Part of the machine

Washington Post: Inside the secret list of websites that make AI like ChatGPT sound so smart. Clickbait headline aside (spoiler alert: it’s not a secret list, and “AI like ChatGPT” in this case means most large language models, but the actual training dataset for ChatGPT is secret), it’s interesting and informative to peel back the curtain on projects like C4 and the sources of their data, which in this case include this blog.

What’s interesting about this is that this sort of use of my blog is something that has been permitted for over twenty years, by the license on the blog itself. On January 2, 2003, I posted Licensed to blog, which declared my application of a Creative Commons license (at the time, there was only one!) to my content. I later refined that to a CC BY-NC-SA license, meaning you are welcome to use my content for non-commercial purposes, provided you credit me and share any modifications to the content under the same license. At some point, probably when I changed to my blog’s current theme, the license was accidentally dropped from the template. I’ve re-added it today.

I wonder what would happen if you tried to enforce the sharealike clause in the CC license against the C4 project and its makers? I have to imagine that a corpus of data drawn from 100 million sources, each with their own potentially conflicting license, must pose an IP law nightmare. As of a few years ago, the Creative Commons team itself felt that there were significant open questions about how the law applied in this use case.

Happy 23rd anniversary, Jarrett House North

The first post on this site was on March 14, 2000. I date my actual “blogaversary” to a post called “Quarterly Update (i)” that appeared on June 11, 2001, because that’s when I really started blogging in earnest, but the first iteration of this site came on line over a year earlier. It was then hosted on my Power Mac 7200/90 in a locally running Manila instance, so it’s a continuous miracle that it ever got on the web at all.

My writing has ebbed and flowed here over the years, but right now I’m just grateful that I have someplace I can share my thoughts.

Fun fact: the anniversary of Jarrett House North is on the same day as’s anniversary, just two years later.

Putting the S in Christmas

If you visit this blog from time to time, there’s something new you may not have noticed up in the address bar: a padlock. Since starting my site, it’s been available over HTTP only, but as of this weekend, if you try to connect via HTTP, it’ll quietly redirect you to HTTPS.

I work at a security company, and ironically that’s what may have delayed my installation of a security certificate on this site. The risk here is low, given that I’m the only one that logs in. However, it always bugged me that I hadn’t added transport level security (TLS) to the site, and this weekend I logged into my hosting provider’s console to see what I needed to do to fix it.

It turned out to be ridiculously easy. My hosting provider, Pagely, has a direct integration with LetsEncrypt, a nonprofit – and free – certificate authority that generated a new secure certificate for my site with just a few clicks. After that, the door was closed.

It feels a little sad to take this step, like moving out of a neighborhood where you don’t need to lock your doors. But it certainly couldn’t be easier.

Fifteen years ago today…

I was troubleshooting the inability to play a DVD on a Windows 95 laptop from Sea-Tac airport for Lisa, who was back home in Boston.

Twelve years ago today, I had stabbed a broken wineglass stem through my palm and was also writing about my first two rehearsals with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

And eleven years ago today, I was a winner of a traditional Bavarian Olympics at the Erdinger Weissbräu factory.

Who says I’ve lived a boring life?

Hacking away

It was an incredibly busy last couple of days, to the point where I couldn’t even think at some points. The older I get the more I learn things about my cognitive style. Things like: there’s a point beyond which I can’t multitask any more, where adding additional things to the “to do” list simply adds anxiety. Where the startup time for thinking about any additional item is more than the time allotted to work on any small item.

I don’t know when my multitasking muscles got so flabby.

It’s Veracode‘s Hackathon, meaning Thursday and Friday (and Monday) we all are encouraged to work on something outside our normal work responsibilities, whether for fun or for something that moves the company forward or both. There have been patents and product features that have come out of these hackathons, as well as … more explosive experiments.

But this afternoon is the best part of it, when I get to bring my kids to the office to work on their own hacks. When my daughter was six she made LED throwies; there have also been programming classes and giant fort construction events. I hear tell there might be an egg drop this afternoon. Can’t wait.

Mid-year resolution check-in

At the end of last year, I made a resolution that I was going to start writing on my blog again, after several years of intermittent posts. It’s almost three-quarters of the way through the year, so now seems like a good opportunity to take stock of how I’m doing.


First, I note that the original post didn’t really specify all the reasons that I’m doing this. It’s worth noting now for posterity. Here’s why I made the resolution:

  1. A desire to get my writing back out of siloed Internet presences like Facebook and Twitter. I mentioned this in the original post. I don’t have anything against those platforms and still use both, but I don’t want my best work to only live there. I want some control over what happens to it.
  2. A desire to improve the ease and fluency of my writing. My job now requires a fair amount of written, world-facing communication in a way that it didn’t before. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that everything you can do well is like a muscle that gets more powerful with exercise, and writing is no exception.
  3. A more general feeling of dissatisfaction. This was only apparent to me in retrospect. At the end of last year I wasn’t happy with some things in my life, and in the past writing has been a good mechanism to start taking control.


So, how’s it gone? Answer: pretty well quantitatively, and very well qualitatively.

Quantitatively: My goal was to write something every week day. January started strong: I only missed one week day and had an extra Saturday post, so we’ll count that as a win. February missed one day, as did March. But two days missed out of 65 is still a 97%.

April was perfect. But May missed two, and June… ah. June missed six. So that’s an 87% for the second quarter. Not so good. July missed six again, and August missed five. So my overall score was an 88%. Kind of underwhelming from a perspective of hitting perfection. However, putting it in perspective, in all of 2015 I wrote nine posts total, and three of them were in the last two days of the year. So getting to 88% (so far) is a huge upswing.

Qualitatively: I’m actually really proud of some of the writing I’ve done on the blog in the last year to date. I had people in the TFC come up to me and talk to me about what Sunday’s post about the Transmigration meant to them, which has never happened. It’s probably the best thing I’ve written in a while. But there have been other good posts and series, including the song-by-song reviews of A Moon Shaped Pool; a set of Virginia Glee Club discoveries including the identification of its first black member, the early history of Wafna, Founders Days through the years, and a pocket history of the contest that led to the writing of “Virginia, Hail, All Hail”; obituaries for David Bowie, Andy GroveJohan Botha and Reilly Lewis; and some one-offs about “Eighty-One,” mononucleosisAsheville barbecue, Tomorrowland, the Shelton Laurel massacre, and trade shows. There have also been Random Fives, cocktails, and lengthy writing about ripping vinyl. That’s OK. As someone once wrote about Sylvia Plath, if she couldn’t make a table out of a poem she was working on, she was more than happy to make a chair. Meaning: writing is writing, and not everything has to hit it out of the ballpark, but you need to keep approaching the craft all the time.

I think I’m proudest of a set of posts I’ve made about race relations and the legacy of slavery, a topic I had never engaged with in the past and that I needed to engage and process. The series so far includes:

That’s not a bad body of work for not quite nine months. I’m pretty pleased with how this has gone so far. Now to figure out what the next turn of the screw is.

Thirteen years ago: Pernice Brothers

I forgot a show in my “live shows list“, and a look back through the archives reminded me. Thirteen years ago today I wrote about going to see the Pernice Brothers at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard, Washington. It was a great show, and I had forgotten that Warren Zanes was on the bill too.

I did not note, but will note now, that it was also the kind of show and the kind of night that a very drunk 20something girl in a silver Mylar dress could fall on the floor when trying to dance and flirt, bounce right back up, and disappear into the night. Which is honestly the thing I most remember about the evening. Rock on, silver girl.

Blogaversary 15

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I should acknowledge the inevitable passing of time with a note that June 11, 2016 was my 15th blogaversary. While about five (or more) of those years were spent on hiatus, it’s nice to look back over the last six months and see that, with a few exceptions, I’ve kept the forward momentum from my New Year’s resolution and blogged more or less daily.

There’s something about the discipline of writing daily that helps the brain. I’ve found writing becoming easier. And more: I’ve written some things in the last six months that I’m actually proud of. I think there’s something to the principle that frequent writing leads to better writing, if only because we’re more likely to write something well when we’re in the habit of writing already. The Muse needs someone whose fingers are already near the keyboard.

Today in my blogging history

I sometimes forget to take a look back at things I’ve written—forgivable if you ignore the almost fifteen years of blog history here. For all that, my beats have remained relatively steady, as a look back at March 30 in my blog’s history reveals. Going backward, we have:

Writing is hard

It’s hard to write something every day.

That should be a self evident statement, but based on my track record fifteen years ago, I blithely assumed it would be easy to get back on the horse after a multi-year hiatus. It’s not.

One of the things I used to be able to do was to keep a thread always running in my mind, thinking about the next thing I was going to write about. The problem is that it’s hard to avoid writing the same stuff over and over again—or worse, to avoid writing about stuff you don’t want to write about. For me, right now, that includes the 2016 presidential race, which I find appalling, and the Apple/FBI argument, which I find appalling for different reasons.

It might be time to start a new topic on this blog so I don’t continue spinning my wheels on the same old ones. Cocktails, maybe. Or existentialism.

On rebuilding old habits


Honoring my New Year’s resolution—to get back on the daily blogging train—is hard.

About eighteen months ago, I shifted roles at my day job from a position where I had a lot of daily/weekly meetings, a lot of realtime decisions that needed to be made, a position of high blood pressure and email overload, to a new role where I had to produce creatively. As in, write.

I quickly learned that in the years in my old role, I had developed a sort of hyper-evolved ADD. The instinct to stay alert and always be on top of the latest thing that crossed my path served me very well in the old role, but it was a serious roadblock to getting any substantial work done. I practically had to isolate myself and make myself put on blinders so that I could get anything done at all.

Getting back to daily blogging feels a little like undoing the work that I did to focus my attention. It’s not really that, but it does require some thought about when. I used to be able to cook along, have a thought, stop and blog it, and go on my business. Now if I don’t do it first thing in the morning it eats at my attention all day until I have to stop and get it done so I can get anything else done.

This is very strange, and not at all what I thought would happen when I got back to daily blogging.

Maybe it’s just what happens when I don’t have anything to write about? Writing yesterday was a lot easier….

New Years resolution time

I miss writing here. I write a lot on Facebook, some on Twitter, and a few things on my company’s blog. But it’s very rare that I write anything under my own name any more.

My New Year’s resolution is to change that. Gonna see if I can write something every (week) day here. Starting with today’s post (which could have gone on my company’s blog) but hopefully with a broader focus as time goes on. Let’s see how we do!

We’ve moved!

After a really good run with Weblogger, Jarrett House North is no longer hosted there. The team there is now focusing on things other than WordPress hosting, and I’ve moved on accordingly. I wish them all the best–Erin Clerico has been great to work with, and I know the new endeavors there will be successful.

I’ve moved to, who seem on first blush to have the right balance between ease of use and security — at least they mention security in their service description, unlike some of the other WordPress hosting leaders that are out there. The transition has been interesting, and something I did with one of my plugins seems to have dropped a lot of my posts on the floor–the autoposts from FriendFeed, so nothing really lost there. But we’re up and running.

And maybe this will be the kick I need to start writing some more. I’ve got a lot to talk about, so stay tuned.