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unraveling

27.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

That $4000, vacuum-cleaning robot you've been waiting for is ready. Well, almost ready -- it'll be another couple years. Maybe they'll have that crashing into furniture thing fixed, too.

Savants need not apply: Apple doesn't want to risk a minor's voided contract. And you thought "Open Source" meant no rules. It is a legal problem worth solving. There's a lot of computing power in teen-aged brains.

Corel and HP announced the bundling of Corel's office suite in HP's Pavilion line of PCs. I've been seeing more about Corel these days, still use WordPerfect, Photopaint and Quattro regularly, myself. Are they coming back to life and challenging the beast from Redmond?

I see this is a "try for 30 days," and then buy if you like it, whereas Microsoft's bundling model is to get the PC seller to pay. If the seller is lucky, they might break even, but figure it helped make the (also just barely break even) PC sale. I'd guess customers like the "lowest cost, we don't really care if you make a profit" model better than time-bombware, even if the latter comes with "innovative 'unlocking' technology." The bad old days of the 1980s and copy protection seem to be on the way back in, led by Microsoft's XP, and the Hollywood entertainment industry (they hope).

If you were in college, what would you rather spend your time on, Linux, or a million lines of .NET source code ? Seems like a no-brainer to me. The unix skills I learned 15 years ago are still useful today. Can you think of anything from Microsoft that's 15 years old that's still pertinent?

Turns out that Enron had bought and sold Paine Webber, too. Broker disses the stock, with justification, and P-W sends him packing, as directed. There are a lot of employees who are wishing they'd responded to the "sell" message last August, when Enron was at $36/share.

31.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A few crocuses popping up are one thing, but having the temperature come close to 70 degrees today, on a beautiful, sunny Easter Sunday... that's it, winter is gone, gone, gone. There's still a few feet of snow up on the mountain, but it's hard to think of skiing with weather like this.

In a fitting technicolor welcome for the season, my choir sang a complicated a capella arrangment of "Over the Rainbow" for the occasion.

The Sunday NY Times had a trio of piece on stock options: two articles by Gretchen Morgenson, Time for Accountability at the Corporate Candy Store, and Outrage Is Rising as Options Turn to Dust, the year-old story about how dot-commies who exercised options in 2000, but held the shares got hosed. That new slant on the story is the lawsuits against Salomon Smith Barney's brokerage for inappropriate recommendation of the "borrow to exercise and pay taxes, hold the stock" strategy that yielded great brokerage fees and a bucket of ashes after the stocks tanked.

The third is the Times' editorial calling for reform.

30.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Donald Knuth has been around computers and software for some time. His All Questions Answered (pdf) session at Technische Universität München from last October is an interesting foray into some of what he knows. Responding to a question about improving software, he suggested extending his system of rewarding readers who find mistakes in his book. (He sends them a small check.)

"I think letting users know that you welcome reports of errors is one important technique that could be used in the software industry. I think Microsoft should say, 'You'll get a check from Bill Gates every time you find an error.'" That would certainly spread Bill's wealth!

Thanks to Kevin Hemenway on the O'Reilly weblogs for the link.

The plague of periodicals means I have access to way more magazines than I ever get around to reading. One of our subscriptions is to PCWorld magazine which has lots of useful stuff in print, and online. I often don't make it to the "Here's How" feature in the back for a while, but when I do, I usually find something of use. And sometimes there are things that prove to be very useful, such as this one from the April issue, describing how to add a folder of shortcuts to the Start menu, with Explorer set to start in various frequently-used folders.

The idea is to make a folder in the Start Menu (folder), and populate it with shortcuts for commands like "explorer.exe /e,D:\FreqFolder". Name the folder 'Xplore' and Ctrl-esc, X shows the list of these shortcuts which launch the 2-pane Explorer view in the given folder. I tend to use a half-dozen or so folders most of the time, and this method is much quicker than mousing around up and down trees, and when I want to move files between those folders, the 2nd (or 3rd) Explorer window is handy as well.

Short blurb but big story about privacy: DoubleClick agreed to purge consumer information it's collected and to adhere to an enhanced privacy policy as part of a settlement of federal and state class action lawsuits. The charges were filed in January 2001, a year after they'd got on my radar and I wrote about the ad attack.

The Big Lie Dept.

STEVE BALLMER: I mean it is particularly egregious. Weve never told an OEM what they can and cannot ship. Weve never tried to restrict what they ship with their operating systems. And the stuff that, you know, AOL is doing now is, you know, just limiting in market choice. Its unbelievably egregious.

It's on Microsoft's website so it must be true.

Speaking of the Force, there's a new critical patch out for you MSIE v5 and 6 users. (Reported by c|net.)

29.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Did the USPTO just award a patent for a perpetual motion machine? US Patent 6,362,718 certainly looks like one. Read more in my patent watch weblog.

A recent Harrow Technology report had a nice summary of the alphabet soup of wireless protocols. I'm hoping it shakes out and gets simpler before I do anything wireless beyond listening to the radio.

Republican leaders in a huff with each other. Can't we all just get along? Good thing there's War Without End® to keep all us supporting the President.

As corporations get lighter and lighter (or, more "virtual"), "book value" may take on new meaning. As Peter Coy's "Economic Perspective" points out, the old slogan that "employees are our most important assets" has never been more true. "For investors, then, the key is to find companies that do a good job of retaining their key employees -- not by legal threats and not by overpaying, but by encouraging talented people to make 'firm-specific' investments of their time and energy."

The FAQ at jesus.com made me think of the Catechism. That might have been in keeping with the other humor on the site, but maybe just a coincidence. "Is this for real?" It's not for me to say, but I did find at least one of the sermons warm and fuzzy.

Dan Gillmor's quiz about your future is worth reading, and considering. "Would you be concerned if (a few giant companies) used their power to compile detailed dossiers on everything you read, listen to, view and buy?" Walt Mossberg has a similar message. The DMCA has already taken a chunk out of consumers' rights, and the media moguls are hungry for more.

Richard Forno gets after the subject in detail, describing the "American Techniban" movement. Action's needed. Check out DigitalConsumer.org for ideas about what to do.

J.D. Lasica looks at online media after the meltdown. I was surprised (and pleased) to see that the NY Times and LA Times' online efforts are in the black. I would be lost without them, for as much as I enjoy the interesting backroads of journalism these days.

Reading about voice control of appliances reminded me of a neighbor at work who's apparently trying to get voice-control working on a PC. I hear this quiet but insistent voice: "Start. ... Start. ... Start. My Computer. ... Start." That sounds like a fun feature, doesn't it? "It's embarrassing when you say something important and somebody doesn't understand. It's even more embarrassing when that somebody is your toaster." Or your PC.

Peggy Noonan and I both watched the Oscars. (Maybe she was in the theater, I don't know; I watched it on TV, of course.) I didn't expect to find myself watching, and I didn't expect to stick with it through all the commercials, and the uninteresting parts, but I did. I thought it was a great show, and when Halle Berry couldn't contain herself, responding to her award, I was really touched.

I wanted to like Noonan's take on it, I wanted to believe that she had deep and important insights about it to share. She did like it, but felt it necessary to point out how mostly shallow actors are, and how their biggest (and most confused) fans are "the not fully mature, the not fully developed, the not deeply intelligent, the not fully stable." (Hmm, makes me think of the fans of Ronald Reagan. But I digress.)

She had to pat us all on the back for the fact (?) that "our most admired leaders are black," and rather give America credit for its distance from anything she could call racism. And she had to whine about the Oscars website failing to properly (as she saw it) capitalize God in Berry's "oh my god, oh my god" reaction. All in all, the Noonan show was a disappointment. The Wall Street Journal just can't seem to get opinion right.

28.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It ain't over yet! Walter Hewlett files suit in Delaware Chancery Court (whatever that is), saying that HP's last minute persuasion of Deutsche Bank was not on the up-and-up.

A new word for the lexicon, "golfcourseware," from PinglePongle, on the topic of content management systems, an interesting slashdot thread I happened upon while not quite minding my own business.

The golf course is where Scott McNealy arranged his seat on GE's board of directors, as he describes it in Business Week's interview with him. (Requires Real Player.) It's pretty interesting, and generous length. "I stopped doing Comdex keynotes where I explain everything to my competitors." On Microsoft: "We ought to be able to enforce the laws, no matter how much we have on our plate..."

"From the Java browser, you can get access to almost anything out there now..." The Java browser?! "Getting embedded in every device," like his cell phone, and in to "smart" credit cards. 11 million DoCoMo phones in Japan running it.

On stock options: "That's like the worst thing we could mess with.... Stock options are an incredible alignment mechanism.... There's nothing wrong with the system, it's out in the open.... (The accounting) is all very clear." The interviewer presses him to account options as an expense, he says "nobody would do options, they'd do cash," and lose that engine of innovation.

Celebrating Sun's 20-year anniversary: 200 shares of stock to everyone. (Except what followed made it sound like options not stock.) "There is no accurate way to value those stock options." "People are on a witch hunt... a very damaging thing."

Lessons of Enron: "In general, the system is working. Enron is Darwinian toast, it's gone." "If they broke the law, they should be wearing pinstripes." "It isn't the government's responsibility to protect me from wins and losses." (Except that's not what he was saying about the "protected market system" vis a vis Microsoft, eh?)

The lengthy quote in Bill Fleckenstein's rap about what's idiotic about paying 10x a company's revenue for a stock ("What were you thinking?") is what got me looking for the interview. (Toward the end, headed "McNealy's Assume Lens Brings Folly Into Focus.")

On the HP-Compaq merger: "the vision I see is of a slow-motion collision of two garbage trucks, and they're just about to meet bumpers. Anybody who wanted to vote 'no' should've got out of the stock." He ridicules both companies as being in the "Microsoft/Intel reseller business." He's good at ridicule. He sees those two as GM, Sun as Ford, and IBM as "the dealers." "After that, there are no other players." "We're down the big three."

Solaris is "our SUV," "a really hot deal," "and then we got our scooter, and that's Linux." It's a "technique" to deliver the Sun One architecture.

His description of Passport and its license makes it sound suitably heinous. He calls it "Dossier." "Don't worry about Passport, it runs on a secure, uncrackable Windows server out on the 'net." The click-license terms may change from time to time, and it's your responsibility to review them regularly; using the service after they change means you accept them. (Yet he wants us to "trust the server" in his model of computing.)

My buddy Steve broke the ice (so to speak) on the sailing season yesterday. Says he spent the afternoon windsurfing on Mountain Home Reservoir, with his 5.0 and 5.5 m2 sails. The closer two desert reservoirs (Black's Creek, and Indian Creek) were both too low to sail. You may recall the July 24th picture from my last visit to the Mtn. Home reservoir when it was dry, dry, dry. We're hoping this year is wetter.

26.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The latest in tax dodges sounds like the setup for the famous punch line: For everything else, there's MasterCard. Hiding non-wage income from the IRS (or that spouse you're divorcing) is priceless.

The 9:00 news had a segment about all the people who are jaywalking across Front Street, a major arterial with 5 or so lanes of one-way traffic, in front of the new Ada Co. Courthouse. It seems that the nearest crosswalk is a couple blocks away. There's ample parking in a garage adjacent to the Courthouse, but you have to pay to park there. Among the standups was our Co. Commissioner, Roger Simmons, shaking his head about people "risking their lives" to save a buck.

(Well hey, I've done my share of jaywalking, growing up in the big city, and it always seemed like an exciting game, not a risk of my life. People driving around in automobiles are risking their lives, too.)

It all struck me as a classic case of a usability design mistake, and completely predictable. People don't want to pay to park. That's why they shop at the mall more often than downtown. People don't want to walk two or four blocks extra to cross the damn street. And planners hate to admit that they could be so stupid, so the "solution" is for police to hand out tickets.

25.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It figures that the "church" of Scientology would find a way to use the egregious DMCA to try to squelch its detractors. Dave Winer's davenet tells the story of how they managed to get Google to scrape xenu.net out of the index.

Wired has a nice summary of the story, too, with a capsule description of L. Ron's religion. "Fun facts to know and tell."

A brief tour through Tricky Dick's tapes is enough to make your head spin.

23.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Signals of spring: the violets are up

Cooler, gloomy, rain. Good weather. Water our flowers and fill up those reservoirs.

A good index to sources of statistics on various topics, from the University of Michigan.

Satirewire says it best: Typo causes HP and Compaq to Merde.

And, the Office of Disinformation is closed. Really.

Where to go when the Cease and Desist letter arrives to your webmaster: ChillingEffects.org. Thanks to WriteTheWeb for the interview of one of the team, Wendy Seltzer.

22.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mike Cassidy of the Mercury News was at the HP shareholders' meeting, and he was impressed by what one of the employees had to say. Me too. I'm not that ready to bow out, but I admire Dan for having had the guts to do what he did.

This statement from the New York Times story is so precious: "Such legislation would face an uncertain fate in the House, where the Republican leadership is skeptical of many proposals to close loopholes, contending that they may effectively be tax increases." Ah, yes, closing a tax loophole would definitely raise the taxes of the companies taking advantage of it. We call it their "fair share." (They call it "legal," and "leveling the playing field.")

Maybe not so legal, it seems that Jeffrey Skilling knew more than he told the Congress. I'm sure we'll all shocked, shocked by that revelation.

The Spokesman-Review offers the State of Idaho a tip for saving money in government: "Rather than waste time and money, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, Senate Pro Tem Bob Geddes, House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, A-list lobbyists and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry could meet in secret before January to decide the people's business. Then, Newcomb and Geddes could convene lawmakers to rubber-stamp their final product."

D.F.Oliveria and the editorial board's week-ago commentary was also a needed antidote for what passes for government around here: Boise needs wholesale change. We'll see if the voters think so come November.

Jim Kershner takes the waters and finds them all good. "The aftertaste is no less brilliant, providing unmistakable notes of moisture throughout the mouthal region."

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals tells the truth about marijuana: it's not a narcotic, and it's not legal to punish some for driving under its influence if s/he's not impaired. The Legislature won't stand for that, to be sure. (Note that the Idaho Statesman has an enhanced website, but they seem to have lost their domain name in favor of an IP address. Maybe they'll fix that. And have durable URLs? Nah...)

In case you won't be in southern Africa, the Indian Ocean or Australia next December 4th, you can see a preview animation of the next total eclipse. The penumbral shadow is 4300 miles in diameter, but the umbra is a "tiny dot," just 54 miles across, and cruising over 1000 miles/hour. Nicely done.

One of many pages under the eclipse home page.

21.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The equinox, when everyone on earth gets the same 12-hour day and night, from Lapland to Tierra del Fuego. For a moment, we're all equal under the sun. The local climate did its part to make us feel like we're on the edge of spring, with the temperature up into the 60s. We played shirts and skins soccer at lunch time, 4 days after I was snorkeling through cold, fresh powder up at Bogus Basin. Today, the violets are opening in our yard. What a world!

Business Week has had a couple good pieces on the brouhaha around the big merger, including this news analysis: What Price Victory at Hewlett-Packard?

"Well, the nail biting continues. After a high-drama shareholder meeting on Mar. 19, Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carleton S. "Carly" Fiorina claimed victory in the proxy fight over HP's merger with Compaq Computer Corp. But board member Walter Hewlett isn't conceding. Hewlett backers figure that with just a quarter of a percentage point separating the two sides, it ain't over till it's over -- and it will likely be weeks before all the votes are counted..."

The report of the last minute lobbying of Deutsche Asset Management was pretty interesting, too. Given how small the margin of victory (or defeat), it seems that every bit of the campaign was needed.

Now that the other half of our Outlook97 installation has gone pear-shaped, I moved Jeanette over to Outlook Express last night. I got all her folders full of messages migrated over easily, but stalled at the address books. Feeling my way around the menus, I followed the most likely procedure (documented in a Microsoft support page), except that it didn't work. After selecting the "text file (.csv)" format that I'd exported the Contacts folder to, I have two buttons: "Import" and "Cancel." The "Import" button thinks a while, never pops up a file selection dialog, and then comes back and says it failed.

One of the other articles turned up by my help inquiry did work, though, transporting "contacts" via the "personal address book" to OE. Except that it stripped out all that lovely database information, like category, street address, and so on. I did it by category chunks, with a 6 or 10-step GUI process to recreate the categorization as "folders" on the OE side. After about the 5th category, "point and click" starts to be a real drag. I had all the stuff exported to a .csv file, but I can't import it for some unknowable reason.

At some point, I did a left-click/drag from the main "Contacts" to a temporary Contact folder I'd made, tried to abort it by "letting go" back in the source category grouping. Oops, that made a bunch of duplicate entries. Not *every* one duplicated, maybe every other one. Then deleting one of the duplicates deleted BOTH the entries. Which put me to fishing through the Deleted Items (which can be sorted by type, like "Contact," but not by time deleted, or by category; with all the temporary copies I'd been deleting, it was a hellacious mess), trying to recover the lost family addresses.

Aren't computers fun?

19.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Reported by The Financial Times: "'We're winning the elephants, but we are getting eaten alive by the fleas,' someone close to the deal said late last week."

If HP's claims are correct, the elephants managed to stomp out the fleas, and the merger is on. But "officially," it's going to take some weeks to count and certify all the proxies. We had the last gasp (I hope) on our doorstep this morning, from Airborne Express, and a "Proxygram" in today's mail. 53 proxy solicitations for our 4 buckets of stock, a half dozen sent by some kind of express delivery. 13 first class stamps, one envelope with $3.50 of metered postage on it on the return envelopes.

The Murky News blogged the meeting, in a newspapery sort of way, but their "throughout the day" coverage got wispy after noon. Siesta time?

The Man Who Lives in a Rainbow, living with synesthesia. "When the researchers presented an image of the number 5 made up of much smaller number 2s, W.O. saw the whole image as a five and it appeared green. However, when he looked at the small 2s that made up the image, each of the numerals was orange.

"When the numbers were written out, such as two, they assumed another color."

Yet another thing to do with your old computer, the iBong.

Warming up in Antarctica: "We knew what was left would collapse eventually, but the speed of it is staggering. Hard to believe that 500 billion tonnes of ice sheet has disintegrated in less than a month."

Observations are mixed - cooling here, warming there, ice thinning and thickening. But it must be awesome to see an ice shelf the size of Rhode Island disintegrate in a little over a month. The British Antarctic Survey's home page is a cheery entrance to the land at the bottom of the world.

Since I returned to Boise from the Bayarea, the only traveling I've done is on vacation, which has been a nice change of pace for 9 months. But when one of my colleagues reported back from his visit to the Embedded Systems conference that he'd got to hear Murray Gell-Mann's keynote address, I confess being a bit jealous.

Maybe if I find the time to read The Quark and the Jaguar, Adventures in the Simple and the Complex, I'll feel better about it.

Lots of other interesting stuff on embedded.com, like the idea of using population biology statistical techniques for software bug fishing, speculation on a new assembler directive, Jump Zero and Explode, and a student project to make a fuel-efficient SUV.

A new paradigm (no, really!) of response to stress, from the distaff side: "tend or befriend".

How serious an accusation of wrongdoing in the Florida presidential election of 2000 would it take to capture the public's interest at this point? Wrongfully (but legally) excluding ex-felons from voting probably won't do it. Wrongfully and illegally excluding innocent people due to bureaucratic malfeaseance probably won't either, even if their numbers are 10 times that of Bush's margin of "victory."

18.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

While searching around the sailing speed record space yesterday, I came across the "Dynawing" website, and dropped them a note. I got a quick reply and a pointer to The History of Double Surfaced, Soft Wing Sail in the sport of windsurfing. It's an interesting read, although some of the technical bits get a bit sketchy, like sailing straight into the wind.

There have been amazing and wonderful developments in sailing technology in the past couple decades, familiar to many in the sport, but well below the popular radar. I got to talking with a friend about sailing last week, and he said he hadn't done it for many years because "there's no place to sail around here." Readers of my seasonal windsurfing index know that's not so, but when I mentioned windsurfing, he acted like that was some different sort of undertaking. I assured him (from the point of view of someone who's done plenty of both kinds), that it was more like sailing than boat sailing, but he didn't consider my observation at all seriously. Funny, that.

60 Minutes had a segment on nuclear waste last Sunday. I guess that's what it was on, I was distracted by mention of our state's own Pit 9, with a quick flash of the famous still photograph showing a truckload of 55-gallon drums being slid into the pit. "Let's see, how should we deal with this radioactive waste?" "I know; let's put it in cardboard boxes and steel drums and dump into shallow, unlined trenches out in the desert." That's how things were in the 50s and 60s.

Now the state wants the Feds to clean things up, but the Feds are slipping, and they're supposed to be busy shipping waste from all over the country to Yucca Mountain very soon. Let's hope things go well.

17.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, this little ditty from a friend who's going by "Anon." for the moment.

Votin' Green

(Adapted from "Bein' Green" by Joe Raposo)

It's not that easy votin' green
Having to ponder each day the color of money
When I think it could be nicer votin' red or yellow or gold
But never something that lacks color like ... white

It's not easy votin' green
It seems you merge with so many other ordinary things
And corporate board members tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not returnin' those flashy pre-paid envelopes that lay in a heap
Like so many pies in the sky

But green is the color of Solidarity
And green can be cool and What-If-Like
And green can be vast like the sea
Or important like a mountain
Or tall like a tree, even if you're
Out of work, like me

When green is all there's left to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder, why wonder?
I am green and it'll do fine
It's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be

And green can be big like an Executive's Salary
Or important like a mountain that has a name
Or tall like a tree with a job and a purpose

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why
But why wonder, why wonder?
We are green and it'll do just fine
It's beautiful, not indifferent
And I think it's what we all should be

In case that's all too obtuse for you, it has to do with the color of proxy cards for the big vote, two days from now. The NY Times' Steve Lohr has a good background piece in today's paper, in case you've been on a deserted island for the past 4 months. The paper also had a rerun of the two-page ad from HP, "What if We'd Stopped Here?" facing a photograph of a deliberately antiqued audio oscillator. That product was once the touchstone of the legend of Bill and Dave, the product that got Walt Disney Studio's attention for helping with the sound track of Fantasia. Now it's apparently an expendable bit of marketing paraphernalia in the $100 million+ campaign.

The team that holds the sailing speed record with Yellow Pages Endeavor is after a new mark - 50 knots. (That's on liquid water; it's 145 mph on ice, 116.7mph for landsailing, according to SailNet News.) A story in this Sunday's NY Times suggests he's getting close, but then they were saying that in 1998 and last year, too. If anyone can do it, Lindsay Cunningham and his sailors can. It's all a matter of time, money and control.

More options news in the paper, too, but this one doesn't show up on their search radar, or an email digest. The corporations that have the most invested in options compensation are banding together to lobby for no new laws. Jefferey Applegate, investment strategist at Lehman Brothers says "we think the time is right for" the FASB to re-examine the issue of accounting for employee options grants as expenses, that would make Congress' action on new law moot. Lehman Bros. has a long report out on the subject, with a 14-page table of companies' stock compensation expense in dollars and as a percent of operating income, for 1998-2000.

Yahoo! swept the category for 2000, with $4.6 billion of stock compensation expense, more than 15 times their operating income, and more than double the outlay of either Microsoft or Cisco, the other big hitters. Microsoft's $1.9 billion was 17% of their 2000 operating income, Cisco's $1.8 bil was 40% of their operating income.

The Ides Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not just the top brass in on this options repricing scheme. More rank and file holders are also being offered the deal to cancel existing options in exchange for repriced ones, six months and a day later, to skirt tax law. As the Floyd Norris details in the NY Times, this amounts to the company estimating that its share price is going nowhere (other than down) for a half a year or more. "When accounting rules lead companies to do dumb things, that is an argument for changing the accounting."

(This story was brought to my attention by my first digest of the NYT's "News Tracker" service that I signed up for yesterday, on the subject of "Stock Options and Purchase Plans." Interesting idea.)

Speaking of the Ides, I'd stumbled across the fact that it's the 15th of March, May, July and October and the 13th of the other months without ever hearing the rest of the story. Infoplease provides some of the missing details of the Roman calendar and its inventor's "penchant for complexity." It does not explain how "the remaining, unnamed days of the month [which] were identified by counting backwards from the Kalends [the 1st], Nones [the 7th or 5th, month pattern as for the Ides], or the Ides" could possibly designate days in the 2nd half of the month.

Another page, about the Roman calendar, tosses in a superstition about even numbers, and the origin of the replacement (and current), Julian calendar, some 2000+ years ago, kicked off with a 445 day year.

14.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not many people get excited about operating systems, so a rave review of OS X is something for the True Believer. That it's in Linux Journal is a remarkable thing. It sounds like it's finally an O/S for the rest of me. Just need some hardware for it...

Little bit of a snow shower for my bike ride home today, under a mostly blue sky and evening sunshine. March is when our weather is most decidely un-boring. We had lots of rain this week, live is returning and spring is coming. Crocuses are out.

Reading about the Panopticon and Cory Doctorow talking about how well search works these days provided a ready answer to the nagging question, "why weblog?" So that the democracy of our linking can make Google work.

The price of our liberty from marketing-controlled hierarchies is still eternal vigilance, of course, as this page illustrates, examining The Church of Scientology's attempts to game the system.

13.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Guru of the zero-billion dollar market speaks on permission marketing an' stuff. "...I will gladly permit the businesses my mobile carrier signs up with to know everything about me. I insist they know everything about me."

The longing for the corner store where the owner knows just what you want, expanded to the corporate universe. You want the whole world to know everything about you? Wow, be careful what you wish for.

In the history of fractured quotes files, we find Petronius Arbiter, time traveler.

Bill Parish points out that ISS, the most prominent backer of the HP-Compaq merger, has a vested interest in the result. (Not everybody's wild about Parish and his favorite issue, though, as noted in this two+ year-old article on the source.)

Meanwhile, just the corporate side of the merger election looks to cost $147 per voter. I've got a stack of marketing materials and proxy cards 3" high, with new arrivals by express courier every day. It would be exciting if it weren't such a ridiculous waste.

11.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A report in Science Magazine about a new go at "desktop fusion." The magazine's editor writes about the decision of whether "To Publish or Not to Publish."

Was Celera perhaps repacking research on the human genome, rather than pushing the frontier? This abstract from Science teases. Subscription required to get the full text, let me know how it turns out.

Science educators study the half-life of science education URLs. Looks like it's between 4 and 5 years, which is actually longer than I would have expected. With a good search engine and a steady influx of new content, does it matter? Of course, it's the quality of the content that matters; the best of what's available seems to be getting better from where I sit. URLs are easier to study, but what we should care about is the half-life of science knowledge.

The three courses referenced at the end of the (short) article lead into very nicely presented courses in biochemistry.

Forecasts for the next 60 years in business, like:
2010: Info-fasting becomes global craze.
2020: Anti-discrimination laws against synthetic workers.

When web-rage strikes, head for a Moment of Simplicity. Uses Flash, though, so if that makes you mad, don't go there.

9.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just when you thought you were living in a placid green universe, you find out that it was only a mistake in the software: the universe is really pale beige. Or is it blue? The three colors they offer up for varying white points bear no resemblance to what they called "turquoise," shown last month. My notion of turquoise is bluer than that, more like the new blue, "illuminant A," corrected for indoor lighting.

Ah, indoor lighting? That doesn't seem right for external viewing of our universe, but I suppose that our universe could be in a room with a bunch of other ones. (Cue "From a Distance," eh?) No, I'm going to go with illuminant E, adjusted for equal energy white point, and with gamma 2.2, and call it a background for my blog. I sent in my suggestion for naming it, too: "eggshell." (Jeanette notes that for those who believe in "something beyond," they can infer a supra-cosmic egg-layer.)

Another one of those "forwarded email" sorts of stories, but this one with a different ending: Kent M. Keith has gained fame by being recognized as the owner of the teen-aged wisdom of the Paradoxical Commandments. The front page story in Friday's New York Times, complete with his photo, was charming, and reminded me of my perspective on the "World as 100 People."

Axis of Venality

Yet another awkward disclosure in the Enron-Washington business, this time with the secretary of the Army having -- oops! -- retained 665,000 Enron options after he was supposed to have gotten rid of them. If they were exercisable, the biggest problem would seem to be the error in judgment in not doing so, as they're useless for all but wallpaper now. But then Thomas E. White says there "were no accounting irregularities that I was aware of" at Enron's Energy Services division that he headed.

Mother Jones provides a web-watch on the revision of White's history on the Army's web. The now out-of-date version fills in the blanks about Mr. Secretary's push to privatize utilities at army installations. Just business as usual.

One of the convenient excuses of the current administration is that much of the malfeasance occurred under the last administration's watch. True enough, but Paul Begala, writing on democrats.com, points out that there were a few efforts at reform stymied by the Republicans.

Our own Congressman, "Butch," is sending out form letters to constituents who write with concerns about Enron and the Veep's tête à têtes, including this touching display of faith in the system: "While the courts will decide the complex issue of executive privilege, I am absolutely certain that Vice President Cheney is innocent of both wrongdoing and condoning wrongdoing in others."

Speaking of business as usual, we have our Senator, Larry Craig, pulling strings to get rid of Martha Hahn, the head of the state BLM office. Grazing, ORV and mining interests are feeling their oats under the Bush administration.

Here the act of putting caribou calving areas on a map can get you sacked. Nothing must stand in the way of progress. As the Guardian puts it with some amazement, "on the evidence of its environmental policies to date, this administration is not merely pro-business; it actually appears to hold a grudge against the natural world." We've seen another year of work since that article.

Hawatha Bray, in the Boston Globe writes about Fritz Hollings' Security Systems Standards and Certification Act:

Read it and gasp: ''It is unlawful to manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide or otherwise traffic in any interactive digital device that does not include and utilize certified security technologies.''

The University of Notre Dame brings us a collection of mind-boggling images of self-organized networks. Most are 'net related, although the first one on the list was of protein interactions when I looked. The skitter diagrams are wonderful, amazing, insufficiently captioned. I liked the two of the "hierachical topology of the international web cache" in particular. Not bad for a page that hasn't been updated in over a year and a half!

7.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The front came through today, with a snow shower to put the (literal) icing on the (figurative) cake. I was happy, because the warm SE wind before the storm and the cold NW wind after it gave me a tailwind on both legs of my commute. More snow in the mountains, as needed.

John Perry Barlow, up to date on "the crime of sharing," in New Architect (formerly Web Techniques) magazine: "(J)ust as sharing makes us civilized, it's sharing that makes civilization. It lets us build a great collective work from the exchange of stories, myths, songs, poems, facts, jokes, beliefs, scientific discoveries, elegant engineering hacks, and all of the other products of human thought and discourse."

Dan Gillmor says HP losing its Way is "just the tip of the iceberg." Our brave new era doesn't value "innovation, honest hard work and concern beyond one's own immediate sphere" the way it once did.

Here's another good response to Brock's confessional, from Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker. (Thanks once again to the better-read-than-I John "Quill" Taylor for the pointer.) If, as Hetrzberg says, Buckley "embraced" Brock's book, "The Real Anita Hill," it throws his criticism of Rich in a new light. (Hmm, that could be complicated if you're not following along, eh? Rich's article referenced on the 2nd, Buckley's on the 3rd.)

The snippet on the conservative view of "evil" is also interesting: "the lefties, the takers, the coercive utopians." Not sure how to connect the dots around to W's triangular Axis, but the simplest inference is that the opposition is evil. That's what we miss so much about the Soviet Union, after all, an enemy we can all agree on.

What I don't quite understand is why Anita Hill hasn't sued Brock for libel... but then I haven't read either of his books, so I don't know how actionable they are. And now that I've read Hertzberg's review, I don't feel the need to, either. I like that in a review.

Write the Web gets after one of the guys at Userland about the newest bloggish notion, "k-logs." We're undoubtedly supposed to pronounce this as "kay-log," rather than the unlovely "clog." (But if the idea is half as keen as Robb supposes, we'll all be raving about klogs Real Soon Now.) The notion that this is the next breakthrough the corporate world is waiting for without really knowing it is rather charming.

"People publish into K-Logs what they are doing often on an hourly basis," Robb says, and this advances the state of the art for the seasoned professionals as well as the new hires. That's a big humm, eh? Some of my hours are productive and worth commenting on. Some are not, and to tell you the truth, I don't want to be confronted with my coworkers' accounts of their semi-productive hours. I do wish some of them were better at documenting what they do, and see, and infer, but the path to getting them to do that is considerably more than "start-up in less than five minutes" that Robb imagines Userland's tools provide. No one on the staff can even explain their products in 5 minutes, let alone get a newcomer to start them up in 10 times that allotment.

6.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's Jim Hopper day in Boise, by proclamation of the mayor. Boise State University and The Treasure Valley Concert Band put on a free show, a "Homegrown Concert" celebrating the life of Jimmy Hopper, a musician, teacher and wonderful guy. The highlight for me was the clarinet "soloists" playing Carl von Weber's Concertino for Clarinet, together.

21 of Jimmy's former students came, and joined TVCB's 13 more, and they gave voice to the meaning of teaching, of spreading joy through the world.

And it rained this evening, a good, deep, steady rain, such as we haven't seen in more than a month. It's about time.

5.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Andrew Orlowski's Back in the Bloghouse is an entertaining romp in blogland, a bit more thoughtful look than average. It gave me reason to go back and check my own response to the Cluetrain Manifesto, This Train is Bound for Glory. I'm happy to say that it seems to be holding up well enough. Many respondants don't seem to have gone to the trouble of reading the whole book, perhaps put off by the "manifesto" opening (as I was). It might make for a more interesting discussion if they did.

I must be a wanna be blog big-leaguer, because I link to Doc and Dave, too, but Doc (or "the Doc," as Andrew says) delights with assemblages like this, Heinlein, Levy, Shakespeare. "Eisner and his copyright-holding counterparts, drinking deep from the fountain of fear, seem to have adopted a new motto: overcharge and disable." (That's Levy, not Doc.) And then from John Perry Barlow, "Aerial bombardment is clearly a one-to-many, half-duplex medium, offering the bomber a commanding position over his 'market' and terrific economies of scale." The Cluetrain just keeps comin' atcha. (I popped links in the background off Doc's site until Opera complained that my system was running low on resources... bedtime might come before I finish them all.)

Thinking of bombardiers in the corporate vanguard somehow made me think of what passed for a call to bravery and nationalism these days in the new world: onward to ever greater consumption.

Somewhere inside Austin city limits, there's this Bruce Sterling guy, doing a great riff on the whole scene. (Can he keep that up, I wonder?) "Information Wants to Be Worthless"

Stopping in at a Stanford website to look at a course abstract (on bioinformatics, if you must know), I noticed this little decorative element in a sidebar, under the heading "Did You Know?": "The greatest thing about my education at Stanford was without question the caliber of the professors." - Carol Presley, MS'90. Coincidentally, I collected an MS there that same year, except the greatest thing about my education at Stanford was without question the caliber of my fellow students. Go figure. I'm not saying I had some good and great professors (or some not so great), but the people that I worked with and against (in a positive spirit of competition) were more impressive as a whole.

I heard about the Tugboat sequence at work today, from a blog-unaware friend. And then somebody (Doc?) sent me to the very site.

3.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Thanks to JQT (once again) for the anodyne to the Frank Rich article I mentioned yesterday: Wm. F. Buckley Jr. in the National Review. Buckley's point, as I understand it, is that Rich is merely playing on all the tawdry scandal invented and/or exposed by Brock, and shame on him for it. He manages to repeat all of the good stuff while wagging his finger at Rich, and seems not to have enjoyed the barbs aimed at de Borchgrave and Bennett the way I did. Professional courtesy, I suppose?

Well, we respect Buckley, even when we can't abide him. And it's probably a good thing to hold criticism to a high standard, even after the parties in question have used up a lifetime of doubt benefits.

Jeanette put one and one together out of Rich's piece and the Magazine's feature story last week, Girls Just Want to be Mean. The lies, libel and closet gymnastics in Washington sound more like Mean Girls than alpha males. The Clinton years had a certain back-to-high-school quality about them. Things may be temporarily behind us, as Buckley slyly opines, but the legacy of Fox News is not likely to go as quietly.

Another Buckley piece worthy of note, The Gorilla in Us. "We spend more than the next nine largest national-defense budgets combined." (An editorial in today's NYT says that "the US will soon be spending more on defense than all the other countries of the world combined" if the administration gets its way.

And amusing in its own way, but not nearly as clever, is editor Jonah Goldberg's complain that Aaron Sorkin is Lying when he says The West Wing is fictional. Even Goldberg admits that it's smart, but he thinks it's just a little too similar to what's really happening, or has happened, or Sorkin wishes had happened. Hmm, now which part of "fiction" is it that you don't understand, Jonah? The complaint seems to be that Sorkin's reporting isn't as accurate as it should be.

When she got to "nothing will be transcribed," I had this flash of the song "The Revolution will not be Televised." I would say that indeed it has not been. (Which is not to say that television doesn't keep going in the meantime.)

That was after I busted out laughing at the parallel to Lord of the Rings in Maureen's Sunday column.

On a more sobering front, we have the Gallop poll mentioned by Thomas Friedman, "61 percent of Muslims believe that Arabs were not involved in the 9/11 attack." Not a good context for launching a disinformation campaign.

These nice people are happy to have had their yacht's flag taken for an historic purpose. Now they're just asking for a suitable tax deduction, please. Is it just me, or is this tacky beyond belief? It seems like people with 130 foot yachts should be quietly gracious.

2.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here's one of those "local boy makes good" stories, except this one is our boy, making a new city and defending the public.

I'm accustomed to reading Frank Rich's columns in the NY Times (online), but I found out this week that he really cuts loose in a longer piece. "Ding Dong, the Cultural Witch Hunt is Dead" in last Sunday's Magazine was good news, artfully delivered. I won't quote them because the context is so much of the effect, but watch for the capsule phrases describing Arnaud de Borchgrave and William Bennett.

Amazingly enough, I remember writing a column in the Idaho Argonaut about de Borchgrave's antics in the early 80s, when he was teaming up with our senator Jim McClure to try to squelch Mother Jones magazine. I might even have a copy somewhere... anyway, I ended the undesignated "part 1" with the sarcastic flourish that we really needed to abolish the free press. The letters in response taught me something about the boundaries of sarcasm; my favorite started with something like "I don't know if he's serious or not, but..." and went on to refute my irony, point-by-point. The next column started, "Now that I've got your attention..."

Also in that paper, on the Op-Ed page, Mark Lilla describes how "evil" isn't what it used to be, in his New Rules of Political Rhetoric. The conversation is no longer with ruling elites, but rather with unruly mobs.

Krugman on two thousand acres (and a mule?): "Deceptive advertising pervades the administration's effort to sell the nation on its drill-and-burn energy strategy. In fact, those of us following this issue can't see why people made such a fuss about the Pentagon's plan to disseminate false information. How would that differ from current policy?"

He's on the mark to wonder how long we'll be able to read the USGS' direct information about oil reserves in the Arctic (and anything else of controversial substance). Just say "National Security," and secrecy and deception are apparently fair game.

It's not clear what they're trusting about (improved test scores?), but in Utah schools, In God They Trust.

1.Mar.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Taking airport searches to the next level. No doubt America West is going to fall all over itself trying to make this debacle right, but in the meantime, the idiotic scene will be repeated hundreds more times, with people who don't have any particular claim to fame, and who aren't retired Generals.

Beauty and the Beast: the beast in this instance is Clostridium botulinum, the manufacturer of botulinum toxin, a.k.a. Botox. Commercial poison that you have to keep going back for more of, and it also happens to be a potential munition. Lovely.

One of the former RR bridges converted to the Greenbelt system

1000+ electron micrographs, from the Free University of Brussels, narration in your choice of (2) languages. Detail views of things like fish louse suckers and pubic lice. "Things that make you go 'ewwwww'." Just one little (figurative) nit - they don't seem to have any dimensional information in the captions or on the images, perhaps because they're being presented as art? But there's so much information, too, and leaving off the scale seems like a mistake.

Here it is the start of the new month, and I always feel a little bad about replacing weeks' worth of stories and pictures with the scant offering of a single day. But this is a periodical, after all, and I told the ISSN folks that it's a monthly. If there's not enough here, follow the "raveling" link, below, and wind up the skein of history. March will have more, soon enough.

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 01-Apr-2002 21:59:58 MST
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200203.html