Jeanette never has as much trouble with our computer as I do, ironically. Part of it is that I do a lot of work to prevent her problems, but the biggest reason is that she doesn't stress it the way I do.

Computer stress, think of that.

My little fingers can type some dozens of words in a good minute, maybe a couple hundred characters if I'm really wailing. I might be able to get a quick double click or a fast key combination done in what, milliseconds? Meanwhile, this CPU is supposedly going at hundreds of megahertz, a million cycles per typed character, a thousand or so between the clicks of double-clicking.

How the hell can I break it with the input devices I have?

I have to "please wait" while Outlook exits. Excuse me, Mr. Bill, but that's bullshit.

And today, my current recurring agony. Netscape 4.7 taken to blue-screening at uncertain times, when I fork too many windows. ("Too many" can be 4 or 24, depending on... the phase of the moon?) Then the current story, and all the oblique references I've piled up just go away and mostly I don't try to bring them back.

Going insane must be a lot like this.

Part of where I was was Techno Greeks' take on weblogging, the pointer from one of the very few sites I go to from a bookmark, rather than prompting: Dan Gillmor's News and Views.


One small step against the evils of advertising: eGroups decided to put the ads back below messages, rather than in the leading, spammish position. I sent them a thank you.

Images of Idaho on fire (among lots of other things) from NASA Visible Earth site. (Search on "idaho fire" for example.)


We don't like your kind around here. (Apparently.) Some of the peninsula cities decide to just say no to dot-coms. Amen. It's too crowded on the peninsula. This is a healthy response.

So much for Judge Penfield Jackson's vorpal blade going snicker-snack. The Supremes said no, thanks, to first (and last! but they always get that) shot at the appeal from Microsoft. Maybe it's time to unstay that stay of remedies. Ballmer gives lip service to a speedy resolution, while the law team lines up for "a morass of procedural and substantive issues that can be resolved only through a painstaking review of a lengthy and technologically complex trial record."

Happily, it sounds like the US Court of appeals wants to move foreward "expeditiously."


Behind the Curtain went live today! If you came here from there, note that the "slide" icon is what points to the Curtain shows, while the text pointers are to the blogs.

My photo essay is in a subdirectory,

I had an even more interesting 72 hours over the (long) weekend, and 120 or so pictures to sort through. But that'll have to wait for another day!


Lotsa digital ink being spilled on the "new media," copyright, P2P, business models, and so on. [Inside] Digital's piece on What We Learned From a Napster Party seems to be one of the more provocative items.

I waited a day to post this item, in the continuing series of "flying down Page Mill," because Jeanette rightfully interrupted my verbal account with the observation "Schadenfreude!"

But all the same, I couldn't help but speaking to the drivers, "if you'd ridden your bike, this wouldn't have happened." Northbound was full up, at least to the HP exit below Peter Coutts road. I weaved around the stalled cars making the right turn, and descended with my usual alacrity, but passing hundreds of cars, rather than playing leapfrog with tens of them.

Somehow made all the lights, too: Hanover, Hansen, Ramos, and El Camino. Maybe the first time ever for the full set.

The problem was just past Ramos: 4 of the 5 cars involved in a chain reaction were still standing in the left lane, flares on the roadway, the fire engine just departing as I came down the hill.

And on a hot day. Driving sucks around here, too much of the time. But the TV ads keep selling the status / freedom / power bullshit, you can dominate nature in your Sucky Urban Venality. Rip it up.


Split my 24 hours Behind the Curtain between Sunday and Monday, starting and ending in the morning. The morning always seems more full of possibilities to me, so it just seemed natural.

Talking about digital photography at lunch, two other hobbyists responded to my observation that "I'm spending a lot of time editing the pictures, and deciding what to save" by saying that they don't do that. They just save everything, as-is.

On the one hand, that's pretty much what I did before I had my own scanner. There's just so much overhead and delayed gratification to finding negatives, going to the store, waiting for the results, I hardly ever got reprints or enlargements. Once every year or two maybe, for gifts or something really special. I'd borrow a scanner at work once in a while, just to play around with things, and get some images on my sites, sometimes for work, but probably more often for its own sake.

But now that I can "easily" refine the output, I have this compulsion to do it... Quotes on "easily" because one or two is easy, 10 or 20 or not so. (Rather like "it's so easy, just point and click, drag and drop, drop and punt.") I've just about never met a picture I couldn't see how to crop.

Well, on Sept. 24th when the Curtain is drawn back, you can see how good I am, I guess. Not good enough to be stunning, but interesting, I hope.

Apple licenses 1-Click from Amazon. I guess it's a natural for the "no button" mouse I'm told comes on all the Apples now.

It really is a better world with Apple in it, but sometimes this evangelism thing is way out of hand. (Ouch, inadvertent pun.) Two buttons work fine for me on several operating systems. I prefer a keyboard, actually, and use it for most everything I can. But when pointing is easier, multiple things to do with my pointer seem to work fine. I do a lot of things intuitively now, and Win95+'s "right click to get a menu off something" is one of the things they've got right, imho.

15 years down the road, I'm still thinking I might get an Apple computer. Some day. And I might.


Months later, I find out about the "5k" contest - build a website in 5kB or less. Many did, and the results are amazing. Oh, the bandwidth I've wasted... Some of my single pictures are bigger than these sites! A visit to the 5k Home will delight you.


Having been in a few productions, I have a vague notion of just how incredible a job it was to put together the opening ceremony for the Olympics. I just wish NBC would have been kind enough to actually broadcast the show.

But no, their TV coverage - technologically skilled, and generally seamless, for no mean feat in itself - seems poised to be an exercise in form over content.

I'm sorry, but the music, tableau, amazing costumes, riding, dancing, acrobatics, singing, and so on were a lot more interesting than 90% of what Bob Costas and Katie Couric had to say. Tell us a few things that help us enjoy the allusions, and get the hell out of the way.

And since you have all this footage in the can (and even confessed that Sydney is 18 hours ahead of the US west coast) you don't need to skip parts for commercials, or "feature" spots.

I guess it comes down to an ego problem; NBC can't admit that the Opening Ceremony was a much better show than they could produce themselves, and they didn't want to be upstaged.


RE: Parental consent required

Hello Yahoo!Support:

Thanks for the reply, but your boilerplate really is not acceptable. I'm close to fed up with eGroups anyway. A recent message to a list I'm on had the sender's thoughtfully terse introduction and pointer surrounded by 4 times as much automatically generated (or included) garbage. Who wants real messages wrapped in spam, for God's sake?

Detail of a photo surprise from my new digital camera

And then you send me this absurd form letter. I could have entered in any date I wanted, regardless of what my birthdate was. I could be 8 years old and have told you I was 80. But because I told you I was born "yesterday," I now have to send you a piece of paper? You can't be serious.

News flash - I was LYING when I said I was born on September 3rd. But gosh, maybe you could have figured out something was wrong, because most newborns aren't surfing the web in their first couple of days or weeks.

And it STILL is no business of yours what my date of birth is. I am an adult. If that's not good enough for you, well, eGroups isn't good enough for me.

The really funny thing is: their software did not block my access. The only thing they have automated is the generation and email of consent forms.


So let's say that TeleDynamics is awarded a really sweeping patent for "just about any automated information practice in which a company harvests a customer's information and then provides it to a third party."

Help me out, what's the downside?

The Teledynamics folks make a bunch of money (probably), and harvesting customer information and providing it to third parties gets significantly more difficult. You go girl!

From the sublime to the ridiculous (and back to the sublime), how 'bout that Republican National Committee trying their hand at subliminal messaging? I can't wait to see what'll be next after W. and his handlers figure out that categorical denial won't be sufficient. (He could always try uncategorical denial; it worked for Clarence Thomas.)

Let's see, how many multiple choices are there? The RNC put it in there, the Democrats sabotaged the nice RNC ad, or... a poltergeist? I don't think big four-letter words show up in video production at random. Maybe the letters got mixed up.



Lyn Nofziger tells W. that It's Time to Attack. "While not a Ronald Reagan, Mr. Bush exudes warmth and friendliness. Therefore he can attack without raising his voice, without calling names, without snarling or sneering."

As long as he remembers to use his "on microphone" personality, rather than that evil twin. I think Maureen Dowd is rising to the challenge by seeing if she can be the next one W. and Dick snarl about. "Big Time"). I agree with her Big Time lesson No. 4 for Dick, "If you want votes, cast votes." It may not decide an election, but the individual's vote is about as fundamental to democracy as you can get, and someone who couldn't be bothered in FOURTEEN of the last 16 elections has no business running for vice president, let along dog catcher.

If you're George W. Bush, how do you pronounce "exemplary"?
a) eggs EM pla ree
b) real good
c) eggs EM pla rare ree
d) none of the above

This is the Texas education miracle, "exemplarary" schools that train kids how to take dim-witted multiple choice tests in the Readin', Ritin', and Rithmetic, while ignoring things like libraries, science, and everything that can not be reduced to a "concept bite." Good training for picking the button with the right picture on it on the cash register.

I'm sure I get a few words wrong from time to time, too, but "exemplary" is a current term of art in the Texas school system, designating schools that do real good on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). You'd think W. could at least learn him that one.

Of course, this is all a side show to a rather important issue; what we attempt to teach our children, and how we go about it. If solving multiple choice puzzles is the goal, Texas is up and to the right: TBEC.ORG tells us that "Texas public schools again broke previous performance records."

Here's another assessment:

"(T)he TAAS system of testing is reducing the quality and quantity of education offered to the children of Texas. Most damaging are the effects of the TAAS system of testing on poor and minority youth."

From the "not to be cited without prior written consent" (excuse me?) paper, "The Harmful Impact of the TAAS System of Testing in Texas: Beneath the Accountability Rhetoric."


And now downright hot today. Busted my rear derailleur cable on the way to work today, road half the way grinding along in high gear. I'd been hearing and feeling the cable break over the last several days, but failed to understand.

When I discovered that my box of spare parts did not include a gear cable quite long enough, I remembered an old trick and cranked the adjusting screw up to the 3rd cog. So instead of the 11 original gears, and the 2 high gears, I get the one rear sprocket that all three chainrings can get, for... low, medium and medium high.

That will do, better, until I get to the shop, after work tomorrow.

More Palo Alto garbage: colorful brochures for visitors to the Hawai'ian island of Kauai caught Jeanette's attention, and she fished them out. Inside the bundle of them were a ten dollar bill and six ones. Too small to bother with?!


A few days of clouds and rain, but the endless California summer came back before the Labor Day weekend was over. Today it was sunny and in the 80s here, as pleasant as any of the days of summer. And yet...

Sweep of pines and bunch grasses on my way to work

School is back in session, the morning and evening light is a bit more slanty, and some trees are changing color. In early September?! It's a topsy-turvy world.

Jeanette lucked into a pair of free tickets for the Theatreworks production of Master Class at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts tonight. Free parking underneath the destination, imagine. A beautiful, 1000-seat hall, perfect for singing, or talking about singing.

Having been close enough to the moment on stage, the moment of truth with a teacher, the moment of crisis as a student, I found it powerful and moving. Coraggio! Make an entrance!


The Street Performer Protocol: "Consider a world without copyright enforcement.... The artist offers to continue producing their freely-available creations so long as they keep getting enough money in donations to make it worth their while to do so."

"...the do's and don'ts of Olympic competition: no steroids, no wearing branded clothing of unauthorized sponsors when receiving medals, and this year, no Web diaries."

Say what?!

The Standard figures that "The organizers are taking every precaution they can to ensure that their broadcast partners, which have paid $1.32 billion for exclusive TV rights, don't get scooped by the Net."

Oh, I get it. Athletes' weblogs are going to cut into the TV viewing audience. What is the IOC smoking? Perhaps the "interview format" is a loophole, so everyone's site will be "John Doe on John Doe."

After fussing with a manual, kludgey process for entering transactions into my Quicken record of my 401(k) account, I wrote a nifty little perl script that smushes Fidelity's web-based report into a QIF file. Now I can put in the dozen or so "regular" transactions per month with a few keystrokes, and no errors.


Time to clean up my inbox of all the bits and pieces I've collected to "come back to later." Later may never come!

As seen on TV

American Gypsy: A Stranger in Everybody's Land

Critical Mass is a movement with no leaders, no spin control, no PR team. We aren't Blocking Traffic, We are Traffic by SF filmmaker Ted White tells their story.

Collected reading list recommendations

by others of what in my "to read" list I should read next:

Vital Dust : life as a cosmic imperative Christian de Duve, 1994.

At Home in the Universe: the search for laws of self-organization and complexity, Stuart Kauffman, 1996. "(A)bsolutely and HEARTILY suggest you read this," about "emergent behavior and its implications for everything from evolution to economies."

The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker, 1994

Feynman's QED

Beyond Numeracy: ruminations of a numbers man; John Allen Paulos, 1991

"William Strauss and Neil Howe have written some very good books on American History, its underlying cyclical nature, and the patterns of generations. Two of their books I highly recommend are Generations: the History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, and The Fourth Turning.

Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty, James Bovard. It covers how our "Bill of Rights" rights have been whittled down.

Under the Radar: How Red Hat Changed the Software Business and Took Microsoft By Surprise. "Robert Young (CEO of Red Hat, Inc.) describes how RedHat/Linux took MicroSoft by surprise, but also how MicroSoft behaves towards Intel, Netscape, and Linux. Jaws drop while reading this book."

Naomi Klein's new book No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies

The War on Some Drugs

Better dead than stoned? What is so frightening about medical marijuana?

An obituary.

McWilliams' books.

William F. Buckley, Jr.'s plea.


Paul Hawken's view of the WTO, widely circulated for a while, still worth reading.

Tax book from

On the Rez

Web Miscellany

THE Advanced HTML/CSS Reference collection it says, in case you need one of those.

Websites that will post your photos:, and

In a Microsoft vein

How Microsoft Ensures Virus-Free Software: they "do not allow MS-DOS-based operating systems to access the duplication system."

How to Remove Windows 2000 or Windows NT and Install Linux on Your Computer

How to Remove Linux and Install Windows 2000 or Windows NT on Your Computer

Upside reports on Microsoft piracy. No, not them taking your money, or defrauding Wall Street with stock options, but about some folks taking advantage of them. Sympathy must be hard to find.

"To put this into perspective, for every dollar that Microsoft currently earns, the company is losing as much as 50 cents to software pirates. To make matters worse, in countries such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Russia -- areas where PC sales are likely to be brisk in the future -- nearly 100 percent of the business software is pirated.

Bill Gates tells us that "wasting somebody else's time strikes me as the height of rudeness." I can't get that out of my mind, somehow, every time his operating system wastes my time with crashes and reboots.


I've driven my car to work about three times in the last six months. Today was one of them, as I wanted to get to an end-of-season sale at ASD, during my lunch "hour." Driving north on 280 in the rain (!), my mind wandered to how I was going to get home after work, and whether I'd get wet. "I can just go slow," I reminded myself. Under 10 mph or so, the water's not flung off the tires, and my no-fender look is OK.

Palo Alto Bunchgrass #2

But wait, I didn't ride my bike, oh yeah. Let it rain!

Even at midday, I ran into traffic jams. There were two major accidents, and a minor one along the way. One major had a jackknifed big rig, and a driver that would have to be extracted from his (?) little sedan. The other had at least half a dozen emergency vehicles, and was on the other side of the concrete barrier median, but it was still jamming up traffic on my side.

What a mess. It took me 2 hours for a 30-mile roundtrip and less than an hour of shopping.

On the home from work, later, I drove out the same path I've been bicycling. I had to remind myself to go slower, really stop at the stop signs, and not zig right onto the bike path, in spite of two lanes of traffic coming down Page Mill.


Tom von Alten

Monday, 06-Sep-2010 13:51:37 MDT