Santa Maria Steaks at The Hitching Post

About a month ago, my friend Justin mentioned a town near Santa Barbara, California that claimed to have the world’s best barbecue. As I explained a few weeks ago, I claim to be somewhat of an authority on barbecue, having eaten it outside of California. To be so near (well, about 250 miles away) yet so ignorant of a place claiming to be the cradle of barbecue civilization was somewhat of a shock to me.    (4N)

I attempted to right that wrong yesterday at The Hitching Post, a steakhouse in Casmalia. Casmalia is a former mining town in the Santa Maria Valley, about 75 miles north of Santa Barbara.    (4O)

Santa Maria barbecue has its roots with the Spanish ranchers who populated the region in the 1850s. To reward los vaqueros after a successful cattle herd, the ranchers would throw a feast consisting of top sirloin crusted with garlic salt and pepper and cooked slowly over a red oak fire, salsa, and pinquitos, a pinkish bean. Both the beans and the wood are native to Santa Maria.    (4P)

As its boastful claim suggests, Santa Maria takes its meat seriously. My challenge was to find a restaurant that specialized in the local fare. The city’s Chamber of Commerce web site was somewhat unhelpful. I couldn’t find a place whose menu jumped out at me as the real deal. Justin suggested The Hitching Post, which seemed to have a good reputation and also produced its own label of wines.    (4Q)

The steaks at The Hitching Post were excellent, the salsa was fresh, the servings were large, the wine (The Hitching Post Pinot Noir Santa Maria 2000) was good, and the price was reasonable. But, I wasn’t satisfied. I had a beef with their beef; namely, I don’t think The Hitching Post served true Santa Maria barbecue.    (4R)

Most people think that barbecue is food cooked over a hot fire. That’s actually grilling. Barbecue is food cooked slowly over a cool fire. The process tenderizes the meat while imbuing it with a delicious, smoky flavor. It’s what makes barbecued ribs or pulled pork literally fall off the bone.    (4S)

The Hitching Post served steaks, not barbecue. True, they used the correct cut of meat — top block sirloin. True, they rubbed it with garlic salt and pepper. True, they cooked it over a red oak fire. True, the steaks were delicious. But, it still wasn’t barbecue. The kicker was that they did not serve pinquitos.    (4T)

I could only conclude that I did not experience the true Santa Maria dining experience. That wrong still needs to be righted. I suspect that next Sunday, I will once again find myself in Santa Maria, searching, hoping, eating. Stay tuned.    (4U)

Clustering in the Margins

Seb Paquet posits the following theory: “people who pioneer group-forming practices are those who have a marked interest in something that is not generally shared by the rest of the population.” He cites evidence from a First Monday paper entitled, “A social network caught in the Web.”    (4L)

Said a different way: Niche topics generate greater Shared Intensity.    (4M)

William Kent at Extreme Markup 2003

For my blog entry on e-mail clients, I had to look up the link for the Extreme Markup conference. In so doing, I noticed that William Kent will be keynoting this year’s conference.    (4I)

Bill Kent‘s book, Data and Reality, is awesome. I consider it a must-read for anyone interested in data modeling. I won’t be able to make it to Montreal for the conference this year, but I’d recommend it for those of you who can. It’s August 4-8 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.    (4J)

Won’t Someone Write a Decent E-mail Client?

Brian Lincoln was complaining about e-mail clients recently, and he said that he was willing to pay $1,000 for a good e-mail management tool. That’s a stunning statement, if you think about it. E-mail is probably more widely used than word processing, and probably ranks near even with Web browsing. Several companies have devoted large budgets to building e-mail clients, and there are several open source initiatives as well. You would think that there would at least be once decent e-mail client by now.    (40)

Despite all of this, I completely agree with Brian. I haven’t found anything that comes close to doing even mostly what I want.    (41)

(I have to throw in a brief disclaimer about mutt, which I’ve been using for about a year. Mutt is very customizable, which I like very much, and is fairly UNIXy, which I also like. It’s supposed to be easily extensible, but I haven’t had a chance to test this myself. At some point, I will.)    (42)

I get tons of e-mail. I save a large percentage of it, including e-mail that I send. My archives date back to 1994. There’s a wealth of information there, and I’d like to be able to easily retrieve what I need when I need it. I want:    (43)

  • Powerful search capabilities.    (44)
  • Categorization.    (45)
  • Ability to link e-mails with other types of information: calendar, datebook, Web pages, source code, other e-mails, etc.    (46)
  • Useful views.    (47)

I’m not going to expand on these here, except to say that doing all of this stuff right has significant architectural ramifications. One reason I may be so difficult to please in this regard is that I have fairly well thought-out ideas on what that architecture should be, and I have yet to see this kind of architecture in any tool. I was heavily influenced in this regard by Doug Engelbart, who’s also on our Advisory Board. (Some of these thoughts are loosely captured in my paper, “Towards a Standard Graph-Based Data Model for the Open Hyperdocument System”, which Ken Holman presented for me at Extreme Markup 2002.)    (48)

The e-mail tool whose architecture comes closest to my vision is Helium, a class project at Indiana University that emerged out of Gregory Rawlins‘s KnownSpace in Fall 2002. Using Known Space as its data architecture, the team explored and prototyped a lot of interesting ideas. Unfortunately, there are limits to what a team of students can accomplish in a semester, and the project is unfinished and in stasis.    (49)

Chandler holds a similar appeal as Helium, as I explained to the Collaboration Collaboratory last January.    (4A)

Here are some other pet peeves regarding today’s e-mail clients:    (4B)

  • HTML e-mail. If you’re going to use it, at least implement it consistently.    (4C)
  • Moronic word-wrapping and line lengths. More evidence of widespread disinterest in interoperating well with other e-mail clients.    (4D)
  • Reply-to behavior. Most users have no conception of the “To” header. They hit their “Reply” button, and simply expect the e-mail to go to the right place. This is a solvable usability challenge, but somebody needs to tackle it.    (4E)
  • Quoting. How difficult would it be to come up with a standard for quoting other e-mails? More importantly, wouldn’t it be great if people could send one-word responses to e-mails without citing an entire three-month thread at the end of the message?    (4F)
  • Header control. Most e-mail clients hide headers by default. That’s okay. But sometimes, there’s valuable information in the headers. Many e-mail clients make it extremely hard to view this information, or to forward it to other people.    (4G)
  • Folder management. Blech. Folders are not a good way to categorize e-mail. The first vendor who figures this out is going to make a lot of money.    (4H)