Thursday, September 30, 2004

Commentary on the debate

So traffic to this blog was up over 50% compared to the daily average. Puzzled, I checked my referral logs.

You know what’s sent hundreds of people here today? I’m #8 for debate drinking game at Google.

That pretty much sums up the election at this point: People will watch the debate between John Kerry and George Bush so long as they can follow strict instructions about how to get hammered in the process.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

New Yorker on KM

Priceless. Thanks to Joy for the pointer to this cartoon about KM:

Who (what) is your institutional memory?

Medical Malpractice in Illinois

Hiram Wurf absolutely nails the discussion on medmal reform in Illinois. Using the Cross game as a starting point, Hiram looks at the myriad issues that contribute to the medical malpractice crisis, and points to arguments on both sides of the issue. Great stuff.

Hiram, for those that don’t remember, is running for County Board in DuPage County. He’s a great candidate, and will be a much needed voice for transparency in county government in DuPage.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Take Back Illinois - the game

Wondering whether George Bush has a chance in Illinois? (He doesn’t.) Wondering whether the latest twist in the Barack Obama / Alan Keyes race (Keyes’s 19 year-old daughter is gay) will change the outcome of the race? (It won’t.) Wondering whether the Illinois GOP is DOA?

Well, they’ve still got a heart-beat. Tom Cross and his team are doing a lot of experimenting lately, and their latest ad is for their latest shiny new toy. There were the TV webisodes that profiled different candidates. There were the audio blogs that replayed interviews with journalists, candidates, and party VIPs. The blog, of course, is almost old news at this point.

Now there’s the game: Take Back Illinois. Produced by the same company (Persuasive Games) that did the Dean for America game, it’s designed to teach you about a couple of Cross’s key issues while profiling the candidates they think will win on those issues.

The games are clever, though it took me a while to catch on to what exactly they wanted you to do. (Hint: read all of the directions, don’t just jump into the game and play.) The notion of using video games to present what are often complex subjects is coming into its own this election season; the New York Times even did a feature on the phenomenon.

The bottom line is that you can try and make people read lots of info, much of which can take multiple passes to sink in. Or you can make them experience it. Odds are that those who experience the issues, and see the various moving parts that influence those issues, are more likely to understand them.

Of course, Cross presents his issues in a way that lead one to conclude that their view of the world is right. The first game, focused on medical malpractice, would have you believe that caps on non-economic damages are the only way to solve the medmal crisis. It’s not that simple: California tried that route, and only saw insurance rates decline when insurance reform passed 12 years after the damage caps passed.

Be that as it may, this is clearly a medium whose use will increase. Kudos to Cross & co. for playing around, seeing what works. Stay tuned.

<insert standard warning to Illinois Democratic party here>
<listen as standard warning echoes back from Chicago and Springfield simultaneously>

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

MTBlacklist update

Six weeks ago I installed MTBlacklist for Movable Type 3.0, and then upgraded to MT 3.1 when it was released at the end of August.

In that short period of time, MTBlacklist has stopped 5,793 comment spams from posting to my weblog. That’s one spam comment every 10 minutes of every day.


FeedBurner adds Amazon integration

Very cool: FeedBurner has added web services integration to its service. From their summary:

Here’s how the service works: FeedBurner detects your feed categories and then asks you to assign an Amazon store to any category for which you want to include the Amazon Associates program. For example, you might choose to associate the music store with your music category, DVD’s with your Pop Culture category, and nothing at all with your Personal and Family categories. You, the publisher have total control over the frequency with which Amazon Associates links appear, and whether they should appear alongside really short posts or only very detailed posts.

FeedBurner then leverages the latest 4.0 release of Amazon Web Services to match your posts to relevant Amazon content for that store, and FeedBurner transforms that link and content from Amazon Web Services into a simple linked GIF tied to your feed item.

BlogAds and the blogging revolution

Michael Klam wrote a cover story in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine= that profiled Kos, Josh, and Wonkette. Kos and I spoke on a panel in Boston at the DNC, and I was actually present during part of the interview in Boston. (And sadly, I had a coveted invite to the party where the fight broke out, but my plans changed and I had to come home that night…) I chatted with Klam for a while, and thought he had a pretty good idea of what was going on.

On the balance, I think he got the story mostly right, though he leaves out a few salient details. While Josh is a major celebrity among bloggers, to hear Klam tell it, Josh doesn’t get the kind of respect he wants/needs from the establishment. That’s convenient for Klam’s story, but I think it misses the mark. Josh recounted on his blog a while back a story about running into Arthur Schlesinger (where Josh was winning an award from Editor and Publisher magazine, natch). And George Soros is a fan of his. As are several from Al Gore’s camp (I’ve heard the former VP is a fan, but don’t know that for a fact and Josh hasn’t said so). Josh appears regularly on MSNBC and CNN.

(Yes, I’m fortunate to call Josh a friend. But I’m doing this not to suck up to Josh — he hardly needs the props from me — but to simply indicate that Klam’s coverage was a bit selective in presenting its story. As Henry Copeland notes, that’s par for the course in magazine profiles. No harm, no foul.)

Speaking of Henry, let me add to the praise from the likes of Duncan and Kos for BlogAds. I’m a very, very small fish in a growing pond of bloggers, but thanks to Henry’s service, I’ve been able to generate a fair amount of “play” money from this blog. Thanks to the generous support of advertisers like Christine Cegelis, Tom Cross and others, BlogAds has provided a nice chunk of change. It’s nothing to retire on, but it does make it easier to satisfy my technology toy craving once in a while…

TiVo Innovation: RSS, streaming music, and more

Lots of interesting innovation going on in the TiVo community lately. First off, TiVoBlog has a nice interview with the creator of JavaHMO, Leon Nicholls. (For those that don’t recall, JavaHMO is a replacement for the desktop software that connects to your TiVo. I wrote about it back in January.) Version 2.0 will include the ability to read RSS feeds on your TiVo, customize your weather displays, organize images, and play a wider variety of playlists. Sounds like a great upgrade.

Courtesy of the TiVo Community Forum, here are some other cool things folks are doing: streaming air traffic control feeds to their TiVo, getting police and fire scanner streams to play on the TiVo, and perhaps most intriguing (intriguing = RIAA will open up a can of whoop ass on these guys any day now), people are sharing their music collections over the Internet through their TiVos. (If you know the IP address of a TiVo server, you can manually add it through your interface. Once your TiVo “sees” the other box, then you can listen to music served up from that box.)

There are some interesting questions on that last thread about whether this satisfies the “rebroadcast” definition for purposes of copyright infringement. How long before JavaHMO (or something like it) develops a central server that keeps tabs on these sites, so that you can browse a list of shared music collections?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Daily Show viewers are smarter?!

Proving that fake news is getting credibility (no, I’m not talking about Dan Rather, thank you very much), the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey shows that viewers of The Daily Show are more aware of candidates’ positions on issues than those who don’t watch late-night TV.

Polling conducted between July 15 and Sept. 19 among 19,013 adults showed that on a six-item political knowledge test people who did not watch any late-night comedy programs in the past week answered 2.62 items correctly, while viewers of Late Night with David Letterman on CBS answered 2.91, viewers of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno answered 2.95, and viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart answered 3.59 items correctly. That meant there was a difference of 16 percentage points between Daily Show viewers and people who did not watch any late-night programming.

There’s more interesting nuggets from the study, which is summarized here. Most surprising to me? Jay Leno is the most partisan of all late night hosts, making fun of Bush in more jokes than Kerry. Oddly, Republicans surveyed preferred Leno (33%) to Letterman (27%) or Stewart (15%). (Stewart was the favorite of both Democrats and Independents.)

Friday, September 24, 2004

RNC: Vote for us or give up your bibles

Good Lord. (rimshot) The RNC has now admitted that they sent mailings in West Virginia claiming that Democrats want to ban the Bible.

Marty Schwimmer on business e-mail

Marty Schwimmer: “Email is becoming unusable as a business tool.

Marty: it’s even worse than just commercial e-mail; occupational spam is an equally hard problem to solve. Give Socialtext a try…

Hamdi: Nevermind...

Dahlia Lithwick picks apart the horrendous bungling of the Hamdi case by the US DOJ.

Keep in mind: we’re supposed to be exporting our wonderful system of laws to other countries right now (I think we’re still in the “nation building is good” phase). If that system were so darned good, why does our own government have so little faith in it when it comes to protecting us? (And how good will it be when those fledgling democracies try to protect themselves?)

(For the irony-impaired: I actually do think our system is worth relying on, especially when times are tough.)

Oil hits $49

CNN. Oil closes near record high at ~$49. The price of oil is an objective measure of the health of globalization. It begs the question: who is winning? [John Robb’s Weblog]

A follow-on point, made by Larry at ArchPundit:

If OPEC can’t significantly affect the price of oil when it can increase supply by 1.5 million barrels a day, how is ANWR supposed to do that when estimates put the maximum barrels a day at 876,000 in 2025? [ArchPundit]

Making service outages fun

Denise points out how every ASP should handle its service outages: with humor.

A sample:

Trial Lawyers, Good vs. Bad

Ernie points to an interesting debate over whether John Edwards’ career as a trial lawyer is a good thing or a bad thing when it comes to being a candidate for Vice President.

Like Ernie, I can’t claim to be too invigorated by the presidential campaign at this point…

Illinois Senate Race and the Internet

One Man compares the Keyes Internet strategy with Obama’s Internet strategy.

Full disclosure: I helped start the Obama blog, but once the campaign took operations inhouse they didn’t need my help. I’d like to see the Obama team do more with the Internet; they’re sitting on a gold mine. But as a practical matter, they don’t need to. Not now. So while the zealot in me wants to see them exploit every advantage (and, for that matter, take a few risks in a race where they can afford to), I can understand the rationale that says you keep a few bullets in the gun for later.

That said, it’s no better if you look more broadly. The Democratic leadership in Illinois are woefully behind when it comes to using technology. That’s not going to hurt us now. Technology alone will not make Alan Keyes a sane, rational, viable candidate. (Technology, coupled with advanced neurological techniques and a healthy dose of medication… now that would be an Alan Keyes I could listen to.)

Nevertheless, the Democrats in Illinois are woefully behind. What’s worse, they don’t recognize how it is going to hurt. Trust me. (I had lunch with a highly-placed Democratic leader last week, laid out what I think will be critical for Democrats moving forward. Not interested.) Speaker of the House? Governor? Senator? Chicago Mayor? They’ve all got tons of money. But their inability to capitalize on the technology that’s democratizing politics will leave them with fat bank accounts and little (or no) connection to the grassroots.

When a state rep from Plainfield (thanks for the correction, guys) can amass an e-mail list of 100,000 names (more than four times the size of the Governor’s list, by the by), that should tell you something. And if we’re not careful, we’ll see Dean’s lessons implemented to help a Republican insurgent here in Illinois.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

News sites and political bias

[W]hat are the rules for online search engines, where millions of users are turning for their daily news fix? Does evenhanded coverage apply in the bottomless news hole of cyberspace? Does having an editorial team or an automated program get you a better sweep of important news about the political candidates?

These are tricky questions. To their credit, Google News and Yahoo News agreed to pull back the curtain and explain how they acquire and display political news.

Interesting piece by JD Lasica in today’s Online Journalism Review. Worth a read.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The wonder of technology

While chatting in IRC today with Chris Dent (a new co-worker at Socialtext), I mentioned that about 15 years ago I once bought a book solely because upon reading the first sentence in the bookstore I noticed the word “obstreperously.” Now, I had read a few of this author’s books before, so I was generally familiar with his work. But seeing that first sentence (describing a party of a group of Marines) piqued my interest.

Less than a minute later, I was able to show Chris a picture of the exact page I was talking about. It’s here. (It’s from The Great Santini for those who care.)

Here’s a snippet:


It then dawned on me that what had just happened was really pretty remarkable. Sometimes you just have to take a step back to appreciate the magic that is technology. (Hat tip to Arthur C. Clarke for that.)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Another update on Robby

Things will be quiet here at tins until tomorrow night or possibly Wednesday; Robby (my two year-old son) is getting both eyes operated on tomorrow morning. As I recounted a few months ago, Robby’s eyes started crossing earlier this year. He’s been wearing bi-focals since the original diagnosis, but the degree to which the eyes have crossed has increased pretty dramatically.

So we’re on to the next step in this process. Tomorrow morning, he’ll have surgery that will hopefully correct the misalignment of the eyes. This procedure should correct everything, and though he may lose some depth perception as a result of the surgery, it will avoid the development of amblyopia (aka “lazy eye”) would could lead to losing all vision in one eye. (There’s a small possibility that he’ll have to have a follow-up operation to address any lingering misalignment; we won’t know that for a few weeks.)

The procedure is fairly straightforward; it will last about an hour, and he will be home later tomorrow. Recovery should take about two weeks, but he will be able to see as soon as he comes out of the anesthesia, and is on only minor limitations as far as activity goes.

Thanks to all who have sent in kind words. I’ll touch base once things settle down and report on how things went.

Update: (Tuesday, 2:30pm) We’re back from the hospital, and Robby’s napping. The doctor was very happy with how the surgery went, and though he’s swollen and there will be a few weeks of recovery, he appears to be doing great. Thanks again for all the good thoughts, they really mean a lot.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Thursday, September 16, 2004

What the hell?

Stealing the entire post from Mat. This is unconscionable.

Ok, you historians. Has there ever been a person forced to renounce his American citizenship as part of a plea bargain to a crime for which he was never charged?

The first U.S. government-declared “enemy combatant” in the war on terror will soon be released from a military prison in South Carolina under an agreement that will allow him to fly home to Saudi Arabia as a free man, administration officials tell NEWSWEEK. The agreement to free Yaser Esam Hamdi represents a stunning reversal for the Bush administration, which argued for more than two years that the former Taliban fighter was potentially so dangerous that he had to be detained indefinitely in solitary confinement with no access to counsel and no right to trial.
But in a landmark ruling last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that Hamdi, an American citizen, be allowed to consult with his lawyer and challenge the basis for his imprisonment. This pushed the case back into federal court and forced the Justice Department to mount a hasty retreat.

The result, officials say, is a highly detailed agreement that is expected to be made public later this week. It will result in Hamdi being flown back to Saudi Arabia on a U.S. military aircraft without ever being charged with any terror-related activity—a symbolic victory for critics who have long pointed to the case as a prime example of what they see as the Bush administration’s overreaching in combating the terrorist threat.

Let me quote Atrios’ summary:

So, our government keeps a guy locked up for 3 years without trial because he’s too dangerous to let go. When he was allowed to challenge his imprisonment, the JD backed off. And, then, to end the whole thing they’re going to require that he renounce his citizenship.

Paging John Kerry. The way Democrats lose elections is by letting this un-American shit pass unmentioned. If the guy was a threat, why the hell are we flying him back to Saudi Arabia? For more terrorist training?

Oh, right. That doesn’t happen there. [Mathew Gross]

More on this later.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Referral logs as intelligence

Twice in the past week my referral logs have told me something I didn’t know. In the first case, it was that a high school classmate and dear friend had passed away. In the second, it was that someone I’d written about a while back is in the news again. In both cases, the spike in number of people searching for those terms indicated an unusual level of interest in those terms; sure enough, with a little searching of my own, I discovered the “new” news.

Which got me to thinking…

If an organization had its employees blogging on a variety of subjects, it could seed Google’s index with a variety of info on subjects across the subject matter spectrum that’s relevant to the company. Then, by running statistics about how frequently certain terms come up (names, subjects, competitors, product names, etc.), they can start to gauge the relative importance of those terms. Importantly, it can be an important leading indicator of a newsworthy event, customer interest, or competitive positioning. An important benchmark would be the deltas between the average number of times a term was searched for and any increase for those terms over a specific period of time.

Cross-referenced against the Internet domains of the people doing the searches, and you could have some very interesting info about what matters to whom, and even start to glean why. Put in the hands of the executives in charge of those business areas, this kind of info could be very useful…

More on Live Bookmarks from

There’s a good mini-FAQ on Live Bookmarks here. Check out some of the cool ideas:

Why keep your bookmarks to yourself? Services like let you publish your own bookmarks as RSS feeds, so that other Firefox users can subscribe to your bookmarks through Live Bookmarks. Live Bookmarks and makes it easy to share cool sites you like with your friends. … You can also put your bookmarks into your own private RSS feed, to share your bookmarks among multiple computers.

What you're buying

Thought some of you might be interested in what other tins readers are buying. Here is a sampling of what tins readers have bought this quarter at




You’re a diverse group! While many of the books are ones that I’ve read, several I’d never heard of, but now are on my list to read.

Firefox 1.0 Preview Release includes RSS support

Saw at Slashdot that Mozilla has released the preview release of Firefox. Cosmetically, little appears to have changed from the .9x version of the browser. But I did notice one really interesting enhancement: RSS integration.

Check out what shows up in the lower right corner of the browser when you hit my site:


When you add a “Live Bookmark” to the feed, Firefox then subscribes you to that feed. (From the help file: “A special type of bookmark that acts as a folder to contain the links in a feed. You can create a live bookmark by visiting a site with a feed, clicking on the live bookmark icon in the Status Bar, and selecting the feed format you wish to use.”) Here’s what those items look like when shown in the bookmark view:


Very cool.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Boys on the swing


Originally uploaded by rklau.

Seagal sings!

Just in case you hadn’t heard, Steven Seagal’s long awaited debut album is soon to be released:

I’ve heard it, and it’s really not all that bad. Seriously, though, it really is that bad. I’ll just give you a teaser: think raggae rap.

UPDATE: If you are so inclined, you can listen to some clips from his CD here. [planetdan]

You don’t think Steven Seagal takes himself that seriously, do you? Oh wait, nevermind. I withdraw the question. So who wants to suggest their favorite three word album title? (Seagal’s “best” movies — and I use the term loosely — were the three word titles.)

Scoble on RSS costs

Scoble talked about the costs of RSS the other day. He compares the traffic costs associated with RSS readership to the costs associated with HTML readership. For the few reading who don’t know what I’m talking about: web pages that you view through a web browser are in HTML. Many weblogs (and an increasing number of news sites) publish a variation of their website in an XML file called an RSS feed. The RSS feed is designed to be subscribed to by an aggregator, a program that will periodically check the RSS feed for any new content. If there’s new content, it will download it and preserve it for later viewing by you.

Scoble points out one of the challenges inherent in the RSS model: whereas someone might visit your site once a day, their aggregator will often visit you once an hour (to see if you’ve said anything new). Over time, this disparity can add up.

I noticed this on my site as well: half of my bandwidth each month was RSS traffic. Back in May, I decided to check out a new service called FeedBurner. It’s a service that will host your RSS feed for you, as well as provide you with some great readership statistics. In the past three months I’ve been using FeedBurner, here are some statistics for you:

  • In April, 60% of my page views at my site were my RSS feeds. This represented nearly 1 gigabyte of bandwidth consumed. (About 30% of my traffic that month.)

  • Today, FeedBurner updates my RSS feed only when I ping it to let it know I’ve updated; all requests for my RSS feed from subscribers are redirected to Result? In August, just 3% of my page views were to my RSS feeds (all from and the bandwidth consumed was almost nonexistent.

  • Courtesy of FeedBurner, I know that I have approximately 400 people who subscribe to my RSS feeds (they can tell this by analyzing queries to my RSS feeds, applying known patterns of how often certain readers request files, etc.). Just based on raw numbers of accesses in the server logs, there is no simple way to discern this otherwise.

  • FeedBurner also tells me how many click-throughs I have (people who click through from the RSS feed to read the post on my site); this helps identify what content is most interesting to readers.

  • FeedBurner does some nice optimization of your feeds, tweaking the formatting of the feeds dynamically, so if FeedReader is pulling the feed, they might strip out some markup that they know FeedReader can’t handle. If NewsGator pulls it next, they’ll add in some functionality they know NewsGator can take. It’s very slick.

Bottom line: FeedBurner addresses the bandwidth consumption issue in a simple manner. They transfer all bandwidth consumption from you to them; the higher-traffic your site, the more dramatic the impact. In addition, you get some nice reporting on the readership of your feed, which help identify how your readers actually use your content. FeedBurner also addresses interoperability — if your aggregator supports only certain syndication formats (say, ATOM), FeedBurner can seamlessly address that by converting from one syndication format on the fly to another.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Where's the real one?

Some are questioning the authenticity of the memo. Atrios attempts to shed some light on the capabilities of certain typewriters.

This reminds me of my own brush with juvenile delinquency. Senior year physics for dear Pete Keenan. Having secured early admission to my school of choice, I wasn’t, shall we say, a diligent student, particularly in physics.

It wasn’t a big surprise, then, to receive a “warning slip”, sent home to parents to advise of poor grades before the report card came out. Distressed (it was my first in four years of high school), my guidance counselor (also a friend of my parents, interestingly enough), said (and I quote): “Frame it. And if they can’t take a joke, fuck ‘em.”

(I always loved him for that.)

In any event, I stashed it in my locker, in an attempt to ignore it away. My plan worked. Until the warning slip showed up in front of my parents’ bedroom door. My Mom stormed downstairs. “WHAT IS THIS?!” Dumbfounded, I had no idea what to say.

Laughter from the family room. My brother had played a joke on me. My Dad thought it was pretty funny. Mom, however, recognized that my reaction betrayed my attempts at making the real one disappear.

“Where’s the real one?”

Whether the memo CBS has is the real one (I happen to think it is) (Update: see Little Green Footballs for a persuasive debunking of the memo’s authenticity) isn’t really the point. The White House, in its reaction, has confirmed its existence and, for that matter, its contents.

Bush betrayed a direct order. And the story is about to get bigger.

Mark Cuban goes political

Mark Cuban shares a few opinions about drug prices, outsourcing, and Social Security. Great stuff.

This many lost and tell me who has won

George W. Bush covers U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday. Wow. (Thanks to PoliticalWire for the link.)

Best speech at the RNC?

46% of Illinois Leader voters say Zell Miller. I’d say Zell and the Leader deserve each other.

Rosemary Quigley, RIP

Back in April I wrote about Rosemary Quigley, a good friend of mine from high school who suffered from cystic fibrosis. I had stumbled upon her Slate diary, in which she recounted her double lung transplant earlier this year.

Two days ago, I happened to be looking through my referral logs (the server report that indicates how people show up to your website). My heart skipped a beat when I saw dozens of people showing up from Google searching for Rosemary’s name. I assumed the worst, and today heard the news: Rosemary passed away on Monday. She was 33.

Rosemary knew she was not going to live well into her 60s or 70s; CF typically takes victims in their 30s. The double lung transplant helped her hold on long enough to get married in May. I don’t have any details about what happened more recently that lead to her death. I received an e-mail from her sister in June, where she indicated Rosemary had struggled post-operation with rejection issues.

Rosemary was a remarkable person, our lives are all the richer for her presence. For those in the Boston area who knew Rosemary, a vigil is being held at St. Elizabeth’s in Acton tomorrow, funeral and burial are on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Jabra BT250 with Windows XP - a thing of beauty

I recently bought the Jabra BT250 Bluetooth headset from Amazon; it’s a superb wireless headset designed for your Bluetooth-enabled cellphone. Last weekend, we finally made our pilgrimage to the first Fry’s in the midwest (it’s in Downers Grove). I picked up a D-Link DBT-120 USB Bluetooth Adapter for my Thinkpad, brought it home, plugged it in, and presto! Well, almost.

Turns out I was able to get the Motorola software to pair with my v600 phone, but while it could discover the Jabra headset, it couldn’t stay connected.

I ran into two issues: one, SP2 for WinXP tries to control your Bluetooth connections, so it was preventing the “right” drivers from loading when I plugged in the USB dongle. Two, had I read the instructions that came with the D-Link adapter, I would’ve seen that they wanted me to install their software before connecting the adapter. (I’m guessing that the percentage of Fry’s shoppers who read instruction manuals is in the single digits.)

I removed the adapter from the USB port, uninstalled it from the Device Manager, and started over. I installed the software that D-Link provides, and followed this link that addresses the SP2 issues. Sure enough, the D-Link software enables a far wider variety of Bluetooth connectivity options than WindowsXP does out of the box.

I was able to configure the Bluetooth connection to establish a headset connection, which allows XP to “see” the headset when connected. Now, I can tell Skype to use the headset for all audio, giving me a wireless headset for all of my Skype VoIP calls. (I’d pause here to acknowledge the magic of DSL, 802.11b wifi, 2.4 ghz Bluetooth connectivity and a Jabra headset all working together to give me person-to-person calling to anwywhere in the world. But I’ll assume you’re either as excited by this as I am and don’t need me to spell it out, or you’ve already stopped reading. In either case, I don’t need to spell out the obvious.)

Moral of the story? Don’t assume that the “generic” support in WinXP is sufficient to get you where you want to go. In this case, it took installing the third-party software to enable the full range of Bluetooth compatibility needed to achieve wireless-headset-with-PC functionality.

(Interestingly, Jabra’s tech support tells me in an e-mail that this isn’t supported. No matter — it’s working for me.)

Now I still don’t know why noone is making a Bluetooth base station to plug into my corded phone, so that I can use the wireless headset for my land-line calls. Anyone know of such a device?

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

A horrible milestone

Sometime today or tomorrow, the 1,000th American will die in Iraq since the beginning of the war. Reflecting on this sad milestone, I thought back to a report I remembered hearing on NPR last March about casualties. On the eve of our invasion of Iraq, NPR reporters asked people on the street in various cities about their expectations of what would constitute “significant” casualties. Some quotes:

  • “Unless there’s an accident, I don’t think we’ll lose 25 people.”

  • “Significant? Significant would be more than 100. If we start breaking into the hundreds then something went wrong.”

Two quotes doesn’t establish that the entire country expected less than 25 casualties. But if you reflect back on where the country’s head was 18 months ago, it’s safe to say that the conventional wisdom saw two scenarios: either Saddam was going to use his WMDs on our troops and casualties would be extraordinarily high, or we’d beat him quickly and casualties would be light (as they were in the first Gulf War when we lost 147 soldiers).

That we could “win” quickly and still have more than 1,000 deaths (and climbing) in Iraq was an extremely unlikely possibility. Perhaps this is why President Bush now calls Iraq a “catastrophic success”?

Update: We have now had 1,000 Americans die in Iraq.

Surviving Frances

Buzz Bruggeman: “Next time you are in a convertible get it up to 80 and stick your head above the windshield and you will get a little hint of what’s going on outside.” Glad you’re OK, buddy.

Talked with my grandparents on Friday before Frances made land-fall, they sounded spooked. They were getting ready to evacuate their community, though apparently a couple hours later the nixed that idea because “there was nowhere to go.”

Friday, September 3, 2004


Robert Baren: “I still like going on vacation to places you need a vaction to recover from.”

For me, one quote that hasn’t been widely reported on is really the key to George Bush’s speech last night:

Anyone who wants more details on my agenda can find them online. The web address is not very imaginative, but it’s easy to remember:

And that’s when it clicked for me: George Bush’s plan is to bring back the bubble. What bubble? Why, the .com bubble of course. It seemed to work for Clinton — you know, job growth, stock market growth, the works. So Bush is doing what any fiscally conservative politician would do in this situation: spend money he doesn’t have, create a ton of noise, and hope that by the time the bills come due he leaves someone else holding the bag.

Profits? Losses? That doesn’t matter. He’s compassionate. That’s what matters.

Here’s conservative (former conservative? The mind boggles.) Andrew Sullivan on last night’s speech:

THE END OF CONSERVATISM: But conservatism as we have known it is now over. People like me who became conservatives because of the appeal of smaller government and more domestic freedom are now marginalized in a big-government party, bent on using the power of the state to direct people’s lives, give them meaning and protect them from all dangers. Just remember all that Bush promised last night: an astonishingly expensive bid to spend much more money to help people in ways that conservatives once abjured. He pledged to provide record levels of education funding, colleges and healthcare centers in poor towns, more Pell grants, seven million more affordable homes, expensive new HSAs, and a phenomenally expensive bid to reform the social security system. I look forward to someone adding it all up, but it’s easily in the trillions. And Bush’s astonishing achievement is to make the case for all this new spending, at a time of chronic debt (created in large part by his profligate party), while pegging his opponent as the “tax-and-spend” candidate. The chutzpah is amazing.

Where can I read the prospectus on what is sure to be a blockbuster IPO?

(And for the record, like Sullivan, I agree that Bush gave a fantastic speech. I just think this “plan” demonstrates how fiscally irresponsible Bush is.) reporting Clinton in the hospital

No story yet, just this “breaking news” item:

Former President Bill Clinton was in New York-Presbyterian Hospital today undergoing tests for chest discomfort, sources tell CNN. Clinton, 58, has been in good health with no known history of heart problems. Details soon.

Update: He apparently needs heart bypass surgery. Reuters is reporting it will be quadruple bypass surgery. Surgery scheduled for later today. Good luck, Mr. President.

Thursday, September 2, 2004

MT 3.1 performance improvements

Whoa. That last post published in about 1/10th the time it took to publish old posts. And that’s not even with the dynamic publishing abilities. Nice.

Upgraded to Movable Type 3.1

Things are going to be funky for a while. My upgrade went relatively smoothly, but the main reason I upgraded was to get the dynamic publishing abilities. Well, my file naming convention is using a Movable Type plugin, which it turns out may not be compatible with the way MT publishes dynamically.

So… I’ve got some thinking to do about how to take advantage of the new stuff. And for some reason the MT Amazon plugin isn’t working, so I’ve got to hunt that down to get it working again.

Stay tuned. But chances are things will be a tad out of whack for a few days…

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Spam experiment

About six weeks ago, I reconfigured my mail server to forward all e-mail not addressed to known users at to Gmail. (This is also known as “star aliasing” — so if you sent e-mail to it would still go somewhere.) In the days before spam, this was a fun thing for friends to take advantage of, since I used to direct all e-mail to me. Every once in a while, a friend would get clever and e-mail a particularly offensive epithet at and be very proud of themselves when I would reply.

But with the advent of spam, this became untenable. Spam to my known address was bad enough, but a common tactic of spammers is to flood random combinations of letters (and/or common combinations of e-mail aliases) at particular domains. So I finally shut off the star aliasing, instead directing them to a spam filter.

But the amount of disk space it was taking on my personal server was a waste of disk space, so I shifted to forwarding all the e-mail to Gmail. I’d long since stopped bothering to weed through the messages — there were too many of them — but now simply wanted to know how bad the problem was.

Here’s how bad. From July 11 to August 31 (a total of 51 days), I received a grand total of 96,000 messages to invalid accounts at That works out to over 1,800 messages per day, 78 messages per hour, or 1.3 messages per minute.

When all was said and done, I’d consumed nearly 50% of my Gmail disk quota (just under 500 megabytes).

I’m now directing all e-mail sent to non-existent addresses to the mail server’s :blackhole:.

(Gmail feature request: empty trash. Right now I can only do 100 messages at a time.)