December 31, 2002

stevenberlinjohnson.com

Back in 1999, when I was interviewing with Abuzz, Jay told me to read a book called Interface Culture by Steven Johnson. That book was heavily influencing his thinking at that time.

It turns that Steven Johnson has his own weblog, now firmly entrenched on my daily reading list.

 

December 30, 2002

What Do I Want To Do With My Life?

Po Bronson has written an excellent article at Fast Company on this eternal question. It's a long read, but it's worth it.

There's a ton of great stuff in here (and maybe I relate a little too well to the "Phi Beta Slacker" thing).
Those who have found their place don't talk about how exciting and challenging and stimulating their work is. Their language invokes a different troika: meaningful, significant, fulfilling. And they rarely ever talk about work without weaving in their personal history.
I'm going to think about this article a little while longer and maybe write some more later this week. Tomorrow is New Year's Eve; maybe it's time to break out the 2003 version of Operation Better Jason.
(via EvHead)

Mmmm, Unholy beverage concoctions.

Sproke!

Back on September 10, 1960...

One of the Christmas presents I made for my sisters was a framed 8x10 of my parents' wedding picture. From left to right: Grandpa and Grandma Rich; My parents; Grandpa and Grandma Butler.

My Parent's Wedding Picture, 9/10/60

One project I'm glad I did when I was unemployed was digitizing many of my parents' old pictures. Only a few hundred more...

Football season fallout

The day after the regular season ends is always entertaining, with coaches getting fired, underachievers getting flamed and all the journalists planning their final report cards.

The Dolphins are getting crucified in the Miami Herald for their utter December collapse. You know you're in trouble when your game story starts:
The Dolphins have defined late-season collapse and devastation for more than a decade, covering the gamut of ugliness with everything from allowing 341 rushing yards in a game to getting hammered 62-7 in another.

Somehow, they bottomed out Sunday.
Funnier still are the commentaries by Greg Cote:
Choke, collapse, calamity. Embarrassment, disgust, humiliation. Ridiculousness, absurdity and a partridge in a pear tree. I mentioned ''choke,'' right?
and Dan Le Betard:
They can offer no arguments now. Soft? Chokers? Mentally frail? Losers? You can stick all the labels on the Dolphins now. They have nothing in the way of rebuttal. They must answer to the scoreboard and the standings, both of which today say this team was a monumental fraud.


Meanwhile, the Dallas News is reporting that Bill Parcells is signed, sealed and delivered. (I refuse to link to the Dallas News story because they force you to register for their site, and, quite frankly, they aren't worth it.) We'll see how the Tuna likes working with Jerry Jones. What's most intriguing is that, next year, the AFC East will be playing the NFC East; Bill Parcells will be coming to Foxboro. Here's the complete Patriots 2003 schedule.

Most importantly though, for reasons I cannot discuss here, I'm really really rooting for San Francisco to win by at least 9 points tonight.

Evidence Mounting That Moderate Drinking Is Healthful

The Times advocates boozing it up to prevent heart attacks.
Thirty years of research has convinced many experts of the health benefits of moderate drinking for some people. A drink or two a day of wine, beer or liquor is, experts say, often the single best nonprescription way to prevent heart attacks.
Woo Hoo. Gimme a 26oz steak and a whiskey -- they'll cancel each other out.

Where's My Jaguar, putz?

TeeVee gives us an overview of the most appalling Holiday commercials of the year.

Help yourself

A couple of local companies are coming up with interesting technologies for automating phone-based customer service.
SpeechWorks created a virtual character, Julie, who engages phone callers with colloquial, conversational interactions. A potential customer who calls Julie (1-800-USA-RAIL) to check a schedule or make a reservation is drawn into a conversation peppered with casual comments like ''OK, let's go'' and ''got it.'' Today, 70 percent of Amtrak's train status calls are handled by the speech service, and an increasing number of functions are being turned over to ''Julie.''

 

December 29, 2002

Alas.

Well, the Packers weren't able to help us out. Such is life. I guess I'll just have to pop in the DVD of last season's Super Bowl championship and start getting ready for Red Sox opening day.

Yes! P-A-T-S PATS! PATS! PATS!

The Patriots just completed a fantastic comeback to beat the Dolphins in an overtime thriller. Now we just need the Packers to take down the Jets...

Is there any better kicker in the clutch than Adam Vinatieri?

Have Faith In Leather

The symbolism of leather pants on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Employment stories from the Times

Even if you've been laid off, it's still not smart to lie on your resume. Of course, It's not pleasant being on the other side of the layoffs, either.

I miss the New Economy.

Harvard Girl

The Globe has an article this morning describing a Chinese bestseller about a girl from Chengdu who made it to Harvard University. What interests me most is that she made it because her parents supplemented and subverted the current Chinese teaching methods.

Almost all learning in Chinese schools (at least in Yantai) came via rote memorization. I had an incredibly hard time getting the kids to take any chances, to make any leaps of logic. It appears that her parents encouraged/forced their daughter to do more of these types of "western" thinking. It will be interesting to see if widespread publicity of stories like this will engender any education reform.

By the way, if you don't already, you should make sure to check out the Globe's Ideas section each week. This was something new they started a couple of months ago, and it has rapidly become one of my favorite sections, trailing only Sports and BostonWorks ...

Pioli to blame?

Ron Borges has an interesting column this morning, blaming Scott Pioli for the Patriots slide this year.

If the Patsies lose to Miami this afternoon, it's going to be an ugly week here as all the pundits divvy up the blame pie.

 

December 28, 2002

The Broadcast Flag

The Post has an article about the entertainment industry's plans to introduce a "broadcast flag" into their telecasts. Many feel this will stomp on consumer rights. I agree with them.

Support the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Boston Sports Media Watch

I've been reading Boston Sports Media Watch regularly for a couple weeks now. Each day, he goes through the major newspapers (not just the Globe and Herald, but up to the Eagle-Tribune, out to the Telegram & Gazette, and down to the ProJo as well) pulling out and summarizing their stories. On the electronic side, he covers all the TV guys along with updates about WEEI and WWZN. It's very entertaining reading for the Boston sports fan.

Chinese Columbus

This is interesting: NPR has an article on Admiral Zheng He whose fleet not only discovered America 72 years before Columbus, but also circumnavigated the globe long before Magellen.

More Corporate Nickel and Diming

I'm shocked -- shocked -- to hear that there has been a large rise this year in companies adding random little fees and hoping we won't notice. How clever!

Aggressive Panhandling

Aggressive panhandling is becoming more of an issue around Cambridge, not so much here in Central Square, but in Harvard and Davis. Being 6'2", I'm hard to physically intimidate, but I can see how this situation can be extremely uncomfortable. One thing to keep in mind, regardless of how the story frames the issue, is that panhandler != homeless.

What bugs me most are the homeless advocates in the article who say things like: "What we propose is that cities address the problem rather than criminalizing the people." I'll have to check my lawbooks, but I'm pretty sure committing aggressive acts toward strangers is "criminal."

By expending capital -- money, time, compassion and clout -- on supporting anti-social behaviors, they make themselves look ridiculous and squander the opportunity to focus on those they can actually help.

Top 10 Cambridge Stories of 2002

Top stories in the neighborhood this year. The saddest story involved the bicyclist knocked under a city bus by a careless driver opening his SUV's door without looking.

Cops go through citizen's trash? Reporters go through cop's trash.

Police in Oregon have claimed the right to go through citizens' trash without a warrant:

Prosecutor Mark McDonnell says that once you set your garbage out on the curb, it becomes public property.

"She placed her garbage can out in the open, open to public view, in the public right of way," McDonnell told Judge Jean Kerr Maurer earlier this month. "There were no signs on the garbage, 'Do not open. Do not trespass.' There was every indication...she had relinquished her privacy, possessory interest."
The local alternative weekly decided to take advantage of this by going through and cataloguing the "public property" outside the homes of the District Attorney, the Chief of Police, and the Mayor.
(via Boingboing)

 

December 26, 2002

New York Yankees: Evil Empire

It appears Larry Luccino is not happy with our friendly competitors in the Bronx, as shown in this quote from today's New York Times:

When Lucchino was contacted after the Yankees won Contreras, he initially offered a brusque "no comment." Then he changed his position.

"No, I'll make a comment," he said. "The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America." Adding another comment, he called the Yankees' acquisition of Contreras ludicrous[.]
I'd be very happy if the Red Sox end up with Bartolo Colon or Roger Clemens. Pedro, Lowe and Colon would be a tough trio to beat.

Bring Back Roger Clemens

Tony Massarotti pleads with Theo to bring back Roger.

I'm not sure that decision would be best for the long term success of the Red Sox, but it would certainly make things a lot more interesting in the bleachers next summer.

 

December 23, 2002

How's This For a Brutal Hack?

I've just added an RSS feed to the site, so that you can access JPButler.com through news aggregators like Radio, Amphetadesk or NetNewsWire. I'm playing around with this a little for work, so I figured I'd give it a try on this site as well.

This is my totally insane method of publication at the moment: Write in Tinderbox, export to an html file consisting of one snippet of code I paste into Blogger and another snippet I paste into BBEdit for the xml file. Fun!

The Magnificent Strummer

Jimmy Guterman weighs in on Joe Strummer.

Revolution Rock

Joe Strummer is dead at 50, but his contribution to rock music will last far into the future.

London Calling is one of my all-time favorite albums, ever since I bought it sophomore year at Syracuse. It was a brilliant collection of songs, and it had the best cover art of any rock album.

It's going to be the only record playing on the iPod today.

Colleges Tell Parents To Go Easy on Seniors

Smith College, among others, is concerned with college seniors facing the gauntlet this holiday season.

The letter contains both a plea and a warning: Reminding parents of this year's ''volatile economy,'' it asks them not to nag their daughters about finding a job.

 

December 22, 2002

Interesting Article about Auto market in China

A weblog posting about why there are few foreign cars in China and why Volkswagen is the only company to succeed.

The little Santana, based on the early 90's Jetta, ruled the roads in Yantai. Almost all the taxis, and about half the other cars, were Santanas.

Life at the Elite Universities

Love and success at America's finest universities, a long, but extremely interesting, article from the Weekly Standard, echoes something I noticed while spending Summer 2001 living 24/7 with a group of college students. I love them all dearly, but it was striking how little they had screwed around in life.

I predict there will be mass Quarter-Life crises for this generation of college students when they hit 27, 28, 29. The thousands of over-achievers, pushed too hard to be perfect by their boomer parents, will all say "screw it" and have their rebellious years in their late twenties, instead of in their teens. They may put the early 90's slackers of my generation to shame.

Nifty Little Auto-Referrer Component

I've added a snippet of code to my right-hand rail which automatically links back to those kind enough to link to me. If you are interested in some of the geekier aspects of the tool, here is more information.

Split-shift parenting

We have an article this morning about the juggling act of split-shift parenting, where one parent works days and the other works nights.

 

December 21, 2002

Orbitz is now officially banned

Are they insane? Orbitz is pioneering a new type of popup ad which takes you to their site if you just MOUSE OVER the ad; no more of that pesky allowing the computer owner to control what happens on his machine. Nope, the marketroids at Orbitz can better handle that. This is the anti-cluetrain.

Quoth their agency:

Because online travel has such widespread appeal, ads that "roll over" directly to the site hold value for many people, according to the company's interactive ad agency, Otherwise.
Wow, I'm convinced. I've been holding my breath waiting for a friendly web site to hijack my machine.

I just spent most of December giving presentations about how it's critical that web sites treat visitors with respect, regarding them as actual people instead of "consumers" or "eyeballs." I'm appalled that the New York Times on the Web is foisting these abominations on their readers.

And, Dear Orbitz: I've given you over $10,000 in business over the past two years. You are now officially banned. Love, Jason.

Mark Your Calendar: Super Hunger Brunch

The Greater Boston Food Bank is having its annual Super Hunger Brunch on February 8 & 9, 2003. Restaurants around Boston host a brunch where all proceeds go directly to the Food Bank and to Share Our Strength's Operation Frontline.

The Green Street Grill here in Central Square is looking pretty good for that Sunday Morning.

Ooh, Big TV

We are running a contest in conjunction with The Big Help where you can win a 42" Plasma Flat Screen TV. Sadly, I'm not eligible, but you may be....

 

December 20, 2002

D'oh

The Collected Wisdom of Homer Simpson

You may think it's easier to de-ice your windshield with a flamethrower, but there are repercussions. Serious repercussions.
Also, Jeff Bezos, Lou Reed, and many more.

 

December 18, 2002

I love fried pawns

Beijing starts campaign against bad signs.

Fed-up with menus offering delicacies such as "fried pawns" and "bean eurd," Beijing is declaring war against incomprehensible and misspelled English-language signs and notices, the state-run China Daily reported Friday.
Mmmm, incomprehensible. I didn't see any Weihei security officers enforcing the rules against the children of the dull-witted going on the little airplane ride; maybe they were too busy playing Smokey Bear and preventing forest fires.

If you ever visit China, make sure to show leniency to the grasses and trees and tease the little bears.

Forbid!

 

December 17, 2002

Yes, Boston, there is a Santa Claus

The Phoenix has a hilarious interview with the "Santa is Real" graffiti artist prowling the streets of Boston.
(Metafilter comments)

 

December 16, 2002

Mr. Amati

I found an extremely pleasant surprise in my inbox this morning: an email from my favorite teacher at Holliston High School, Mr. Peter Amati. In the years leading up to my graduation in 1990, I had Mr. Amati for Homeroom, Physical Science 2 and Accelerated Biology.

Mr. Amati is famous in his field for pioneering teacher travel. Take ten minutes and read his stories about traveling to Antarctica as part of a world-class research crew.

He retired early this year, and was the subject of a Channel 5 tribute.

 

December 15, 2002

Too Cute for Words

Picture of week-old baby lion

Real Americans want jobs, not "civil liberties"

Patriotic posters and t-shirts from Cafe Press.
(via Follow Me Here)

Very Sweet

Every once in a while I click on the "?" in the sidebar to get a random Bostonian's weblog. Though most are average, sometimes I come across a compelling series of entries.

Scroll down to 10/31, then read up from there. This is a very touching love story; I can't wait to see how it turns out.

That Frelling Fox

It looks like Firefly may be done for. Bu Hao.

TeeVee has an excellent article on why Firefly is so good. I hope UPN or FX or the WB picks up this show; it has so much potential I'd hate to see wasted. Meanwhile, the Globe grieves for Firefly while railing against the McDramas polluting the airwaves these days.

Jay's Week of Internet Fame

Friend and fellow Abuzz'er Jay Brewer is such a rock star this week.

His fun side project, Fast Food Fever, got picked up all over the place: a Yahoo! pick of the day; a MetaFilter post; even Pop Culture Junk Mail. Go Jay!

 

December 6, 2002

Ah, the Hot Stove League

Nomar for Vladimir Guerrero?

 

December 5, 2002

Buffy Makes Ecological Sense

Oh, those wacky grad students. A Stanford Ph.D candidate has done an ecological analysis of the Sunnydale vampire population on Buffy.

Just as Ngorongoro needs hundreds of wildebeest and zebra to support one lion, Sunnydale needs thousands of happy meals with legs to support one vamp.

 

December 4, 2002

Better Watch What You Say

I don't think this is a shock to any of you, but the Harvard Law School study confirms that China has the most extensive Internet censorship in the world.

Google on Search Engine Optimizers

Google takes a dim view of charlatans passing themselves off as "Search Engine Optimizers."

Of course, I don't need to use any SEO techniques; I'm already the number one result when you search for "Jason Butler" on Google, Yahoo, Lycos, MSN, Daypop, etc.

 

December 3, 2002

Woo Hoo

I'm very proud. For the first time this year, I actually won my friend Dan's strictly-for-entertainment-purposes-only football winner guessing game. 130 happy points to me!

 

December 2, 2002

The Tension between Tech Employed and Unemployed

People who actually have jobs are overwhelmed by unemployed acquaintances asking for networking and help.

The tension between those who have jobs and those who don't isn't going to evaporate - at least until new job creation resumes, and the ongoing game of hot potato gets called off.

For All Your Gift Giving Needs

The Habitat for Humanity giftshop has many interesting items for sale. Unfortunately, you have to call them to actually order anything, but it's still better than going to the mall.

Also, the Heifer Project is one of the most impressive organizations in the world. I have had the great honor to see the results of one of their projects in person.

More Washington Street News

No babies crawling into the street this time. Here is a story about the St. Mary's Choir singing backup for Jo Dee Messina this weekend.

My random brush with fame: I lived just down the street from Jo Dee Messina and was in the same Holliston High School class ('90) as Shaun Alderman.

Amazon vs. eBay

The Mercury News has an in-depth article about the increasing product overlap between Amazon.com and eBay.

I think Amazon will win, not just because I'm a loyal ex-employee, but because people hate uncertainty. When I one-click, I know it's on its way from a reputable company, not "hopefully" coming from cheepstuffd00d in Omaha.

After mopping up gallons of foam and bee bodies...

For those of us harboring a healthy bee phobia, this is a story to give nightmares: Bees Trap Shoppers in Liquor Store.

 

December 1, 2002

Today is World AIDS Day

Link and Think
Link and Think.

If you are looking to help, the Boston Living Center is a good place to start. You should also check out the AIDS section of the Google Directory.

Jesus Has Two Mommies

I am sad. I just got a phone call from Ticketmaster saying that Faith Soloway's Jesus has Two Mommies at the Somerville Theater this Friday has been cancelled. They refunded my ticket prices (but not their "service charges" - *******). It appears that there will still be shows on Saturday, but not Friday night.

I don't know if it's related or not, but there is a protest organized by an organization called The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property scheduled for Saturday afternoon. This is the same group which led the ill-informed protests in 1999 against Dogma. Unsurprisingly, the protest has drawn rabid support from Focus on the Family, a notoriously anti-gay organization from Texas.

Faith has responded to what they are doing.

Quasi-related note: I just received Jello Biafra's latest spoken word album from Amazon. He was another target of Focus on the Family back in the 1980's, during the whole Tipper Gore fiasco.

Silver lining: Not being able to go to the show gives me more time to hang out at the Bazaar Bizarre.

Back to The Goal

I just received another Goldratt book, Critical Chain.

I've loved theory of contraints work ever since I first read The Goal in OPM 366 back in 1993. Every few years, I revisit the concepts to see if there is anything I can apply to my current work.

The new book is all about project work, while The Goal was all about managing production. My department is about half production work and half research and development, so it will be interesting to see if I can pull the concepts together into some sort of rational, coherent framework.

Proud to be a M*******

I appears that we are the only state which will take up the fight against Microsoft. (Globe, Times)

"Your kid's in the friggin' road"

The subject matter isn't funny, but the reporting is. Check out this story about a baby who crawled out on Route 16 just a mile or so from where I grew up.

China vs. India

The Times has a very interesting article on the relative economic progress of China vs. India over the past few years, especially focussing on why China is pulling away.

India, despite democracy, has fallen behind China, a one-party state struggling with the aftermath of Communist economic policies.