Obsessive iTunes tune management

I thought my iTunes regimen was elaborate, but Glenn MacDonald’s takes the cake. Automatic rating based on playing habits, automatic image handling that marks up the cover art with “fingerprints,” even automatic payment to artists whose tracks are highly rated but unpurchased.

My setup is simple by comparison, and heavily dependent on smart playlists. Never Played is all tracks with a playcount of 0. Just Added is the last 200 most recent tracks. Less Played is any track that hasn’t been played at least twice, and whose last play was more than six months ago. Fell Out of Rotation is a track whose playcount is more than 2 and whose last played date is greater than a year ago. That plus a bunch of manually generated playlists works pretty well for me, but I’d love to take a look at Glenn’s script.

Update: Well, of course it’s a hoax. Or a satire on what you’d have to do to be able to compensate artists fairly. Or whatever.

Job update: reentering the workforce

Astute readers (or folks who click to my site rather than just scanning my RSS feed) may have noticed that my tagline, which formerly read “This blogger is for hire,” has changed. Later today I will start my new job as product manager for iET Solutions, a company that makes software that manages IT services based on the ITIL standard, as well as more traditional customer and IT management offerings including helpdesk and CRM.

I thought it might be helpful for other people in the job market to get some perspective on my search. My full time search started in November, and I received my first offer in early April, almost exactly six months later. During the intervening time, I spoke with almost 40 companies; had first-round interviews with about 15 of them; second round or higher with 8; and secured two offers.

Position availability for product managers has been bursty. There was a hot period for about six weeks from November through early December, then no real positions available until about late February, when things suddenly got hot again. This may be a specifically Boston issue, or it may speak to factors in the economic cycle that influence the availability of this kind of marketing position.

I used several lead management methods to identify new opportunities. Monster and Craigslist were in the mix, as were conversations with friends and colleagues at networking events and ongoing daily conversation. I listed my resumé on Monster as well as on my own blog, and found that both brought a roughly equal number of hits in any given month, though the nibbles from people who found me on Google tended to be less targeted and less serious. No one who contacted me mentioned having read my blog. I also worked with three recruiting and placement firms and spoke with many more. Some of the experiences with placement firms were very positive, and I will be happy to provide specific recommendations offline. The recruiter who placed me at iET Solutions was a single-time recruiter (not someone with whom I had looked at other firms) who found my resumé on Monster.

What’s next for me and this blog? Well, it’s likely I won’t update as often as I have been doing for the last six to eight months, but I anticipate continuing this project well into the foreseeable future. There may be some new directions in content, responding to some of the challenges of my new job. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride as much as I plan to.

Manila 9.5 goes public beta

The new version of Manila, the software that powers this blog, entered public beta over the weekend. Congrats to Jake, Scott, and the rest of the Userland team.

Some of the changes in the software look really interesting for all levels of users, including nofollow support, enclosures, authenticated member signup, better management for comments and trackback (spam management), and a ton of performance fixes. Others, including version control and site access control, look squarely aimed at a specific set of customers—those inside the firewall. Very interesting.

Things I’d like to see fixed that I don’t see listed—I’m going to try to install the beta bits and check for the fixes, but haven’t gotten there yet:

  • Static rendering issues with news items: This is the biggest pain for me. Currently the news item department, comment, and trackback links are all broken on every news item on my static site (www is the static site; discuss.www.jarretthousenorth.com is the dynamic site). The static rendering code should be smart enough to link to the dynamic site for these items—or else we should have the option to do static rendering of comments, trackback, and news item department pages.
  • The calendar on static pages: Unless you go back and re-render a month manually, the navigation on the calendar of a static page does not link to any content published after that page was rendered. This makes paging chronologically forward through the content a real problem. It’s not just a problem for one month, either, since the “next month” link points to the last available content date. So basically you have to manually re-render a given month for a few months in a row to avoid losing the thread of the navigation in statically rendered pages. Manila should either do re-rendering automatically as part of a scheduled maintenance process, or should identify a different way to handle the calendar function.
  • Better archive handling: Now that this site has almost four years of content, the limited archive paging (month at a time) that the calendar control offers is frustrating. I’d like to see automated support for weekly, monthly, or yearly archive pages, even if they only offer titles and not full content. I’d also like to see more robust department archives. Currently they only manage a fixed number of news items (50?) per department, and then you have to use the calendar (or Google) to find older entries. I’d like to see Manila support paging, date-based archiving, or some other intelligent way of finding deeper content without taxing server resources on news item department pages.

I look forward to playing with the beta some more over the next few weeks in my shrinking spare time.

Welcome to the neighborhood

Aaron Swartz: SFP: Come see us. Looks like Aaron got some initial round funding to work on his company this summer as part of Y Combinator’s Summer Founders Program and will be setting up an office here in the greater Boston area. Congrats, Aaron! (I like the description of the area he attributes to Paul Graham of Y Combinator:

“Now you want to go about finding an apartment. You want to get a place on the red line [the local subway] because then you can go see people and people can go see you. The best place to go is Davis Square, because it’s cheap, fun, and on the red line. Harvard is fun and on the red line but not cheap, Porter is cheap and on the red line but not fun, so I recommend Davis, Inman, and Central, in that order.”

Happy Patriots’ Day

I’ve come a long way from three years ago, when I wrote about my confusion about Patriots’ Day (is it a day off to watch the Boston Marathon?). Now I live in a town that claims the highest number of first-day casualties within town borders—22 colonists and at least twice as many British regulars, more than either Lexington or Concord—in the American Revolution. The Lexington Minuteman rounds up all the facts and legends.

Update: Good coverage of some of the reenactment fun in downtown Arlington on Ben Hyde’s blog.

Banning books aloft?

Boing Boing: TSA screener: 2-book max on flights. Ross Mayfield has an interesting conversation with a TSA screener in which the screener mentions that the number of books to be allowed in carry-on will be decreased from four to two. Is this simple confusion between matchbooks (which would make sense in the context of the rest of Ross’s conversation) and literature, or does the TSA actually think that books are possible hijacking weapons? My money is on the former, but it’s too good a story not to share.

I’m tempting fate

rusty diagonal

With the energy deficit I wrote about yesterday, I perhaps should not have walked from Harvard Square to Central Square along the Charles River yesterday afternoon after finishing the repair work on our kitchen doorway, prior to going to choir practice, prior to driving down to New Jersey. But it was too nice a day not to enjoy the sights.


It’s been a hard couple of days, for whatever reason. I have had bursts of morning energy followed by absolute collapse in the afternoons. Not sure what’s going on, but it might be one of the following, presented in increasing order of likeliness:

  • my mono (which I somehow caught in college) might be relapsing
  • my hereditary thyroid problem might finally be surfacing
  • the Black Dog might still have a big paw on my chest (unlikely for a number of reasons that will shortly be disclosed)
  • the allergist at MGH who determined that I had no seasonal allergies, only allergies to dust mites, might have been wrong
  • Or I might just be catching up on sleep after a week of hard driving (including time spent driving to SAT prep classes and on my big vacation spree, I spent about 44 hours behind the wheel from Sunday the 3rd to Tuesday the 13th)

I hope it’s not the last one. I have about ten more hours of driving this weekend: down to New Jersey to collect my family and return everyone back home, where there will be a newly finished (though probably not painted) doorway in the kitchen.

Go, TJ! It’s your birthday!

Erm, I mean: On this, the 262nd anniversary of the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, and founder of the University of Virginia

…what? That’s how he wanted to be remembered.

…anyway, on April 13, think for a minute about the man and his contributions to mankind, and these words of his, some of which I cited in 2003 and which seem even more relevant today:

  • “If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest.” (To William Short, 1791)
  • “The government of a nation may be usurped by the forcible intrusion of an individual into the throne. But to conquer its will, so as to rest the right on that, the only legitimate basis, requires long acquiescence and cessation of all opposition.” (From Monticello, 1825)
  • “The most successful war seldom pays for its losses.” (To Edmond Randolph, 1785)
  • “Education is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” (to William C. Jarvis, 1820)
  • “Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” (from R. to A. Danbury Baptists, 1802)

And check out this year’s Jefferson Muzzles awards, given by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression to “draw national attention to abridgements of free speech and press” and chosen from “an alarmingly large group of candidates.” Recipients this year, unsurprisingly, include the FCC, both political parties, various high school officials, the departments of State and Homeland Security, and the Virginia House of Delegates (for the “droopy draws” bill).

Return of Houseblog: finishing old projects

During the days this week while not teaching SAT classes, I’ve finally been doing some much needed work around the house. Two projects have been particularly stalled, and now seemed the perfect time to address them: patching small holes in the kitchen ceiling that we left after an ice dam adventure in January, and re-finishing the doorway from which I removed the trim so we could install our refrigerator.

—Ice dam? I see I didn’t write about this one… Here’s how ice dams form, and we had one after the first big snowfall in January that dripped water down through the kitchen ceiling as everything else melted. Since we caught the problem and drilled small holes to drain the accumulated water before the plaster crumbled and fell, all I had to do was to patch the holes with spackle and paint. I’ve got the holes patched, but at Lisa’s request moved on to the other project, since it’s a lot easier to do without dogs in the house.

As you’ll recall, our narrow 1941 doors were too small to permit a big refrigerator to move into the house, so I somewhat precipitously got out crowbar and reciprocating saw and removed the door molding from one of the kitchen entrances. And it stayed that way for some time, as visitors to our house can attest, while Lisa and I tried to decide what to do with the doorway. We didn’t want to reinstall all the trim, since we didn’t plan to hang a door there again. We talked about building an arch, like the doorway into the living room that faces the kitchen doorway. At the end we decided to go easy on ourselves and mud the exposed framing, then sand and paint and reinstall just the baseboard trim.

So I spent a few hours yesterday mudding one side and the top of the doorjamb. Or at least most of it. The surface left after the molding was removed was less even than I thought, requiring a lot of compound to fill in the holes and make everything level. One side has a half-inch gap between the kitchen wall and the wood framing of the door, so I need to go pick up something—probably blueboard or something like it—to patch the surface and raise it so I don’t consume another tub of the compound in the process.

For the record, I’m using a slow drying patching/joint compound to do the work. It’s hard to work, but I think it will dry much harder than the quick-paint stuff I used to patch the wall around the radiator cover. That stuff was scary—it was like shaving cream. Pictures will be posted once the mudding is done.

Oh yeah—the Houseblog section is now a part of the webring at Houseblogs.net, the group houseblogging site run by Jeanne and Aaron from HouseInProgress. Check out the web ring link, on the front page of my site in the site navigation, and visit some of the other great sites.

So apparently it snowed last night

Mercifully, it didn’t stick. I didn’t notice it though—after I returned from teaching the night’s SAT prep course, I decided to go see a movie.

(It seems like I do a lot of stuff for the first time during “batching” weeks. I haven’t been out to see a movie in a theatre by myself since I squirmed out of a showing of About a Boy the day I left Boston in 2002 to move to Seattle.)

I had meant to visit our town cinema, the Arlington Capitol Theatre, for about eight months, ever since moving here. Last night I learned two things—even on weeknights they have a good choice of movies in the 9:45 – 10:05 PM time slot, and one theatre pretty much looks like another once you get into the seats. I did like the entrance and lobby, though; very evocative (as was the mosaic tiled floor on the bathroom level in the basement!).

And the movie? I think A Very Long Engagement just entered the rank of my favorite films. Definitely a movie to make you want to go to the movies again.