Blogdentity crisis

In the beginning of my tenth year of blogging I find myself thinking more and more about what my blog is for.

In the early part of the decade I thrived on reading blogs, because no one else that I knew was doing it and no one else knew what was going on. The tech press was moribund, though it didn’t know it, and all the interesting stuff was happening on people’s blogs. My blog was a voice among that group.

To a certain extent that’s still true, except that a lot of the blogs that I read now aren’t “people’s blogs.” Oh, there are exceptions: Jon Gruber’s Daring Fireball is certainly one strong individual voice, and so is Dave Winer’s Scripting News (which never really stopped being an individual voice). But others are collections of writers with an editorial voice. And they are always, mercilessly, on topic.

I don’t think I could keep this blog “on topic” if I tried. Bad enough that I have three or four topics (Glee Club history, singing with the TFC, listening to music, software industry stuff, product management) that I can’t quit, but I can’t imagine making the blog all about any of them. I know I lose readers that way, but what am I to do? This blog is just about me, not about me the product manager or me the software business theorist, or me the singer.

And sometimes that makes it that much harder to write. Like yesterday: a bunch of things at the office that I can’t blog about, a sick kid, a short TFC rehearsal. Not much blogging matter there. So I missed a day. Part of what made blogging fun before was always thinking about things that I could blog about. I need to get back into that habit.

Grab bag: iBooks and two annoying things

Glee Club president search

Over at the Virginia Glee Club Wiki, I’ve embarked on a mini-project-within-a-project, trying to find and list as many presidents of the Glee Club as possible. So far, we’ve got 37 presidents named, including five whose last names begin with M and a full nine Bs. (Still working on getting a representative set of data to see if those distributions are skewed.)

In the meantime, you can help a VMHLB brother out by identifying any presidents who are missing. There is definitely some low hanging fruit–I’m missing many from the 1980s and late 1990s and almost all of them from the 2000s, for instance. Even better is if you have any other officer names from those years. Just leave a comment on this page, or–even better–put ’em in the wiki yourself.

Update: Thanks to Frank Albinder’s contributions, we now are up to 44 presidents, filling in most of the 2000s.

My first Pops Independence Day concert

This Fourth of July will be a first for me. After five years of membership in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, I’ve hit the big time. Bigger than singing with James Levine? With Sir Colin Davis? With Renée Fleming? Maybe. I’ll be singing my first Fourth of July concert with the Boston Pops, as a member of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

I don’t know yet whether I’ll be on stage, but I think just being there at the Hatch Shell on the Fourth is going to be reward enough. I grew up with local Independence Day concerts at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, but even I knew that the Boston July 4th was The Real Deal. But somehow I missed my opportunity the last time the TFC performed with the Pops, and for a few years they haven’t sung.

But now–the year of the 125th anniversary of the Pops, and the 40th anniversary of the TFC–I’ll be there. You can even watch me on local TV — though, alas, not the national broadcast, as all our numbers will be in the first half of the show. But if you’re in the Boston area, set your DVRs!

On being on the Business Blogs list on

For about the past week, my blog has been linked from the Business page of Which is odd, because this isn’t really a business blog. Sometimes I write about technology strategy, occasionally about marketing; frequently about product management. But you’re just as likely to find posts about music, or turning 40, or the history of a 140-year-old singing group here.

So in the interests of truth in advertising: if you want all business writing all the time, better check somewhere else. If you don’t mind coming in on the middle of nine years of my writing about things that catch my attention: welcome.

Things that make you feel old

I have a few more years before I cross the rubicon of 40, and I don’t spend much time dwelling on that approaching milestone. And yet, there are days…

Today, it wasn’t observing the greying roots in the mirror, or wishing another friend well as they turned 40. No, it was paging through the second volume (1982-1984) of the collected Bloom County, snickering at strips that I first read when I was ten…

Then reading the margin notes and finding Breathed apologizing for the obscurity of all the pop culture references. All of which I remember just fine, since I was there.

Ah well. As Binkley says to Milo when asked if Adam and Eve had navels: “Well, YOU can just rock me to sleep tonight!”

Grab bag: new technology roundup

Upgrade day: iOS 4.0 (with iTunes 9.2), WordPress 3.0

For reasons best known to my shrink (maybe I wasn’t exposed to enough risk as a child?), I decided to tackle two major upgrades yesterday. Of course iOS 4.0 was released yesterday, so I had to get multi-tasking working; but WordPress 3.0 was also released last Thursday and I figured it was time to check that out. In the process of doing the iOS upgrade, there was also an incidental iTunes upgrade. Of the three, guess which one was the most problematic?

WordPress 3.0 went absolutely smoothly in manual install mode. I haven’t been able to use auto updates because my FTP user does not have the WordPress directory as its home directory, but manual installs have generally worked well for me. I reviewed the sample wp_config.php file, updated a few parameters that had been added in the recent past, then copied all the other files over. A db upgrade later and everything was up and running. The downer of WP 3.0 is that most of the features are available through new theme capabilities, and the author of my theme appears to have left WP theme development in favor of the preacher’s life. Best of luck, Armen, and if you ever revive the Excel theme let me know. In the meantime, it looks like I have to learn how to hack themes to take advantage of flexible menus and some of the other new features.

Now iOS and iTunes 9.2 is another story. I hadn’t remembered to do the 9.2 update over the weekend, so I was prompted partway into the iOS 4.0 installation. I had to step back and do that install first, then restart iTunes. And of course, somehow, iTunes lost my music directory location again (I keep all my iTunes files on a NAS since I have much more music than will fit on my MacBook Pro’s HD). I don’t know why it decided that I had my library back in the default location, but it did, and it spent a half hour rebuilding my library file only to lose all the file locations. I had to change the location and rebuild again, and only then was I able to do the sync. In spite of the multiple rebuilds, iTunes was still confused about the location of some files, and it took another restart of iTunes to fix the problem.

By comparison the iOS 4.0 upgrade was a piece of cake. Everything about the phone seems snappier now. Multitasking and folders work as advertised; I like the new iBooks reader (though it’s much slower on initial start than the Kindle App or Classics); and it was a kick to see a photo of my daughter (my normal wallpaper) behind all the home screen icons.

But there was one big glitch. For some reason, name server resolution stopped working through my VPN. The VPN was working, and I was able to find my Exchange server and other resources by IP address, but there were definitely some frustrating moments this morning as I tried to get everything working. I really hope that that was a transient glitch, or this new OS is not going to work out too well for me.

Grab bag: Bored, bundling, book-scribbles

Father’s Day 2010

I’m a relatively new father; my daughter is 3 and a half. So I can perhaps be forgiven my surprise at enjoying Father’s Day as much as I did this year.

When I was growing up, I didn’t really understand what Father’s Day was all about. I always felt lame with the poor excuses for gifts or cards I would find for my dad. After all, how do you put “you made me who I am” in a card and have it mean something? And how do you provide a gift that acknowledges the magnitude of that debt, even slightly?

Based on my experience yesterday, I guess the answer is: you just relax and enjoy it. I think the best parts of yesterday were the dedicated hours I spent with my daughter as she helped me sort through the pieces of her gift to me and put it together. Or sweating together at the playground until we made the happy mutual discovery that the ice cream truck sold bottled water. Or having her ask for a bite of my steak at dinner.

The nice thing about Father’s Day is that, when it’s good, you don’t have to do anything to make it a happy Father’s Day. You just have to be.

Grab bag: Cocoa Flash Player, WordPress 3.0 and other geekery