Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ernie in New Orleans

I swapped SMS messages with Ernie last night, and all was well (relatively speaking, of course). But according to the most recent post at his blog, a friend of his relays that things are getting a bit hairy:

NEWSFLASH: Making a break for it. At this point he is looking to escape the city – we are working in concert with state hotlines (if we can get thru), the news, the Internet and The Only Vincent to see if we can work him out of there somehow. Most roads are closed, water is rising and it’s just getting uglier. If anyone can comment on open roads, known (and safe) escape routes throughout the NW side of the city, please post asap. Helicopter anyone?

If anyone’s got a suggestion, feel free to e-mail me (rick@rklau.com) and I’ll forward it on to Ernie via SMS (the only way to contact him right now, as his cell service isn’t working and the phone lines are down).

Update: Ernie’s out, made it to Jennings, LA.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I Want Seth Stevenson's expense account

Seth Stevenson, whose Ad Report Card is a consistently great discussion of good and bad advertising, just wrapped up a week in Amsterdam. And wrote about it.

I want his expense account.

AstTapi for Asterisk

Geek alert: Joe, our excellent IT guy (seriously, he’s the best IT director I’ve ever worked with, and no, I’m not just saying that) recently set up our phone network using Asterisk, an open source PBX system. I’d remembered Joi setting up his Asterisk system a while back, and hadn’t really given it much more thought. It works, I like that it e-mails the voicemails to me (though, sadly, in a compressed .wav format which are currently unplayable on my Treo), and that the VoIP phone I’m using at my desk is pretty configurable.

But Joe mentioned being able to use Outlook to dial out, and I got a bit more interested. Turns out there’s another open source project, this one called AstTapi, which acts as a TAPI driver for Windows, which lets Windows interact with Asterisk. Pop-up windows when a call comes in, any application that can call out can now access the PBX to initiate a call.

Pretty cool. I’ve installed it, I’m just waiting for the green light to play around with it.

Anyone else out there have other tips/tricks for extending Asterisk?

Johannesburg, South Africa

Perhaps this kind of thing explains why Dave Chappelle fled to South Africa back in May?

(Link to news story spotted at Fark.com.)


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Emily Lord in Chicago next week

I’ve written about Emily Lord before (here and here), and I’m quite excited that she’ll be performing in Chicago next Thursday (9/1) at Hideout. The downside — the show’s at 11pm, which means my lovely wife can’t accompany me (rumor has it pregnant women need lots of rest). Robin’s being quite gracious in encouraging me to go, however (she remembers my comments about musical regrets a few months back, and knows that I’ve wanted to see Emily perform for 10 years, since my brother’s senior year at N.D.). Anyone care to accompany me?

Bonus musical shout-out: got an e-mail from the alumni department at my alma mater, Lafayette College, talking about 2000 grad Katie Todd, an up-and-coming artist. She’s performing in Chicago Saturday night at Metro with Dave Tamkin (who, oddly enough, I wrote about previously as well). I downloaded her single from iTunes (it was last week’s free download) and love it, it’s a great tune. You can hear more songs at the band’s MySpace site — and you can buy the whole album at iTunes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Search Engine Watch moves to FeedBurner

Cool: Danny Sullivan announced that they’re moving to FeedBurner over at Search Engine Watch, once he found out about our domain mapping service that lets publishers keep their feed URLs at their domain.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

FeedBurner on Channel 7 tonight

Check us out on Channel 7 tonight, during the 10pm newscast, when they do a segment on podcasting. Happy FeedBurner user Evan Brown will also be featured, so I’m told.

I’ll see if I can get a copy of the video up…

Update: The video is here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Naperville Teachers Vote to Authorize Strike

Incredible: the District 203 teachers voted 92% tonight in favor of authorizing a strike if a contract agreement isn’t reached by Wednesday. We live in 204, so we won’t have to contemplate explaining to Ricky why he can’t start kindergarten on Thursday.

The School District’s reaction is here, while the teachers’ union explains its side here. (One bone of contention? The school district apparently breached a mutually agreed-upon media black-out, choosing to go public with its offer.)

Wednesday is supposed to be the first day of school… looks like it’ll come down to the wire.

Still here

Wow, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I just realized how little I’ve posted, and I’ve even received a few e-mails from folks asking if everything’s alright. Yes — doing great, in fact. Just insanely busy, and will likely be for another couple weeks. It’s a combination of a lot happening at FeedBurner, plus the third trimester “nesting” that causes Robin to want to redo every square inch of the house prior to the baby’s arrival.

Will get back in the groove soon…

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Illinois Democratic Party Website

Lots of comments recently about the Democratic Party of Illinois’ uninspiring web efforts to date.

I’ve written about this, in the past (as have a bunch of others), but never has someone taken the time to spell out in great detail what should be done. Larry Handlin at ArchPundit took the time, and the result is a goldmine.

Smoke Free Naperville

Today’s Naperville Sun has a story about a local group’s efforts to pass a law prohibiting smoking in Naperville restaurants and bars. (Naperville now has the option thanks to a recent bill signed into law by Governor Blagojevich, allowing cities to impose their own smoking limits/bans.)

I think this is a great idea; living in California a few years back, one of the joys was the complete lack of smoke in the restaurants and bars. I’ve already contacted the group to offer my help; will be interesting to see how this develops.

Blawg speaker in DC on November 2

Thanks to our pending arrival, I had to pass on a speaking opportunity in Washington, DC on November 2. The DC chapter of the ALA is hosting a session on blogs as marketing vehicles for law firms, and want to know if there’s someone in the DC area who can speak on the topic. If you’re interested or have a suggestion, drop me a line.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ebert on Deuce Bigelow

Henry points to Ebert’s review of Deuce Bigelow 2…

One of the best Ebert Reviews in some time:
But Schneider is correct, and Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain that Columbia financed “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” while passing on the opportunity to participate in “Million Dollar Baby,” “Ray,” “The Aviator,” “Sideways” and “Finding Neverland.” As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks. [One Man’s Thoughts]

Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center - Air and Space Museum

While in DC last week, I took the kids to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. It’s part of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, created in part to display thousands of items that they just can’t fit into the museum on the Mall in Washington.

As a kid, I wanted to be a pilot. My grandfather was a civilian in the Air Force (he was a printer), and I grew up staring at posters of airplanes of all kinds, though my favorite was (and still is) the SR-71 Blackbird. My fascination with this plane started as a kid — I remember thinking it was the most exotic, other-worldly aircraft I’d seen. I read about its specs, its construction, the missions it had helped… if there was something about the SR-71 written, I found it and devoured it.

Imagine my glee at actually seeing an SR-71 in person. And then a Concorde. And the USS Enterprise, the “test” space shuttle NASA used to test the shuttle’s ability to glide after re-entry. The Enola Gay. A MiG. An F-15. An F-4. An A-10. And on and on.

It was one of the best museum displays I’ve seen; you don’t just get to walk around the base of the planes, you can walk up ramps and on cat-walks to see over the planes and look down on them. Interactive kiosks using Quicktime VR and touchscreens show you the interiors of every plane on display (maybe not all of them, but it sure seemed like a lot). And apparently noone knows about the museum: as spectacular a collection as it is, there was nobody there. No lines, no crowds around individual planes, nothing. As with all Smithsonian museums, it’s free.

If you find yourself in DC with an afternoon to kill, catch the shuttle bus from the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum on the Mall, and get yourself to the Udvar-Hazy Center. If you like air and space history, you’ll be overwhelmed at the collection.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

25 Most Intriguing Characters

Sports Illustrated has a “25 Most Intriguing Characters” feature up at their website. Problem with #25: Flutie’s receiver was Gerard Phelan, not Gerald Phelan.

Come on S.I., that’s a gimmie.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Unilever Shows Us How to Keep a Customer for Life

Steve Rubel catches a good case of a large company doing the unthinkable: listening.

Want to keep a customer for life? Listen and respond to them. That’s exactly what Unilever did.

Apparently the consumer product giant was actively listening to the blogosphere and they tuned into one voice, Dan Entin. Dan had been lamenting about how he is having trouble getting his favorite deodorant.

Unilever – a huge company with lots of to worry about – took the time to respond to Dan directly via email. They not only let him know that Degree Sport was indeed still on the market, they suggested ways he might find the product at retail using the Unilever website and even sent him a year’s supply just for speaking up. (Hmmm. mow there’s an idea. How much free stuff can we get for the askin’?)

I believe we just witnessed the future of customer service. One day CRM systems will bolt in blog monitoring functionality so these posts automatically get funneled to the right place. For now, they need to be handled onesie twosie – but handled nonetheless. Kudos to Unilever. [Micro Persuasion]

chmod 777 web

Working for a company that many have described as a “Web 2.0” company, I absolutely love this characterization of what Web 2.0 means…

I somehow missed this post from IBM developer James Snell written in May.  He describes Web 2.0 as “chmod 777 web“.  He adds some perspective on what Web 2.0 means to him:

“Web sites that let you do stuff are more important than web sites that only let you read stuff.”

[Matt McAlister]

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Dukes of Hazzard Clearance

Whoa, nelly. Makes you want to get into the movie business, making movies nobody ever sees:

Back from vacation, on the road

Haven’t vanished… had a great time ‘down the shore’ in New Jersey, then turned right around and hit the road. Will be back in Illinois this weekend, and life will return to some semblance of normal.