Sunday, December 30, 2007

Project Ticket Stub - 1980

1980. Chrylser gets its money (errr, our money). Cronkite retires. The "Miracle On Ice" at the Olympics. Khomeini and the hostage crisis sink Carter; Reagan wins. CNN is born. Richard Pryor plays with fire. Solidarity in Poland. And my generation was completely and utterly shocked by the death of John Lennon; to this day I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the news, and my immediate reaction was to play the Plastic Ono Band album.

Being a poor college student, I didn't see a whole heck of a lot of shows in 1980, but there's no arguing with those that I did see...

The Who, April 28, 1980 The Who
The Checkerdome, St. Louis, MO
April 28, 1980

Of all the shows that I cannot remember, this one bothers me the most. How the heck can I have absolutely no memory of seeing The Who? None. Nothing. Absolutely nothing! I mean, come on, no memory of Roger Daltrey or Pete Townshend at all? Sigh, wasted youth. (Literally, I imagine.)

On the positive side, ticket prices were still pretty sweet - just eleven bucks.

Grateful Dead, May 12, 1980 Grateful Dead
Boston Garden, Boston, MA
May 12, 1980

Now this concert I remember! As I recall it, school in St. Louis wasn't quite out yet, and on Saturday a couple of friends (Howard and Fletcher?) asked me if I wanted to see the Dead on Monday - in Boston! Heck yea!

So the three of us set off on Sunday morning in my 1970 Chevy Impala. I remember we drove to Boston via Brooklyn, NY, which is where Howard was from. I distinctly remember having breakfast at Howard's mom's house in Brooklyn before driving to Boston. We might have spent Sunday night in Brooklyn. And I remember we drove back to Brooklyn again before heading west to St. Louis. I remember we picked up a girl hitchhiking somewhere along the way, and she had us drop her off in a scary part of NYC in the wee hours of the morning; we were all worried about her, but she was a whole lot tougher and braver than the three of us college boys.

I figure we must have driven about 2,500 miles round trip to see this one concert.

As for the concert itself, I remember a great He's Gone > Drumz as my highlight. And yet another U.S. Blues encore -- that makes it four U.S. Blues encores out of my first five Dead shows.

Yes, September 25, 1980 Yes
The Checkerdome, St. Louis, MO
September 25, 1980

My third Yes show. Too bad I really don't remember much about any of them. I have some hazy memory of them playing "in the round" - they played on a slowly rotating circular stage. But I don't remember if that was at all three of the concerts I saw, or just one or two of them.

Bruce Springsteen, October 17, 1980 Bruce Springsteen
Kiel Opera House, St. Louis, MO
October 17, 1980

Oh for crying out loud, you'd think I would remember something about this show, wouldn't you?

Jethro Tull, October 26, 1980 Jethro Tull
The Checkerdome, St. Louis, MO
October 26, 1980

This will turn out to be my last Tull show for a long time. Sometime in the late 90s or thereabouts I saw a nostalgia Tull tour at Club Casino in Hampton, NH. But it will be a long time until I get to that ticket stub.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Project Ticket Stub - 1979

1979. Sid Vicious. Pol Pot. The Shah of Iran and Ayatollah Khomeini. C-SPAN is born. A swamp rabbit attacks Jimmy Carter. Margaret Thatcher is elected, and Muhammad Ali retires. (No, those two events are no related.) Saddam Hussein gains power in Iraq, and Diana Nyad swims from the Bahamas to Florida. (Those two events aren't related either.) Chrysler needs money. Pac-Man. Eleven people are killed in a stampede at a Who concert in Cincinnati. The Clash releases London Calling.

And my year was bookended by the Grateful Dead...

Grateful Dead, January 12, 1979 Grateful Dead
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA
January 12, 1979

This night sure did alter the course of my life, or at least how I spent a bunch of time in the next decade. Sure, I was familiar with the Dead before the show, particularly the Europe '72 album. But in terms of a concert experience, this was something completely different and unlike anything I had experienced to this point. Maybe Zeppelin could be compared, but an awful lot of my first concert experiences had been "shows", but this was music. I was hooked.

If I remember right, I went to this concert with Mark, Scott, and my brother, Bob.

Grateful Dead, February 11, 1979 Grateful Dead
Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, MO
February 11, 1979

A month later and I'm back at school in St. Louis.

Steve Goodman, February 17, 1979 Steve Goodman
Graham Chapel, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
February 17, 1979

It's too bad I got the bottom half of this stub instead of the top half. Nevertheless, I wrote Steve's name and the concert date on the back, and this stub is a prized possession. At the time of the concert I didn't know that Steve Goodman had been fighting leukemia since 1969, nor of course that he would lose that battle in just another five years at the all-too-young age of 36. I just knew that I was hooked on his quirky songs such as The Twentieth Century Is Almost Over, and also that Steve wrote City of New Orleans.

This concert was held in the incredibly beautiful Graham Chapel, with its breathtaking stained glass window backdrop.

If there was any one concert I could go back to and re-experience again, this one is it.

Sea Level, March 31, 1979 Sea Level
Graham Chapel, Washington University, St. Louis, MO
March 31, 1979

Sea Level was a rock/blues/jazz band spun out of the Allman Brothers. They were quite popular on my campus, but I don't recall a thing about this concert.

J. Geils Band, April 6, 1979 J. Geils Band
Keil Opera House, St. Louis, MO
April 6, 1979

Can't tell from the ticket, but I'm fairly certain this was held in the opera house side of Keil, not the auditorium side. The building had both back to back, sharing a common backstage area.

I bet this concert was fun. Too bad I don't remember it.

Dixie Dregs Dixie Dregs
Washington University Quadrangle, St. Louis, MO
April 29, 1979

What can be better than a springtime Sunday all-afternoon concert on the college campus? Called "Quadrock Sunday" because it was held in the picturesque campus main quadrangle, it featured a bunch of local bands all afternoon, with the Dixie Dregs as the headliner and show closer late in the afternoon.

Supertramp, May 11, 1979 Supertramp
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
May 11, 1979

Supertramp was big in 1979, and this concert was a lot of fun. Bloody well right.

I think this whole outing was organized by my friend Scott.

I wonder about the date, though. My ticket stub clearly shows "5/11", but I found this concert program that says it was a week later on May 18. Was it originally scheduled for May 11 but postponed for a week for some reason?

Jorma Kaukonen, July 14, 1979 Jorma Kaukonen
Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
July 14, 1979

There were both acoustic and electric sets, but no Jack on bass (at least according to

Me, Scott, and Mark? Anyone else?

Jethro Tull, November 8, 1979 Jethro Tull
The Checkerdome, St. Louis, MO
November 8, 1979

Back in St. Louis and yet another Tull show.

Jorma Kaukonen Jorma Kaukonen
Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
November 24, 1979

Back home for Thanksgiving.

Interestingly enough, this show isn't listed in Maybe that's because this was when Jorma was playing with a band called White Gland, and the music was more punk than anything else. I remember that Mark and I were horribly disappointed in this show. We came to hear Jorma and Hot Tuna material, but they played what can only be described as weird punk. This concert is a solid contender for my bottom-of-the-barrel list.

Grateful Dead, December 9, 1979 Grateful Dead
Keil Auditorium, St. Louis, MO
December 9, 1979

As I began the year, so I ended it. First with the Sunday night show in St. Louis, and then...

Grateful Dead, December 10, 1979 Grateful Dead
Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS
December 10, 1979

...the Monday night show in Kansas City.

I distinctly remember this particular show, both for the 250-mile drive (each way) across Missouri and back just for the show, as well as for the show itself. The second set, in particular, was rockin' (Scarlet > Fire, Easy To Love You > Let It Grow > He's Gone > Truckin > Drumz > Wharf Rat > Johnny B. Goode E: U. S. Blues) and the crowd went nuts for a long, long time after the band left the stage.

While a 500-mile round trip drive (in my 1970 Chevy Impala) to see one concert might seem excessive, it will turn out to be nowhere near my single-concert drive record, although all of my distance records will turn out to be for the Dead.

So there is 1979, starting and ending with a pair of Grateful Dead shows - and setting the tone for the next ten or twelve years.

On the trivia front, three of those four Dead shows had U.S. Blues encores. What's up with that? I grew to groan at "Useless Blues" encores, wishing for almost anything else!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Project Ticket Stub - 1978

1978. Jimmy Carter is in the White House. New England gets hit with "the blizzard of '78". Boston's year only gets worse when Bucky Dent's home run crushes the Red Sox, and the Yankees go on to win the World Series for the second year in a row. Garfield is a brand new comic strip. Lee Iacocca is fired from Ford. Muhammad Ali beats Leon Spinks.

And I saw these five concerts...

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, February 7, 1978 Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
Jadwin Gym, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
February 7, 1978
Notice that my ticket stub isn't ripped. As I recall, the scene outside the Jadwin Gym that night was chaos. It snowed that day, and that might have had something to do with it. But the doors didn't open until close to show time, and I'm pretty sure the crowed just overwhelmed the ticket takers (who, in all likelihood, were just student volunteers). By the time my friend, Scott, and I got to the doors, well, we just walked right in. Actually, I walked right in. Scott was on crutches with a broken foot or something, so he sort of hobbled right in.

As for the show itself, I don't recall much other than I think ELP was already playing by the time we got inside. And that it was loud. And dark. And I'm pretty sure we never found anything resembling our seats.

Meatloaf, May 13, 1978 Meat Loaf
Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
May 13, 1978

Meat Loaf was enormously popular in 1978, riding the Bat out of Hell wave. This concert was immense fun, and is a serious contender for my top 10 list. The show was high energy from start to finish, and Meat Loaf didn't leave anything behind. I remember watching him taking hits from an oxygen tank on the side of the stage between songs!

The Rolling Stones The Rolling Stones
J.F.K. Stadium, Philadelphia, PA
June 17, 1978

It doesn't get much better than this on the pure fun scale. Summer after graduating high school and an outdoor Rolling Stones concert. Didn't we watch some guy scale (or attempt to scale) the outside of the stadium that day? Fun in the pre-show parking lot.

Note the noon start time on the ticket stub! I have no idea what time the show really started. Nor, sadly, do I really recall anything else about the concert - other than that guy climbing the outside of the stadium before the show.

Yes, September 28, 1978 Yes
The Checkerdome, St. Louis, MO
September 28, 1978

Note the shift to the mid-west along with my move to attending college at Washington University in St. Louis. This was just 4 or so weeks after I arrived in St. Louis. I wonder who I went to this show with?

Jethro Tull, October 19, 1978 Jethro Tull
The Checkerdome, St. Louis, MO
October 19, 1978

I was still really into Tull at this point, although that was about to change in a big way. But you will have to wait until 1979 to learn how and why...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The First Ten (or, Project Ticket Stub Begins)

I have saved all of my concert ticket stubs since the very first concert I attended. I fell into an easy habit of putting my used concert stubs in an envelope. Over the years that grew to two, three, four envelopes stuffed full of stubs in rough chronological order.

Every once in a while I browse through the envelopes, having a stroll down memory lane (or, sadly, a stroll down memory-loss lane). For a while now I have thought that it would be pretty cool to see what I could do with scanned images of all of the stubs. Today I was deciding what to do: I could go out and chip away at some ice in the driveway. Or I could clean up the chaos in the basement. Or I could clean up the stacks of crap in the computer room. Or, I know, I could fire up the scanner and get Project Ticket Stub off the ground!

Without further ado, my first ten concerts...

Jethro Tull, February 26, 1975 Jethro Tull
February 26, 1975
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

As I recall, a high school friend, Rickey Remes, invited me to this concert. I remember a bus ride to Philly, and think that the entire outing was organized by the local JCC (Jewish Community Center). Hard to imagine that today!

This concert certainly made an impression on my young mind! I remember we had really good floor seats, and I remember the vast spectacle of it all - Ian Anderson was certainly into production and theatrics at this time.

Note the $7.50 ticket price!

Led Zeppelin, June 6, 1977 Led Zeppelin
June 6, 1977
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

A long two years between concerts #1 and #2, but holy cow, what a concert experience for #2! You don't get much better than Led Zeppelin in Madison Square Garden in the mid-70s.

Note that it cost a whole $9.50 to see Zeppelin!

James Taylor, July 5, 1977 James Taylor
July 5, 1977
Garden State Arts Center, Homdel, NJ

A month later, and now for something completely different! Sweet Baby James in an outdoor amphitheater. That's about as far from Zeppelin at MSG as you can get.

Yes, August 3, 1977 Yes
August 3, 1977
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

The first of way too many shows of which I don't have a whole lot of recollections, I'm afraid.

Jackson Browne, September 6, 1977 Jackson Browne
September 6, 1977
Garden State Arts Center, Homdel, NJ

This was Jackson's tour in support of The Pretender, arguably his breakthrough and best album of his career.

Queen, November 23, 1977 Queen
November 23, 1977
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

"We will, we will, ROCK YOU!" And indeed, they did!

Jethro Tull, November 30, 1977 Jethro Tull
November 30, 1977
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

I'm pretty sure this is the concert where Livingston Taylor (James' brother) was booked as the opening act. What in the world were the concert promoters thinking? It was horrifying. Livingston was introduced and walked on stage with his acoustic guitar. He started to sing The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends." He didn't get out much more than the first line ("What would you think if I sang out of tune...") before the crowd was drowning him out with booing. He stopped. He waited. And waited. And waited. But the booing continued. After what seemed like a very long time, he held up both arms in a gesture for the crowd to stop. When the noise died down, he leaned into the microphone and said "Thank you and good night" and left the stage. The crowd was stunned. And so we sat there for an hour waiting for Jethro Tull to take the stage. Stupid crowds.

Many years later I almost asked Livingston if he remembered that show, but I didn't have the heart.

Jethro Tull, December 12, 1977 Jethro Tull
December 5, 1977
The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA

Yet another Tull show.

Billy Joel, December 11, 1977 Billy Joel
December 11, 1977
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY

To this day this concert remains as one of my best all-around concert experiences ever. I'm certain it places in my top-ten concert list. Billy Joel is the entertainer, and he was in prime form in late 1977. He was touring for the highly popular album, The Stranger, and the New York crowd simply adored him. He had us in the palm of his hand the entire concert. And rightfully so.

This concert was broadcast live by WNEW-FM, and excellent FM recordings of it are widely circulated.

Utopia, December 29, 1977 Todd Rundgren and Utopia
December 29, 1977
Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ

Hmmmm, my first time seeing Todd, and my first concert at the legendary Capitol Theater. But no memories. :-(

There you have it -- the first ten! Jethro Tull (3 times!), Led Zeppelin, James Taylor, Yes, Jackson Browne, Queen, Billy Joel, and Todd Rundgren. Great start, and a whole lot more yet to come.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pandora Radio!

I just discovered Pandora Radio via a recent Rocketboom post in which Joanne interviews Tim Westergren, Pandora's Chief Strategy Officer and Founder.

The heart of Pandora is the Music Genome Project, a vast and ever growing taxonomy of musical information started back in 2000. They analyze songs according to nearly 400 attributes on aspects such as melody, harmony, instrumentation, rhythm, vocals, and lyrics.

Pandora then lets you stream and explore music. I started by giving Pandora a list of seed artists that Patti and I like, and Pandora took it from there - playing those artists, plus other artists and songs that are related via the Music Genome Project taxonomy. In just a couple of days Patti and I are already hooked - hooked enough to pay the $36 annual subscription to have Pandora advertising free.

There's a social networking and sharing aspect to Pandora too, and I've already bookmarked the Folk Holidays and Contemporary Folk shared music streams. And there's lots more to explore too. Like I said, I'm hooked - and excited.

The only complaint I might have so far is that Pandora's web UI is killing my "music PC", which is a 6 year old Pentium 4 with 1 GB of RAM running Windows 2000. Pandora is pegging the CPU on that old machine, and I can only assume it is due to its very nice, very slick, very modern Ajax web user interface, not the music streaming.

Oh, and if you are curious, the artists we seeded our Pandora stream with are Bruce Cockburn, David Bromberg, Diana Krall, Eliza Gilkyson, Lucy Kaplansky, Natalie Merchant, Ollabelle, Richard Shindell, Susan Werner, and Tish Hinojosa. I'm sure I'll add more, but those were no-brainers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Boston CHI November Meeting

BostonCHI, the New England area chapter of ACM SIGCHI Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction, is holding its monthly program meeting this coming Tuesday night, November 13. Socializing over tea, coffee, drinks, and food starts at 6:30pm, and the featured talk starts at 7pm.

This month's featured talk is:

"'Umm, No, I Don't Actually Think That's Such a Good Idea'
OR How to Say Things your Client Doesn't Want to Hear"
Ilise Benun, Marketing Mentor

Read more about it on the Boston CHI monthly meeting page.

But, no, I won't be going. Instead I am heading to Seattle to visit some customers this week.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Manchester City Marathon and Half Marathon

The inaugural Manchester City Marathon and Half Marathon was held in Manchester, NH today. Surprisingly enough for a first time race, registration was sold out several weeks in advance. Over 800 runners were registered for the half marathon, and 600 for the marathon.

We had beautiful fall New England weather for the race. Tropical storm Noel blew through here yesterday, mostly off to sea, but still with a good amount of inland rain and wind. But Noel was gone this morning, and we had temperatures in the mid 40s and plenty of sun at the 8:50am race start.

I ran the half - my first half ever, as up to now I've preferred the 10k race distance. My target finish time window was between one hour and forty five and one hour fifty minutes. I'm still waiting for official times to be posted, but my watch says 1:47:11.

I ran all but the last mile with my work running partner, Dan, who was running the full marathon. I think I paced Dan through the first ten miles, but I know that he was pacing me in miles 10 and 11. We hit a hill somewhere around mile 11 that just made me feel like crap, but Dan kept plowing on. He got me to mile 12 and told me to get going and finish strong. Thanks, Dan!

Here's a shot that Patti took of me and Dan at mile 6:

Me and Dan at mile 6

And here's a shot of me in the final stretch, somewhere between mile 13 and the finish line:

Me and Dan at mile 6

Dan kept up our first half pace on his own through the second half of the marathon, and finished somewhere in the three hour and 30 minute range. Way to go, Dan!

I'll update the post when official finishing times show up on Cool Running.

Oh, and I feel great! My quads are just a little sore, but no big deal. And I developed a blister on a toe, but again - no big deal.

Update: Both the marathon results and half marathon results are now posted on Cool Running. I finished in 1:47:10, giving me a pace average of 8:11 per mile; I was the 144th finisher, out of 816 total, and 15th out of the 40 in my age group. Dan finished in an amazing 3:36:49, which is just 6 minutes short of a Boston Marathon qualifying time; considering how frigging hilly the course was, this was a fantastic finish time for Dan. His average pace was 8:17, so he did slow a little in the second half of his race. He finished 98th out of 517, and 14th out of 49 in his age group.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hello, Blackberry. (Bad news for Palm)

I have been a loyal Palm user since day one. Since that very first Pilot. But with my ongoing hotsync crash problems, and with a recent upgrade at work to Exchange Server 2007, well, the time had come to give Crackberry, err, Blackberry a try...

There are a lot of Pearl devotees where I work, but I'd rather a full keyboard. So a just recently released Curve 8310 was delivered to my office yesterday:

Blackberry Curve 8310

Initial impressions? Compared to my Treo 650, it is light. And thin. But the plastic housing doesn't feel quite as high quality as the Treo. The keyboard is superb - even better than the Treo's keyboard!

I'm still waiting for my IT department to set up my Exchance syncing, so I cannot comment on that yet. But I found it very interesting that the first three things I added to the device were Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Maps.

The Opera Mini browser is probably next. Then it is off to find the best news feeds, discussion forums, and software repositories...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

NH UX October Meeting

(I know, I know. I was supposed to post more often, not take the entire summer off. What can I say? Here's to a renewed effort to post more often...)

I spotted notice of this NH UX October Meeting in a recent post to the IxDA discussion list. I'm pretty sure I'll be attending.

Topic: Bias in Usability Testing
Speaker: Carolyn Snyder
When: Tuesday, October 30, 2007
6:30 - 7:00pm Food, Beverages & Networking
7:00 - 7:15pm NH-UX Info Update
7:15 - 8:15pm Presentation
Where: Fidelity, 2 Contra Way, Merrimack NH
RSVP: Please RSVP to Amy Cueva

In usability testing, we strive to eliminate bias so that the results will be accurate. But what is bias anyway? How does it affect our results? What can we do about it? And are we, as usability specialists, truly objective? Usability consultant Carolyn Snyder will lead a stimulating discussion about bias in usability testing - something we encounter on a daily basis but may not consciously think about. There are many sources of bias in usability testing, from users to tasks to reporting. Every testing methodology is biased, and so are we as facilitators. But bias is not something to be shunned. Instead, we need to understand its sources and weigh its effects. Sometimes, bias can even be harnessed to serve our purpose. Come to this presentation and you'll never look at your testing methods the same way again!

Carolyn Snyder is an independent usability consultant in the greater Boston area. In the past 15 years she has conducted hundreds of usability tests on dozens of products and interfaces. Carolyn is the author of the book Paper Prototyping (she'll give away a copy at this presentation) and co-author of two books on web site usability. She has a BS in Computer Science and an MBA, both of which have biased her perspective :-). More information concerning Carolyn's consultancy is available at Snyder Consulting.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Microsoft Live Labs: Photosynth

I'm really surprised I haven't seen more buzz about Photosynth from Microsoft Live Labs. Photosynth "takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and then displays the photos in a reconstructed three-dimensional space, showing you how each one relates to the next." This is the most "holy crap, lookit this!" new technology that I've seen in a long, long time.

Go visit the site and give it a try. They have a growing number of photo collections, but I recommend starting with the Piazza San Marco, Venice collection.

Google Does It Again - Drag and Drop Driving Directions

Google Maps introduced draggable driving directions sometime in the past couple of days. Don't like the route suggested? Then just drag the blue route line to another road and have it all recalculate automagically. This is the same type of capability as available in Garmin MapSource, but as one would expect from Google, the interaction design is easier and more elegant.

Check out the video introducing the feature.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Palm Has Lost Its Mind, Or At Least Its Way

Also from D 2007, Palm's Jeff Hawkins introducted the Palm Foleo. Story and video clip on the D5 site here, and recap and lots of pics on the Engadget site here.

What the bloody h*ll are they thinking? It looks all the world like a small, underpowered laptop. Why would I want one of those? Why in the world would I want yet another device, this one physically in-between my smartphone and my laptop? For five hundred bucks? You gotta be kidding me!

Palm has losts its mind.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at D 2007

Engadget has posted a video clip of the first 15-minutes of the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates discussion from last night on stage at the D 2007 conference. I was completely enthralled, particularly listening to Bill talk about betting on the paradigm shift from character-cell to graphical user interfaces. That part of the conversation is a good reminder of just how young the software design field is yet, and of the kinds of things we were struggling with just a little more than 20 years ago. I highly recommend watching the clip.

Videos of the entire discussion are archived on the D conference site, although I haven't watched them all yet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Microsoft Surface

Oh, and if you haven't checked out the Microsoft Surface vision videos yet, you should.

Google Maps Street View - Good or Evil?

Holy crap! Google Map's new Street View is at once both fascinating and exciting, and utterly frightening for its privacy implications (or lack thereof, actually).

For the fascinating and exciting, the very first thing I did was find this view of the Golden Gate Bridge. What fun! How about the view from Coit Tower? Or maybe the crooked part of Lombard Street?

Hoo boy, I can see myself wasting hours and hours.

But wait. An article in Boing Boing gets you thinking. First it starts with this guy's cat. But then the number of car license plates you can read starts to get you to thinking - and it is very easy to find a ton of 'em. Or, does the owner of this beautiful Ferrari really want its picture so available? Or these girls catching some sun? How would you feel if it was you taking out the trash? Or crossing the street? Or were in front of a strip joint?

But then again, we're going to have so much fun exploring New York, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, and, of course, San Francisco and the Bay area. I can't wait till they add Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, ...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Not This Day. Not This Course.

Ever since I ran 20:05 in last October's United Against Domestic Violence 5K I have been thinking about those 6 seconds between my finish time and the satisfaction of running a "sub 20." I know that on the right day, on the right course, I have a sub 20 in me. I keep telling myself I just want one, then I'll be satisfied.

Today I ran the Russell M. Durgin Memorial 5K in Henniker, NH. Sub 20? Not this day. Not this course. I should have known the course would be a significant factor, just based on its starting point - at the parking lot entrance to the Pat's Peak Ski Area. No, the course didn't go up the slopes, but the roads in the area aren't exactly flat. It was an out-and-back course, and there was a nasty hill in the third mile that just killed my time. I ran a 21:31, which was good for 23rd overall (out of 245 finishers listed in the race results) and 8th out of 33 in my division (M40-49).

Bragging rights go to my work running partner, Dan, who finished with a strong 20:33 - 16th overall and 6th out of the 33 in our uber-competitive division. He pulled away from me toward the end of the first mile, and I just didn't have it in me today. Go Dan.

You think I'm kidding about our division being uber-competitive? Five of the top 6 finishers (all but 3rd place) were guys in the M40-49 division. A full one third of the top 30 finishers were from the M40-49 division. And every race is like that. Every once in a while I think I'll be glad when I hit the M50-59 division (which is now a LOT closer than it used to be), except that all these guys are getting older at the same rate as me!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It Shouldn't Be This Hard

I have used Palm devices since the very first Pilot. I love the Palm OS. I love my Treo 650. I'm trying really hard to stay in love, but the BlackBerry Pearl keeps singing that siren song, pulling my thoughts again and again toward going CrackBerry.

Today didn't help.

One of brilliant successes of the Palm OS, in my opinion, has always been the ease and simplicity of HotSync. From the very start, it was brilliant and it just plain worked. Pop your Palm device into its cradle, press the HotSync button, and magic happens. It's always been wonderful magic. And it seamlessly updated my data from the Pilot, to the Palm III, to the Palm V (oh how I loved the sleek design of the Palm V - IDEO design really shined on that one), to the Treo 300, to my current Treo 650. That's 11 years of data transfer across 5 devices.

But lately Hotsync has been a nightmare for me. I sync at work on my work laptop. We use Outlook, and I could never get the Palm Outlook conduit to work, so I have been using the Intellisync conduit with a completely acceptable level of success. Well, at least until I started getting that cryptic error message every time Hotsync started. And then there were the syncs that never ended (until I used Task Manager to kill the process). Oh, and the random Hotsync crashes too.

I never lost any data, but each and every sync was turning into a "hold your breath" moment.

So today I had enough. It took nearly two hours (with the normal office interruptions) to:

  • Stop both Intellisync and Hotsync, uninstall them, delete their folders from the disk, and manually remove all traces of them in the registry.
  • Download and install Hotsync (Palm Desktop Manager, really).
  • Download and install Intellisync.
  • Call Intellisync tech support and get them to reactivate my serial number, as it seems the uninstall didn't correctly notify their license tracking system.
  • Finish activating Intellisync.
  • Download and install the latest Intellisync patch updates (at the suggestion of the very helpful tech support person).
  • Uninstall and remove all traces of Hotsync and Palm Desktop again, as I was once again getting some mysterious DLL error, and my address book and memos were certainly not syncing correctly.
  • Reinstall Palm Desktop again.
  • Install the Intellisync patch update again, partly out of superstitious behavior, but also to get the Hotsync software to know about the Intellisync conduit.

And now finally I am able to sync seamlessly and painlessly again. Ugh. It shouldn't be this hard.

Friday, May 11, 2007

In Command and Out of Control

Maybe I don't get out much, but I just ran across the phrase "in command and out of control" for the first time while reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. I was immediately struck at how well that describes my idea of good management, and the style of management to which I aspire. Here's the paragraph from the book:

Van Riper carried this lesson with him when he took over the helm of the Red Team. "The first thing I told our staff is that we would be in command and out of control," Van Riper says, echoing the words of the management guru Kevin Kelly. "By that I mean that the overall guidance and the intent were provided by me and the senior leadership, but the forces in the field wouldn't depend on intricate orders coming from the top. They were to use their own initiative and be innovative as they went forward. Almost every day, the commander of the Red air forces came up with different ideas of how he was going to pull this together, using these general techniques of trying to overwhelm Blue Team from different directions. But he never got specific guidance from me of how to do it. Just the intent.

From Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, 2005, page 118

This is clearly a military example, and Van Riper is Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, United States Marine Corps, retired. But even though "command and control", or in the case "in command and out of control" may have military roots, I still find it compelling and highly applicable beyond that context. The phrase fits well with my own mental image of my management style, in which I try to point out where we need to end up, but leave it up to the individuals in my group to chart their own path to the objective.

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that the management guru is this Kevin Kelly.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Five Essential Design Skills

Last week was CHI 2007 in San Jose, CA. The opening plenary address on Monday was given by Bill Moggridge, one of the founders of IDEO. Bill is also widely known as the industrial designer of the world's first laptop computer (circa 1979).

Much of Bill's talk centered around a list of 5 essential design skills. Bill said the list emerged through several conversations he had with Chris Conley (bio, blog) of the IIT Institute of Design. Here they are (all transcription errors are my own):

  1. To frame or reframe the problem or objective.

  2. To create and envision alternatives.

  3. To select from these alternatives, knowing intuitively how to choose the best approach.

  4. To visualize and prototype the intended solution.

  5. To synthesize a solution from all of the relevant constraints, understanding everything that will make a difference to the result.

Bill used video clips from the DVD included in his new book, Designing Interactions, to illustrate each point. Brilliant. I have the book (a post on that topic sometime soon, I promise), but probably would never have cracked open the DVD if not for seeing these snips. Hearing Larry Tesler describe the night that Bill Atkinson invented pull-down menus during the development of the Lisa is alone worth the price of admission.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

On the Reading Stand

My reading tends to go in spurts of themes, and the Civil War has been the dominant theme over the past few months. Here are the most recent books to pass my reading stand, roughly in order of reading...

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. This is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg from the perspective of the battle's major players, including Lee, Longstreet, and Armistead on the Confederate side, and Buford and Chamberlain on the Federal side. The novel shines in many areas, including Chamberlain's holding of the Federal's extreme left flank at Little Round Top, the sheer insanity of Pickett's charge, and the tension between Lee and Longsteet over the right course of action. This novel was also used as the primary source for the 1993 movie, Gettysburg.

Gods and Generals, by Jeff Shaara. Written to be a sort of prequel to his late father's masterpiece, this novel continues Michael Shaara's technique of telling the Civil War story from the perspective of the central figures. Here we start back in 1858 and work up through to 1863, from the points of view of Chamberlain, Hancock, Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Perhaps not as quite a masterpiece as his father's work, but nonetheless still very enjoyable. I think if I were to do it over again, I'd read this first, then read Killer Angels.

Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam, by Stephen Sears. With nearly 23,000 casualties, the Battle of Antietam remains the single bloodiest day in American history. We simply cannot imagine this today - twenty three thousand casualties in less than 24 hours. What I most liked about this book was the set up that helps us understand the significance of the battle itself - the political landscape with the threat of Britain and France supporting the war on the Confederate side, the role of the Emancipation Proclamation in stemming that threat to the Union, Lee's march into Maryland, the battle at Harpers' Ferry, and the Union discovery of Lee's Special Order 191 are all well told. The battle itself is told in full detail - at times I thought just a little too much detail. But still - twenty three thousand casualties. Can you imagine?

1776, by David McCullough. What's a Revolutionary War book doing here? I snuck it in because I needed a short, quick read during a recent trip to California. This is an excellent read that goes from the seige of Boston, to the British success in driving the Revolutionary army out of New York City, to, of course, the Battle of Trenton. To me, Washington's growth as a commanding general really came through in McCullough's book. This book should be required reading in every high school history curriculum.

Grant Takes Command, by Bruce Catton. An excellent look at Grant from just before he was given overall command of the Federal forces in 1863 through to end of the war. I'm about half way though this book right now.

Up next... probably David McCullough's John Adams. Yea, yea, I know...back to the Revolution!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sage Advice - Note from Boss To Employees

I loved Michael Wade's recent Execupundit post, Note From Boss To Employees. After thinking about it for a while, I have one thing to add to his list:

  • In the absence of proposals, I will point a way forward. If you have a better idea, then bring it up; don't grumble behind my back. If your idea(s) are better, I'm more than willing to drop mine.

Switching gears just ever so slightly, make sure you read the comments to Michael's post. I'm surprised at the number of petty, sarcastic, and anger-laden responses, although I suppose I shouldn't be. Sigh.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Selected Essays on Software Design

[This post is for Lance-san, who rightfully chided me for starting out with a flurry of posts and then just dropping off the face of the earth. He is right, of course, and I resolve to post more regularly.]

I'm starting up a modest reading effort with the software product designers who report to me. I want to encourage them to read regularly, and I want to ensure that they are aware of what I consider essential readings. I also want them to think more about what it means to be a software designer. Rather than drop a ton of must-read books on them, I thought I would ease them into things with a series of small essays.

Here are the first six that came to my mind. They are all relatively short (most just a few pages in length). They are all thought-provoking (at least to me) and I hope they spur good discussion.

"As We May Think", Vannevar Bush. In The Atlantic Monthly (July, 1945). By far the oldest essay on my list, but essential and inspiring reading. Bush introduces the idea of associative linking, which we see played out today in the Web, 30 years before the invention of the personal computer and 50 years before the Web as we know it. I argue that Bush's essay represents the beginning of the field of Human-Computer Interaction, but I also find it compelling that Bush's essay places our work in a human, social, and moral context - Bush was specifically asking what scientists should do next, after the close of World War II. How will scientists (or engineers, or designers) "find objectives worthy of their best"? Powerful stuff.

"A Software Design Manifesto", Mitch Kapor. In Bringing Design to Software (Winograd, 1996). This essay was first given as a talk at Esther Dyson's PC Forum in 1990, and it first appeared in print in Dr. Dobbs Journal in 1991. Kapor's essay represents a call to arms for a software design profession, and draws a strong parallel between software design and architecture.

"The Right Way to Think About Software Design", Theodor Holm Nelson. In The Art of Human- Computer Interface Design (Laurel, 1990). Nelson's essay draws an analogy between software design and movie-making; the interactive nature of both are key concepts. I liken user interface specifications to movie scripts, and prototypes to rehersal.

"The Designer's Stance", an interview with David Kelley by Bradley Hartfield. In Bringing Design to Software (Winograd, 1996). David Kelley is the founder of IDEO. This interview is a nice short into to Kelley's ideas, and should whet any designer's appetite for reading The Art of Innovation, written by David's brother Tom Kelley.

"Cultures of Prototyping", Michael Schrage. In Bringing Design to Software (Winograd, 1996). This essay discusses the importance of prototyping to creativity and innovation, and draws on examples from the automotive and consumer electronics industries. This essay plays well with my opinion that software design needs to be much more like industrial design, and that we place far too much emphasis on "specs" as the primary deliverable of product designers.

"Designing the PalmPilot: A Conversation with Rob Haitani", an interview with Rob Haitani by Eric Bergman. In Information Appliances and Beyond (Bergman, 2000). Rob Haitani was the Product Manager for the original PalmPilot, and is widely credited with being in charge of the design of the PalmOS user interface. As a Palm user from the very first PalmPilot, I'm an unabashed PalmOS fan. This interview, the longest reading so far at 20 pages, is a fascinating look at the design process and design for the small screen.

I'll start with these essays, but if you have any suggestions to add to me list, please let me know. I suspect I may find a number of interviews to add to my list from Designing Interactions, the new book (2007) out by Bill Moggridge. What else should I add to my list?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Short Treo Antenna

I know, I know, the Apple iPhone announcement is all the rage this week. Yea, yea, yea. Interesting. Lots of potential. But I'm still not convinced, and I still love my Treo and PalmOS.

So, if you have a Treo 650 or 700 and, like me, are jealous of the "look ma, no external antenna" look of the Treo 680, then has just what you need:

I have one of these on my Treo 650, and love it. I notice an ever-so-slight decrease in signal strength in weak signal areas, but not enough of a decrease to go back to the stock antenna. Installation is a breeze.

There is a very long thread on the short antenna over at TreoCentral, with participation by the guy making and selling them. There is also a very nice review that was just posted to that is worth a read - much more detail than here in this post.

There! Now the iPhone feeding frenzy can resume. I feel better

Saturday, January 6, 2007

65 Degrees Fahrenheit in New Hampshire in January!?!?

WTF? Now I'm not complaining, but it was 65 degrees F here in southern New Hampshire today. I hate winter, but this is a little unsettling. It's January, and winter just has NOT arrived yet.

I'm fond of saying that no two winters in New England are alike, and I truly believe that. But in twenty five years of living in New England, I have never seen any winter even remotely like this one.

I did take advantage of today's weather via a nice and easy 10 mile run. Who knows, maybe tomorrow will bring a motorcycle ride!

The 26th Annual Hangover Classic

I love running the Winner's Circle Running Club's Hangover Classic 10K every January 1st. It's a very satifsying way to start a new year, even if getting out of bed to go run 6 miles on New Year's Day isn't easy.

This year was a clear indication of how a little weather will thin out the crowd - if perhaps only to the truly insane - or dedicated? In 2005 we had blue skies and 40 degree F temperatures, and there were 347 finishers in the 10K. In 2006 it was in the 30s, but it had snowed a little the day before (traction was lacking in the first mile of snow and slush), and the result was 299 10K finishers. This year we had temps in the 40s again, but a steady rain! You guessed it -- just 234 finishers.

The rain wasn't so bad. The worst part really was the flooded road just 100 yards from the start line. There were 2 to 3 inches of water from one side of the road to the other. The shock wasn't so much getting our feet wet, but how COLD the water felt.

Nevertheless, I'm quite happy with my race. I finished in 43:25 (6:59 average pace). I was the 45th finisher overall, and 16th out of 66 in my age division.

My 2006 Running Year in Review

I'm pleased with my running in 2006. I seem to have honed in on a pace between 6:55 to 7:05 for 8K and 10K races; my 7:11 pace for last year's Hangover Classic is an anomaly due to the inch of fresh snow and slush that covered much of the first half of the course.

My highlight of the year was the 20:05 I ran in the Pelham 5K. I know that on the right day, on the right course, I have a sub-20 in me. But I didn't expect to come that close in this race. I owe my great time completely to a fellow named Dan Houston, who came in fifth place right behind me. I led Dan by about 40 or 50 feet for most of the race, but out of the blue at about the two and a half mile mark he blew by me. I was shocked, demoralized at first, and then just pissed. I knew the course well and planned my counter attack. I passed Dan at a full sprint with about 200 yards to go, and I didn't look back or let off the gas until the finish line. I don't know whether I'm happier about my finish time, or by not letting Dan's late race move take the fight out of me. Either way, my hat is off to Dan for a great race.

Race Date Overall Place/Finishers Division Place/Finishers Time Pace
Hangover 10K 01/01/06 95/299 33/70 44:40 7:11
Cigna 5K 08/10/06 426/4260 53/272 21:36 6:57
Lundgren 5K 08/19/06 30/287 4/45 20:58 6:45
Union Leader 8K 09/09/06 72/299 28/60 35:01 7:03
Pelham 5K 10/07/06 4/90 2/7 20:05 6:28
Bridges 10K 10/14/06 25/181 8/24 44:01 7:06
Feaster Five 8K 11/23/06 144/2334 39/384 34:19 6:55

I managed to stay (relatively) injury free all year. Here's to repeating that in 2007!