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.