Archive for September, 2004

How to see shows for free in Boston

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

We get to see a half-dozen shows per year for free at the Huntington Theater by volunteering to usher. We show up early, stuff programs, help people find their seats. When the lights go down, we find seats ourselves and enjoy the show.

It’s a great deal for everyone. The nonprofit Huntington Theater doesn’t have to hire ushers, and members of the community can see shows they otherwise wouldn’t be able to see.

We volunteer through Boston Cares, though you can also volunteer directly with the Huntington Theater.

The Gem of the Ocean

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

A. and I saw The Gem of the Ocean last night at the Huntington Theater. Phylicia Rashad is starring in the play’s last stop before Broadway.

For the seventh time, Huntington audiences will explore the soaring language and emotional power of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson with a new play before it heads to Broadway. In Gem of the Ocean master storyteller August Wilson brings us the first installment of his decade-by-decade chronicle of the African-American experience. Set in 1904 when slavery is still a living memory, Citizen Barlow arrives at the home of Aunt Ester in search of spiritual redemption. At 285 years of age, Aunt Ester is not too old to heal, and she guides him on a soaring, lyrical journey to the City of Bones.

It’s among the best of the shows I’ve seen at the Huntington, though incredibly long — going to a three-hour show on a school-night is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

Happy birthday to a passion catalyst

Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Today is the first birthday for Curt Rosengren’s routinely excellent Occupational Adventure blog, which I’ve been reading almost since it started.

I first wrote about his blog for the Globe, seeing it as a valuable resource for BostonWorks job seekers. It’s also one of the first reads in my aggregator each morning.

Congratulations, Curt.


Thursday, September 30th, 2004

Ok, so we’re going to try to be informed voters, so A. and I are actually going to watch all the debates, starting tonight.

Just to get started, here at the top 10 secrets they don’t want you to know about the debates.

(10.) They aren’t debates!

“A debate is a head-to-head, spontaneous, structured argument over the merits of an issue,” Rice says. “Under the ridiculous 32-page contract that reads like the rules for the Miss America Pageant, there will be no candidate-to-candidate questions, no rebuttal to your opponent’s points, no cross questions or cross answers, no rebuttals, no follow-up questions — that’s not a debate, that’s a news conference.”

Jay Rosen reports that more and more professional journalists are eschewing the spinmeisters and watching the debate from home.

Linky Goodness – 9/29/04

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

Managing the board so you can manage your business.

Good interview with eBay’s user experience chief.

What is today’s legacy?

Geeky joy with TypeIt4Me

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

I’ve been reading Merlin Mann’s blog on 43 folders for the past few weeks. He’s another person who’s a Getting Things Done devotee as well as a Mac guy. I’ve found all sorts of interesting things through his site and blog.

I read with interest the guest blog posting by Good Experience‘s Mark Hurst, reviewing TypeIt4Me. (Other random linkage, Phil Terry, Good Experience’s CEO, is a fellow former PlanetAll guy).

I downloaded TypeIt4Me and I’m just blown away. It’s a smart text expander — you define a short piece of text and it automatically replaces it with a longer one.

It’s incredibly handy. I was looking at it and I found out it can do smart datestamps, so I defined “ds” as inserting a datestamp. I track everything through Tinderbox, and I’m constantly typing in the datestamps as I’m taking notes while working on my various projects. This little feature just saved me a minimum of 15 minutes every single day.

I also just defined a quicky Amazon one in which I define “amzn” as “ /ASIN/{ASIN}/jpbutlercom-20/” so that I don’t have to rewrite the long ugly URL string each time I want to point to a book on Amazon. Another few minutes each week saved.

When you come across software which so easily and elegantly solves a problem you have, you almost want to cry with joy. If you’re on a Mac (and why aren’t you?), you should go get TypeIt4Me.

Smart new spam

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

The spammers’ social engineering just gets better and better. Now, they are taking advantage of the fact that more and more people are sending each other photo galleries through services like Ofoto.

I just got an email with the subject “Cathy’s Invited you to view her Photo Album” from [email protected] As I don’t know anyone named Cathy Windsor, I grew suspicious, viewed source, and saw all the standard spammy indicators.

Beware. I didn’t click on the link, but I don’t want to know what sort of evil it would have tried to pull.

The wild cards

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

Could this really be the year? The Red Sox just clinched the wild card.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: 2004 is looking like a momentous year.

Linky Goodness – 9/27/04

Monday, September 27th, 2004

Jeff Jarvis: “I don’t watch broadcast TV anymore.” Actually, neither do I. Other than Survivor and football, I never watch anything on the major networks.

Robert Scoble: How your blog will get discovered.

UI patterns and techniques.

What couples do when given unexpected free time without their children.

Never stay at Howard Johnsons.

Crossing the chasm, in two pages

Monday, September 27th, 2004

I’m doing a lot of market research for Life Times Voice, researching markets, building strategy, etc. In the course of that, I just found this excellent two-page summary of Crossing the Chasm.

It’s useful for its brief definitions of early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

Or, you can buy the book yourself, which I also highly recommend.

How nonprofits can better communicate online

Monday, September 27th, 2004

OnPhilanthropy: four suggestions to help nonprofits better communicate online.

Love among the stoned slackers

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

Wonkette has a transcript of Jon Stewart’s visit with Bill O’Reilly last week.

O’REILLY: But even so, younger people tend to be a little bit more, you know…

STEWART: When you say younger, are you talking 9, 10? What are you talking here?

O’REILLY: No, I’m talking 18 to 25, you know. The people who are on your intellectual level.

STEWART: Thank you.

A. and I watch The Daily Show the next day (thanks, Tivo!). We proudly count ourselves among O’Reilly’s stoned slackers, slackers who are surprisingly well informed.

Polling conducted between July 15 and Sept. 19 among 19,013 adults showed that on a six-item political knowledge test people who did not watch any late-night comedy programs in the past week answered 2.62 items correctly, while viewers of Late Night with David Letterman on CBS answered 2.91, viewers of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno answered 2.95, and viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart answered 3.59 items correctly.

Beware a cashier’s check scam

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

The Globe writes on an increasingly common scam in which the criminals pass bogus cashier’s checks.

There might be a moral here: don’t perform favors involving large amounts of money for strangers who live in another country.

The Times on political bloggers

Sunday, September 26th, 2004

Today’s New York Times magazine has a long feature article on the experiences of today’s top political bloggers, with special focus on the people behind Wonkette, Talking Points Memo, and Daily Kos. There’s a lot of inside baseball, but I find it fascinating to see a different perspective on bloggers I read each day.

The article makes me not want to hang out with any of the three, portraying Cox as venal, Marshall humorless, Moulitsas ego-maniacal. But that’s ok, it’s not like I’d want to hang out with Hemingway either; it’s enough to respect their work.

One outstanding quote/factoid: “A pizza-stained paper plate sat between [The Daily Kos’] Moulitsas and [Eschaton‘s] Atrios. Together, they have more readers than The Philadelphia Inquirer.”

Update: Some conservative bloggers are upset that the piece focused on liberal ones: “You might think that those [conservative bloggers, Little Green Footballs, PowerLine, FreeRepublic, etc.] might be the bloggers the NYTimes would talk to– you know, the ones actually making news.”

Update II: Steve Gilliard: The real hero in this is not any blogger, but Henry Copeland of Blogads.

Bring the F.U.D.*

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Regardless of what you may have read, “liberals” like me have no desire to ban the Bible. I love the Bible; I also love my gay friends who’ve committed to spend their lives together, raising their children in a stable home.

Here is a copy of the RNC’s much-maligned direct marketing piece aimed at Arkansans.

Here is the coverage from the New York Times

* F.U.D. is standard tech talk for “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt,” most often used in reference to Microsoft’s traditional PR tactics. It seems an apt descriptor of this year’s political rhetoric.


Business Week on Spyware

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Business Week dissects the spyware menace.

How do you protect your computer in the future?
Protection is an ongoing process since spyware makers are constantly creating new threats. First, install a personal firewall and an anti-virus program. ZoneAlarm from Zone Labs is a free basic firewall. Symantec and McAfee sell popular personal firewall and anti-virus software. Until the anti-virus programs become more thorough in blocking spyware, which should be within the next year, it’s imperative to use a separate anti-spyware program.

Next, set the computer’s operating system for daily security updates. Also set the Web browser to a medium- or high-security level. For Windows, go to Microsoft’s Web site for instructions. Windows XP users should install Service Pack 2, which makes it close to impossible for software to be downloaded without your being alerted. Consider switching to a Macintosh computer or a browser less popular than Internet Explorer, such as Mozilla Firefox ( or Opera ( They are less likely to be attacked.

“They are less likely to be attacked” because they are built without those darn glaring security holes. If you are still using Internet Explorer on Windows, go download and use Firefox. If you are in the market for a new computer, get an iMac.

Moreover opens up their RSS feeds

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Moreover has opened up all their various newsfeeds to the public, with one contextual ad per day embedded. Here’s the list of their feeds.

I’ve just subscribed to a bunch of the feeds; we’ll see whether their utility justifies the advertising annoyance.

Wal-Mart’s growth funded by local subsidies

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Wal-Mart goes shopping for Subsidies (.pdf file)

What is not widely known is that this wealthy company’s aggressive U.S. expansion has frequently been financed in part by taxpayers through economic development subsidies. This report, the first national study of the subject, documents more than $1 billion in such subsidies from state and local governments to Wal-Mart; the actual total is certainly far higher, but the records are scattered in thousands of places and many subsidies are undisclosed.

The overall document is sixty-five pages, but the executive summary gets right to the point. I wish corporate welfare were more of an issue in this campaign.

(via the routinely excellent Oligopoly Watch)

Linky Goodness – 9/25/04

Saturday, September 25th, 2004

Andy Sack starts blogging. He left Abuzz just before I started there, but I’ve heard some great things about him. And the checkbooks have just opened.

The Big Gig.

When newspapers fudge the numbers.

What Yahoo! web services would you like to see?

10 questions for Jon Stewart.

Jess Tardy, back in Boston

Friday, September 24th, 2004

New Tennessean (and fellow Abuzz alum) Jess Tardy will be back in Boston next Friday, playing a show at Club Passim. Definitely worth checking out.

A. and I will be there; swing by and say hello if you get a chance.