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unraveling

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

Started the day with a sheet of ice on the windshield, and a lesson about windshield wipers: if they're frozen to the window, don't turn 'em on. They'd stopped mid-stroke, so just turning the ignition on did the trick, the steel spline stripping the soft metal of the arm. Should've got out an extension cord and a hairdryer and thawed 'em loose before I turned the key. Twenty bucks set it right.

I'll toss an invention out to the public domain, in case any automotive engineers want to improve our lot: use a longer tapered spline, so that the first time you strip out the arm, you can tighten down the mounting and have another go.

That delayed, but did not prevent, my first trip up to Bogus Basin for the season. It was worth the slow caravan crawl over the ice-slick hairpins to get there: the snow was squeaky cold and plenty deep, big, untracked (enough) pillows for those wonderful slow motion turning bounces down the mountain side. This could be the first time I've ever gone downhill skiing in November. The first of what I hope will be many fabulous Fridays this season.

Cringely on .NET: "it's a big project that is likely to succeed primarily because of the Windows monopoly. Attrition alone will build .NET components into nearly every desktop in the world within three to five years." His point is that that's just the start, though, they'll have to do more than just that to win over the big customers. He's guessing they'll figure it out eventually. That's the nice thing about a monopoly, you have plenty of time to make a few mistakes.

But the recruiting technique he suggests they use is even more interesting: pretend like you're buying a big company, when you're really just shopping for that company's best talent. It worked with Intuit, and next up may be "a SAP."

Cringely's column on the PBS site doesn't have any hyperlinks in it. You're supposed to go to his "I Like It" section to follow up on references, instead. I never have done so, until today. That sent me off on several interesting tangents:

A paean to the Interstate Highway System. It's a glorious thing, and I've enjoyed many miles of it, but is there really no downside? They tout people not being "crowded into more densely packed inner cities," but the reality of the "urban renewal" of the 60's and 70's was not so benign.

c|net's collected memoirs of "my first PC" in honor of the PC's 20th birthday. (My first PC was an HP 9816 in 1983, if you don't count the HP11C calculator that saw me through engineering school; I remember booting up my sister's IBM PC and being rather appalled at how crude it seemed. She noticed too, and has long since gone over to the Mac side.)

Tim O'Reilly's How the Web was almost won, on Salon, from two years ago. (A bit of irony in that Microsoft may now be generating the greatest number of server requests with its "server" software, thanks to the Nimda virus.)

An even older feature about Larry Wall, and his invention of perl: filling the big niche between 'manipulexity' and 'whipupitude.'

And finally, an error page from IBM instead of the Time Magazine "Man of the Year" from 1982. At IBM, error 404 is not just "page not found," it's a "multifail."

Some of my earliest musical memories are of the Beatles. My best friend and I would walk home from school in 2nd grade, singing their tunes. Rest in peace, George. We'll be listening to your music for a long, long time.

"It's worth remembering that the order applies only to noncitizens," a Wall Street Journal editorial said. Twenty million noncitizens. But Anthony Lewis' wake up call seems unlikely to sway the majority that thinks it's time to sacrifice civil liberties wholesale.

Here in Idaho, some people are complaining about Idaho Power's request to recover $100 million it spent on deals to buy high-cost power during the recent energy crisis, to avoid being forced into buying even higher cost power.

California's got a bigger problem, as Bill Keller describes in the New York Times: "(B)ack when the situation felt desperate the governor locked the state into 10-year contracts at high prices. Mr. Davis says indignantly that the energy crisis was 'a monumental scam'; if so, it's a scam he fell for."

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

We've had snow in the mountains since the weekend, but today we had a nice, juicy snowstorm down in the lowlands (2600' or so above sea level). It was prime snow-ball and snow-man stuff, coupla inches of heavy, wet and white that came down slow and steady all afternoon. It was the usual circus on the roads coming home, I took a back road up the bench for my first hillclimb in the new car, and to avoid the inevitable newbie on Glenwood. No problems, just real slow going. Lots of rollovers, with warnings to SUVers to slow down, you're not that good.

I-84 closed from Ontario to Pendeleton; check a map, that's a long way, from the Snake River up and over the Blue Mountains. Being a Wisconsin boy, the first snowfall is a wonderful thing, and fills me with joy.

Steve Jobs weighs in on the Microsoft settlement: "We think our schools deserve to keep their power of choice, and our kids deserve better than having to learn on old, refurbished Wintel computers."

26.Nov.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here's some streaming audio to catch up on: Fresh Air's top ten list. I'm rarely tuned in at the right moment to hear it "live," but I'm always entertained when I do.

25.Nov.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The FBI is putting teeth into its Carnivore with Magic Lantern. No mention of that pesky 4th Amendment in the story; that's so last millennium.

The NYT's 'recession' graphic from 25.Nov.2001 article

At the edge of recession, the arithmetic of "growth" comes to the fore. Looking at this little chart's graph in the newspaper, I had to blink a bit. "All slowing down." Well, growth is certainly slowing in the US and the EU, and Japan's economy has crossed over into a slowdown. But positive growth is speeding up, eh? Maybe only 1% growth in Q3 (and maybe slowing down in Q4), but that makes it bigger than ever: another record quarter for the US and EU economies.

The NY Times story on the world's economies explains how this can be: "By almost all estimates, the world has entered a recession, meaning that growth this year will fall below the 2.5 percent annual rate that the International Monetary Fund defines as the breaking point between economic progress and slippage."

By IMF definition, this realm between no growth and 2.5% annual growth is no longer "progress," but is now "slippage." Perhaps they've confused this rate with the birth rate issue in the story on immigration? (In that one, the equilibrium between population growth and decreasing population -- most often noted as "population decline" -- is even more dire: "the demographic black hole of zero population growth.") The "replacement" rate of births is figured to be 2.1; fewer than that and population numbers go down. One could argue that economies have deaths as well as births too, but measurements of the economy have long mixed the good and the bad and let someone else sort it all out. The work going into cleaning up after terrorist action, for example, or environmental disaster counts just the same as "new business."

For reasonably small percentages, the "rule of 70" can be applied to estimate how fast things will double in size. (This is a rule of thumb that comes from the algebra of compound interest, and works up into the low double digit percentages.) 70 divided by the growth rate in percent gives the number of years to double. 70 divided by 2.5 is 28. That is, in 28 years of borderline "progress/slippage," the world economy would double in size. This is what the IMF deems to be (or at least what journalists interpret as) "no growth." There are other ways of looking at growth, of course.

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

We got back from Pocatello last night, an hour or two after dark, and I was dismayed to find only one of my two gloves in the pile of stuff we unloaded out of the car. Our last stop had been more than halfway across the state, at the Register Rock picnic area. I figured when I was taking my coat and gloves off to stuff them back in the car, one had fallen unseen, just next to the car. We'd pulled a U-turn around it and headed off into the sunset, none the wiser.

They were a well-travelled pair, leather, repaired a few times where stitches had come loose, not terribly expensive, but certainly not disposable. And now they were torn asunder, each useless and much too far apart to be rejoined. I searched the car one last time -- trunk, between, behind, under the seats. No luck. Every so often, I'd think about the unfortunate loss, and it irked me. I imagined rain and snow slowly ruining the lost one, someone finally picking it up and tossing it in the trash.

Last night, Jeanette dreamed she went out the front door and saw it lying next to the car. On waking, she did go out twice, just to check. And she told me about her dream at some point. "That would be nice," I said, but having already made several checks, it was purely subjunctive.

When we went out to go somewhere in the car today, I opened the driver's side door, and there it was -- nestled between the seat and the door sill, camouflaged by the black door sill, perhaps? It was a cheerful delight to have them reunited. Funny how much emotion travels with an article of clothing.

This was our first road trip with our Toyota Prius. It's definitely more sensitive to road conditions than the Windstar, but on reasonably smooth roads, it's comfortable enough. We had a tailwind going over, and made better than 47 mpg, but had it averaged out of us on the way back, for a round trip net of 43 mpg. Up the big hills and into the wind, I didn't try to keep it up in the 70-75mph range I was cruising at, but I didn't have it floored, either. The minivan is definitely more comfortable for a road trip (especially with its cruise control), but this is cozy enough, and uses less than half the gas!

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

He gave his life for our Thanksgiving day dinner

In a break with the canon, we had a big, fat salmon for Thanksgiving day dinner (and leftovers for lunch today), in Pocatello, with the Norstog family. Among other things, we had time to read Bernard Lewis' piece in the New Yorker (11/19), "The Revolt of Islam."

In current American usage, the phrase "that's history" is commonly used to dismiss something as unimportant, of no relevance to current concerns, and, despite an immense investment in the teaching and writing of history, the general level of historical knowledge in our society is abysmally low.

Just one of many things that may be changing as the result of events in the Middle East. Lewis' long article is a great place to start (or deepen) understanding. The New Yorker's Sept. 11 index has lots more that I just bet is worth reading, too.

(After I downloading 10 or so articles, I realized I'd never get through them all in a sitting... but I started with Mary Anne Weaver's "Letter from Qatar," from a year ago, and its further insight into Al-Jazeera. If you must have something short, you can follow our Veep, gone a-huntin', in Talk of the Town.)

Thanksgiving Permanent URL to this day's entry

My list of things to be thankful for is too long and embarassing to post here. Maybe just a few things from the core of my being:

Being able to walk, and run, and play soccer, and sing, and laugh.

The smell of spruce and fir and larch and sage after it rains hard and the morning air is clear and crisp.

Fat squirrels twirling around our oak tree, keeping an eye on me, and each other.

Another wonderful pie in the oven.

Peace and plenty in my neighborhood: may it extend to more neighborhoods in the weeks to come, and may I work to make it so.

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

The "godfather of Weblogging" (these people know how to get on Dave's good side) is interviewed on CMSWatch. Among other things, he says:

You want to control the message that comes out of your company and you don't want random employees speaking on behalf of your firm. But a way to deal with this is to realize they are not speaking on behalf of your company -- they are simply speaking on behalf of themselves.

But each one of a company's employees does speak for "the company," in every action they take that reaches outside of it. What they do "on their own time" may or may not speak for the company, but to the extent that they're associated with the company, it's more than just "on behalf of themselves." One of those good news / bad news things - you get more than just rote mechanical labor out of your employees, but "your company" becomes more than just you, more than just you can define and control.

Dave's idea of Userland speaking with a single voice is somewhat charming in a small company. Extrapolating the idea, we find the ideas of Corporate-speak (one disembodied, non-human voice) and dictatorship (one very personal voice, speaking for everyone).

Business is a team sport. If were singing, it would be a chorus, not an aria.

20.11.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Joel Spolsky's site is now running on his company's CityDesk software, and it looks darn good. I enjoyed browsing the archive, and finding (among many other things) Three Wrong Ideas from computer science that were wrong in August, 2000, and are still wrong today.

The 2nd one is interesting, given how often "ClearType" is showing up as one of the neat things in WinXP. I haven't seen it myself, so I don't know what to believe just yet. But I do know that you shouldn't trust anyone under 45 when it comes to typography issues.

I also found a link to an Ask Tog column from last month, about the inconvenience of heightened security at airports since Sept. 11. It's just a quick sketch, but I think he's on the money. The level of inconvenience that's being thrown in front of travelers is incredible. Locally, our Airport Police Chief is strutting around in a shiny new uniform and trying to get the crime of smuggling a weapon past security raised from a misdemeanor to a felony. This juxtaposed with the pile of confiscated "weapons" -- scissors, nail clippers, corkscrews, and so on -- makes for great 10:00 news, but real idiocy at the airport.

The story says the felony wouldn't apply to those sorts of things... they're not deadly weapons? But still not OK to carry on... and it wouldn't apply to "people who accidentally leave a weapon in their carry-on baggage or purse." So... it's the intent we're going to punish. Just how do you measure that, Mike?

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

The LangaList reminds us that the advent of the Latest and Greatest O/S from Microsoft is balanced by old ones are on the way out: "Next month (December 2001) Microsoft will cease to provide support for MS DOS, Windows 3.xx, and Windows NT 3.5x; and support will become limited for Win95, Win95 OSR1 and Win95 OSR2. Seven months from now, in June 2002, Microsoft will cease to provide full support for Win98, Win98SE, and WinNT4.x."

As a user of Win95 OSR2.1, I'm not sure how concerned I should be. Microsoft's "support" for my product has been pretty lacking for all of the 3-1/2 years I've been running it. Most of its problems are well beyond the capability of phone or email support to debug and fix. The standard (and perhaps only) recourse is to "start over": reinstall everything from scratch.

Three years from now, after O/S, driver and application version rolls and patches have become numerous, that will probably be the only fix for the degredation of WinXP, too. It just isn't clear how "support" from Microsoft will make much difference. What will matter is how easy it is to find real support from other users, periodicals, technical help websites, etc.

XP early adopters, such as Jeffrey Harrow (who referred me to LangaList) get caught between the lack of XP drivers for existing (and "new") hardware, and the disappearance of the old O/Ses. MS is future-oriented (as in future revenue), and they want you to buy only the latest and greatest of everything, and they have a monopoly, so they don't have to care. Sorry!

Fred Langa reports on XP's good and bad points himself, in Information Week. Hibernation's still not working: "So, even with all the proper checks, branding, and certification, XP's drivers may still be problematic." And more mysterious ports opening; I hate that stuff. Even if I really, really trusted Microsoft, how do I know it's them and not some miscreant?

Hal Plotkin wonders if this is the end of HP as we knew it. Mike Cassidy gives in and acknowledges what Carly suspected: it's just too complicated for the reporters.

And Walter Hewlett's SEC filing is available. (Warning: it's big, most of 4MB, and a lot of slide text has been jpeg'd.) Much better communication than the all-text HP/Compaq proxy statement, but the colored charts don't make a pretty picture.

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

Count me among the groggy who spent a couple hours in the middle of the night, watching for meteors. Looking out our east bedroom window, I could see that the rain clouds had cleared after midnight, as promised, and within a minute of watching, a bright streak signaled that the show was on.

Lots more 2am traffic than usual (I assume) on Black's Creek Road, but cold front over wet desert was a fog machine. It was augmented by the big Micron Technology plant, belching twin towers of vapor and feeding the low clouds to the east. Micron has a couple large arrays of sodium vapor lamps over their parking lots, too, spreading the city glow out to this once dark side road. Nevertheless, we saw our share of bright streaks across the sky, laying on our backs and smelling the pungent beauty of sagebrush, thinking about the additional bits of warm clothing or pads we should've brought for our near-freezing assignation.

Back up to the west bench after seeing our fill, we noticed the stars were brighter and clearer in our own backyard, even with the neighbors' lighting excesses still burning at 4am. The downside of untold riches: emptiness, quiet, dark, and calm sometimes hard to find.

Thank goodness for people like Michael Fraase , fighting spammers for the benefit of all. Earthlink's spaminator has pretty much solved my problem, but I understand it's not for everyone. (It's not for me, at work, for example...)

All the excitement about the Leonids, and the real show was earlier this month when the Auroras came to town all over the globe.

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

What started out as a blog entry grew into a full-blown essay as I spent a rainy Saturday making my way through the proxy statement for the HP / Compaq merger. A couple hundred pages!

Jeanette was one of the performers at Boise's Tellabration. She told an old story about telling the truth and the devil, in an Owyhee setting. She also finished work on the 2nd edition of her book, Telling Our Tales. (Amazon shows it as being published in June 2004 which was news to both of us! Seems like it should be out about 2 years sooner than that.)

Now time for some sleep before the 2am meteor wake-up call. Weather forecast said "clearing after midnight," we're hoping that's right. There'll be some fog, but probably not up out of town.

16.Nov.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Great opportunity for an superb astronomical show: an above-average Leonid meteor shower, maybe even a storm. Majority prediction of the North American peak is at 3am MST, Sunday morning, November 18th.

Could this be why the upper management at HP and Compaq are so bullish on the proposed merger? Several million dollars can be very persuasive... Golden parachutes too, in case anything goes wrong. Even with headliner forfeitures, this stinks in a big way.

What racial profiling looks like these days. When I viewed the page, the "skyscraper" ad to the right was a cartoon stick of dynamite with the fuse "lit," and labeled "Click here for an explosive offer." I'm wondering if just writing this down puts me on an FBI list somewhere.

While eating cole slaw and warmed up Flying Pie pizza, Jeanette and Jon Norstog were traveling lightly over 30 years of friendship. Jon was admiring our yard, and Jeanette described which of the glorious gone-blossoms were bird food: the goldenrod, the catnip, but best of all, the Pyracanthas. A good freeze, followed by a warm day and the bright orange berries ferment, she said. Every year, the cedar waxwings know this and clear them out, in one day. We have drunk cedar waxwings, forgetting our cat.

As they looked, one bough of the Pyracanthas bounced and a waxwing jumped off, lurched onto our patio, and hopped in several circles, clearly confused. It bumped its beak on a flower planter, fell back in a daze, got back to its feet and made a low, heavy lunge to a Russian olive branch. "They're here," she said.

The editorial board of the New York Times disagrees with the executive order, too. "The tribunals Mr. Bush envisions are a breathtaking departure from due process." That's breathtaking not in a good way.

Richard Reeves tells W. some things his daddy didn't teach him, after the earlier Executive Order this month: the one providing for yet another hurdle for historians to understand how the Presidency works. The Freedom of Information Act is 35 years old; old enough for us to make the mistake of taking it for granted. Who's ready to challenge the concealment of Reagan's records?

Dave Winer's started a list of significant actions eroding our civil liberties. For as dramatic as the recent events are, I think I would start such a list with RICO. Check how that's turned out against the benchmark of the 5th Amendment.

If you don't have time to read the whole newspaper (or web :-), you can get the succinct story from Tom Tomorrow. It's amazing how much he can pack into four little frames. Damn, he's good.

JD Lasica pointed me to the NY Times' 150th anniversary package. (We finally gave up on Sunday delivery, in case you're wondering. Boise really is the end of the earth, I guess. We are on the list for a pick-up copy at Barnes & Noble, and if they don't get their order shorted by 2/3rds again, we might get one this weekend.) Lots of other interesting stuff, too. I added her to my "left hand column."

Adding a new bookmark to my list within Opera, I was once again frustrated with a user interface I don't quite understand. The top choice in the menu is "add current document here." Here? Where? It seems to be at the bottom of the list, below all the folders I have. While wondering how I could get to rearrange things, I tried the "Open all folder items" choice. BIG mistake. That tries to do just what it says - open every single bookmark in a separate window! I hit the ZoneAlarm panic button to stop the transfers, and regroup.

Oh shit, Windows2000 degrades over time, too, leading to the need to reinstall the whole bloody mess. On the positive side, I don't feel quite so bad that my 3-1/2 year-old Win95 installation gets flakier all the time. I really should reinstall, but (a) I don't want to spend the time, and (b) I'm not convinced it would only be a day.

15.Nov.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tomorrow is closer than you think: Peter Drucker writes about demographic tectonics and what the shifts mean for our future. One of many interesting ideas: "In future there will almost certainly be two distinct workforces, broadly made up of the under-50s and the over-50s respectively." I'll be in the latter category!

Part 2 asks "will the Corporation survived?" and answers "Yes, but not as we know it."

14.Nov.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A description of a radio tagged cell biology lab and other qualitative changes to computing's user interface got me to thinking about the brief but exciting life of the PC. Not quite 2 decades (from my point of view, anyway), and the signs are piling up that the end is near. We won't miss it after we've figured out how to harness all that computing power into an intuitive, portable, savvy user interface.

Of course, if Ray Kurzweil's right and the singularity is upon us, the rise and the fall of the PC will be a minor footnote in the story of how computing took over life as we know it in the century following the mid-1900s. The sense of wonder I had when I felt the world coming to my fingertips in the 80s and 90s was just a faint raindrop before the monsoon. Imagine seeing the shadow of the moon cross the Pacific ocean, Mexico, the Carribean on the day of an eclipse. Or Io's shadow on Jupiter.

That's if we don't get carried away and annihilate ourselves, of course.

Alex Cockburn peers between the redwoods to see how the men who rule the world kick back in summertime.

The News Hour had a discussion between the head of the ACLU and Bush pére's deputy Attorney General tonight, concerning the administration's move to enable trying terrorists in military courts. Ashcroft quoted saying "we're at war," but of course Congress didn't get around to declaring that. (They authorized the president to act as if we were at war...) William Safire doesn't pull any punches in his assessment of what just happened: "Intimidated by terrorists and inflamed by a passion for rough justice, we are letting George W. Bush get away with the replacement of the American rule of law with military kangaroo courts."

Suspending rules of evidence, jury trials, judicial review; pretty heady stuff.

With the war going so well for our side (NYTimes report under a superhead The Rout mentions Pashtun tribes in the south turning), it seems we're anticipating the "what do we do when we win?" question that stumped the elder Mr. Bush.

13.Nov.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"Nearly half of Afghanistan tumbled out of the hands of the Taliban today in a dramatic turn in the five-week-old war," reports the New York Times. I guess it's too dry for a quagmire in that part of the world! But the difficult work of building a government is just beginning, and it will need an outpouring of help from the rest of the world to avoid catastrophe. The US' limited control is evidenced by how willing the Northern Alliance (aka United Front) was to accommodate our desire to have them not take Kabul.

Obviously, you're not coming here for news from Afghanistan... Yahoo's news (among many) does that way better. But it seems like the most noteworthy thing that happened today, and puts the rest of the happenings in a historical context. This may be nothing more than a low-traffic weblog, but I'm thinking ahead. Or is it that I'm thinking behind? (That makes me think of one of my botany professor's favorite sayings: "The past is a bucket of ashes.")

11.11.01 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This morning's sermon on political correctness was thought-provoking, and as is all too often the case, there was nowhere near enough time to explore the topic in the brief allowance for congregational commentary. We didn't even have time to exhaust the store of favorite anecdotes on the subject.

It seems to me that there are two fundamental problems that surround the issue of the label: the first is that it is often intended as irony or sarcasm, and those are both fraught with misunderstanding. The second is that those who would deride postions as "merely" politically correct imply that there are right and wrong political positions, with a bright line between them. Being politically correct is worthy of criticism not simply because it's following the current fashion of political thought, but also because the position espoused is wrong. (The irony, of course, is that the labeler feels the position is an incorrect one, so to be "politically correct" is code for being politically incorrect.)

Those who bend to the whims of political fashion are seen as intellectually (if not ideologically) weak. Rather than think things through clearly, and espouse ideals that stand on their own, and apart from the current orthodoxy (whether conservative or liberal), the PC have simply hopped on the bandwagon and accepted standards of behavior that have no legitimate justification. It seems that it's the vanguard of the left that fulfills the role of "them" in defining these beliefs that we're supposed to hold; PC is a right-to-left function. The NPC Company summarizes it conveniently: PC is the next in the series of "filthy, rotten, pagan, godless, pathetic" adjectives to describe the philosophy that "has permeated our society." Here in Idaho, the fact that the political center of gravity is mid to far-right is no defense: the media and California are always available as a "far-left" proxy and available for criticism.

Here's where the irony gets confused: local followers of political fashion are Republican, conservative, anti-government, pro-development (and government subsidy), anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-gun, and so on, but it's those on the other end of the spectrum who are responsible for the PC plague. If clear and correct thinking are to be respected, than the trivialization of issues with stereotyping and labeling should be abjured as well. We have an irony of ironical usage.

PC sounds to me most often like a call of "foul" in a game that's been lost. The battle for gender-inclusive language is largely over, for example. Thoughtful writers recognize that it's better to find ways not to alienate the large portion of their audience that cares about such things and to overcome the grammatical hurdles. Those who criticize improper usage, and those who label such criticism as PC both distract us from the more important substance of what's being said. They need each other, perhaps, in that anyone who doesn't "get it" by now, is definitely in the remedial group. The cry of PC is a cry for help; the issue is too complicated to understand (or too unpleasant to accept), so let's simplify it by labeling it. But language does matter, and it has changed. No amount of derision will bring back the glory days of the 3rd person masculine pronouns, or allow us to accept "mankind" as connotation-free collective noun in contemporary speech or writing.

To me, the fundamental issue clouded over by PC-labellers and the PC-police they label is civility. We should call people what they want to be called. We should recognize that it's possible for someone to be good, and interesting, and ethical without them having to be exactly like us. (We should recognize that singular/plural object/referent disagreement has a legitimate place in our grammar.) We should value clear thinking and lucid exposition over name-calling by either side. We should use stereotypes as a reminder that reality is always richer and more complex than our simplifying concepts and categories. We should recognize that political fashion is not always wrong: our highest ideals have come through a dialectical process, been tested through strife and war, and have resisted trivialization in propaganda.

First, drilling in the ANWR was needed to solve the California electricity crisis. Now it's needed in the war on terrorism. Paul Krugman writes about just how useful a crisis can be, and about the amazing congruity of proposed solutions to different problems.

Whatever Osama bin Laden understands about marketing, his latest proclamation -- translated as "you'll never take me alive" -- shows he's utterly failed in his study of the American psyche. Bush may have been off-script when he cited standard cutline on the old Western "Wanted" poster, but the majority of us undoubtedly support the sentiment: we want him, either way. The non-alive way is logistically more attractive to many, starting with the military.

A new Clinton at Oxford, this one's demonstrating anti-anti-war.

'01.11.10 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A palindromic binary date (if you do it right). I guess a month ago tomorrow was one, too, but that's stretching things even further.

Jabba Jack (as seen on 11.01.'01) is being rendered into pumpkin leather today. He was sweeter than he looked. (Although, after the hard frosts we've had this week, he was softening up a bit.)

Boise's La Bohème is over until the next grand cycle wheels around. The Morrison Center wasn't 100% full, but pretty close. After our singing and prancing in act 2 and a few notes in act 3, we stripped off the makeup and found some open seats at the top of the balcony and watched act 4. Mimi died again, as she always seems to, so there was no element of surprise. But that chord in the orchestra when Rudolfo realizes she's died... it never fails to send a thrill through me, and make my eyes water. How can that be? I don't know, but I'd like to have the orchestral moment at my memorial service.

The funny thing about live theater is that people acting like something they're not, in a setting that's as phony as can be (but looks real enough from the right angle) elict depths of emotion that we don't often visit in our everyday lives. And that calls for a good party! It was donated by the owners of Saffron (and adjoining Reading Room and Cafe Bottega) which was especially "chic and artsy" with the opera hoi polloi stuffed in with the cast and crew. In a stunning break from tradition, Jeanette wanted to leave before I did, with more work to do in the morning before her 11am shoot at TVTV.

Bush's speechwriters rose to yet another historic occasion: a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. The military success of the Northern Alliance must have buoyed him, but Powell's equivocation over the obvious objective of taking the capitol hints at the difficulties to come: "So it might be a better course of action to let it become an open city, if we get to that point, and then bring in others to begin to stand up a new Afghan government or provide some sort of interim arrangement." I wonder how that translates to the language the Northern Alliance understands.

There are many layers of insulation between the Homeland and where the bombs are dropping. Frank Rich notes that the "ruthless crackdown on manicure scissors" is missing a few more important matters.

The arithmetic of lawyer math is well beyond me. I don't even understand the premise: the heirs of a victim get compensated by some measure of that person's suffering?! Instant death is cheap; quick and painless. Prolonged death is worth more, as is a good salary and good prospects. All "men" may be created equal, but a few years later, their worth can vary from "as little as $100,000" to hundreds of times that. After they're dead, that is.

New guy in the TVTV control room, 1st time running the switcher

Jeanette took our camera to TVTV today, and a couple of the volunteers took some documentary photographs of the process of producing a local access television show. We liked this one of the new guy at the switcher, John Liebenthal. The view of him through the control room glass has that deer in the headlights look about it.

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

The privacyfoundation.org offers up a good FAQ on webbugs, the latest weapon of choice for ad attacks.

A succinct lesson on arbitrage trading for an announced merger. The "spread" jumped this week on the HP/Compaq deal.

Last night, I posted a message to the weblogs.com list, with the short snippet of perl code I'm using to ping the weblogs.com server that reports recently changed blogs to whoever is interested. (I'd posted it in my own blog last month but not as much techy readership here.) I figured somebody would find it useful, and in short order I had a private request for a little perl help (which was within my limited abilities to answer, fortunately), and today, I see that Glenn Fleishman has plugged that in to the nice freeware blogging tool Greymatter. (I tried that for a brief time, but decided to stick with my homegrown tools; Glenn's blog shows the nice reply/discussion feature that comes with it.)

In addition to a good feeling, the private request led me to researchbuzz, an interesting meta-information site. It reports that Google is now indexing a slew of binary file types. A quarter million PowerPoint files, for example.

Bill Moyers' lengthy and powerful speech to the Environmental Grantmakers Association last month is a powerful call to true patriotism. "We will be defined not by the lives we led until the 11th of September, but by the lives we will lead from now on."

Ready for a national ID card? The push could start with http://www.aclu.org/news/2001/n110801b.html airline "traveler's IDs" and catch on from there. Maybe not a good idea, as "the good guys will have their privacy invaded and the cards won't present any real obstacle to the bad guys, who will treat them as free passes for easy access to airplanes."

The ACLU also reports on the USA Patriot Act's "court-stripping": whittling away at one of the other two legs in our three-legged system of argument, under cover of crisis.

Scanning the class notes in a magazine from the U of I, I see that they've named an island after a friend from Moscow days: Uberuaga Island in Antarctica, named after Jules Uberuaga, who's starting her 21st tour in the Antarctic as a heavy equipment operator. 77°53'S, 165°17'E. "Some say she has moved more snow and ice than any woman on Earth." That is so cool.

Cringely amuses with his slant on the Microsoft-DOJ deal: "They are, as they have explained over and over again, just trying to survive in a brutally competitive industry, one in which they could go from winner to loser in a heartbeat. The fact that Microsoft makes in excess of 90 percent of the profit of the entire software industry, well that's just the happy result of a lot of hard work."

And about our .NET future: "If the calls are going to a third-party software package, Microsoft will know about it. This information is crucial. With it, Microsoft can know which third-party products to ignore and which to destroy."

7.Nov.2001 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And now the other side of the founding family has gone public against the merger! David Woodley Packard, quoted in the The Mercury News: "I am perfectly aware that HP has never guaranteed absolute tenure status to its employees; but I also know that Bill and Dave never developed a premeditated business strategy that treated HP employees as expendable."

Given a chance to do something truly patriotic -- vote -- about 32,000 Boiseans turned out last night to re-elect their mayor and both the incumbents running for city council. They recycled a former county commissioner for the open council seat. Let's see, a city of 150,000 or so, there must be two or three times that many voters. I guess waving the flag is the limit for many.

A forwarded copy in email set me on to Mark Morford's columns on SFgate. Call me one of those far-left liberals, but I find them amusing. In the latest, about security at airports: "It comes down to this: Julita, me, dirty rubber gloves, a scene of absurd gestures with the National Guard standing by with rifles."

The one that was forwarded to me was from last month, "Evil Evildoers of Evil." "In fact, you really aren't allowed to criticize the president or the veep right now, not supposed to feel strangely leaderless and adrift, not permitted to look upon the events of the past weeks with much wariness or bitterness or a disquieting sense that we're setting things in motion that have no predictable outcome -- ugly, subterranean, hateful things that could last years and will surely cost billions and will deeply entrench the nation in a bizarre and poisonous shell game with shadowy opponents of largely unknown capability..."

Also on SFGate: Terrorist Relationship Management (TRM) software, from Siebel Systems. Could be handy!

The more I learn about Siebel, the more interesting it gets. Mark Racicot, ex-governor from Montana and go-to boy for W. is on their BoD, for example. Things that make you go hmmm.

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

At least one state's Attorney General is bucking the capitulation trend: "There's no question in my mind that Microsoft will use this agreement to crush competition," he said, "and they would have the imprimatur of the U.S. government to do it." But the majority of the 18 states appear prepared to roll over for the negotiated settlement, declare victory, and move on.

In the capitulated future, we can anticipate Microsoft marking up everyone's websites with SmartTags, the utopia of a Single Browser, and seldom heard discouraging words: if you disparage Microsoft, they'll take your license to use their software away. Antitrust is so last-millenium.

If you've always wondered what MSCE stands for, Nicholas Petreley has compiled a list. "Multiple Corrective Servicepack Exorcist" is one of many, many favorites.

Randy Stapilus' Nov. 5th "Idaho Paradox" column assesses the costs and benefits of the increased security at the state capitol in Boise, and finds that "Ben Franklin's line that a people who give up liberty for security, get neither, has never been more applicable than it is today." The 5 messages he distills from the recent changes at the Idaho capitol are not good: we can be cowed by terrorists, easily; and, you're not welcome at the Statehouse anymore for two.

In final rehearsals for the Opera Idaho production of La Bohème this Friday, we're dealing with the tightened security at the Morrison Center; color-coded passes for each day we're allowed in, which have to be showed to a work-study sort of college kid sitting in the hallway, reading in bad light. We're mostly sequestered in our dressing rooms instead of being able to hang out on stage and enjoy bits of the show. We can't go in the house (for janitorial reasons? or have they come up with a security concern, too?) to see Act 1 or 4, which we aren't in. So we just go home after rehearsing our curtain call, and the "behind the curtain" singing at the top of act 3.

The first night, they made us go outside and come back in the stage entrance after going down the hall to the band room for a warmup. You can't be too careful with these wild and crazy Opera Idaho chorus members. (Average age is well north of 40, some have been doing it for a decade or two.)

Rather big news at the company I work for today: the son of one of the founders got cold feet over the merger with Compaq and is going to vote the 5% of shares he still controls against it. He's on the Board of Directors of HP, which, according to the company, "remains committed" to the deal. But not unanimously, anymore. HWP stock was up almost three bucks on the news.

It remains to be seen which way the shareholder vote will go, but if the deal doesn't happen, Carly Fiorina will almost certainly join the thousands of recently laid off HP-ers looking for jobs. The Comdex keynote speech may be more interesting than expected...

Speaking of Comdex... no laptops?! Unbelievable. I don't know if the terrorists are winning, but officious morons seem to be.

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

Last year's Japanese Lantern, senescent

Well, it should be one, two, three strikes you're out at the old ball game for the New York Times delivery business; they've now stiffed us three Sundays in a row. The bill they sent me was due today, but I find it somewhat difficult to imagine paying for something I haven't and may never receive. The operators continue to be profusely apologetic... I'm sorry to say I unloaded on the first one I talked to today, but after the Packers won I was in a better mood, and at 4:30 or so, called again to try to delve into the problem further.

I have a contact person, and her extension, for what good that might do. She said she'd call, or have someone call later in the week, as I gave them yet another chance to prove that they can deliver a paper in Boise.

The thing that's interesting to me about the Diamondbacks' win in the "World" Series is my reaction to it. As a Braves fan (dating from the 60s, in Milwaukee), and a Mariners fan (thanks to my stepson), I didn't have a primary interest in the series, but mostly wanted to see the Yankees lose. Yeah, I know that's not a very high-minded goal, but hey, this is sports spectation we're talking about.

Anyway, after watching the first couple innings, then going to the sitzprobe for the upcoming opera (and trying to avoid the guys with the radio and TV, since I was taping the show), I came home and decided not to wait until it was over and just turn on the TV. Top of the 9th, 2-1 Yankees. Then the bottom of the 9th, last chance. A single. A bunt and a wild throw from Rivera past 2nd base. Another bunt, and this time Rivera gets the force at 3rd. Then Womak's double ties the game and puts runners on 2nd and 3rd, for Gonzales' game and series-winning single.

Exciting finish to a great, 7-game series, but had I been rooting for the Yankees, I would've hated it, and turned the TV off as soon as Gonzales' ball found the outfield grass. Instead, I vicariously shared in the jubilation, the big dogpile, the manly hugs. Whoopee.

One camera shot was more memorable than others: Rudy Guiliani in the stands, clapping for the Diamondbacks. He's a better sport than I would've been, but then I guess Yankee fans can afford to be magnanimous.

Rod Beck, candidate for Boise mayor, characterizes the Idaho Statesman's editorial writers as "far-left liberal." Idaho politics is such a scream; the far left is just over from John McCain.

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

My job is usually pretty free-form, without a lot of direct supervision or repetition from day to day. This week, though, I started the assembly of a vacuum chamber for a test system I've been working on. It involves inserting and turning a lot of bolts, with some risk of severe penalty if you — pardon this, I can't help it — screw up.

Since I have more book learning than actual hands-on experience with vacuum systems so far, there are some aspects of the work with the "cognitive friction," stopping to figure out what's next. But much of it entails plain old friction, nuts and bolts, grease and elbow grease. I decided somewhere in the middle of the first set of 36 bolts that an attitude of "contemplative mindfulness" was what was called for. While cinching them up in a gradual and sequential manner (counting around 12, 12, 13; 12, 12, 13;...), I let my mind focus on the task and not on what other things I hadn't done, or would do, or should do, or might do. Production work. It's been a while for me. It's a nice change of pace.

Then in the evening, time for another rehearsal of Opera Idaho's production of La Bohème, next Friday night. More contemplative mindfulness, and constrained action, albeit with a few more degrees of freedom, and more large motor activity.

Boise Weekly's Blink feature had more detail on the attack on Planned Parenthood I mentioned last week. Referring to PP, former Congressman (that's the way she wanted it) Helen Chenoweth-Hage is quoted as saying "we've been dealing with terrorists right here in this country" and "it is an absolute criminal organization." Gee, maybe there's an Idaho judgeship that needs to be filled...

Perhaps some of the members of her audience are among those sending anthrax hoax letters to Planned Parenthood; well over 100 of them in the last month, the latest and most intense salvo in a pattern of acts going back to 1998. At least they've all been hoaxes so far.

The organization Chenoweth-Hage is touting for is called "Idaho Chooses Life," and currently featured on their web site is an article suggesting Planned Parenthood is faking the hoax for publicity purposes.

Just got notice of automatic billing for next year's hosting with WestHost. I got one referral, worth about a free month. That was nice. I've been satisified with their service, performance and responsiveness. If they'd given me advance notice (or if I'd remembered myself), I might have shopped around again, but without much enthusiasm. Even though I'm not using all the features I'm paying for (php, mysql come to mind), the ones I do use are working well. I recommend them, and if you sign up... by all means, tell them I sent you! :-)

I guess this means that fortboise.org had its first birthday, too. I forgot to sing "Happy Birthday" for it.

In the Usenet groups within the corporate firewall at the company I work for, there's been a lot of discussion about the war. A few of us are less than whole-hearted hawks, in that fringe of not quite sure we're 100% behind everything our President is up to. One of the loyal supporters thinks we're trouble, and by raising questions, we weaken the resolve of our country, necessary to achieve victory. No doubt a lot of the recent converts to patriotism feel this way, in spite of serious debate all through the government, including at the Pentagon.

We all get to express our opinions... but there may be a few hurdles for some. This story of a Green Party activist is more than a little chilling: no airplane rides if you question the administration's military policies?

Opinions about the Microsoft decision are rolling in. This quote in the Seattle Times from the AOL Time Warner General Counsel pretty much sums it up: "The proposed settlement fails to fulfill the promise of the unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals condemning Microsoft's extensive illegal conduct and requiring an effective remedy to prevent its reoccurrence." Of course, he doesn't have a completely objective point of view...

House Majority leader Dick Armey leads cheerleaders on the other side: "...the court has delivered a homerun for consumers." Yes, you can just hear those consumers cheering in the streets, can't you?

Pickpockets target your virtual wallet. This isn't make believe, there's real money in there! "Moments after the e-mail was viewed using Microsoft's Hotmail Web-based e-mail service, Slemko rattled off, over the phone, the credit card number and contact information from the user's Passport wallet." Microsoft responded to the exposed exploit by taking all -- two million! -- wallets offline.

Isn't monopoly great?

2001.11.02 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Unsurprisingly, installing WinXP delivers you to Microsoft in myriad ways. Would you like to connect to MSN, or not use the internet? Would you like an msn.com email account? You'll "need" Passport, of course...

And don't look to Uncle Sam for help; he's just rolled over on the question of reining in Microsoft's anti-competitive monopoly. As Dan Gillmor puts it, "What a sham this has been. What a shameful process, leaving a lawbreaker free to do practically anything it wishes."

When geeks go upscale: crusing the Caribbean with Doc Searls. I like the part about the night sky.

A Romanian in Lousiana is on the web, check out issue 10 of Exquisite Corpse before it rolls into the archives. (Thanks for the tip, Bob.) "The coming struggle will be one of relentless effort to impose the values of the Enlightenment in a world still haunted by medieval fanaticism."

2001.11.01 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This year's Jack o'Lantern

Our jack o'lantern's too fresh and wonderful to have up on my blog for just one day!

News from the land under threat of terror: the streets around the Idaho state capitol building are being closed off. State, Jefferson, 6th and 8th. That will put a kink in getting around downtown! But the governor can do it, and he wants to feel secure in his place of business.

And reports that the food packets being dropped on Afghanistan will get a new color coding, to distinguish them from cluster bombs. (Both were yellow, the food is changing to blue.) Secretary Rumsfeld, defending the use of cluster bombs said "to be blunt, there being used to kill terrorists" or something like that. Well, to be blunt, many will fail in their intended mission, and kill civilians instead. September 11th may justify a lot, but it doesn't justify everything. Where are we going to draw the line?

Pakistan's Dawn on the internet suggests that Bush's war on terrorism has some cleanup to do at home; the SOA, now under a new name: the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (Whisc).

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Saturday, 01-Dec-2001 19:25:08 MST
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200111.html