Monday, February 27, 2006

ReelViews RSS feed

Two years before the World Wide Web was a gleam in Tim Berners-Lee’s eyes, I was already a multi-year Internet veteran. And one of my earliest habits online was to see what reviews James Berardinelli had published on Usenet. I didn’t know much about James — just that he posted regularly, I almost always appreciated his insights into movies, and he had a knack for writing in a no-nonsense style that resonated with me.

It’s almost 15 years later, and James is still a regular contributor online, just these days it’s at his own website, ReelViews. Now with more than 3,000 reviews, he’s a terrific resource when it comes to movies.

But the reason for me writing tonight is that in a very small way, I got to repay the favor of 15 years of trusty reviews… I helped get him set up with his very own RSS feed. It’s here. I predict it’ll have a ton of subscribers in very short order…

Welcome to the wonderful world of RSS, James!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Autistic team manager scores 6 threes

Wow, this is just amazing. Local news coverage from Rochester is here.

How long before this is on the big screen?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Garmin GPS Map 60cs for sale

If you’re looking for a fully-featured GPS unit, you could do a lot worse than this device from Garmin. I bought it a little over a year ago, and got very excited about geocaching… funny thing is, life with three kids has rather significantly reduced our leisure time. While I have every intention of getting back into it in a year or two, it’s just not likely to be practical in the short-term. I love the device, but our new van has a nav system built in so a lot of what we were using it for is now moot.

Anyway… I’m putting this item up on my blog to see if anyone’s interested in buying it. Brand new the unit will run $350 – $450. In addition to the base unit, I’ve got the auto navigation kit (which includes the mounting bracket for your dash, the cigarette lighter power adapter, and the 2004 City Select street maps for North America. (Retail on that is another $200+.) Finally, it includes the USB cable and the 2004 Topo Maps on CD for all of North America (another $100+ retail). All told, this is $650 or more new, I’ll sell the whole package for $500.

I’m also testing Edgeio out on this, it will be interesting to see how it works.

edgeio-key: 853ecb409d6fb33eec0e447980c2117b9da65e95

Drop me a note at if you’re interested.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Snakes on a Plane: Countdown

In case you were wondering, it’s now just 179 days until Snakes on a Plane is released in the United States.

I predict this movie will open huge.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Four things

Kevin Tofel tagged me (thanks, Kevin!) with this “four things” thing, so here’s my entry:

Four jobs I’ve had:

  • Dishwasher at a French restaurant

  • Retail clerk at The Nature Company

  • Circuit board assembler

  • Law clerk at EFF

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  • The Matrix

  • La Femme Nikita

  • Godfather

  • Big Fish

Four TV shows I love to watch:

  • Lost

  • 24

  • The Colbert Report

  • Entourage

Four places I’ve been on vacation:

  • Cancun, Mexico

  • Yosemite National Park

  • Disneyworld

  • France (our honeymoon included Paris, Dijon, Annecy, Carcassonne, Loire Valley)

Four favorite dishes:

  • Pulled pork sandwich

  • Fondue

  • Thanksgiving Turkey (brined & seasoned)

  • Lobster

Four websites I visit daily:

Four places I’d rather be:

(Considering that I’m writing this in the midst of a nearly 4 hour delay at SFO waiting to get home, this question is rather à propos.)

  • Home

  • Skiing with my parents and my brother & family in Breckenridge (we passed this year, not knowing whether the baby would be up for the travel)

  • Out to dinner with my wife

  • Playing with my kids

Four bloggers I’m tagging:

The Golden what?

Me to parking attendant, downtown San Francisco: “What’s the best way to get back to the 101 towards the Golden Gate?”

Parking attendant: “The what?”

Me: “The Golden Gate Bridge.”

Parking attendant: “That in San Francisco?”

Me: “You’re kidding.”

Parking attendant to co-worker: “Jose! You know where the Golden Gate Bridge is?”

Me: “You’re kidding.”

Parking attendant: “Sorry, maybe try Embarcardero?”

I want to believe he was kidding. I really do. But he wasn’t. How is it possible that anyone who works or lives in San Francisco doesn’t have the vaguest notion of where the only northbound exit out of the city is located?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I'm afraid to click...

… on this entry in my Technorati search for “FeedBurner”:


I mean, it’s probably just because whatever site is responsible for this is using But I’d really rather not know.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney's Got a Gun...

OK, dear readers… time to collaborate. Let’s rewrite the lyrics to Aerosmith’s “Janie’s got a gun” to “Cheney’s got a gun”.

Original lyrics here.

Update: Not only am I not original on this go-around, it turns out someone did this years ago. Details here. Heh.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


OK, this is goofy (and didn’t we already do this once with Blogshares?) — courtesy of Mike Arrington at TechCrunch, I just signed up for AlexaDex, a “stock market” of websites based in part on the Alexa site rankings.

I bought 9 shares of FeedBurner, because, to borrow a phrase from the guys at Long or Short, I’m long FeedBurner.


Note to self: stop hacking with Movable Type

Well, my sincere apologies to those of you who read this site in a feed reader… a combination of Movable Type database hiccups and my own inept attempts at hacking the system resulted in a disaster in my feed. It should be back to normal now, but likely errors you would have seen include previously read items showing up as unread, click-throughs resulting in 404s, and permalinks to feed items pointing to empty files.

Just goes to show you, when you know enough to be dangerous, you can cause real damage. Let me know if things are flaky out there, I’m hoping that with this post I’ve exorcised any remaining demons.

Update: Nice. This entry got posted twice. I can say with confidence that’s not my doing — MT’s been duplicating posts on and off for months. I suppose this is when one of you says, “Switch to WordPress.” Yeah, Eric has been raving about it, maybe it’s time? I have three years of Movable Type knowledge built up, I’m really unsure about moving apps…

MSNBC adds 'blog this' to its video

Very cool: while watching video of the Vice President’s accidental shooting of a hunting partner (kudos to the VP’s camp for blaming it on the guy who got shot, by the way), I noticed a little icon next to “email this” and “copy link to clipboard”:



I want my money back!

Every year for at least the last 10, I’ve used TurboTax to do our taxes. And each year, we’ve spent at least a few hours going through the dozen or more Goodwill receipts to try and figure out the value of what we donated in the past year. When done, TurboTax would cast a wary eye our way, and say, “And how did you determine the value of these goods?”

“Uh, market value,” we’d check. And hope that TurboTax didn’t second-guess us.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the deductions portion of our return today, and TurboTax told me to use “ItsDeductible” to catalog our donations. (Apparently Intuit doesn’t believe in possessive apostrophes.) In years past, ItsDeductible has always been a for-pay add-on to TurboTax, and I never thought it would be worthwhile. This year it was bundled with TurboTax, and it’s now clear that our notion of “market value” and actual “market value” are way off. And that means that I’ve significantly overpaid our taxes for the last 10 years. sigh

Its Deductible is really slick: fortunately we kept a list of everything we gave to Goodwill, so all we needed to do was type in a line item; ItsDeductible searches an archive of eBay auction data to determine average market value for each item. Without exception, things we would’ve said were worth $1 were often worth $4, $6 or even $10 according to ItsDeductible. From its FAQ:

Using its patent-pending Intelligent Indexing™, the TurboTax® ItsDeductible® program has organized and compiled pricing data based on extensive research of resale outlets as well as recent market data from eBay®. The eBay Data Licensing Program provides ItsDeductible with daily feeds of closed live auction transaction pricing information allowing ItsDeductible software to include thousands more valuations for items that go beyond the most commonly donated items.

Just a great example of using community data to help me do my job. It’s very easy to use, and saved a couple hours worth of work. Most importantly, it likely resulted in adding $500 to our refund. Which makes me think that I’d have an HDTV in the basement if only I’d used ItsDeductible for the last few years… ;)

Friday, February 10, 2006

Speaking at Politics Online conference next month

I just got word that I’ll be talking at next month’s Politics Online conference at George Washington University. Predictably, I’ll be talking about podcasting, RSS, and how they can be used effectively in politics.

I’m excited, not least of which because this is about as perfect an intersection of my job (RSS, podcasting) with my hobby (politics), and I’ll get to draw on my experiences with the Dean and Obama campaigns, as well as my current sideline of running the local Democratic party. Should be fun, and the speaker lineup promises to give me several opportunities to meet folks who I’ve “known” (but never met) for years. Can’t wait.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

My first piece of FeedFlare

File this under, “If I can do it, you can do it”: I created my own piece of FeedFlare to add a little functionality to my feed tonight. The API documentation is fantastic, so if you have even rudimentary familiarity with programming, you should be able to cobble something together. Mine simply adds a permalink to the comments on a post, so that people reading my feed can link directly to the comment form on my site. Simple, but functional. If you’re wondering, this is what it looks like:

Comment on this post
Comment on this post.

Comment on this post

Not earth-shattering, but a nice start. Next I hope to dig in enough to figure out how to add a comment counter to FeedFlare (which will require some MT hackery that’ll take some time to figure out). I’ll also point out other cool implementations as I find them.

Coming tomorrow: a non-geek explanation of why FeedFlare is such a big deal, since I got chided privately by an old boss of mine for being completely incomprehensible. I promise, I’ll use small words. ;)

WeatherBug update

A long-overdue update to my post from a couple weeks back. I noticed a few glitches with the copy of WeatherBug that CTO Chris Sloop handed out at Gnomedex last summer, and blogged about it. Sure enough, Chris called me (one of the many reasons I put my cell phone number on the site) and we had a great chat. (It should also be noted that despite my earlier report, they had replied to my support request… it never reached me, but they did respond in a timely manner. Don’t you just hate email sometimes?!)

It turns out I’d found a bug, and Chris helped me fix it with a couple easy clicks. Chris is an interesting guy, and WeatherBug has some neat things under development. Steve Rubel commented today on a couple new developments that show off the new toys; fun stuff.

Thanks to Chris for responding so quickly, and for helping out.

Gnomedex 6

Forgot to note that I registered for Gnomedex 6 last week. Very excited to be going to Seattle again this year. Who else is going?

Cartoon violence

I’ve been traveling the last few days, so the media coverage surrounding the escalating violence over the editorial cartoons depicting Mohammed had largely gone by me. In between meetings in Manhattan yesterday, I stopped in a Starbucks to catch up on email, and caught this headline at which (for me at least) seemed to capture the absurdity of the situation:


Interesting observation by NPR’s Robert Seigel last week: “When the Vatican declared Life of Brian blasphemous, the Swiss Guard of the Vatican City did not go storm the gates of the British Embassy.”

Monday, February 6, 2006

Lunch with Obama

Will sent me a link to the Freakonomics blog post about how Senator Obama drops his kids off at nursery school, and how lunch with the Senator at an upcoming fundraiser is expected to go for $20,000.

One man who won’t be bidding? John McCain.


Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Early IE7 thoughts

I downloaded beta 2 of Internet Explorer 7 yesterday, and I’m stunned. In less than two hours, it had replaced Firefox as my default browser, and I’ve been a Firefox bigot for more than two years.

In no particular order, some thoughts on what IE7 does well:

Tabbed browsing. Firefox had this before IE, of course. It’s a must-have for anyone who spends a lot of time in a browser. My favorite implementation of tabbed browsing in IE is by far the tiled view of your tabs (click pic for full-size screencap):

I know that there’s a Firefox extension that does this, but IE’s implementation is fast (switching from tab to tile and back again is instantaneous) and elegant. (Another nice tweak: the thumbnail views you see are live windows, so if pages auto-refresh you’ll see the results of the refresh; a right-click gives you an option to refresh all as well.)

RSS. This is an area where IE almost completely nails the user experience, with one unfortunate misstep. First, the good: whenever you visit a site with a feed, the orange feed icon lights up. Clicking on it gives you a view of the feed, and makes subscribing in IE a one-step process. Up to that point, it’s a seamless and well-presented integration that makes the value of RSS more apparent: like this website? Subscribe to it so that the new stuff is delivered to you! It’s presented as a counterpart to bookmarks; feeds are sites that deliver stuff to you, bookmarks are sites you go to visit. As widely anticipated ever since the IE7 announcements at Gnomedex last year, this will no doubt drive mainstream adoption of RSS. That’s good.

Here’s the misstep: like Apple, Microsoft chose to apply a stylesheet to the feed, so that users don’t see raw XML when they click the feed icon. That’s an altogether good idea, since the vast majority of feeds out there show you far more angle brackets than any individual should have to confront. The misstep is that Microsoft pays no attention if the feed already has a stylesheet — in other words, if the publisher has chosen to decide how their feed should look in a browser, Microsoft ignores those instructions and applies their own. Several publishers have already complained about this, and I expect Microsoft will hear a lot of similar feedback in the near future.

It should be noted I have a horse in this race: FeedBurner’s “browser friendly” service creates these stylesheets for tens of thousands of publishers, and our work (and their choices) are rendered moot by Microsoft’s approach in IE7 beta 2. A simple configuration option — letting a publisher’s stated preference at least getting equal billing with Microsoft’s stylesheet — would alleviate much of the publisher community’s concern on this point.

That complaint aside, I’m very impressed with what I see so far. It’s a clean interface (I like how the traditional “File | Edit | View | Help” menu is hidden from view, and most configuration options are highlighted more prominently), pages load quickly, and I’ve noticed only a few formatting incompatibilities with pages — no doubt a result of IE7 still being a beta product. Search integration is tight (my default search engine is Google, which IE7 doesn’t mind a bit), and all of the keyboard shortcuts I’ve grown used to in Firefox work in IE7 (ctrl-t to open a new tab, ctrl-w to close a tab, ctrl-e to search, alt-d for the address bar; hint: hit ctrl-q for the thumbnailed view of all your open tabs).

I don’t know if any additional functionality is planned before IE7 is released, but I’m very impressed with what I see so far. IE7 could easily compete with other web browsers available for the PC today, and given the lack of innovation with IE over the past 5 years, that’s saying something.