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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Joe Christensens' work

Stoneware piece by Joe Christensen.

Here is our new baby! Joe makes these things by working at two wheels at once. On one he throws sections of the pot, on the other he assembles them. He then does a soda-ash firing.

Baltimore Crafts Fair 2005

Sarah's work.
For over a decade my wife and I have been taking our neice Sarah to the Baltimore Crafts Fair the last week of February each year. Since she was a child she would tell us she would be exhibiting there someday. And this year, indeed she was - and getting a lot of attention for her delicate, precise yet romantic, gold and silver work. See more of her work on her website.
Besides helping a bit at Sarah's booth, Doria and were as usual trolling for ceramics. In the excitement of sharing our neice's artistic coming-of-age, we bought the biggest pot we've ever dragged back to our lair - an enormous piece by Joe Christensen. It looks stunning in the stairwell, don't you think?

Saturday, February 19, 2005


I just don't get it with the creators of so-called "fact-based" cinema pieces who lead us to believe they are granting us a glimpse into the lives of people of some historical importance, but in fact feel free to alter events in any way they feel helps make a better story.

The movie that's got me bugged this morning is Finding Neverland, in which Johnny Depp portrays J. M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Don't get me wrong - the movie is great -- the story is fascinating, the script compelling, Depp's performance fantastic. It's the moving tale of how the creation of the Peter Pan story emerged from the intense relationship playwrite Barrie formed with the family of an attractive young widow.

But, come to find out, Sylvia wasn't a widow at all when she befriended James. Indeed, her husband Arthur did not take ill until 1906 --Peter Pan's opening was Dec 27 1904 -- and Barrie, by this time deeply ensconced in the Llewelyn Davies family, served as Arthur's constant nurse and companion during his last illness.

There are a myriad of other quibbles one can make: they left out an entire Davies son - Nicholas - the son who is the source for much of what is known about Barrie's life; they left out the fascinating detail that the character of Hook was first played by Sylvia's brother, the actor Gerald du Maurrier... maybe these don't matter. But turning Sylvia into a widow from the day one and removing Barrie's relationship with Arthur seems to truly alter and impoverish our understanding of real events.

A brief, well-annotated biography of Barrie and Peter Pan by Terri Windling can be found here.
But more to the point, what are the ethics of biography in film?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Just a few tools

Among the most irritating issues in web development are problems that seem to occur only on one version of one browser. If we're working on a site for organization's intranet, no problem - that guy needs to upgrade to the supported browser, even if he really does believe that the 1999 version of Bohemian is still the best browser around. But if you are building a site targeting a broad consumer audience, you may really need to test on some unusual or obsolete client. Where will you find it? Julia Vorotnikova pointed us to the Evolt Browser Archive, where you will find pretty much every browser that ever there was.

Another tool useful when debugging browser or user-specific problems can be found at the BrowserHawk site. Take a look at this page - it detects and reports on all the properties it can discern in the client you access it with. These folks are in the business of developing scripts you can use to read these values from within your pages.

Speaking of scripts, we found a nice little Visual Basic script made available by Telepro for reading an RSS feed and formatting it for display on your website. We're using it to develop some new features for the Members Only site. The script can be found at the Telepro site.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

George Orwell Tonight

If you're like me you read Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm in school. And that's all your know of this guy. The other day I picked up his 1936 novel "Keep the Apidistra Flying" . I'd never heard of it, but it had a "Staff Recommendation" flag flying from it in our local bookshop.

It's a comic tale, it's light and goes down easy, but it deals with an issue close to all our hearts: money. Our hero is a young poet who disdains what he calls the "moneyworld" and the way it assures that all major life decisions are predicated on money. To make his stand against the established order he quits his good job and vows to live a life making no effort to obtain money, becoming more and more emibttered the process.

As an old '60s guy, I've watched each of my friends make his own particular compromise with the "moneyworld" - here I am running a business that serves not-for-profits. So seeing this inner struggle through the eyes of a between-the-wars Bohemian was quite refreshing. We've always known Orwell as an important commentator on politics and society, but this is far more personal, less global, that his more well-known works. Give it a read.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

How Big Was it?

Whenever we sit down to talk to a potential new client, they want to make sure we've handled a job as big as theirs before. It goes without saying, their project is big. Complex. Mission Critical. "What's the biggest project you've tackled?" they ask. How to answer? With what yardstick, on what scale do we measure our projects? Its not always easy to answer - one project may seem huge in one dimension - but ask another question, and its very simple and straightforward. The other day I was asked this twice - led me to write a longish article about it that I posted here on Ecademy. You'll see the article started a prickly little dialog which actually has nothing to do with the content - but, well, what would the internet be without flame wars?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Well, here's a trend that is just starting to break over the horizion - using RSS feeds to provide audio content. Well, its new to me, and probably to most of you, but a quick survey of the web shows me that there are already a surprising number of podcasts buzzing in cyberspace.
Everone seems to be talking about the Dawn and Drew Show, for example: a married couple broadca -- oops, podcasting from their 1895 farmhouse in Wisconsin. But sports, politics, even your typical confessional blog -- all audio -- can be found online.

The name, of course, comes from astoundingly popular Apple IPOD. But any news aggregator that supports audio is equipped to lead you into this new world. The RSS 2.0 specification provides an "enclosure" tag that can be used to specify an audio attachment. This is the secret to turning an ordinary feed into a Podcast. Sharon Housley has provided a nice little summary of the technology in her Small Business Blog.

What could your organization do with audio on demand like this?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A few gmail hacks

In an earlier post, I mentioned that a drawback of gmail was that it did not support the sending of html emails, although it can display html or RTF content. Well, here is a little tool that allows you to compose in html. What is doing is just displaying a currently concealed capability already in the gmail compose page. No wysiwyg yet, but its a start. Since blogger here has a very nice wysiwyg editor, we know Google has the technology for this.

And while we are on the subject of Google hacks, here is a clever little program that allows your gmail storage to appear as a drive in the Windows explorer, in effect giving you a one-gig drive space accessible from any PC on the net.

But be forewarned - as 3rd party add-ons to a beta program, both of these tools may quit working without warning as Google makes changes to gmail.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Alaska's fiddling poet!

And now for something completely different.

Ken Waldman, "Alaskas' Fiddling Poet", dropped by our house last night and performed for a small group of friends. As the Jefferson Airplane used to sing, he's "doing things that haven't got a name yet", combining traditional Amercian fiddle styles with his own poetry and sense of humor about himself, his art, and the entire trandition of American stringband music. He's got a couple CDs out, and a couple books of poetry, but it all seems best in person. Doria and I both have terrible colds, so we just propped ourselves in our chairs with a beer and enjoyed the evening. "Burned Down House" has got to be my favorite.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

But its an MSN day.

Well, no sooner do I launch my blog by waxing enthusiaistic about the family of Google products than Microsoft, never one to cede any market to anyone, debuts its search engine. We'd have said ho-hum, but our friend Max Blumberg sees it differently:

Google ought to be nervous, not because Microsoft's search technology is superior in any way, but because Gates' pride is at stake having personally endorsed it - and no one on the planet has deeper pockets than the Microsoft chairman when it comes to maintaining his reputation.

Meanwhile I got into the office today to discover that I was late in learning about Google Picassa - Jen, our commmunications maven, has been using it all along to keep track of all the images we have stored on our servers. But when the topic turned to gmail, she said, "Your're kidding... You'd use an emailer that READS your email?" Turns out my wife feels this way too - that the adsense scanning consitututes a real invasion of her privacy. How do you feel about this?