Archive for December, 2007

Dec 31 2007

“You are such an utter geek …”

Published by under Technology

… so said my daughter, upon discovering me in the kitchen yesterday watching the Deadliest Catch marathon on my son’s Z60 via the newly configured Slingbox service which took the better part of an afternoon to set up and wire into a spare satellite DVR. (some guys watch hours of Bowl games; me, I watch hours of commercial crab fishermen)

Slingbox, for the uninformed, is a $129-or-so dee-vice that connects to one’s television and makes the signal available anywhere on the InterWeb to a PC. In other words, my college student spawn can now control (and fight over as only one can use it at a time) the upstairs television from their dorm rooms in Manhattan and Charlottesville.

The wife’s irrational allergy to blue ethernet cables snaking over doors and across rain gutters forced me to Best Buy to purchase the Sling wireless connection doo-hickey thingy that uses the house’s electrical system as an extension of the LAN. Set up was a pig, some serious manual configuration inside of the router, with UDP and TCP and Port settings abounding.

But four hours later and I was watching men in orange Grunden’s pound the ice off the pilothouse in the Bering Straits on a pee-cee.

For people like me who spend a good amount of time in hotel rooms fighting the urge to spend $15 for a bad movie on LodgeNet (aka, Spank-a-vision; aka “You-Can’t-Expense-It), Slingbox is a good idea for boob-tube on the road. Now, if I only watched television … but I do have a personal programmer in the form of son Eliot, the third-year film major at NYU who spends hours searching for the world’s best movies on Tivo and stores dozens of them on the machine.

One response so far

Dec 30 2007

The Churbuckian Year in Review

Published by under General

Indulge me for a few minutes. I’ve never done this before, setting pen to paper and taken stock of the year behind me and the one ahead. Big events of the year? Some personal ones – daughter graduating from high school, a great vacation, a good summer in the garden – and professionally a solid one where things started to come together nicely from Olympics to search engine marketing, corporate blogging and proactive customer support. Travel wasn’t too bad. JetBlue saved me from the hell of the previous year with changes in Baltimore and no directs to New England. Only two big oversea expeditions: Beijing and Bangalore. Maybe 26 weeks in North Carolina, six in New York City. So, all in all, more than 50% of my life on the road, the other 50% here in Cotuit.

Here are the blog highlights of 2007:

January: marked the one year anniversary of my tenure at Lenovo, moved to new, far less depressing offices in North Carolina, and made some New Year’s resolutions to recover from the horrible health year experienced in 2006 following the bicycle vs. automobile incident. Spent most of the month on steroids trying to knock down some crippling lower back pain, woke up one morning, looked in mirror, and decided to get back in fighting shape. So far, success can be declared.

Posts of the month

  • My Recipe for an Editorial Infrastructure: here I give unsolicited advice to a publisher seeking a strong web publishing platform. Bullet list format. I can declare success here having seen an explosion in WordPress driven “online magazines.”
  • My advice to a middle-aged reporter: Given the one-year anniversary of my total severance from a 30-year career in journalism, I guess I was in a peevish mood and given to giving unsolicited advice. Anyway, in the same vein as infrastructure I give advice on career choices for old hacks.

February: Having the mildest winter in years in New England did a lot to make this an easy month to survive, especially given that it is part of the terrible duo known as “Farch” – for that monochromatic, sleet filled, dog-poop-surfacing-through-the-snow pair of months between February and March, or “f$%^ing March”. A four-day weekend in Florida to visit my brother did wonders for my mood – catching a wahoo with my son, walks on the beach. It was a good thing to do and I need to do it again this year.

Posts of the month:

  • Ratios and Leading Indicators:
    In which I discuss marketing metrics and ratios for performance marketing and get taken downtown by Ben Lipman who argues for a net present value model. He’s smart. Metrics are a big part of my day job.
  • Extra-mile reputations: Brands that are legendary for going the extra mile for their customers. LL Bean, Craftsman tools, etc.
  • Cotuit in winter: a frozen harbor, a digital camera, and me.

I’d report on where I was travelling, but given that Lotus Notes doesn’t archive its calendar very elegantly (or do much, if anything very elegantly), I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing. Professionally, lot of focus on interactive agency review, marketing plan for the ThinkPad Reserve Edition (leather encased X60), marketing operations, and herding the global cats into a more central approach to online marketing. Personally? Not a ton going on. Daughter received early decision to college, eldest a sophomore at NYU, one left at home. Beginning to think about life in an empty nest. Weird.

Posts of the month:

  • Over-engineering: is it possible to measure too much? To perpetually chase perfection? I think so.
  • Oyster Bags: in the clamming department, the town decides not to allow floating aquaculture project in Osterville, the tony town to the east, aka “Imposterville.” I am beginning to feel militant about water quality in the “act locally” department.
  • Erg Blogging: I start blogging about my indoor rowing. Rowing good. Ergs bad.

April: A weird month for a Cape Codder – boat goes into the water, trees haven’t leafed, all sorts of harbingers abound from shad bush to dandelions, tulips to herring. I go to Beijing and kick off the Olympic marketing plan, the program that continues to dominate my life through August of this year. I try, and stop, Twittering and to this day wonder why the hell people care about it.

My favorite posts:

  • Willy and the Herring Run: the tale of Willy, my grandfather’s cat, who decamped for the Santuit herring run every May and stayed there, feral in the woods, until the herring tapered off.
  • Living on a Sandbar: in which I turn into an amateur coastal geologist and talk about the evolution of the Cotuit shoreline and the impact of human engineering on natural processes.
  • Is there still life in the Banner Ad?: yes.

Personally my favorite month. My birth month. Month of graduations. Of spring. Of the return to fishing in and around Cotuit.

Posts of the month:

  • Me and my big mouth: While I could claim amazing predictive powers in calling Second Life a waste of time, a Forbes reporter, denied the opportunity to get me to say out loud what I wrote in my blog in late 2006, goes to that blog post and pulls out the money quote, to wit that the primary activity in SL seems to be the pursuit of virtual nookie. Suddenly blogging feels a lot riskier than it used to.
  • Happy Days: my daughter graduates from my alma mater.

Funny how June rolls around and I my primary instinct is not to blog but to be outdoors doing stuff like …

A low point in the year due to summer influx into my normally quiet little village of angry joggers, expensive automobiles, a harbor clogged with jet skis and clueless people …. Call me cranky. Going to Bangalore for a week did little to improve my mood. I don’t like July. So I go on a ten day fast in some sort of hair-shirt act of atonement.

  • Fasting: normal people doing the Gandhi thing do it in January to get over their holiday overindulgence. Me? I do it in July.
  • Moxie: the hair shirt of soda.

  • Readers Soundoff: the best part about the new/new journalism is the reader comments.

The summer doldrums. I avoid North Carolina and try to be Cape Cod based as much as possible. Major contest for the Olympics with Google make this anything but a quiet month. I do keep my sanity by doing stuff like …

  • Collars and buttons: new oars need new collars. I begin to blog about marlinespike seamanship, aka macramé for salty people.

  • Making the list: I get put on Peter Kim’s Forrester Research list of top client-side marketing blogs and realize the aforementioned stuff about clams and oars require an occasional, obligatory marketing post.

I would have to give this one the award for best month of the year. First off, I go on vacation for a week on Martha’s Vineyard. Second, I get some serious fly fishing in and realize I need to spend more time standing in shallow water throwing chicken feathers and fur at fish.

  • Menemsha: yup. This is the place. I like it here.

  • The Hurricane of 1938: I need to retire and write history for a living.
  • Online advertising not measurable enough?: in which I rant about the bullshit lingering over the impact of online advertising. 2007 goes down as the year the online avalanche really buried the knuckleheads who didn’t pay attention the first time around. I am a lucky person to be in this world and not in the old.

October: a sad month when Cotuit Skiffs come out of the water, baseball season winds down (yay Red Sox), and the garden starts to turn brown. A little travel and the beginning of the fall conference circuit.

Posts of the month:

  • Beachcombing:
    A man, a garbage bag, and a beach. Look at what turns up.
  • Eliot Turns 21: in which your humble blogger takes his son out to dinner in NYC and tries to get him carded by a bartender because he can finally order a legal drink, except no one cards him.

The beginning of the interminable holiday season. I get on the erg with a vengeance. Things start accelerating at the office.

Posts of the month:

  • On Chowder: I need to blog about food and cooking more.
  • ENFP: I take the Myers-Briggs personality indicator and come off in the category of wild-eyed “Champion.”
  • Erging:
    I embark on the 200,000 meter holiday challenge between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and make it).

December: I turn somewhat dour and snarl a lot. Too much going on, typical grinchian reaction to the holidays.

I beef at:

  • The Blog Council: a dimwitted coalition of big corporate bloggers. I’m pissed no one bothered to invite me as I am the dimmest of the wits.
  • Powerpoint:
    I sweat a big presentation to the leading PC industry analysts and wind up winging it when the tablet crashes.

So, all in all, I wrote about 486 posts in 2007. I deleted a bunch of Lenovo related ones in September after feeling this was not an appropriate place to drop the L-word. My drafts folder has about 50 posts that were started and never were finished. Traffic for the year. Pretty strong but declining slightly. About 350 Feedburner subs, Technorati rank declining, influence in the 100s.

In conclusion:

This was a great year and will be a tough one to top. I look back at these blog posts with some awe over the complexity of my life but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 2008? Olympics, lots of room for professional improvement, want to get back into competitive rowing, will probably hang up the desire to get back on a bicycle, would like to build a small wooden boat, need to endure the ultimate year in terms of education expenses, and need to start defining what exactly it is I want to do when I grow up.

Thanks to all for reading and commenting, especial thanks to (and in total random order):

My wife Daphne, sons Eliot and Fisher, daughter “B”, Jim Forbes, Tom and Kate Churbuck, Jim and Julie Cincotta, Marta Downing, Ben Lipman, Joe Nickerson, Peter Field, Henry and Jenny Churbuck, Mark Hopkins, Rob O’Regan, Dan Lyons, Esteban Panzeri, Krista Summitt, Tim Supples, Peter Kim, John Bell, David Berney, Charles Dubow, Om Malik, DeWayne Martin, Erik Vanderkolk, Michael Noer, Bill Baldwin, the late Jim Michaels, Mark Cahill, Gary Milner, David Barbara, Jim Hazen, Matt Kohut, David Hill, Deepak Advani, Ajit Sivadasan, Kelly Skaggs, Sheji Ho, Greg Moore, Tom Lowry, Mitch Spolan, Lincoln Jackson, Glen Gilbert, Parker Ransom, Jeffrey S. Young, Richard Lusk, Rick Klau, Thorne Sparkman, Mitch Ratcliffe, Esther Dyson, Craig Merrigan, Steve Starkey, Chris Kobran, Stephen O’Grady, Tom Kennett, Sam Barrett, Tim Abbott …

I am a rich man when it comes to friends.

9 responses so far

Dec 29 2007

Bye-bye to Netscape

End of Support for Netscape web browsers – The Netscape Blog

CNET’s Stephen Shankland reports on the end of an era, the Netscape browser. I remember downloading the earliest version in 1994, prior to an interview with Jim Clark, the founder of Netscape, and laughing at his suggestion I leave Forbes and go to work for an internet company. Stupid me.

Netscape put the fear into Microsoft like no other company because of the immense popularity of the browser, its head start over Internet Explorer, and the simple fact that most early users left the Netscape homepage as their default, making that page the most heavily trafficked piece of virtual property in the world. The question was how would Netscape monetize that traffic. For a great insight into those early browser wars and the first stirring of the Microsoft giant and the big antitrust browser wars of the mid-90s, read Charles Ferguson’s High Stakes, No Prisoners (major congratulations to Charles for winning the New York Film Critic’s award for best documentary for No End In Sight)

Netscape  brought aboard James Barksdale to bring the company to the next level, and eventually was acquired by AOL which was in the middle of its own identity crisis as it moved from essentially a rack of 56K modems to an internet service provider. I never quite figured out the play for AOL, which made some astonishingly stupid acquisitions including the infamous Time-Warner deal. There were noises about making Netscape a content play under Jason Calacanis, but when he left AOL after selling his blog network to them, the patient went onto the do-not-revive list.

Does anyone care about browsers anymore? Firefox has won my heart, now I am more interested in the application on the other side of the glass.

From the Netscape blog:

AOL’s focus on transitioning to an ad-supported web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be. Given AOL’s current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically-acclaimed products, we feel it’s the right time to end development of Netscape branded browsers, hand the reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox.”

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Dec 28 2007

The Authentic Enterprise

2007AuthenticEnterprise.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Thanks to Paul Gillin for the Facebook alert that the Arthur W. Page Society (an organization of corporate communications leaders, aka head flaks) has published a PDF manifesto entitled the Authentic Enterprise.

Punchline: the era of shaping the message, of spinning the news, of gilding the lily is dead and gone and the new mission of corporate communications is to be … authentic. I think Rob O’Regan, Tom Hayes, and I can declare some sort of victory for the Corporate Journalism meme.
August group of Fortune 500 PR people, invitation only, including access to its blog (which is authentically closed to non-members). Named after the head of PR at AT&T.

Anyway, Gillin, took the time to excerpt from the PDF. He concludes:

“While the report is short on quantitative research (though there is a survey of 31 CEOs discussed at the end), it’s hard to argue with its overarching conclusions: businesses no longer control their messages; constituencies are expanding and diversifying; and corporations must be more transparent and open about nearly everything they do.”

From his excerpts, the money quote:

“Values are the fundamental basis for enterprise communications. “To be an effective communications function in the authentic enterprise:

  • “We must not only position our companies, but also help define them. While expertise and authenticity are essential, communicators’ counsel to the corporation must now encompass its fundamental business model, brand, culture, policies and, most importantly, values.
  • “We must not only develop channels for messaging but also networks of relationships. In a business ecosystem of proliferating constituencies, communicators must lead the development of social networks and the tools and skills of relationship building and collaborative influence – both to seize new opportunities and to respond to new threats.
  • “We must shift from changing perceptions to changing realities. In a world of radical transparency, 21st century communications functions must lead in shaping behavior – inside and out – to make the company’s values a reality.”

One response so far

Dec 27 2007

Festivus break resolutions

Published by under General,Personal

1. Get really good at Guitar Hero III — highly unlikely given my children seem to have majored in it at college and I have finger cramps and the sense of rhythm associated with lower life forms, like coral and moss.
2. Read a book a day.  Simple Courage. Decent drama-at-sea tale spoiled by authorial interjections and pedantic etymology digressions. The Enduring Shore lightweight history of Cape Cod and the Island, too early to tell. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy, on deck for tomorrow. After that …. who knows.

3. Erg every day. Except for Xmas and Xmas eve. Not easy with Holiday Challenge incentive past but UBC still before me.

4. Putter. I personify the verb. Move aimlessly but with great industry from one room to another fiddling and fixing stuff.

5. Procrastinate over end-of-year finances.

6. Don’t dwell on the tidal wave of work stuff looming over my head.

7. Make blog lists until New Year’s Eve.

8. Finish off clams dug on Saturday while they are still alive.

9. Go ride car to Rhode Island to sight-see, buy bronze skeg strip for dinghy, eat lunch

10. finish transferring life to new tablet

2 responses so far

Dec 23 2007

Last clamming expedition of 2007

Published by under Clamming

Nice day for the first day of winter with temperatures in the mid-40s. A snotty storm is supposed to blow in tonight with gusts up to 40 knots out of the south, so, with no other boats in the cove, I thought it was time to pull the boat to save it from ice season which is coming, as it always comes.

I bought a new pair of waders yesterday at the chandlery in Sandwich — a set of 3.5 mm neoprene Stearns — sausage casing waders for cold water clamming, a new Grunden hat, a pair of wool mittens like grandma used to knit, and some rubber work gloves with cotton liners. I’ll give it all to the kids to wrap as my Christmas presents, one can make me a happy person just by shopping at Sandwich Ship Supply.

Tide was low at 5 — past dark at this latitude — so we went out early, my two sons and I — they in their waders, me in mine, and with the engine turning over on the first try, we ran across the harbor to Dead Neck in about three minutes, the Grunden Nerf Herder hat keeping me very warm and happy but looking exceptionally geeky.

45 minutes of raking and we filled the basket with cherrystones and little necks for tomorrow’s Christmas Eve party.  I pulled the boat out on the trailer and will launch it only as needed until March, no use in tempting fate by letting her ride out the winter storms on the mooring — a frozen bilge pump is a useless bilge pump.

3 responses so far

Dec 21 2007

Ergblogging – over one finish line

Published by under ergblogging,Rowing

I crossed the 200,000 meter mark this morning, making this the second “Holiday Challenge” I’ve completed in 30 years of indoor rowing. It started on Thanksgiving, Nov. 25 and ends Monday night, Christmas Eve. I get a pin for my trouble and the right to buy a t-shirt.

But this isn’t the end, actually it is the beginning of the indoor rowing season. Tom Bohrer, the coach at my rowing club, the Union Boat Club, is running a UBC challenge from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31 and I’m standing third at present against some very committed competition. Then there is the CRASH-B sprints — the world championship of indoor rowing over President’s Day Weekend in February. This is my last year in the 40-49 heavyweight men category, so I am thinking of embarrassing myself one last time before moving into the old fart division next year.

I just want to point out that the leader in the Concept 2 holiday challenge has rowed 1.6 million meters to date. That’s well over 50,000 meters a day. That is insane.

2 responses so far

Dec 20 2007

FTC Clears Google-DoubleClick Deal –

Published by under Advertising

FTC Clears Google-DoubleClick Deal –

“The Federal Trade Commission has cleared Google Inc.’s proposed $3.1 billion takeover of DoubleClick Inc., saying the deal is “unlikely to substantially lessen competition.”

“Regulators voted 4-1 vote to end the eight-month investigation.

This is good news for interactive marketers who need third-party ad serving into Google’s universe of advertising impressions. Doubleclick was in danger of looking like tired technology two years ago (when I actually figured out how to use their flagship product, Dart, while rebuilding ad ops at CXO Media) and still remains the default for most ad serving in the old page-view/banner world.

However, Dart can be taught new tricks and Google is the company to teach them. I don’t see the antitrust objections from Microsoft — the Aquantive acquisition and Atlas gives them a big of a leg up in terms of targeting capabilities.

The effects of a Google-Doubleclick combination should be profound and especially reverb strongest within the interactive ad agencies trafficking teams.

No responses yet

Dec 18 2007

A new toy to keep my mind expanding

Published by under Technology

Thanks to Google for the neat gadget gift, a Flip Video camera — a $150 palm-sized device with a switchblade-USB jack that ports right into the old ThinkPad and wizards up a little video clip to YouTube in about 30 seconds flat. Dang. This baby gets a place of honor in the Churbuck backpack, gonna make me the next LonelyGirl.

Example of my cinematography (360 panorama of the NC office) is here. Thanks Google.

9 responses so far

Dec 17 2007

Pedal Power: MIT Cyclists Set Record for Pedal-Powered Supercomputing

Published by under Cycling,General

Pedal Power: MIT Cyclists Set Record for Pedal-Powered Supercomputing

Fester points me at this cool story — fire up a supercomputer to run a tomalak simulation using cycles. I miss my bike!

No responses yet

Dec 17 2007

Short Rib Error Message

Published by under General,WTF?

Note to self — when braising beef short ribs in three tablespoons of extremely hot oil, do not, repeat, do not attempt to introduce said ribs to said oil by hand as they stand a chance of falling from fingers to oil from a height of six inches, causing a molten lava splash; which, upon contact with self’s face, yields utterly gruesome wounds about 48 hours after the event.

The ribs — cooked according to the recipe in the Balthazar cook book — were worth the burn(s).

One response so far

Dec 17 2007

Good succinct account of Google vs. Microsoft

Published by under Technology

Sunday’s Times carried a very strong summation of the showdown between Google and Microsoft on the future of computing.

My summation of the summation: Do users need to have their applications and data local on their harddrive or in the cloud and accessed/shared through a web interface?

I am not a Google Apps user. I’ve tried their stuff and it hasn’t clicked. I am a gmail user, but am enslaved by corporate devotion to Lotus Notes. I use Thunderbird for POP mail. Microsoft Word is gaining value for one simple reason — off-line composition and editing of blog posts. Google’s iGoogle portal is very valuable.

See Damon Darlin’s sidebar to the Times piece about his month without Office. Pretty compelling.

If you get beyond any knee-jerk emotional allegiances, and look at the future of computing from the point of view of economic expediency, I’d have to predict the cloud model is inevitable. The implications for a PC company are profound in terms of product design and architecture — almost like a return to the disk-less PC movement of the mid-80s …..

5 responses so far

Dec 17 2007

Facebook’s snail mail and social network fatigue

Why do I get notifications from Facebook about 48 hours after the event occurs (invitation from a friend, etc.)? Amazingly stupid to act on an invite and then two days later, like a bad echo, get a useless email informing me that it all went down.

In general, being an antisocial kind of guy, the social networking fad is just that, a passing fad for me that hasn’t really lit me up in any meaningful way. Among the casualties:

  • LinkedIn feels like being a member of the Rotary Club. Random head hunters pinging about opportunities in Kuala Lumpur. Vendors looking at me like a trussed turkey. SEO consultants, lead gen spammers.
  • Facebook: okay, FunWall, Scrabulous, Flixster, and every other application that I have been invited to install? Compare my movie taste with Bill Clinton? Well, in order to do so, for some reason, Facebook and these apps think it is cool to check off the box next to each and every person in my friends list so I can “invite” them to check out the app. This is turning me into a spammer and I hate it.
  • Plaxo: this is the ultimate spam engine for torturing friends. What started as a semi-useful tool to let people know about a change of address or cell phone number is now an instrument of inbox torture.
  • Long-tail networks: look at the post below. Cool site, lets me file my ergometer scores and then mashes them up on a map and publishes the scores on this blog. Only problem, Concept2 has a six year head start on my data — and I can’t unlock it.

Problems aside, I think Google’s Open Social initiative is on the right track — give me some permeability between social nets and their functional value will sky rocket — wall me in with a close system and it’s back to the knuckle-dragging days of Prodigy, AOL, and CompuServe.

And we know how that turned out.

5 responses so far

Dec 16 2007

Erg Blogging for 12-16-2007

Workout Name:Half-marathon
Date: 12-15-2007
Interval #1: 21097 meters/ 1:25:17.0/ 2:01.3
Comments: First half-mara ever.
Tags: half-marathon

No responses yet

Dec 16 2007


Published by under ergblogging,General

21,097 meters in 1 hour and 25 minutes. Lordy. That’s the longest I’ve ever sat on an ergometer in my life. I celebrated by cooking a massive meal of braised beef short ribs and garlic/blue cheese mashed potatoes courtesy of my new Balzathar cookbook. Heck, I burned 1350 calories according to the machine, so Saturday was eat like a pig day.

I’m 81st in the world of 40-49 year old heavyweight men, in the 30th percentile. So, there is plenty of room for improvement.

I’m still suffering, and did a mere 10K this morning to “recover.”  183,579 meters logged in the Holiday Challenge — one week to go to get to 200,000. Piece of cake — then I transition into the Union Boat Club challenge which runs from Dec. 7 to the end of the year. Major competition from that crew.

No responses yet

Dec 16 2007

Whereabouts week of December 17

Published by under General,Travel

Dec. 17 – Monday: Cotuit

Dec. 18 – Tuesday: travel to RTP

Dec. 19 – Wednesday: RTP

Dec. 20 – Thursday: RTP to Cotuit

Dec. 21-23 – Friday/Sunday: Cotuit

Following week — holiday vacation in Cotuit

No responses yet

Dec 16 2007

The Great Swamp Fight – 332 years ago today

Published by under General,history

As I sit inside this stormy day, warm by the fire, my thoughts are eighty miles to the west, in a swamp in the town of South Kingston, Rhode Island, near the campus of the University of Rhode Island, a place still desolate by modern standards, off a boring stretch of Route 195 between Connecticut and Providence.

On a day like this, 332 years ago, the most significant “battle” of what has been called the bloodiest (per capita) conflict in the history of America — the Great Swamp Fight — took place in a Rhode Island swamp, an attack by the colonial militia from the Plymouth, Connecticut, and Massachusetts Bay Colony killed about 300 Narragansett Indians (precise figures are unknown) on an island in the middle of Rhode Island’s Great Swamp.

Led there by an Indian guide, the militia were able to reach the fort because an unusually cold late fall had frozen the swamp, making an assault possible.

The dead were mostly women and children. Those who fled into the swamp faced a long winter without food and shelter.

The irony of the assault was that the Narragansetts had been neutral in the King Philip War, staying out of the fight waged by Metacomet (King Philip) and the Wampanoag tribe. The Great Swamp Fight assured that neutrality would be forgotten, and the Narragansetts joined the terrible war.

Gerald Hyde, a state historian, wrote in 1938 on the occasion of a memorial marker being installed at the site:

“A fort in the Great Swamp had been built by the Narragansett Sachem, Canonchet, as a place of refuge. Because of its location on a small island of dry land in the midst of a great swamp, he no doubt considered it impregnable. It was, however, only partially completed and consisted of “pallisadoes stuck upright in a hedge of about a rod in thickness.” Two fallen trees formed natural bridges which were the only entrances and the principal one was guarded by a block house. Inside the fort the stores, harvests and accumulated wealth of the Narragansetts had been brought and there asylum had been offered the aged and infirm and the women and children of the Wampanoags of King Philip.

The United Colonies of New England declared war against the Narragansett Indians on November 2, 1675, charging them, among other things, with “relieving and succouring Wampanoag women and children and wounded men” and not delivering them to the English, and also because they “did in a very reproachful and blasphemous manner, triumph and rejoice” over the English defeat at Hadley. They voted to raise a thousand soldiers to be sent against the Narragansetts unless their sachems gave up the fugitive Wampanoags.

The forces of the United Colonies under Governor Winslow marched across Rhode Island and on December 14 attacked the village of the Squaw Sachem Matantuck near Wickford and burned 150 wigwams, killing seven Indians and taking nine prisoners. The Narragansetts then began a guerrilla warfare, sniping Colonial troops wherever occasion offered.

On the night of December 15 the Indians surrounded Jireh Bull’s large stone house on Tower Hill and massacred all but two of the occupants. The smoldering ruins of the house were found by English scouts the next day. It is possible that the Indians had learned of a plan for the Connecticut contingent to join the other forces at this house and had destroyed it in order to handicap the colonies. Three days later the two English forces joined at Pettaquamscutt and planned to attack the Indians the next day.

Ordinarily the swamp was practically impenetrable, as it is to this day, but due to the severe December weather the marshy ground had frozen and the English soldiers gained easy access to the island. The Indian outposts retreated into the fort where they were followed by the English. The terrible battle which then began took place amidst ice, snow, under brush and fallen trees.

At first repulsed, the English continued the assault, though with heavy losses. They contested almost every foot of ground until the Narragansetts, also suffering many casualties, were driven gradually from their fort into the swamp and woods.

Meanwhile, the English had set fire to the wigwams, some 600 in number, and flames swept through the crowded fort. The “shrieks and cries of the women and children, the yelling of the warriors, exhibited a most horrible and appalling scene, so that it greatly moved some of the soldiers. They were in much doubt and they afterwards seriously inquired whether burning their enemies alive could be consistent with humanity and the benevolent principle of the gospel,” says one early account.

The retreating Indians were driven from the woods about the fort, leaving the English a complete, though costly, victory. They had lost five captains and 20 men and had some 150 wounded that must be carried back to a house some ten miles distant. To the terrors of the battle and fire were added the bitter cold and blinding snow of a New England blizzard through which the English toiled back to Cocumcussa. The hardships of that march took a toll of 30 or 40 more lives. The Indians reported a loss of 40 fighting men and one sachem killed and some 300 old men, women and children burned alive in the wigwams.”

Nathaniel Philbrick wrote an outstanding account of the war recently in his book, Mayflower.  I decided to locate the site and to my sad distress I see it is somewhere near the Amtrak line, where, on countless occasions I have hurtled through on the Acela, oblivious to the fact that the fastest section of track between Boston and Washington runs somewhere near the scene of the massacre.

Call it my senescence, but I feel more and more aware and freaked out by the history around me, the paved over battlefields, the Old Post Roads, the historic paths now covered with subdivisions and strip malls. Reading David McCullough’s 1776 and the account of the British attack on New York, and then being there last week, and looking across at Brooklyn and thinking of the rustic wilderness there, the fighting along the Gowanus Creek, now a stinking cesspool — the landing of the British at Kips Bay. The battles of White Plains and Trenton … and then skip forward to the urban anonymity of both, marked by a bronze tablet or two where heroes and cowards fought centuries before ….

64 responses so far

Dec 16 2007

Sometimes the old tools are the best tools — Lenovo Forums launch

Most everyone is familiar with the online forum, the threaded discussion list, that foundation of online community that personified the concept in the Web 1.0 decade before blogs and wikis were understood or even discovered.

I got into the forum business in 1995 with two buddies, Mark Cahill at Vario and Thorne Sparkman, then an MBA candidate at Berkeley’s Haas School. We launched a simple online forum called Reel-Time for saltwater flyfishers, partly because all three of us were saltwater flyfishermen and also because I was making an extreme long tail point in 1995 that the web opened up infinitely discrete niches — hence one could form a community around fishing, then saltwater fishing, then saltwater flyfishing, then saltwater flyfishing on Cape Cod.

The system we used, at Thorne’s suggestion, was a freeware app called HyperMail used by nerds to archive and share email discussions (listserv). Thorne hired a geek to modify it and we launched it at Reel-Time as one of the first discussion systems on the net.


I was the sysadmin, or moderator, and every month I had to archive the posts and start a new month, usually opening the month with these simple rules and guidelines:

How to use this forum
David Churbuck (
Sun Jan 11 10:41:43 EST 1998 Welcome to the latest installment of the Reel-Time New England BBS.

Regulars to this forum can ignore these instructions, but if you are new, here are some simple tips.

The sort-by-date function is broken, always has been, always will. Therefore

This makes life much easier for everyone who wants to see what’s new and what’s not.

Don’t worry, your words are being written to the server. Press the button four times and guess what, your post will be written four times and you will look like a dolt. Don’t look like a dolt. Press the button once and be patient. As more messages are written, the posting process takes longer.

Third rule: Eat your peas and sit up straight and don’t try to sell stuff in here. Reel-Time depends on advertisers who pay their bills, people trying to slip in a freebie for their guide service, miracle lure, or naked bait girls want to meet you website get away with it once. only once.

This forum will go until it gets too big to handle, at which time it will archived.

Have fun, tight lines, and happy posting …

David Churbuck

That was it. Tools to delete posts, ban users, or otherwise “tend the virtual garden” were nonexistent. Chaos ensued but the community lives on, now on an up-to-date system called vBulletin which is still managed by Mark Cahill at Vario Creative Design.

Anyway — when I got to Lenovo two years ago there were no forums for users to discuss our products or seek technical guidance. There had been, in the old IBM PCD days, but it was a custom solution that was discontinued a few years before my arrival. I thought it would be a good idea to bring it back, if simply for the reason that I preferred to get my technical advice from other helpful users than an unknown tech support person who had to follow scripts that usually began with the helpful question: “Is the PC switched on?”

Mark Hopkins, who leads our social media efforts and blogs at Lenovo Connections, put together a strong case for investing in the return of a classic user forum. We considered a self-hosted model, using a program such as vBulletin, but in the end decided it would be more stable and secure if we teamed with an organization that specializes in corporate communities, Lithium.

It took a few months and a few presentations, but Mark made a masterful case for investing in the Lenovo forum project and with the assistance of Esteban Panzeri and Tim Supples, launched the forums earlier this month. Assisting in the creation of the forums were the moderators at, who lent us their valuable time and expertise in setting up the discussion areas and policies to govern their operation. Bringing the experts in from the beginning was probably the smartest thing we could have done, and already it’s paying off in terms of a high caliber discussion.

So, there it is. Check them out at I’ll post more on our strategy and how we intend to reward people for registering, participating and assisting.

3 responses so far

Dec 14 2007

Who Invited the Dog?

Published by under General,WTF?

Who Invited the Dog? – New York Times
Among the ranks of dreaded house guests — essentially anyone with a food-phobic four year-old who will only eat “white” food (spaghetti with butter, rice, pizza with no sauce) — is the visitor-with-dog (which applies to no reader of this blog who has been to Morningwood ((ancestral Churbuck manse)) .

Anyway, in the tradition of killer quotes, here is why I miss being a newspaper reporter:

“And the term “family member” should not be used lightly. Ari Henry Barnes, who works in a New York law firm, is so devoted to his cat, Romeo, that he wipes the animal’s behind every time he does “a stinky boom boom.”

One response so far

Dec 14 2007

A good man gone — Marc Orchant 1957-2007

Published by under Personal

Marc Orchant passed away last week following a heart attack. He was 50.

We collaborated on Foldera in 2006 and have been swapping mails ever since. I never met him in person, but found his thinking and his writing to be superb. He was great at ZDNET, and most recently at Blognation. I’ll miss him and wish his wife and children the best during this difficult time.

Former colleague Oliver Starr wrote a memorial here.

No responses yet

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