examinations of a favorite topic of my own: the language, style, and unstated messages in the rhetoric of national leaders. Sprung says that interest may have come from his academic work toward a Ph.D. in medieval English literature: "I wrote a dissertation on the remarkably humane and subtle medieval English anchorite Julian of Norwich, a mystic nun whose knack of squaring circles and framing paradoxes reminds me a little of our current President."

    I hope you enjoy their posts. If you have comments pro or con, the "Email Fallows" button, above, will send your messages to the respective authors. Thanks and greetings to all. 

  • Reminder: Who Are These People?

    The new team starts strong

    In the last few hours I've received a number of messages congratulating me on a "great piece" about the Kennedys -- and on Chinese manufacturing, and on what's up with Steve Jobs. To which I say, Thanks! And I guess I will take credit -- though not for writing a word of this. Merely for having invited such interesting guest voices here for the next run of weeks.

    But as a reminder, the people you're actually hearing from this week are John Tierney (about the Kennedys), Phil Baker (about manufacturing and product design), Lane Wallace (about Steve Jobs et al), and Jorge and Paula Guajardo (on Chinese topics soon). Their backgrounds and brief bios are here. I'll pass your compliments on to them. And if you click the "Email Fallows"[sic] button above, you can get comments to them directly.

  • Welcome Our Guest Blog Teams -- the Master List

    Introducing: a designer, an ambassadorial couple, a teacher, and a pilot-writer

    Here is the tenth and final week's team of guest bloggers: Allen, Friedmann, Toyama, and Travierso.

    David Allen. Yes, the David Allen, of Getting Things Done, the David Allen Company, and what I referred to in an Atlantic article as "The David Allen Way." Since reading his book, attending one of his seminars, and writing about his approach to life seven years ago, I have stayed in touch with him and have felt fortunate to become a friend. I've seen him perform in venues large and small -- including one two years ago, where he said he'd just gotten interested in a new system called Twitter. He has something like 1.3 million followers there now (@gtdguy). I expect that he'll tell us whatever is on his mind.
     
    Julio Friedmann. Yes, the Julio Friedmann (I'll retire the "Yes, the.." joke at this point). I wrote about him several months ago in an Atlantic cover story about "clean coal" as a source of environmental hope in a dirty world. It included a picture of him at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, where he is Carbon Management Program Leader.We met in Beijing several years ago when he started telling me about projects like those I described in the article, to coordinate clean-up efforts between Chinese and American groups. He has been a university research scientist, and a researcher for Exxon and ExxonMobil. I expect that he will tell us how to think about energy and climate issues, and about the timetable and practicality of steps America and other countries can take.

    Kentaro Toyama, a Japanese- born, American-raised and educated computer scientist whom I first met several years ago in Bangalore, at the Microsoft research lab he had helped set up there. (I was in India to visit my son; I learned of Kentaro and his work through our mutual friend, the Atlantic's Scott Stossel.) The picture is from a 2008 NY Times story about him and his projects in India. At the time he was mainly working on technology projects meant to improve the prospects of the world's rural poor. Despite that experience, or because of it, he became skeptical of whether technology could really do much to end poverty (as he has written here). He has left Microsoft and is now at UC Berkeley writing a book on what the solutions are, if they're not technology. I expect that technology-and-life's-problems will be his theme.

    Michele Travierso, originally from Milan and now based in Shanghai, became a friend when my wife and I were living in Shanghai in 2006 and 2007. He juggles a variety of identities and passions. He has worked as a freelancer for the Economist, the NYT, Wired.com, and others, plus some Italian publications. He is an entrepreneur and technology project manager. And -- the way we originally got to know each other -- he is an aviation buff and glider pilot. As he puts it about these and other interests: "I have lifelong passion for skiing and flying (or more broadly put: mountains and everything that flies). I dabble with photography. I'm always torn between the craft of journalism and the art of entrepreneurship." He is based for the moment in Hong Kong on an internship for Time magazine, where "I find myself staring at the great view of the old Kai Tak runway 31 in the in the Victoria Harbour, that seems to be floating like a pontoon from the Kowloon peninsula, more than I should."

    ____
    Here is the ninth week's team of guest bloggers: Bonabeau, Cham, Hall, and Larson.Eric Bonabeau, originally from France and now of Santa Fe, NM, a mathematician and physicist who is the founder and chairman of the Icosystem company. If I tried to get too specific about what Icosystem does, I would no doubt trip over a detail. For now I'll leave it at saying that Eric's recent professional life has involved various aspects of artificial intelligence and predictive analysis. At an "isn't that cute!!" level, this includes his renowned "Ominous Panda" image-generating system (right) plus an addictive baby-naming system, Nymbler. He also is responsible for the Infomous idea-visualizing device you see on the Atlantic's home page. We met years ago, when he was working on "Swarm Intelligence" concepts at the Santa Fe institute and I introduced him to the late Michael Crichton, who had cited his writings in Prey. I expect we'll hear from him about how we can (begin to) make sense of an overly info-packed world.

    James Cham, of Silicon Valley, was introduced here several weeks ago but has had to postpone his actual blogging until now. He is a principal with Trinity Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, Ca. He previously was part of Bessemer Venture Partners and is generally in the middle of the culture of high-tech startups that we all hope will improve our lives. That's how he's known to the world. He's additionally known to me for having taken time years ago to set up an early pre-Atlantic version of this site. I expect he will be describing the nature of start-up culture now, whether we're in another tech bubble, and related topics.

    Glenna Hall, originally from New Jersey, now lives in the the (incredibly beautiful) San Juan Islands northwest of Seattle. (Hey, nothing against Santa Fe or Silicon Valley.) Like many people who have appeared here in previous weeks, she has had a lot of different roles over the years. She has been a political scientist, a researcher at an organization funded by the CIA, an editor, a private-practice lawyer, and for a dozen years a judge. She has retired from the bench but is still a mediator -- and an active pilot and a software buff. I came to know of her though a software-fanatics forum on, gasp, Compuserve, back at technology's dawn. Her topics could range from the state of the courts to the state of aviation, with other subjects in between. And:

    Christina Larson. Last week, there was no China person in the rotation! Thus I am all the more pleased to introduce Christina Larson, who was traveled extensively in China and Southeast Asia and written often about environmental issues there, including in this recent post here on the Atlantic's site. She is originally from Atlanta, is now based mainly in Washington, and has experience with a number of great journalistic and policy institutions, including the New America Foundation and the fabled Washington Monthly magazine. Her reporting from Asia has mainly been bottom-up, covering the local organizers, administrators, researchers, and plain citizens who have tried to address Asia's environmental emergencies. I expect that we will hear some of these personal views of China and its environs.

    ____
    Here is the eighth week's team: Donham, Garau, Hayduk, Raz, and Roggeveen.

    - From Nova Scotia, Canada, we are joined by Parker Donham. I met him eons ago on the college newspaper, until he dropped out of school in 1968 to join the Eugene McCarthy presidential campaign. His account of his journeys since then: "That same year, he bought an exotic vacation property: a farm on Nova Scotia's Bras d'Or Lake [where he now lives]. In the early 2000s, he led communications for a long stalled cleanup of industrial waste left behind by a defunct coke ovens plant, putting him at odds with many local environmental activists, and spurring an interest in how we face risk. Other interests range from make-and-break engines to American Chestnut trees and organ and tissue donation. He is the grandfather of identical twins with Down Syndrome, and this has led him to appreciate men and women with developmental disabilities. He runs an independent film series and blogs at Contrarian.ca." I expect he will write on political and environmental topics.

    - From Rome, Italy, a few hundred yards from the walls of the Vatican, we have Piero Garau, an architect, urban-planning specialist, artist, musician, and former UN official who has worked around the globe. He was posted for more than a decade in Kenya for the UN's "Habitat" organization, and has also served in Geneva and in New York during the 9/11 attacks, before returning to a university role in his native Italy. He was a high-school exchange student in upstate New York and became an America-phile and NY Yankees fan. I have known him about as long as I have Parker Donham; I expect we'll hear from him about European news and culture, plus world politics and culture from the perspective of a friendly critic of American power and instincts.

    - From Marina del Rey, California, we greet Shelley Hayduk, co-founder of TheBrain Technologies. As I have explained a few million times, I am a sucker for  fascinated by "software for thinking." In previous weeks we've heard from the creators of two of the programs I find most useful and intriguing, Mark Bernstein of Tinderbox and Keith Blount of Scrivener. Personal Brain, of which Shelley is Vice President and Harlan Hugh is inventor and CEO, is another in my personal pantheon of useful-and-interesting programs. Her background is in cognitive psychology, user interface design, and information management; her regular blog is here. I expect that we will hear from her more on the software-and-thinking front.

    - From Washington DC, we have Guy Raz, familiar to NPR listeners as a correspondent from Berlin, London, and the Pentagon and more recently as host of Weekend All Things Considered. He joined NPR out of college as an intern for the late Daniel Schorr and by age 25 was a foreign bureau chief. He also spent two years as a Jerusalem correspondent for CNN, has put in his academic time as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and with a master's degree from Cambridge, and is a music and fiction fan. I expect he will chronicle the weekly cycle of putting together a news-and-culture show. I know him from appearing often on the show for news discussions.

    - Finally, from Sydney, Australia, we welcome Sam Roggeveen, who is editor of The Interpreter, an excellent international policy blog/zine published by the Lowy Institute for International Policy. His self-intro: "Sam was working as an intelligence analyst in Australia's sleepy capital, Canberra, when in 2001 he stumbled on his first blog - Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish... In 2007, the Lowy Institute made the far-sighted decision to not publish an in-house print magazine (too expensive) or academic journal (nobody reads them). Instead, the Institute became one of the first foreign policy think tanks to run an edited blog, which Sam helped to develop and has edited ever since. Sam's professional expertise is in international security, and his academic background is in conservative political philosophy. He hopes to draw on both during this guest blogging slot." I know Sam through my involvement with the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.
    ___
    Here is the background on the seventh week's team: Blount, Casey, Gollapalli, Peng, and Saigal., who four years ago, as a self-taught programmer, unveiled the (Mac only) Scrivener writing program, and in recent months has put out an even better followup 2.0 version, plus a beta release for Windows. Over the years I have lionized and, when lucky, befriended the creators of "interesting" software, starting with Bill Gross (of Lotus Magellan) and Mitch Kapor (of Lotus Agenda) and continuing through many others, including Tom Davis of Zoot. Several weeks ago, Mark Bernstein, creator of Tinderbox, appeared as a guest here. I have never met Keith Blount, who lives in Cornwall in far western England; but his program is by far the best tool and environment for writing -- as opposed to "document prep" -- the computing world has yet produced. And it costs all of $45. If you think I'm nutty, check out the book writers' testimonial page for the program. More on Blount here, and an early review of Scrivener here. I expect he will talk about what it is like to run a small software house, the endlessly fascinating relationship between software and thinking, etc.

    Liam Casey was the central figure of my Atlantic cover story "China Makes, the World Takes" back in 2007. He grew up on a farm in Ireland, worked for a while in the US, and more than a decade ago moved to southern China and put himself in the middle of China's industrial and "outsourcing" dealings with the rest of the world. Since then he has won an "Entrepreneur of the Year" award from Ernst & Young and has spoken at universities and conferences in many countries. You can see him in a recent Bloomsberg interview here. I imagine he'll tell us what it is like to be helping design, produce, and ship the products we'll all be buying six months from now.

    Sriram Gollapalli is a young computer scientist, trained at Carnegie Mellon (where he is on the alumni advisory board), who has worked for the federal government, large corporations, and for the last few years in a startup technology firm. He is American -- I first met him because he was a high school friend of one of my sons, and they now work together -- but he still has family ties and frequent contact with India, including being married in Hyderabad last summer. I expect he will discuss the culture, challenges, and opportunities of tech startups these days; plus US-Indian interactions; and some of his sporting interests, which range from scuba to cricket.

    Grace Peng, who lives in Southern California, is a scientist who has written often and engagingly about the intersection of science, public policy, and personal life. Her academic training is in in mathematics, chemistry, and physics, with a PhD in chemical physics; and her on the job expertise is, as she put it to me, in "satellite meteorology, numerical weather prediction, and geoinformatics." Over the years she has often written about scientific/policy topics I wanted to understand better. She and her husband, also a scientist, both work in what she asked me to describe as as "a Los Angeles area non-profit Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) -- and work a second shift raising a highly spirited 10 year old daughter." She will be writing about STEM [science / technology / engineering / math] education and workforce issues, with a focus on the plight of women and mothers, and why she loves math and science. Her own droll site, Bad Mom, Good Mom, is here.

    I know Sanjay Saigal through the small-airplane piloting world. We were both participants a decade ago in sr20.org, an early site for enthusiasts of the then-brand-new Cirrus SR20 airplane -- which as it happens was designed by Alan Klapmeier, a previous guest blogger here. His self-introduction: "Sanjay Saigal was born in Patna, India, educated in Delhi and Houston, Texas, and spent much of his career in Silicon Valley. In addition to consulting with companies to improve operating efficiency (his PhD is in Applied Mathematics), Sanjay leads a start-up delivering accelerated management training to working professionals. This effort is based in Delhi, where he loves to drive. While at his first start-up in Reno, Nevada, Sanjay fulfilled a childhood dream by learning to fly." He has a wide range of interests, from tech to politics to aviation to language, and we could well hear about them all.

    ___
    Here is the background on the sixth week's team: Brown, Cham, D. Fallows, Minter, and Pierce:

    Don Brown
    , a career (now retired) air traffic controller and safety expert, based in Atlanta, who is known for his writings in aviation sites and now his own Get the Flick blog. He probably will explain what "get the flick" means in the aviation world. I've never met him but have found him very enlightening in explaining over the years why air travel works, and doesn't, from a controller's point of view.

    James Cham is a principal with Trinity Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park, Ca. He previously was part of Bessemer Venture Partners and is generally in the middle of the culture of high-tech startups that we all hope will improve our lives. That's how he's known to the world. He's additionally known to me for having taken time years ago to set up an early pre-Atlantic version of this site. I expect he will be describing the nature of start-up culture now, whether we're in another tech bubble, and related topics.

    Adam Minter, a writer originally from Minnesota and in recent years based in Shanghai, is familiar to Atlantic readers for articles like this and dispatches like this, plus his regular Shanghai Scrap site. I believe he has a scrap-related plan in mind for this week's dispatches. (Indeed I see that he has admirably beat me to the bunch.)

    Lucia Pierce, originally from Ohio and now also based in Shanghai, has worked for years on the connection between American and Chinese educational systems. For years she directed the influential Chinese-language program at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, and she has also been head of the education programs at the Freer and Sackler museums of the Smithsonian system. She has run an international high school in Shanghai and now she counsels Chinese families whose children are aiming for high-end American universities. College admission practices, Western-vs-Chinese approaches to mothering, "kids today" -- she's on top of all of these topics.

    Plus as an out-of-alphabetic-order bonus guest blogger: Deborah Fallows, who has a doctorate in linguistics and speaks many languages, will be writing about language issues as they affect understanding and misunderstanding between China and the Western world. She is the author of Dreaming in Chinese; and, as I probably should mention, the view out her window, whether in Beijing or Washington DC, is usually the same as the view from mine.
    ___
     
    Here is background on the fifth week's team: Dougherty and Klapmeier, Fingleton, Fisher, and Jenne:

    Kate Dougherty
    and Alan Klapmeier. I have mentioned that an earlier guest blogger, Bruce Holmes of NASA, was one of the heroes of my book Free Flight. Alan Klapmeier, plus his brother Dale and their many associates including Kate Dougherty at the Cirrus Design corporation of Duluth, were also triumphant central figures. Over the past decade, Cirrus has become the world's leading innovative producer of small propeller airplanes. At right is a picture of an early Cirrus (like the one I bought 11 years ago) under the company's innovative parachute for the whole airplane. As explained by Lane Wallace here and by me here, Alan has left Cirrus and started a new small-airplane company. Kate Dougherty, who was with Cirrus from its early days (and is Alan's sister-in-law), has joined him there. I imagine they will write about the nature of startups, about new possibilities in travel, about the ancestral struggle between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and other topics.

    Eamonn Fingleton has written extensively about Japanese finance, manufacturing, economics, and politics from Tokyo, where he has lived and worked since the 1980s. I met him there in the "Japan boom" days when he was an early voice warning of an impending crash. Since then he has consistently argued that the extent of Japan's "collapse" has been greatly overstated, creating as it has a surprisingly rich and technologically advanced society with many of the world's leading export corporations. I imagine he'll be writing about Western/Asian interactions of various sorts.

    Julian Fisher, who lives in Boston, is a neurologist and serial entrepreneur, and also, as he puts it, "a devoted Yalie who just happens to be on the Harvard Medical faculty." Many people who have made guest appearances here operate on frontiers -- in the realm connecting software and thought, innovation and regulation, America and Asia, etc. Much of Julian's work has involved the connection between medical science and information technology, and I imagine we'll hear more about that.

    Jeremiah Jenne, has been based for several years in Beijing, where he teaches, writes, and continues his doctoral work in Chinese history. He is best known in China circles for his wonderful site Jottings from the Granite Studio. Its motto, "a Qing historian reads the newspaper," accurately suggests the frontier on which he operates: the interaction between Chinese (and Western) history and current events.
    __
    Here is the background on the fourth week's team: Bernstein, Goldstick, Ma, and Sedgwick.

    Mark Bernstein is the chief scientist of Eastgate, a software company in Watertown, Mass., and author of a book called The Tinderbox Way. Over the years, I have been a serial romantic about "interesting" software -- programs that seem matched to the way people think, or rather the way I think. Over the years the objects of my fascination have included Lotus Agenda, which I wrote about in the Atlantic nearly 20 years ago, just before Lotus Development cruelly removed its life support. (Background on Agenda, and my 1992 article, here. Possibility of an Agenda reprise here.) Or Zoot, a Windows-program I've written about often, starting here. Or Chandler, by the intellectual godfather of Agenda, Mitch Kapor.

    I try not to draw conclusions from the fact that the programs I love best have not been huge market successes. (Zoot survives, with an all-out new version on the way.) Happily three of the programs I now find most open-endedly intriguing seem to have escaped my curse and are going strong. They are: Scrivener, Personal Brain, and Tinderbox. Even more happily, creators of all three of those programs have agreed to serve guest stints here. First up is Mark Bernstein, creator of Tinderbox. For more on his background, check his bio here and his personal blog here. If you have any interest in the Zen of software, you won't regret reading his book, which is half about his own program and half about the connection between thinking tools, whether electronic or paper-and-pencil, and actual thought.

    Edward Goldstick, also of the Boston area, is a veteran of America's high-tech, software, defense, and energy-technology worlds. We have corresponded frequently over the years, often about technology and its implications, which I imagine he will discuss here. When I asked him how he should be introduced, he suggested this:

    >>I'm a 55 year old Jewish-American from Massachusetts with a BS in Physics at an engineering school that included internships within the "godforsaken" DC and at a national laboratory in IL, an attempt at both graduate study and government service at a well-known defense-oriented nuclear lab in CA... a four-year experience developing transportation simulation software at a large international engineering company... a nearly two decade sojourn in France discovering a foreign language, a life partner, and a surprising capacity to participate in the conception of sophisticated mission-critical systems while making money hawking US-made software... and a decade of semi-retirement back in the States while accompanying our two sons through their teens and my parents into their later years... <<

    Damien Ma is familiar to Atlantic readers from his role as correspondent and frequent contributor here. In his day-job he is an analyst with the Eurasia Group; in that role he travels frequently to China and other parts of Asia. He speaks Chinese and has degrees in Asian studies (and journalism) from institutions in both the U.S. and China. I am always interested in what he has to say about developments inside China and their implications for the world, which among other topics he may discuss this week.

    Kate Sedgwick grew up in Georgia and has been based in recent years in Washington DC. In her professional life she has worked as a public health expert, with a master's degree from Harvard. But now she is living in Bratislava, representing America along with her husband, Tod, a long-time publisher and entrepreneur who is the new U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic. The Sedgwicks have been family friends of my family's for years; Kate will be presenting scenes from the diplomatic and current-Central-European life. Atlantic connection note: Sedgwick bylines have a long history in this magazine. Tod Sedgwick's grandfather, Ellery, owned and edited the Atlantic for three decades starting in 1908. On his watch, the circulation increased nearly tenfold, from 15,000 to the 130,000s. An example to us all. 
    ___
    Here is the background on the third week's team: Bennett, Chou, Comstock, and Glucroft.

    Lizzy Bennett, who is the online marketing manager for the Timbuk2 bag company in San Francisco. Timbuk2 is interesting not just for its design and products but also for its manufacturing strategy: it does its largely made-to-order production right in San Francisco (video here),  rather than on the other side of the Pacific. Lizzy is in the middle of various worlds -- style-conscious start-ups, social media and blog-based marketing, young San Francisco -- I am interested in but obviously not part of. She is from California and is a former college athlete (Stanford tennis team) and a mountain climber, as part of the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks challenge.

    Ella Chou is now a second-year graduate student in East Asian studies at Harvard. She was born in Hangzhou, which anyone who has visited China has heard referred to as the "most beautiful" of the country's cities (a cliche that is preferable to being called one of the "three furnaces" of China -- as Wuhan, Nanking, and Chongqing are because of their summer weather)  and came to Beijing at age 17 for studies at the Beijing Foreign Studies University. She has worked with a variety of news, environmental, and civil-society organizations -- which is how I first met her in Beijing --  and her ambition is to be involved in efforts combining law and social change. She too is part of various circles I am fascinated by but am not part of -- notably the very educated Chinese 20-somethings who are at ease in the wider world and have high hopes for their country.

    Tony Comstock
    is a documentary filmmaker, whose company, Comstock Films, specializes in erotic documentaries. I have corresponded with him over the years (and quoted him here and elsewhere) about the evolving conceptions of the "decent" and "profane" in an internet-connected age, when both state agencies and private corporations exercise the ability to censor -- and the corporate censorship is usually the less transparent of the two. He was raised on the West Coast but is now based in New York. History buffs will have guessed that his adopted professional name is an homage to Anthony Comstock, famed late-19th century leader of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.

    Brian Glucroft, who has been based in in Shanghai for several years, was trained as a musician (clarinet performance, Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore) but has worked mainly as a user-experience specialist for software firms, notably including Microsoft China. He has traveled extensively through China and -- as I hope will be part of his contributions here -- has taken remarkable photos from the parts of the country left off standard tour routes. I had corresponded with him -- about China, software, and beer -- over an extended period but first met him last year during a long day together at the Shanghai World Expo.

    ____
    Here is background on the second week's team: Eberlein, Holmes, Spinney, and Sprung.

    Xujun Eberlein, who grew up in Chongqing, in central China, where she was a child during the Cultural Revolution, and came to Boston to earn a PhD at MIT more than 20 years ago. She has worked in a high-tech startup and published an acclaimed collection of short stories, Apologies Forthcoming. She writes about Chinese and American literature and culture at her site Inside-Out China; more background on her here.

    Bruce Holmes, who for many years was an "entrepreneurial bureaucrat" inside NASA. Bruce was one of the heroes of my book Free Flight, a decade ago, and of this story in the Atlantic more recently. He paid his way through college flying crop dusters and other planes in Kansas, and is still involved in promoting some of the most innovative steps in aviation. More about him and his new company, NextGen AeroServices, here.

    Chuck Spinney, who was on the cover of Time magazine in the Reagan era for his attempts to bring sanity to the defense budget, and who was a central figure in my book National Defense in 1981, along with colleagues like John Boyd and Pierre Sprey. Chuck has retired from the Pentagon and now spends much of his time on a small sailboat in the Mediterranean with his wife Alison and Zoey, their small dog. I have written about Chuck and his views here, here, here, and in a very high-traffic post here.

    Andrew Sprung, who writes about politics, culture, language, and democracy at his site Xpostfactoid, and in his day job is a media consultant. I became aware of him through his frequent interesting examinations of a favorite topic of my own: the language, style, and unstated messages in the rhetoric of national leaders. Sprung says that may come from his academic background, including a Ph.D. in medieval English literature: "I wrote a dissertation on the remarkably humane and subtle medieval English anchorite Julian of Norwich, a mystic nun whose knack of squaring circles and framing paradoxes reminds me a little of our current President."

    ___
    First week:
    As mentioned earlier, starting tomorrow morning we're kicking off what should be a very interesting stretch of guest voices in this space, while I disappear to finish a book (and before that, ahem, an article -- check the April issue). For the coming week, I'm delighted to introduce good friends whom I always enjoy hearing from; I think you will too. This first week belongs to:

     Phil Baker, a product designer and technology writer from San Diego. He has helped conceive some of the products you use and have around the house; his insights on tech and business are, for me, always provocative. Many of the most interesting things I learned about Chinese manufacturing systems I learned because of him. His regular blog is here.

     Jorge Guajardo, with guest appearances by his wife Paola. They are Mexico's first family in China, where he currently serves as the Mexican ambassador. Both went to college in the US -- he to Georgetown, she to Yale -- and they have been involved in politics and culture in Mexico, the US, and China. Jorge and I first met because of a shared interest in small-plane flying. We formed a North American solidarity bloc in Beijing during the great Swine Flu panic there, when anyone from our part of the world (but especially Mexico) was viewed with public-health department suspicion.

     John Tierney is a political scientist and former college professor who now is a beloved teacher in a private high school in Boston, an accomplished amateur actor, and a long time close friend. For several years he has carried out high-end book and movie criticism, in his own blog, plus political views I expect he will share.

    Lane Wallace is known to Atlantic readers for her many articles and Dispatches here. I first met her a decade ago in the amateur-piloting world, where she was already famous for her columns in Flying. She has written with great insight about bravery and courage of many sorts; her regular site, on that topic and others, is here.

    Welcome to them all. It is a pleasure to turn the stage over to them. And, if you press the now misleadingly named "Email Fallows" button above, your messages should instead go to each week's authors, for them to handle as they see fit.

    Keith Blount

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