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unraveling

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

Time for a random walk in weblog-space, starting with weblog.com's list of recent updates. It's time for "microcontent" to shine, as there has to be something about the name that catches one's eye. Cowlix was the first catch, and pleased with a broad range of links into current events. I chose the conflict between the EU's navigation system (Galileo) and our GPS, flamefest on an anti-LotR commentator, Fox News-pulled transcript of the show about Israeli spies in the US, and Scientific American's top science stories of the year for further exploration.

Whew. My first wander was to someone who's a wander specialist!

Synergy came through with its motto (at least today): "Something beautiful every day." His (? her?) quote from John Muir was it for me: "Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."

J.P. Zmirak, writing in Frontpage magazine, has a more interesting discussion of the background and foreground of Tolkien's literature. His title, "Tolkien, Hitler, and Nordic Heroism" seems overly dramatic, but his brief essay is concise, fascinating, and well-referenced.

"(W)hile the players tend to come and go--always with a few exceptions--the overall Leviathan itself keeps getting bigger, louder, brighter, forever taking up more time and space, in every street, in countless homes, in every other head." Mark Crispin, writing about the media cartel in The Nation, "What's Wrong with this Picture?"

That's the nice thing about blogging - it resists cartelization. Just mentioning that, though, I can imagine the development of astroturf weblogging for corporations that need to point to "grass roots" support for whatever mischief or marketing they need next. If the cluetrain is right, we'll be able to detect authentic voices. The jury is still out on that one.

The powers-that-be, led by FCC chief Michael Powell can neither discern nor protect the "public interest," according to Crispin, even as they diligently work to enhance the corporate interests that speak to them most regularly. If there's a counter-argument to his thesis, I can't think of it at the moment.

Back to that Fox News piece on Israeli spies (and cryptome's documentation of it, after Fox News' website pulled the transcripts): among many provocative bits, it exposes one of the weaknesses of outsourcing. According to the (alleged) transcript, "most directory assistance calls, and virtually all call records and billing in the U.S. are done for the phone companies by Amdocs Ltd., an Israeli-based private telecommunications company.... (I)t is virtually impossible to make a call on normal phones without generating an Amdocs record of it." (Amdocs' web site proclaims them to be "the world's leading provider of CRM, Billing and Order Management solutions.")

Amdocs can mine this data for whatever intelligence they like. They'd assure us they'll only use it for good things like preventing fraud, of course. But outsourcing "grunt work," and then moving up the knowledge chain to accounting, software, and more complex systems may be removing more than just direct labor costs from U.S. corporations. Another company that figured in the Fox News report was Comverse Infosys, "adding intelligence to lawful interception."

The Washington Time's Insight magazine's website runs a related article under a January 14, 2002 (sic) dateline, but spins it as "Espionage at Clinton White House." Right, the spooks all hung up their gear when George W. moved in. Cryptome's page linked to this article as from "May 2000," so I guess bogus javascript and/or formatting on Insight's site. The Washington Report's special report on Insight's reporting and the press response to it was July, 2000, so this isn't exactly a late-breaking story.

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

Seven feet of snow in five days. Buffalo. They all take it in stride, apparently.

Morning shadows along the Banner Trail

Here in SW Idaho, with another day of gloom and inversion developing, I drove back over Mores Creek Summit and skied up to Banner Ridge again. No new snow, but it's been nice and cold up there and the stuff that fell two weeks ago is still in fine shape, with lots of slopes still untracked. I got an early start, and tracked as many as I could until lunch, when I was half-way around the Cougar trail. It was mostly following tracks from there out, and noting the many, many open slopes available for "next time." Then I went down into the abominable part of the Cougar trail, woven between dense trees in a seemingly perverse way for a couple of creek crossings. The description mentioned two bridges, which I suppose I went across, but it's hard to tell under 2 feet of snow.

The last Science News of the year had a feature on Polyhedron Man, George Hart. Happily, it's one of the "full text" (and pictures) articles on the web, with references into Hart's site.

And just for a twist, Hart points to Scott Kim, Puzzle master who makes "ambigrams," among other things. Writing that's symmetric top to bottom. What'll they think of next?

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

I went cross-country skiing today, returning to Banner Ridge where we had the "on the edge" but totally fun trip to the yurt a week and a half ago. The groomer has been around the trails by now, and it was a world of difference: solidly packed skating lane and even more solidly packed pair of tracks for us fuddy-duddy diagonal types. A little blue wax was all I needed to blast up to the top in about 45 minutes, with a couple of off-trail herringbones to straighten out the hairpins. The unbroken snow has settled a bit, but there was an inch or so of fluff on top, and still a nice powdery feel to it. Breaking trail's not too hard, and turning on the way down is a delight. Throw in a little sunshine dodging some high, thin clouds and it made for a just about perfect day.

The view from Banner Ridge, looking north

And I brought the camera this time, so I can show you what it looked like! I can't show you what it felt like, though, you'll just have to imagine that. Other than the yurt trip, it's been quite a while since I've been out in the woods on cross-country skis. Without the distraction of a heavy pack, needing to get somewhere before dark, and a party of 8, the sensual pleasure of being in all that deep, untracked snow just washed over me. The bit of groomed trail was nice to get up the hill, but I really like being out away from machines, and the noise and crowds that surround them. Stopping at the top of a knob above the top of the Banner Ridge trail, I realized I could hear my heart beating. It was that quiet.

Continuing around the Elkhorn loop, the Alpine trail seemed inviting, traversing around the sunny side of the ridge and entirely untracked. After a couple of miles of breaking trail, it didn't seem like quite as good a choice, but I was probably just regretting that I didn't have the skill to try a downhill shortcut to the Elkhorn trail below me.

Nevertheless, even in the lengthening shadows of the afternoon, there was plenty to enjoy on the way down. I collected a bunch of the pictures I took for your viewing pleasure. (Just under 300kB in 9 images.)

Went to see Lord of the Rings last night. It's at two venues in town, downtown at the Egyptian, and in no-there-there land at Edwards 21. Our decision was made based on timing, with the 4:00 show a half hour away. The drive downtown was retarded, though, with some new snow on the ground and Boise drivers going spastic. Radio said the local police responded to 77 accidents in one day. I thought everybody only went nuts on the first snowfall, but I apparently thought wrong.

Anyway, we figured to go a little cheaper parking at a meter, and suffered sticker shock: $1/hour to park on the street. Lordamercy. We slid our way down to the line at the Egyptian with minutes to spare, and then watched those and many others tick away as the lone ticket seller processed about two people a minute. With the advertised running time 178 minutes, and the showings 3:00 apart... you do the math. At 4:10+, I pulled the ripcord, not wanting to see just part of the movie.

The next Edwards show was 5:30, not 5, as I'd imagined, but that gave us time to have some dinner at one of the nearby eateries. Eight bucks for the show out there, though, instead of only five at the Egyptian. Could've afforded some more of that downtown parking! Seems like the Egyptian should charge enough more that they can put another ticket seller on for the crunch times.

Edwards has enough venues that they can program in some slack time, show annoying banner ads mixed with trivia questions ("Are you thirsty yet?") until the appointed hour, and then a wave of coming attractions. How much more do you have to pay to turn those off? They really suck. They all flash and bang way too much and way too often for this old fogie. Most of the movies are trash anyway, I wouldn't pay $1 for them at the sticky-floor houses, even if they'd have them, which they won't. Just show me the movie, eh?

They did, finally, and it was a good one. Remarkably faithful to the book (as well as I can remember it from, oh, 25 years ago :-), and artfully created from the scenery of New Zealand, a lot of seamless digital effects and plenty of drippy makeup for the bad guys. Jeanette hasn't read the books, so we had a combination of a "bound to like it" viewer, and a "show me" one. For the latter, the story line comes out melodramatic, and rather too brutal. "What exactly did you see in the books?" she wanted to know. Well, it reads differently than it comes to life on the screen. The darling miniature perfection of The Shire, the remarkable instantiation of multiple humanoid races, the magic and mystery and triumph over adversity? I dunno, but falling into the fantasy as an adolescent, I didn't have to question anything. So I liked the movie just fine, but it does expose a certain lack of character depth and complexity in good v. evil partitioning in the original literature.

Cory Doctorow describes how we live with uncertainty on the "fault-tolerant realpolitik of a public network composed of uncoordinated actors with conflicting agendas." His vision of "the next generation of Internet entrepreneurs... working to provide unreliable services that work in concert with other unreliable services to provide a service that works on average, but not predictably at any given moment" is almost as interesting as his description of the world-as-it-is. I like his use of link titles to throw in asides, too.

Christmas Permanent URL to this day's entry

Paul Krugman makes a suggestion for Christmas giving: a dime a day, to save millions of lives. The U.S. currently ranks last in the share of GNP given as foreign aid. Paul O'Neill (the Treasurey Secretary) isn't sure "what works," but I don't suppose he's done the cost/benefit analysis between war and foreign aid.

Foreign aid would be cheaper, to say nothing of more humane.

Now you can download the internet, compliments of W3Schools.

rebecca's pocket has a public service announcement about the latest email virus hoax: "If you get an email that apologizes for sending you a virus, then explains how to remove the file from your computer, do not follow the directions." The file it directs you to remove is needed, she says. (I actually followed the directions, but our Win95 system didn't have the file mentioned. I might well have deleted it had it been there.

Here's a story you probably overlooked: Congress' latest pay raise slipping through earlier this month. Don't feel bad, it seems like the mainstream media missed it too, as a few are just picking it up off of AP on December 24th. Rising star Russ Feingold tried to get the Congress to consider the issue directly, rather than just accept the automatic raise approved by legislation that's more than 10 years old. A procedural vote dispatched that hurdle, with plausible deniability, no doubt.

A list of rarely asked questions.

Understanding the ghosts of our past with Karen Armstrong's help, in Modern Maturity. "In the West, we have completed the modernizing process and have forgotten what we had to go through, so we do not always understand the difficulty of this transition."

Spinsanity looks to be skewering hyperbole from left and right with equal vengeance. Tending to the dry side, but looks like a good antidote to excessive punditry.

The first giant step toward a world-wide web: "We were both shocked at how well it worked," Kunz recalls. Ten years ago this month.

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

The chilly temperatures and gloom settled in a little stronger today, after giving way to a little sunshine over the weekend days. Jeanette and I went for a walk at the Boise Towne (sic) Center (sic; it's off to the side; although it does seem to be the center of traffic congestion) Mall around 8:30. It wasn't particularly crowded, but most of the stores were already open, big signs for 20%, 30% and even 50% off sales, before Christmas. Tough act to follow! The folks manning the various kiosks looked beyond cheer, and were trying to stave off boredom. A suited clerk in a jewelry store failed to supress a yawn as we came out from behind a column.

While hiking our loops, I had time to think about the concept of the shopping mall. It seems to be trying to be the imaginary home we'd all love: spotlessly clean (at least at 9am!), interesting architectural details every which way, overflowing with abundant material goods to wear, play with, eat and drink. And all our friends will be there. Unfortunately, I dropped a glove (yes, the same one I thought I lost on the highway) and didn't notice it till we were at the exit. More walking, but to no avail. The floors are kept spotless by eternal vigilance, and I don't think the glove was down more than a minute. Customer service had a black leather glove some hours later, but not mine.

Another possible tragedy averted by cooperation among air travelers, this time on an overseas flight from Paris to Miami. The account sounds somewhat cartoonish, and it's just as well: a more intelligent suicidal terrorist could have carried off the mischief. The hot foot is not just for Wile E. Coyote anymore. What's next in airport security, strip searches?!

Safire describes the nightmare scenario of the national ID card: What do you have to hide?

2001.12.22 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another "ternary day." I realize now I overlooked this year's palindrome day: 2001.10.02. It was a signal event: the first since the dark ages. Our next one is not so long a wait: the day after the new year, 8 years from Tuesday.

My mirror project submission was accepted. (They're easy.) How do you see yourself? Some have a camera stuck to their face, but eventually they'll learn to trust the lens to be on its own. Some like to slip into the background.

I like the site's clean interface, and sufficiently endless offerings, with links off into the whatever site the contributors wanted to point to. It makes me feel like I've seen it before, but I'm pretty sure yesterday was the first time.

Give up my car? Them's fightin' words, buster! Even a voluntary day, once a month, is too much for some to contemplate.

It's amazing how many people are so in to The Simpsons that they analyze, dissect and cross-reference every episode. This "milestone" episode put the show past the Flintstones (in quantity - they passed them in quality some years earlier), but is deemed too deep for most viewers: "Your average slack-jawed yokel watching the show was more than likely left mystified and wondering what the hell (s)he'd just seen." (Matthew Kurth, disenchanted ex-FAQ maintainer) I suppose this meta-episode looking at fans looking at the show must be more examined than most...

Provide your own caption to the OBL video.

AdAge.com: selling American values to the Muslim world. The best selling requires "becoming fluent in their culture," which would seem a tall order for 'mericans. We sure know a lot more about their culture today than we did 4 months ago, though. Check out their special coverage, American Advertising goes to war.

When I started reading this story about the claim that Al-Qaeda hacked Microsoft, and WinXP, I was wondering if it was a send-up. My next thought was, how would we tell the difference if the "trojans, trapdoors, and bugs in Windows XP" were hacked in, or simply conventional software? "According to (Microsoft spokesman Jim) Desler, Microsoft has rigorous processes in place during the development of Windows to ensure the security and integrity of source code." Which rigorous processes of course do not prevent us from reading regularly about Windows' vulnerabilities and the latest patches we need to fetch and apply.

"A Microsoft official acknowledged that the risk to consumers was unprecedented because the glitches allow hackers to seize control of all Windows XP operating system software without requiring a computer user to do anything except connect to the Internet." Scott Culp, manager of Microsoft's security response center says "Every Windows XP user needs to immediately take action," for this "very serious vulnerability."

Slashdot has a field day with it, digging up Allchin's "dramatically more secure" quote from a few months back, and other fun things.

A new cloak for teaching anti-science: intelligent design. "A recent Gallup Poll found that 45 percent of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, and 39 percent believe that Darwin's theory of evolution is not supported by the evidence." Well, hey, 10,000 years is a long time, who knows what happened back then?

The Environmental Working Group offers a database of farm subsidies. Fun facts to know and tell, like $900 million paid to Idaho farmers in the last 5 years. Idaho's leader, Thompson Farms, is making it a growth industry, from barely over $100,000 in 1996, to $822,000 in 2000. Payments via two counties of more than $2.3M from 1996-2000. That's all small potatoes compared to states bigger in agriculture: $5.6 billion to Illinois. $15 million to Missouri Delta Farms. $49 million to Riceland Foods in Arkansas.

2001.12.21 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The solstice. Sunrise 8:15, sunset 17:11. General gloom enhanced locally with a foggy inversion, hopefully short-lived. Much colder tonight, than maybe snow tomorrow. Snow would be good, since it would bring higher temperatures and cleaner air with it. Having all our smells (especially the sugar beet factory and animal feedlots') stay around us is not a happy thing.

Mid-afternoon, I was wondering what the time of the solstice was, and naturally searched the web. "Solstice." Too noisy. "Solstice calendar." Closer, but still too much extraneous material. "Solstice calendar navy" got me to an interesting article about Milankovitch cycles and then to what I was looking for: Earth's Seasons Equinoxes, Solstices, Perihelion, and Aphelion 1992-2005.

12:21 MST, by the way. Soon after, the fog lifted and the sun came out in a wonderfully clear blue sky.

Jeffrey Harrow's latest technology report got me looking at the Web.archive, starting with a vanity search. They have a lot of not-very-different versions of my pages, all dated 2001 (in spite of timestamps they captured that show they go back to 1999 and earlier). Something weird with their stylesheets have them loading images, but then covering them over in gray. One of the photoessays was OK, though, so whatever they're doing, it's inconsistent.

So, bad dates, poor comparisons to weed out unnecessary duplications, javascript that breaks Opera v5.11, at least, lots of capturing of copyright material and the nerve to insert their own copyright on the javascript. (They did note "ALL OTHER CONTENT MAY ALSO BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT.") I was amazed to see that all the relative links I tried worked. That is, they've captured enough of my site -- and enough versions of my site -- that they're serving it all up, with an apparently intact graph. Over 100 TB so far, and 10 billion web pages; an amazing technical feat.

Maybe they'll fix all the broken stuff, and we can focus on the copyright issue. Do they have the right to reproduce the whole look and feel and content of my site, including pages that had errors I've since corrected? Why on earth should they?

I figured the terms of use would be interesting... "If you provide any content to the Archive, you grant the Archive a nonexclusive, royalty-free right to use that content." So, anything put up on a webserver anywhere in the world seems to be "provided" to them, this takes care of their copyright obligation?! Users agree not to infringe anyone's rights... If specifically asked to remove content by an author, they "may remove that portion of the Collections without notice." (My emphasis.)

Down at the bottom, they have an explicit Copyright Policy. "If you believe that your copyright has been violated by material available through the Internet Archive, please provide the Internet Archive Copyright Agent with the following information..." I'm debating whether I want to do that or not.

Also from the Harrow Technology Report, taking minimalist pixel art to new heights: Blinkenlights. Using 144 lightbulbs and a modest Berlin building to make a low-res but very fun animated display. The animated GIFs didn't work in my MSIEv5.5sp2+, but they do in Opera.

Now Tetris, and Pong (live action from your cell phone) and so much more can seem new again. :-)

The spirit of the times, as seen by Google: die Zeitgeist. As they say, a unique window into what is happening in the world. I liked the timeline better than the top ten lists.

Lawrence Lessig on Slashdot: the most interesting stuff I've ever read there, I think. "We have never until now understood the rights of copyright to be the right of the author (or publisher) to exercise perfect control over copyrighted material." Until now.

Looks like anyone can have a turn in the mirror. I sent in my favorite tourist shot from in front of the Miyako hotel in Kyoto. I could submit the one from behind the curtain, too, but maybe I should seek out new work.

Here's a good reason not to be superstitious: It can kill you, apparently.

Living in a police state: yes, the FBI is making house calls.

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

A weekend in the snow: we joined half a dozen other Sierra Clubbers for a ski trip to the 5-year old Banner Ridge yurt, maintained by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Various last minute surprises pushed us past our 10:00 start time from Boise, and Highway 21 over Mores Creek Summit was closed due to avalanche danger after heavy snow on Thursday and Friday. We circled around from the other side, through Horseshoe Bend, Banks, Garden Valley, Lowman, and made it to the trailhead about 2:00pm, only 4 hours past when they recommend getting started.

Deep snow, just below Mores Creek Summit

Breaking trail through a foot and a half of powder, climbing uphill at 6000' elevation, while carrying overnight packs occupied the rest of the afternoon and some of the evening. Our vanguard and prime trail breaker, Alice, made it to the yurt with just enough light left to start the fire, and the rearguard made it with headlights, in time for a wonderful and bounteous dinner. We drank beer and played cards and laughed and got toasty around the fire, retelling the story of the group of 8 who'd started even later than us and who thought they were going to get to the Elkhorn yurt, another mile ahead. In the dark. Breaking trail. They ended up turning back and making the traverse and descent in the dark, driving to their cabin in Lowman. The next morning, we saw the 50 yards they'd made past where we'd broken the trail for them, before turning around.

On Sunday, a few of us looked for some telemark patches, warmed up on the hill out the front door, and then finished on the big slopes draining to the canyon below the yurt. Lots and lots of work for a few turns, and more challenging conditions than I was ready for, anyway: I guess I need a little wider skis for that kind of stuff. More practice and conditioning would help, too.

We wrapped up affairs at the yurt about noon, and headed out in overcast and light snow, enjoying the luxury of a by-now firmly established trail, and the wind coming from behind us for the exposed ridge crossing. Lots more people out today, most just for the day, but a father/son team headed for the Elkhorn yurt, almost up to the ridge at 1:30. They're warming their feet by the fire about now, I imagine.

Driving back this afternoon, we admired the incredible job of snow removal it takes to keep that highway open, cruised on the inch or so of new snow since the last plow had been by. The picture's from a parking lot just down from the summit. Dropping down to Lucky Peak and below the snow line, the colors of dried grass, shrubs, rocks and bare trees seemed incredibly vivid after 24 hours in a black and white world.

The political fight over missile defense from a year and a half ago seems like the distant past. After the Sept. 11 attack on Washington and New York, the thought that this had shown the futility of spending money on a technological boondogle was quickly replaced by renewed resolve to protect ourselves at all costs.

Now another failure: a Navy program for a defense against short-range ballistic missiles has itself been shot down. It was more than 50% over budget and two years behind schedule. James Dao writes: "the Navy program was viewed as one of the less technically difficult anti-missile programs in the Pentagon's missile defense arsenal." $2.3 billion sunk.

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

Nothing like radio when you want it, rather than when you get lucky on the air. Terry Gross's interview with Jeff Nurnberg (Realaudio) bubbling off everything bloggish. I was expecting ridicule, and there was a certain tweedy derision about it, but I think he was actually rather positive about the whole phenomenon. Drawing a parallel between blogging and the birth of the novel, for example. The (intended?) irony is that his audio essay is rather bloggy, except without the URLs to let us follow-up on what he mentions that's interesting.

It's somewhat like writing a journal in public, but "it's not written for everyone, but for God knows who."

I found out about the interview on a blog I read regularly, and here I am blogging it.

Jeff's a linguist at Xerox PARC. Wonder how he'll fare in the standalone unit. "Will parse for food."

Senate panel pushback on the DOJ rollover on Microsoft. They mention in passing that James Barksdale had "his invitation to appear withdrawn because of objections raised by Microsoft." Wow. M$ is really in the driver's seat. Oh yeah, and Charles Rule, counsel for M$, used to be the head of the antitrust department at the DOJ.

Google's 20 year archive of Usenet is a milestone. Take a tour down memory lane, when the information highway was just a country road. The Apple Superbowl commercial, the birth of the web, the Great Renaming, worms, spam and cold fusion. It's all there. Oh yeah, and the first mention of google, in 1998. The earliest post of mine that I could find was 1990.

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

After I read Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer, I posted a simple list of the 25 fallacies he enumerated. Here's someone who's made a handy elaborated list of logical fallacies. Good place to check when something's wrong with that argument, but you're not sure exactly what.

My buddy JQT suggested another one, hosted on Nizkor, a site to counter Holocaust deniers.

Xerox has decided what it to do with its Palo Alto Research Center: spin it off as a standalone entity. It'll be interesting to see how that works.

What Compaq + Digital Means to Our Industry: Jesse Berst Editorial on ZDNet, from early 1998. "This merger positions Compaq to challenge IBM as the world's undisputed computing leader," and other fun predictions.

Webb McKinney says: "There is no Plan B." And Walter Hewlett to directors: Give up on HP-Compaq. What a mess.

2001.12.11 Permanent URL to this day's entry

News and commentary from Ann McFeatters: "The drug war blunders on: The DEA is cracking down on hempseed oil in tortilla chips." They've announced a ban on certain brands of "beer, cheese, coffee, corn chips, energy drink, flour, ice cream, snack bars, salad oil, soda and veggie burgers" if they contain trace amounts of THC.

Never mind that you'd die of overconsumption on this stuff before you ever got high from it, we just can't be sending the wrong signal on our war on drugs! (The signal is: "we have lost our minds.") The good news is that "anyone who has purchased a food or beverage product that contains THC has 120 days (until Feb. 6, 2002) to dispose of the product without penalty under federal law." Hemp clothing is OK, though, they figured out that you can't get high from that.

Winer gets to ride on a Segway (and go to a toney cocktail party to do it, no less). Sigh, it must be nice to be rich and famous. Me, I rode my bike home in the dark, in the gently falling snow. That was fun, too, but not in the "skiing the mountain" way.

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

Dave writes why he likes the West Wing: "it's nice to see another alpha male gain total acceptance in his alpha-ness." If he said "guess why I like The West Wing," I woudn't have even been able to imagine that. We watched the same episode last week (which was a rerun, and which we'd seen before, but we both like seeing episodes again), and what moved me was the intensity of emotion that came out in the family interplay: the middle daughter who was never dad's favorite, the dramatic expression of the unresolved tension between the two of them, and the tentative resolution and release in the last scene in the theater.

It was so not about being an alpha male.

Also seen on TV, an uproarious bit of scatalogical humor on The Simpsons between Homer and his friends as young kids: a pre-internet internet joke, in "The Blunder Years." I'd explain it to you, but you really had to be there.

Nice explanation of how Ginger's gyros work.

Things seem light and airy here because the reality of what's going on in Washington is too far beyond belief. (When even the National Review can't find a way to be positive about Ashcroft's testimony, you know it didn't go well.)

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

Four computer companies' stock prices, since the HWP/CPQ merger announcement

D-day for the HP-Compaq merger? "The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, which holds 10 percent of HP's stock, said it had made a preliminary decision to vote against the merger." The Hewletts and the Packards all appear opposed, but the "preliminary" signals a possible opening for negotiation, although the New York Times' piece said "there was scant prospect the foundation would reverse itself."

In the graph to the right, you can see when HP's and Compaq's fortunes began to diverge, in early November, when Walter Hewlett first spoke out against the merger. Presumably there'll be more divergence on Monday: after the 23.52/11.32 "close," the two stocks traded at 25.25/9.97 after hours.

Frank Rich's Confessions of a Traitor examines the boundaries of political correctness in this time of war powers.

An interesting application of Flash: the New York Times' photographers' journals, combining images and audio commentary from the men who took them. Outstanding glimpses into the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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

Looks like India's answer to William Safire, with questions about a reported airlift of combatants out of Kunduz, along with a big dose of Pakistan and China-bashing.

Peter Hessler's "Straight to Video" in The New Yorker is a more thoughtful (and original) look at the Chinese reaction to 9/11. With news of the Taliban surrendering Kandahar we're not sure we care for the moment:

Tonight the Taliban's last ambassador to the outside world, Mullah Zaeef, spoke with finality at the news conference in Islamabad. The Taliban was finished as a political movement, he said, adding: "I think we should go home."

Paul Krugman compares the management of Enron and the US economy: "First, use cooked numbers to justify big giveaways at the top. Then, if things don't work out, let ordinary workers who trusted you pay the price." Fuzzy has become simply phony. Could be another one-term Bush.

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

Windows XP Flight Feature Flawed: "...Another problem is XP's susceptibility to viruses. Janice O'Connor, of Anderson, North Carolina was ejected from her 14th floor apartment after opening an e-mail that contained a virus targeted at Windows XP...."

A must-have accessory for handling your mail these days. (Low cost!)

Those links thanks to Steve Bass' "Home Office" newsletter from PCWorld. He has fifty of 'em on line for your reading pleasure.

2001.12.02 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bit of a controversy over a "religious" message from the Crossroads Assembly of God Church in Wilder: their reader board is sporting the message, "The spirit of Islam is the spirit of Antichrist."

Just to show that some people can find Idaho on a map (or at least on the web), daypop shows this story being picked up by Pravda! Sergei Borisov's snippet is titled "Mirages of Incomprehension." I'd be tempted to include "ignorance" in my title.... I got the AP story in an email, but couldn't find it on the lame website of our local paper. One excerpt:

"There are very few people in the church who agree with it," said Sharon Wilks, a caretaker of the church with her husband, Mike.

Well, good for the members of the church, maybe they can relieve Pastor Geoff of his duties and find someone else who's more in touch with their beliefs.

Of course, Idaho does not have a monopoly on narrow-minded bigotry. Bush is reportedly prepared to nominate J. Robert Brame, a "Biblical Law" activist, to the National Labor Relations Board. Reading the AU's characterization of the positions of the organization he's listed as secretary for, American Vision, I'm struck by how neatly one could substitute 'Islamic' for 'Christian' and have a bin Laden manifesto. For example: "...an Islamic education and communications organization that provides materials to help Muslims develop a Quranic worldview for the construction of an Islamic civilization. The beliefs and actions of individuals will affect the future of a nation. As lives are changed, our society will change...."

Unfortunately, his religious views aren't the worst of the concerns for the NLRB. This would appear to be another 1984-revivial Reaganesque appointment. The SE Michigan Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health reports on his past tenure as a member of that board, and his anti-union history.

HP was the lead story on the front of the Business section in today's NY Times. The story is about upcoming David and Lucile Packard Foundation's board decision about which way to vote their 10% stake in the question of the Compaq merger. Yet another big consultant, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, will present their opinion to that board. Walter Hewlett's consultant, Friedman Fleischer, presented to the Foundation board. Now all we need is for the HP board to answer the FF report... maybe they're waiting to do a combined response if they have to counter B-A&H as well. (Links to the SEC filings and more opinion in my piece Are You Synergized?)

Title page drawing from USP #5,971,091

So, this is "it" - a gyro side-by-side 2-wheel scooter. "I don't want to sound like a Ginger-slammer," said Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif., "but it's about $2,000 too expensive and 40 pounds too heavy." Let's see, $1000 and 25 pounds... isn't that a bicycle? No batteries to charge, and fitness benefits besides.

But Ginger does sound like a fun toy. I'd certainly take one for a ride, unlike a jetski or snowmobile. Now if I were delivering the mail every day... maybe I'd see it as a God-send!

(Since Kamen got US patent #5,971,091 2 years ago, how come it took so long for all these super sleuths to figure it out?)

2001.12.01 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The third month of 5 in-a-row with "ternary dates": all 0s, 1s and 2s.

It's not too late (I assume) to get your $2 into the Nenana Ice Classic and do your part in maintaining the 85 year climate record at the Tanana river. Last year the winners split $308,000! "Alaska's coolest lottery." It's a big page with some nice photos, and a weblog of the 2001 breakup. Watching the ice melt - sounds like a favorite Alaskan pastime.

In honor of George's passing, we spun some vinyl today: all three of the All Things Must Pass records. I remember being lukewarm about the set when I first got it, and some of it still drags a bit, but "I Dig Love" still excites me the way it did almost 30 years ago. Is that Ginger Baker bangin' on the drums? I love the syncopation with the chord riff that gets you anticipating their return.

"The Art of Dying" takes on a new color at this point. At a funeral for an 80-year-old man of our acquaintance today, I got to thinking about what I want for my funeral. Something pithy I wrote, I hope, some nice music from friends, a capella singing, good food, good beer, no gloom and doom. No B.S. about the hereafter. It's a reminder to make life count.

If you're after links to George Harrison stuff, BookNotes looks like as good a place as any to start.

The battle between civil liberties and anti-terrorism heats up in the Senate judiciary committee: Mr. Leahy added, "Maybe part of this is the hubris of, you're riding high in the polls and you feel you can operate by fiat." (NYTimes)

Deborah Branscum imagines life in the downturn for Fortune: "The weekend. Commiserate with wounded souls at a dinner party. Discover that nine of the 12 dinner guests have been laid off. Be afraid. Learn that two guests plan a networking trip to Comdex. Be very afraid...."

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Tuesday, 01-Jan-2002 13:06:12 MST
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200112.html