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.
  • More on "interesting" software: InfoQube

    Following previous dispatches here and here about the endless, quixotic search for the ideal outlining program, many people wrote in to sing the praises of a Windows-based program I had not been aware of: InfoQube, or IQ. (Hardee-har!! I get it!) Sample testimonial note from someone who identifies himself as "a highly satisfied user" and who doesn't appear to be connected to the company:

    "I'd like to let you know that InfoQube (IQ), while still a bit unknown and not out of beta yet (but soon to reach v1.0 ), is a very powerful Outliner too!

    "In my humble opinion, probably the most powerful and flexible out there. Really. I have been using it for the last 2 years, doing incredible things with it... Not only does it do outlining, but it also has a calendar, Gantt charts, pivot tables, etc.

    "It's not your typical software : it takes an open mind and a bit of reading (not that much!) to understand its principles. These small initial efforts are quite rewarding, that's for sure!
    Have a look at it (Download), and feel free to ask questions on our friendly Forum. ["Our" = user community, not speaking for the company itself] Pierre Paul Landry, our IQ talented, dedicated and friendly developer, answers many questions himself."

    Here's a thematic illustration from the company's site, on the "Qube" theme. (Click for bigger.) Disappointingly, the actual program is confined to normal 2-D computer screen displays. I have not yet tried InfoQube myself, but I received enough mail from people who have that it seemed worth mentioning.

    InfoQube2.jpg


    While I'm on the subject of satisfied users, I have mentioned several times the modestly-priced, Mac-based writing program Scrivener, on which I am relying for more and more of my work. An impressive list of writers (mainly novelists) who have become devotees is here. Worth considering.
  • Finally the Internet is worthwhile: "How to fly the P-47"

    Thanks to Carl Malamud's PublicResource.org project, which takes material prepared by public agencies and makes it available free online, you too can get basic info on flying the P-47 "Thunderbolt." It comes courtesy of these films, produced for pilot-aspirants in 1943 by the War Department. [Fixed link to Public.Resource -- had been wrong.]

    (Yes, children, there was a "Department of War" all through American history, until the creation of the "Department of Defense" in 1947. More was involved in creation of the DOD than the change in name; but in retrospect "Department of War" seems a breathtakingly and admirably honest term. I think we should change the Pentagon's name back to "Department of War," and re-assign "Department of Defense" to the organization that now bears the loathsome name "Department of Homeland Security." But I digress.)

    As you'll see if you watch, the films do get into some technical aspects. But they ease into it with some, umm, cultural material -- especially the first few minutes of the film below. It's #2 in the series, covering normal operations of the airplane.



    Here's the first in the series, general pilot familiarization with the P-47:



    And the third, on high-altitude flight and aerobatics:



    Congrats and thanks to Malamud -- and the original film makers. This gets me in the mood for starting to fly again. These guys look suave!
    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for P47-1.png

  • More on GrandView, Thinklinkr, and other "interesting outliners"

    I mentioned recently a new free, collaborative, cloud-based outliner called Thinklinkr, which is a worthy new contender in this troubled field.

    Two bits of extra info for the outline-curious. First, a spectacularly thorough and provocative post by Stephen Zeoli on the "Welcome to Sherwood" site, here, on the reasons why so many buffs consider the orphaned, antique, DOS-only program GrandView the best outliner ever invented. (Gentle hint to Thinklinkr crew and others: read that post, and shamelessly copy!) GrandView screenshot, from the review:

    gv-outline11.png

    Then, below and after the jump, selections from a message from Jason Tillery, one of the two-man crew responsible for Thinklinkr, about the idea behind its development and future plans. I wrote asking him, What should I know about this program? Parts of his reply follow. The ellipses are for the more overtly corporate-PR sections; I've left the material that explains the development strategy:

    "Outlining software has been around since the 60's, but until now there were no real web-based offerings.

    More »

  • Krugman, protectionism, and the RMB

    This is the next installment in a catching-up-with-the-week's-events series, as advertised here. Today's topic: US-China relations, economic imbalances, and the value of the Chinese RMB.

    In his NYT column yesterday, Paul Krugman discussed the Chinese government's refusal to let the RMB rise against the dollar, which (since the dollar is falling versus most other currencies) means that the RMB is rapidly sinking in value against the Euro and yen, even as China runs up huge trade surpluses. This, Krugman said, was a "predatory" policy that should and would provoke retaliation from the rest of the world.

    My reaction on reading the column was, Matte mashita!, roughly "I've been waiting for this!", the phrase that audiences at Japanese kabuki performances may yell at the appearance of a favored character or famous line. For nearly a year, I have been watching the economic press in anticipation of just this kind of article.

    It was about a year ago, in the devastation of China's manufacturing-export business that followed the world economic collapse, that I spoke with the financial-markets expert Michael Pettis, at Guanghua School of Business in Beijing. I wrote about his views (and others') in this article last spring in the Atlantic.

    The heart of Pettis's argument was that China's economy in this past year was like America's in the early 1930s. Each had been the workshop of the world in the preceding decade; each had piled up huge trade surpluses and financial reserves; and -- the underappreciated part -- each suffered big job losses when its foreign customers could no longer buy its excess production. Having had more than "its fair share" of the world's manufacturing jobs in the 1920s, the US had more of them to lose in the 1930s. So too with China as demand fell around the world last year. Relatively more of China's people had depended on foreign customers for their jobs, thus relatively more of them were at risk than in Europe or the US. And indeed, tens of millions of Chinese factory jobs disappeared last year, especially in the southern part of the country.

    The crucial part of Pettis' analysis was the next step: whether China would respond to this loss the way the U.S. had in the 1930s. Back then, desperate to protect American factory jobs, the U.S. Congress passed the Smoot-Hawley tariff, with levies on thousands of product categories. In itself, that tariff was not the cause of the world Depression (contrary to the implications of "Smoot Hawley" in the standard political speech or op-ed column). But as other countries retaliated, the cascading failure of demand intensified the hard times worldwide.

    To bring this back to Krugman and China: Pettis concluded that the natural result of last year's economic slowdown would be the shrinkage of China's export economy and global trade surplus. Anything else would delay the "rebalancing" of economies that was necessary worldwide. If China tried too hard to prevent this, then that step would be the modern Smoot Hawley equivalent. As I put it in the article:

    "The real damage of Smoot-Hawley, [Pettis] says, was less economic than political. Other countries understood that the United States was trying to protect its trade surplus and therefore its workforce. They didn't like it as a political matter, and they struck back.

    "If that were to happen again... the real counterpart to Smoot-Hawley would be Chinese protectionism--or rather, any effort by China to defend its huge trade surpluses, as the U.S. once did. China's government is unlikely to rely on outright Smoot-Hawley-style tariffs. Instead it could increase subsidies to exporters; it could try to push the RMB's value back down, after three years of letting the currency rise; it could encourage manufacturers to restrain wages; it could impose indirect barriers to imports, as with its recent pressure on China's airlines to cancel outstanding orders for Boeing and Airbus airplanes. By early this year, China's government was in fact doing every one of these things."

    That is the context for Krugman's article, in my view. Political leaders around the world talk about the need to "rebalance" their economies; this means more saving and less overconsumption in the United States; but it also means less under-consumption in China, in the sense of relying less on foreigners as customers. As long as the Chinese government holds the line on the RMB, it is doing its best to resist and thwart that balancing process. As I argued in another article, the value of the RMB is not at all the main reason for China's manufacturing success or the shift of world jobs to China. But the refusal to let that value change will become a major impediment to the global economic adjustment that China's leaders (with all others) say is necessary.

    The bottom line of Krugman's column is: if China's government doesn't change this policy, it is inviting trouble for itself and everyone else. To me this seems obviously right.

  • Happy New Year! Starting off right with "interesting software"

    While out of range for the past week, I've not weighed in on a lot of subjects I would normally have a view on, from the Nigerian would-be suicide bomber, to the nature and function of the TSA, to the implications of press and judicial developments within China, to the latest twist in China's policy on the RMB.

    I will plan to catch up, on each and all, in the next day or two. For the moment ... how about a promising entry from the world of "interesting" technology?

    What I have in mind is Thinklinkr, a free, "cloud"-based outlining program that very much deserves attention. Since the dawn of the personal computing age, outlining programs have constituted a fascinating but often heartbreaking product category. Fascinating because they are an essential component of electronic "thinking tools." (Another essential component: systems for collecting, organizing, and retrieving info. And ideally one more: something to do the actual thinking and writing. So far, no dice.) Heartbreaking because several of the best entries have atrophied or been orphaned, and others are minority tastes.

    Perhaps it's mainly rosy retrospect, but I still think the classic DOS outliner GrandView was the best I've ever used. Background on GrandView here. Those I use and like these days include the elegantly minimalist BrainStorm (PC only); the intriguing-in-many-ways PersonalBrain (PC, Mac, LInux); the also-intriguing MindManager (PC, Mac); OmniOutliner (Mac); plus the outlining functions in the wonderful Mac-only writing program Scrivener; plus the outlining functions in the upcoming Version 6 release of the wonderful PC-only "idea processor," Zoot. (Zoot 6 is in late beta.) And some others I am forgetting right now.

    I give that long warmup to say that I've always cared about this field, and I find Thinklinkr a worthy new contender,as a very fast, very flexible online outlining tool. Its basis in the "cloud" means that you don't have to worry about Mac/PC issues nor about synching among your different machines. You do, of course, have to be online. It also keeps track of previous versions of an outline, and allows users in differently places to collaborate in real time. Worth checking out. (Partial screenshot below, and further info below that.)

    ThinkLInk.png

    Reference section: For a history of the outlining field in general, start here; for a later "rediscovery" of outlines, go here. For my previous perspectives on and judgments about other "thinking" systems, see this about Zoot; this about BrainStorm; and this about Personal Brain. For a blog by the designers of Thinklinkr, see a sample entry here and main page here. I have written to the company to ask about the ideas behind the program and will post the answers shortly. Thanks to Michael Ham for the lead.

  • How America Can Rise Again
    Seamus Murphy

    How America Can Rise Again

    Is America going to hell? After a year of economic calamity that many fear has sent us into irreversible decline, the author finds reassurance in the peculiarly American cycle of crisis and renewal, and in the continuing strength of the forces that have made the country great: our university system, our receptiveness to immigration, our culture of innovation. In most significant ways, the U.S. remains the envy of the world. But here’s the alarming problem: our governing system is old and broken and dysfunctional. Fixing it—without resorting to a constitutional convention or a coup—is the key to securing the nation’s future.

  • Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year 2010

    There are many items in the queue, but I've just turned in an article, have Christmas Eve duties, and am then leaving town. I am grateful to all for attention and suggestions through the year; apologies for moments of choler or many things left undone. I send good wishes of the season to readers from whatever country or background. And I will be away from this space until the first few days of next year. 

  • Another moment to note, for Liu Xiaobo (updated)

    The trial and impending sentencing of Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), in China, is a dark moment for him, for his country, and for the prospects of expanding liberties for ordinary Chinese people.

    I have no information to add to the extensive Western news coverage of his case, just a voice of support. In brief, Liu is a prominent long-time advocate for the expansion of civil society, rule of law, and individual liberties in China. He was jailed twenty years ago, after Tiananmen Square, and is now being tried for "incitement to subvert state power." By all reports, he will be sentenced tomorrow, while much of the Western world's attention is distracted on Christmas Day. The charges apparently arise mainly from his role last year in promoting "Charter 08," a manifesto for civil society in China. There is nothing about his life, work, or efforts that a truly confident government should fear. That the Chinese government cannot tolerate his views speaks volumes.

    There is much to admire in modern China, and even more to sympathize with in the aspirations and efforts of its people. But this is a reminder of what is wrong with the way it is run, and is a moment that friends of China and of Chinese people should note, regret, and deplore.

    Resources: from New York Times; Washington Post; Human Rights in China; English text of Charter 08; Chinese text of Charter 08. 

    UPDATE: Just now -- Christmas Eve in the US, Friday morning in Beijing --  Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in prison for "subversion," the harshest such sentence in a very long time. This is a very sobering moment.

  • A moment to note

    I was in high school in California when Congress wrestled with the Medicare bill in the 1960s. The temper of our town was extremely conservative, and I remember then the same combination of heartfelt, and eventually panicked and despairing, warnings by opponents of the bill that I have heard from opponents of the current health-care plan these past few months. Big spending, big deficits, big government, end of choice, destruction of the doctor-patient relationship, intrusion of the bureaucrat, erosion of the American way. The mood was just as committed, angry, impassioned, and beyond the reach of mere "let's talk about the facts" discussion as it is now. That background doesn't prove that fears about the current bill are ill-founded. But it needs to be remembered.

    At the time I didn't register the significance of Medicare's passage -- something now so engrained as part of the American Way that today's Republicans have positioned themselves as its protectors (against the alleged ravages of the Obama plan). I think that these two quick-reaction TNR articles -- by Jonathan Chait, here, and Jonathan Cohn, here -- do a wonderful job of registering the significance of the Senate's 60-39 vote today in favor of the bill. Chait's is particularly thorough in parsing and addressing the main objections to the bill. These two writers, plus Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, have through the long course of this debate provided a clinic in how to explain the policies and the politics of a very important, very controversial, and very very verrrrrryy complicated public decision.

    The Republican opponents of Medicare in my youth at least had something they were for. They had Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative; they had Ronald Reagan with his recorded addresses on how socialized medicine was the route toward socialism of all sorts. Even though in practice Reagan's pitch boiled down to flat-out opposition to Medicare, the idea-content of his opposition now seems about 100 times greater than what we've become accustomed to hearing from Fox News or at tea-party rallies.

    The Republican coalition of that time had its "reactionary" elements, notably those white Southerners who were being peeled from the traditional Democratic coalition by their reaction to the civil rights era. The John Birch Society was of course already part of the team. But the conservatism of Goldwater and Reagan didn't seem to be the pure reaction, pure oppositionism, pure emotional outrage that to me comes through many anti-Obama speeches. Newt Gingrich was not Ronald Reagan's equivalent as a political leader nor Goldwater's as progenitor of a movement. But when he led the GOP's efforts to stop Clinton's health care plan and its subsequent takeover of the House in 1994, he very prominently offered "ideas" and a "plan." (Viz, 'Contract with America.')

    When the most visible faces and most prominent voices of Republican sentiment are Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, McConnell, and Boehner, aggrieved oppositionism is possible, but a Reagan- or even Gingrich-scale movement is hard. They await their leader. In the meantime, it is a moment to note.

  • A musical Christmas treat

    Perhaps because our extended family includes a branch in Rome, I can't get enough of the wonderful, antique, nonsense-English "rap" video posted on the Daily Dish a few days ago:



    And certainly because our extended family includes some actual Romans, I now know much more about this than I ever thought I would! For one, the clip is more than 35 years old, and features a very-famous-in-Italy singer, Adriano Celentano, who is now in his 70s. The starring blond disco-dancer is the also-well-known Raffaella Carrà. (The black-and-white parts are from the original early 1970s video; the color part is from a later remix.) Also: although one of Celentano's idols is Elvis Presley and he sounds completely American with an Elvis-like diction, he does not speak English himself (or so he says, in Italian, in an article yesterday in la Repubblica.)* His purpose in doing the song was to promote the idea of "universal communication." And: he's apparently enjoying a boomlet of fame, thanks to this video that was initially boosted by Cory Doctorow.

    Even better: after the jump, a transcription of the lyrics to the song, which begins:

    in de col men seivuan
    prisencolinensinainciusol ol rait

    And best of all, a video with "subtitles" based on the English it sounds like he is saying. For instance, in this one the title of the song becomes "Freezing cold and excellent choose hole."



    Thanks to sister-in-law SZG in Roma. Buon Natale!
     
    Also, background last year from the New Yorker's site, here.

    *From la Repubblica: Ci dica la verità: ha mai imparato l' inglese? «Sono anni che cerco di impararlo, ma ho sempre rimandato a causa di impegni, e il fatto di non parlare inglese è per me una vera spina.

    Q: The truth, now: you've never learned English? A: For years I wanted to learn, but I always put it off, and the fact of not speaking English is a real pain.
    ______

    More »

  • "Significant if true" follow up (China in Copenhagen)

    Reaction to the Guardian story yesterday, alleging that Chinese negotiators "intentionally" embarrassed Barack Obama and sabotaged the Copenhagen talks, turns out to be a Rorschach test for views on a variety of issues. Views of China (inherently untrustworthy); views of the US and the West (inherently biased against rising China); views of Obama (ludicrously out of his depth in dealing with the Chinese); views of man-made climate change and big international conclaves like this (big frauds in both cases).

    Herewith two representative responses. First, from a reader with a Chinese name asking "understanding and patience" for China. Then, someone with a realpolitik argument about Chinese negotiating interests. The Chinese reader says:

    "The points Mark [Lynas, on the Guardian's site] made in the article is too judgmental and biased. Actually Premier Wen attended two meetings with President Obama. Another fact he fails to mention is that CO2 emission per person in China is only 1/4 that of US, 1/2 of Europe. Great Britain is a service-based economy and no longer a World Factory even a century ago, but someone has to produce clothes, cars, and toys. right? Yes, They are made in China (also for Chinese) now with coal-based industry. So what? Put a tariff on these products ,move back manufacturing, put a halt to China's heavy industries? No offense, but China is really still a very young man towards modernization and may never enjoyed a lifestyle many of us envied so much. Is it fair to accuse a young man to stop growing up as an adult? [JF note: This is a familiar image in Chinese discussions.]
     "Of course China's economy needs restructuring, and this will surely proves very hard. From a high-carbon economy to low-carbon economy, the transition nowadays seems more like a international politics issue than an internal economic issue. On the way to a greener economy, Mark really should make less accusations with more understanding and patience."

    Now, from a non-Chinese reader:

    "It is with a sort of sad bemusement that I read the Guardian account of the Chinese action at Copenhagen. There are a couple things which indicate that the writer might be somewhat insufficiently well-informed, not the least of them the assumption, prior to being wrecked at the conference, that China somehow would like to do things within nearly 200-member multilateral regimes, when in fact the very philosophy of the larger Chinese diplomacy, for the past century, has been dead-set against using such a regime in a positive, rather than negating, manner. I am not sure what exactly possessed Mr Lynas, the writer, to assume thus, but it is certainly not familiarity with Chinese methods.

    More »

  • If I were Sen. Bill Nelson ... (updated x2)

    ... I wonder how I would feel about the home page of the WaPo's opinion section just now.

    NelsonGersonWaPo.png

    Sen. Ben Nelson is probably not crazy about the op-ed itself, but that's in the normal sphere of political disagreement. Wonder how long it will stay this way on the site, having been up there overnight.

    (To spell it out: the very negative-toned headline refers to the wrong guy. Second paragraph of the article: "Such was the case in the final hours of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's successful attempt to get cloture on health-care reform. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the last Democratic holdout,..." Thanks to reader EG.)

    Update:   Checking back a few hours later (11:20am), the mistake is still there on the WaPo's home "Opinion" page. I don't mean to go crazy on the "are there no copy editors?" theme, but again this genuinely surprises me: That the nation's leading newspaper of politics, in the top-most item on its main opinion page, would make a highly embarrassing error in a highly insulting headline about the major political news of the moment - and no one would fix it. We all make errors; I have put up more embarrassing typo-marred items than I would like. But how many people at the Post have to have seen the site by this point (including the author of the piece) - without any of them saying, Ooops?? I can't imagine that if the main page of the sports site said in its lead headline that "George Allen" was going to be the new general manager of the Redskins, rather than his son Bruce Allen, the error would stay up there for hours. (Or more plausibly George Allen Jr, rather than his brother Bruce.) But then, I couldn't imagine that the "Bill Nelson" item would stay up uncorrected either.

    Oh well. Back to work, and Merry Christmas!

    Update #2: Just now, 11:35 or so, I see that it is fixed. Never mind!

  • A story that, if true, is important

    This account, on the Guardian's site this afternoon, from a writer who says he was a first-hand witness when Chinese representatives "intentionally" torpedoed Barack Obama's proposals and wrecked the Copenhagen deal. The headline tells the story:

    How do I know China wrecked the

     

    Copenhagen deal? I was in the room


    As the author, Mark Lynas, notes at the end of the story, the Chinese government and Chinese businesses are indeed sponsoring very ambitious clean-tech and clean-up programs across the country. But he argues that the Chinese representatives saw it as strategically in China's interest to thwart any specific or enforceable deal, and to position the West, and in particular the U.S., as the culprits for the failure. Lynas is identified in the article only as a "freelance writer working full-time on climate change." But in another Guardian article he is identified as being an adviser to the Maldives, one of the island nations most threatened by rising sea levels, which could explain why he was "in the room" during the negotiations. I'm sorry he wasn't clearer in the article itself about how he knows what he says he saw.

    Obviously I can't tell independently whether this account is true, or fair, and it certainly differs in tone from much of the other coverage and analysis out of Copenhagen. (Difference #1 from most U.S. coverage: declaration of abject failure. Difference #2: flat-out blame on China as the obstacle, rather than problems-all-around. Of course some other U.K. coverage and commentary has struck a similar note. Nuance #3 that rings strange to American ears: the idea that Obama showed up in Copenhagen with anything like a "strong mandate" from the U.S. for a substantial climate offer.)  But even in a provisional sense, this seems worth noting as one strand in the emerging interpretation of China's new role in international affairs, and the prospects for the much-bruited China-U.S. cooperation on climate issues.

    I could write in my sleep the response that will come from Chinese officials and from Chinese netizens about the unfairness of this view and the possibility that it will "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people." I pass it along as worth notice to those interested in the next stage of China's international interactions -- and those interested in the environment too.

  • Bing-vs-Google experiment report (updated)

    I mentioned a week ago that, in the name of science, I would rely strictly on Bing while reporting an article I'm writing now. (Note to my editors: almost done, really! No, I'm serious this time!) I have a precis of the results on a segment of "All Tech Considered" with Michele Norris this evening -- link herewhen it's available -- but here are the significant results:

    1) In a sane world, we'd recognize that all search engines are great.... On most queries, I found via Bing more or less what I would have expected to find on Google. Same for Ask.com. In a way, carping about the differences is like carping about the differences between a Mercedes and a BMW, when ten years ago you were riding an ox.

    2) ... and we'd also recognize that no search engine is perfect. An obvious point, and one I've addressed before (in the NYT, here), but still worth remembering. For reasons I won't go into, I was trying to find a list of all the senators who voted for and against ratifying the Panama Canal Treaty in 1978. So far, no dice -- with Bing, Google, Ask, Yahoo, etc. I have complete faith that ten minutes after I post this, I'll get a note from someone saying, "You idiot, they're right here.." with the relevant link. I'm saying, I played around long enough to think that the list was "not easily findable" via search engines, so for practical purposes it doesn't exist. Though the search turned up some nuggets like this (memo to Jimmy Carter about how to sweet-talk certain senators during phone calls about the treaty), which I found via Ask.com.

    3) Bing has many winsome touches. I don't mean its most heavily promoted feature: its service as a "decision engine" for buying things. I wasn't really shopping this week, so I didn't care. Rather I mean that, for instance, when I was looking for info on the French novel La Disparition, the first hit was the French Wikipedia site for the book. (Though when I run the search again just now, English Wikipedia comes up first. These results are dynamic things.) Its way for presenting image-results is more attractive and convenient than Google's. And... lots of other carefully thought-out touches. As a whole the site looks nice, starting with its splash-screen picture of the day. Today's, below:

    BingDec21.png 

    4) And, no doubt there's a big "you like what you're used to" factor at play. If I'd been using Bing for years and had never heard of Google, I might find Google's austere look and style "unusual."

    5) But overall, sigh, Bing seemed to leave too much out. At least too much of what I wanted to find. I mentioned this last summer, when Bing first came out. It still seems to be the case -- for my purposes, in day by day use this week.

    Before giving some illustrations, I need to explain a change in my Experimental Technique. After several days' worth of looking for things only on Bing, I had a nagging feeling that I wasn't getting the whole story. So rather than just give up and go to Google, I turned to the inspired site Bing-vs-Google.com, which gives you side-by-side results for the same search. The illustrations below rely on that comparison:

      - I was looking for Gene Weingarten's incredibly wrenching Washington Post magazine story about infants who died when left in overheated cars. It was the number-one hit when I did a search in Google; it was not on the first page of results with Bing. See the comparison here.

    - I wanted to provide background for Francois Villon's Ballade des dames du temps jadis. The Google results of a search on "Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan" were just what I was looking for; not so with Bing. See here.

    - I wanted to identify the music in a very brief Chrysler Town and Country ad I'd just seen on TV. Google had it, as the #1 hit; on Bing, it was down below a lot of chaff. See here. Something similar when I was looking for the music from a Palm Pixi ad, here.

    - I was looking -- online shopping! -- for a case for my invaluable LiveScribe Pulse magic pen. This is what Bing is supposed to be made for, but the first non-sponsored hit is for a site that looks pretty fishy to me. Its intro says: "We at livescribepen.net gathered a range of stylish high tech pen now a day; here you can search all kinds of livescribe pen. You can use it either your in meeting, school, training and at the office, it's a unique pen that you can count on. If you use the smartpen your life running smooth to write what you heard." That site -- again, #1 for Bing -- seems to be filtered out of the first few pages of Google. See the comparison here.

    Note: if you click on these Bing-vs-Google links, you may see something different from what I'm reporting here, since the site runs real-time searches of ever-changing content. (I've saved some of the screen shots from my searches but am not posting them here.)

    6) Moral of the story? I mentioned earlier that after my experiment in writing an article with voice-recognition software only, I returned happily to the keyboard. I will return happily to Google -- and, no kidding, to Bing-vs-Google.com (or other sites that do the same, like this and this). (UPDATE: and this one, GoogaWho?, which lets you easily compare results from Google, Bing, Ask, Yahoo, InfoSpace, Lycos, AltaVista, and Dogpile.) You never know what you might have missed! There's always more to prowl around for, including that elusive Panama Canal vote.   

    [Routine disclaimer: I have good friends and a variety of connections at both Microsoft and Google.]

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

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