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unraveling

31.Aug.2001

Electricity deregulation, anarchy style, at the Burning Man. Oh, maybe not, they sell tickets to the event! Having just been out with the "RV crowd" as they describe it, I have to say being on the desert with 20,000 or so other revelers sounds like a mixed blessing, at best.

Call me old-fashioned, but camping has always been about the outdoors and solitude for me, which is why maybe I don't camp so much anymore. (But I guess Burning Man is about art, not camping, and you have to have people for art to have meaning.)

Or just call me old: I'm 46 today. I confess this with some trepidation, not because I'm vain, but because the implicit date of birth is one of those personal facts that has a certain currency. I wouldn't give it to any web merchant who asks, for example, unless they really had a legitimate reason for asking. The only security here is through obscurity (notoriously weak security, mind you) in that it's spelled out in natural language rather than database-speak subject to input validation.

And it's such an unremarkable number. Not prime, doesn't factor in an interesting way (23 twice?). Must be why I'm playing it low key.

Everybody's starting to figure out that you don't need the latest and greatest to have a good time. This downturn might be more than cyclical, and WinXP might not do more than prolong life support. That's bad for the business I'm in, as noted last week. But progress is going to march on with or without us.

Catching up on the NYTimes Op-Ed, found this piece by Maureen Dowd: "This raises the urgent question of just how conscious of the world around him Rip Van Rummy is." Ouch.

29.Aug.2001

It's a glass-half-empty-or-half-full deal: either the economy grew by a "tiny 0.2%" in the 2nd quarter of this year, or else the US economy extended its 8 year expansion yet again, to reach its largest size of all time. Take your pick.

We did our part, spent our tax rebate check lickety split. Not quite 10% on a charity, and more than the rest on a mini DV video camera. Using it on a sailing/family visit trip to the Gorge and Portland made me feel like the quintessential tourist. Watching the video we took reveals some learning that needs to happen. For starters, turn off the digital zoom, permanently. What a moronic feature that is.

When is $240 million not $240 million? When you have to share it with three other lottery winners, and take it in the "lump sum" version rather than the annuity. Then it's only $41 million. But gee, it's such a big amount of money, why should we have to tell the truth about it?

24.Aug.2001

Something light:
Two things I really like about Opera v5.11 over MSIE v5.5:

1. Page up/dn works as it should, with one-line overlap. Everytime I go back to MSIE, I'm annoyed by the 4 lines or so that leave me looking for my place every time I page down.

2. Shift-ctrl-left click, opening a page in the background. The only way to browse good sites with lots of good links.

Something even lighter:
Why the shower curtain gets sucked in. (NY Times)

"First, he drafted a computer image of his mother-in-law's bathtub, with its typically curved shapes, then filled it with 50,000 tetrahedral cells, or pyramid-like structures, that sense velocity and pressure in three dimensions...."

Something heavy:
Four days of a "Workforce Reduction Program" at my place of work this week. The coworker closest to me who was affected was there from the day he was notified through today, making sure that he cleaned up loose ends, and that the transition was a painless as possible for the people he'd been working with. I suspect I would've done the same sort of thing, been reluctant to just clear out and let go.

But next week, thousands of people will be letting go, and we "survivors" are going to have to figure out how to deal with the loss of morale and trust, and the loss of innocence. (That links not just something I happened to stumble across - HP outsourced much of its process to LHH. Imagine that, TQM on RIF.)

I've got a few days of vacation coming to let it settle in.

22.Aug.2001

Day two of layoffs at HP. I'm one of the survivors at the moment, still gathering my experiences for what to say publicly. Over the years, this company has created a lot of opportunities, and spread a lot of good practices, at the same time as it's turned into a great big corporation. We've been sheltered (if not completely immune) longer than most, maybe it's a good thing for the reality of the tech downturn to be hit home.

What's happened over the last two days doesn't feel like a good thing, though. It's ugly to contemplate the process management has gone through, and the task they're carrying out. Maybe it's no longer possible to grow slowly and carefully, so that you can weather downturns without drastic measures. Maybe that's a worse idea than occasional drastic measures.

At any rate, it's not the same company I joined in the 1980s, and working there will never be the same as it was.

Of course, "it could be worse." Watched another episode of P.O.V. tonight, this one about the Jamaican economy, and what the I.M.F. has done for and to it. Per capita income of $240 US per year. Layoffs from the Kingston free zone have a slightly different meaning, with no months of severance pay for the severed.

Votes in the IMF are allocated by the size of countries' economy, the film said. 17% for the US, Japan next, then Germany. Jamaica doesn't get a lot of say in that. Not much say in the coffee trade, or bananas, or for garment workers. Yeah, it puts the trauma of 7% layoffs in a different light.

19.Aug.2001

The New York Times reports on legislative backlash to the selling of stimulants to the nation's youth. No, not crystal meth, but Ritalin and its cohort. "In the back-to-school section of this month's Ladies' Home Journal, tucked among the ads for Life cereal, bologna and Jell-O pudding, are three full-page advertisements for the A.D.H.D. treatments."

18.Aug.2001

The Cabarton stretch of the N. Fork of the Payette

For our 20th wedding anniversary, we treated ourselves to a scenic train ride, on Idaho Northern & Pacific's Thunder Mountain Line, from Cascade to Smith's Ferry and back. It's a beautiful ride down the Cabarton section of the North Fork of the Payette River, slicing through the central Idaho granite batholith.

The tracks are a little funky, and so the pace is very relaxed. The tail end of an August hot spell gave us a warm, sunny day for it, with plenty of rafters out along the medium-difficulty stretch. We waved at them, they waved at us, we all took pictures of one another.

The train has a passenger car (with all the window glass conveniently removed), a gondola outfitted with park benches for the "observation car," and a flatcar. The latter is both filler to make it officially a "train" (trains have to have 3 cars?), and to allow for ferrying rafters from Smith's Ferry, back upriver to a remote put-in that gives them a second run at lower rapids on the stretch.

Approaching the Hwy 55 'Rainbow Bridge' from downriver

Most of the ride is away from the highway, but the railway and highway 55 join up at the "Rainbow Bridge," the largest single-span bridge in Idaho, a beautiful concrete arch. The ride also features a 1913 steel truss bridge, and the shortest solid-rock tunnel in Idaho.

9 more photos (about ½ MB).


17.Aug.2001

The Industry Standard goes under, another dot.com blow-off casualty. "There are no severance packages, though the Washington Post pointed out that employees may keep their laptops and mobile phones."

Things could be worse; they arguably are in Japan, where the Nikkei index hit a 16-year low yesterday. As in December, 1984. Ronnie Raygun and George Orwell.

At my company we're waiting for the other shoe to drop on the first-ever layoff not associated with an acquisition. 6,000 jobs to go, along with the people who were holding them, details due in a couple weeks. My personal odds are well better than the aggregate 6 in 90, but it's not a happy situation. One discussion thread started today, are layoffs ever good for a company?

The stock market used to think so, now it's not so clear.

Doc's musings about companies with a soul are interesting in this context. It was our CEO, Carly Fiorina who brought up the "soul" business in regard to HP. It's supposed to have a "shining soul," but to me, it feels less and less like the special company I focused on joining 19 years ago, and more and more corporate. Maybe the layoffs will be good, but it doesn't feel that way yet.

Doc points us to Johnson & Johnson's credo, the first of such statements I've ever seen associated with a corporation. It's a good one. I'd feel better about something like that than sloganeering. It's in the category of "high ideals," something timeless and worth striving for.

Krugman: The real lesson of the California catastrophe was that the concerns that led to regulation in the first place — monopoly power and the threat of market manipulation — are still real issues today."

Ran through the "repair Internet Explorer" drill again today. First on our default profile, then on mine, then on Jeanette's. (My dialup was working again after the first one, hers wasn't. I did the second two just to "cover everything." Is it breaking more often in response to my use of Opera as my default browser? Or is Windows95 just not capable of dealing with 3-½ years of use and additions?

Probably the latter. Our semi-repeatable Fatal Exception 06 at 0000:00000236 continues, and my attempt to invoke it early in a session I don't want to crash seems more like witchcraft than technical savvy. I'd fix it if I could, change it if I thought it would make our lives any better. Reboot and go on.

Speaking of Opera, I found myself defending having paid for it in a discussion at work, to someone complaining about the ads. Are they supposed to give it away? That only works if you have a monopoly. Anyway, while surfing this evening, with 16 windows open all over the place, performance started to auger in. I had to wait for seconds and then minutes to scroll a page, close a window, etc. Yuk.

Finally, it GPF'd with a problem in kernel32.dll. Good, I can start over and load stuff out of the history display. On restart, it gave me a new screen, saying it noticed I'd been interrupted. Did I want to continue where I was? Sure, why not?

It started loading all the pages that I'd had up! Way cool. Performance was peppy again... but then about the time everything was loaded, it went pear-shaped again. Hmm, somebody's page is bugging it. Probably javascript, as even my own beginner effort at that seems to break it.

(I did figure out which site was causing the problem: I'd tell you about it, but then you'd just try to go there, and blame me. Guess.)

Dmitry's not mad at us, even though he has every right to be. "Itís not that someone decided this Russian guy is bad and has to sit in jail. Itís money. In the U.S. everything is related to money." (MSNBC)

P.O.V. is consistently the most powerful thing going on television. "In The Light Of Reverence" looks at sacred places and how the fare in today's American culture.

I'm seeing more offers to get DSL these days, but I just have this knee-jerk reaction to signing on for things that cost $40 (the Qwest loss-leader deal) or $50 a month. I know the difference between a fast connection and a slow one, since I alternate between work and home most days. The bottleneck isn't my phone line, it's my brain. I can only read so much at a sitting, and there's always too much good stuff to read.

Case in point: the new JOHO is out, with a great one question interview on postmodern knowledge management. Ignore the trailing blather, though.

Cringely follows the Microsoft maze for us; so many twists and turns! No doubt they'll be "making lemonade" at everyone's expense. That's what having a monopoly is all about.

An unblinking look at the foxes in the henhouse, getting ready to raid the ANWR.

96,500 feet with Kevlar, Styrofoam and plastic film. An amazing feat of aeronautical engineering.

16.Aug.2001

McDonald's Site Terms and Conditions gave me such a Happy Feel that I felt like a McWriting some of my own clever Slogos, to nail down some copyright space before they've used it all up. As David Weinberger pointed out in the latest issue of JOHO, that is a comma at the end, they have every intention of continuing with no full stop.

Maybe a combination of the patronizing "My" and a twist on the "Mc" that they're stuffing in front of everything comestible. I'll trademark MeBaby, MeBacon, MeBurger, MeBus, MeCafe, MeCar, MeChicken, MeDia Blitz, MeDouble, MeDrive. MeExpress MeSelf, with MeFamily,

I'll have MeFranchise, and it'll be MeHappy Day, I'll be MeHero. (I'll let Steve have MeJobs, though.) MeKids will have MeHappy Day, too, as we make MeMemories, MeMusic, it'll be MeNifica,

I'll be MeScholar of the Year, it'll be MeSwing, welcome to MeWorld,

Hey it might happen!

And it's not just Me Me Me! There's also What's on Your Face?, Did somebody Fart?, Good McJobs for good McPeople,

Did somebody say we deserve a break today?

14.Aug.2001

I'm not much for blogrolling, and the people on my "left hand list" hardly need my pathetic advertising, but I've added a new one to my list: Deborah Branscum's buzz. She's one of those people who seem to like weblogs.com just fine; I liked it for a while but got tired of it and now it's just a nagging irritation because I can't delete my site. "It's your data," Dave likes to say when it suits him, but it's apparently Userland's site, not mine. (You get what you pay for, and if you don't pay, you may get more than you bargained for.)

Anyway, the buzz on who's been Robert X. Cringely, Philip Zimmermann, and the ride to the zoo with her 6-year old were all entertaining.

My dad has lived long enough to find out he has Fuchs' Dystrophy, a degenerative condition of the cornea. Yesterday, he had the first of two corneal transplants; a process that's followed by a six month recovery. So far, so good, but he's got a ways to go. And then another transplant, if he's lucky.

As part of the deal, I inherit a 50-50 chance to have the condition myself. Odds are that a couple of his six children have it, certainly. If we're lucky, we'll live long enough to need a corneal transplant, I guess.

So far, so good.

It's time for fires out West, "as usual." We missed the worst fire season in memory last year, on our "sabbatical" to the Bay area. This year seemed tamer, but the symptoms are always striking. Smoke in the morning and evening, deep, fuzzy haze and orange-red sunsets. DC-3s heading out on morning bombing runs to accompany morning sailing on Lucky Peak Lake.

Why do people live in such extreme places? It's too cold much of the year, too hot and too combustible in the summer. But you have to live somewhere, and I guess this is as good as many.

Fascinating exchange captured by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, concerning bogus electricity usage data proffered by touts for the coal industry. Why do bad facts have longer legs than good facts? I guess for the same reason that TV news is sensational: it's more interesting to us.

Try this factoid, for example: "Your typical PC and its peripherals require about 1,000 watts of power. An IntelliQuest study reports that the average Internet user is on-line 12 hours a week.... That kind of usage implies about 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electrical consumption in a year."

It does? Even without the too-high-by-a-factor-of-3-to-5 estimate of power usage, how do you get 1000 from 50 times 12, or infer "on" time from "on-line" time? Must be the new math. Without any kind of defense of their "science," we can only assume they're front men for the Greening Earth Society, a propaganda team for the Western Fuels Association. (In the email exchange [PDFs on the LBL site], they did demonstrate the ability to multiply 50 by 12 and get 600. Too late for publication in Forbes, though.

I waded through all 35 pages, incredibly. It ends with Lovins observing "Sorry, but you just moved the goalposts and scored an own-goal."

12.Aug.2001

Even Dave Barry's making fun of MarketingSpeak now. He lampoons Grand Forks and East Grand Forks for their Grand Cities content-free verbiage. North Dakota, the intersection of earth and sky. Always enriching your soul.

There's a Flash intro, of course.

Resource wars, part 2: Water. It's not just the West that's arid any more. "(I)n the Great Lakes region, a fourth year in a row of declining water levels has caused millions of dollars in losses for shipping companies, marinas and other businesses and prompted further restrictions on future water withdrawals for expanding suburbs."

Lucky Peak, 20 ft. down and dropping. 2001-08-11

11.Aug.2001

How about a car that "that spreads joy, friendship, community and hope"? What a way to save the world, huh?

Krugman: The Bush administration "is not interested in a realistic proposal for privatizing Social Security; it intends to sell private accounts with false advertising, with the promise of something for nothing."

Those sorts of promises usually go over pretty well with John Q. Public.

The new Civil War: states blocking shipments of things they don't like. 50 tons of plutonium to be shipped from Rocky Flats in Colorado to South Carolina.

And that's not its "final" destination... seems like we ought to have a plan before we start the hazmat trucking. We can't afford to vitrify the stuff, so we're going to ship it across the country instead?!

10.Aug.2001

Gummint won't block XP. Sorta like hearing the fight's been called off, bummer. What, they're going to punish Microsoft all the harder because of how anticompetitive the new O/S is? Yeah, right. Bridge for sale!

Here's an antidote: Microsoft Bundles Worm with IIS and other funny stories.

Tallying up hits from Code Red dupes, at work and at home. Here's my list from fortboise's access log.

Too much Microsoft stuff here, eh? Yeah, I know, life is more interesting than all that. If the sailing were a little better, I'd be talking about that here, instead.

8.8.2001

A doggedly hot day, a hundred degrees, and I rode my bike to work. I was feeling quirky, took the hybrid for a street task, went down the bench and up Chinden, of all things. Steady stream of cars going by at 40 to 50+, why did I do that? Well, it was still cool in the morning, and getting on that "other" bike reminded me of commuting to Palo Alto, riding out of the Caltrain station after flying in from Boise.

This afternoon, in the fullness of the heat, I took a side trip to the grocery store, came home with a half-rack of Full Sail sitting, unstrapped, on my rack, one hand behind my back just to assure myself I wouldn't drop it on the pavement.

Just grinning because it was  so   damned   hot, and I was riding my bike and everybody else was in their cars with the windows rolled up.

Dan Gillmor asks: "What should the authorities do, given the plain evidence that XP is more of the same from a wanton, unrepentant lawbreaker that has little respect for the courts and less for its critics?"

There's all these 46 year-old CEOs, I wonder if I'm going to get lucky later this month? Probably not. Maybe if I start my own company, though.

7.Aug.2001

Microsoft's idea of a level playing field: heads we win, tails you lose. OEMs can either have no icons on the desktop, or the ones they want and the ones Microsoft wants. (The first two comments in the talkback are right on the money.)

SmartTags are a great thing, we poor schmuck content developers just haven't figured it out yet.

And no changes to Win XP. They're working to cement that deal by appealing to the Supremes that since Judge Jackson couldn't keep his mouth shut, the whole case should be thrown out. "Expunge all legal and factual findings in the case" is the way the NY Times put it. Conveniently, the Supreme Court is in recess until October.

Microsoft is concerned that judge's misconduct poses a "palpable threat" "to the public's perception of judges and the process of judging." The threat I palpate is that the United States' anti-trust law is laughable, and Microsoft is taking us all to the cleaners.

5.Aug.2001

Had a musical weekend. Friday night, the Boise Parks and Recreation and Boise Little Theater production of All Aboard for Broadway at BLT, a charming effort from children and teens, singing and dancing to the WW-I era story line. Saturday night, the grand opening of Galena Studios on State Street, and guitar and singing from Gail Chapman. Sunday morning, a fine church service at the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, "Where Would We Be Without Them?" about gay, lesbian and transgendered artists, with more guitar and singing, by Rebecca Scott.

The combination of good guitar pickin', a beautiful voice and well-written songs leave me in awe; I can't imagine what it would be like to be able to do all that at once, off-book and all alone on the stage. I'm always happy to join in singing with a group (or even the radio), but even after a few performances of my own, it's hard for me to imagine being at ease on stage, and admire those who can do it so well.

Treaty fishing site, Roosevelt, Wash.

108 tries by the Code Red worm to get into my webserver this past week. Sorry, IIS not spoken here.

Paul Krugman on the Bush-2 administration's energy policy: "(I)t seems that many of the administration's principles contain a special clause, making an exception when it comes to oil." Of course, Tom Tomorrow pretty well summed up the administration's risk prevention philosophy.

Viral marketing, leaving the Cluetrain a weedy siding: recruiting alpha pups to get sucked into a new video game. You know it'll work. The further exploration of the gender differences in play are interesting. For example, the observation that "girls had no trouble adapting to computers once the machines did something that interested them."

Or, you could play summer dog bingo.

4.Aug.2001

Dan Gillmor says the government should block the release of Windows XP. "Windows XP isn't just an upgrade of the operating system. It's the linchpin of Microsoft's scarily plausible strategy to control the Internet just as it now controls desktop computing..."

Of course he's right, and of course the government will do no such thing.

3.Aug.2001

Three-fourths of the way through Michael Pollan's bestseller, The Botany of Desire, I've been taking my time and enjoying his varied excursions. (The URL is to Amazon, who's now selling it for a much better discount than I got. They have editorial and reader reviews, so you don't have to take my word for any of this. If you click and buy, I get a teeny kickback, woo-hoo!)

Each section is a unique delight, as he takes a "plant's-eye view of the world" from each of four plants: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. Things you never knew about Johnny Appleseed, Dutch mania, madness and (presumably) the pomme de terre. Here's an excerpt from the third section:

What, then, was the knowledge that God wanted to keep from Adam and Eve in the Garden? Theologians will debate this question without end, but it seems to me the most important answer is hidden in plain sight. The content of the knowledge Adam and Eve could gain by tasting of the fruit does not matter nearly as much as its form -- that is, the very fact that there was spiritual knowledge of any kind to be had from a tree: from nature. The new faith sought to break the human bond with magic nature, to disenchant the world of plants and animals by directing our attention to a single God in the sky. Yet Jehovah couldn't very well pretend the tree of knowledge didn't exist, not when generations of plant worshipping pagans knew better. So the pagan tree is allowed to grow even in Eden, though ringed around now with a strong taboo. Yes, there is spiritual knowledge in nature, the new God is acknowledging, and its temptations are fierce, but I am fiercer still. Yield to it, and you will be punished.

So unfolds the drug war's first battle.

2.Aug.2001

I hope when I pass on, somebody will make a nice collection of all the clever and funny things I've said, like this one for Frank Willison. He sounds like a good guy.

"Maybe I'm sensitive to this issue because O'Reilly & Associates has lots of people thinking outside the box, and part of my job is to package things. I'm always running around, saying, "Hey! You! Where do you think you're going? Get back in that box!"

Scripting News: "I thought there were some levels that Microsoft would not stoop to. Apparently there was room to go even lower."

Steve Ballmer says that his "company has behaved with the highest integrity and trust." Cydney Gillis isn't buying it, and neither am I. Microsoft's biggest failing is its fundamental lack of standards of business conduct. Cringely passes on rumors of even more diabolical plots. As they say, it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you...

Krugman: "...you know that the end is nigh when white-haired executives reject old-fashioned accounting. That means that the mania has spread to the suits, and that the Ponzi scheme is about to run out of suckers."

Grazing fees so low that they subsidize ranching are not low enough for some in Nevada. The Sagebrush Rebellion takes on new life as the BLM confiscates 200 head for nonpayment. The upstanding Messrs. Colvin and Vogt have reportedly not paid their fees since 1995, and don't care to comply with herd rotation schedules.

A blog chronicaling the "end of free." That's different.

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Saturday, 08-Dec-2001 19:09:27 MST
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200108.html