Sausage Making

I enjoy bantering, Its a New Yorker’s pleasure. It doesn’t go over well in Boston. Puritans and Academics, what can you do?

I buy my sausage from a butcher in the North End. The North End is a rare urban neighborhood, at least in the US. Dense, old, somewhat unchanged by time. Jane Jacob’s argued that it had survived because it was walled off. Walled off from capital and walled off from the rest of the city by a butt ugly raised superhighway. She made that arguement as part of suggesting that one of the forces that kills urban neighborhoods is fast money.

They have torn down the ugly super highway, and money is flowing fast into the North End. The good liquor store has shut down, a bank will step into it’s shoes. Across the way the amazingly small two story pub where two dollar beers were sold to next to the vegetable market has been bought and a posh faux Irish bar has taken it’s place. Condo’s are going on top.

I joke with my butcher that the sausages are loosing their flavor now that his supply of road construction waste has dried up. He assures me he’s got a stockpile in the back; but I doubt it. I point out that the cat that sleeps on the freezer appears to be getting fat.

How the sausage is made is a surprisingly fascinating topic. When you buy stuff it’s full of ingredients who’s provenance you can’t hope to fully know. And there are always surprises. The securities you bought turn out to be full of badly originated mortgages. The blood thinner dad’s taking turns out to kill him, and the press discovers that poor families in China scrape sausage casings to gather a key ingredient.

Markets, firms, and societies solve the inherent quality control problem that arises from are long and confusing supply chains with various quality control schemes. My butcher has a variance from the health inspector pinned up on his wall. His tiny store is too small to conform to regulations about how far this should be from that. I don’t doubt his cat is, officially, a problem too. I was fascinated by how far the US’s drug administration’s reach goes, i.e. all the way back into the homes of those families in China.

That the world is all about sausage is delightfully frame busting. For example consider web sites. Back in the day we assembled the web pages on the server; using PHP or Perl for example. Talk about sausage!

PHP is case study in sausage making. PHP’s vitality comes from how wonderfully easy it is to paste together all kinds of bits and pieces; particularly C code libraries. It’s a wonderful – almost all bubblegum and bailing twine holding together this vast array of really nice C libraries. The only problem is quality, those libraries aren’t particularly secure. Expose those libraries on the open internet and your moments away from a security breach.

These days we don’t make the sausage on the server any more. We mix the final page up only at the last possible moment, in the browser, using Javascript. These days many suppliers can feed into the final product. I can recall a time when web masters would forswear that kind of thing, since they didn’t want their uptime dependent on 3rd parties. No doubt some Luddites still say that. But I don’t see how that attitude can stand. It’s like trying to live an entirely self reliant existence, growing your own food, cutting your own firewood. Romantic but impractical. So this is a very different dynamic; one where the quality of your suppliers becomes much more nuanced. I’m finding it fascinating to try and think through it’s implications. For example, just to pick one, how can you possibly archive pages like these?

3 thoughts on “Sausage Making

  1. Shane Curcuru

    Oh, my, what a post this is! Stretching everywhere from our Puritans, across the new greenbelt under the ex-Expressway, via your favorite little Italian shopkeeper (everyone should have one of those!), in and out of sausage casings around the world, and throughout old skool web into Web 2.0ish coding and beyond! Where else can you find a phrase like “make sausage on the server” in such a nicely context-important way?
    Oh, I could wax rhapsodic on and on on this post, but I’m typing on my iPhone, and I’m still wondering if I should gently mention s/breech/breach/ here, or should I use the report a typo link? 😎

  2. Pingback: Paul Weinstein

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