Single Sign-In

Interesting reading today. AOL is now promoting its Screen Name Service as a single sign-in across multiple services and web sites. Sound familiar?

Single sign-in. Hard to believe as an end user that this is the next killer app that Microsoft and AOL are going to fight over. After all, isn’t instant messaging more important? Certainly to the end user it is…

But that may be the issue. It’s hard to make a case that single sign-in is a compelling technology for the end user. But it’s also hard to make the case that instant messaging has much of a business case around it, except as a feature that compels vendor platform loyalty. IM buys lock-in as long as IM platforms are proprietary and don’t interoperate. But it doesn’t do anything else for the platform vendor except drive a lot of headaches. Look at the collapse of the MSN messenging service a few weeks ago–an expensive public relations nightmare from something that doesn’t drive revenue. And I hesitate to think how much AOL spends on revving their protocol and platform so all the AOL clones out there break every month or two.

So what’s compelling about single sign-in for Microsoft and AOL? Microsoft’s Passport, as part of its Hailstorm services, is a big cornerstone of the .NET platform of value added services they’re rolling out on top of SOAP. It’s the authentication part of .NET — and the information store. You keep your information (as much of it as you want) in the service, and you have discretion about how other sites access it. AOL’s service is much the same.

There are some important differences between the services, or at least the way that they’re being rolled out. AOL’s sign-in services are limited to web sites; the Hailstorm service is supposed to be accessible across multiple devices, including Stinger, PocketPC, and the Xbox (I suppose for online gaming, although it might be useful for online registration too).

I think Microsoft is thinking bigger than AOL on this one. It’s already a few steps ahead. While it’s not clear how a web site can use AOL’s Screen Name Service to drive revenues, besides gaining customer loyalty, Microsoft’s got a whole new platform waiting in the wings that businesses can take advantage of to offer value added services to customers once they’ve signed in with Passport. Think all the wireless carriers, for instance, will turn down an opportunity to make additional revenue per subscriber? You haven’t been looking at their financial statements.

Dave Winer thinks that single sign-in is important too. His model places membership data in the cloud–allowing multiple players to host the information. I’ve heard that language from Microsoft too. Dave wants to take the work that AOL and others have done and unify it behind a common XML-RPC/SOAP interface. Here’s the $64 (million) question: is it enough to interoperate? Can distributed membership and preferences get enough momentum to become the de facto standard?

Eventually standard wars end. We are, for all intents and purposes, in a one-browser, one-client-OS world (although I use other browsers and other OSes, I’m not statistically significant). That happened because of the compelling benefits of being on one platform. I think single sign-in is going to be a major battle in the war for the next Internet platform.

Who do you want to see your secrets today?

Found Clay Shirky’s article on Hailstorm again. Six weeks later, it’s still a good article on the technology and the issues from a non-Microsoft developer’s perspective. I’d challenge his last section on page 3. Maybe they aren’t tying Hailstorm to the client as deeply as they have in the past. But what about the server?

Today’s essay: Single Sign-In. I’m starting to think harder about this whole single sign-in thing. I don’t know whether it looks more like a format war or a business model war, or just a land grab.

Q: What do common sign-in on the Internet and Katharine Graham’s funeral have in common? A: This man.

Change in format today: I’m going to start to post big long articles like last Thursday’s piece on Apple in a separate place. Cleaner and easier for the short attention span crowd. In return, I’ll update the home page more frequently and post small tidbits during the day. It’s more true to the blog style, but it’s also the only way I can keep the site current. Five minute updates are a little bit easier to do than one hour essays.

Have you seen “Where do you want to go today?” recently? Seems to have disappeared from Microsoft’s ads and online presence.

More or Less Back to Normal

Eudora Welty has died at age 92…

Things are just about back to normal here. Starting early this Friday, I got a bunch of hits (2000 pageviews and counting, up from a normal baseline of 30-40 for a really good article) to the site from MacInTouch and Scripting News readers, looking at my article on SOAP and XML-RPC in Mac OS X 10.1. I think that I scared most of them off from returning with Friday’s piece, though.

For the record, this site isn’t about the Mac, or travelling, or Seattle. It’s more about me and what I’m going through. So you can expect to see me ramble on about a number of topics at any given time. I do recognize, however, that people reading the site may want a little more structure than that. So I’ve added some links in the Navigation area that pull together stories on topics about which I tend to write more frequently. If you’re interested in this site just for one of those topics, you can now bookmark the topic page of your choice. If you don’t mind reading all my chaos, by all means come back to the home page.

Seattle Update

This Saturday I got really sore. I probably should have learned my lesson after last weekend’s exercise in pain management. I was back in Lake Union again on Saturday, this time kayaking with the other MBA interns at my company. We went a little further in the kayaks than I did before in the rowboat. If you look at this map (provided by the Moss Bay Rowing and Kayaking Center, who rented us the canoes), we started at the point marked with the cross and paddled around to a point near the Museum of History and Industry, then back. It was an overcast day, so I was spared the utter blistering sunburn I should have had after three hours on the open water without sunscreen. But I did really pull something in my right arm, so that even today I’m finding it hard to lift anything heavy, move my fingers, or apply a lot of pressure with my hand.

Sunday was a little more painless: I attended Bite of Seattle with a few friends. I was a little apprehensive, but it turned out to be a much better event than similar ones I’ve attended in Washington, DC and other places. The food was much better (although I still got a little sick on something I ate) and the crowds were less crazy. I did get sunburned on Sunday, but not too badly.


Quick note: Good funny criticism of yesterday’s article on Jim Roepke’s site: How to bury an important article about an important announcement that was buried by Apple.

So, evolution: This is a note in two parts. Part is from my writing side and part is from my technical side. You can read one and skip the other if you choose.

The Writer’s View

I used to write quite a lot. When I was in high school, I wrote really bad poetry and science fiction. In college, I wrote marginally readable poetry, humor, and music reviews, as well as a lot of English papers on Beowulf and 20th century poets.

Then I graduated and moved to Northern Virginia to work as a consultant, and something changed. I still wrote a lot, but now it was code. Eventually I started documenting the software. Then I started writing design and requirements specs for the software. Then technical support documents. Toward the end, I wrote a lot of technical architecture documents, documenting technical approaches for the other members of my team. But I didn’t write anything for myself.

I also started my own web site a few years ago. Originally I hosted it using Personal Web Sharing on my old 90-MHz Power Mac. It was slow but it worked. But most of the content was static on my site and I updated it only about every six months.

I went to school and moved my static web site to an MIT server. It was more useful now — it could reliably be accessed by other people and had my resume on it. But I still only made changes about every two months. And writing for it was still pretty painful.

This summer I remembered this site that I started on a few years before. I was lonely and aimless most nights after work. I decided to start trying to write a couple of times every week. And a funny thing happened: writing got easier and my writing got better. It’s like anything else, you have to practice.

The Technical/Platform View

I built my first personal web site with Frontier, which I admired for its depth as a programming system. I still found it to be a bit difficult as a content management system for the Web, though (open up the software, write a story, publish the web site. Make a change to the template and iterate a few dozen times until it looks right — this one is an especially slow process on a 90 MHz system).

When I got to MIT, I couldn’t run Frontier on Athena (the custom Unix system that’s the academic computing environment at MIT), so I rebuilt the static web site using Adobe’s GoLive and threw it up on an MIT server. GoLive is a nice product. It feels like PageMaker for the web — and by that I mean the recent, industrial strength PageMaker product, not the one that everyone used to make crappy newsletters in the late 80s that looked heinous. You can do some really nice web design using GoLive and it will view reasonably well across multiple browsers. But it’s not a content management system and it’s hard to update frequently unless you’ve got a live wired connection all the time.

Then I came back to this site that I started a few years ago as a lark. Being able to add a new page through my browser, anywhere, turned out to be the killer app. There are other people who have known this for a few years (Manila’s been around for a while), but it took me a while to get the time to mess around with it enough to appreciate its value. Why was doing this important? There are browsers everywhere. When I had an idea to write about something, I could find a browser and sit down and write about it. Practice, practice, practice.

What’s next? Well, I like Manila for editing a web site but sometimes it gets in my way too much. To load a new page, I have to press a button, wait for another page to load, press another button, type or paste in my text, and save. I like Radio Userland but I don’t really want to lug a client that full featured around all the time. Sometimes like now I just want to write a piece in a text editor. But cut & paste doesn’t feel cool. What about a piece in the system that takes my writing out of BBEdit or TextEdit and just throws it up to the web page without my having to open a browser or Radio? It’s possible with SOAP and XML-RPC, and with the system frameworks in OS X.

One of the things I’ve learned this summer is that you can make a big difference in people’s lives if you’re willing to work with them where they want to work. I think SOAP and XML-RPC are what gets us there from a software perspective. And that kind of integration makes it easier for someone like me to keep practicing and keep updating.

Searching this Site

Okay, so the info below is interesting, but largely out of date. Here’s what you need to know about searching this site:

  • I use Google search. Google indexes the site pretty aggressively.
  • Google has search results for both my new and old domains. Because of some configuration issues, you won’t get a radio button for my old domain in the search results in Google. I’m working on it.
  • I’ve added Feedster search, but until I get a way to give them one honkin’ massive RSS feed with all my old posts from 2001, it only finds posts from about April 2003 onward. But it does provide results sorted by date!

Yesterday I tried to add Google Search to my web site.

There were some issues.

For one thing, as I noted, the graphic caused IE to flag my site for a privacy violation. For another, it turns out that Google indexes this site so infrequently that none of my newer content is available. So while it may be a kick that my copies of Lee Keath’s Hoover strips with Reggie Aggarwal show up really high in Google, it doesn’t help the site’s users.

Fortunately, the good folks at UserLand who built Manila (the software that serves this site) also built an open search engine for this server. So the site has been indexed by this search engine all along. Now I’ve added an input link to allow you to use that search engine to find my site.

The only thing I’d like to fix is that the search results take you to their page, which is a little jarring (different look and feel). But it works.

For a while I’ve been looking at my referral logs and have been amused by the number of referrals for various keywords that I’ve seen. The list below is mostly for my information as I track the referral hits, but you may find it interesting. Unless otherwise noted, all referrals are from Google.

Apple: How to bury an important announcement

A lot of people, Steve Jobs probably among them, were disappointed in today’s MacWorld keynote address. Lackluster new iMacs and another two months for Mac OS X 10.1 (including DVD playback and speed boost) were the “highlights.”

But Dave Winer pointed out something very important I missed (primarily because I joined the webcast after it had been announced. Give me a break, it started at 6 am PDT): Apple will embed SOAP and XML-RPC in Mac OS X and make it accessible through AppleScript.

Why is this so important?

Someday I’ll write a good description of what a major turning point XML-RPC represents. For now, the best way to describe it is this: It’s a universal protocol that works over the web that describes how applications talk to one another. It’s the basis on which this web server and the engine I use to edit it operate. As SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), it’s the basic syntax that Microsoft is using throughout their .NET initiative.

It’s the most important thing on the Internet since HTML. HTML allowed people to share information easily and enabled people to get connected to each other on the Internet. Just as HTML described how to allow people to access information in an intuitive, graphical way, so XML-RPC describes how to allow different computer programs to talk to each other across the Internet. It’s scalable and robust, it’s an emerging standard. And Apple is baking it into the OS at a very low level.

Microsoft’s vision for .NET is information access any time you need it, on any device, in any format. Dave Winer’s vision, along with the other folks working with him on XML-RPC, is the same, only they want the core services to be distributed across the community rather than all running in Redmond. And Apple wants its Mac users to be able to use AppleScript, its intuitive programming language, to wire programs running in Mac OS X to web services speaking SOAP and XML-RPC anywhere on the Internet.

Why is this important? Because this is where the next generation of killer apps will live. Bill Gates thinks so: he’s staked the future of Microsoft on it. And Steve and the gang have taken that bet and ensured that Mac users won’t be left behind.

So am I mad at Apple after the keynote today? Yes, but not because of hardware or because I have to dual-boot into OS 9 to watch DVDs until September. I’m mad at Steve because he spent time in the keynote showing screensavers and talking about the megahertz myth instead of articulating why this is so important. It’s something that’s hard to demo, but I guarantee this will make more of a difference to your life as a Mac user than the hardware will.

Email bulletins working (really)

No life stories today, just a site update. I’ve hacked some of the back end of the web site so that I can get the site sent out by email. If you want to start receiving site updates via email so you don’t have to point your web browser at the site all the time (and yes, I know the site goes out from time to time), go to your preferences and toggle the switch that says you want to receive email bulletins.

More Navigation

Update: I’ve put together a couple pages that highlight some sets of stories that make sense together. So far there are two: a batch of travel related stories I wrote last year, and a page that pulls together the stories that have more or less to do with my time in Seattle in the summer of 2001. You can get to them from the Navigation area on the left hand side of all the pages.

Hopefully this starts to address some of the navigation challenges imposed by the “calendar” format of the site, and to make some of the writing on the site a little more discoverable. Let me know if you like the change.

All Wet, or Sleepless in Seattle

My wife was visiting for much of the last week. We were determined to get the best experience out of my time in Seattle that we could. Saturday we decided that we would branch out from microbrews, Pike Place Market, and salmon and check out some of the other pleasures that the area has to offer. We decided to start with the water.

Seattle is surrounded by water. To the west is Elliott Bay, which opens into Puget Sound. To the east is Lake Washington. And around the periphery are dozens of smaller lakes. One in particular, Lake Union, divides Seattle proper from its northern suburbs, Ballard, Fremont, and Wallingham, as well as the University of Washington (known locally as U-dub). Lake Union has a couple of things to recommend it: houseboats (it’s the supposed site of Tom Hanks’ home in Sleepless in Seattle), seaplanes, and the Wooden Boat Center.

The Wooden Boat Center restores and maintains a fleet of wooden vessels ranging from rowboats to two-master sailboats. You can take sailing lessons, or rent sailboats or rowboats. It’s pretty cool — Lake Union is a small enough body of water that it’s not too intimidating to be out there on a boat, even if you haven’t rowed in a few years.

Or so I thought. We rented a 15-foot wide-bottomed boat, got in, and cast away from the dock. As I pulled the oars, I immediately made two discoveries:

  1. The oars had much smaller blades than those I had used before.
  2. It really had been a long, long time since I had used the muscles needed for rowing. In fact, I used to use a rowing machine when I visited the gym regularly, which was last in … 1998.

Clearly, my body was not going to enjoy this.

The small blades of the oars (also wooden) contributed to the funniest problem of the day: the boat had a tendency to go in circles. This was because the oars had a tendency to rotate around their central axes in my hands, so after one good stroke with the blades in the proper position, the blades would suddenly be 90 degrees out of whack and start scooping the water into the boat and over both of us. This was more a problem on my right side for some reason, and so I found myself continually pulling the boat to port.

Lisa suggested we try to move the oarlocks back one bench to see if I could pull them better from that position, so we pulled the boat up to another dock and tried to move the oarlocks. That didn’t seem to work, so she volunteered to pull for a while. We shoved off and she promptly set the boat going in circles. After we straightened that out, she still was pulling to starboard. This was bad, because that was sending us right at a row of yachts in a private slip.

Visions of us crashing a well-loved 40 year old rowboat into a $500,000 yacht dancing in my head, I helped her wrestle the oars and we finally came to rest in a vacant mooring between two yachts. Cursing mightily, we switched places and I managed to pull the boat back out onto the open water–no mean feat, because if I pulled it too far to one side or another the oar would scrape the yacht on that side.

We finally got it out in the open water and decided to head back. Lisa directed me and I kept the boat going more or less in a straight line by lining up her head with a seaplane hangar on the other shore of the lake. I told her, “Don’t move your head, dear, because we’ll end up totally lost…”

Last night my aching triceps and mild sunburn kept me awake all night long, telling me I was a moron. It was still fun though. Lisa’s on a red-eye back to Maine where she’s managing a project. She hopes to come back in August, at which point she wants to go kayaking. Please say a prayer for me and send a bottle of Advil.

Continuous Improvement

The title of this piece is a phrase you hear a lot in consulting, software development, higher education, and basically any other highly complex process environment. When I hear the phrase “continuous improvement,” I generally think it means three things:

  1. The speaker acknowledges that the thing being “continuously improved” is broken.
  2. The speaker confesses that not only is it broken, it’s so badly broken that it will never be fixed.
  3. Look for a lot of half-assed changes to try to fix the problems, but never really succeed.

Maybe that’s a little too cynical. I certainly hope it’s too cynical for my “continuous improvement” efforts on this site!

Improving the site

One of the nice things about writing a personal web log is that, at least until you get linked by Dave, you know everyone in your audience. I’ve been taking advantage of that to gather feedback from people about how the site is working for them. I’ve heard two pieces of feedback: the navigation can be confusing, and the email options don’t work. I’m trying to address both of those:

  • Navigation: I’ve just added a new help page to the site, accessible both from the FAQ and from the side links on each page. It explains how the site works, in concept and in how you click from page to page. I’m also trying to improve how things on the site are labeled.
  • Email: I think that I didn’t understand how the email bulletins feature was supposed to work. I’m changing the process for how I write the front page of this site. After I write a page, I’ll manually send out a bulletin with the contents of the page. If that works, this will be the first page update you’ll get by email. Remember, you can turn bulletin notification on and off using your Preferences.

This site is definitely a work in progress, so please give feedback either to me directly or on the site. If you have problems with the site navigation or have an idea of how I could improve it, or if the email bulletins don’t work, let me know! As Dave Winer, the developer behind the Manila platform used to say, “Dig we must!” It’s a phrase I prefer to “continuous improvement” because it’s more concise: there’s work to be done! I’ve got to do it! I’m working on it now!

For Amateurs

Not that this has anything to do with the rest of the piece, but my wife and I (yes, she’s back in town for a few days–yay!) ate at Seattle’s famed Wild Ginger last night. Sadly, we were very disappointed. While the food itself was quite good (though very mild compared to the Thai food that inspired it), the service was so far below sub-par it wasn’t even funny. We got there half an hour early for a 9:30 reservation (so we could hang out in the bar and chat) but weren’t seated until 9:45. The waiter was condescending about the wine list (which was overpriced)… Enough rant. Bottom line: go to Flying Fish instead. Much better experience.

So, “for amateurs.” Douglas Rushkoff in the Guardian wrote this piece that echoes my feelings about the possible harm from the dot-com fallout. Rushkoff says, “The point is to do what we do online because we love it…Anything done in this very transparent medium for any other reason gets exposed. It’s as if the more active mindset we use to navigate the internet allows us to detect the intentions of its many posters and navigators. If there’s no real passion for anything but revenue, we know it. We can smell it.”

I have long thought the same about music (in the immortal words of choral conductor Robert Shaw, “Choral music is like sex. Both are far too important to be left solely to professionals”). I think on some very fundamental level this can be generalized to our work, our private activities, our interaction with our families. Purity of motive and honesty about motive count for a lot in my book.


I’m feeling a bit overextended lately. This is nothing new for me; after all, I gave myself an ulcer when I was an undergrad with the stress of the various things I was trying to accomplish. I’m still surprised on a day like today when it seems I haven’t learned my lesson.

This summer, I’m trying to do the following:

  • Complete a successful internship
  • Customize a commercial calendar package for MIT’s entrepreneurship portal, e-MIT
  • Give the web site for the Sloan Leadership Forum a facelift
  • Get ready for a new season of the Sloan E-52s — including arranging some music
  • Oh, yeah–and be a good husband

Am I stupid? Why do I always overpromise things?

A few years ago at AMS, I had a 360-degree review. If you’ve never been through one of these, I highly recommend it as a diagnostic tool. A group of your direct reports, managers, customers, and peers provide you with anonymized feedback in response to a questionnaire designed to measure your leadership effectiveness. It can be pretty humbling. One of the respondents noted my tendency to get involved in a lot of things (at the time, I was, at the request of my management and my clients, holding two unrelated full-time positions), and accused me essentially of letting my ambition write checks that I couldn’t cash.

Maybe there’s some truth in that statement. I don’t know that I’d ever considered ambition a major component of my personality, but maybe that’s the problem — or vanity, or something. Or just a chronic inability to estimate time. I do know it’s frustrating not having the time and energy to deliver the best things that I can.

Gougers! United: The Untold Story

After some fun, I’m back in Seattle. An observation: when United Airlines calls your cell phone, tells you that your original flight was cancelled, and offers you a different flight at no charge that gets you to your destination earlier, and it seems too easy… it probably is.

Update: Here’s the full story. Not an atypical travel story, I suppose, but it’s unusual in my experience in the number of things that went wrong in one day.

Boston, Sunday, 3:35 pm. I get a call on my cell phone telling me that the first leg of my flight back to Seattle, through Washington, DC, has been cancelled. However, they can put me on a flight routed through Denver that gets me to Seattle about half an hour earlier. As noted above, it sounds too good to be true.

Boston Logan Airport, 5:30 pm. The airport is packed and I find the flight departure has been delayed twenty minutes, to 7:00 pm. No big deal so far…

Boston Logan Airport, 8:00 pm. Having finally pushed back from the gate at 7:30 pm, we’re waiting in line to take off. And waiting. And waiting. I start noticing other planes going around us… The young kid in the row behind me kicking my seat and giggling doesn’t help my mood.

Boston Logan Airport, 8:30 pm. We’re back at the gate. The pilot announced that there was a mechanical problem with one of the instruments that would prevent us from taking off. Then the ground crew chief came on and said, “Passengers going to Denver and those continuing to San Francisco, we will get you there tonight, either on this plane or another. Passengers connecting through Denver, you will probably all miss your connections. Please come and see me at the podium…”

Boston Logan Airport, 9:20 pm. I finally get through the line at the podium to find that I can get on a flight to Los Angeles, and then take a flight to Seattle first thing in the morning. That gets me to SeaTac Aiport about 9 am. The only catch is that “at this point there’s no way your bag is going to LAX with you, because the LAX flight leaves in 15 minutes and your bag isn’t off the plane yet. You’ll need to file a claim as soon as you get to LAX so that your bag can be delivered to you in Seattle.” But he promises I can get a voucher for a hotel room in LAX.

Boston Logan Airport, 10:20 pm. We take off finally for LAX.

LAX, 1:10 am (Pacific Daylight Time). We land in LAX. I ask the customer service crew about my hotel voucher and am told to proceed to baggage claim. I ask the baggage claim personnel about my bag claim and am told, “Since your bag is checked to Seattle, you’ll need to call this number to file the claim.” I have to ask twice to get the voucher.

LAX, 2:10 am (PDT). After I wait for 25 minutes, the shuttle for the Aiport Hilton pulls up and stops one lane away from the curb. I try to make eye contact with the driver to see if he’s going to bring it to the curb, but he revs the motor and drives away as I’m waving at him (empty shuttle). I end up paying the Ramada driver $5 to take me to the Hilton.

LA, Airport Hilton, 2:45 am (PDT). I finally get in my bed, until…

LA, Airport Hilton, 5:10 am (PDT). My wake-up call. I need to be back at the airport for a 6:30 flight.

LAX, 6:35 am (PDT). We take off on time (amazingly). So far Monday is much better travel than Sunday…

SeaTac Airport, 9:10 am (PDT). I deplane and head for baggage claim. When I speak to the personnel about my bag, she says, “Your name rings a bell for some reason. I think we may already have your bag.” She and I walk over to a stack of luggage from another flight, and there’s my bag!!!

Redmond, 10:10 am (PDT). I arrive at work smelling not too horrible in yesterday’s clothes (no time to go home and change). Another travel horror story survived.

The scariest part

The most frightening thing about this whole story is that virtually the whole story happened to me before… in 1995, when I was traveling for AMS. From Dulles, we couldn’t take off for LA because of mechanical failure… we missed our connection to Inyokern, CA and had to spend a night in the Airport Hilton… our bags were lost and then found… and it was all on United. So Mike Stopper and Kevin Mitchell, I was thinking of you guys last night as I tried to dial a local access number for my company in LA only to find that the room didn’t have an active outside line. “What a bunch of gougers!”

What’s your story?

Post your travel horror story in the Discussion section. (Comments are now closed.)

Back in Boston

…at least for the weekend. After my long sleepless plane ride (which admittedly was freakishly cheap), it was a relief to just sit on the bank of the Esplanade in Boston beside the river and watch the crowds go by. Lisa, our friends Niall and Dubhfeasa, and I went there about 3 pm yesterday and spent a nice afternoon just being lazy. There are probably more historically appropriate ways to spend Independence Day, but I don’t want to know about them.

Lisa has said that the weather in Boston has been oppressive this summer with high heat and humidity, but (at least so far) it doesn’t touch Washington, DC for nasty sticky.

I’m currently sitting in a team room in Sloan writing this. It feels strange to be back here, knowing that there will be 350 new people running around in a month and that I’ll be the one that’s supposed to know something about Sloan and how it works.

I had an email today from someone in Alabama who may be related to the Jarrett side of the family. Weird thing–he says he has my uncle Aubrey Jarrett’s dog tags… I’ll have to call and see if Aubrey was even in the military.

PS — Freudian slip: the first version of this page was called “Back in Cambridge” — even though we moved across the river to Boston in May. Funny how the brain gets confused in a different time zone.

And the eyeball’s red glare…

Updates will be sporadic for the next few days, as I’m flying back to Boston for the 4th of July holiday (redeye flight tomorrow night, hence the title of this piece). I’ll probably sneak one update in later in the week, but I hope to mostly be enjoying the heat, humidity and sun that I’ve so far managed to escape in Seattle this summer.

I had dinner with our dear friend Shel and her folks tonight. They’re visiting her in Portland, having flown out this morning from Poquoson, Virginia. Exciting news from Poquoson–apparently they’ve put a sewer system in now. Too bad–as they say, it used to be “where the effluent met the affluent”…

I tried to talk Shel into starting up one of these sites (by the way, have I mentioned you too can have your own weblog, entirely edited through your browser, at, but over dinner wasn’t able to get quite worked up enough about it to convince her. I guess the only thing I can say is to point to the web site of Justin Hall, which remains unparalleled in my experience.

Justin’s been writing an online diary since he was a callow youth at Swarthmore back in 1994, and has faithfully posted every joyous and painful (and sometimes explicit, so be warned) detail of his life since then at his site, Links from the Underground. In a way, you might say Justin is to blame for my site and others like it. But at the same time, his words from 1995 still ring true, even after the DotBomb.

For him, and for me, it’s about getting humanity onto the web before it’s so choked with commerce, official TV show fan sites, technical support knowledge bases, and pop-under ads that it becomes just another worthless sewer of data without information, communication without listeners, words and images without soul.