Sunday, April 30, 2006

links for 2006-04-30

Saturday, April 29, 2006

links for 2006-04-29

Thursday, April 27, 2006

links for 2006-04-27

Direct Marketing conference

I just finished participating in a panel discussion with Marty Donner (GM at ReturnPath) and Neil Rosen (CEO at eWayDirect) at the DirectMedia client co-op. We had a pretty full room — and not a single person there subscribed to a podcast. Only a half dozen knew what feeds were.

It was obvious there was a lot of interest in feeds, however… lots of questions after the panel about how they could leverage feeds as either publishers or advertisers (or both). Some take-aways: direct marketers are increasingly trying to figure out how to blend channels (web, email, offline, now feeds) to most effectively reach consumers. eWay has an interesting desktop alert system that’s getting far higher response rates than email; Neil cited a similar approach being used by Southwest, Ding!, which has more than 1.5m downloads in a little over a year, and is expected to drive incremental revenues of $60m per year. Now, Southwest isn’t using RSS (that I know of), but it’s the same idea. And I think more marketers will start to embrace this idea, turning some feeds into a more transactional medium. (I think FeedFlare has some possibilities here, too… more on that later.

As more companies embrace feeds as a logical extension of their overall marketing effort (whether it’s Target delivering the Sunday circular as a feed, or a financial service company delivering card holder offers each week, or ticketing companies delivering ticket offers to subscribers), the world of feeds as actionable information is getting bigger. A few years ago feeds were just for blogs, now they’re for anyone producing “content” — and what we group under the “content” umbrella is just getting broader.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

links for 2006-04-25

Aurora Drive-In

In the comments over at the OpenLine blog, Aurora Alderman Stephanie Kifowit chimes in with a comment to clarify what’s going on, and what the options are. I had a chance to meet Stephanie back when Richard Irvin was running for Aurora mayor (she was a supporter of Richard’s), and found her to be a committed individual who was working hard to represent her ward.

I would hate to see the drive-in get demolished, and hope that Stephanie’s successful in saving it.

Feed advertising: Self-serve at

We took the wraps off of our self-serve interface for advertisers. Up until now, advertisers who wanted to advertise in feeds had to work with us directly, and it required some manual hand-holding. No more.

If you want to advertise in any of our channels, you can now do so by going through a wizard interface, pay by credit card and have your ads run immediately. Very cool.

The secret to Stephen King's writing

Revealed on his message boards, the question was “does Stephen have a writing schedule?” The answer:

“He writes at his home office almost every morning for about 4 – 4-1/2 days.”

So now we know.

Monday, April 24, 2006


”Cell:SCTHUMBZZZ.jpg” />Just finished reading Cell by Stephen King. Definitely not my favorite of his; about 18 months ago I read through the entire Dark Tower series, and found it a masterful collection of characters, a thoroughly engrossing weaving of multiple story lines into one long arc, and an all-around enjoyable story. My favorite of his books is without question The Stand, which I read every few years to remember the scope, the terror, and the humanity. It’s an incredible book, one that stays with you (much like the Dark Tower series) long after you finish.

Cell isn’t in that class. It’s an engaging read, to be sure, but leaves the major questions of the book unanswered (I won’t spoil them, in case you’ve yet to read them). The premise is rather out there (even for King) – a world-wide cell phone virus infects everyone who has a cell phone, turning them into zombies (more or less). It’s hard not to compare it to The Stand, as it involves a small group of refugees battling an evil individual who has the ability to enter their thoughts, most of the population is decimated due to a worldwide plague in a short period of time, there’s most definitely a good camp and an evil camp. Ultimately it doesn’t give the payoff that The Stand did. (Unlike many previous King books, this one weighs in at a svelte 384 pages.) (Spoiler alert: you can visit his website for a brief message from him, in which he resolves one of the major questions of the book…)
Bottom line – not bad for a beach read, but not among his best. Fret not: his second book this year, Lisey’s Story, is due out in October.

links for 2006-04-24

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Survey, take 2

The site survey link is now live, so any of you who regularly read this site, feel free to take a couple minutes and anonymously tell me all about yourself by clicking that link below. ;)

John Zeratsky shared some details about how I did this. I’m pretty excited by this, as it’s a terrific example of how FeedFlare can be used to add value to a publisher’s feed and site without any programming at all (by the publisher, anyway… I had to do a little). Two checkboxes add a link to the survey for your feed and on the site; thanks to Survey Monkey’s ability to capture custom parameters, the survey data that’s captured is tied to the individual site that generated the response (and the data is further broken down between site and feed). We’ve already collected some interesting data, and as the numbers scale (you’ll start seeing this on more sites in short order) it ought to be very revealing. Who knew? Real data instead of anecdotes!

John’s right, by the way: if I can create a good example of what kind of stuff FeedFlare can do, then just about anyone can. There’s more in the documentation about how FeedFlare can be customized – take a stab at building one of your own!

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Hi there! If you’re reading this in a feed reader (Bloglines, NewsGator, FeedDemon, NetNewsWire — FeedBurner tells me that is 70% of you), I’d really appreciate it if you take a few minutes and click on the ‘Take my survey’ link. Let me know if the overall experience is OK. (Should take you about 5 minutes.)


(Site visitors, a similar link will be coming soon.)

links for 2006-04-22

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rahm Emanuel on Bill Maher

Not his best performance by far. I think the transcript will read well, but his delivery was off – wasn’t clear whether he had a bad satellite connection, or what. Style aside, the substance was good – he was there primarily to promote his new book, The Plan. It will be interesting to see if “the plan” becomes the Democratic equivalent of the contract with America – that’s clearly what they’re intending.

As Maher noted though, the analogy he used to explain the cozy relationship between Bush and Congress (“As my wife says, if we agree 92% of the time, one of us isn’t necessary”) really doesn’t sound too good or make much sense.

Anyone else find it interesting that Maher was able to get Emanuel to declare he’s supporting Hillary in ’08? I haven’t been following the back room maneuvers there (and, given his work for President Clinton, his loyalty isn’t all that surprising), but the fact that he tried to demure (twice) and eventually admitted to supporting Hillary was interesting.

links for 2006-04-21

Subaru B9 Tribeca

By the way, I mentioned that I bought the Tribeca recently in my last post. In spite of some of the reviews, I love how it looks, and have been very happy with it so far. My only complaint? The mileage is not-so-great… which isn’t surprising, given that it’s an SUV. After all, coming from a 48 mpg Jetta (it was the Turbo Diesel) to a mid-teen mpg SUV is a bit of a shock. But it handles great, and the fact that it has a usable third row (perfect for the kids when they need to be in it) was what sealed the deal.

In my day, you mailed your bills in

About a month ago, I traded in my Jetta for a Subaru B9 Tribeca. There was a good promotion going on at the time, which meant that the car is financed through Chase as opposed to the bank I ordinarily deal with for car loans.

Two weeks ago I received the paperwork to set up autopayments on the website at For the last ten years, we have always used either our bank’s to pay the lender or the lender’s site to auto-debit our bank account. Without fail, it’s been an easy, convenient way to ensure that Emilio Estevez doesn’t show up on my doorstep.

(Remember that word convenience: it shows up again shortly.)

The first payment was due yesterday, and Robin reminded me that it needed to get paid. I’d already logged in at and just needed to add in the bank’s routing number to complete the setup. I did, and on the confirmation screen, saw a curious line item: “Processing fee: $10.”

Huh? There was a footnote next to the $10; I looked to the bottom of the page. It was helpfully explained: “This is the amount we charge for processing.”

So I called. Surely they weren’t charging me to pay them? Right?

Wrong. They were. I told the guy on the other end of the phone that in more than 10 years of making car payments, I’d never once had to pay a processing fee for paying online. His reply? “Well, this is the year 2006 and we charge for convenience.”

I mailed the payment in. It’s just $10, but I refuse to reward a company trying to charge me to save them money. Talk about backwards.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

links for 2006-04-20

Phillips TV repair and the magic of the Internet

Will’s post about a bad TV from December, 2004, now has 169 comments. All of them from disgruntled Phillips TV owners. Lately the comments are coming in 1-2 per day.

Open source bat module

One of the fun things we did in the Dean campaign was introduce transparency in fundraising; as people saw what the goal was (and how close we were to the goal), it had a wonderful effect in encouraging further contributions. I had no idea that there was an open source Drupal plugin written by my friends at Echo Ditto (who were similarly responsible for similar functionality at the Dean site). Very cool — if you run a Drupal site, this is a great addition.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gayl Ferraro re-elected

Final results: 4766 to 2065.

Reporting from the county convention

This is classic. We are currently debating what rules govern the agenda, and the candidates don’t even know whether they can speak before the vote.

More in the comments.

links for 2006-04-19

DuPage County Democratic Convention

Tonight ought to be entertaining, it’s the county convention and it’s a contested race for county chair. As I mentioned last week, I’m backing Gayl Ferraro in her reelection effort. Her opponent, Doug Cole, doesn’t strike me as the guy we need in charge of the county party: his well-publicized antagonism of the Duckworth campaign, her supporters, and party officials in Chicago and DC seems ill-suited to grow the Democratic Party in DuPage County.

I’m thrilled that Mark Demich is throwing his hat in the ring as First Vice Chair, as he’s built a tremendous organization in Milton Township and will bring an operational skill to the county level that will be a boon to every township.

Will report back after the festivities wrap up.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

links for 2006-04-18

Podcasting is big

Figured out last night that today is officially my one year anniversary at FeedBurner. Hard to believe it’s just been a year — we’ve grown from a handful of employees (I was # 6 or 7) to 25 (with a little room left — see our jobs page for more!). We managed around 20,000 feeds when I joined, we now manage well over 250,000 feeds, and are adding over 1,000 feeds per day.

In addition to working with larger, commercial publishers who want to manage their feeds with FeedBurner, I’ve also spent a fair amount of time working with our growing community of podcasters. Here are a few of the podcast interviews I’ve done over the past year: Hobson & Holtz, Yeast Radio, Podcast Tools, Podcast 411, The Chris Pirillo Show.

In May, 2005, we managed about 6,000 podcast feeds — today that number is well over 45,000 feeds. What’s particularly intriguing about that number is that there are just 44,000 radio stations worldwide (AM, FM and shortwave). It’s a cool milestone, as the media landscape continues to shift… while radio audiences have been declining for years, podcast audiences are growing almost 20% per month. Lots more stats are in the post over at our corporate blog, Burning Questions.

We’re having a ton of fun right now — and we’ve got some other compelling ideas up our sleeve. As I start my second year at FeedBurner, I’m even more excited by the opportunity, and can’t wait to see where we’re at 12 months from now.

JotSpot Family site errors

This is annoying. After posting on Sunday about the JotSpot family site, I signed up to give it a test drive. I started playing with the family tree a bit, adding in a few generations and linking people up. The UI was pretty straightforward, adding people was easy, and all was good.

Then this:



Additional information: javascript evaluation exceeded threshhold < script meter: 310/10000ms, 10003927/10000000insts>

Error code: 87cbb67420e67c4357639246cdf2c15de913af7f

No idea what caused it, no idea how to fix it. I e-mailed their support alias on Sunday, no response yet. Update: Scott from Jot responded, a fix is coming soon that’ll resolve the family tree mapping. Thanks, Soctt!

Monday, April 17, 2006

links for 2006-04-17

Ryan guilty on all counts

Wow. Watching the live video stream now from the courthouse, Governor Ryan is going to go to jail.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Explain to me disclaimer again?

Hilarious quote from a not so funny situation:

“It’s for fun and games,” spokeswoman Katie Kroft said.“This is why we have everybody sign a waiver.”

Someone needs to go back to media training. When kids are injured, the words “fun” and “games” shouldn’t be in your lexicon.

Overheard in Naperville

At the kids barber shop, heard this:

“She says she’s a Christian, but there’s no way. And besides, she’s asking me for a divorce, the least she can do is let me claim the kid on my tax return. I need that 500 bucks.”

The “gentleman” was on his cell phone for the entire time it took both of my sons to get their hair cut; his kids had already been clipped and were just waiting for dear old Dad to decide it was time to leave. It was apparently much more important to share the deterioration of his marriage with the rest of us in the shop.

The banality of evil

The blog of the individual who killed a 10 year-old girl, is here. It would seem that these posts (1, 2, 3, and 4) suggest that he was lonely, didn’t have much luck with a couple of girls, and lost a couple friends when he was in high school and college.

In other words, just like a lot of other people who’ve had a rough go of it. But because he couldn’t take it, he apparently decided to pick a little girl, seemingly at random, murdered her, then planned to do unspeakable things to her.

Unreal. What’s so troubling to me is how hard it would be to screen for this kind of thing. I’m not going to read any more of his blog (however long it stays up, my guess is not too long) to find out whether there are other, more obvious clues to his actions last week. But suffice it to say that this random, senseless act is beyond terrifying.

links for 2006-04-16

Jot Family Sites

That’s a little eerie… last night I wrote about familyware, and today Steve Rubel points out that Jot is offering one-click family sites. Doesn’t look like they solve the syncing issue I raised last night, but for a web-based offering, this looks pretty good.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Google Calendar: Familyware?

I love – and I mean love – Google calendar’s interface. It’s just right. And Charlene Li’s observation that it’ll help her with planning a kid’s play date hits on an important, even critical, problem this solves: familyware.

What do I mean? Robin uses Outlook on her home computer, which syncs with her Blackberry. I use Outlook at work on my laptop, which syncs with my Treo and with Unless I proactively invite her to an event on my calendar, she can’t see it. And she certainly doesn’t want every phone call I have to make, every meeting I’ve scheduled, cluttering her calendar. But she does want to see whether I might be able to work from home a certain day when she’s scheduling a doctor’s appointment; the fact that she can’t easily pull up my calendar is a serious impediment to either of us getting things done. (Usual result? I get an IM in the middle of a phone call asking, “Can you work from home on Thursday?” Note: these IMs are even more fun to get when you happen to have an Internet connection while giving a presentation to a client.)

So I think Charlene’s right: Google Calendar’s on to something with their ability to easily share calendars. But David Weinberger’s right, too, when he says that Google Calendar is “dead to me.” Why? Because it doesn’t sync with his Palm. He further points out, quite correctly, that “syncing is not the same as importing and exporting.” Right on. Solve the sync challenge, and this is a winner.

BTWfamilyware seems to be a huge gap in the software/service market. Surprising that this isn’t a common term, and that there aren’t obvious tools around to solve the challenge of families trying to share info, collaborate, etc. (OK, just found this, which suggests that Dutch families may be well-served… but what about the rest of us?!)

Friday, April 14, 2006

WordPress, 24 hours in

Quick update on my transition to WordPress… this has by far been the smoothest conversion between blog platforms. (By comparison, converting from Radio to Movable Type took a couple of weeks of effort.) Some additional tweaks I’ve added since last night:

  • Now reading plugin. Lets me identify what book I’m currently reading, links to (even uses my affiliate link, so if you buy the book I’ll get a few pennies for the effort) and gives me the ability to review books after I’m done.

  • WordPress Netflix plugin. Identifies the movies that are currently at home by querying Netflix and then using the cover images from

  • A little javascript lets you see what artists I’ve been listening to the most this week. ( works by plugging into iTunes; as I listen to music, it’s streamed up to

One other thing I did was to change how I use Google AdSense on the blog; while it’s still too early to read too much into the impact, changing the presentation of the ads and better integrating them into the page layout seems to have had a nice effect on click-throughs.

For site measurement, I’ve switched from using Sitemeter to using BlogBeat. The way BlogBeat presents blog data to me is far more intuitive than Sitemeter; I always had trouble getting much use out of Sitemeter beyond seeing raw visitors and page view data. Blogbeat understands blogs, which means that it can tell me which searches drove the most traffic to which posts, which posts received the most comments, etc.

As for my impressions of WordPress so far? It’s fast, elegant, and it was exceedingly easy to get up to speed. So far, so good.

All politics is local

It recently came to my attention that someone who I’ve known for over 3 years is insisting that I’m working hard to undermine efforts to build a strong Democratic Party in DuPage County. This individual has repeated these claims at local meetings (of interest groups and township party meetings), as well as on e-mail mailing lists (public and private).

Among other things, this individual has suggested I intend to challenge Gayl Ferraro for chair of the county Democratic party. I don’t – Gayl has my complete support. This individual has also tried to convince people of my plans to run for Congress. I have no such plans, period. This individual has hinted that I’m colluding with Rahm Emanuel (for what, it’s not clear, but that’s apparently beside the point). Rahm Emanuel has no idea who I am, and except for a 30 second discussion at a fundraiser for Governor Blagojevich two years ago, we’ve never been in the same room, let alone spoken to each other. Perhaps most befuddling is the claim that as an active participant in the Dean campaign (that’s right, the Dean campaign), I’ve used that experience to somehow undermine open source, community-built applications that would jeopardize the security and integrity of local efforts to build the party. (No, I don’t get it either.)

To be clear: Since late 2002, I have volunteered thousands of hours, all in the pursuit of a stronger Democratic party. I have volunteered for campaigns at the national level (Dean), the state level (Obama), the regional level (Cegelis, Freedman) and the local level (running for office myself, assisting Matt Freeman in his run for city council, and walking door-to-door during the 2004 cycle). I’ve run the local Democratic Party in Naperville for nearly two years, and am hard at work on ensuring that we grow the party locally so that we have candidates in the 2007 and 2008 races.

That I have to trot out my bona fides in light of these claims would be laughable if the charges weren’t so serious. I sincerely hope that people take these wild accusations for what they are: ill-informed, unfounded conjecture from an indivudal with a rather curious sense of imagination. To suggest (as this individual has) that I’m “vehemently, diametrically opposed” to a progressive agenda isn’t just wrong, it’s insulting.

Now can we please get back to trying to win elections? This is nuts.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Blogs as conversations

Just caught this 2 week-old quote from Mark Beese:

Rick Klau once told me that blogs are an online, two-way conversation about ideas. I am surprised, and very pleased, to discover this to be true.

Mark, I’ll assume your surprise isn’t because it was me saying it. ;) Mark was writing about the conversation that ensued from the Denver Post’s coverage of Holland & Hart’s early experiences with blogs… great stuff, and a good indication of the kind of firm H&H is. Nice work, Mark!

Switching to WordPress

For those who care about such things, I migrated this blog from Movable Type to WordPress. Why the switch? For starters, my MT install was starting to accumulate quite a bit of cruft, and it was taking increasingly long to post to the blog. Furthermore, attempts to weed out comment spam were blocking legitimate commenters, and a reliance on some non-standard tweaks to the system were resulting in some difficult-to-diagnose errors. None of these, strictly speaking, are Six Apart’s issues (Six Apart is the company behind MT); they’re a combination of me using the application for 3 years (and at least 4 upgrades in that time) and me hacking away at the site infrequently.

And, it should be said, I like playing with new tools. I started this blog on Blogger, within three months moved to Radio, and a year later converted to Movable Type. It’s been three years with Movable type, and I’ve really liked the app… but it was time to play around with something new. More on the switch, what I did to ensure a smooth transition, and my early reactions after the jump.The install was insanely easy. It requires a minimal amount of tech expertise, and the site was up and running in about 5 minutes. The first step was to import my Movable Type blog into WordPress; Movable Type exports its entire database into a text file; my blog (posts plus comments) was about 4.5 megs. I broke that file up into 3 parts, then imported each one at a time.

One challenge when moving from blog app to blog app is maintaining permalinks (that is, the link to the individual page for each entry on the blog). I’d made some significant changes to the way Movable Type handled permalinks, and in order to preserve all inbound links (i.e., from other blogs) as well as referrals from Google searches, it was critical that WordPress output the same permalinks as Movable Type.

It turns out that this was rather doable, though it took one false start. WordPress gives you the ability to change your permalink structure, and even lets you use your post title as part of the permalink (this is indeed how I configured Movable Type). However, WordPress inserts hyphens between words in a title, and I’d set up Movable Type to use underscores. WordPress has a great plugin architecture, and there’s an aptly named underscore permalinks plugin… but it’s only effective for posts created after you activate the plugin. Having already imported all of my Movable Type posts, I had to delete the database and start over.

With the permalink solution in place, I re-imported the Movable Type posts (all 2300 of them, plus another 3,000 comments) and the content came over without a hitch. Kudos to both Six Apart for providing a simple export feature, and to WordPress for making the import process seamless.

Next potential hiccup: I’d come to rely on Brad Choate’s Textile plugin, which, among other things, greatly simplifies the HTML markup you need to write when posting to a blog. As a result, instead of including actual HTML in my entries, many of them included words in quotes with a URL following a colon (the format that Textile takes hyperlinks in). Once again, a quick Google search revealed a WordPress plugin to handle Textile-formatted posts, and a spot check verified that all of my old posts were being properly translated to HTML on the fly. Sweet.

I grabbed Steve Smith’s FeedBurner plugin (mainly to see how it worked, since it’s a source of quite a bit of interest from first-time WordPress and/or FeedBurner users), and updated FeedBurner to monitor the new URL that Steve’s plugin provides (instead of the old URL I’d set up for FeedBurner with Movable Type). (Feed subscribers, if you’re seeing this, it just means that the conversion worked and was seamless for you. If you’re not seeing this, well, how am I talking to you?)

At Eric’s suggestion, I browsed over to the catalog of WordPress themes, and picked a simple, 3-column design for the blog. It’s overly simple right now, but it’s at least a framework that gives me plenty of flexibility to play around.

WordPress has a built-in blogroll feature, so I assembled a quick list of blogs I read on a regular basis, and added a few categories in to help add a little structure to the list. I’ll be adding to this list quite a bit over the next few weeks.

I’ve got a few items I’ll try and pick off over the next couple weeks as I get used to WordPress. If you’ve read this far, and you care about my take on the app: very, very elegant. I got to know Movable Type pretty well in the 3 years I used it as my blogging platform; I’m now looking forward to better understanding WordPress and its approach to blogging. I’ve already seen a number of features that make a ton of sense, and I have a feeling it’ll serve me well. End result for readers? It should mean that it’s easier to read, more functional, and easier to leave comments. Let’s see.

Reading Barry Eisler's Rain Fall

Thanks to Brad’s glowing review of Barry Eisler, I picked up Rain Fall yesterday and am already engrossed. Eisler’s got an easy style, and speaks with authority on everything from locale (that Eisler lived in Japan for several years is obvious) to tactics (turns out Eisler was a covert operative for the CIA for 4 years in the early 90s). I’m excited to get started on this series, as there are three other titles in the series (with a fourth coming in June).

As Brad pointed out, Eisler has a blog, titled The Heart of the Matter. Side note: always nice to see other non-practicing-lawyers do well. ;)

Red Sox billboard

This is old news, but I caught it on ESPN last night and it’s worth sharing. Dennis Thomson was a die-hard Red Sox fan, a teenager who was at the 2003 divisional championship when Trot Nixon hit his home run to deep center. Dennis and a bunch of friends were in the stands, and one of Dennis’s friends caught the ball.

Trot came over after the game to sign the ball, and the picture (pictured here, from ended up capturing their joy at getting to share the moment with one of their heroes.

Dennis shortly thereafter enlisted in the Air Force, but managed to make it back for Game 1 of the World Series in 2004. And on the day that the Red Sox paraded through downtown Boston as the World Champions, his Jeep was hit by a drunk driver on a Mississippi highway. He died a few weeks later.

This past winter, the Red Sox put up the billboard to announce the fact that tickets were on sale, oblivious to the story behind the individual pictured. It’s quite a story, and Mr. & Mrs. Thomson’s reaction speaks volumes about who they are and the man they raised. Watch it on

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Announcement: Paul Curreri in Naperville in June

I’ll have more details shortly, but if you’re interested in seeing Paul Curreri perform in my family room on June 16 (a Friday), let me know asap. We’re going to limit the number of attendees, so the earlier you reserve a spot, the better. Tickets won’t be too much (though I’ll encourage you to give more than the minimum!), and this promises to be a great opportunity to relax, listen to a phenomenal performer, have a drink or two, and enjoy the company of some friends.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Trust Bush?

The president who has railed against leaks almost since the day he took office, we now learn, was the one behind the Plame leaks. That the party of limited government has produced a President with seemingly limitless powers should worry everyone regardless of political affiliation.

We are a country founded on the simple premise that no one branch of government may act without the explicit consent of the others. Each branch is specifically empowered with certain checks and balances on the other so that they stay in line. When the Executive Branch under Nixon went too far, Congress even passed laws (the FISA law, for starters) to explicitly limit the President’s surveillance powers. But because President Bush doesn’t believe in the law, he doesn’t follow it. Even more bizarre, when he signs laws, he has “signing statements” that let him say what he thinks the law means — even when it flies in the face of all legislative record to the contrary. (Remember the anti-torture law? Bush said it gives him the right to torture. Go figure.)

Josh calls this the Bush administration’s creeping monarchism. It just seems like simple disdain to me. Disdain for the law, disdain for the Constitution, disdain for the people. Everything I thought I knew about what made our country great: limited government, checks and balances to prevent unmitigated exercise of power, freedom of speech, basic Constitutional guarantees of due process… it’s hard to see where any of that fits in the Bush view of the USA today. Forget about policies — funding for programs can be restored. Tax cuts can be reversed (or not). Military priorities can be altered. But the credibility of an entire political system is on thinner ice than I think many realize. And without the courage of our convictions to back us up, our ability to lead by example in the rest of the world is criminally compromised.

I know there are Republicans (many friends of mine) who read this blog. I’m genuinely interested in hearing from you (publicly if you can, privately if you must): how do you reconcile President Bush’s actions with the conservative principles you hold dear? How do you square his actions with the foundation on which this country was built?

2008 prediction

Over drinks last night, I made this prediction: the Democrat who wins the nomination for the 2008 presidential election will be the Democrat who vilifies (No extra credit for throwing Michael Moore under the bus, that’s too easy a target.) I think that a Democrat who pulls a Sister Souljah moment on will attempt to move to the middle while trying to marginalize the activist wing of the party.

I’m not saying I like it. Just saying I think it’ll happen.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Wal-Mart gift cards

Heather Armstrong: “Can you buy bullets with your $25 gift certificate at Wal-Mart? And if you can do you have any idea how awesome it is to be American?”

Site overhaul

It’s been forever since I’ve done an overhaul of this site, and it’s starting to show its age. Things that need to get fixed/updated:

  • Blogroll. I don’t want a laundry list of every site I’ve ever read, but there’s a core group of blogs and sites I read with regularity that I want to point readers to.

  • I’ve gotten out of the habit of using and need to get back in; I see lots of stuff throughout the week that I don’t blog about but I want to share — that’ll return.

  • Other social services. I started using recently to track my music, Netflix to manage my DVD rentals, and Flickr for my pictures. All of these services use RSS to share/expose certain info, and I’d like to integrate that more fully into my site.

What would you like to see? What am I missing? What about the current site don’t you like?

CFIUS and foreign investment in the US

Brad Feld recently wrote about the US government’s recent scotching of a merger between Sourcefire and CheckPoint, apparently over concerns about certain technology being owned by an Israeli company. This reminded me of something I wrote a little over four years ago, namely, that 9/11 was used as a cover for the government getting a wider berth in investigating and potentially killing acquisitions of US companies.

This isn’t as sexy (or potentially polarizing) an issue as civil liberties, prisoner torture or illegal wiretaps — but any tech entrepreneur should be paying attention. This is needless meddling in business by the government. (And no, for the record, I didn’t think the Dubai ports deal was a problem.) Nobody raised a stink four years ago, and a quick web search indicates a number of cases where CFIUS was used to slow down potential mergers. The point isn’t that the inquiry is misguided (which it seems to be in certain cases) — but that this is an often unexpected hiccup for entrepreneurs looking for an appropriate exit. Anyone who cares about growing their business or looking for corporate partners should give this issue more thought, and contact your representatives if you’re concerned about the potential interference CFIUS will bring…

Cubs tickets

I’m pretty impressed with the ticket ordering system at I wanted to get my brother tickets to a Cubs game so he could bring his girls and I could bring my boys; on the first day that tickets were available, I was put into a virtual waiting room that just queued everyone up. Once they let me through, I had a few minutes to find a game that had tickets available — not an easy task when you’re looking for 6 tickets together — and then complete the transaction.

I was intrigued by the option presented during the checkout process that would let me print tickets at home as opposed to having the actual tickets mailed to me. Sure enough, a few weeks later, I was able to log in and print copies of the tickets (which inlcude unique barcodes, which are scanned on entry at Wrigley Field). Best of all? If we misplace the tickets, we can simply reprint them before gametime.

I can’t wait — three weeks from now, my brother and his daughters (ages 3 and 5) will be going to a game with me and my boys (ages 4 and 6). It will be my boys’ first trip to a major league game; my nieces are pros by now, having been to Red Sox games in Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. (Yeah, my brother takes his Red Sox pretty seriously.) Like Josh, I’ve lost any real affiliation with a team over the last 10-15 years, and now that we’ve dropped anchor in Illinois, I feel like it’s time to become a fan again. I’ve been to several games at Wrigley and love the atmosphere, and given that I spent the better part of a decade learning how to root for the Red Sox (including the heart-breaking 1986 World Series loss), rooting for the Cubs just feels right.

Five podcasts I can't live without

Ever since I re-acquired an iPod (a much-appreciated Christmas gift), I’ve been able to get back in the habit of listening to (and, increasingly, watching) podcasts. For those of you who are looking for some quality podcasts to add to your playlist, here are the ones I can’t live without:

  • Croncast. (feed) Sure, I’m friends with Kris (he’s a fellow Naperville resident), but that’s not why I listen. He and his wife Betsy have the best rapport together, and consistently put together an engaging, hilarious 30-45 minutes (3 times a week, no less) that covers their lives in suburbia, their families, Betsy’s eBay business, and God knows what else. The number of times I’ve laughed out loud during my commute is too high to count.

  • Ask a Ninja. (feed) Explaining this one wouldn’t do it justice. It’s a video podcast, and without fail some of the funniest 2-3 minutes you’ll see all week. Well-written, terrifically produced, and fall-on-the-floor funny.

  • The Official Lost Podcast. (feed) Hosted by the two Lost producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, this podcast tells you about connections that even the most die-hard of Lost fans wouldn’t have caught. (OK, maybe the die-hards catch these things all the time. But I never do. So I like the podcast.) Great example of how a broadcast network can add value to a show.

  • Barack Obama Podcast. (feed) He’s my Senator, and my friend Jim is responsible for managing the podcast… but I listen because it’s just a great example of how a politician can bypass the filters of the media and engage in a conversation with constituents. When Senator Obama phoned in during his trip this winter to Iraq, Kuwait, Israel and Jordan, it was amazing. (You can listen to that one here.)

  • Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me. (feed) Funniest show on the radio, bar none. Doesn’t hurt that my favorite comedian of all time, Paula Poundstone, is frequently a guest. (Useless trivia: at the iManage user conference in 2000, I had the privilege of introducing Paula at the main entertainment event. Quite the thrill.)

What are your favorites?

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Instruction Manual

From a toy my in-laws bought Robby for his fourth birthday last week:

CAUTION-ELECTRIC TOY: Not recommended for children under 3 years of age. As with all electric products, precautions should be observed during handling and use to prevent electric shock.

Please keep reading the following safety notes before use or examination.

i). Primary technical specification of the marking on the product.
Model: U090070D31     Input: 120V/60Hz
Output: 9.0 VDC 700mA 6.3VA

ii). Operation instruction
1. The product is used only within doors or at the dry location.
2. Don’t store or use this product in the erosional condition
3. The ambient temperature around the product must be kept for room temperature because overcool can effect on the feature and working life of product.
4. According to the technical specification of product, it must be connected with correct power input and specified out put load or terminal appliance so that it can’t be broken. Pay attention to the input voltage & frequency.
5. The disconnection from line voltage is taken by pulling the mains plug.
6. Parents recommending that the toy transformer be periodically examined for conditions than may result in the risk of fire, electric shock, or injury to persons and that, in an event of such conditions.
7. The product is not intended to be repaired by service personnel in case of failure flexible cord damaged etc, it must be discarded.
8. If you have any technical quesiton, please do not hesitate to consult the supplier directly.

I haven’t yet decided which of these cautions are my favorite… they’ve all got a certain allure.