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30.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Maureen Dowd: "we should not suppress the very thing that makes our foul enemies crazed with twisted envy — our heady and headache-inducing clash of ideas."

Paul Krugman writes on the flip side of the problem of denying the validity of dissent: opportunists who are using the crisis to advance their agendas.

They both reported on the administration editing a transcript to remove the admonition that "people need to watch what they say." Indeed, we need to watch what we say, and what politicians say, and then watch how they edit the transcripts.

29.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Spectator's week-ago cover story by Steven Schwartz: Ground Zero and the Saudi Connection. Understanding the sources of recent terrorism in the reactionary, "Islamofascist" movement of Wahhabism.

Two of his observations stand in stark contrast: "the vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful people who would prefer the installation of Western democracy in their own countries," and, "in the US, 80 per cent of mosques are estimated... to be under the control of Wahhabi imams, who preach extremism..." He says Americans don't ask about Saudi Arabia's role in promoting Wahhabism because of our dependence on their oil, and "that to expose the extent of Saudi and Wahhabi influence on American Muslims would deeply compromise many Islamic clerics in the US."

Other links that came with this story in email:
Reflections on the Wahhabiyah Movement; Who or What is a Wahhabi; The Wahhabi Fitnah, an essay about the Wahhabi crimes against Islam and against Muslims by Mawlana Shaykhu-l-Islam Ahmad Zayni Dahlan al-Makki ash-Shaf'i, Chief Mufti of Mecca al-Mukarramah; and Saudis Secretly Funding Taliban (1998 report).

28.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

HeartMath is offering some of their services for free, in response to the recent terrorist attack, "to help us all regain - and sustain - peace of mind and heart." Good stuff. See their website for more info. I wrote about my experience with HeartMath after I took a course through work some years back.

I think Outlook's appointment calendar could be a poster child for usability mistakes. (I'm writing about Outlook98 at the moment; I was using Outlook97 at home, but that got to hanging when popping my mail from Earthlink, so I switched to Outlook Express... and I don't use the calendar much at home, anyway.) After I moved my NT box from where I was working in Palo Alto back to Boise, I changed the timezone from Pacific back to Mountain. All the appointments moved by an hour. That's sort of a good idea, as an event at 10am PDT would indeed be at 11am MDT.

It wasn't such a good idea for the event I'd already put on my calendar at "11 am" that was scheduled for 11 am MDT. I was late for a presentation that I was giving. Oops.

And it's not such a good idea for "all day events," like holidays, birthdays, etc., either. The "Independence Day" holiday now is listed for both July 4 and July 5, for example. Going to fix it, I'm given a choice to "open this occurrence" or to "open the series"? Opening "the series," I get the standard form for an appointment, with one small line noting its recurrence. To actually edit the recurrence, I have to press the "Recurrence" button, and when I do, lo and behold, it says that the July 4 holiday starts and ends at 12:00 AM. "Save and close" with nothing changed corrects the erroneous two-day spanning.

I had (at least one!) one recurring event that was already set to Boise time, though, and that moved to an hour late when I changed the time zone. Trying to fix that, I get an error "dialogue":

Any exceptions associated with this recurring appointment will be lost. if any of the exceptions are meetings, the attendees will not be notified. Is this OK?

Actually, no, it isn't OK. But "No" was not one of the choices: Only "OK" or "Cancel." Think about this: an event which occurs weekly from now until forever has one or more exceptions. Outlook has detected exceptions, because otherwise it would quietly do what I asked, and because it knows how to look ahead (and behind, for that matter) and tell if any entries have been excepted. I don't want to lose those exceptions, but does Outlook give me the option of saving them? Identifying them, so I can fix them myself? No, and no.

If I say "OK," they will, indeed, be "lost," and will no longer show on my calendar, and I will no longer be notified 10 minutes before the meeting, or of the change of venue, attendees, whatever. The exception(s) will be quietly replaced with an instance of the recurring meeting. Or if the exception was for the meeting to be cancelled on some particular week, it will be replaced. Quietly.

And this is the program that the market has blessed with dominance. Scary thought. (But don't worry, Microsoft's disclaimer protects them from liability for any problems that may arise.)

Irony's not dead, it has meaning again. Idaho still serves as the butt of whatever "end of the earth" metaphor you're working on, though. (Sign me "eking out a living.")

So much for journalistic integrity at the Washington Post: Philip Zimmerman rewrites their editorial decision that he was "overwhelmed with feelings of guilt." The editors thought that he should have been? At any rate, they made it the lead of their story, and his response is a model of graciousness.

You'd think the Post would add a link to a correction, at least, but the story's still standing, a week later.

The anti-pacifist observation: "I have not yet heard a strategy for how peaceful responses might render future attacks of this sort unlikely." (Blogged by Doc.) The pacifist observation would be: "I have not yet heard a strategy for how responding with force might render future attacks of this sort unlikely." Kill all the terrorists doesn't qualify as a strategy, btw.

A sense of vertigo sets in when I read an essay by Pat Buchanan that I agree with. Let's see if we can solve the problem without WWIII, at least.

27.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Somebody's mention of "/usr/bin/laden" in an internal newsgroup cracked me up (it's a unix thing), and when I thanked him he disclaimed originality, said he got it from the humorous Friday-published weekly, "Need to Know". That pointed me to this nice t-shirt for unix, and another one for the web.

We invested $10 in 3 years of domestic tranquility by registering for the Attorney General's telemarketers No-Call List. The deadline for the next quarterly publication is this Sunday. Seems like a good deal to me.

Wired reports on how the rules change during war: "During all of America's major wars -- the Civil War, World War I and World War II -- the government restricted Americans' civil liberties in the name of quelling dissent, silencing criticism of political decisions and preserving national security."

Mr. Rumsfeld said that the name of the military campaign had been changed to "Operation Enduring Freedom" to reflect the fact that it will not be "a quick fix." The defense secretary said last week that the initial name, "Operation Infinite Justice," had encountered objections from some Islamic scholars who said that only God, or Allah, could mete out true infinite justice. (NY Times)

24.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Britain looking at the idea of national ID cards again, and the CEO of Oracle suggesting the same for the US. Yeah, good work for a database company, but they're offering "free software" to help create it. The report says that "Ellison mocked privacy concerns," saying you can get personal information on the internet already.

Civil libertarians meanwhile, are trying to figure out how to do damage control on the inevitable anti-terrorism legislation we'll be seeing. From 60 Minutes' report last night, it does seem that we're a bit too libertarian with aliens here on visas, though: once you're in, it doesn't seem to matter if or when your visa expires. Stay out of trouble (or undercover), and you're here indefinitely if you want.

Passed on from the father of a friend at work: a list of international news sources in English (with his assessments).

Pakistan: Dawn, the nation's leading English-language paper, is relatively moderate and internationalist. The Frontier Post is a provincial paper published in Peshawar, on the Afghan border. The English is eccentric, but it's a useful source of local news.

India: The Times of India, is the leading paper and most reliable source of news. The Hindustan Times, a local New Delhi paper, is good for regional color.

Israel: The two English-language dailies are The Jerusalem Post, and Ha'aretz.

Australia: The Sydney Morning Herald is the time-zone leader. Since Sydney is 13 hours later than New York, you can read tomorrow's news today.

Britain: The Telegraph is a clever, conservative, pro-American daily. The Guardian is a clever, liberal, anti-American daily.

China: People's Daily is the English-language version of the official government organ.

Russia: The Moscow Times provides an English-language view from Russia, where memories of Afghanistan are still fresh.

23.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A longer essay on the recent Falwell incident, from the unquiet mind. It includes the full text of his retraction, which I hadn't seen earlier. It borders on graciousness, but I imagine that the first statement was a pretty honest statement about how Falwell feels. If only we'd listened to him and taken on his brand of righteousness, this would have never happened.

Yeah, right.

A mailing list I'm on had a report that Barbara Lee, the Congresswoman from California who cast the lone dissenting vote against S.J.Res.23 (authorizing the president to use what force he deems appropriate in response to the terrorist attack) has received death threats. So much for democracy, eh? These must be from the same cowardly source as provide bomb threats and attacks on Arab-Americans in the last two weeks. Lee's statement in opposition is eloquent. Recommended reading as we embark on what may be war without end, Operation Infinite Justice.

The cost of terrorism: looks like $600 billion or so taken out of the market capitalization of the top 100 stocks in the last two weeks. Unfortunately, I hadn't checked up on my automated report in a while, and it had gone south in mid-August when the source pages' format changed slightly. (Warning - the weekly updates don't work very well or at all in Opera v5.x. If you know why, I'd love to have you tell me, so I can fix it.)

22.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Behind the Curtain logo (auf Deutsch)

Autumn. It's been just one eventful year since Behind the Curtain went live, on Sept. 24th. Webloggers around the world recorded a day in their lives, September 17th and 18th, spent a week getting their sites ready, and then "opened" them, with the central index providing links to more than a hundred sites.

Sir John's take on the market sounds like wisdom to me. The pre-bubble period was wildly over-enthusiastic. Americans are amazingly self-centered. And share prices are about double historical norms. Ouch. We've already lost a couple years' salary in this debacle, not being bold enough to either sell everything (last March or May or September would have been good), or madly buy put options this last Monday morning. We're back where we were in November, 1998.

The good news, I guess, is that we were doing OK back then, so we're still doing OK now.

The NY Times states the obvious: "Unfortunately, many of the ideas being shopped by the Bush administration would reduce constitutional protections with no obvious benefit to national security."

"This much is certain, no initiative put in place starting today can have a substantial effect on the peak production year. No Caspian Sea exploration, no drilling in the South China Sea, no SUV replacements, no renewable energy projects can be brought on at a sufficient rate to avoid a bidding war for the remaining oil." -- Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Hubbert's Peak. He predicts worldwide production will peak this decade.

Here's an idea from Kiplinger: patriotic employment practices. "Big business should help the U.S. economy through this difficult period by avoiding, wherever possible, the kind of mass layoffs that not only depress the spirit, but also aggravate the economic slump already underway. And while they're at it, how about adding a few employees, if they can?"

Requests from Nimda-worm compromised hosts rolled in this week, and displaced Code Red in the "useless web traffic" contest. This one's worse: there are slightly more "not found" results returned this week than "OK." I don't think Code Red ever got past 10%.

21.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

People who are still getting around by airplane these days are saying they feel pretty safe with all the new security - I've heard "it's never been safer to fly" from more than one source. Out at the Boise airport, the loop road is reopened to traffic, but no waiting anymore. Airport Police Chief Mike Johnson is on the job, ready to hand out $100 citations and $75 towing bills with his very own tow truck. According to KTVB, "he also said vehicles using the loop drive will be subject to random searches."

We're now fixing many things that weren't broken, in a general paroxysm of paranoia.

The big new parking garage at BOI may be too close to the terminal to meet the new FAA regs. (And how many other airports are faced with the same problem?!) Needs to be 300 feet, I hear, 100 yards.

A friend sent me to the TV station's website, for a story about the closure of dam access around the state (and I suppose the whole country). Three of us windsurfers took advantage of the "lake surface itself" still being open, and after a substantial hike with our gear, enjoyed the morning wind of the last full day of summer today.

I typically only get to the Washington Times when someone points me there, I prefer the NY Times. But this edition of Inside the Beltway is worth reading. The story of the pilot's speech to his passengers made me think of a reading or opening prayer at church. "Now, since we're a family for the next few hours, I'll ask you to turn to the person next to you, introduce yourself, tell them a little about yourself and ask them to do the same."

William Safire dissects the terminology of the past 20 days in the NY Times Magazine's On Language column. He notes that the suicidal hijackers were not cowards: they took themselves directly into harm's way. The cowardly players in this drama are the many people who have called and continue to call in bomb threats, spread false rumors of other attacks, and used the disturbance to further petty crimes. Despicable.

Last year, the US was the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. As of May 17th, 2001, we'd contributed $124 million this year. 65,000 tons of wheat, $5 million in complementary food commodities, and $10 million in other livelihood and food security programs in the $43 million Powell announced on that day, over 200,000 tons of wheat for the year. 400 million pounds. (Source: US State Dept.)

Robert Scheer's take on our humanitarianism is not positive. "All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously." (Some things do change.) He quotes a state department official describing how the Taliban effected the ban on growing opium: "The Taliban used a system of consensus-building."

Double-binds, paradoxes and traps. Bush asked the Taliban to give up Osama bin Laden, and they convened a meeting of Muslim clerics to discuss the request. Unexpectedly, the result was that they asked Osama bin Laden to leave. The US immediately responded that that wasn't good enough.

We're starting to talk about cultural diversity in this country, but that doesn't necessarily extend to having politicians who take the time or trouble to understand other cultures. It's a fundamental precept of desert Arab culture that a invited guest receives the protection of the host. A request for a guest to leave is a fairly dramatic thing to do, and a guest would be expected to comply more or less directly.

1930 Encylopedia Brittanica:
All of them recognize a common code or unwritten law, called Pukhtunwali which appears to be similar in general character to the old Hebraic law modified by Mohammaden ordinances.... Tribal law with the custom of hospitality and the vendetta in many forms are rules of life, and even the settled Afghan is very much a soldier. They are able to endure great privation and are sober and stern and may often become cruel.

Our response creates a double-bind for the Taliban. The clerics may have done the most they felt was possible, and we responded with an ultimatum. Do we need to be in a hurry?

Some replacement shingles on Eid Road

Zeldman writes from inside. You can't know what it's like without being there and living through it, I think. While he was thinking about asbestos clouds, I was nailing shingles on my step-daughter's house, surfing the golden wheat waves of the Palouse on a pair of ladders and a feather plank.

Falwell's "apology" falls well short of the mark. It does make me proud to be a member of the ACLU, though.

Salman Rushdie: "Now we saw, as clearly as the fireworks in the sky, that the defining struggle of the new age would be between terrorism and security." That was written in January, 2000.

Harry Browne:
"Supposedly, Reagan bombed Libya to teach Muammar al-Qaddafi a lesson about terrorism."

20.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

An even more pessimistic slant on how government responds to crises: "(H)istorically, a large proportion of all government expansion has taken place as an emergency or crisis action. It's precisely under conditions such as those that exist at present that we ought to worry the most about the expansion of government."

After almost three months of nothing but blogging and windsurfing, I've finally updated my home page essay with a "guest editorial" from my father: The Real Challenge Facing America (the second link will persist, when I update it the next time).

Sojo Net offers "a religious response to terrorism," Deny Them Their Victory. And a lot of other interesting stuff on their site.

A message of solidarity and sadness from Indian Country, that speaks well for me.

As they said, President Bush grew into his job this week. I thought his speech tonight was by far the best he's ever given, and well-suited to the nation's needs. The work that went into it, both by his staff and his own practice, showed and was well worth it. My previous reservations about the content remain, but we shall see how his words translate to action in the weeks, months and years to come. The NY Times' take on the new cabinet post, "the Office of Homeland Security" "oversee(ing) more than a dozen federal agencies, including the C.I.A. and the Department of Defense," seems slightly incredible. (Did Bush really say that?) The internecine conflicts are difficult enough without adding a new player.

A lesson from history in the upcoming New York Times Magazine: our heritage is itself a threat. In 1814, the terrorists were British.

Also in the Magazine, Richard Rhodes observes what was stated here, earlier: "violence originates in suffering — in poverty and disorder," but adds the obligation we have to the "altruism of international community." After we "won" the Cold War, we were thinking that was optional.

19.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

More speculation on who did it. Not necessarily the "prime suspect." And more about Mughniyah from Frontline. Is this the Hussein family's revenge on the Bush family for the Gulf War?

Paradise ridge panorama, morning, Sept. 13th

Where we spent (some of) our (late) summer vacation: north Idaho.

Cringely: "...organizations charged with reacting to this catastrophe will do so by doing what they have always done, only more of it.... All these parties will want to do these things WHETHER THEY ARE WARRANTED OR USEFUL OR NOT."

18.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The use of email and the web is a new communication medium, one that is remarkably democratic. If you've got something to say, wrap it in a chain letter introduction and send it out there; if it's halfway intelligible (or interesting), it can take on a life of its own.

The terrorist attack on America has got a lot of people talking and writing and sharing it all by email and on the web. Gordon Sinclair's 1973 essay on "The Americans" was dusted off, adjusted to the event, and sent around as if new. Reeta Sinha gives us an Indian-American perspective of events: "It's not the US they want to destroy. It's our arrogance."

Wendy McElroy observes that "Ideals Are Terrorists' Most Deadly Weapons." "Terrorists willing to die for their political convictions are not cowards. They are fanatical idealists whose ideals are evil. They make no money, gain no great fame for acts of anonymous suicide. They die to express what they believe to be true and moral about the world...."

Wired wonders if civil liberties will be the next casualty.

"I think we can be creative about this," Barlow said. "I don't hear anyone calling for subtler and nimbler thinking. All I hear are calls for a bigger hammer and a readier willingness to use it."

"...the United States should take a long hard look at why the country is targeted so often by terrorists. "We blunder around the world in other peoples' foreign policy," Tucille said. "That doesn't mean there's justice in this striking activity. But it makes a reason to pick us as a target."

The Jerusalem Post reported that Mossad had warned the CIA and the FBI of a "major operation," but to no avail.

Frontline's interview with Osama bin Laden three years ago spells things out clearly enough, and two months after it, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania demonstrated that he meant business. Another interview, with Dr. Saad Al-Fagih: "we call it a new world disorder." Not clear when this interview was; if before September 11th, the interviewers' final question was remarkably prescient.

Alternet has an index of essays that are different from the coverage you'll get on TV, including the Afghan-American perspective you may have already received by email: "We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that's been done." Michael Moore's reflections while driving from LA to NY: "Am I angry? You bet I am. I am an American citizen, and my leaders have taken my money to fund mass murder. And now my friends have paid the price with their lives."

And an email message quoting a particularly creative response, from Philip Carr-Gomm, addressed to President Bush:

As concerned citizens who love our world and humanity we implore you to do something extraordinary - something that will amaze the world with its magnanimity and courage. If you want to attack Afghanistan, invade on land and distribute food and aid to the 5 million people who are starving there. Seek justice, but as you do this, seek also to address the root cause of this awful problem. Do not bomb innocent civilians, but use troops to bring food and medical aid with them.

One of our cold warriors who didn't manage to find new work in George II's administration says we should "calmly, carefully and inexorably" destroy the network

Simon Jenkins in The Times:

"In the war of the weak against the strong, the weak can wield weapons more potent than ever before. Globalisation may render the rich richer and the poor poorer. But it offers the self-appointed champions of the poor devastating means of forcing their attention on the world....

"The cause of democracy is not damaged, unless we choose to let it be damaged...."

17.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The day after the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, we left as previously planned for a visit to north Idaho and Spokane to see family. We've sometimes flown to Spokane, but visiting Moscow and Carol's place on the backside of Paradise Ridge argues for driving, given the size and proximity of airports.

In the larger scheme of things, driving is not as safe as flying has been, but at least the danger is generally manageable, and personal. We made the trip without mishap, in a surreal context of the events of September 11th and its aftermath. We listened to NPR a lot, switching it off only when they looped around to repeated content, or the canyons broke the FM reception (as they often do driving in Idaho). At Carol's place, we watched television a lot, absorbing the horrific facts in a near-stupor. It was if a bad movie had been made real, and was being played over and over again on every channel.

We did a pretty good job of "continuing life as usual," insulated by great distance and the good fortune of not having any immediate family or friends wounded or killed. My niece happened to be in Manhattan on business that morning, but a safe distance from the World Trade Center. Yet whatever our activities, the One Topic kept coming back in many forms. There has been a cascade of speeches and opinions stated, on air, in print and circulated in email and on the web. Those who felt moved (or obligated) to speak have done so eloquently in many cases, and powerfully in many. All agree these were horrific deeds, inflicting suffering on many innocent people. Most have been moved by countless acts of heroism, by firefighters, police officers, ordinary citizens. Extraordinary events can reveal the greatness that lies within each of us, even as they can be set in motion by the black evil which must also be there.

From the fear and anger at being attacked in what seems a wholly unjustified manner, comes a strong desire for retribution. Our leaders, in particular, responsible for the mightiest military the world has ever known have been strident in their threats and assurances of action. This is war, many say. World War III. We will make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them, President Bush said. And when the United States wages war, and rejects distinctions, innocent people are often caught in the conflagration. The Iraqi people have suffered for a decade because of our war with Iraq and its leader. They do not have the luxury of hearing both sides of the story, and electing someone who would be better suited to a community of nations. Many of them do not have the necessities of life, let alone any of its many luxuries that almost everyone in the US enjoys.

We are righteous in our anger. Even without our military technology, righteous anger is a frightening and dangerous thing. The terrorists had righteous anger also, I expect, and it was able to sustain them through years of preparation for their attack. It sustained them against religious messages, against the civility and helpfulness of the people they lived among. Perhaps they were angry at our decadance, the low standard of moral values they found in Florida. Perhaps they were angry at our abundance when so many in the world -- especially their world -- do not have enough.

The desire for retribution, the enthusiasm in a mob chanting "U.S.A.," the instant patriotism, these things are what frighten me the most. We have lost our innocence, our sense of security that comes from being citizens of a superpower. We are not collectively vulnerable, but we are individually vulnerable, and our response to that vulnerability may make us weaker rather than stronger. We have been the source of much destruction in the world, whether it was justified or not. We see ourselves as good people, the best people suited to be the only remaining superpower, and we can't seem to understand why others might not see it the same way. If our response to this threat is to wage war indiscriminately, to accept "collateral damage" as an unfortunate necessity, this will not end, as George W. Bush imagined "at a time and place of our choosing," but rather it may well be an Apocalyptic battle between Good and Evil; with all sides imagining themselves in the starring role.

My father sent an email under the subject "The Real Challenge," concluding that "the eventual victory will be won with the ideology of freedom and not with weapons of destruction." This is a far more difficult task than military victory, but the reward will be far greater. I hope we're up to it.

11.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This is the day that the world changed for people living in the United States of America. For the first time since the 1800s, war is on our shores. We don't know where it came from yet!

Commercial airliners hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. All aboard killed. Thousands more dead, many of whose bodies may never be found. The towers crashed to the ground, and the reverberation will echo through our way of life, no matter what brave politicians say in the glare of shocked media.

All commercial air traffic grounded. Markets closed. Things will creep back towards "normal" in the coming days, but they will never be the same.

The news came via the radio for a while, the LA Times and other newspapers on the web (eventually the NY Times was coming through, too. It was stunning enough that I had no desire to find a television set to see more. Dave Winer's blog had good coverage and links. The webcam on the Empire State Building showed an incredible, incomprehensible scene.

The enormity of this act of cowardice will live in our memories for a long, long time.

Trying to come to grips with today's events, Jeanette and I talked about two things: the fourth plane, and the ultimate source of this evil.

The fourth plane, it seems, must have been headed for the White House. It's the logical target for a group wanting to strike terror at the American way of life, along with the Trade Center and Pentagon. There were one or more heroes on that plane who prevented the terrorists' full plan from being carried out.

As to the ultimate source, there may not be a simple answer, but there is certainly an observation she made that rings true. When young men (16 to 25 years old or so) do not see hope for the future, it creates the potential for horrific violence. Think of incidents of civil unrest, riots, civil war within this framework and I think you'll agree.

Hunting down specific perpetrators and trying to punish them does not solve this underlying problem. What punishment can deter suicidal fanaticism?

In light of this observation about youth and hope, I was saddened by a letter from my congressman, C.L. "Butch" Otter. I'd written to ask his support for HR 786, repealing the provisions prohibiting persons convicted of drug offenses from receiving student financial assistance. His response:

Financial assistance is often given to individuals to pay for school and also living expenses. Those receiving financial aid and who are convicted of a drug offense are tempted to use federal money for purchasing and using drugs. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to reform and receive an education, however, federal grants should be reserved for those who have not been convicted of a crime.

Perhaps we should also brand them with a scarlet D?

10.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Went out front to turn off the water, and saw a bunch of the neighbor kids underneath the oak tree.

"Watcha doin'?"

"We're picking up... (holds one up to show me) walnuts?"

"Acorns. That's great, you can have all the acorns you want."

Jeanette comes out behind me, curious. "Squirrels like acorns, too," she offers, cautiously, thinking about our annual sharing with a friend who doesn't have an oak tree. I'm smiling, imagining these kids trying to keep up with our 30 year-old tree.

"Yeah we know. We're making a trap." ?! "So we can finally pet a squirrel."

9.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The model of the Columbia River Gorge in the Discovery Musuem's great hall
Happy Birthday, Dad!

Getting my Packers fix by internet radio today, as the TV broadcast isn't making it to Boise. The service is appreciated; last year, I couldn't get any. It does reveal just how much "commercial time" there is in a football game, though. Whoever's putting this thing up hasn't figured out how to sell advertising, apparently, and they just have a looping filler during the breaks. Never thought I'd rather have an ad then not... dead air would be better, actually.

8.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

End of summer weather this week: thunderstorms and hail coming in on a cold front, then wind Thursday and Friday. Snapped back to the stable high pressure thing on Saturday, making for three consecutive days of sailing around here. I got Thursday on the Snake River, but missed the better day on Friday. Today, I'm just sure there was a happy crowd at Lucky Peak, while I tried slept in to see if I could get over my chilled sniffles.

Lots of chatter about the DOJ decision to back off prosecution of Microsoft. My first response was to assume this was the anticipated go-easy-on-business "enforcement" of the new Bush administration, but they assured us it was a strategy to bring things to a close more quickly, and provide a remedy sooner.

You think? Tough to know, but I have to agree with Dan Gillmor that this is bad news for competition in Microsoft's sphere of monopoly. Essentially no comment from Microsoft sounds like they're not only happy about it, they know more good news is coming. One interpretation of events is that Microsoft is getting a return on their investment in politicians.

Yet another pernicious feature of MSIE: errors redirect you to MSN. I tried it on my seldom-used v5.5, and sure enough, it does, although I didn't see any advertising (beyond their self-advertising with a logo). But the author protests too much, without doing anything about it. You don't like that free browser, tuned to the anti-competitive whims of a monopolist? Get a different one. Worked for me.

The downside of making it hard for your customers to reach you. Hello, Verizon? Anybody home?

Holy cow! The unix chronometer is about to roll over worldwide, as we pass 1 billion seconds since the epoch. Where's a counter I can watch?! Of course, by the time you read this, the event will have passed. 2001-09-09 01:46:40 GMT, just... oops, I missed it by a couple thousand seconds already. :-/

6.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The NY Times on the history of cookies: "Giving the Web a Memory Cost Its Users Privacy."

An engineer's view of VCs: "If you design and build things, you can become an engineer; if you work on your career, you can become an executive or a venture capitalist." It's a fascinating and repulsive picture, like turning over a rock along the river. Must reading for anyone in the technology business.

Got a cold call the other night from a "vinyl window and siding" outfit. It just so happens that I am a little interested in better windows than our old single pane / storm combos. Even though the house needs painting, I'm not sure I'll ever go for "aluminum" siding. (Maybe vinyl is better? But if it had "wood" grain, I couldn't stomach it.)

And having seen "Tin Men," I should know better than to sign up for these guys to come over, but I did. The gal had a nice pleasant voice, said they were a local firm, and I just imagined that they were a legitimate business.

Who didn't seem too concerned about having me get their name and number...

Well, Jeanette had other plans, and as it turned out, the weather made plans for me, so we wanted to get out of the appointment. But no way to call them. Ok, we'll leave a nice note on the door, telling them we are interested, but were "called away." Could they just take a look around the (outside of the) house and leave the information for us?

Apparently not: they didn't even open the note.

I guess it's better this way!

Turns out that fewer than half as many stem cell lines as our President told us about are ready to rock. His secretary of health and human services said that neither one of them knew what G.W. was talking about in that fireside chat. That's reassuring.

The bad idea that won't go away has a new protagonist. "Our president is caught in the grip of an obsession worthy of literature." (Maureen Dowd)

Why there are no dual-boot PCs on sale at the corner store.

What we know for sure is that Microsoft treated the PC hardware platform as if it owned it, and thus hurt consumers, software developers, PC OEMs, OS competitors, and the industry in general. That's a layman's definition of abusing a monopoly.
-- Jean Louis Gassée, July 2000

Cringely takes his turn at the HP-Compaq merger. What a softball this is for pundits! I wish I could tell you all the places where he's full of it, but can't. (But hey, what do I know?)

5.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Better together? Yeah, this is kind of a nightmare scenario for HP and Compaq employees, heavily invested in the great companies they work for. After running the layoff gauntlet all those company shares and options you had turn to dust. It isn't like HP hadn't been slammed already in the post-bubble blowoff, off from the mid-60s to the mid-20s. In the last 2 days, down another 25% (and CPQ down 20%).

Now I know how all those dot.commies feel.

Hey, maybe it's a great buying opportunity. Dan Gillmor's take has some hints of positive possibility, but mostly it's the incredulity and sad head-shaking everyone seems to be doing.

Change of subject, finally. A parent speaks out about the war on drugs. No, not those drugs, the ones that are way more commonly found in schools. "Ninety percent of all Ritalin popped in the world is popped in America." From the WSJ opinion pages.

4.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Toodling to work after a long weekend, the sting of HP's first-ever layoffs starting to abate a little, and here's news... HP to buy Compaq.

It's not just the allergies making me rub my eyes, am I driving in my sleep? Is this the real world, or have I gone through the looking glass? In the office, blod clot meetings of wide-eyed employees, exchanging expressions of disbelief. The market's response is neutral for Compaq, hack another 10% of HP's valuation. Ouch.

The Register's response was equally unkind. They also ran the memo from Compaq's Chariman and CEO Capellas, noting that "big surprise" is "probably an understatement." Yeah, probably.

15,000 more to be laid off between the two companies, 10% of the combined workforce. No doubt the considerable redundancy in upper level management will be corrected with some lovely parachutes. Capellas' unbridled enthusiasm is likely to be pretty well spent by the time it trickles down to the rank and file.

The wrap-up slide from the PowerPoint presentation says "building tomorrow's leader today," but Yahoo's take is that the plan builds yesterday's leader tomorrow. If it clears the considerable regulatory hurdles, I guess we'll find out. Some years from now.

The news is that the new company will go under the HP name, i.e., we're buying Compaq. Nevertheless, there's plenty of creativity flying around on what the new name should be. HPaq. HP.Compaq. Hewlett-Paqard. HPComTanDigipaq. And so on.

3.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Behind the Bushes, more than you wanted to know about America's first family. More than 80 years of highlights, cronyism and malapropisms.

Bush II has of course given this material new legs, including a list of what progressives can do during the Bush years, still applicable.

Even more fascinating, and less political, the Astronomy picture of the day offers up amazing images, day after day. Try Io in true color (sulfurous yellow!), or the Carina Nebula in 3 colors, or the sharpest image of Mars taken from (near) Earth (by the Hubble telescope).

With a little duct tape and a webcam (and a telescope, of course), you can take your own astro photos.

1.Sept.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Refreshment in southeast Oregon

I've been suffering quietly with old zippers that don't close like they used to. On our last camping trip, after Jeanette used the screen door with bad zippers on our tent, she said she'd heard that it's most likely wear on the sliders, and that they could just be squeezed together. Sure enough! Here's an "official" statement of exactly what worked for me, after I'd been given a clue. I went on a zipper fixing spree.

I do think a little lubricant would be a good thing, though. It was while searching the web for what's appropriate that I found the adventurenetwork page. Maybe just a bit of paraffin.

Here's another site with a tent care and repair page, and the same zipper fix verbiage. Hmm. I'd be embarassed to just steal somebody else's words, wouldn't you? But we can't tell who's guilty. (Maybe both of 'em.)

The latest casualty in the Bush administration's fervor to build a missile defense system: support for non-proliferation. If you thought MAD was mad, you ain't see nothin' yet.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 01-Oct-2001 16:43:56 MST