The Torch is Passed: Welcome Bernstein, Goldstick, Ma, Sedgwick

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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.

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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.
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