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"(Almost) everybody loves a winner" is the message from this study of voters. It's a tendency that complements "sour grapes": "Events that are perceived as more likely come to be seen as more desirable." Personally, I doubt I would have favored George Bush even if I'd been convinced he was going to win by a landslide. I knew he would win Idaho's electoral votes, for example, but I still voted against him.
Speaking of voting, it's time for Idaho's partisan primary. You have to pick one of the three parties -- Dem, Rep, Lib -- to vote for, and confine yourself to the party races and the "non-partisan" judges on the white pages. Those old punch cards are good enough for us Idahoans, and I carefully collected all the chad from my absentee ballot to make sure none were left hanging.
It was tempting to cross over to vote against Jim Risch in the crowded race for Lt. Governor, but I stuck with my party. Word is, that when Mr. Otter went to Washington and the Gov. picked Jack Riggs over Risch to succeed him, Jim was so peeved that he did all he could to screw things up for Dirk. I don't know what all that might have entailed, but you don't need to look all that hard to find misbehavior from Risch in his quest to be bigger than he is. Let's hope the Republicans can agree that it's time for Jim to sit one out.
Oops dept.: Microsoft lobbies the DOD to stop using that evil Open Source software, and so they look into the matter. The Washington Post reports that "a May 10 report prepared for the Defense Department concluded that open source often results in more secure, less expensive applications and that, if anything, its use should be expanded."
That stinky CARP was tossed back; Internet radio lives! Librarians have always been my friend. Doc Searls reminds us that DMCA is still very much alive and kicking, however.
One of our favorite spring pastimes is helping a few of our spruce buds out of their spruce bud caps. Thousands of buds are pushing out against the brown, papery layered membranes and aching to get free. They all do without any help, of course, but it's fun to undress a few early, and enjoy the buds at their most voluptuous.
Jamie Kellner is making news again with his schtick about how skipping commercials is stealing. If the technology makes it really, really easy to skip over them, is that different than if it's not so easy, as with our VCR, which we have to manually FFwd (and sometimes overshoot, backup, whoop!, etc.)?
Hey, it's a challenge. You want my attention? Make a good commercial, I'll watch it. (Even better, make a good product that I need, and I'll buy it.)
Went through the paces of modern medicine today, getting some X-rays for my shoulder that's been puny and in physical therapy for a couple months. St. Luke's factory at Eagle and I-84 is an impressive piece of technology, but parts of the process are still some years behind. The only medical provider I seem to get to more than once in a blue moon is the (also St. Luke's) in-house clinic on site where I work, and every one of them has to collect information about me: name, insurance rank, serial number, and so on. They all put it into computers. Haven't they heard of computer networks? There's an army of clerks at the factory, and their input processing is probably as good as any (rather than fill out a paper form, I got 20 questions "live," as a gal filled in the database on her terminal), but they're not adding value. "Don't you already have this from the other St. Lukes clinic?" I asked, gratuitously. "Apparently not."
The X-ray order had been written out on a printed form, with the instruction to "fax the results" back to the originating doctor. The original film will go into some vault somewhere for 5 or 10 years, then be discarded, I suppose. What if they digitized the thing, put it in their database and emailed me and the doctor a URL to it? What if I had all my medical records from the last 10 or 20 or 46 years in a convenient portable storage medium, and I could just plug it in to some new clinic's computer system when they needed it, collect the new information, and maintain my own medical records? No one cares about them as much as I do, and when I go in for a service call, they'd be all together, and available for the doctor and me to go over together.
I will say that the people seemed nice enough, and as visits to the hospital go, it wasn't a bad one. (I haven't seen the bill yet, of course.) The X-ray technicians introduced themselves to me, and made me comfortable while they worked off some of the debt involved in an impressive gantry-mounted, state-of-the art medical imaging system. And I was in and out in under 45 minutes, with no appointment.
Fifth time's the charm: Spokane Valley is going to be a city. The campaign director's our boy. :-) He tells us this is the 2nd largest incorporation ever in the U.S.
888 5OPTOUT: An automated interface to opt-out (for 2 years, or permanently) from pre-approved credit offers from companies that use Equifax, Experian (formerly TRW), Trans Union or (didn't catch the name) credit reporting agencies. Such offers are worse than plain junkmail, possible openings for identity theft.
Thanks to Fact Sheet 17(a) at privacyrights.org, "Identity Theft: What to Do if It Happens To You." Their list of fact sheets is pretty impressive.
Volkswagen's 1 liter car: the 299cc diesel single is said to go 100 km on a liter of diesel fuel. That's 235 mpg. It looks like a beautiful piece of engineering.
Popular Mechanics has a nice story about the technology in the Prius. The more I learn about this, the more I like it. The Yahoo group that mentioned the article also picked a few nits: the timing of inlet valve opening/closing is changed, not the duration; the traction battery is 38 modules of 6 cells ea., for 228 total; the AC condenser and engine radiator are combined into one unit, not seperate. The small radiator in front is for inverter.
Now there's another one of those Cascades volcanoes bulging.
Remember when your childhood buddies would flick their fingers at your face, and say "think fast!" The amusement value was not necessary shared, but the trick always worked, thanks to your magnocellular neural pathway.
The whiz kids at Berkely are putting this observation to good use, with radar-triggered lighting for the back of buses (to start!), that "detects that a car is too close, approaching too rapidly, or both, (and) trigger(s) the light bar warning system." The rapid-response LEDs light up in a pattern that makes them appear to come at you, encouraging your brain to get a clue before you hit the bus.
Got one of those "forwarded around the world" emails at work today, "A Wonderful Message from George Carlin." Since it hardly sounded like anything he would write, I took a minute to check it out, and his response to it was more entertaining than the original. "I hope I never sound like that" was the punchline of his less G-rated diatribe.
You can find the "original" on hundreds of websites near you, if you really care to. We need a name for this phenomenon of email forwarded philosophy.... One of the parasite meme hosts captures credulity ever so sweetly:
Isn't it amazing that the George Carlin - gross and mouthy comedian of the 70's and 80's...could write something so very eloquent... and so very appropriate post 9/11. He is a genius at writing about the ironies and contradictions in our society.
DOT sez: Nail clippers and safety razors are in, baseball bats still out. For our trip to Portland, we found out that Boise is still having everyone take off their shoes, but at least we didn't get taken aside this time. (After my wife doffed her sandals, and got the wand treatment, the guard had a look at the bottom of her feet, no less.)
In the Portland check-through, one gal was calling out to the serpentined travellers, "take off your jackets and put them through the X-ray." I left my suit jacket on, thank you, and no one nagged me about it. The message is that if you look important, you must be OK?
Signs of the new HP.
"I think when I started this project I was still very interested in saying, 'What will other people think?' After a while I realized, 'Why am I really doing this? Is it really worth my while to spend 10 years of my life doing something to get other people to say positive things about it?' No, it's not. Absolutely not. And actually, from some very cynical point of view, my opinion of the world at large isn't high enough for me really to be interested in what they have to say."
-- from Steven Levy's generous story about Steven Wolfram in Wired, "The Man Who Cracked The Code to Everything." The book may take 5 or 10 years to catch on... maybe a second edition and an editor will speed things along. It has piqued my interest, maybe for the summer reading list.
The trailing link in the story to "Rule 30" had some unintended (?) irony when I viewed it today. It says "One might expect that a simple rule would lead to a consistent order in the entire output, but the eventual result is still fantastically complex (right)." The previous sentence had talked about the right and left sides of a cellular automaton, but there was no referent for "right" here, other than a skyscraper ad for Inc magazine. I'm sure it looked fantastic in the print edition.
If a modern day Rip Van Winkle were to waken and stumble into the once-staid midwest, I don't think he'd recognize the place. What would he make of a "riverboat" moored "in a large puddle filled from fire hydrants"? The New York Times reports on the boom: "86 commercial casinos in six states and 87 American Indian operations."
I was hoping Alan Arnette was one of the 54 people crowding the summit of Mt. Everest on May 16th, but alas, he didn't make it. This is one weblog which would be better off in forward chronological order; I took the trouble to read the entries from April 30th through today that way, not wanting to know the ending first.
The many different voices made it a bit confusing, but also more exciting... I wonder if Alan and Cathy will rework it after he gets back and can polish it up a bit, with more detailed pictures.
President Cheney continues to work to strengthen the Presidency after 30 years of "continual encroachment." I suppose the majority of the electorate are happy to have the father figure? The "war" we're waging seems to justify an awful lot.
Haven't networked about our Prius all that much, but there are at least 3 in our church (highest per capita, I suspect), and more than that at work. John's stuff looks pretty interesting, though. And there's 30,000 or so messages on the Yahoo group.
Twenty-two years ago today, Mt. St. Helens blew up, and cloud of ash rose miles into the air and settled down over eastern Washington and northern Idaho. My hitchhiking trip from Moscow, Idaho, to Anacortes Washington, to go on a sailing trip ended up taking almost two full days, with an overnight stay in Ellensburg in a church with a hundred or so other refugees who had been forced off the Interstate highway "for their own good." A few miles into the mountains from Ellensburg, it was ash-free, but the people who felt the need to be in charge didn't figure that out, they were making it all up as they went along. "We don't know what's happening, get off the highway!"
My ride to Ellensburg, a nice guy with a brand new RX-7, had already proceeded under the ash cloud (I watched lightning in the ash through his sun roof, before it had billowed down to ground level), into the ash as noon became blacker than night and we passed Vantage, as it collected 4 to 6 inches. We didn't know if it would be pitch black like this for hours, or days. In the middle of the afternoon, it lightened to an unworldly gray, before a second cloud came through and turned it black again. There was a hopeful bit of sunset color before night.
This week we flew over the Columbia, between Mt. Hood, Mt Adams and Mt. St. Helens, on our way to Tigard, Oregon, for the funeral of my cousin-in-law, Delos Dutton. "Dee" trained to be a smokejumper in 1951, and he was still going strong when a stroke felled him out on the Columbia River, his last salmon in the net. He was a fine man, and he'll be missed by his family and friends.
The Bush administration thinks testing children is the way to educational greatness. Unless of course we're talking about testing for lead poisoning. The American Prospect gives the headline: Let them eat lead...
While we were traveling, the story about the administration having had notice of a terrorist threat before 9/11 was all over. How bizarre is that? I'm no fan of G.W.B., but what good is going to come from second-guessing our preparations for an unexpected attack? The Oregonian's below-the-fold "analysis" under the "Hijack Warning Downplayed" story was headed "Bush faces first major challenge to his credibility." Where have these people been? Bush has some credibility throwing our military might around, but as for "homeland security," he seems more intent on delivering for the rich and powerful than for the country as a whole.
What is more fundamental to security than not poisoning our children?
Just a few days of shooting pictures, and I've got way too many that I'd like to share. I sent my second submission off to the mirror project, which just gets more and more interesting all the time. The photo to the left is a little different crop than what I sent in. The shot above is of the Chrysanthemum window in the Chinese Garden in downtown Portland.
Here I thought there was something deviously clever about those "round trip trades." They were certainly devious, but the Financial Times reports that in many cases, "power was simultaneously bought and sold with the same counterparty at the same time and price." That from CMS Energy, mentioned (but not featured) in the May 13th NY Times story as playing with Reliant in fake trades. 80% of its volume was bogus.
Regulators wonder if a "free market" in electricity can ever work. We have good evidence that a regulated market can work very nicely. So why screw it up? Well, those sharp-pencilled folks who can make the millions by sloshing the billions can afford good lobbyists, Congressmen and Executives.
I don't really like the Financial Times. Their print is too small and unresizeable, and they push way too many cookies my way. Then there was this story, under the headline "HP faces antitrust probe of European market" in which we learn that the European competition commissioner announced a detailed probe of "whether manufacturers use illegal tactics to force consumers to buy own-brand cartridges instead of cheaper versions made by rivals." Seven paragraphs in, we read that Mr. Monti did not name any companies. Of course HP will be one, as will Lexmark, Canon and Epson.
There's a big market for "refillers" who can leverage the engineering and the quality margin provided by the big companies, and sell refurbished product at their own tidy margin. I've got a neighbor who has a little garage thing going doing that. The buyer is so happy with the bargain, when they run into the end of life, they don't blame the refiller, I suppose.
The whole idea of "consumers angry at the high cost of cartridges" in the deflationary computer business is amazing to behold. At least for the inkjet cartridges, there have been home refill kits around since almost forever. That approach at least puts the responsibility for quality at the consumer end; refill as much as you like, and if the printer breaks, fix or replace it as you see fit.
Disclaimer: I work for HP, but not in printing and imaging. I'm a printer consumer, too. This site is mine, of course, not theirs.
Time to start over with science? Stephen Wolfram thinks so, with his 1,200 page, self-published picture book hitting the streets. Having earned a Ph.D. at 20, and started a software company all scientists know about, it's probably worth a look even without the peer review.
It's my blog's 2nd birthday. Woo hoo!
The Uncle Fester reference in a review of Apple's "Jagwyre" got me to chuckling. The O/S sounds nice, too.
Speaking of Apple, here's a novel response to a copy protected CD: hold on, never let go, and don't boot up. That'll teach 'em!
Just when you thought it was safe to keep your head down and stay in your cubical: a study that there are more germs on your average desk than on your average toilet seat. Ewwww. "The finding that desktops contained more bacteria than the average toilet seat didn't surprise Gerba. In most homes, toilet seats have fewer bacteria than kitchen counters, he said." The next sentence probably should have been in parenthesis, but the dry humor of it still struck me: "In the study, researchers were referring to the top of toilet seats."
Yahoo's patting itself on the back (I guess; that's the way the NY Times story sounded to me) for the storm about its new spam-friendly policy blowing over. Not so many people quit in disgust, and not so many said "no thanks" to getting a new wave of spam courtesy of Yahoo. Maybe they couldn't sort out the alerts they were sent from the mountains of garbage surrounding them? I unchecked all those "send me lots of crap" boxes and I can only imagine that those who didn't bother weren't able to figure out what the "offer" was.
If you're a Yahoo member and overlooked making the changes, look forward to special offers from selected 3rd parties and Yahoo! and lovely marketing communications such asn ew Yahoo! features and events, special offers, online sales, and shopping tips on Yahoo!, travel specials and exclusive deals, managing personal finances, entertainment, games, and sports, finding a job or an employee, meeting someone special or a new friend, staying in touch with friends and participating in online communities, managing my time and contacts, using Yahoo! for research and surfing the Web, building web sites for personal or professional use, ways to sell things on Yahoo! and tools for growing and managing a business. Yum.
Reliant Resources was faking it, too, working up round-robin wash trades with Xcel Energy and CMS Energy. In the NY Times story, Neela Banerjee writes that "the news of the trades unsettled a market already skeptical about the integrity of the power trading sector." Yeah, skeptical about the integrity... let's just say that "power trading sector integrity" would be a clichéd oxymoron if it were just a tad mellifluous.
Butch Otter's "America's Wilderness Protection Act" passes all the tests for federal legislation originating in Idaho. It's got "America" in the title, it does exactly the opposite of what you'd first guess from the title, and it's an act, grandstanding for the Rabid Right back home. The proposal is to start a 10 year clock, and when the time's up, any of the Wilderness Study Areas that haven't been decided will be opened up to multiple abuse. Of course, that bastion liberalism, the Idaho Statesman thinks it's a bad idea. Let's hope they're right that the rest of Congress will, too.
Otter's co-sponsor from Utah, Jim Hansen tried this thing last Congress, (under the same title, no less) and it didn't fly. Idaho's former senator Jim McClure tried to get "hard release" language passed during his time, too. The goal seems to be as banal as ever: motorized recreation access to pristine wildlands. Given the way SUVs are selling, it wouldn't surprise me for the mainstream to finally catch up with Otter and his merry band of Sagebrush Rebels.
Nice reply from Randy Cohen from yesterday's email; he agreed that the country's demonization of pain-killers is -- my expression, not his -- overkill, and that some other example would have been better.
Solid state lighting: even cooler than fluorescents, and easier to spell. Includes a list of review articles in the past couple years. (If we called fluorescents "plasma state lighting," would we like them more?)
A friend passed on this link to "Some features you may need on your computer" in email. It had us laughin' out loud, fer sure. It starts slow, but picks up steam.
The Sky view cafe is a wonderful and effective mapping program for the night sky, yours for a short (or not so short) Java applet download. I was wowed viewing it from my T-3 connection with MSIE: instant view of what's where in my local night sky, tonight, any night. I'm even more delighted to see that it all works (and reasonably fast) in Opera v6.01 as well.
With 5 planets lined up out there for the viewing, it's a great time to check it out. We saw them Saturday night with no moon in the way.
Happy Mothers' Day!
It typically takes me more than a week to read the Sunday NY Times (which is a polite way of saying that I never manage to read it all), and their website hides URLs behind a for-pay interface after 7 days. Of course, you have to register (for free) to get most anything out of them at any time, but I accepted that obligation a long time ago. It's been worth it, over all.
But "finishing" last week's paper before starting the new one, if I find something interesting, how do I blog it? Not to worry, at least in the realm of meta-blog commentary, a Google search for the right keywords ("blogosphere" and "Shulevitz" in this case) turns up ample writers who exposed the link on time. Nothing winds up bloggers like an article about blogging in a traditional medium.
I liked Shulevitz' summarizing phrase, explaining what a weblog is: "an on-line news commentary written, usually, by an ordinary citizen, thick with links to articles and other blogs and studded with non sequiturs and ripostes in sometimes hard-to-parse squabbles." She mentions nitpicking, too, and one of the people commenting on her article, also quoted the nit-picker who was unhappy that she failed to learn and attribute the source of that headline keyword, Blogosphere. She parenthetically noted that it was "the bloggers' term of choice," which was news to me; I'd never seen the term before. It's nice enough, but Quick's complaint that big media pundits should track down his accomplishment is, I'm sorry, just pathetic.
The blogosphere is never short of pathos mixed in with the hard-to-parse squabbles.
Journalists are often journalists because they can write better than those of us who aren't. Somebody writing on EPN has collected pointers to a few of the better ones keeping blogs. (It's weird to read something written in first person and not be able to tell who's speaking. The "let me know" link at the end points to an email address of "reporter.")
Paul Maass' weblog is one of the standouts.
Paul Andrews writes about the obvious problem of broadband: it costs too much. I let out an involuntary bark when I looked at the mailer from DIRECWAY/DIRECTV and its "two easy ways to pay": $579.98 hardware and installation and $59.99 a month; or $99.99 activation fee, "n/a" for hardware and installation, and $99.99 a month for a year, when it goes down to that regular $60/month deal. What are these guys smoking?
It is charming that they're still using that .99 pricing to soften the blow of a $600 bill to get started, though.
Is a sugar pill the best treatment for depression? If you think it's going to work, maybe. Further exploration of the placebo effect from Shankar Vedantam in The Washington Post. It sounds like being in a study and getting lots of attention is one way to better mental health.
From an email I just sent to the NY Times' Ethicist columnist:
The ethical distinctions of your suggestions for medical practice are in need of deeper examination. (You said) it's no big deal to persuade a foreign pharmacist to come across with some birth control pills, since it wasn't morphine.
Is morphine inherently unethical? Had the physician's wife needed morphine, her medical condition would presumably have been much more serious. Your blasé participation in the ethically bankrupt war on some drugs while you offer comfort for well-to-do tourists suggests you need to get out more.
I have a friend who suffers from intractible, chronic pain. His difficulty in obtaining treatment is a long and sordid tale, which will likely end only with his death. I hope it is not a suicide. In his early 40s, his career has been ended by his disability, and he is contemplating moving back to his home town in New York state. One important factor in the move is being able to find a doctor who will "take" him, and prescribe medication that will control the pain enough to encourage him to keep living.
The marketing success of equating opiates with evil, and the enforcement activities which put physicians under a microscope will not make it easy.
Jeanette and I participated in a focus group for the Ada County Highway District last night, with a dozen of our fellow citizens. We had a fellow from a local irrigation company, a representative of the Community Planning Association, but mostly just plain folks.
We learned some history of the ACHD, in particular that it was formed in the early 70s, as a way for the cities and county to combine their efforts for maintaining the roads (other than state and federal highways) in the county. We gained a bit of sympathy for the position they're in, caught between cities and P&Z, and forced into reactive mode more often than not.
As usual, there was one guy who had more to talk about than he had to say, and one or two who didn't get to say as much as would have been useful. We got to complain about chipseal, congestion, all the effects of growth that we don't care for. I brought up bicycling (in the context of chipseal), but other than that, there appeared to be zero interest in any sort of transportation other than cars. How can I best drive my car wherever and whenever I want, without anyone getting in my way? Oh yeah, and I don't care for Quickie and other sorts of Marts in My Backyard. Not much hint of representation for a Smart Growth perspective, but maybe if we'd had more time...
There are 3 more groups planned: the Developers, the Builders, City officials. It seemed odd to me that "business" wasn't in there, especially given the way road projects have the power to make and break many of them. And 50% of the sessions to developers and builders? Seems a little too cozy.
Utah Phillips' site has Mooseturd pie and other delights.
Stupid spam tricks: How many of those "refinance now" spams have you received? (I liked the one with the typo: "refiance now!") While filtering incoming mail on my hp-ux machine, I saw the HTML of one as plain text, and see that they've taken to inserting HTML comments to break up keywords and phrases that they know will get their message filtered into the bit bucket:
<p>The Ti<!--a little-->me To Ref<!--down beside-->ina<!--her the-->nce Is No<!--had a-->w!!<!--jack and-->! Ra<!--jill went-->tes Are At An All Time Lo<!--to the-->w!<!--up the-->!</p> <p>LOCK In Yo<!--little lamb-->ur LO<!--a word-->W FI<!--hill to-->XED RA<!--get a-->TE TOD<!--mary had-->AY!!</p>
The email arms race continues.
As the Enron denoument continues, more documents showing that it manipulated the California electricity crisis. We are not surprised.
However, the bare duplicitous of the schemes is rather amazing: transferring power out of the state and then back in, and getting paid for "moving energy to relieve congestion without actually moving any energy or relieving any congestion," among others.
The deal is done, and we kicked off the "new HP" by watching the Carly and Michael show on video links around the world. (Shouldn't our press releases have some color pictures, too?) In Cupertino, the crowd had clackers and other paraphernalia, and provided the role of claque for the wider audience. It's tough to generate spontaneous applause in a crowd watching via a one-way link, and there was little to be had in Boise.
As I wrote in an internal newsgroup, there is no longer any meaning to an "anti-merger" position. We're either pro-HP, or anti-, and the only thing left to do is make it a success. (Or, for 15,000 of us, look for a new job.)
By virtue of subsuming DEC, we've added the whole 16.* subnet to 15.*, along with the compaq.com and dec.com domains within it. That's a lot of virtual real estate.
I wish I could attribute my early-May hiatus to something important like the Day of Silence for internet radio, but no. Just busy with every day life, reveling in flurries of apple petals and watching them drift over the streets, bicycling through a world of flowering trees, tulips, hyacinth, phlox, lilacs, was that some roses I just smelled? and now the irises are coming out. Spring. Now that the violets have faded, there are dandelions to dig.
Update to the annals of coercion: Top Ten New Copyright Crimes, following the one about skipping TV commercials. An annotated tour of blather from Jamie Kellner who's inside Turner Broadcasting, which is inside AOL-Time Warner, and who was interviewed Inside.
An interesting correspondence between a font author and the scary Agfa Monotype Corporation and International Typeface Corporation, trying to use the DMCA for a chilling effect. Hard to tell who's winning, but I admire the author's resistance. If it were my legal case, I'm not sure I'd give the other side's lawyers my best arguments in advance, unless I was pretty certain of victory.
This and lots of other interesting links on the Copyfight site.
Further adventures in corporate finance: a billion here, a billion there... is it time to put that on the books? Dell may have to fess up to its stock gambling losses, and show the results of their "buy high, sell low" options strategy.
Susan Kitchen's lead sent me to FindLaw to read about John Dean's promise to reveal who Deep Throat was. But the bloggish gossip about the Supreme Court was more interesting. At least until June 17th!
I took a deeper look at my referral logs for one week in April. After weeding out the internal references, there were 464 unique referral entries. 260 of those were from Google (60 of which were from google.yahoo). The various flavors of AOL were in a distant second place with 97. MSN was third, with 63. 383 of the 464 referrers were for one hit; 81 were for multiple. Userland's weblog tracking represented 27 hits, in 2 flavors. It's just one anecdote in a billion, but a somewhat interesting snapshot.
Second place AOL is going to google, too. The company that's losing its business, Overture, had just 5 lines of its own. The NY Times story says Overture's contribution is "an Internet search service featuring nothing but paid ads." Gee, we'll be sorry to lose that, eh?
Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org