Daily Office:


Matins: At Survival of the Book, Brian considers David Ulin’s widely-read LA Times piece, “The Lost Art of Reading.”

Lauds: Prince Charles takes his (architectural) case to the public. (via Arts Journal)

Prime: Robert Cringley poses the Emperor’s-New-Clothes question about American corporations that we’ve been asking for ages — only with greater élan: when did profits become more important than pensions and health benefits?

Tierce: What happens in Oman at iftar, the call to evening prayer? One thing seems to be clear: the orgy is not traditional. (via  Café Muscato)

Sext: Vacationing on Cape Cod, Scout looks at the hostelries along Route 6A between Truro and Provincetown, and finds a romantically abandoned motel.

Nones: In the eyes of the developed world, Muammar el-Qaddafi hovers unstably between dictator and thug. Dictators, while not approved, are accepted; thugs, like terrorists, are not permitted to negotiate. Negotiating the release of the Lockerbie bomber, the colonel may have kicked himself away from the table.

Vespers: While we’re getting all weepy about the end of The Book, maybe we ought to feel a little hopeful about the end of Books Like This, which never ought to be published in the first place.

Compline: Edward Moore Kennedy: a princeling who had a U S Senate seat handed to him (repeatedly)? Or a little prince who had to overcome the allure of accidental advantages in order to find real strengths? We take the latter view, along with the Times, the Journal, and even the Post.  


§ Matins. We like Brian’s analysis, which is a tad more rigorous than Mr Ulin’s.

In effect what I have fallen victim to is what much of the nation already thinks but isn’t aware of: we have conflated knowledge and information. I have created a monster in my head via this electronic device that somehow reading newspapers, blogs, and websites constitutes the same kind of intellectual activity as reading a book does. I don’t know how it happened. Worse, I don’t necessarily know what to do about it as technology becomes faster, more portable, and easier to use. I am worried that this confusion could continue as our beloved but obsolete industry continues to work its way to “the wrong side of the grass,” as a friend of mine once said. “What I’m struggling with is the encroachment of the buzz, the sense that there is something out there that merits my attention, when in fact it’s mostly just a series of disconnected riffs and fragments that add up to the anxiety of the age,” David Ulin writes. I think he has nailed it. The iPhone has allowed me to feel “connected” to what is happening but in reality it has just amplified the “the buzz.” I have parsed my time incorrectly thinking that any reading, irrespective of how trivial, is important when really jumping from one website to another while on the T is just an overvaluation of “a series of disconnected riffs and fragments.” I worry that I am losing the ability to be contemplative.

Information is not knowledge, any more than bread is blood. Knowledge is the product of a mind, and the problem that Brian points to is the great difficulty of forming a mind that knows what to do with information — in particular, what how to reject information as useless — in a chaotically hyperlinked environment.

§ Lauds. Prince Charles seems madly pleased with his relatively high profile —  in a country where any royal profile is already pretty towering.

Charles believes that residents — instead of architects and planners — should have the biggest say in the development of new communities.

Yet his championing of a grassroots approach follows concerns about him overstepping his constitutional role by personally interfering in a string of building projects.

Designs by Lord Rogers for a £3 billion modernist scheme on the site of the Chelsea barracks in southwest London were recently scrapped after the prince privately complained to the Emir of Qatar, who is bankrolling the project.

The Prince’s Foundation, Charles’s architectural charity, has already sought greater public input for a string of new developments across Britain.

Described as “enquiry by design” (EBD), the approach allows residents to contribute directly to the masterplan of a new development. They would decide what features to include, such as parks, and even determine the style of architecture to be used for homes.

We don’t know which we’re reminded of more: To Play the King or Richard III.

§ Prime. The old way of doing business is unsustainable. But only workers seem to making sacrifices.

This is the HR equivalent of a neutron bomb, which kills people but leaves structures unscathed. So all these companies will be leaner and meaner — mean enough that there may be nobody left to buy their products.

It comes back to the common perception that the sole function of public companies and their CEOs is to “maximize shareholder value” — a phrase that is interpreted to mean “maximize next quarter’s earnings-per-share.” This philosophy works beautifully with the slightly less than four year average tenure of a U.S. public company CEO. Long before the effects of these bad decisions can show the CEO has bailed, descending beneath his golden parachute toward some retirement heaven.

Where did this cult of shareholder value maximization come from? And who says that’s the prime directive and nothing else ought to matter? Not me. In fact it is bad policy both for the companies and for our society in general. Here’s a good explanation of this phenomenon and what’s wrong with it.

Companies like IBM that take this position are hurting America. The kids graduating from college now are the first American generation that is likely to do less well financially than their parents. My kids will do less well than me. One reason for this is that we’re eliminating high paying jobs and replacing them with lower-paying service jobs. IBM towns like Rochester, Minnesota and Armonk, New York thrived economically because Big Blue pumped money into the local economy by creating high-paying tech jobs. What happens to the local economy when those jobs are exported? It declines, perhaps permanently. That decline does not have to be inevitable unless we make it so.

Hear, hear!

§ Tierce. Nadia’s iftar menu is — strange. Crème caramel is the big puzzler.

Dhofari Iftar Menu: The Everyday Basics:

Samboosas سمبوس (usually filled with spicy vegetables and ground beef)

Luqaymat لقيمات: (sweet dumplings dipped in sugar syrup)

Soup شوربة: ( Ramadan soup made with beef, vegatables and oats. Quite delicious with lemon)

Vimto فيمتو: (red poison)

Coffee & Dates

Thareed ثريد : (a traditional Omani dry bread soaked in a beef sauce. Tasty)

Sandwiches: (usually most families will have an assortment of small sandwiches)

Creme Caramel!

Custard مهلبية


Usually a dish of spicy macaroni

Watermelon (to ensure you have the worst case of Digestive Volcanos in the history of mankind)

Do we want to know more about Vimto? The delights that we poor sheltered Americans must live without!

§ Sext. You can have a look-see for yourself, by zooming in from here.

Can the summer really be about to end? For us, it has been a great season, although we don’t think that you’d agree. We have chained ourself to our work. Instead of “taking the summer off (from work)” — which we were never very good at — we took the summer off from everything else, and, frankly, not even the music of pounding surf could have improved on our vacation.

§ Nones. It certainly seems to be the case that victory brings out Col Qaddafi’s inner thug. 

“He likes to rub it in to the West that he was vindicated, that he’s becoming an internationally recognized figure again,” said Dirk J. Vandewalle, associate professor of government at Dartmouth College.

It was signature Colonel Qaddafi, extracting a concession from Western powers, offering thanks, then appearing to mock them for caving in. On his visit to Paris in 2007, he lectured the French on human rights. In Rome this year, he pinned a photograph to his chest of the 1931 arrest by Italian troops of the Libyan guerrilla leader Omar al-Mokhtar, whom the Italians later hanged.

But this time, Colonel Qaddafi appears to have overreached (even if Mr. Megrahi’s homecoming, indeed his entire case, may not be as straightforward as many perceive).

Instead of enhancing Colonel Qaddafi’s standing, as he had hoped, Mr. Megrahi’s release has highlighted inherent conflicts in his re-engagement with the outside world, experts said. Colonel Qaddafi’s revolutionary ideology still clashes with Western expectations. He has failed to use his nation’s opening to make political and economic improvements at home. There may even be a degree of naïveté on the part of Colonel Qaddafi, who has expressed shock at the full-throated response from Washington and London.

§ Vespers. The argument against James Carville’s 40 More Years is simplicity itself: nobody’s buying.  

And, well, Nielsen Bookscan reports it has sold some 7,000 copies since then. [N.B. BookScan does not count Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club or BJ’s sales—but does now count airport kiosks, which are, let’s be honest, prime Carville selling territory.]

Amazon’s knocked the price down to $16.32 from the original $24. What kind of fire-sale item is he trying to unload on me?

Worse than that, as we said this spring, I’m not so sure it was a good idea for my close, personal friend James Carville to write this book in the first place. Was it not a short five or six years ago that people were talking about a “permanent Republican majority”?

At least publishers could have the decency to present these ponderous trifles as what they are: ponderous magazines containing only one article.

§ Compline. For the time being, even conservatives like Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, are praising Senator Kennedy.

Their little brother Teddy was the youngest, the little bear whom everyone cuddled, whom no one took seriously and from whom little was expected. He reluctantly and at times awkwardly carried the Kennedy standard, with all it implied and all it required. And yet, some scholars contend, he may have proved himself the most worthy.

“He was a quintessential Kennedy, in the sense that he had all the warts as well as all the charisma and a lot of the strengths,” said Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute. “If his father, Joe, had surveyed, from an early age up to the time of his death, all of his children, his sons in particular, and asked to rank them on talents, effectiveness, likelihood to have an impact on the world, Ted would have been a very poor fourth. Joe, John, Bobby … Ted.

“He was the survivor,” Mr. Ornstein continued. “He was not a shining star that burned brightly and faded away. He had a long, steady glow. When you survey the impact of the Kennedys on American life and politics and policy, he will end up by far being the most significant.”

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