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
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:
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
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
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
- 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.
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
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
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.)
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
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.
has written extensively about Japanese finance, manufacturing,
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.