Towse: views from the hill

July 31, 2006

Beware the bloggerwock, my son.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:34 pm

Private I’s?: Should the law protect us from kiss-and-tell bloggers?
By Dahlia Lithwick
[SLATE] Posted Saturday, July 29, 2006, at 1:24 AM ET


And that’s where Robert Steinbuch and Jessica Cutler come in.

Steinbuch was counsel to Sen. Mike DeWine when he started sleeping with staff assistant Cutler in May 2004. What he didn’t know was that the young woman was “blogging”—detailing on her Web log, Washingtonienne—every detail of their encounters. She regaled her friends with tales of his intimate sexual behaviors (as well as those of the five other men with whom she was sleeping) in a semiprivate Web diary that exposes Capitol Hill as a sad cross between seventh grade and Melrose Place.

Cutler identified Steinbuch only as RS. But when her blog was picked up by Wonkette—an Internet gossip behemoth read by everyone who was anyone inside the Beltway—Cutler joyfully nabbed her 15 minutes’ worth of limelight, including a $300,000 publishing deal, an HBO contract, and a feature in Playboy. Aided by the Internet, readers quickly deduced the identity of RS. And Steinbuch, according to a complaint filed in a 2005 civil suit against Cutler, was subjected to “humiliation and anguish beyond that which any reasonable person should be expected to bear in a decent and civilized society.”


A Man Scorned: His private life was made shockingly public. So why does he want to go through it all again?

By T.R. Goldman
Legal Times
May 22, 2006

I don’t know why we’re in federal court to begin with. I don’t know why this guy thought it was smart to file a lawsuit and lay out all of his private intimate details in an appendix to the complaint.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman — April 5, 2006

It’s your worst dating nightmare. You meet someone, the attraction is immediate, the sex is scorching, and — hold on — you think you might be falling in love.


Privacy cases are notoriously fact specific, and in this case there are several elements to the privacy tort of “publicity given to private life” that Steinbuch must prove.

First he must show that Cutler’s actions provided publicity to her blog. Cutler, who declined to comment for this story, has responded that she gave the URL of her blog to just three friends. She flatly denies giving the Web address to Cox.

“The key is to distinguish between the gossip you whisper to friends and something that’s more indelible and more broad,” says Daniel Solove, a George Washington University law professor. “When you put something on the Internet, it often changes the whole dynamic; it oftentimes won’t go away, and it won’t fade with memory.”

“I haven’t seen much about the publicity element for stuff on the Internet. That’s not been fleshed out by the courts,” Solove adds.

Steinbuch must also convince the court that his acknowledgment of his affair with Cutler to others in DeWine’s office — which happened before the story broke on Wonkette — was not the sort of waiver that would nullify an invasion of privacy claim.

In addition, he must show that the facts in Cutler’s blog are indeed private, despite joking about some of them in the office.

Steinbuch further must convince the court that Cutler’s blog is not newsworthy, something Friedman has already explicitly agreed with.

And he must show that the contents of Cutler’s blog are highly offensive to reasonable people.

Steinbuch is also suing under the so-called false-light invasion of privacy tort, which holds a person liable for publicly exposing false and humiliating information about someone else.

Friedman has already ruled that each of these torts has a one-year statute of limitation, which raises a particularly nettlesome question for both sides: At what point in a blog’s life does the statute of limitations begin to run?

Steinbuch filed his lawsuit on May 16, 2005, and, according to Cutler’s lawyer, Umana, that means actions relating to almost all of her blog, which began more than a year before, on May 4, 2004, are time-barred and off-limits.

“Only the May 18 posting in the blog is within the one year, and all that says is that they had sex in a missionary position,” says Umana, a D.C. solo practitioner. “The fact that they were having an affair already was public knowledge; the plaintiff was joking about it.”

Rosen, naturally, disagrees. “Every time you make an entry in a blog, you open the whole document,” he says. “Each posting is a new document,” he adds, that incorporates all of the previous postings on the blog. “We’re going to have substantial expert testimony on that,” he says.


So what’s the scoop here? What gives above and beyond prurient interest?

I’d like to know what I can and can’t write about on my blog. I’ve always been Ms Sweetness ‘n’ Discretion, but what if I weren’t? If I’m writing the truth of my life, does someone have the right to tell me I can’t?

Steinbuch is suing over invasion of privacy, despite the fact their fling wasn’t a secret in the office. He’s added “false-light invasion of privacy tort, which holds a person liable for publicly exposing false and humiliating information about someone else.”

He says the stuff Cutler wrote about him was false.

Some of it, anyway.

Cutler claims she didn’t mean the blog to be public, that she’d only given the URL to three friends and she’d made sure it wasn’t a “public” blog on Blogger. She doesn’t know who gave the URL to Wonkette.

Steinbuch’s willing to drag all the blog bits that he claims were so damaging through public courts and rile up the bottom feeders and Web wonks again just to defend his reputation.


Depositions ‘r’ us.

The Steinbuch-Cutler mini tempest has turned into a perhaps career-busting hoohah. How did less than two weeks’ (05May2004 – 18May2004) worth of blog posts warrant this?

Interesting times, and the click-clicks in the articles head off to interesting places. …

[n.b. Cutler yanked the blog off the Web as soon as the fit hit the shan. Some kind soul archived the content of the original Washingtonienne so peepers could see what the rustle in the courts is about. ]

July 26, 2006


Filed under: URL — Towse @ 5:45 am

I can’t remember. …

Did I mention that I won a lifetime membership to Library Thing in a contest Rosina Lippi ran on her blog?

I didn’t? Well, I did. I am so pumped. There was a mixup in the process and my lifetime membership didn’t show up, but after I dropped a note to Rosina recently, she resolved the problem.

I am now the proud proprietess of a lifetime LibraryThing.

Go look at what I’ve got.

When I’ll find time to put the 10s of Ks of books I have into the system, I don’t know, but just the possibilities have given me a much needed bliss fix.

Annual membership is $10. Lifetime membership is $25. The app is soooo cool.

I may have a separate post on it later. ’til then, go check it out on your own.

Thank you, Rosina!

Heaps! Mountains!

[URL][WRITING] TileZ: Book trends, data, and insight … easy, fast, affordable

Filed under: URL,writing — Towse @ 5:00 am

TileZ is still in beta and FREE! but plans to start charging a teensy weensy tiny almost infinitesimal price once they go live.

Here is their description:

TitleZ provides:

* Data: Instantly retrieve historic and current sales rankings from Amazon and create printable reports with 7-, 30-, 90-day and lifetime averages
* Trends: Easily see how topics or titles perform over time; measure the competition; understand what’s hot
* Insight: Improve decision-making; know what to publish and when

How it works:

“TitleZ makes it easy to see how a book or group of books has performed over time, relative to other books on the market. Simply enter a search phrase, book title, or author, and TitleZ returns a comprehensive listing of books from Amazon along with our historical sales rank data.”

Info is ripped from data.

Sounds boring and marketing and all, doesn’t it?

But NO! TileZ is where you can compare how your book is doing against how your archenemy’s book is doing and it’s where you can peek and see where your ex-husband’s latest book is ranked on Amazon — 2,678,954 hahahahaha.

Here’s your chance. It’s free! Did I mention?

Register and tap in.

Search: Keyword Title Author Publisher
Let’s pop in Po Bronson, our local boy who showed up in an article I was reading today. His oeuvre includes

What Should I Do With My Life (pub Dec 2003) ranked 4,799.
Why Do I Love These People (pub Nov 2005) ranked 22,363
Bombardiers (pub Mar 1996) ranked 246,242
The Nudist on the Late Shift (which is in the driver’s side pocket of my Mini Cooper for when I get stuck somewhere and need something entertaining to read) ranked 394,549


I popped in Sue Hough’s name (Susan E. Hough) because she has her entertaining book about Richter coming out in five months or so, but the only item listed is “Writing on the walls.”(Macroscope; petroglyphs): An article from: American Scientist which was published in July 2004. The article is available for $5.95, TileZ sez, and is ranked 3,696,548.

What happened to Sue’s books?

So I popped /hough/ into the app and found out that Sue is listed as “Susan Elizabeth Hough”.


So I popped /susan elizabeth hough/ in and pulled up her records with all four books she currently has in the running.

EARTHSHAKING SCIENCE (pub Mar 2004) is doing best with a rank of 155,458, but her Richter book (est Dec 2006) is not doing so shabby at 619,160.


Pop in some author names, titles you know. Click on the green arrow next to the name and you’ll get a sales rank history including best rank, worst rank, 7-day average, 30-day average, 90-day average, lifetime average, with a line graph showing ranking and everything.

Save your searches to return at a later date with MyTitleZ.

Compare titles.

I popped /diet/ in as a key word and then asked to compare the top five sales-ranked titles. Here’s the result. (I think you’ll need to be registered and logged in to see results.)

Fun! Go!


[found the link at Joe Wikert’s blog]

July 25, 2006

E-mail and read receipts

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 3:47 pm

There’s an interesting discussion continuing on over at MissSnark’s that was triggered by someone asking whether they should be using read receipts when they send something off to an agent.

Miss Snark hadn’t realized such a thing existed. Her mail client, obviously, doesn’t provide that annoying “The sender has asked to be notified when you read this e-mail. Do you want to send a read receipt?” message.

So the comments are flying about how annoying read receipts are and other people replying well, how else are you going to be able to tell whether someone got your mail? Tech types say that the read receipt means nothing. Doesn’t mean the person has actually read your mail.

Someone said, Frankly, I’ve never had this problem of lost email, and if I were to lay received email end-to-end, they’d extend into the thirtieth century.

That may be true, or he may just not know he has a problem with lost e-mail.

I get more e-mail than is good for me. I’ve setup my e-mail so that sal@ sally@ self@ go to my Comcast mail account and everything else — all the e-mails from or or — goes to a gmail account.

I recently discovered that things that should be showing up at the Comcast account weren’t. Sure, I’d had some inkling. His Nibs would ask me what I thought of something he’d e-mailed from work and I’d never received it. Something quirky from his end, we thought. Maybe the corporate e-mail mavens were hijacking his notes.

His Nibs and I share an office with facing desks when we’re home and one afternoon he said, “I’m sending you an interesting URL.” Well, the URL never arrived. This happened a couple times in a single afternoon. I even went online to check my spam folder at Comcast, nothing.

So I changed my mail settings to send the sal@ sally@ self@ mail not only to my Comcast account but also to a separate gmail account from the one that all the general mail falls into.

Surprise. Surprise. Comcast was dropping mail on the floor. The mail wasn’t getting to me. The mail wasn’t caught in their spam filter. Nothing.

I’ve set things up with Thunderbird now so it picks up the Comcast mail and tucks it into one folder and picks up the gmail for sal@ sally@ self@ and tucks it into another folder. My rough estimate over the last few weeks since I made the change is that Comcast is dropping at least 10% of my incoming mail.

And there’s been one mail that came to Comcast and never made it to gmail.

Go figure.

Update:Found it! I was looking in the wrong gmail account’s spam folder.
[end: Update]

I still hate read receipts — don’t return them and don’t ask for them.

If someone tells me they never received something I sent these days, I don’t automatically assume that something happened in transit or the mail got caught up in a spam trap. Could be, I now know, that the mail servers at the ISP end might just be dropping the incoming e-mail into /dev/null, never to be seen again.

Added Update: I just counted. … so far Thunderbird has picked up twelve e-mails from family members today from the gmail account. Comcast only had seven of those e-mails.

Has this always been going on? How much e-mail have I missed out on?

Miss Snark asked why I just didn’t change ISPs. I told her that Comcast has a sole source franchise deal with the cool, grey city of love. If I want broadband, Comcast is the only game in town. And who’s to say that other ISPs don’t have similar issues with e-mail?

How many people are really so cockeyed they’d start forwarding their mail to two different servers to see if there’s a difference in throughput?
[end: Added Update]

July 24, 2006

Lovely stuff at Ephraim Faience Pottery

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 12:46 am

Lovely stuff at Ephraim Faience Pottery.

Now, if I could just convince myself that $198 for a vase that looks like this, isn’t a lot when you’re buying something that you’ll keep forever.

I liked nearly every piece they had on their Web site, some more than others. Oh, would that I had the wherewithal and the space to pickup a handful of these.

Beautiful, eh?

July 21, 2006

New Brand Agency shares successful queries/proposals

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 2:47 am

New Brand Agency, founded by Mark David Ryan, has a collection of queries and proposals for work they decided to rep. Check out their submissions section to see what successful queries/proposals look like.

The agency bills itself as “an innovative management firm for authors of bestselling fiction and nonfiction.”

New Brand Agency only takes e-queries and promises a response within 48 hours if they are interested.

[URL] Jackson Pollock

Filed under: URL — Towse @ 2:09 am

Thanks to Miltos Manetas whose work it is for this Jackson Pollock flash exercise.

Thanks also to Dave Kuzminski (who mentioned it in a comments tail at Miss Snark’s).

n.b. Change paint buttons colors by clicking mouse button. Hit reload to clear and start over again.

July 20, 2006

This is a major fixer …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 11:45 pm

Ah, San Francisco’s real estate market. Ain’t it grand?

Listing description: “This is a major fixer (contractor’s special) suitable for contractors only. Property to be sold in it’s present AS IS condition. Property needs lots of work from brick foundation to roof. 2 vacant units and one being occupied by tenants (Please do not disturb tenants).”

2134 Steiner (at California). Built 1900. Three units. Two parking spaces. ~2880/sq ft.

Asking: $1,490,000
Price/SqFt: $517.36

And look down there at the bottom of the listing!

Contingent! Someone’s made an offer!


We saw a house on Marina Boulevard last Sunday. Probate sale. Needs loads of work.

Listing description says, “Location, Location, and Views! Sensational opportunity to restore this Marina Blvd. gem, originally built for the Gump Family.”

What the listing doesn’t say is that there is obvious dry rot and leaks as well as damage from 1989 that was never repaired. A front balcony had signs warning not to open the door to it.

We walked through. Loads of work to be done to fix damage caused by neglect over the years. If the house were in good condition, it would be a gem. Nice spaces, antique front door, other classy features.

The views, such as they were, weren’t spectacular. Fairly nice view of the Marina Green and the yacht harbor. No sweeping Golden Gate views or anything like that. The partial view of the bridge could only be seen from the front living room window.

After we got back outside, we were walking to the crosswalk so we could get back over to the Marina Green when I saw something odd.

I walked down the east side of the building to check it out. Yup, there’s a real nice bulge or two in the east facing wall that look like souvenirs of the 1989 quake.

Looks rather serious.

I’m sure whoever owned the building decided after 1989 that if the place wasn’t red-tagged, it was safe enough for them and rather than go through extensive rehab work, they’d let the heirs and assigns worry about what to do with the place later.

Well, now it’s later.

I don’t know how much the neighbors would squawk if you wanted to take down a building built 76 years ago for the Gump family to build something new on the lot, but they’d probably squawk a lot. This is San Francisco, after all.

Buyer may be in for lots of fun repairing bulgy, cracked walls in situ.

Fixer-upper for $2,450,000!


And last but not least this one:

599 Vallejo & two other contiguous lots — just a block or two from The House on Grant, one of our favorite nosh places.

“Development opportunity with soon to be approved plans. Three lots 559 Vallejo St.(APN: 0145 036),567-569 Vallejo St.(APN: 0145 035), & 66 Fresno St.(APN: 0145 027),total lot size 4,616 per tax records.Plans for five residential units plus parking, & separate enclosed parking lot included with sale. Top floor unit:2200+ sq.ft. 3BR/3BA,1400 sq.ft. terraces,Lower 4 units: two 2,100+ sq.ft. 3BR/3BA, & two 1,900+ sq.ft. 2BR/2.5BA. Permits have been thru Planning, Building, & Telegraph Hill Dwellers.”

$5,900,000 for three lots with a combined total lot size of .10167 acre.

BUT! There are plans that are “soon to be approved” and those plans have already been vetted by Planning, Building, AND Telegraph Hill Dwellers.

Shoot, that approval from THD is probably worth at least an easy million in value add-on.

Just make sure you don’t decide you want to change the plans.

Why bother with Patrick White? — the failure of genius to be recognized

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 7:58 pm

Here we go again.

Jennifer Sexton gives us yet another attempt to show that the work of a genius (the nation’s [Australia's] most lauded novelist, our only Nobel prize-winning writer, twice a winner of the Miles Franklin award and three times the Australian Literature Society’s Gold Medallist) wouldn’t be picked out of the slush if his award-winning work was re-submitted anonymously today, thirty-three years after he wrote it.

The work? Patrick White’s The Eye of the Storm.

What’s wrong with this experiment?

Why wasn’t White’s genius recognized?

Here’s a clue.

Nicholas Hudson, of Hudson Publishing, found the work perplexing. “What I read left me puzzled. I found it hard to get involved with the characters, so it was not character-driven, nor in the ideas, so it was not idea-driven. It seemed like a plot-driven novel whose plot got lost through an aspiration to be a literary novel. It was very clever, but I was not compelled to read on,” he wrote.

First problem?

Inquirer submitted the third chapter of the work to the editors and agents. Sure, the editors and agents might have failed to recognize good writing or maybe they recognized good writing but just couldn’t make sense of the chapter as a stand-alone.

Wouldn’t the first two chapters help make sense of the third? Is it wise to just leap directly into the third if your Nobel-winning author had himself thought the first two chapters were needed?

“I found it hard to get involved with the characters,” said Nicholas Hudson. Maybe the failure to get involved with the characters was because the first two chapters were there for a reason.

Second problem was best expressed by Lyn Tranter of Australian Literary Management.

In response to the first unsolicited submission, she said she couldn’t take it because she didn’t believe in it. “I’m sure you can appreciate that an agent must be totally committed to a work to sell it enthusiastically to a publisher; to do otherwise is not in the best interests of the author.”

On being told that she’d turned down Patrick White, how stupid and undiscerning (my words, not the article’s) is she?

Tranter says Inquirer’s experiment is “piss weak”, in particular because White is not generally read and doesn’t sell today. “I am looking at one thing and one thing only: can I sell it? And the answer is no, I can’t sell The Eye of the Storm. As a literary agent my job is to secure the interest of the public.”

The article’s a good peek into agents’ and editors’ reasons for turning down an unsolicited submission sitting in their slush pile.

I was not discouraged by the reasons given for turning down Patrick White AKA Wraith Picket. I was more heartened by the commitment expressed to finding good, fresh, new novelists (just not those who write like Patrick White) than, I’m sure, the perps of this age-worn prank were intending.

Nicholas Hudson, quoted previously as finding the work perplexing, on being told whose work he’d turned away had this to say.

Hudson has since told Inquirer he recalled reading the manuscript and was being kind in his letter. “I was trying to be polite. I thought it was pretentious fart-arsery. I don’t like White”.

He could’ve added, “… and if you’re planning on sending me a proposal, send me the first chapter of your novel, not the third, you numbskull.”

[via kitabkhana]

July 19, 2006

PocketMod – Fed up with that folded notepaper you carry around in your back pocket?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Towse @ 6:28 pm

People who hang with me know that I wander through life with folded 8×11 papers (or 3×5 notecards, depending on the day) and a fountain pen in my back pocket to jot down notes, to-do lists, wine and food notes, whatever.

Only problem is, I wind up with disorganized scraps of paper with scribbles going N->S W->E and all points in between which I then have to make some sense of when I get back to the aerie.

Check out Chad Adams’ PocketMod.

This app is one of the coolest things since butter cubes.

Needs Flash Player. Download here, if you don’t have a copy on board.

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