Post Election News–and Blues

From time to time, even though I call the Commonwealth of Massachusetts my home (for a while longer), I still have to check back in on my one-time home state, Virginia. What I found this morning surprised me.

The Democrats won the governorship in Virginia, but their slim grasp on minority was further eroded in the House of Delegates. Gilmore’s showdown with the GOP-controlled legislature over the budget probably helped Mark Warner win more than anything he did. The irony is, I’m betting Warner can do a better job of working with the Republican legislature than the GOP candidate would.

Actually, Warner’s victory was pretty remarkable. For a guy who’s never been elected to public office, he showed remarkable sensitivity to the views of the electorate. Correctly sensing that Northern Virginia voters would accept a tax increase to fix congested roads is only counterintuitive to someone who’s never lived there. At the same time, he apparently made a pretty successful appeal to the southwest of the state by calling it an “untapped resource” and playing up hunting, bluegrass, and NASCAR.

In other election news, Greg’s candidate is now in a runoff, ensuring his continuing lack of sleep for a little while longer. And I did not vote for the first time since 1990. Not for lack of good intentions, mind you. It’s just that we moved in the spring, I was gone all summer, and I’ve been running since I got back. I never got my voter registration updated to my new address. It’s no excuse: I feel worse about not exercising my right to vote than about anything I’ve done in about ten years. It’s a good lesson to learn, though–you have to make time for what’s important.

Things You Can’t Get Out of Your Head

Busy morning, but then which mornings aren’t?

Scary music flashback: “Here Comes the Rain Again,” by the Eurhythmics. I think I’ve only heard their performance about three times, but when I was at Virginia I heard one of the a cappella groups, the Virginia Belles, perform it about 500 times. I’m no longer worried about wearing out repertore with the E-52s.

Alarming visual of the day: Furniture rooftop quickies. Link courtesy Greg Greene, horrific brain scarring images courtesy Adam Pesapane’s production company PES. Both Virginia alums, of course.

Keep Greg in your thoughts. It’s election day and he’s working on an Atlanta campaign. Maybe after today he can get some sleep.

Light Blogging Day

Probably another light blogging day. I’ve gotten into the part of the semester where, despite my best efforts, every day is a fire drill.

Unfortunately I can’t post my current assignment to my blog–it’s too long and the subject matter (forgiveness vs. utilitarianist philosophy) is a little too far out to try to make work as blog matter. Maybe later I’ll figure out how to tie it all together.

Quick pointer: Esta talks about hooking my grandfather up on e-mail this morning. Esta’s always been better than I have about keeping family ties close, and this story shows why.


Update: I finally received my replacement power adapter (see the discussion of my fire hazard problem here). Fortunately my problem was in the AC cord and not the “yo-yo” itself. Apple made an incremental change to the adapter recently that rendered the plug incompatible with the receptacle on my PowerBook G3. However, the AC cord is compatible with my old yo-yo, and it’s charging merrily even as we speak. So to sum up: if your yo-yo is broken and it’s a model M7332, make sure you replace it with an adapter that’s designed for your G3. However, if it’s your AC cord, you can order either one and it will work.

Interestingly, both models are “Model M7332.” But the one that works with mine is manufactured by Delta Electronics in Thailand and the new one comes from Dongguan Samsung Electro-Mechanics.

Salmon Days

Light blogging day today. My workload at the end of the week is always unpredictable. Today I have more competitor research to do for my E-Lab company, to straighten out some things about getting paid for the curriculum development work I’m doing, and to start a paper that’s due on Monday.

One quick link: the Register is running a live TV show about the perils of tech support. It’s called Salmon Days, about the perils of days when you spend the whole day fighting for your life upstream against the current. The trailer is hysterical (though it contains lots of bad language and even some partial nudity). The best part? “It looks like you’re writing a letter!” “I’M NOT WRITING A ****ING LETTER!!!!”

More Beautiful as it Unfurled

Happy November!

I spoke too soon yesterday. This morning I noted that fully half of the trees in Government Center had started turning yellow.

I have to find another replacement power adapter for my PowerBook today. This is the second one that’s crapped out on me. The first, at the beginning of this year, had a cable break at the end that plugged in to the computer. This one has developed a short in the part of the power cord that plugs into the wall, near the “yo-yo.” (See this picture of the power adapter if the term yo-yo confuses.) It was actually kind of entertaining: a small flicker of white-blue light coming from under the yo-yo. When I saw what it was I unplugged it, but it had already burned through some of the outer strands of the gold wire inside the plastic.

Today’s music: “Sleep” by Mark Eitzel. I’m still mining all the artists whose stuff I heard on KEXP over the summer. An artist to listen to but not necessarily to sing along with. Lyrics to “Sleep” are less profound in print than sung, but from the equally brilliant “Christian Science Reading Room”:

I was so high
I stood for an hour outside the Christian Science Reading Room
And suddenly I could not resist
I became a Christian Scientist

Though in my days of gravity
The absolute measure of being free
I was so high
That I even scared the cat
And using the language of his tail
He said he had a vision: thousand-watt flags flying over my head
And then he hid under the bed
And his eyes were as big as bells
And suddenly he could not resist
And he became a Christian Scientist
And together we explored our world
And found it became more beautiful as it unfurled

Surrender to November

My website has a Seattle section; why doesn’t it have a Boston section? I’ll pull one together pretty soon, but the plain truth is that Boston isn’t so new to me the way Seattle was.

Still, every now and then I find things that make me think about the city. Every morning on my way to school I walk through the plaza at Government Center. It’s a big brick and concrete bowl that has an amphitheatre area, a stage, an assembly plaza, and a bunch of other stuff in it. The plaza drops something like two stories from Congress Street down to Faneuil Hall. It’s surrounded by large civic and commercial buildings–City Hall in particular, winning my award for ugliest concrete monstrosity this side of the FBI Building. From the base near City Hall it can look a little like the amphtitheatre at Siena through which the palio runs, but without the cafes, shops, and good architecture that distinguish that space. Most days it’s just a place to rush through, though sometimes during the summer you see people eating lunch there.

The irony is that until the 1960s the place was pretty happening, though in an unsavory kind of way. Scollay Square (warning: cheesy music at that link) was notorious for being an area of ill repute–prostitution and other kinds of crime were apparently pretty common, as well as less illegal but still fairly disreputable entertainment like the tassel twirling Sally Keith…

But there’s still some life in the place. You just have to know where to look for it. In the days after the crash, people gathered for vigils and prayer services. Every third day or so the news trucks roll to the back of the plaza to support the crews who cover City Hall. There are always vendors hawking papers right outside the doors of the T station, sometimes in song as the Boston Globe guy was this morning.

The thing that struck me most this morning, though, was the trees. At this point in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, most of the trees are either in the last spasms of their fall colors or have lost their leaves entirely. This morning, though, I looked up into a crown of green around the rim of the bowl of the former Scollay Square. It seemed to be saying to me, Don’t rush. Enjoy the end of the green while it lasts.

Today’s music: “See Jane” by Shannon Worrell, a Charlottesville musician who I first saw play in the Corner Grill in 1993 and who I always thought had the potential to go the distance. (Unfortunately her deal with the record label The Enclave folded when EMI was in its mid-90s throes and she fell off the map.)

Trees half turning
One branch in summer, another one burning
Can’t decide to stay
Can’t decide to stay
Or surrender to November

Good reading: The Fear of the Radical Alien: Boston Italians Between the World Wars. A really fascinating study of the culture of the North End that ties in Sacco and Vanzetti as well as the impact of multiple waves of immigration.

Boomerang Year

I started writing this weblog this summer while I was in Seattle for an internship between my years at MIT Sloan. At the time, I thought the stay in Seattle would be just a summer, and I didn’t know when I’d return.

Now I know. Yesterday I signed an offer from the company I worked for this summer. I’ll be returning to the Seattle area after graduation.

It’s good, but strange, to have a semester and a half left of school and not have to worry about recruiting. Many of my friends have been in full blown panic job search mode since mid summer, when they found out from their investment banking or consulting firms that they wouldn’t receive offers after their internships ended. And our career development office calls us “unmotivated.” What gall. Would you line up to interview with a banking firm knowing it had turned down ten of your very gifted friends after a summer internship, just so that they could boast that they turned away one hundred applicants for each of the two vacancies they did have?

The CEO of DoubleClick spoke to one of my classes yesterday via videoconference. He stated he thought that there wouldn’t be a recovery until third or fourth quarter next year. “This is the worst year to have graduated with an MBA in the US, ever,” according to Chuck Lucier, the “chief growth officer” of Booz, Allen & Hamilton (as quoted in the Financial Times). And I’ll be moving to the other coast with a job. Mixed emotions abound.

Today’s music? In Metal, by Low:

Partly hate to see you grow
And just like your baby shoes
Wish I could keep your little body
In metal

Man of Visions, Job of Nightmares

A very nice weekend. We were here in cold New England watching leaves change and drinking bad microbrew. It went from the low seventies to the mid forties over a two-day period. Lots of fun for the sinuses.

I was really sad to hear that “Man of Visions” Rev. Howard Finster, folk artist and (improbably) rock album cover artist, had passed away. The coverage of this event on SonicNet was one of the sadder pieces of journalism I’ve seen, though. No definition of why he was important: just “known to rock audiences for paintings that appear on the covers of …” Surely he deserved more respect. Any man capable of producing images like the cover of Little Creatures (below) was clearly more than just a “cover artist.”

The cover of the Talking Heads <i>Little Creatures</i> album, by the Rev. Howard Finster (1916-2001).

And now for something … horrible

I refuse to say anything about this link, except that it puts the struggles for jobs that my classmates and I are experiencing into stunning perspective:

“Is that…?” we asked gingerly.
“It’s not soya bean,” replied Mr. Binatang grimly.
“Isn’t it dangerous?” we asked. Mr. Binatang was silent for a
while.
“They know I’m not there as an enemy,” he finally said…

Recurring Revenue

Today is going to be a good day. To quote whoever that guy was in Beck’s “Loser”: “I’m a driver, I’m a winner. Things are gonna change, I can feel it.” Thanks for the kind thoughts about the midterm yesterday. I think it went pretty well.

Today is a day for me to catch up. I have a ton of stuff to write for a project I’m doing on web services. It’s a pretty good team of folks: two technical Sloanies (including myself) and two MIT undergrads. One guy interned at Lotus; I was at another big software company this summer. Our mission: Where are the money making opportunities around web services? And are any of them sustainable as business models?

Originally I thought we were going to have some challenges in quantifying some of the more novel parts of the value chain. Then I saw this article about Microsoft’s rates for programmers to incorporate Hailstorm (also known as .NET My Services). What I find interesting is that these rates are much higher than the previous cost of entry for writing for Microsoft’s platforms, which was the license fee for a copy of Visual Basic. Apparently software as a service means billing the developers annually, not just the users.

I think this may fragment the development community. There are a lot of small developers who do this stuff for love, not money, who won’t be able to pay $1000 a year to include the My Services functionality. There are probably a lot of large developers who are prepared to ante up, but it’s not just large developers who make a platform. Where would the Windows platform be without WinZip or WinAmp or any of a dozen other indispensible software products?

Except. .NET is a software web services platform. And maybe the assumption is that providing a billable service requires a certain size of developer — and that the small developers won’t need to play on the platform. Somehow I don’t think that’s right.

Perspective

“What!” you cry. “No words about the Windows XP launch?”

Well, I have a midterm exam today, so in lieu of a real update I present this short note courtesy of the Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia. I’m not just a user; I’m also an alum.

From Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle:

He was working in the steaming pit of hell; day after day, week after week — until now, there was not an organ of his body that did its work without pain, until the sound of ocean breakers echoed in his head day and night, and the buildings swayed and danced before him as he went down the street.

And here I’m complaining about a finance midterm.

A Prolusion on PDA Proliferation

Cell phones: Finally giving up on my old Motorola StarTac. It did well for me for a few years, but a year in MIT Sloan of running out of battery before 6 pm every day (even with frequent recharging) and of having no signal all the time made me decide there’s got to be a better way.

The Nokia 3360 it is, then. It comes with what should be an obvious feature to everyone–infrared and the capability to send and receive name and phone number information from my Palm. Does it have WAP? No, but I’ve not yet seen a convincing demonstration of why I would need to access the Internet from my cell phone (although my page does support WAP access).

Device proliferation. All these devices coming out–like the iPod. Single purpose devices can be pretty cool if done well. What constitutes “done well” for me? Well, not duplicating functionality with another device I have is a start. Playing nicely with my other equipment, sharing information…

About the title: browsing the OED today (sorry, subscription required), I came across prolusion: “A literary production intended as a preliminary dissertation on a subject which the author intends to treat more fully; a preliminary essay or article; a slight literary production.” As for the first definition, that describes a lot of my writing about technology, especially web services. As for the last definition: boy, that’s this weblog all over.

A note about this page for people who browse weblogs.com: normally I write the story offline then publish it (using my Applescript tool) to the weblog, then if it looks good I promote it to the home page. Apparently that isn’t enough to register that the front page of my web log has changed on weblogs.com. Time to talk to Dave…

Dumber Than a Box of Hammers?

UPDATE 1:45 PM EDT: A few links are surfacing that are pretty authentic about Apple’s new digital device, the iPod: a Firewire capable, ultraslim, hard disk based digital music player. Plus version 2 of my favorite Mac application, iTunes… Here’s the MacCentral coverage. Finally Apple’s page on the device is up. And you can get it at the Apple store.


First things first: a prayer request for an old family friend, Berkeley Brandt, who (as reported by Esta) suffered a stroke over the weekend–he’s 30 with a wife and two children.

In less sad news, as pointed out by my fellow Virginia alum Tim Fox, there are still drunken confrontations aplenty in Charlottesville. Of particular note:

According to police, as the students rounded the apartment building, they heard the sound of a weapon being racked. At this time they saw Dixon who pointed a long gun at them and said, “Boy where you going? I’ll f—ing shoot you.”

Some students fled at the sight of the weapon. Others, thinking Dixon only held an air gun, stood their ground, some pulling shirts over their faces for protection, and told him to go ahead and fire, police said.

A few of us were discussing this on an email list. I put forward the question, “were the fraternity kids in question [Douglas] Adams fans or just dumber than a box of hammers??” Fortunately for all of us Erik Simpson knew the answer to that:

First, the lads were not Douglas Adams fans. They could not answer even the most basic questions about Mr. Adams or his work. That part was easy.

Ha-HA! you say. They are therefore dumber than a box of hammers!

That, it turns out, is only partially true. We know, aswim as we are in the most enlightened notions of our day, that we cannot rank the intelligence of people (or groups of fraternal Wahoos or boxes of hammers) on a simple linear scale. We must instead evaluate multiple, independent kinds of intelligence.

First, you should know that Mr. Jarrett’s box of hammers, which I found in the back closet of his trendy Cambridge pad, is a rough-hewn pine box, about 18 inches by 12 by 8, and it contiains five hammers ranging from a tiny plastic toy hammer to a large Craftsman (TM) carpenter’s claw-headed job. The others are a ball-peen hammer, an artist’s mallet, and a small jeweler’s hammer. The specific identities of the fraternal Wahoos are much less important, of course, because they’re all pretty much the same. Statistically speaking.

Given the story about the gun and the T-shirts, you would probably guess that the hammers outstrip the Wahoos in spatial/mechanical intelligence. Boy, do they. In that area, even the tiny plastic toy hammer proved vastly more intelligent than all of the Wahoos. The only category the hammers dominated more convincingly was that of emotional intelligence.

The Wahoos, however, proved marginally more adept than their inanimate counterparts at answering basic math problems. They also demonstrated significantly larger vocabularies (when asked the right sort of questions, at any rate), and they generally carried the day in visual memory and musical aptitude as well. A prominent exception: none of the Wahoos could carry a tune like the ball-peen hammer.

I could go on, but you get the picture: in the specific kind of intelligence at work in the story, yes, the students involved were clearly dumber than Mr. Timothy O. Jarrett’s box of hammers, and the difference meets all standards of statistical significance. Overall, however, we can only say that the hammers and the Wahoos have different strengths and weaknesse. If anything, the students are on the whole roughly *as dumb* as the box of hammers but not demonstrably dumber. And we should point out that–as we would all expect–Mr. Timothy O. Jarrett’s box of hammers is remarkably bright as boxes of hammers go.

Rock Solid OS, Jell-O Economy

Glenn Fleischman wrote this review of Mac OS X 10.1.

I’ve already posted my thoughts about the upgrade, but it’s worth repeating. Mac OS X 10.1 is my everyday operating system. At any given time I’m running half a dozen apps — Mozilla, TextEdit, iTunes, Word Test Drive, GraphicConverter, Palm Desktop, Excel, OmniOutliner, Mail and/or Eudora — and it’s been smooth. That’ s not taking account of the ssh server, Postgres SQL server, and streaming audio server that are running (generally unused) in the background. Last night I watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” in a window while I did some email and web surfing — the other activities were a little slower but the DVD didn’t drop any frames. Very cool.

Life Without Wheels

We’re going to try living without a car for a while starting in December. It’s not like it’s a totally new concept for us, since we have mostly been walking or using public transportation since we got here. But now we won’t have a safety net.

I’ve been thinking about trying Zipcar. We did a project on them for my marketing class, but if anyone out there has experience with them, I’d appreciate hearing it.

Dot-Com Love in the Time of Cholera

It’s an interesting time to be involved in entrepreneurial classes and organizations (like e-MIT). There’s a huge article in the New York Times this morning about the withering away of venture capital. It echoes things I’ve heard before. We had a senior executive from Softbank visit last spring. He had interesting things to say about his job, like coming home and having to tell his kids that they pulled the plug on Kozmo.com. Like I said last week–lots of heartbreak all around.

A little too late to make the early edition–this brilliant article at Textism going a lot farther than I did about some of the insanity of the last three years. “You, sir, are irrelevant, irrelevant, irrelevant.”

Speaking in Tongues and other stuff

Update 12:15 PM: I’m a little behind in pointing to this, but I was ahead in saying it was a bad idea. When I visited Intel in January 2001, a few of us asked why Intel was in the business of making consumer MP3 players. The answer we got? “Well, we’re a really large supplier of memory chips, and this is a critical application for them.” Unsurprisingly, Intel has now announced it would phase out this product line. No “I told you so’s” from me. 🙂


Trying to be productive this morning. It’s hard. I picked up the Episode 1 DVD last night and I want nothing more than to go home and fall asleep watching it.

Some random links: Dave is the recipient of the top Wired Rave Award, the Tech Renegade Award, for his work on SOAP. I won’t argue–in terms of my blog’s hit count alone, Dave’s certainly been the most influential person around. Plus I’m working on a major project with MIT Sloan‘s Center for E-Business around the industry in web services that SOAP helped to start.

The white powder that was found in an envelope by an MIT lecturer in Foreign Languages and Literature tested negative for anthrax.

If language is a virus, is it contagious?

The Tin Man has a good comments string running from Wednesday’s post about journalism. Most of them are about his use of the word “y’all.”

Aside: I’ve been gathering unusual words and expressions from the North Carolina side of my family. I never thought much about the colorful language that they used until my undergrad years. Then I read in the excellent liner notes to the Robert Johnson boxed set that Johnson’s term friend-boy in “Cross Road Blues” was a typical Mississippi Delta expression meaning simply friend. “Gee, I thought, “my uncle says that all the time.” I came to realize that my family’s language placed them solidly in the unique linguistic history of the South.

Some other words and phrases:

pert
(pron. “peert”) for “pretty”
It was so good, my tongue like to beat my brains out.
(said about food)
He’s a good businessman. If you shake hands with him, you better
  • count your fingers.
  • Put your money in your mouth and sew your tongue up tight.
pottymule
[v. intransitive] – to do nothing constructive. Generally used as “to pottymule around.” See also “blogging.”

Nostalgia in Tweed

Today was the first day I broke out my tweed jacket. Jim’s ex-girlfriend used to say that she knew when fall arrived, because I would be wearing my tweed. It’ll only be in the fifties today, so I suppose this counts as fall.

The tweed was a souvenir from our trip to Ireland a few years ago. We bought it in a small shop down the road from the town of Ardara. [Heh: I said “small shop,” but they have a web page. Then again, so do I]. The fall there was much more dramatic even than New England, as I think this illustrates:

As always, fall brings with it insanely busy times. This has been one of them. The week is almost done, thank goodness.

Enough. Working now.