Culinary Diplomacy (and other adventures)

The mostly-book blog of a wandering non-profiteer. Hear more about my start-up life on Twitter, or follow my travel and kitchen adventures on Instagram. Older travels and juvenalia can be found on my previous blog.



This week, I was asked to give a talk on the art of listening to the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. It was a really lovely challenge to distill my knowledge, and I thought I would share it here as well.

I have three observations to share with you, and have woven through a…

It’s been almost one year without Grandmom. I keep finding reasons to think of her. This past weekend, I was at a conference where a number of notables had been invited to discuss their accomplishments and offer some measure of advice or example for the next generation’s presumed leaders.

And at this conference, I was lucky enough to speak briefly with Admiral McRaven. I told him about Grandmom, about her family and origins in Blodgett, Missouri, and her unwillingness to swear, and how astonishing and lovely it was to find that one of her Sunday school students had grown up to be a DC political correspondent who still remembered and valued all she’d taught him. That I’d written that correspondent a letter thanking him for having written, well, anything about her and that he’d been kind enough to reply that he’d thought of her and my grandfather often, long after leaving western Illinois.

I suspect if Grandmom had been eavesdropping, she’d have blushed furiously and then scolded me for wasting my few words with the admiral telling him this story. But in his own talk at the conference, McRaven recounted It’s a Wonderful Life briefly, and explained how his own grandfather had set a family example as a physician in New Madrid, Missouri – just a few miles down the road from Blodgett. That for all his military honors, and his father’s professional sporting recognitions, Doctor Mac had left perhaps the greatest family legacy for all the ailments he’d cured, emergencies he’d handled, and treatments he offered even when patients couldn’t afford his services.

He told about a young would-be Marine he’d called up as a favor and spoken with about the service, answering questions and addressing his concerns. And he spoke with pride about crossing paths with that same man years later, in a debriefing session after the man’s team had completed a successful hostage rescue somewhere in the Hindu Kush. In a weekend of grand accomplishments and aspirations, he’d asked everyone to stop and remember the little things. To work hard at the small kindnesses we have the opportunity to offer each day. Not to let becoming great get in the way of being good.

Of course I thought of her.

For a very short while he worried about his ignorance, and then decided to worry about it properly when others discovered it.
Upamamyu Chatterjee, English, August

My first wedding as an aerial photographer! The balloon was a hit with my fellow guests, and I do think the results turned out pretty well. I could make this a regular hobby… (full set on flickr!)

"I wish to become an active participant rather than a passive onlooker. As my husband and I are in close agreement as to our philosophy and involvement in the civil rights struggle, I wish to work near him in whatever capacity I may be most useful. My hope is to someday pass on to the children we may have a world containing more respect for the dignity and worth of all men than that world which was willed to us."
– from Rita Schwerner’s application to join the SNCC organizing team for Mississippi Summer. Her husband Michael was one of three men killed that summer. Just. Watch.


Tell me something: where your boss at?

Martin van Meytens, Marie Antoinette (age 12) 1767 / Diva, Beyonce


…what if election administrators, regardless of their resources, could put civic information online where people are looking for it, in a way that is easy to understand? With funding from the Democracy Fund, we are working with Democracy Works, the Sunlight Foundation, and the Center for Civic Design to deploy free websites in five election offices this July. The websites and user guide are designed specifically for election administrators. Read more about the project on our blog.

US map showing election 5 website pilot locations

US map showing election 5 website pilot locations

ELECTricity is doing fantastic work to give more election officials tools for running simple, well-designed websites with all the voting information their constituents need. Very proud to be supporting them on this project.

He seemed to have decided I could go to hell my own way. ‘Then we should get you to one of the companies at Istalquaal.’
‘Istalquaal,’ I said, trying out the sound of the word, eager to get it right.
‘I think that’s how you say it,’ Bob said. ‘It means freedom. Or liberation. Or something.’
‘That’s nice,’ I said.
‘They didn’t name it,’ he said. ‘We did.’

'Istalquaal,' I finally said, trying to draw him out. 'Does it mean freedom, or liberation?'
He opened his eyes a crack and looked at me sidelong. ‘Istalquaal? Istiqlal means independence,’ he said. ‘Istalquaal means nothing. It means Americans can’t speak Arabic.’

– Phil Klay, “Money as a Weapons System

A dark, hilarious story that would be funnier if it didn’t feel so deeply, fundamentally true. (There’s a subplot about teaching widows to keep bees that gave me flashbacks to grant-proposal-writing in Kabul.)

Blessed Assurance, indeed.

(Perfect music for a busy day capped by an editing/review shift on the When Women Refuse project.)

On Sunday, I took my balloon mapping kit from the Public Lab out for a spin over Brooklyn. It was fun! More aerial photos (and selfies) on my flickr.