Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Kensington Laptop Desk

Poking around Amazon.com 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 ESPN.com 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 mydd.com, 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 Amazon.com). 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 Amazon.com 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

CNN.com 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.