The perfect mint julep for Derby Day

Commander's Palace
Commander's Palace
The Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, and people like to make Mint Juleps to watch the event.

My wife and I are thoroughbred racing fans, and we’ve been to Churchhill Downs to watch the “Breeder’s Cup,” the World Series of horse racing. It’s an awesome venue.

Our favorite Mint Julep comes from the Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, a classic New Orleans restaurant. Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse both were the executive chefs there.

The Commander’s Palace bar is “old school,” looking out on a garden. A bartender named Leroy held court for years.

The typical Mint Julep recipe, from a video clip on YouTube, is here.

By the way, the cocktail is more read about than consumed: One survey revealed that while 70 percent of Americans not from the South had never tasted a Mint Julep, 73 percent of Southerners had never had one either, according to Chow, a good food site to bookmark.

We’re going to drink one Saturday, but it’s mainly because we have an abundance of mint growing in our small portable greenhouse and aren’t sure what to do with it. The drink is a little sweet for us.

The Printed Blog, ‘beta’ copies

images-2Responding to my blog readers’ requests, here’s some ‘beta’ copies of The Printed Blog that we’ve been handing out in some major U.S. cities (two PDFs are below).

The free, weekly publication is based entirely on reader-generated, online content and photos, and the material is published with the creators’ explicit permission.

It’s a full-color, tall tabloid format on high quality paper. It is meant to be read on subways and trains but also passed around in coffee shops and other gathering places.

We’re distributing “beta” copies in four markets: Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles (even L.A. has metro lines now), with four “hyper-local” editions in Chicago neighborhoods. We find “hyper-local” content to go with it.

As the managing editor, I focus on compiling, reading and publishing the reader-generated content and photos with a team, as well as getting some editorial processes in place.

We work “virtually,” though we get together now and then. This is a months-old startup publication in every sense: Lots of positive energy, and people “rowing” in the same direction. It reminds me of the early days at CNET.

We have some “heavy hitter” bloggers who have granted us permission to “reverse publish” their blogs.

This includes Internet businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, American Express “open forum” with Guy Kawasaki and other “thought leaders,” Masahable and the Bloggess. We have some popular, offbeat ones too, such as Neal Boulton’s “Bastard Life.”

images1We do not edit the content, respecting the bloggers “creativity.” Some of the content definitely is “racy,” reflecting the Internet itself. But some of it is analytical — Cuban and Kawasaki are smart “thought leaders.”

We add bloggers all the time: from the left and the right.

Here’s a good one from a youth GOPer that I added this week, called “Pink Elephant Pundit.” “Unapologetically Christian and Conservative,” is Tabitha Hale’s tag line.

We also profile one of the bloggers in each edition. This week it’s Tabitha.

We also have syndication deals with Yelp and Eventful, two well-known Internet brands. Yelp provides reviews and Eventful provides calendar listings.

We have thousands of blogs to choose from, compiled on a Google “reader.” We’ve received some good publicity, too, from The New York Times, Editor & Publisher, Le Monde and the Chicago Tribune.

It’s what the VCs call a “disruptive” business model, targeting newspapers, including The Trib’s “Red Eye” (a free subway tab), and magazines with “legacy” operating costs.

A Chicago edition is theprintedblogvol1no13_chi_loop.

The Obama photo is a never-before published image, taken during campaigning by a freelancer whose work has been published in Time magazine and The New York Times. It is a good example of the high-caliber photographers we’re getting.

A Los Angeles edition is theprintedblogvol1no11_la:

Warning: The files are big (3.3 MB to 5.1 MB).

The Union’s sister paper cuts publication days

The Nevada Appeal, one of The Union’s sister papers, will cut print publication to five days a week from seven starting Monday.

The 144-year-old Carson City newspaper will publish Wednesday through Sunday, eliminating its Monday and Tuesday editions. It blamed the cutback on declining ad revenue.

Some of the troubles are self-inflicted, however: Reno-based Swift has insisted on rolling out a tabloid edition, rather than a broadsheet, in markets such as Carson City and the Tahoe basin, partly to save money on paper.

It is patterned after Vail, now the site of an ugly newspaper war.

The tabloid format hasn’t always been well received by readers. You can’t easily divide the paper up at the breakfast table, for example.

When the paper is free, as it is in the Tahoe basin, you also lose subscription print revenue and can’t always make up the difference by charging more for ads. Many merchants complain that the ad rates already are too high.

In addition, the sharp newsroom cutbacks make it tougher to run a so-called “continuous newsroom,” where you need people to routinely update the online-only newspaper. That’s what the Truckee and Carson papers are resorting to on days when they don’t publish a print edition.

“This is not a decision that we took lightly; we certainly did not anticipate announcing an additional change following the recent redesign of the paper,” Publisher Niki Gladys said in a note to readers.

“The combination of large retail advertisers exiting our market, unprecedented hikes in operational costs, and the overall realities of our current economy required us to rethink our business model.”

The tabloid format rolled out only a month ago, on April 1.

The AP also wrote a story about this, but I didn’t see in run in any of the local papers. It ran in the San Jose Mercury News, however.

In most cases, the papers operate in monopoly markets — but that could change. The barriers to entry for launching a new publication are almost nill, thanks to the Internet.

The Vail Daily’s former owner, Jim Pavelich, has proven that in the Vail market.

H1N1 virus, aka ‘Swine flu,’ update from county

The county provided an update of the H1N1 Virus in its “Friday memo,” reminding us that so far, there are no confirmed cases here and, in fact, no confirmed cases in any county contiguous with our county.

Our family just returned from an “excellent adventure” to Cuernavaca, outside of Mexico City, and are feeling happy and healthy. Yes, “we lived to tell about it.” (Some people have made queries, however).

The media hype of this virus is creating more panic than the “tweets” on Twitter. Some businesses and people are losing their perspective.

An example is here, where a flight on route to Washington, D.C., from Germany was diverted to Boston because a passenger complained of fly-like symptoms.

The best advice came from our President and others: Wash your hands. We keep some of that alcohol-based hand cleaner handy.

The detailed county memo released Friday is here.

Nevada City’s lone ice cream store closing

images-1Here’s a small-town scooplet and another sign of our local economic meltdown: The Confectionary Mine in downtown Nevada City is closing.

It is the lone store in the historic district dedicated to ice cream, an important item for a walkable, tourism oriented city such as my hometown.

The highly visible corner store at 236 Broad St., at Broad and Pine, specializes in handmade ice cream bars, drumsticks, handmade chocolates, coffee drinks, milkshakes and toys.

The ice cream and other items are being sold at 50 percent off. The store could close as early as this weekend.

You might want to get down and support the owners and help them clear out the ice cream cooler at half off. We will. My wife, son and I frequented the place when it wasn’t half off.

Ice cream sales typically are a recession-proof business, but the Confectionary Mine depends on tourists coming to our small town.

Broad Street — the showcase of downtown Nevada City — is looking awfully bleak nowadays: The storefront across the street has long been vacant and the Broad Street Furnishings building remains empty.

As I’ve already reported, Amigos & Co. has opened in the Dos Banditos space, and Nevada City Seafood is looking to open on Pine Street.

But the downtown buildings that are empty are among the highest profile ones in town. It’s a sad state of affairs.

It’s too bad more landlords can’t cut their tenants some slack on the rent.

It’s also sad how the merchants can’t work together to make the city better. There’s so much infighting. As one put it: “We thought we were moving to Mayberry, not Stepford.”

For the most part, the Chamber and Downtown Association need “new blood” too, with fresh, innovative ideas. Trouble is, we’re an insular bunch and not open much to new ideas.

It’s elsewhere too: Look what it took to shake up GM’s entrenched management: The U.S. government.

Sierra Sun drops Saturday edition for Facebook

The Sierra Sun in Truckee has quietly dropped its Saturday edition: It now is down to just two days a week as a print edition, compared with five days a week in print in early January.

The 140-year-old paper is now promoting a Facebook page and weekend e-edition that starts May 4 instead.

The paper is updating its Web site daily, it says. It has cut staff, though.

In mid-January, the Sierra Sun dropped from a five-day a week frequency to three days a week.

This time around the paper was less transparent about the cutback of its Saturday print edition.

A note on the front door of its Web site still reports that the paper is publishing Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. But its Facebook page, which the paper is promoting, points out that the paper is only publishing on Wednesday and Friday.

A small notice appeared in the print edition of the newspaper some weeks ago, but it was not highlighted or explained at sierrasun.com.

Newspapers never did a very good job of covering themselves. When you do that, you risk losing credibility with your readers.

I’ve been a reader of the Sierra Sun for many years; longer than The Union, in fact.

I also expect The Union to begin promoting a Facebook page, like the Sierra Sun, and they already have announced a weekend e-newsletter.

I’m not sure I get the Facebook page idea: Sure you build a loyal fan base. But you also risk cannibalizing your Web site as the “start page.”

The Sierra Sun, for example, is posting its stories on its Facebook page. The links go to the paper but just the “story” page, not the “front door,” where the most expensive ads run.

Newspapers have enough trouble monetizing their Web site to begin with. As they cut back in print editions, as the Sierra Sun has done, you need to rely more heavily on Web ad revenue.

Nobody has figured out how to monetize a Facebook site, including Facebook.

The issue came to light this week when Facebook entered funding discussions. The venture capitalists were valuing Facebook at much less than its management thought it was worth.

The background is here.