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Just a touch of eye candy to finish off the year, and a blogroll list to share some of what I read regularly. After playing around and getting close, testing with MSIE, I fired up the old NS v4.7 to see how that looked. Terrible. But functional, more or less. I've spent enough of my life trying to accomodate Netscape bugs, it's time to forget about that and move on. If there were any sort of rhyme or reason to the mistakes it made, I might keep trying, but there isn't.

As a side effect of taking the CSS margins out of the body and putting them in the paragraph specs (to make room for the table floating in the left column), the images I wrap around (below) get to float out to the edges. I like that.

I'd come across the observation that human's can't really multitask before (perhaps from Weinberger, on JOHO?), and it seemed correct; I've experienced the loss of effectiveness from context switching. Peterme brought it back to my attention.

As the example supplied by Evan's email correspondent shows, we are certainly capable of simultaneous monitoring of multiple inputs with multiple senses. And "of course," our bodies take care of things like blood circulation, thermoregulation, breathing and digestion even as we go about what ever else we do. We can drive and chew gum and listen to the radio and have a conversation and think about whether we'll get there on time all at once, too.

I think this is one of those tricks that consciousness is playing on us. The "I" in "I can only pay attention to one thing at a time" is the conscious part of me, which likes to think it's in charge of everything, merely served by those "lower" autonomous functions.

Then two pieces by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker, whose book ( The Tipping Point) I just read. More good writing about interesting stuff.

The summary of Jef Raskin's book, The Humane Interface is also a bit on to a different subject, but a refreshing clean-sheet look at all things computery.


Summer must be getting close; it was colder in Millbrae at 6pm yesterday than it was in Boise when I got in at 10:30. The marine layer was rolling up the coast range and into the sky, and filling up over the bay to the east side, too. Today, at home, that long awaited moment when it's time to open the windows and doors to the screens, give the furnace the day off and let the smell of Spring drive off the last remnants of Winter.

Rode my bike to work the direct, flat way, but came home about lunchtime, diverting to the river path. Stopped at a clearing, and just watched the river flow by for a while. After the constant motion sets an expectation in the eyes, returning to "solid" land creates a familiar hallucination: the unmoving seems to flow, the way the water did (except in the other direction).

That made me think of what it's like to live in an urban culture, swept along by technology to the point where that seems natural, and glimpses of the "outside" world are distorted, disturbing. We look away in discomfort, go back to what we were doing.

Dan Gillmor's eJournal has moved to, apparently under the care of those who think the length of URLs is an arbitrary consideration. To some extent it is, but I still look at them as an indicator of art, as well as craft. Is your site run by humans or machines? Or by humans acting as if they were machines?

The column linked above is an important one, using Coke's "Online agreement from hell" as an illustration of the reprehensible and one-sided click-through agreements we're all "signing." Read the rules, and see if you have a story you'd like to "irrevocably and in perpetuity assign to Coca-Cola all worldwide right, title and interest in and to."

Bill Moyers on 30 years in journalism, and other things:

Theodore Roosevelt... got it right about power in America. Roosevelt thought the central fact of his era was that economic power had become so centralized and dominant it could chew up democracy and spit it out.

Now that I've taken enough pictures (650 or so) with my Coolpix950, I can appreciate Philip Greenspun's review of the Nikon D-1. I'm glad I didn't have that much money when I was shopping! Having currently misplaced my manual and CD, I can relate to those problems, although the 950's menus are not quite as cryptic.

The observation about the camera not knowing which way is up is something that hadn't occurred to me to fix, but yes, it is obvious: I don't want the "life (and quality) wasting" task of rotating JPEGs with my computer.

I didn't know what was happening when "contrasty scenes quickly overwhelm(ed) the standard 8 bits of the JPEGs," but I could tell something was wrong. Now I know what's wrong, and that I can't do much to get it fixed. :-/ "If you originate 8-bit JPEGs in a digital camera, though, the detail is lost forever."

I'll definitely do more investigation of user interface before I buy another digital camera. Getting the old Canon AE-1 (35mm SLR) fixed, or buying a new film camera seems more attractive than it used to.

A nearby couple of shopping centers seem to have fallen on hard times. We used to have two grocery stores just down the block, but one moved to a better location and bigger store, and the other went belly-up. Without a steady reason go shopping in Cole Village, the other stores have foundered. A stylish remodel attempted to bring shoppers back, but without groceries... there is a Post Office and a State Liquor Store, though, and those two probably account for saving the place from total devastation.

Coast-to-Ghost in Cole Village, and the $1.00 shop

Coast-to-Coast has become Coast-to-Ghost, and the remodelling is starting to look dated before it's paid for itself. Personally, I thought it looked bad from the get-go, but I do think I've figured out the architectural sense of this inverted bulbousness that seems to be the local fashion.

Cole Village Cargo Cult Architecture

It's Cargo Cult architecture, funnels upturned to the sky hoping for the return of prosperity. The bulge signals current prosperity, "this must be a good place to shop." Since it didn't work on its own, something new is probably planned for the even more defunct (no P.O., no liquor store) group of stores on the south side of Ustick Rd. I sure hope they've tied the remodelling to the landing of a grocery store, though; somehow I don't think a fresh crop of false fronts, stucco and mood lighting are going to work on their own.

Cringely picks up the Cargo Cult theme with regard to the bubble. In addition to a wonderfully concise description of the phenomenon (first brought to my attention by required reading for Anthro 101 some 25 years ago, in Marvin Harris' Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches), he observes the similarities between WW II armies and Venture Capitalists, showering ignorant natives with unbelievable wealth. After they've gone, we wrack our brains trying to find the cause in the mess of correlated events. What can we do to get prosperity to rain down on us again? Seems like there should be some interesting things in this regard in Japan, after a decade of stagnation.

The Cargo Cult idea has many wonderful applications, including "cargo cult programming," where chunks of code with no apparent function are included by ignorant natives who hope that plagiarizing successful programs will aid their own. And Richard Feynman's Cargo Cult Science lecture, interesting in its own right, but also being copied by so many sites that it's a bit of cult behavior on another level.

Coincidentally, Feynman's lecture impinges on the question of integrity that's been under discussion this month.


What if... your instant messages turned out to be permanent rather than ephemeral? How would that be?

The folks at eFront found out.

Extending the "what if cars were like software" analogy: "Suppose, I could only have performance and reliability data that was supplied by the automakers' marketing departments, couldn't test-drive the car without buying it, and first had to divest myself of my existing car."


We're over the English hump on the internet:

(I)t was the dramatic growth last year in the number of Japanese people with wireless email access (that) tipped that US/Rest of the World balance in favor of the Rest of the World. There were 31.8 million email-enabled wireless devices in Japan at the end of 2000, up from 3.7 million a year before.

From Nua Ltd.'s take on the "Year end 2000 Mailbox Report" from Messaging Online.

Overheard just before boarding, from two adventuresome guys with fishing pole packages:

"...I never shot a turkey."

"It's exhilarating just to watch 'em die."


Not everything about our system of justice is "just right" yet. For example, the fact that exculpatory evidence alone isn't enough to prevent the state from putting you to death. If you can prove that the prosecution concealed exculpatory evidence, then maybe.

But you need a good lawyer. One of the ones involved in this case, Bill Mauk, said:

"I was stunned by the insurmountable difficulties of overcoming the conviction, even though there was evidence of innocence," he said. "Without Ed Matthews and his firm, Don Paradis would have been killed a long time ago."

Elsewhere on the fringe of the Bill of Rights, with the Idaho Legislature ruling the State Board of Education should approve anything that Idaho Public TV wants to put on the air. The News Hour ran a feature about it this week, featuring Dennis Mansfield as regular family guy, rather than as a co-founder of Focus on the Family and former director of the Idaho Family Forum or as a failed candidate for the state legislature.

The Legislature found out that there was a lot of support for state funding, thankyouverymuch. 867 of the 900 people who took the trouble to testify said they did want PBS state-supported.

Our esteemed Senator Hawkins, at the forefront of those who would censor PBS' choices, made believe he'd deliver a video for "an alternative view to the evolution theory," perhaps for competition against Saturday morning cartoons?


It's tulip time around here, and even on a cloudy day, they make wonderful subjects. I figured out how to use the "spot metering" to get the autofocus to take the subject instead of the background, and made several trips to the computer to refine my takes. I see there's a manual focus mode, too, but I think it requires too much simultaneous control manipulation... at a minimum, I need a clue to figure it out. (Now, where did I put that booklet and the CD??)

Our Earth day activity was to do some trail action and some political action in and around the foothills. I bossed a small crew of pruners, walked around Hull's Gulch a couple times, and dug in a couple logs for water breaks. Cloudy and 50s is perfect for working outside, but it's still an act of dedication for almost a hundred people to show up on a gloomy Saturday morning to do volunteer work, especially heartening to work alongside a new generation eager to make a difference.

Volunteers at Camelsback park, Earth Day (Apr. 21), 2001

Putting in trail signs at Hull's Gulch, Earth Day (Apr. 21), 2001

The political action was to distribute postcards with information about the vote on the Foothills Levy on May 22d (and protecting other wonderful places). Are we willing to pay $10 million more in property taxes over the next two years to preserve some precious open space in our back yard? Some of us hope so.

The event was sponsored by the local Sierra Club group, 94.9 FM The River and the Ridge to Rivers Project, and I'd call it a big success.


Dave Winer's latest tempest in a teapot came out of his pronouncement about integrity.

"(W)riters who work for others have less integrity to offer than those who do it for love."

There's no reason I can imagine why we should consider writing as unique in this regard. Bricklayers who work for others... software writers, engineers, choose your profession. If you're doing it for wages or a salary, you're working under an integrity cap. Given that the economy pushes business enterprises to hierarchical organizations, and the most successful of these become large, that leaves the vast majority of us working under the cap. We just don't have as much integrity to offer as someone who does it for themselves, for a hobby, for the hell of it, as long as they love what they do.

Sorry, I'm not buying it. First of all, absolute pronouncements are always false. (Think about it.) Secondly, working for (and with) others, working for love, and having integrity are not mutually exclusive conditions. One can work for others and be true to one's self. It's possible to love your work and collect a salary.

Am I willing to be fired if I feel strongly enough about something to insist on "my way," and not the way I'm being told to do something? Yes. Am I willing to accept that I might not be the smartest or wisest person in a group, or the one with the greatest integrity, and accept correction, criticism, or revision? Not always, but I'm working on it. :-)

The whole kick started because Dave didn't like the way he was portrayed by NY Times reporter John Markoff; it didn't reflect that week's change (or at least state) of heart and mind. He thought Markoff should've reslanted things at the last minute, and his failure to do so reflected a lack of integrity. In fact, the whole editorial page of the Times got dissed in the snit.

I don't imagine too many of the parties involved ever make it out to fortboise, but if they do, they can read how my bottom line is that integrity is possible within the corporate world.

In yet another piece, Dave elaborates on what he means by integrity, and it comes out sounding like a combination of full disclosure and consistency. You don't have to be honest to have integrity, as long as you lie all the time, according to his used car salesman example. Used car salesman are liars (for the purpose of his illustration), so as long as you identify yourself as one, lying has integrity.

It should be "interesting" and instructive that his pieced "pushed a lot of buttons." That's because integrity doesn't mean the same thing to everyone as it does to him. The American Heritage collects integrity with other synonyms of honesty; it isn't simply being consistent and disclosing biases.

I think Doc Searls' brief description is closer to what the word means to me, "the place where your integrity lives" could be shortened to your integrity. In fact, had I taken the trouble to read all of Doc's weblog for the 19th, I probably would have saved myself the trouble here. :-)

He also points to an example of an industry that must be the antithesis of integrity, Salon's Pay for Play piece answers the question "Why does radio suck?"


I've been riding to work via the Matadero Creek greenbelt, taking a little extra turn for some morning exercise. There's a slice of pasture with two handsome donkeys in it, and a hand-lettered sign on the gate: "Don't feed the donkeys! They may bite or kick!

This morning as I rode by, the two of them were in the gate corner, and one had his neck through the barbed-wire fence to sample some of the grass-is-greener on the other side. Photo opportunity! I stopped, dismounted, pulled the cover off my pannier/briefcase and dug out my camera. When I turned back to my subjects, they'd taken notice of me, and the extended one had pulled his neck out of the compromising position and was eyeing me from a safer stance.


As I pulled the camera up to look through the viewfinder, he decided I looked harmless enough, and casually turned his head to the side and took a bite out of the sign. Too perfect.


Into the Arastradero preserve woods

Left work at 5, cruised down to the Creekside, checked in, put on shorts and a t-shirt and headed for the hills. Took the full turn through the Arastradero preserve, going nice and slow on the downhills, looking for wildflower photos in general, and a Scarlet Pimpernel in particular. We'd seen their tiny explosions of color a year ago, when I didn't have a camera handy, and I'd been wanting to come back and take a picture ever since.

This bit of rutted "single" track dives down into the dark woods, with poison oak growing lushly on either side of the trail; I was feeling itchy a couple feet away from it as I concentrated on dodging the ruts and staying up. No Pimpernels, though, just lots of Astragalus sprinkled through the grass, and an occasional clump of Balsamroot.

Astragalus flowers in the Arastradero Preserve

I see my autofocus focused on the leafy surround rather than the flowers... I do miss seeing through the lens, and having a focus ring.


It's that first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (sort of, see the link below for lots of interesting details), otherwise known as Easter. A holiday that follows the moon is a sure sign of something earth-centered, rather than other-worldly. So it is that Christianity builds on earlier religions. The word itself derives from a Germanic dawn goddess whose holiday was on the equinox.

Hope you had a happy one!

Letters to the editor are one of the most interesting parts of newspapers to me. But they don't have as good a web interface as the news – no succinct blurbs pointing to them, no streaming format to help you cruise through multiple topics.

Two I liked this weekend: Gerald Lillpop's in the Sunday NY Times, "If you think that the United States economy can recover without California, think again. But don't take my word for it; call your stockbroker, or the company that holds your retirement fund."

And in Saturday's Mistakesman, Dan Foutz writes to encourage us to let Jesus Christ direct our actions. "The (National Democratic Party) believe(s) in pro-death, that homosexuality is normal, radical environmental issues, evolution, that government should run our lives, that Hollywood is great. All are the tools of Satan.

Paul Krugman notes that forecasts for this summer's power bill in California are has high as $70 billion:

(I)f I were a power producer, I would be more worried about my long-run prospects in a California enraged over the huge profits earned by Texas-based companies than I would be in a state where the generators and their friends in Washington, instead of squeezing out every last dollar, had helped craft a reasonable transition plan to get the state through a difficult time.


I'm not much for hospital drama, but every once in a while I get back to and am immersed in that world. His incredible day is wonderful, gripping and real. Matters of life and death, not just put on to sell something.

Zero to 7200 mph in less than 3 minutes; take a trip out of the gravity well on the Mars Odyssey (Houston Chronicle 7 min. video). Watch for the arcing shadow on the ground as you leave the launch pad. Who needs fast cuts with a show like this? The first chage of camera angle is 5 minutes in. That's when it gets to outer space, and things (appear to) stop changing.

I really have to spruce up the site, even I'm getting tired of the "easy on the eyes" look here. It all started when I decided I didn't want to tableize everything... But there's only so much you can do with CSS if you want to accomodate today's browsers. And so little time...

The flight out of SFO was delayed last night, in spite of on-time boarding, which was in spite of warnings about reduced landing due to fog... which was either invisible fog, or high fog, but I imagine it's part of the ramp-up to the campaign to fill SF Bay for the convenience of the mother airport in the area. Traffic at SJC and OAK is up smartly (13.3 and 7.5%), while SFO is "only" up 2.7%.

This seems like exactly the right thing to have happen to me; SFO has reached saturation, it should stop (or at least slow) growth. The alternative – undertaken ever more Herculean development to maintain growth of something that's big enough already – seems like insanity.

But back to the flight. We packed in, buckled up and got through the safety talk, the jets were running... but we didn't push back. "Some paperwork that maintenance needs to print out for us," what, they can't get their printer working? In intermittent revelations the details came out: "a ding in the sheetmetal," "close to another ding," and they had to check the regulations to see if we were OK to fly again.

We sat there with the jets spinning for almost an hour before the issue ran up and down the bureaucracy and technical manuals and they decided we were good to go. So, an hour later into Boise. Not a big deal. A coworker on the plane let me use his cell phone to call home and amend my previous call from a pay phone saying "looks good, we're on time." Handy little things, I'll have to get one some day.

Don't remember how I got there, but spiraling into the media navel is occasionally fun. Go for part 72 if you can't make up your mind.

Gotta keep up on SpaceWeather; there was another aurora last night, maybe while we were flying. (I'm so inured to the commute that I'd rather have an aisle seat these days.) Tonight's forecast is for north of 50°, Boise's below 44.

What would we do without Google? I'm even starting to use it for spell-checking. ("Do you mean injured" it asks, inexplicably without a question mark.)

What's up with et cetera, et cetera? I've seen two journalists use it twice in the last two days. Just once, guys: et cetera is recursive. Ironically, Paul Andrews introduced me to the word pleonasm a few sentences further along.

Zero to 1.8 million in eight days. I never really got the "hot or not" bug, but the article piqued a little interest in me, and I went through some voting. I can see how you might get sucked into it, but the novelty wore off about the time an ad window popped up.

Whatever I think about it, it's clearly a contagious sort of thing. Read half of The Tipping Point on the plane last night, about epidemics in behavior and ideas. This is one.

Multitasking as a way of life. I've been immersed in that for 15 years or so, although it's been getting more intense – more fragmented – since my involvement with the web started in late '94. I was in the TV generation... what will the multitasking generation be like? "Sometimes it's all too much of a distraction."

Dan Gillmor shines a light on the business of brokering data. This is where cookies and webbugs and clickstreams was headed, of course.

Note the fine distinction in ChoicePoint's privacy policy: your non-public credit header information (with your SSN and birthdate) can be bandied about, even though the credit history is a tiny bit better protected. They promise to be careful with your data.

It's rather funny, when so many people are pouring out intimate details in weblogs like this one, when it's never been easier to find out lots of things about someone just by listening to what s/he's willing to tell you directly. But of course, it's not about personal relationships, it's about aggregation, mass marketing and data mining.

As Dan mentions, opting out is not one of the "choices" ChoicePoint offers.

Gillmor's Wednesday column gives a heads-up on the privacy policies coming your way in mailings from financial institutions. It's not because they like you, it's because they have to. Take the time to look 'em over, and take the action that will limit the traffic in information about you. As Dan says, "your inaction is their go-ahead to treat your information as a commodity."


Zeldman and I corresponded about ALA's stylesheet business. They've taken the trouble to make alternate stylesheets, for which the referenced standard tells me my "user agent should allow users to select from alternate style sheets." Apparently only Mozilla/NN6 does that so far. (Does it pay attention to "media" specifications, too?)

He's not at fault, and his obstinancy does have a point: the makers of user agents need to pay attention to the standards! A focused effort by a few companies would obviate the distributed efforts required by the millions of us who write web pages.

The immediate problem is a bit of an inexplicable lapse on Microsoft's part. They have this simple interface to change font sizes in IEv5, and in the Mac version, the text zoom works regardless of whether the font is specified in pixel (or point?) or em units. Yet Z says:

i haven't seen any sign of (it in IE6). and it's just weird. it's such a smart accessibility enhancement. it's his own company's invention. i don't get it. there may be competitiveness between different microsoft groups involved.


I set up amail on, to give me a decent web interface to my personal email on Earthlink when I'm away from my home computer. It works great, and is a new addition to my software list.

My comparison was webmail, Earthlink's "free" version of the same function. Webmail is slow to authenticate, framed in an unhelpful way, has ads, and tedious wait states between every action. (Oh, but it's "free" with the $20+/month we pay to Earthlink.)

Amail is fast and effective, no ads, no long waits for it to act, and it really is free (as long as you have a server to run it on!). Best of all, I have the (GPL'd) perl source, so I can change anything I don't like.

Jon Udell, writing on Supporting the Netscape browser has become a thankless chore.

One slice of browser share data he shows has IE 5 going from 51% to 77% in the last year. NS 4 (9%) and Mozilla (in the 1% "others") are disappearing.

Zeldmen continues his ranting about the difficulty of designing for bad browsers. He also continues his insistence on sizing everything in pixels, thinking that he knows what's right.

News flash, Jeffrey, you don't. Your "just right" fontsmanship makes everything itty bitty and annoyingly unreadable on my display. I wouldn't have noticed had I not turned off the "Ignore font sizes specified on web sites" setting in MSIE v5.5, however. That lets me see things at the size that's right for me, and more importantly, lets me adjust the size to suit me. Microsoft made the mistake of figuring that if fonts were specified in pixels, it shouldn't allow them to be changed with the "view / text size" choices.

I'm not that big on the Family Circus, but the reader reviews on for this collection are sure funny.


Paradise Ridge in spring snow

Home again, after a road trip up and down Idaho. We traveled north on a beautiful Thursday, did yard work and had a big trash fire in the stiff Palouse wind on Friday, planted and pruned in blowing snow on Saturday, and woke to snow covered hills on Sunday.

After a long weekend surrounded by Palouse agricultural land, reading about server farming is a bit surreal. Of course you've heard by now that PG&E has filed for bankruptcy.... Or at least one little part of PG&E - the profitable parts are off somewhere else, in a shell game. A bit of irony too: the Bank of New York is PG&E's biggest creditor, at $2.2B. California's two big utilities' stocks are down 75% from last year. Who says utility stocks are boring?!


A day late for April Fool's, and two days late for March to go out like a lion, we're having rain and snow showers, the temperature just barely into the 40s in the middle of the day.

Oops, check that, we're having a blizzard at the moment. This is too wild.

Bogus Basin had closing day yesterday, fresh snow overnight. But we'll need a lot more to catch up to "normal," from about half and below.

Some piece of dung portal managed to insinuate itself into my browser's home page, without my request, and certainly without my approval. It's called "gopreference," and I will be sure to remember and tell all my friends what a flaming crock it is.


I slayed the multi-headed monster: the taxes are done.

By the time I saw the New York Times Sky Watch mention of a chance to see the Aurora Borealis, the storm had passed. Maybe if I'd been keeping track of spaceweather I would've caught the show. Spotted as far south as Mexico!

Damn, it was a fantastic show; check out their gallery including some pictures from Boise. And we missed it! :-(

Maureen is not the only one "going hungry for a shred of modernity."

Bush II has reeled backward so fast, economically, environmentally, globally, culturally, it's redolent of Dorothy clicking her way from the shimmering spires of Oz to a depressed black-and-white Kansas.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Sunday, 01-Jul-2001 16:19:37 MDT