Meme of fours: the all-link edition

Having been tagged by Fury, I thought I might share four things about a bunch of more or less useless personal information categories with you:

Four Jobs I’ve Had

  1. Microsoft Blog Product Manager
  2. Electronic text transcriber
  3. Particle accelerator signal wiring guy
  4. Junior comic book guy

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over Again

  1. Raising Arizona
  2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  3. White
  4. Garden State

Four Places I’ve Lived

  1. The Lawn
  2. The News
  3. The Hill
  4. The Other Hill

Four TV Shows I Love

  1. The West Wing
  2. Law and Order: CI
  3. This Old House
  4. Supernatural

Four Highly Regarded and Recommended TV Shows I Haven’t Seen

  1. The Sopranos
  2. Sex in the City
  3. Lost
  4. American Idol

Four Places I’ve Vacationed

  1. Brussels
  2. Florence
  3. Westport
  4. Positano

Four of My Favorite Dishes

  1. Risotto
  2. Unagi nigiri
  3. Sammiches
  4. Dal

Four Sites I Visit Daily

  1. Bloglines
  2. Questionable Content
  3. New York Times
  4. Lists of Bests

Four Places I’d Rather Be Right Now

See list of vacation spots

Four New Bloggers I’m Tagging

  1. Zalm
  2. Blogorelli
  3. Tin Man
  4. JP

Sony at it again: DVD based rootkit

I hadn’t been actively looking for Sony DRM links since putting the Sony Boycott blog on pause, so this one came as a surprise: an advisory from F-Secure that a recent Sony DVD (the apparently not completely execrable Mr. and Mrs. Smith) has rootkit-like behavior. The DVD contains DRM from Settec, which is designed to hide itself on the hard disk of anyone who plays the DVD on a Windows computer.

F-Secure posted this back in February; I found it from a few blog links. The usual suspects never commented on this as far as I know—perhaps because the DVD in question was only released in Germany.

Still. This is Not Good.

Begorrah, TK421, why aren’t you at your post?

Thanks to Universal Hub, I made two wonderfully bizarre discoveries yesterday. One is that there are enough übergeeks in the greater Boston area to field a marching detachment of Imperial Stormtroopers in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The linked photo shows everything from regulation general purpose Stormtroopers to an AT-AT driver, a Scout Trooper from Return of the Jedi, to a black-armored TIE pilot and a bounty hunter. Of course, how Stormtroopers get to march in the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade when gay people can’t march there or New York is anyone’s guess.

The thorny question of deep irrational unChristian institutional homophobia among Boston’s Roman Catholic population aside, the other wonderful thing I found was the 501st Legion aka Vader’s Fist, a worldwide organization of part-time Imperial Stormtroopers of whom the Boston marching contigent is a mere portion of a garrison.

Which Old House?

The Boston Globe ran an article today about four finalists for the next This Old House house. There’s even an online vote (after all the pictures)—not that it will decide which house Our Heroes spend 13 weeks or more fixing up, but it will at least generate some interest in the show (which after two seasons of multimillion-dollar renovations, I suspect, is the point).

And the attention thing may be working. Currently the low-budget multifamily project in East Boston is leading, with 40.4% of the vote. I think, as much as I’d like to see the guys in Arlington Center, that it will be EaBo that wins.

Dogs in the strand


Last weekend Lisa and I took the dogs and the new hybrid back to Crane Beach for a late winter stroll along the beach. We were hoping to repeat the trip today, but where last Saturday was sunny and warm, today is sunny and hovering around freezing—not ideal beach weather.

Anyway, I brought the camera and took the first decent photos I’ve taken in a few months, including documentation of Joy’s first view of a horse as well as proof that she is a hyper little thing (see thumbnail, right).

(Incidentally, relative to my gripe last night, at least the FlickrExport people have made their nifty iPhoto plugin a universal one.)

Hmm. Or, the downside of Mac on Intel.

I have a very brief report on the quality of the PowerPC emulation layer (Rosetta) built into the new Intel based Macs, like the MacBook Pro. It’s good—it’s very good. I haven’t found any native Mac OS X apps that didn’t run correctly with it.

Except. There is a small catch, which is that plug-ins that are not written to support Intel based Macs won’t load if an application is started in Intel native mode. Apparently the Rosetta functionality only applies to the main process, not plug-ins. This means that productivity plug-ins like Keyword Assistant in iPhoto and (apparently) Sogudi, the search enabler for Safari, won’t work until new Intel versions are released.

Ah well. This has been a small price to pay. There have been Universal binary versions of other important Mac applications, such as MarsEdit 1.1.2 (with which I’m blogging this) and the public beta of NetNewsWire 2.1 that was released today. Now all I need is Office and I’m good to go.

Honestly, though, there have been enough pleasant surprises with the machine that I’m not going to complain at all. For one thing, Spotlight and the Dashboard work and are really fast. For another, so does Quicksilver. I finally see why Merlin thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread. It was unbearably slow to invoke or operate on my 1GHz, 512 MB PowerBook G4. Amazing what an extra half-gig of memory, 0.83 GHz of processor, plus a new processor architecture will do.

The elements of (online) Typographic Style

I’ve meant to blog The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web for quite a while but now (thanks to a sick day while I fight off the remnants of this cold) am finally getting around to it. The site is just what it says, a work in progress that takes each of the lessons of good typography in Robert Bringhurst’s classic Elements of Typographic Style and shows how to address them online. Some fairly advanced topics like kerning with CSS are covered, and the whole thing is pretty darned cool—and a beautiful site, as you would expect.

QTN™: Harpoon Oatmeal Stout (100 Barrel Series)

The Harpoon 100 Barrel series has been one of the bright lights on the local beer horizon here, with new experimental offerings every few months—a pretty bold step for a local micro-becoming-mini-brewer whose offerings used to be as predictable as the seasons (IPA and the UFO hefeweizen, mostly, with Munich Dark and Ale generally only available in multipacks, plus the Winter Warmer, Hibernian, Summer, and Oktoberfest available seasonally). In the past I’ve only reviewed the Scotch Ale (Wee Heavy) and the Alt, so it’s high time I added to the list. Fortunately Harpoon is helping out by reissuing their very first 100 Barrel offering, the Oatmeal Stout.

If Harpoon doesn’t add this to their standard line-up, they’re dumb. Not only is it a good beer, it’s a good oatmeal stout, a style that’s pretty damned hard to pull off. It’s malty with a touch of sweetness in the nose (even through my cold-stuffed sinuses). The mouthfeel is appropriately weighty without being overwhelming, and the overall impression is very very pleasing. Even Lisa, who feels about stout the same way that society matrons feel about someone passing gas in public, feels it’s an astoundingly good beer. If you are in the distribution area, snap it up before it goes away again.

A Batman Mag Porn Sot

mbta anagram map

That’s an anagram for “Boston T Anagram Map.” Some ingenious soul has anagrammed almost every T stop on the Boston MBTA on this handy map. Exceptions: most of the innumerable stops on the Green Line’s B and C branches, and Harvard, which rather than the lame “Hard Var” sports the rather spiffier name of “Yale.”

Note: This somehow got stuck and never published from three weeks ago, when anagrams of subway maps were hot.

GTD with Outlook Part III: A high level strategy

So far in my ongoing review of implementing the GTD methodology using Outlook XP, I’ve talked about using improved search to make your archives more useful and managing your task views. Today I’m going to take a step back, now that I’ve implemented most of the GTD workflow in my daily routine, and give a higher level picture of how everything has been implemented for me so far and what challenges remain. I will give an outline of my project list implementation but the details will wait for next time.

First: my new strategy to manage stuff in Outlook is simple. The inbox stays clear; I have a list of tasks from which I work on an ongoing basis, and a list of projects that I review daily for next actions. If I’m ever in a place where I can’t make a task note directly, I use my brand spanking new Hipster PDA (a stack of 3″x5″ index cards held together with a binder clip), and transfer any tasks to my task list when I get back to my desk. (The Hipster PDA is particularly useful at the breakfast table, on my bedstand, and other places where the computer should never be.)

That all sounds simple, but the devil is in the details. As I outlined last time, something as simple as how you view your tasks makes a big difference. And the really difficult part, as the GTD methodology attests, is keeping your task list clean and free of multistep projects, which are treated differently. The problem is that Outlook doesn’t provide a good form for project management. So I’ve been running with this recommendation from the Getting Things Done In Outlook page, which provides a modified contact form as a way to track projects together with a customized contact folder and view. Then I build out the project plan in the description field (or, if the project is to write something, I’ll brainstorm the outline right there), and click the “New Task for Contact” button to add the next action for the project to my task list. Doing that adds a link to the project form into the Contacts field at the bottom of the task list, and makes the task show up in the Activities tab of the project form.

So that’s all the major areas of GTD—except that there are a ton of additional details and neat features that I’ve glossed over. Next time I’ll talk about more task tips and tricks, including features in tasks that support the creation of deferred tasks.

Let’s Talk System 7

While I’m on tenterhooks about my new Mac hardware waiting at home, a quick shout to System7Today, a site about using your pre-G3 Apple hardware to its fullest extent. (Pointer via the Cult of Mac blog at Wired.)

The site makes the cogent point that nothing much useful happened in the Mac OS world between System 7.6.1 and Mac OS X (with, of course, the major exception of early Mozilla builds). I mean, if I recall correctly, the only reason they moved to Mac OS 8 rather than System 7.7 was a marketing decision that Apple needed to put the years of vaporware around Copland behind them. But at the time there was such hype for all the new features as they were released: QuickDraw GX! OpenDoc! Cyberdog! Open Transport! The Control Strip! All of which of course are deader than doornails now.

But I grew up with that OS. My first computer related job involved managing some Macs at NASA Langley, which I upgraded to System 7. I was so thrilled when I could run System 7 on my first Mac, an SE/30. I made the PowerPC jump in 1995 to a PowerPC 7200/90, which ran systems 7 through 9, and held onto it for five years until I got my PowerBook G3 (FireWire) The G3 ran Mac OS 9, dual-booted the Mac OS X public beta, and then ran Mac OS X 10.0 through 10.2. The G3 lasted three years until I got the 1GHz G4 TiBook that is my main machine today, and has so far been the only Mac on which I have never booted into Classic. Of course that won’t be an option at all with the MacBook Pro.

Life’s little ironies

I got a phone call from Lisa a few minutes ago that my MacBook Pro arrived this morning, one day ahead of the promised ship schedule and six days ahead of the originally projected delivery schedule. I’d love to be really excited about it but I can’t right now—my head is so stopped up that I can’t really think about it until I get home.

I’m also doing everything I can to keep my expectations realistic about how the experience will be with this machine, so I’m linking without comment to varying user reports at Macintouch about extra noise and possible display and networking issues. But there appear to be many more positive than negative reports about the machine, so I’ll throw out a gratuitous link to a set of MacBookPro unboxing pictures, for those of you that enjoy that sort of thing.

John Cale, blackAcetate

john cale blackacetate

John Cale is one of a handful of lesser known legends in music today. A founding member of the Velvet Underground, then a year later forced out of the group as the first professional victim of Lou Reed’s prodigious temper, he went on to a career as a producer (Nico, the Stooges, the Modern Lovers, Patti Smith’s Horses, Jennifer Warnes, Squeeze, the Happy Mondays, Jesus Lizard, the Mediæval Bæbes’ Undredtide) and guest musician (with appearances on albums by Nick Drake, Brian Eno, Gordon Gano, the Replacements, Super Furry Animals), as well as a prolific solo career (23 full length albums since 1970, plus 17 released and 15 unreleased movie soundtracks). The most consistent thing about Cale’s work is its unpredictability; as you might guess by looking at his producer or guest credits, his musical tastes span a wide range of genres, with the result that picking up a new John Cale record can be a little like rolling the dice. 1996’s Walking on Locusts was largely straight-ahead country-inflected pop with a few weird exceptions like “Crazy Egypt,” but 2003’s HoboSapiens is all over the map with its sounds and influences and reflects Cale’s fascination with ProTools.

All of which is to say that when I put Cale’s latest record blackAcetate into my CD player and then had to doublecheck to be sure that I wasn’t listening to Big Star, I wasn’t surprised. The lead-off track, “Outta the Bag,” features Cale’s rarely-heard falsetto over chugging horns and rhythm section, and sounds as though Cale spent a lot of time in Memphis during the session. “In a Flood” is a slowly smoldering evocation of the late summer Mississippi that sounds as if the early Cowboy Junkies were in the next studio. And “Gravel Drive” is a balladic evocation of domestic loss that is majestic in its sweep. The arrangements on most of the songs are a lot more organic than on the cut-and-paste HoboSapiens: there’s even some Prince-inflected funk on “Hush.” The common thread stitching the album together is Cale’s magnificent Welsh voice.

Not everything works on the album; “Sold-Motel” is a fairly uninspired rocker. “Woman” plays a rhythmic albeit tuneless verse over thin drum loops against a guitar-driven chorus with no real unity between the two parts. “Wasteland” is a frustrating ambient inflected tune that has some promising moments in the arrangement but doesn’t earn the grand climax it builds to at the end. But these are minor quibbles compared to the quality of the other tracks. On balance blackAcetate is a worthy addition to the Cale discography, an album that takes risks that more often than not pay off in spades.


Also posted at BlogCritics.