Thursday, December 30, 2004

Fun with GPS

I got the Garmin auto kit for my 60CS unit, and it’s a dramatic improvement to the GPS. It adds a dash mount for the unit, a cigarette lighter power supply, and the City Select North America v6 street maps for all of the US and parts of Canada. (Interestingly, the list price for the maps alone is $140, but the auto kit through Amazon is just $160.)

Once loaded, you get millions of “points of interest” — allowing you to find nearby businesses… particularly useful when you need a nearby gas station, restaurant, bank, etc. It’ll also do turn-by-turn directions for you, making navigation particularly easy.

I like that as you’re driving, it automatically redraws the screen to track where you’re at. You can zoom in or out to get the desired level of detail, and as you approach things (like a lake, or a park), you can move the cursor, point at what you’re interested in, and it’ll pop-up telling you what it is.

I downloaded several hundred of the nearest Geocaches from, so whenever I’m out in the car I get a sense of where the local caches are. It’s pretty amazing just how many there are, and how varied the locations are.

One note, I found the Garmin MapSource software (included for managing the Garmin maps and transferring of maps to the GPS) a bit klunky to use. Foolishly, I assumed that once the maps were installed to my PC and I hooked up the GPS and clicked “Transfer to GPS” that the maps would, well, transfer. Not so. You have to individually select the individual maps (roughly speaking, maps appear to cover a few counties at a time) — which makes sense, given that each map is nearly 1 megabyte in size, some units have limited memory and would only be able to store a few at a time. On our first foray out with the unit, I was a bit surprised when we drove off the grid! Turns out we’d gone beyond the one map that had transferred; after some tinkering back at home, I realized the error and transferred the maps from most of Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Browser and Aggregator Market Share

For anyone who cares, some stats on my readership… (Note: these results are far from scientific, and are just for my site.)

Those who read tins in a web browser:

Those who read tins in an RSS aggregator (details reported by FeedBurner):

The remaining 20% of the market is covered by no fewer than 34 aggregators, including a “Research Aggregator” at Microsoft (hmmm…). I’ll check these numbers on a regular basis and report back to see if there are any trends.

Contribute to help the Tsunami Disaster Relief

There are just no words to describe the enormity of the disaster that continues to unfold in Asia. With the death toll likely topping 100,000 before week’s end, and the Red Cross predicting that disease and famine could double that number before long, this is a crisis the likes of which I’ve never seen. So many families, villages and countries are affected that it’s really hard to grasp how far-reaching the impact will be felt.

As one planet, we demonstrated how we were able to unite against the terror attacks in 2001. Contributions came in from all over the globe, and Americans donated tens of millions of dollars in just a few weeks. The scale of this disaster — in human terms, not to mention financial terms — is far greater, and the affected areas are so much less equipped to respond. Your contribution can make a difference. Amazon’s coordinating contributions to the American Red Cross; 100% of the contributions go to the American Red Cross. Consider giving whatever you can here:

Amazon Honor System

Thank you.

I’ll check in periodically; as of this writing, Amazon has collected $2.1 million from 37,474 donors. For comparison, three days after 9/11, Amazon raised $4.3m. Let’s do what we can.

Update, 3pm CDT: $2.4m, 42,722 donors.
Update, 4pm CDT: $2.6m, 45,804 donors.
Update, 5pm CDT: $2.7m, 47,597 donors.
Update, 10pm CDT: $3.4m, 58,255 donors.

Wow. That’s $1m in just 7 hours.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Kensington Laptop Desktop

SCMZZZZZZZ.jpg” align=“right”>One of my favorite gifts was an inexpensive laptop accessory from Kensington, the laptop desktop. It works with either PCs or Macs, and is a different take on the docking station concept. It’s a sleeve for your laptop — you slide it in with the laptop screen up; it hides your keyboard and lets your laptop screen stay visible at eye level.

This is a nice change, as it puts the screen about 8” to 12” higher than it would be otherwise, which means I get to sit back in my chair and look ahead rather than down at the laptop. It’s also a USB hub, with four USB ports on the back — so I can keep the full-sized keyboard, printer, mouse, and Bluetooth adapter plugged in all the time, and anytime the laptop is in the dock, the devices are connected to the laptop.

It also has a sheet holder on the front, so if you’re typing from a document, or just want a page visible while talking on the phone, it holds it in place.

All in all, it’s a great answer for a lot less than other port replicators/docking stations cost. It’s also let me completely change how I use my desk, which has opened up a lot more writing space. All in all, a great addition to the office desk.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

Hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had an enjoyable day today. We’re all exhausted (have two little ones around will do that to you!) but we had a great day.

Got a new TiVo (the Humax TiVO + DVD recorder), which I’m quite excited about. (Reminder to anyone who got a TiVo today: remember to mention my e-mail address — — when you sign up for service!) Looks like a great device, including a firewire port on the front for uploading digital video recordings so I can then burn them to DVD

Lots more gadgets to talk about, more later…

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Zach Exley's response

As I anticipated, Zach responds that Orlowski gets it all wrong:

Don’t you know that journalists get it ALL wrong sometimes? You just spent two days hurling criticisms at me based on what a UK reporter wrote about me in The Register. He carelessly and radically misrepresented what I said while speaking on a recent panel at Harvard’s Berkman Center. He took things I said about the Bush Internet team and had me saying them about my own team; criticisms of the DNC program were reported as criticisms of the Kerry program or of ACT; criticisms of the Kerry/DNC field program were reported as criticisms of the Kerry Internet program; he flat out misquoted me inside of quotation marks and implied worse outside of quotation marks such as the “blog blather” and “goateed chinned web designers” comments.

Read Zach’s entire post at DailyKos. It’s a good read, and sheds a ton of light on the thinking behind his comments (both reported and inferred from The Register).

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Geocaching hits the mainstream

A high-tech gadget that appeals to the inner nerd, it also prompts the user to get off the couch and into the great outdoors. A GPS gadget can be a catalyst for family outings, but also a hip present for teens who want no part of parents and siblings. It’s even, potentially, educational.

Our first couple caches were a ton of fun, and I can confirm that my kids (nearly 3 and 5) had a blast. It’s part adventure, part treasure hunt, and part family time. Can’t beat that. My Garmin GPSMap 60CS remains a favorite; feature-rich, it has a nice form factor and with what I hope are a few Christmas presents (auto kit and the topo maps), it’s a killer device.

Kids are getting snowshoes in a few days. Wonder whether winter Geocaching is viable…?

Broadband tops dial-up in US

This is amazing: broadband use in the U.S. now tops dial-up usage in U.S. homes.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Barack Obama on the Cover of Newsweek

obama_newsweek.jpgFirst spotted over at Austin Mayor’s blog, Barack is on the cover of this week’s Newsweek. The article, titled “The Audacity of Hope”, is a good overview of what’s expected of him, how he’s managing the lofty expectations from some corners, and what the future looks like for the junior Senator from Illinois.

And in case you missed it over the weekend, Barack signed a $1.9 million book deal with Crown Publishing, covering 2 books and a children’s book. $200k will go to charity (the amount paid for the kids’ book).

Three years

Three years ago I started this blog. Since then, I’ve posted over 1,800 entries, and hundreds of you have left more than 2,000 comments (since I switched to Movable Type; there were hundreds of comments from my Radio days that didn’t make the conversion). Depending on which stats you believe (web statistics are like votes in a Presidential election: often indicative, rarely precise), I’ve had between 200,000 and 300,000 visitors, and while SiteMeter says I’ve served up over 300,000 page views in those three years, my stats package on my server indicates more than 1m page views over the past year alone.

Whatever the numbers, the simple fact is that there are far more of you reading what I write than I ever expected. I’ve made some wonderful friends through this site (too many to mention, actually), I got a job through this site (thanks, Ross), and it’s led to some incredible opportunities both personally and professionally.

Thanks to everyone who makes this worth doing.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Zach Exley says software doesn't win elections

Caught over at PoliticalWire, I see that Zach Exley says that:

“The difference between the approach of the left in general, and the Republicans, is that the left was more interested in just putting cool software up. The idea was to put up the tools and let people use them.”

He derided net evangelists who believed that the answer was ‘let’s come up with new ways of talking!’

“The belief was ‘let’s get 5,000 people out there and they’ll talk to each other. but to put a president in office we need to get people organized and trained.” In the end, he said, a field organization was far more valuable than blog blather.

Um, well sure, Zach. But anyone who tries to claim that we lost the election in November because we focused too much on the technology, well, I’m just not seeing it. I mean, that’s a nice convenient excuse, but doesn’t it overlook the fact that for the first time in recent memory, the Democrats outraised Republicans, more people voted for Kerry than all but one other candidate in history, and more contributors donated to political campaigns than ever before? Don’t we think the tech might have helped just a bit with that?

The Democrats lost because we had a weaker message, less discipline, and almost no coordination between the various levels of the party. I’m the chair of my local Democratic Party, yet have never so much as received a form letter from the chair of the state party, let alone from the DNC. John Kerry rescued his campaign in October during the Iowa primaries by firing his campaign manager and reorganizing a fractured staff. Factions grew once again over the summer, and Kerry didn’t take control — leading to an unfortunately predictable result. (Contrasted with the Republicans’ discipline on message, I think the conclusions are easy to draw.

When Zach says that we need organization, he’s right. But to suggest that the technology can’t improve the organizational abilities flies in the face of what we did well this cycle, not to mention it’s laughably ignorant of where things are heading. (When Disney is encouraging grandparents to download social networking software to plan family vacations, it’s a safe bet that online organizing to improve political organizing just might take hold…)

Zach’s wrong when he suggests the left was more focused on building the tools than using them. Are there some corners where a few people just wanted to play with cool tools? Sure. But was that the focus of the entire party? Not by a long shot. And to lay the 2004 loss at the technology’s feet seems ridiculous on its face.

(Big caveat: The Register’s Orlowski — the reporter on this story — is notoriously anti-blog and a bit of a rabble-rouser, so I’m more than happy to be corrected on the substance of Exley’s comments…)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Vote Homann

Matt’s throwing his hat in the ring for Influential and Important Legal Thinker. I think it’s a great idea:

Legal Affairs Magazine is looking for the country’s twenty most influential and important legal thinkers.  I would have nominated Dennis Kennedy, but he doesn’t think much of the list, so instead, I’m nominating myself. 

Today, I proudly announce my candidacy for the position of Influential and Important Legal Thinker.  Though the nominations have closed, there is a place on the ballot for a write-in candidate (remember, my name is spelled “HOMANN”).

 So vote early, vote often, and vote Homann! [the [non]billable hour]

And since he asked me to be his campaign manager (ha!), let me just say: at some point, we’ll need to go negative. I’ll start the oppo file on Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick (I hear she’s Canadian — is she even eligible for this vote?!), will start picking others off soon…

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Getting a TiVo?

For any of you getting a TiVo this Christmas, please consider mentioning me as your “referral source” during your service activation process… I’m part of the TiVo rewards program, which gets me some TiVo swag in return for recruiting more of you into the cult family.


(Use my e-mail address — — when it asks.)

Saw Paul Curreri Last Night...

Someday, I’ll be as good at something as Paul Curreri is at playing guitar. He was at Uncommon Ground last night in Chicago, then packed his bags for Nashville, where he’s performing tonight at the Springwater Supper Club. (Note to anyone reading this who’s in Nashville: do whatever it takes to see Paul perform tonight. You’ll thank me.)

Paul’s the total package: an incredible guitar player, I think his writing is as good (if not better). An excerpt from Drag Some Revelating (off of his latest album):

Spending, counting chickens often
Necessitates the touching of your chickens.
Who wants some sick and dirty old bird?
And what if it dies? Goodbye.
Ain’t like there’s a chicken coop bank in the sky.
Think it’s your turn to pick up the tab.

Traveling, never knock a spider web
Unattached to your porch
Or leave your memories on the roof of your car.
The grass back home:
My, how it must’ve grown.
Screw the wicker huts, the tigers, the Goyas.

Waiting, the neighborhood’s kitchens
Will remind you to eat – Smoke burning off the grills like the hours.
If the fire tires,
There’s wood stacked out back in a pile.
Play that song again.

Then there’s the singing, taking words you know and stretching them in directions that didn’t occur to you, but seem perfectly obvious once Paul lets them go… Coupled with a sense of humor (there were as many laughs as there were opportunities for applause last night) and you’ve got a show you’ll not soon forget.

The set last night was a blend of his three albums, with two covers mixed in. His last song is actually his brother Matt’s song, with the refrain “With Paul on my side…” It was funny and touching. I’m sure I’ll be telling people for years that I once saw both Paul and Matt sing together in their living room before either was out of college.

Paul tells a great story about a guy who insisted on asking Paul, “Famous yet?” (I won’t spoil the story — it’s a good one, and it tells you a lot about Paul and his music.) Fortunately for us, he’s better than famous: he’s gifted.

Thanks to Paul for a great show, and congrats on the engagement to Devon Sproule. Something tells me the music at the wedding will be magical…

Monday, December 13, 2004

Google digitizing U Michigan's library

All 7 million volumes of the Michigan library are getting Googled.


LexisNexis acquires Interface Software

Big news from my old employer: LexisNexis Acquires Interface Software.

This is exciting, definitely a win-win for both companies. It gives LexisNexis (when did they eliminate the hyphen in their name?) a best-of-breed software application with mission-critical importance at some of the largest professional services firms in the world, while providing InterAction customers with access to a wealth of content that will only make the InterAction CRM system more robust. Combining the client profiling abilities of InterAction with the rich data on companies will give customers a big leg up.

Congrats to all involved, it will be fun to see what the combined entitiy does next.

Profile at JDBliss

The otherwise sensible folks at JDBliss took time out of their day to profile me on their site. I’m sure by tomorrow they’ll resume their normal standards.

Kidding aside, I’m flattered that they chose to profile me. To be honest, I don’t really think what I’ve done is all that remarkable — but if reading about my choices helps a law student evaluate some options before making a career choice, then it’ll be worth it.

I made a comment in the interview — “At times during the past two years it has been hard to realize that I’ve been as much at the heart of [politics] as I have, but that’s just further proof that something as simple as one phone call can make an enormous difference.” — which for me is the key. I have my current job at Socialtext solely as a result to reaching out to Ross Mayfield after “meeting” him through our blogs. I got involved in the Dean campaign, and later in the Obama campaign, after making phone calls.

(For a far more eloquent discussion of this line of thought, see Paula Kamen’s touching eulogy of Iris Chang, How ‘Iris Chang’ became a verb.)

Thanks to the folks at JDBliss for the profile. At least Mom will enjoy it.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

SBC Cingular AT&T Wireless "synergy"

Got a call Thursday night. It was an automated call. “This is just to confirm that your order with SBC has been completed. If you have any questions about this order, you can call SBC Customer Service at 1-800-244-4444.”

I looked at my wife. “Did we order anything from SBC?” “No.”

So I called. How foolish of me.

The first person I got on the phone (pleasant surprise: no hold time, and the person I spoke to was most definitely a U.S. resident) told me that the problem was that my credit card didn’t go through. I explained we cancelled that card a year ago, and had stopped SBC’s auto-billing because of the numerous errors in processing. “But it didn’t go through!” she insisted. “What did we order?” I inquired.

After finally getting her to agree that the credit card issue was not, in fact, the reason for the automated call from SBC, she told me she had to put me on hold while she checked that info. Except that she didn’t put me on hold — she took advantage of the slow computer response to inform me that I was “pre-qualified” for four free cell phones from Cingular. “I’m already an AT&T Wireless customer,” I replied, and since the two companies are really now just one, I explained that there was no reason to “switch” me to Cingular (who is an SBC partner, see here for more info).

Prepared, she had a response ready: “OK, then — just move your billing over to us and you can save money each month on your bill with a consolidated bill.” (Remember, this is synergy at work.)

deep breath

“What did I order?”

She explained that it was actually a fluke — a simple upgrade of the DSL system that triggered an automated call to subscribers (how many, she wouldn’t say) but that I hadn’t ordered anything nor had I been charged for anything. Score one for Rick.

Foolishly, I wasn’t content to end the call, happy in my small victory. No no — I could save $5/month by putting my cell bill on my phone bill. (Which, now that I’m thinking more-or-less rationally, makes no sense — this call started with me reiterating my frustration at SBC’s billing! But nevermind.)

“Let’s do that cell thing, so I can save a few bucks.”

The next twenty minutes were spent trying to recreate my AT&T (ahem! Cingular) service — though there’s synergy at work, God forbid their CRM systems talk to each other — since she couldn’t see what plan I was on, there was no way to put me on the “same” plan, I had to essentially re-order services I already receive. Whatever, I had invested enough time in this call that I was prepared to see it through.

She insisted on “giving” me two free phones. Nevermind that I love my Motorola v600 and my wife loves her v500… no, we’d have to take our free phones. Five minutes of Googling later, I settled on one of the free models, picked solely for their selling price on eBay.

So now we were ready to finish up, and by “finish up” I mean “call AT&T-I-mean-Cingular-to-finish”. So we call, and get an automated system, which makes me enter in my cell number, and social security number, which then tells me I have a $400 balance. (Nevermind that we just paid the bill two weeks ago, and are well under our minutes for the month. Now the rep’s on and I’m determined to finish this damned thing which will save me all of $60 this year, and isn’t my hour spent on the phone worth more than the freaking $60 I’ll save?)

When I explain that I’m concerned that switching from AT&T to SBC will likely screw up my billing and/or service plan, my guy from AT&T Cingular explains that “even though I’m Cingular, I’m really just AT&T” which apparently means he only takes customer service calls for AT&T customers. (Who are, if you’re paying attention, Cingular customers.) (No, I don’t quite understand either.)

At some point in the endless conversation (about 1:10 in the call, I believe), AT&T Cingular guy explains that “as soon as you switch over, you can use your Cingular phone.” I wake up at that point and say, “that’s my v600, right?” No, as it turns out: “That’s an AT&T phone, and it won’t work on a Cingular system.”


“What?” I’ve roamed before, been on Cingular GSM networks countless times. Except that, according to my guy, it’s an “AT&T phone” and isn’t set up to work with Cingular service, only to use the Cingular network when roaming. I suggest that maybe he’s referring to the fact that AT&T locks its GSM phones while Cingular does not, and that it’s a trivial matter to rectify, to which he responds, “I don’t know anything about that.” (I suggest Google, to no avail.)

Whatever. He’s telling me I’ll have to use the POS free phones I agreed to earlier (so much for putting them on eBay), at which point I cancel the entire thing.

But the call does end in victory, of sorts. Now that I didn’t order something from SBC (for a second time, as it turns out), I asked AT&T Cingular guy about that $400 balance. “Well, you’re on a local plan and you had a lot of roaming last month.” Well, I did go to the east coast for a week at the end of October, but I’ve been on a national plan since I joined AT&T (ahem! Cingular). “But you switched in October.” No, I did add my wife’s cell phone as a second line to my account, to, um, save money. Except that when I added her line to my account, they mistakenly put us on the local plan.

Incredible. Rumor has it they’ve put me back on the national plan, and waived the more than $300 of roaming. I should be happy — it’s not Joi Ito roaming, at least!

Bottom line? I wasted 90 minutes on the phone, only to confirm that I didn’t order anything to begin with, ended up not ordering the switch from AT&T/Cingular to SBC for billing purposes, and finished up by rescinding my non-order for GSM local service from AT&T Cingular.

If you’re interested, here’s the FAQ on how the Cingular/AT&T merger will affect you. I’m afraid to look.

Thumbs up

Well, it was bound to happen.

After a couple months off on the basement project, I got back into it last weekend. The basement is split into two sections — the main “entertainment” space that includes the TV area, card table area, and bar; and the hallway, bookshelves and office. I got all the ceiling tiles up in the main area by Friday, and installed the beadboard on the soffets in the main area as well (about 35 feet long, 4 feet wide). I was working on the soffet around the main drain pipe in the house when I needed to “rip” a plank of beadboard, so up to the table saw I went (it’s in the garage).

About 2” away from completing the cut, my hand slipped, and… off went a small piece of my thumb. Fortunately it’s OK — I’m remarkably lucky. I took off some skin, caught just a bit of the thumbnail — but nothing more than that. Some bandaging to keep the wound safe, and that’s it. (I’m typing with both hands, if that’s any indication of how “OK” it is…)

Needless to say I feel a bit dumb for the mistake, but incredibly lucky that it wasn’t much, much worse.

So after making a lot of progress the past week, I’ve got a few days of forced time off… Here’s hoping I can pick back up before Christmas — I’m really hoping to have the majority of the work done before New Year’s.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

BlogWalk 6 in Chicago

Count me in:

Definitely looking forward to having this come to Chicago. And to
finally getting to meet Lilia face-to-face. Glad to see that Jack
Vinson is able to take a lead role. Jack, you know where to find me for

As Ton has announced, “It is our pleasure to announce a new edition of BlogWalk, the salon-like get togethers Sebastian Fiedler, Lilia Efimova and I are organizing.” I will have the pleasure of being the local host, but I will be getting lots of help from everyone who attends. We’re planning on the 21st or 22nd of January up in Evanston (just north of Chicago) – very convenient for me. For more information have a look at the BlogWalk wiki.

[McGee’s Musings]

Can’t wait!

Friday, December 10, 2004

Friday Rumsfeld Blogging

It’s that time again, here’s your photo for Friday Rumsfeld Blogging:

The official caption: Senior advisers to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense spokesman Eric Ruff, chief speechwriter Matt Latimer, senior military assistant U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Jim Stavridis and speechwriter Thayer Scott, listen while Rumsfeld speaks to the press in New Delhi December 9, 2004. Rumsfeld wrapped up a three country tour and headed back to Washington after visiting India. Picture taken December 9, 2004. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Have at it. Be creative, folks!

Netflix and Wal-Mart

Steve Olechowski: “The venn diagram of Walmart customers and Netflix customers best resembles a pair of john lennon type glasses.”

Thursday, December 9, 2004

In awe of your children

Anna Quindlen’s piece this week is a must-read for any parent. The concluding paragraph:

Don’t get me wrong: she’s no saint. But she is strong and smart and funny, everything I’ve ever treasured. Oh, if I could grow up to be Maria, to be the kind of person who could jump off that cliff without thinking twice or looking down. For decades my role model was my mother. Now it’s my daughter. I’m just the woman who was lucky enough to come between the two.

It’s interesting that my wife and I read this and had very different reactions; I read it as a parent, she read it as a daughter and mother (but of two boys, alas, no daughters). Regardless of our context, we both recognized the gift it is to have children, and to witness them grow up to be their own people.

As I listen to my four year-old get this close to reading, I marvel at how quickly he’s learning (and how hard he works at it). Each smile (whether it’s joy or mischief, it doesn’t matter) that my two year old shares, I am amazed at the personality he’s already developed. I’m not yet at the point where Quindlen is, whose daughter is 16 and fast approaching adulthood. But I count my blessings that I get to spend so much time with these two kids, and can’t wait for what’s ahead.

See also Dennis Kennedy’s guest blog entry by his daughter for similar thoughts.

David Brudnoy nearing death

Very sad news in Boston, veteran radio host David Brudnoy is off life support and nearing death. Brudnoy is dying of a rare skin cancer, one which went into remission last winter but has returned with a vengeance.

For those who’ve never had the pleasure of hearing one of David’s shows, it was what I imagine a salon to have been like: he was comfortable discussing almost anything under the sun, smart, funny, and above all willing to poke fun at himself. Unlike many other radio personalities, he was always open about himself — not in a showy way, just in an effort at being transparent. He hid nothing, and in return achieved icon status in New England.

I haven’t lived in Boston in over 5 years, but his voice is still immediately recognizable to me. Thanks to the wonders of AM radio, once it gets dark I’ll probably be able to tune in WBZ tonight (more than 1000 miles away) and listen to what will no doubt be an ongoing celebration of a most remarkable life.

Peace, David.

Update: David passed away at 6:11pm Boston time. Best quote from that story, from Channel 56 news analyst and Brudnoy friend Jon Keller: “Who ever thought that perhaps the most prominent symbol of courage here in Boston, would come from a gay, Jewish, egghead from Minnesota?”

Paul Curreri - Spirit of the Staircase is out!

An early Christmas treat: Paul Curreri’s new album, Spirit of the Staircase is available from! (Listen to clips here.)

From the album info page: “In what may be Curreri’s most eloquent musical statement to date, the level of pure sonic invention permeating The Spirit Of The Staircase echoes the level of craft, insight and risk for which the young musician, at the relative beginning of a career, has already been credited. ‘It’s a rare find to catch a young guy who can play this well, have his own voice as a singer, and write songs that are as interesting as anything out there,’ says Vintage Guitar magazine.”

More: “Curreri titled his third album The Spirit Of The Staircase after a French expression l’esprit d’escalier, which means: Things you think to say after it’s too late and you’re on your way out the door. ‘Ridiculous, but that’s how I’d been feeling,’ says Curreri, ‘like I was on my way to burning out, that I’d wasted all of my youthful juice booking rental cars instead of watching the mountain change colors outside my window, not to mention actually walking toward the mountain.’”

Can’t wait to see Paul Tuesday night.

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Paul Curreri in Chicago 12/14

I am beyond excited to know that one week from tonight, I’ll get to see Paul Curreri perform in Chicago. I wrote about Paul’s CD last year, and it remains one of my favorite albums of any genre.

Well, he’ll be at Uncommon Ground in Chicago (1214 West Grace Street) at 9pm on Tuesday, 12/14. This will be my first time seeing Paul live since 1997 when I sat in his living room (I had just started working for his Dad and was at their annual Christmas party). We’ll be there — leave a comment if you want to go, we’ll save seats for a group… You’ll be sorry if you miss it, he’s that good.

(And one other note, for those not in Chicago: his new album comes out next week.)

Monday, December 6, 2004

Obama moonlights as a stand-up comic

Saturday night Barack was at the Gridiron Club, and proved that he’s got a sense of humor (all quotes from Chicago Tribune):

  • “‘I figure there’s nowhere to go from here but down,’ he said. ‘So tonight, I’m announcing my retirement from the United States Senate.’”

  • On his mixed-race parents: He “raised up a mock National Enquirer headline declaring: ‘Obama’s shocking secret. He’s Strom Thurmond’s Love Child.’”

  • On the DeLay Rule: “He said Illinois and Chicago were progressive and ahead of the times. Referring to the fact that House Republicans had passed a rule allowing leaders to stay in their jobs even if indicted, he said, ‘We had that years ago’ in Illinois.”

  • Showing he’s a quick learner when it comes to foreign policy: “People from his father’s native Kenya were excited over his election, he said, thinking that would mean the building of billions of dollars in new roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools in their country…. ‘So I’ve tried to explain how it works these days,’ he said. ‘First comes the invasion, and then billions in aid.’”

  • More foreign policy (the Ukraine election): “‘Well, President Bush said he wanted to export American-style democracy and, by God, I think it’s working.’”

  • On his new status as the “it” politician: “He joked that he was dining with Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson in Los Angeles when Barbra Streisand called him on his cell phone. He said he told her, ‘The thing you can’t do is just get caught up in the hype.’”

  • And on one of the famous lines from his DNC speech? “‘Well, here’s an update. Since the election, that gay couple I knew in the red states? They’ve moved back to the blue states.’”

Gotta love it.

Chicago Tribune Series on Utica Tornado

Back in late April, a tornado ripped through downtown Utica, Illinois and devastated the town. Several months later, we drove through Utica on our way home from neighboring Starved Rock. The devastation was still apparent, the houses affected still off their foundations, windows still boarded up in several downtown establishments. It was eerie — you could see the exact path of the tornado as it whipped through town.

Photo© 2004, Chicago Tribune.

Starting yesterday, the Tribune is running a 3-part series on the storm and its effect on the town. It’s harrowing, but in a way that you appreciate the bravery and sadness with which the residents endured the storm and its aftermath. Part one is here, part two is here. Superbly written, it’s worth your time.

Friday, December 3, 2004

Friday Rumsfeld Blogging

The others, they have cat blogging. Me? I’m starting Rumsfeld Blogging. That’s right, on random Fridays, I’ll find a good photo of Donald Rumsfeld (who, CNN tells us, is sticking around a while, because you know, that whole war thing is going so well) and give you, dear reader, a chance to add your own caption…


(Thanks to Brian Sebby for the pointer to the photo.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

A Perfect Candidate

Wow. I had heard good things about the documentary A Perfect Candidate, but had never seen it. It was on the Sundance Channel a few days ago, and thanks to TiVo, I got to catch it tonight. For the many people who stop by this blog from time to time and are at all interested in politics, you absolutely need to watch this film.

I’ll be posting more shortly as the film sinks in. But the level of access that the filmmakers had to North and his campaign staff is shocking — and offers quite a glimpse behind the scenes into a high-profile (and very, very nasty) Senate race. Most intriguing, the race offers a glimpse of the themes that I think came to define the 2004 election: morals, religion, press bias, and attack ads and innuendo…

I’m just amazed that I was actually living in Virginia at the time. But I was in law school, barely aware of the sun rising let alone the Senate race. Boy did I miss out.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Kensington Laptop Desk

Poking around today, and saw this laptop desk by Kensington, which looks like a must-have for my home office. It holds your laptop, lets you flip the screen up so it serves as an eye-level monitor, while letting you attach a full-sized keyboard, mouse, etc. And it also has a built-in <span class=" />USB hub, which is also nice for all the USB accessories I’ve got attached to the computer.

Definitely picking this up in the next few days. For $50, seems like a no-brainer.

CNN - Your Command

I tried not to like CNN’s Your Command site, where they show various commercials of the anchors poking fun at themselves, include outtakes of the commercials, and interviews with the anchors about their jobs.

But you know what? They’re really good.

Just Be Yourself

If you had a blog, and you posted a doctrine on it, and among the many proclomations was this:

2. Be a human being. JoinCross is a place for us to be ourselves, to share who we are, and for us to learn who our customers are.

Don’t you think it would be a little odd to have the major contributor be a pseudonym?

Couldn’t resist the tweak, but on the balance I still think that Cross’s staff has the right idea when it comes to the blog, and the role it can play in their ongoing outreach. Turn Illinois is another good example of how to leverage one candidate’s strengths for the benefit of the party.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Socialtext named to EContent 100

Exciting news at Socialtext: we’ve been named to the EContent 100 as one of the 100 companies that matter most in the digital content industry.

Congrats to the team for a nice recognition of what we’re doing, and many thanks to the customers who make it possible to continue innovating in an important space.

From the obscure references department...

Two comments in the past week prove that my readers are far more clever than I:

Thanks to all who contribute comments here, it makes it fun (and often informative) to keep the conversation going.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Lafayette College in the NCAA football playoffs

Wow. Lafayette faces last year’s I-AA champ Delaware this afternoon in the first round of the I-AA playoffs. Very exciting. (TiVo owners: click here to record the broadcast.) It’s Lafayette’s first trip to the playoffs, and they were picked to come in 5th in the league (they won).

Bonus: a program on the Lafayette/Lehigh legacy is on following the game. (Impress your friends by knowing the answer to the trivia question: what is college football’s most played rivalry?)

Friday, November 26, 2004

Eleanor Clift: Dean an "obvious choice" to lead DNC

Here’s a snippet, but you should read the whole article to get a better sense of her argument:

The struggle to be Democratic National Committee chair is round one of the battle for the soul of the party. The obvious choice is Howard Dean, who has the clarity of conviction and the passion that voters hunger for even if they don’t always agree with him.

Interestingly, Clift claims that Vilsack withdrew because he saw numbers that suggested a Dean win, and the Clintons are “quietly pulling” for Dean. (Dean running DNC would effectively take him out of the ’08 horse race, eliminating one potential rival for Hillary, so the logic goes. I’m not buying it, but it’s not like they’re listening to me anyway!)

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Biggert on the DeLay Rule (update)

Lynn Sweet gets the answer that none of the rest of us could (and why should we? We’re just constituents.): “Rep. Judy Biggert did not take a position or speak in the caucus because she is a member of the ethics panel and will have to deal with the pending complaint.”

For background, see here and here.

Maybe we should send the link to her staff.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Barack Obama on Letterman Friday night

Taped last night, airs Friday night. I hear Barack did quite well. TiVo owners: click here to schedule it on your TiVo.

Interestingly, Barack was on Imus yesterday. And while I’m on the Barack update, So-Called Austin Mayor points out that in a survey of Boston voters, Barack recently came in tied for second in a list of preferred candidates in 2008. And Wonkette notes that Barack’s housing options in DC may not be all that glamorous.

Finally, his book, Dreams from My Father, is #50 in all books on Amazon right now.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Caption contest

OK, been a while since we did one of these. Please take a look at the following picture of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and leave your best caption in the comments:

(I just know you can do better than the following “official” caption: US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld looks around the room full of North and South American military leaders during the Defense Minesterial of the Americas in Quito, Ecuador.)
(source: AFP/Paul J. Richards via Wonkette)

Congresswoman Biggert on the DeLay rule

Hey Josh — I called Congresswoman Biggert’s office (202-225-3515), and the person who answered the phone said it was a private vote, and would not reveal how Congresswoman Biggert voted. I’ve asked for a call back, will update if/when I hear anything.

In the Illinois delegation, Denny Hastert was in favor of the rule change, while Ray LaHood was against it, as was Mark Kirk.

Update: Josh notes that Biggert’s office has given at least three different answers on this question so far today, never actually revealing how she voted. Impressive.

Later upate: The Naperville Democrats are on the case. Seems there’s still some confusion at Biggert’s office about what the right answer is, and still no word on the Congresswoman’s actual vote. But the staff seems to be settling on the “we’ll send you a letter” stall…

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Richard Irvin - Candidate for Aurora Mayor

Had drinks tonight with Richard Irvin, a candidate for mayor of Aurora. Richard’s got quite the resume — soldier in the first Gulf War, former prosecutor, teacher, community leader, husband, father… oh yeah, he’s a Republican too. And African-American.

We didn’t talk much on specifics regarding his politics, other than for me to ask how, in a city that is 60% minorities, how he expects to fare as a minority who also happens to be a Republican. (Right or wrong, high minority populations tend to vote heavily Democratic.)

I was impressed with Richard: smart, charismatic, and most of all, genuine. I look forward to other meetings with Richard, where I can learn more about his political positions. (You can read about his stance on issues here I’ll simply note that for a Republican, he’s got an awfully strong faith in government. That’s encouraging for me, to be honest, but I wonder how it plays with the Republican faithful.)

One thing we emphatically agreed on: we need more local individuals passionately engaged in the political process. While we kidded Katie, our waitress, who decried politics as “ugly” and not for “social events”, I’m a firm believer that if government is to ever succeed, it will be if (and only if) people learn to believe in the possibilities that can be accomplished when neighbors work together. If we just buy into the “they’re worse than we are” crap that pollutes so much of the current debate, we’re all the worse for it.

Richard seems like good people. I admire anyone looking to improve their communities; Richard grew up in low-income housing in East Aurora, and is now a community leader and fighting to become mayor of the second-largest city in Illinois at 33 years old. More power to him; check out his site and consider getting involved.

Other candidates who’ve declared for mayor of Aurora include Tom Weisner (party affiliation not clear), Bill Wyatt (a Republican), and Angel Hernandez (couldn’t find a website; not clear on party affiliation).

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Letters from Captain Kevin Kuwik

I’m not a Notre Dame alum (Lafayette College is my alma mater), but one of the amazing things about N.D. is that they tend to accept all family members as part of the “family”. My younger brother is a 1996 graduate of N.D., and I am lucky to consider a number of his classmates friends of mine as well.

One of those men is Kevin Kuwik, who until a few weeks ago was an assistant basketball coach at Ohio U. Kevin was a ROTC student, and served two years of active duty, then was accepted to a national guard stint following an early release. He has had quite a career in coaching, and is destined for great things on the court. (My favorite story from their time at N.D. together? Kevin and my bro coaching girls’ flag football; Kuwik, then a junior coach for the men’s basketball team, had friends videotape other girls football games, so they could then review the videotape at the JCC after hours.)

Anyway, Kevin was set to be an assistant coach this season, until he got a rather surprising letter in the mail. Read the story at for all the details.

Today, Kevin is at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, reporting for an 18-month tour of duty, destination unknown. He’ll likely miss the next two seasons while back on active duty in the Army. (Kevin’s part of the same call-up in which more than 800 soldiers have failed to report for duty.)

He’s keeping a journal of his experiences at Ohio’s website; it’s worth a visit.

The politicization of the CIA

Jason points out that we’ve been here before. And no, it’s not pretty.

If only those who were so worried about making the other side look bad were just half as concerned about making us look good. (And, for the subtlety-impaired, by us I mean Americans.)


200,000 served

Allow me a bit of self-indulgence… in looking at my stats tonight I saw that sometime in the past 2 hours, the 200,000th person to visit this weblog stopped by. Now, for someone like Kos, that’s a decent day of traffic, and I’ve been at this for just under three years. But for my little corner of the web, it’s more than I ever imagined would pay attention to what I had to say.

For any who care, the 200,000th visitor arrived via Google, searching for comments on Dreams of my Father, the book by Barack Obama.

To all who stop by regularly, thanks for continuing to make this a rewarding endeavor. (And for those who stop by regularly, drop me a line and let me know who you are. I see a lot of familiar domain names in my site logs, and I have no idea who you are…)

Dave Tamkin in Naperville on Friday

Robin and I are going to see Dave Tamkin perform at Frankies Blue Room Friday night. I haven’t heard Dave’s music before, but after reading about him on his website and listening to a few songs at Fresh Tracks, there’s no doubt I’ll enjoy the performance.

Why am I so sure? The guy lists Toad the Wet Sprocket as an influence (one of my favorite bands of all time — both for their music as well as the Monty Python reference) but also because he lists Fear as a “desert island disc”.

Should be a great show.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Jefferson Jackson Dinner - one year ago today

Sigh… one year ago today.

Easily among the highlights of my 18 months volunteering on the Dean campaign.

Desktop search - give blinkx a try

Over the weekend I completed a long-overdue column for LPM, the ABA magazine I write for. I set out to write about my love affair with Google Desktop, and ended up recommending Google Desktop but raving about blinkx.

Before I get to blinkx, a tip for Google Desktop users: create a folder in Outlook, call it “Google Desktop”, then right-click on the folder and select properties. Click the second tab (labeled Home Page) and you’ll see:

(click for full size image)

Copy in the URL for Google Desktop (it’ll likely be similar to what’s in the screenshot above, but confirm it by double-clicking on the Google Desktop icon in your system tray), make sure “Show home page by default for this folder” is checked, and click “Apply”. Now while you’re in Outlook, you can have Google Desktop appear without leaving the Outlook application. It’s mostly a facade — you’re just rendering a webpage inside of Outlook — but if you start hunting for stuff using Google Desktop a lot, you’ll find it’s a handy way of staying inside of Outlook.

OK, on to blinkx. Unlike Google Desktop, blinkx is a stand-alone application that runs on your PC. In addition to indexing your local files, blinkx extends your desktop by linking you to related materials in various “channels” — news, products, audio/video, and blogs. So while you’re working on a piece of content (could be an e-mail, a blog entry, a Word document, etc.), blinkx appears to tell you what it knows about that’s related.

In an ironic twist, while I was composing the article about Google Desktop and blinkx, blinkx subtly suggested I check out an audio clip it knew about — Paul Boutin’s recent review of… wait for it… Google Desktop on NPR. I love it.

Anyway, I found blinkx as responsive as Google Desktop, slightly more polished in the UI, and though it lacked some e-mail management tools I’d like to see, in general I found it a more powerful search mechanism for your hard drive. Google may end up iterating Google Desktop to match blinkx’s abilities, but for now I’m in love with blinkx. (And I’m not the only one ditching Google Desktop today — Ron Friedmann explained his decision to uninstall it this morning.)

Useless trivia question: who can tell me anything interesting about the URL for Google Desktop?

Astroturf, FCC and the party of small government

So-Called Austin Mayor points us to Jeff Jarvis’s post about the recent $1.2m fine imposed by the FCC.

The fine, for those who missed it, was the largest ever imposed by the FCC. It was levied against Fox, for its “sexually suggestive” Married by America program.

All but three of the 159 complaints received were duplicates. Of the millions who watched the show, three complained. And the FCC turned around and fined Fox $1.2m.

Kudos to Jeff for doing a little original reporting and for challenging fellow bloggers to do some homework: “The Freedom of Information Act isn’t meant for reporters. It’s meant for citizens … and now citizen journalists. So use it.”

Implemented sub-categories in Movable Type 3.121

Over the weekend I was doing some miscellaneous clean-up on the blog and realized that I hadn’t yet checked out one of the nice new features in Movable Type, sub-categories. This makes it easy to logically group categories, something I’d wanted to do (but not badly enough to install a plugin that existed to do this).

After checking out the documentation, I realized that modifying my category archive template to incorporate the new functionality was really simple. If you do category archives in your MT 3.1x site, you can just add this code wherever you want it to show up. Here’s what it does:

  • Checks to see if the category it’s building has a parent; if so, it shows that parent. If there’s no parent category, it skips ahead.

  • Checks to see if the category has any children; if so, it adds them. If there’s no sub-categories, then it skips ahead.

  • Then executes two passes: if there are no parent categories or subcategories, then it prints out a simple statement: No related categories.

Hope this helps!

&lt;b&gt;Parent category:&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br /&gt;
&lt;MTParentCategories exclude_current="1"&gt;
&lt;ul&gt;&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href="&lt;$MTCategoryArchiveLink$&gt;"&gt;&lt;MTCategoryLabel&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/li&gt;&lt;/ul&gt;
&lt;br /&gt;
&lt;b&gt;Sub-categories:&lt;/b&gt;&lt;br /&gt;
&lt;a href="&lt;$MTCategoryArchiveLink$&gt;"&gt;&lt;MTCategoryLabel&gt;&lt;/a&gt;
&lt;MTHasNoParentCategory&gt;&lt;MTHasNoSubCategories&gt;&lt;i&gt;No related categories.&lt;/i&gt;&lt;/MTHasNoSubCategories&gt;&lt;/MTHasNoParentCategory&gt;

Sub-categories code

A plea from the TiVo faithful

George Hotelling just wrote a call to arms for TiVo lovers everywhere, and it’s a doozie. Well worth a look. George makes a compelling case for TiVo as the platform for digital media. I think TiVo is the answer, but only time will tell…

Great shareware timeout

After experienced some unexplained system slowdowns on my WinXP laptop last month, I downloaded Tune-Up Utilities 2004, a system maintenance application that works quite well. But as is the case with much software, after the initial tire-kicking I forgot about it.

Then today, this popped up:


That has to be the best trial expiration notice ever. And because of it, I’m going to give the app another look. (My initial reaction from using it last month was quite positive; I just haven’t tested some of the other features.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Long bet

OK, I’ll wager something of value that Hillary Clinton will not, under any circumstance, be the nominee of the Democratic Party in 2008. She puts the polar in polarization, and incenses the red staters into bouts of apoplexy the likes of which would give us nightmares for years to come. The Democrats will need someone who can talk comfortably about their faith, talk decisively about morals, and lay a convincing foundation for why the Democratic vision of government’s role is consistent with the majority of Americans’ views.

Is she a woman to be admired for her accomplishments? Yes. Is she smart? No question. Is she powerful? Yep. Excels at fundraising? You betcha.

She’s all that and more. But she’s not the nominee. Oh, she may run. But she won’t win the nomination. And that, in my opinion, will be a good thing.

Update: I’ve accepted Brad’s wager, and posted my response to his post here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Dan Conley on life in the minority

I’ve been a fan of Dan Conley’s postings at his blog’s many lives (first, a Dean supporter, then a Dean basher, then a long period of radio silence, now he’s back). As for the prospects of Dean running the DNC? Dan’s not entirely opposed, but then notes, drily, “Life in the minority’s a bitch.”


Dean for DNC chair

The Cross guys are right, I’m pretty excited about the prospects of Howard Dean as DNC chair. Here’s why: boiled down, his campaign’s theme was that the people, and not the government, have the power. Responsibility comes with power, and he saw individuals as holding responsibility for their own decisions. He’s a fiscal conservative, he makes no attempt at saying the poll-tested bromides that so often render candidates faceless and uninspiring, and he’s genuine in his beliefs.

Would he alienate some? Yes. But we must first stand for something before we can ever hope to attract others to the cause.

There’s some momentum building behind Dean as DNC chair. From around the blogs, a quick wrap-up:

  • Matt Gross (ran Dean’s Internet strategy) thinks it’s a great idea: “Dean has the ability to clearly and boldy articulate the Democratic vision; he understands the Internet and the importance of community-building to the future of the party; and he is the best goddamned pit bull we have.”

  • Ezra Klein at Pandagon is behind the idea too: “Dean, for all his faults, is a master at clearly, quickly, and compellingly articulating the Democratic party’s values. Further, Dean, unlike Gillespie or McAuliffe, has a star power to him that makes his appearance on the talk shows something of an event.”

  • Atrios supports the idea as well.

  • Oliver Willis says yes.

  • Over at, Dean’s leading the poll.

Monday, November 8, 2004

TiVo has permalinks

Ernie and Ernest note that TiVo now has permalinks, allowing me to link directly to a show. TiVo owners can click those permalinks through to TiVo Central Online, the “home base” for Internet-based programming of your TiVo recorder.

Very cool. How’s it work? Let’s say that you read Dana Stevens’ article at Slate today about Andrew Sullivan’s appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night, and Andrew’s curious behavior. If, like me, you missed it, you might want to tell TiVo to record the next episode. Now you can — just click here and you’re all set.

Things are getting very interesting. TV shows have permalinks (courtesy of TiVo). Songs have permalinks (courtesy of iTunes). Books have permalinks (courtesy of You know what I really want? Backlinks for all those permalinks. This is like Technorati on steroids: tell me all the people out there who are talking about Andrew Sullivan rubbing himself on Maher’s show; show me all the sites that reference the latest REM album; let me read my own reviews of Jon Stewart’s America: Democracy Inaction.

Do you see the beauty here? Links, as Google so presciently figured out, say a lot about both the destination and the point of origin. Sites that link to the same destination may very well be related. There’s less and less need for sites like to centralize the reviews; the content can be pushed out, where Google, Technorati and other services can contextualize the links and yield some fascinating information.

Think of it! Next to the “Link to this” button at TiVo Central Online, visitors could click a “Conversations” link and see all the blogs and news sites that have linked through to the episode…

Friday, November 5, 2004

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Zorn's Blog Bowl

Haven’t seen any official word from Eric, but as near as I can tell, the gang at JoinCross won Eric Zorn’s blog competition to predict the election results. (Note: I’m assuming both Iowa and New Mexico go to President Bush, which seems likely at this point.) Three of us — Join Cross, me, Random Act of Kindness — had Barack winning by 44 points (the final margin was 43), and one — Too Many Chefs — had Barack winning by 42. In all four cases, we were each just one point off (by Eric’s scoring); of those four, Join Cross and RAOK each had Bush winning the EV — Join Cross had Bush at a 14 vote margin, RAOK had Bush by 13. As a result, Join Cross guys walk away with it.

Small consolation prize for me? I accurately predicted within one the final Electoral College numbers. Just had the wrong winner.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Kerry has conceded is reporting that Kerry has conceded.

As Ohio goes, so goes the nation

With a gap in the popular vote of more than 3 million votes and an apparent lead in Ohio, I think President Bush has earned another four years in office. Much as it disappoints me to think that the Democrats have come up short in a third straight national election, I actually would prefer that resolution than a Kerry victory (somehow) in Ohio (and, as a result, an electoral colleve victory as well).

The roots of the country’s division go well beyond the 2000 election, but the boundaries of that division hardened quite a bit throughout that election. Without speaking to the merits of either side’s arguments in 2000, factually speaking, President Bush lost the popular vote nation-wide by more than a half-million votes. That fact alone was cited repeatedly by Democrats who, in pointing to the irregularities in Florda, claimed that he was somehow not the rightful victor.

The country needs a legitimate victor. And that appears to me to be President Bush. The next four years will continue to be divisive. Better that the division is borne out in policy disagreements than arguments over the election results.

On a broader note, it’s clear that last night’s results portend a wholesale upheaval in the Democratic Party. (Or at least they should. How much more evidence do they need?) The two party leaders who shepherded the party’s disastrous 2002 mid-term elections (Daschle and Gephardt) are now gone. We’ve lost seats in the House and the Senate. I’ve not yet paid enough attention to the state races to know how they played out.

But the Republicans are fighting on moral issues, while the Democrats are trying to fight on economic issues. Ask yourself this: who are the Democrats on the national stage who are speaking authoritatively on moral issues? (From exit polls last night, 80% of those who cited “moral issues” as their most important issue voted for President Bush.) I can think of only one politician who’s been speaking nationally on the subject, who can do so naturally without appearing forced. If there’s any silver lining from yesterday’s results, it’s that Barack Obama has embraced a core Republican tactic and made it his own. We’ll see who else can pattern themselves after Barack’s approach; I’d love to know who’s out there that can do it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

DuPage County Voting Anomalies

This is my first election as a political official; every election prior to this has been as a more casual voter. While I’m no naif, I confess to being surprised by some of the shenanigans going on throughout my township (I’m the chair of the Naperville Democrats, we are a town of about 60,000 voters) today.

Just a few stories:

  • At one polling place, an election judge was promoting Christian Bookstores, who are apparently giving voters 20% off today if they wear their “I voted today” sticker.

  • At another, the Republican election judge was requiring all non-white voters to present identification prior to receiving a ballot; white voters were given a ballot without any need for ID.

  • A black woman who was a pollwatcher for us was verbally accosted by the Republican election judge: “You must be here because you don’t have a job.” (For the record: she took the day off to do her civic duty. Whatever.)

  • Yet another polling place, a Republican election judge was wearing his GOP pin on his shirt collar. (Any form of electioneering, including the wearing of partisan buttons, is strictly forbidden by law.) When he refused the pollwatcher’s polite request to remove it, the election judge called the pollwatcher an asshole. After repeating the request (backed up by a suggestion that he could be arrested), the judge relented. His daughter (with her own button on her collar) then started greeting voters at the door, another violation of the law.

These are the more egregious examples; there are countless more trivial issues that have cropped up today. We’re not even a battleground state; I can only imagine what Ohio, Florida and other states are like. Some context: DuPage County is considered one of the most Republican counties in the state, and the level of Democratic organization is unprecedented — consequently, at least some of the above is due not to malfeasance, but surprise on the part of election officials who’ve not dealt with an organized party in the past. Coupled with a relatively light amount of training that these individuals receive, and I think you can chalk most (not all, but most) of the stories to a simple lack of understanding. Still…

The good news? Not a single person I’ve spoken with today is in the least bit discouraged about voting. If anything, their resolve has stiffened, convinced more than ever that change is a-comin’.

Polls in Illinois close in just 150 minutes. Then the drinking starts.

Monday, November 1, 2004

More on Voter Turnout

Just got a call from OneMan who reports that turnout in Aurora is on its way to a record. As he arrived at one polling place in the Will County part of Aurora, he guessed the line was 70 people deep and the parking lot was full.

Strong turnout in DuPage County

Showed up at my polling place at 6:15am, just 15 minutes after the polls opened. The line was 20 people deep, and I was the 50th person in my precinct to pull a ballot. Without taking new registrations into account, the estimate on turnout in the precinct was 780 for the day; wonder how much we’ll beat that by?


My journey to election day started back in August, 2002. After reading about Howard Dean in The Guardian, I called Burlington, Vermont.

It’s been a long 26 months. In just over five hours, I’ll walk into the voting booth and cast a vote for John Kerry, Barack Obama, Gloria Andersen, Rob Freedman, Mike Kisler, Hiram Wurf, and Tina Beaird.

People ask me how to get involved, as if there’s some magic to it. There isn’t. One phone call in August, 2002, and less than two years later, everyone on that list (with the exception of Senator Kerry) has been in my family room this year.

As tired as I am by these last two years, I’m energized. I’m excited about what we’ve built here in Naperville. I’m thrilled at the caliber of candidates we’ve run in DuPage County. And I’m cautiously optimistic at the early reports of unprecedented voter turn-out nationwide.

People are getting in the game. As my Dad said to me the other day, “If you’re on the field, you’ve earned respect.” More people than ever are on the field, and that’s a good thing.

To those of you reading this in the U.S., get out and vote. Get on the field, and stay on the field. The view’s better from down here, where we can marvel at 100 million citizens exercising our control over our government.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Election prediction for Eric Zorn

Several weeks ago, Matt Gross asked for an election prediction. At the time, I called the popular vote 51.5% for Kerry to 47% for Bush, and gave Kerry an electoral college win of 289-249. (If you care to see how I got to 289, see here.)

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune wants us local bloggers to make our predictions; deadline’s tomorrow. In particular, Eric wants to know what the spread between Obama and Keyes will be (my prediction: 44%; Obama 70% – 26%), as well as the electoral spread between Bush and Kerry.

First off, for the part that matters: I’ve revised my thinking, I think Kerry wins the electoral vote, 285 – 253. Here’s how I see it shaping up:

(To be honest, this is a bet of a hedge; I think it quite likely Kerry holds on to Minnesota, and that would mean a 20-vote swing in the EV. But the way Eric is scoring our predictions, I’m being a bit more cautious.)

The states that have changed for me since my early October prediction: Minnesota and Wisconsin (a wash, each has 10 electoral votes), and Hawaii (Bush appears to have picked up a small lead in this 4 EV state). I’d really like to see Kerry hold onto Minnesota, which would put him at 295 and allow him to lose Ohio or Florida but still come out on top.

If you’re looking for daily updates on the latest polls (and the impact on the electoral vote), check out and Slate’s Election Scorecard. Both do a good job of deconstructing who’s where, and let you judge for yourself the relative merits of any particular pollster. And Eric just recently pointed to local site who’s also tracking the daily shifts. Worth a visit.

I will freely admit to a subjective tilt to my prediction. I want John Kerry to win, and am viewing many of the most recent polls through a favorable filter. At a party last night, I was talking with a die-hard Republican, and I told her I had just two worries: that the electoral college results in a tie, or that Kerry wins the popular vote by a wider margin than Al Gore did but President Bush manages to squeak out a victory in the electoral college.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments; I look forward to seeing what others are thinking.

Well done, Joe

MSNBC blogs are now RSS-ed. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it. It’s a geek thing. Otherwise, here’s the feed.

Enjoy. [Joe Trippi: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised]

Added to my aggregator. Thanks, Joe!

First geocache

My Garmin GPSMap 60CS showed up yesterday, and I took it out for a spin today with the kids. There’s a small lake across the street from our house, and it turns out that there’s a cache less than a mile away.

For those not familiar with the hobby (sport?) of geocaching, it’s quite simple: people hide containers, log the coordinates (using their GPS device) and then report the hide (aka “cache”) to Using your GPS, you can then hunt the containers down, and keep tabs on what you’ve found.

It’s a great excuse to get out and walk around, or to explore a new area.

The Garmin 60CS, by the way is terrific. It’ll be even more useful as I add maps (the automotive kit looks particularly useful, as it includes a dash mount and the maps/info for all of the United States); right now it includes a “base map” of the major roads (i.e., highways) nearby, but not street-level detail that will make this a navigation aid on car trips as well as a fun geocaching device.

I can see why many consider geocaching addictive, and think it’ll be a great family experience over the years.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Innovation for lawyers

Matt Homann has a great idea:

I’ve been talking to some really smart people lately, and have been running an idea past them that I’ve blogged about before — a conference on innovation for lawyers. The goal would be to provide attendees with both the ideas and the tools to incorporate innovation into their practices, and to give them specific things to implement when they get back to the office.

Now for the agenda:

In the morning, I want several interesting people (preferably non-lawyers) to talk about innovation in their fields.  I’d like to see authors, marketing gurus, creativity consultants, entrepreneurs, and even CEO’s of small companies tell the audience about the newest and coolest ways they are changing how they do business. In the afternoon, we’d brainstorm about specific ways the “big picture” ideas could translate to the attendees’ individual practices.

If this seems really cool to you, let me know if you’d like to attend. Also, if there is anything you’d like to see, drop me a line as well. Time and place are Chicago the Sunday after Techshow (April 3, 2005). If the interest is there, I’ll follow up with more information. [the [non]billable hour]

I think this is a great idea; unfortunately I’ll be on a family vacation that day and won’t be able to attend. But I encourage anyone who is interested to contact Matt directly; it sounds like a terrific idea that the ABA would be wise to fold into TechShow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


This screen cap from says it all:


Red Sox sweep the Cardinals

Unbelievable. An 86 year drought ends with a shutout, capping a 4 game sweep of the team that had the best record in baseball.

The Red Sox were 3 outs away from being swept themselves, only to rebound by winning the next 8 games, a feat never before done in the postseason.

My brother needs a new life’s mission. This was supposed to take him at least into his 50s (he just turned 30 this year).

Adina Levin on Interface

Adina recently finished Interface by Stephen Bury (a pen name for Neal Stephenson), and wonders whether the outcome would be any different with weblogs:

Will peer communication yield more information to move the boulders of distortion, or simply be turned into rivulets of spin and counterspin? Some of both, I think.

I tend to think Adina’s right. I don’t disagree with her assessment of the book as a bit formulaic, but that doesn’t diminish its enjoyment factor. As I wrote a couple years ago, I really enjoyed it. Give it a look.


Finally got around to giving podcasting a whirl, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed. The concept is simple: it’s TiVo for digital audio. You subscribe to podcast feeds, and your podcast application periodically checks to see if there are new posts; if so, they’re downloaded and placed in an iTunes playlist. Once transferred, you can listen in iTunes, or on your iPod after you sync with iTunes.

Not surprisingly (since the concept grew out of a collaboration between Adam Curry and Dave Winer) the payload that makes all this possible is RSS. Whereas “traditional” RSS feeds are for the delivery of text (from weblogs, news sites, etc.), podcast RSS feeds include links to the associated MP3 files. The podcast app then downloads the MP3 file, and transfers the file to iTunes, where it can be played or synched with your iPod.

The trend is getting some press (the NY Times, for once, is out in front of this trend; other pubs are also starting to pick up on it), and this is bound to become a popular way of distributing content. Once set up, it’s transparent to the end user.

Speaking of the iPod, if you are in the car for a while, give the Monster iCarPlay a look. I received it as a birthday gift, and my early results are far better than prior efforts at broadcasting the iPod through my car stereo. (The integrated charger is a nice feature too.)

Red Sox Nation?

Al Nye suggests that with the inevitable happening, we may need to expand “Red Sox Nation” into “Red Sox Universe”.

I like it.

Go Sox.