Posts about 'Out and About'

Free Agent

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

I’m no longer with NPR. NPR restructured its Digital Services division, and my position as Senior Director of Product Strategy and Development was eliminated.

So, there you go.

I still believe in the mission of public media. As a listener, I’ll still always drift to the left of the dial. My bedroom’s clock radio remains locked on WBUR, my office radio on Classical Radio Boston. Sonos on the weekend will continue to alternate between XPN’s Exponential Radio and KCRW’s Eclectic 24 — exposing the children to decent music as they’re growing up. Pop Culture Happy Hour makes my Friday runs far more pleasant.

NPR One remains the most innovative product on the market — and the best shower radio ever invented.

I’m glad that public media exists — I’m a sustaining member of WBUR, WGBH and WXPN — and I hope that they’ll continue telling great stories and building great experiences.

Ok, so what’s next?

I’m a little young to retire, so I should probably keep working.

I see three main paths — consulting and building, Startupland or BigCoLand. Each has its charms.

I’ve had good success working as an independent consultant, helping CEOs and Founders focus their product strategies and move in the right direction. I can also give informed, disinterested second opinions, what I refer to as "Sanity Checking as a Service."

The consulting lifestyle has its advantages. I mostly work out of my home office, and I have time to build other things and manage the Butler household more tightly. The cashflow tends to be more erratic, though.

I miss Startupland. I’ve been in and out of startups since 1997, and none of my adventures in BigCoLand have had the same energy and sense of possibility.

I found that I couldn’t effectively work at a startup when the children were small (and when I had an ailing senior in the house). The children are now happy tweens, and I think that I can look seriously at this route again.

I don’t want to dismiss BigCoLand out of hand, though. I like the chance to work on bigger problems, and it’s great to know that (literally) tens of millions of people will benefit from your work.

What now?

Over the summer, I’m probably pick up a little consulting work while figuring out the longer-term solution.

And, I get to write again!

I couldn’t comment publicly on any causes or issues when I was working as a public-facing employee of a news organization. This is entirely appropriate, but I’m happy that I no longer have that constraint.

I hope to be able to get back to writing several thousand words a week. Some of them I’ll publish, some I’ll trash. It’s the discipline that matters. I enjoyed when I used to be a decent writer; I’d like to get back to that.

I’m working on a "consolidated learnings" Tinderbox to pull together (for myself, if no one else) my current best takes and pointers. Depending on how things go, I may release this as "Jason’s Guide to the Universe" later this year. No promises on that, though.

I’m really excited to get to build stuff again

Executives at large organizations don’t get to touch stuff. As is appropriate. Still, I miss the ability to fire up Emacs and make the machine dance to my song.

First things first: this very website. I launched in early 2001, hand-writing all the code for the site. You can still see some of that embarrassing work on my Habitat for Humanity New Zealand and Tanzania sections. After a couple years, I migrated the blog part to Movable Type and then to WordPress. That’s the site you see right now.

And, boy is it creaky.

So, I’m going to rewrite this site. Once I have a modern stack, I’m going to build out some tools for myself to automate bits of my life. I haven’t been able to use my own site as a sandbox; now I will.

I’ll also consolidate some of my other writings around the web — 39 Essays among others — into one master site.

Next: Rebuilding my news-personalization apps. I wrote Serendeputy in 2008. The software still runs and I still use it every day, but it’s really beginning to show its age.

The other band-aid app I wrote was TweetDeputy which reads my Twitter feed and pulls out the links being shared. I actually use TweetDeputy a lot. Even though it doesn’t have the personalization elements of Serendeputy, it has a high enough hit rate that I check in with it several times a day.

Before I was recruited into NPR, I was working on the next generation of Serendeputy. I’m going to go back to that Github repository and see what I can use and what I would need to rewrite. The universe has moved a lot since 2008, and I’d like to be able to have an updated version of the application (even if it’s only for my use.)

I’m also a much better software engineer now than I was then. That should help!

Sharpening the saw

A little unscheduled free time is going to help me sharpen my saw and shake off the rust. I’ll need to get back to a reasonable level of competence on the stuff I’ve used before: Ruby, Rails, JS, Linux, Postgres, Ansible, etc.

I’m really looking forward to playing more with R, Analytics, and proper Machine Learning techniques. Serendeputy (currently) uses approximations of some of these techniques; I might as get really good at using them properly.


One thing I learned at Compass Aging was that "your life is far better in your sixties if you try a little harder in your forties."

I’m getting back to running in Minuteman National Park every midday during the week. I have a 5.5 mile loop that I am trying to master. I hope to be able to consistently nail a 10-minute pace for that loop by the end of the summer.

I’ve also been getting back to my DDP Yoga routine. It’s embarrassing how much more flexible my 10-year-old is that I am. Probably stronger too. I should see to that.

So, that’s the update. I have a little more free time now, so please let me know if you want to catch up. Most people reading this have my cell phone number (Touchdown Jason). My email address is Jason at this domain. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Have a great summer!

AMC Theaters, assigned seats and going to movies in your 40s

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

A. and I are old. (Ok, “older”). At this point in our 40s, we’re not in the prime demographics for any media other than Downton Abbey.

We still like to watch movies, though. We’ve worked hard this year to see a movie every Saturday night. We have charts of our progress, and the points of data make a beautiful line.

Most of the time, this is via Netflix DVDs. I actively manage the queue (recent items: Her, Gremlins and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), and we block off time in our shared calendar. Each Saturday night as the clock strikes 7, the girls are put to bed, the wine is poured, the cats are comfortable, and we watch the movie.

That said, we still like to see movies in the theaters (it’s useful to still be culturally relevant occasionally), though this happens less often as the years have gone by.

Why? The logistics are painful. We have to get a babysitter (we can generally pull this together every six weeks or so), and then we need to fight the crowds, hope that we can get into the movie, fight for seats, etc. The friction keeps us away.

So, for the past few years, we’ve very rarely seen any movies in their first few weeks in the theater. There’s no way we’re going near the cineplex for opening weekend of The Avengers. We’ll see it four weeks later (all the while desperately trying to avoid spoilers).

But last Saturday night we saw Mockingjay on opening weekend at our local theater, AMC in Burlington. Without wanting to kill ourselves.

What changed?

AMC has started having assigned seats. This one change will make them a couple of hundred extra dollars a year from my family.

The Jobs to Be Done are pretty clear for me: amuse me for a couple of hours; spend some couple time with A.; don’t annoy me; and don’t cause extra cognitive overhead.

The biggest pain for me is the uncertainty. Will I be able to get a ticket? Will we be able to get decent seats together? Will it be a wasted trip?

Advance ticketing solved the sellout problem. Advance seat selection solved the seating problem. There is no chance that it will be a wasted trip. They have minimized my cognitive overhead, and — bonus — given us extra time to actually enjoy our dinner, as opposed to just wolfing it down.

AMC may even be getting a price premium, I really don’t know. In the context of a night out with a babysitter at home, the difference between a $10 ticket and a $15 ticket is negligible.

I’m glad to see businesses competing by upping their game as opposed to trying to nickel and dime, cut costs and optimize for “how crappy can we make the experience without driving everyone away.”

Good for AMC. We’ll be giving them more money soon.

A diamond as big as the Ritz

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

I was last in Paris in Spring of 1989. I look forward to going again. Until then, I can bask in the legends of the Paris Ritz and pretend to be Hemingway.

We all want to be Hemingway:

Good for Jordan’s Furniture

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Lucy’s getting her big-girl bed this morning.

Jordan’s just delivered and set it up. They were in and out in under four minutes. Outstanding. That’s what we like to see.

This whole experience with them has been superb. Once we picked the bed we wanted in the Natick store, it only took us a couple of minutes to check out and set up the delivery date. We got the automated call yesterday telling us the delivery window. This morning went incredibly smoothly.

Jordan’s Furniture is run exceedingly well. That’s why we keep going back to them.

Sadie and Lucy in Central Park

Monday, August 31st, 2009

We took Sadie and Lucy to New York last weekend for a little vacation and a chance to catch up with some of our old friends. It was a great weekend, and I’ll probably write up some notes a little later this week. For now, I figured I’d just start with a couple of pictures.

We left the hotel and wandered through Central Park until we hit the Heckscher Playground. They renovated this playground since the last time we visited, and it was a big hit with the kids.

Sadie found a tire swing. That was enough for thirty minutes of sheer bliss.

Sadie on the tire swing in Central Park.

Sadie on the tire swing in Central Park.

Lucy was too little for the tire swing, so she was sitting in her stroller watching Sadie swing. She was a little bored, though.

Lucy in her stroller in Central Park.

So, we let her out to be free-range baby for a little while. She toddled around for a little while, but then found a mud puddle at the edge of the swings area. She circled it for a minute, then decided to investigate further.

Lucy sitting in Central Park.

As it turns out, you can do a lot of splashing in the mud puddle. It’s great fun.

Lucy splashing a mud puddle in Central Park.

Nothing makes Lucy happier than a little mud.

Lucy a little muddy in Central Park.

Sadie then wandered around the “castle” a little bit. Whoever designed the park did a nice job pulling this section together. There’s lots for a three-year-old to explore.

Sadie exploring in Central Park.

Sadie exploring in Central Park.

Sadie exploring in Central Park.

At the end of the day, Sadie was very happy.

Sadie in Central Park.

The girls even got to share a big hug back in the hotel lobby.

Sadie and Lucy in New York.

I’ll write more later (especially about the Museum of Natural History), but I wanted to get these pictures up quickly.

Fun date ideas

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

It’s great being a parent, suburbanite, etc., but sometimes I wish we had time to do some of the romantic things in this post. This may become my motto for the month:

When you’re really exhausted or hit the ocean, it’s time to go back.

Time to see if the babysitters are available anytime soon.

p.s., Might as well plug the site. I’d never really visited this site before, until it came up for me on my Serendeputy homepage. Private beta continues. Public launch coming Real Soon Now.

Happy Election Day

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

I just went down to Holliston High School and cast my ballot. There were lots of people there, but the lines were flowing easily; I was in and out in five minutes. Holliston (and maybe all of Massachusetts) uses tried and true paper ballots — no Diebold touch-screen madness here. It turns out that the paper ballots make all the lines move much faster. Ben Adida explains.

Anyway, regardless of who wins, I hope that America is a more unified country tomorrow, and we can all get on with fixing what’s gone wrong.

Sadie at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Now that Sadie’s all mobile and filled with energy, we’re constantly looking for new and interesting ways to entertain her. Last Saturday, we went to the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, about 45 minutes away.

It’s a pretty good zoo, with one of the highlights being the brand new baby giraffe. He was very cute:

Baby giraffe at the Roger Williams zoo

Sadie mentioned that the crowned crane should really try putting some ponytails in her hair. That will help with the slight sticking-up problem.

Sadie and the crane

You’d be surprised how many things you can climb on at the zoo.

Sadie and Jason on the camel

It’s all a lot for a little girl to take in. Sometimes she just needs to sit and ponder.

Sadie at the zoo

List of stores at Natick Collection

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

The new Natick Mall opens tomorrow. In case you were wondering, here’s the list of stores as of September 6th (I’m pretty excited about the Apple Store, myself…):

90’s Nails
A.T. Cross – Opening September 7
Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie Kids – Coming Soon
Aldimami – Opening September 7
Aldo Accessories
Allen Edmonds – Opening September 7
Alpha Omega
American Eagle Outfitters
Amy’s Hallmark
Ann Taylor
Ann Taylor Loft
Anthropologie – Opening September 7
Apple – Opening September 7
Art of Shaving, The – Opening September 7
Au Bon Pain – Opening September 7
Auntie Anne’s
Bag n’ Baggage – Opening September 7
Banana Republic
Bank of America
Bare Escentuals – Opening September 7
Bath & Body Works
BC Sports Collectables
BCBG MaxAzria – Opening September 7
Betsey Johnson – Opening September 7
bluemercury – Opening September 7
Body Shop
Bose – Opening September 7
Bottega Veneta – Coming Soon
Brighton Collectibles – Opening September 7
Brooks Brothers
Build-A-Bear Workshop
Burberry – Opening September 7
California Pizza Kitchen
Calvin Klein – Coming Soon
Champs Sports
Cheesecake Factory, The – Opening Soon
Children’s PlaySpace
Cingular Wireless
Claire’s Boutique
Clarks England – Opening September 7
Club Libby Lu
Club Monaco – Coming Soon
Cohen’s Fashion Optical
Coldwater Creek
Cool Waves – Opening September 7
Crabtree & Evelyn
Crate & Barrel
crewcuts – Opening September 7
Dellaria Salon
Dellaria Salon & Day Spa
Easy Spirit
Eddie Bauer
Everything But Water
Express Men
Finale Dessert Company – Opening September 7
Fire & Ice – Opening September 7
Flamers Charbroiled Hamburgers
Fossil – Opening September 7
Fruits & Passion – Opening September 7
Games Workshop
Glamour Shots
Gloria Jean’s Gourmet Coffees
Godiva Chocolatier
Gordon’s Jewelers
Gourmet India
Gucci – Coming Soon
Guess – Opening September 7
Hanna Andersson – Opening September 7
Hannoush Jewelers
Helzberg Diamonds
Hollister Co.
Hot Topic
Hugo Boss – Coming Soon
J. Crew – Opening September 7
J. Jill
Jacadi – Coming Soon
Jacob – Opening September 7
Janie and Jack
Jessica McClintock
Johnston & Murphy – Opening September 7
Juicy Couture – Opening September 7
Karen Millen – Coming Soon
Kate Spade – Opening September 7
Kay Jewelers
L’Occitane – Opening September 7
Lacoste – Opening September 7
Lady Foot Locker
Landau Collection of Costume Jewelry
Lane Bryant
Lauren – Coming Soon
Levi’s – Opening September 7
Lids Kids – Coming Soon
Limited Too
Lindt Chocolate
Links of London – Coming Soon
Lord & Taylor
Louis Vuitton – Opening September 7
Lucky Brand Jeans – Opening September 7
lucy – Now Open!
Lululemon – Opening September 7
Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics – Opening September 7
Madewell – Opening September 7
Marciano – Opening September 7
Marina Rinaldi – Coming Soon
Martin + Osa – Opening September 7
Massachusetts State Lottery
Max Mara – Coming Soon
Melt Gelato & Crepe Café – Coming Soon
Metropark – Opening September 7
Metropolitan Bar & Grill – Opening September 7
Michael Kors – Opening September 7
Moonstruck Chocolate Café – Coming Soon
Na Hoku – Opening September 7
Neiman Marcus – Opening September 15
New York & Company
Nine West
Nordstrom – Opening September 7
North Face, The – Opening September 7
O’Kaidi – Coming Soon
Oakley – Opening September 7
Optica – Opening September 7
Origins – Opening September 7
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro – Coming Soon
Pac Sun
Payless ShoeSource
Piazza Sempione – Coming Soon
Portrait Simple
Pottery Barn Kids
Prime Blue – Coming Soon
Puma – Opening September 7
Radio Shack
Regis Hairstylists
Ritz Camera One Hour Photo
Rockport – Opening September 7
Ruehl – Opening September 7
Salad Creations of America – Now Open!
Sarku Japan
Sarku Japan
Scene – Opening September 7
Sel de la Terre – Opening September 7
Select Comfort
Shabby Chic – Opening September 7
SHI by Journey’s
Sleek MedSpa
Solstice Sunglasses Boutique – Opening September 7
Spencer Gifts
Sports Treasures
Stil – Coming Soon
Stride Rite
Stuart Weitzman – Opening September 7
Sunglass Hut
Sunglass Source
Sweet Factory
Talbots Accessories
Talbots Kids
Teavana – Opening September 7
The Sharper Image
Things Remembered
Thomas Pink – Coming Soon
Tiffany and Co. – Opening September 7
Tommy Bahama – Opening September 7
Tourneau – Opening September 7
Trade Secret
Travel 2000
Vera Bradley – Opening September 7
Verizon Wireless
Victoria’s Secret
Walking Company, The
White House/Black Market
Wok Kitchen – Coming Soon
Yankee Candle Company
Zara – Opening September 7

[tags]Natick Collection[/tags]

Trips I want to take

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

We’re pretty much grounded for the foreseeable future (not mentioning any names … little baby). To make up for it, we’ve been watching a set of Reader’s Digest DVDs detailing trips around the world and made the list of where we want to go when we can leave our Holliston cocoon.

Where to? Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Alaska, Hawaii, Seattle, drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, Disney World, Park City, Nova Scotia, Montreal, Quebec City, Chicago, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tibet, Japan, Nepal, Angkor Wat, Australia, (back to) New Zealand, Kenya, Egypt, Israel, Iceland, England, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Patagonia, Costa Rica, Antartica.


Another old gallery

Friday, July 7th, 2006

I’m continuing to update all my old galleries to the new look and feel of the site (as well as getting them into some sort of content-management system, instead of just flat files.)

I updated two today. First, my Habitat for Humanity project in New Zealand. Second, my time working at Fenway for a job fair.

Hope you like them. Next, I need to update Tanzania, then actually write some stuff for China, Guatemala, Thailand, Niagara Falls, Jasper & Banff, etc.


Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

I’ll be at BarCampBoston this weekend. It looks like it should be a fun gathering, and I look forward to learning from my fellow campers and sharing my own experiences (for what they’re worth…).

If you’re going to be there, drop me a line and we’ll try to sync up.


Spamalot in Boston

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

On Sunday, Sadie got to spend some quality time with Auntie Karen while A. and I got out of the house, all the way to the Colonial Theater to see Spamalot, a Broadway in Boston show based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The show itself was good. The quality time with my wife was outstanding.

I don’t think he liked it

Thursday, July 31st, 2003

Most entertaining movie review quote I’ve read in a while:

[Gigli rhymes with really.] As in really, really silly, which is the kindest way to describe this hopelessly misconceived exercise in celebrity self-worship, which opens to nationwide ridicule today…

[Lopez] threatens the apparent ringleader with a baroque martial-arts torture, which involves gouging out the eyes and also removing that part of the brain that stores visual information, so that the victim will not only be blind, but will also lose all memory of what he has seen. Having seen “Gigli,” I must say that the idea has a certain appeal.

Cliff Walk in Newport

Monday, July 28th, 2003

We took a daytrip to Newport on Saturday, highlighted by a trek through the Cliff Walk, three and a half miles (each way) of rocky goodness. If you get down there, this is definitely a fun way to spend three or four hours.

The only downside is that I’m now sunburnt beyond recognition. It should be fun trying to explain that in today’s morning meetings…

Whale Rider

Monday, July 21st, 2003

We saw Whale Rider last night. It was pretty good, and it was interesting to see Maori culture up close again.

Plus, as a special bonus, downstairs from the theater was the Museum of Bad Art, which is always a treat.

The Producers

Sunday, July 13th, 2003

We went to see The Producers last night. Outstanding show!

I think I may have to renew my Broadway in Boston membership.

Glory Days

Saturday, October 5th, 2002

My ears are still ringing. Last night, I went to my first Bruce Springsteen show. It was amazing.

We were standing in the General Admission Floor section, about 30 yards from the stage. Bruce played for a little over three hours, including three encores. The last encore brought Peter Wolf up to the stage, where the band played an amazing version of “Dirty Water”.

It’s fun to live in a city where you will have 20,000 people expressing their civic pride by repeatedly screaming “I love that Dirty Water.”