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unraveling

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

It seems to be official that the US foreign policy vis a vis North Korea and Iraq just does not add up. NK's got the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and Iraq might. NK kicked out its UN inspectors, while Iraq is pretty much playing along with theirs. We can solve the problem with NK with diplomacy, but... huh? Well, Bush says he hasn't made up his mind on going to war with Iraq yet, I guess that's good. (But why on earth is it up to him?)

It's political contribution payback time, with a big rollback of the Clean Air Act, lawsuit protection for big Pharma hiding in the Homeland Security Act, a slew of outsourcing contracts for the Total Information Awareness effort, and so on.

Here's an idea: commercial-free schools. Leave no child behind.

The local ski report doesn't make a lot of fine distinctions. Practical conditions seem to be either "powder" or "groomed runs" or both. They also mention "rain" and "ice" once in a while, and those days are definitely best avoided. Of course, they want you to come up and play in the snow. That's their business. Sooner or later, we learn to parse the report independent of the expressed enthusiasm.

After rain all day down here yesterday, and more overnight, I wanted to be lured to the snow. 14" in the last 24 hours! But 31°F at 6am. There have been times when the skiing was good at 31°, but in general that's not salutory. Conditions were reported as "awesome" on powder and groomed runs. Ah well, give it a try, it's time to get in the season.

After slogging around in the "powder" for a while, looking for pitches steep enough to allow turning and prevent augering in, I started to think about the other names we need for snow. "Champagne powder" might be the lightest and most effervescent. Some day I'll ski in that (but probably not at Bogus Basin and 7500'). Then perhaps "dry powder," "medium powder," and today's variety, "heavy powder," on the verge of not-powder, but still fresh snow. Powder should not be a synonym for fresh snow (and definitely not applied to stale or used snow).

It was fun to be up in the forest in a winter snowstorm, breathing hard and finding paths through the trees and snow and fog, but turning conditions were not quite in my "awesome" classification. They were "demanding," occasionally "surprising" and even "rewarding," but my predilection for untracked snow was stymied by the better skiing actually being on the runs that had been carved up a bit, into soft "crud," as it's termed. When crud is good (freshly cut, soft), it's a lot of fun. When crud goes bad (too crusty, icy), it's very, very bad.

A lunchtime stop at the Pioneer condominiums, shared with some friends who've moved in for a 10 day holiday was a nice respite, although when it was time to put my gear back on, the amount of water I was carrying around was a bit alarming. The steady snowfall, the face plants, the surprise spinouts in the fog-hidden bumps and hollows had left their toll on me. I warmed up and soaked up some more in a few more runs in the mid-afternoon, rolled down the hill before the afternoon rush, and was revived by the return below the snowline, where the wet winter dress of the desert -- gold, brown, bits of green, red willow branches -- was incredibly vivid after being a black and white world for 6 hours.

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

Warren Christopher says Iraq belongs on the back burner. It seems obvious that terrorism and the nuclear threat from North Korea are more imminent threats than Iraq, but is the Bush administration ready to concede the obvious?

Yemen may have signed on to be a partner in the war on terrorism, but they have some trouble at home to deal with: extremists open fire in a hospital and kill three American missionaries. The Washington Post notes that "impoverished, factionalized, predominantly Muslim Yemen has for years been a haven for wanted Muslim extremists. Bin Laden enlisted thousands of Yemenis to fight alongside the mujahedeen of Afghanistan in their U.S.-backed war against an occupation Soviet army in the 1980s. Many returned when the Soviets withdrew, and they are a powerful political force here."

You may remember the country's name from the recent news about a shipload of North Korean missiles being intercepted -- and then released -- on its way there.

You've seen a phantom traffic jam, haven't you? Everything slows down, maybe even stop and go, people jockey to get out of the "slow lane" which moves around as they do. A little ways ahead, things spread out and speed up, with no breakdown or accident to explain what was wrong. The cause is likely one or two drivers who miscalculate, have to hit the brakes, whatever, and it sends a ripple through dense traffic that can't accomodate the disturbance. It's something like a supersaturated solution getting a seed that sets off crystallization.

Driver-assistance systems are being proposed, and the aspect of this story which caught my eye is that if just 10 or 20% of vehicles were equipped, it might solve the problem. It supports my intuitive response: if I can drive more smoothly, anticipating the slowdown and making my braking and acceleration less drastic, I'll reduce the problem, or avoid it. Now if I can just get more people to play along... Of course, in Boise I thankfully don't get much practice at this. The road report is idle entertainment, not a commuting necessity. Your mileage may vary.

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

A fuss over whether the i in internet gets capitalized: I didn't know it was a question. But then I didn't know that someone had a trademark (which they decided not to enforce) on the term, either. Since I generally don't let MSWord modify my spelling (or typing), it never was "carved in stone" for me.

Bill Keller asks Who's Sorry Now? and reminds us that meaningful contrition is best followed by penance and/or restitution. The new Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, is identified as the likely author of the the Eli Lilly lawsuit protection provision of the last-minute Homeland Security bill. My guess is he gets away with it, just one more bit of gristle in the legislative sausage-making.

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

Although it was pretty obvious that the Bush administration didn't have much interest in the Johannesburg summit, I didn't realize until I'd read Carl Pope's "Ways and Means" editorial in the January/February '03 Sierra magazine that they'd explicitly torpedoed it ahead of time: At the summer preconference in Bali, "U.S. negotiators revealed that they were going to block any detailed language that would establish clear goals and timetables for improving the environment, whether the issue was water, forest, fisheries or gobal warming." The Bush plan is "voluntarism and partnerships between corporations and governments."

Remember when "deregulation" was touted as a panacea? You don't hear that so much after California was bilked by the energy traders, but the ideology is very much hard at work in the federal government, and will undoubtedly reach new heights (or depths, depending on your point of view) in the next two years. Pope points out that treaties are still in when it comes to trade (NAFTA, et al.), but not for environmental protection. We have the examples of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, the Montreal protocol and the International Whaling Commission to show that explicit government action works. But the constraints they impose are not salutory to the "invisible hand" that is dipping into the Commons for short-term profit. "Bush killed Johannesburg not because treaties don't work, but because they work too well."

Is this the biggest item ever sold on e-Bay? A town in northern California, sold for $1,777,877, more than twice what the sellers had set as the minimum.

Jakob Nielsen's Top Ten Web-Design Mistakes of 2002 is useful and succinct, and illustrated nicely, by Doug Sheppard and Katrin L. Salyers.

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

We got a small dose of winter weather, as rain in the Bay Area stretched our 3-hour connection to 5 hours, which we split between San Diego and SFO. (Just rain, you ask? Doesn't seem like that should be enough to throw things off, but there you are.) We were fat, dumb and happy when Dad and Marcia dropped us off at the airport in the early afternoon sunshine, drove home from the airport just after midnight.

I used the opportunity to finish a collection of Stephen J. Gould's essays from Natural History Magazine, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History. They provide a good overview of careful thinking about evolution and our earth's history, separating the sense and non-sense in the 100+ years leading up to the understanding we had in the mid-1970s. That was about the time I studied some of this stuff in college, so it was interesting to me as a snapshot, as well as for the longer view of the history of science.

Bit of trouble at the NY border this Christmas, it seems that Santa was trying to enter the country illegally. Fortunately, the Border Patrol shut him down.

An aircraft carrier can't turn on a dime, and neither does our military-industrial complex. Not even Don Rumsfeld can stop the logrolling keeping the F/A-22 ("while critics say the plane is no longer needed, the only battle was over how many F/A-22's would be made") and Osprey (10 years late and 23 casualties, so far) alive. The least they could would be to set up the F/A-22 simulators in local arcades. We've already paid for the ride. As it is now, you have to visit Lockheed in Marietta, Georgia, or be a Pentagon insider to get your turn.

That other war. The article in The Nation quotes the Justice Policy Institute, "between 1985 and 2000, spending on state corrections grew at six times the rate of funding for higher education," and "from 1980 to 2000, three times as many African-American men entered jail or prison as were admitted to colleges and universities nationwide." The US' incarceration rates remain the highest in the world, and there is no way to look at the statistics without acknowledging racism.

Christmas Permanent URL to this day's entry

Christmas in San Diego is wonderful enough, but hearing the news about the nasty winter weather in the rest of the country makes sunshine and 60s that much sweeter. It's not Schadenfreude, but rather a well-informed pleasure at being here, and not being there.

Cover of 'Grasshopper Dreaming'

Jeanette gave me a beautiful and profound little book that I just finished reading after Christmas dinner: Grasshopper Dreaming, by Jeffrey Lockwood. Its copyright page lists subject classifications as "1. Grasshoppers 2. Grasshoppers -- Ecology 3. Insect pests -- Control -- Environmental aspects," but that seems to me to be well wide of the essential point. It's published by Skinner House, a clue to its underlying religious nature, exploring the irony and paradox (as Lockwood describes it) of the impossibility of victory in the battle between scientific materialism and religious understanding. Good reading for a religious holiday (or any other day).

"We are coming to understand that the universe is fundamentally intractable and ultimately indeterminate. Our uncertainty is not a function of inadequate experiments, instruments, or equations; mystery is the essence of reality."

2002.12.21 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A palindromic day in a palindromic year, the penultimate ternary day until the end of the decade. Oh yeah, and the solstice is 6:14pm MST.

Been a member of any criminal extremist organizations lately? You might be surprised at the answer if your local police department has been running surveillance the way Denver has been. The American Friends Service Committee, for example, was marked as one of those extremist organizations.

It seems like those long "boings" you've been hearing on your hydrophones are minke whales.

One of nature's design principles: bend so that we do not break. Hence the dancing daffodils. One of the scientists mentioned, Steven Vogel, is also an author on my reading list.

The Mirror Project is still a nice place to stroll on a rainy day.

2002.12.20 Permanent URL to this day's entry

So, it looks like we're going to have a doctor for our next Senate majority leader, and Lott will tough out the last 4 years of his Senate term (or as many years as there's a Democratic Mississippi governor). It also looks like the White House worked to undermine Lott and promote Frist, which of course they deny, deny, deny.

Howard Kurtz reviewed the gamut of Lott-bashing, before his announcement today. It included Gore's skit on SNL, Clinton's talk with CNN, Colin Powell, Jeb Bush, opinion polls (47 to 30% Lott should go vs. stay, 49 to 21 unfavorable to favorable), Shelby Steele, National Review, and so on. Steele's inside story is especially interesting -- the Lott camp came to him for advice on how to recover from the Senator's self-disclosure. He wonders How far will Trent Lott set back conservative principles?

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

Reading about the measuring of Proxima Centauri, the small star that happens to be the closest to our solar system at 4.2 light years, I got to thinking about the vastness and emptiness of space. You look up at the night sky and you see... stuff. Lots of stars and galaxies out there, from horizon to horizon, if you're lucky enough to be away from city lights. But mostly what's up there is emptiness. If our sun were the size of a pea, Proxima Centauri would be a marathon's distance away - more than a day's walk. And when you got there, that small star would be much smaller, about the size of a grain of sand. Think about those 50,000 steps you took between the pea and the sand: all emptiness. Think about the sphere whose radius you just paced off: all of it empty.

The headline for the NY Times article in the Business section is decidedly understated: Deciding on Executive Pay: Lack of Independence Is Seen. Things like this: At Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio chain, only one of the five people on its compensation committee is free of potential conflicts. The committee has retained -- indeed, sweetened -- pay packages that guaranteed raises for the chairman, L. Lowry Mays, and his two sons, regardless of company performance. The sons have severance agreements that entitle them to 14 years of salary, bonuses, benefits and stock options if they quit because the board fails to choose one of them to succeed their father as chief executive. Clear Channel said the committee met existing federal guidelines for independence."

What do you suppose the chances are that federal guidelines could be made meaningful in the next couple years? Not too good from a Treasury secretary earning $160,000 while he's getting a $2.5 million annual pension from his old employer, I'd think. (That story is actually about pensions, or "post-employment" compensation. Executives' is better than yours will be.)

Speaking of executive compensation, Capellas' salary and bonus plan is A-OK with the bankruptcy court judge. 3 years, $20 million. Sweet. Or as the judge put it, "imminently reasonable." It was all of $6 million less than the original proposal, but since he gets to appoint his own board of directors, something tells me he'll do alright. It'll be interesting to see if he can actually stick around for 3 years.

Another business story from the NY Times, this one about corporate lawyers organizing to "block some proposed standards of conduct for the profession." The last sentence of the email blurb was particulary striking: "A provision that would require lawyers to take evidence of potential fraud to a company's top managers and even its board could drastically hinder business deals, the lawyers contend." No doubt.

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

Made a day trip to Palo Alto yesterday, and caught the tail end of the heavy soaking they've been having. The sky was full of big clouds and everything is turning green. It was my first plane ride since the new Federal security force was put in place, and contrary to the warning that it would take longer, lines seemed shorter and faster than ever since 9/11. They have a lot of personnel on the job, maybe twice as many as before.

I was shocked by how deserted SFO was. I remember getting off a plane and having to wend and squeeze my way through a morning crowd, but the place looked liked they'd rolled up the sidewalks on a Tuesday morning at 8am. And yet the fill-the-bay airport expanders have not given up hope on the next big expansion.

The highways were crowded as ever; some things haven't changed.

Religious polarization is increasing in India, evidenced by the landslide victory of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in Gujurat.

Alan Silverstein is assembling information, advice and trivia "related to separating from Hewlett-Packard." "Being 'kicked out of the tribe' kind of sucks even when you're half glad of it and/or see it coming; and I've sure met a lot of people who were neither."

Agnostica is the only truly secular winter celebration. Not to be confused with Festivus of course.

16.Dec.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Serious downwinder into work this morning, high wind warning for SE40G60, but I was only riding on 30 with gusts to 40. My usual route's transitions slowed me down more than anything else. On the unimpeded stretches, I put the hammer down and dodged the flying trash cans. It'll be payback time this afternoon, sounds like wet for sure, and I could have that same strength wind in my face, but I'm hoping for the clock to SW by quittin time.

Happy ending: wind backed off almost to calm, with just enough rain to make it pleasant. Free ride!

Coping with post-bubble economics: The Tao of Bojon "Only those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely."

Howard Kurtz' Media Notes broke the news of Gore's retirement to me. Everyone else heard about it on 60 Minutes last night, I guess. The idea of this encouraging Lieberman to run is somewhat amusing. Save us all the trouble, Joe, you don't have a chance.

Total Information Awareness goes both ways: Poindexter's privacy under assault.

15.Dec.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Over the top Christmas lighting in a local subdivision

I was wrong about yesterday's weather -- it wasn't the 50s, it was over 60°F, into the windy evening and close to midnight when we came home from a get-together with friends. The wind finally settled down, without adding much rain down in the city, and the overnight low was around 40.

On the way out, we took a slow drive through Bayhill Springs, a relatively new subdivision of closely-packed megahomes that has collectively decided to go over the top on Christmas lights. All the trees along the roadways are wrapped with thin strings of green in their branches and white around the trunks, giving a very nice effect on a windy night. Then the individual homeowners let their imaginations go wild, lining the multiple roof lines, dressing their own trees, metalwork reindeer, wreaths, candle-lined walkways, and this year's trendy addition, inflatable snowmen. The animated metalwork animals and larding of dripping "icing" are fads from yesteryear that are fading, but not everyone got the memo. This place had it all, including the crèche with lighted figures (sadly overexposed in my picture).

The American flag, in lights

Now imagine a whole subdivision of these artistic statements, and a steady stream of people crawling through it in their cars, shaking their heads in wonder. After we'd found our way out, and continued on our way through ordinary neighborhoods, the single string along the eve, the occasional tree, wreath and inflatable snowman all looked rather paltry and pathetic. Leave it to this culture to turn Christmas decoration into an arms race.

Sheryl Crow wore an antiwar t-shirt on Good Morning America recently, which apparently caused a stir. She wrote an eloquent letter to her Fan Forum explaining her views. "I have to question the intentions of those considering taking our young men and women into a war based on fear and greed."

It's interesting to me that many antiwar statements include the obligatory apologies that of course Saddam Hussein is an evil person, and that he is a real threat to the world. I have my doubts, as I believe we all should when one of our imperfect fellows tell us so-and-so is "evil." The Bible that underlies so much of our collective piety reminds us to "judge not," working against one of our innate urges. America's politicians have had plenty of friendly dealings with regimes responsible for evil acts - Hussein's, for starters, when we backed him against Iran, Pinochet, Pahlavi, Thieu, Noriega, Marcos and on and on.

How do we go about building a world that is safe for democracy? It's often said that if you want peace, work for justice. Waging a pre-emptive war on Iraq does not have anything to do with peace or with justice, I'm afraid.

Maureen Dowd sizes up the flappage in DC and Trent Lott's sincerity. "As usual with pols, the rhetoric tended to be the reverse of the reality. In 1998, Mr. Lott was only too glad to be the featured speaker at the dedication of the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library in Beauvoir, Miss., where he said he sometimes felt 'closer to Jefferson Davis than any other man in America.' On Friday, he proclaimed that 'segregation and racism are immoral.'"

The NY Times also has a long piece in the National section, In Lott's Life, Long Shadows of Segregation. The apologies keep coming, and the once ardent segregationalist now sees that position as "a stain on our nation's soul," but it's not clear if he's recognized it as a stain on his own. The story of the place Lott grew up is pretty chilling: back in 1948, when Thurmond ran for president, fliers warned that a vote for Truman would mean "anti-lynching and anti-segregation proposals will become the law of the land and our way of life in the South will be gone forever." Let's hope they were right about that, even if it takes longer than could have been imagined.

The NY Times' report on the tribulations of once high-flying execs, Life Without a Jet, and Other Laments is sort of a predictable tale, but I was struck by Dennis Kozlowski's electric bills, of all things. For his three houses, in three states. $726.46, $1,047.26 and $267.57. Right around 100 times our electric bill, altogether.

In the bed and bathos department, Mrs. Ken Lay runs "Jus' Stuff, which sells furnishings, antiques and decorative items from, among other places, the 14 homes and investment properties the Lays recently sold, including their Aspen ski house."

Siebel nets $321 million from his options while the company's stock drops 94%. Could the $36 million the compensation committee members cleared in their own options deals have something to do with it? A major stockholder, the Teachers' Retirement System of Louisiana is suing to get the stink out.

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

The weather's back to the way it should be this time of year - wild and wooly, and never the same for long. We had snow, rain and fog this week; today there's a big wind out of the SE and it's absurdly warm, up in the mid-50s. Fresh snow at the top of Shafer Butte, but not much promise of skiing yet with this kind of temperature.

Finished Randy Stapilus' delightful collection of vignettes from our state, It Happened in Idaho. A fast jog through the last 150 years or so, stories of how the desert was made to bloom, how Idaho potatoes became famous (that part happened in Chicago!), the first city lit by nuclear power, Evil Knievel's flight into the Snake River canyon and more. Once I was done with the 31 stories (and the "fun facts to know and tell"), my only complaint was that it was once over a little too lightly.

Dropping in on Doc Searls always produces more threads than I can follow, but I enjoy the ones I do. He positions Tim O'Reilly's essay, Piracy is Progressive Taxation, high in the realm of definitive statements on digital rights management (DRM). O'Reilly argues that piracy is not a problem, in essence. Obscurity and shoplifting (which can lead to obscurity -- the computer says your work is on the shelf, but no one sees it after it's stolen) are bigger threats than piracy. Consider the company that is subject to more piracy than any other -- Microsoft -- and calculate how much they suffer from it.

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

A useful "technology tips" article about copyrights and images on the web, from HP. "Assume that every image on the Web is owned by someone else." The ones on this site, for example, are (almost entirely) owned by me.

If you're just getting started with sailing, here are two pleasant introductions, to terminology, and to learning the ropes.

It's not a new aphorism that attitude is everything but it shows up in a new collection: rules of the bazaar, from HP's mobile e-services Bazaar team. "Luck is always a factor, and we're good at luck here. This is one of the pathological optimism rules," says Peter. "We always try to look at the bright side of life, no matter how bad things seem to be."

I'll say one thing for Trent Lott, he writes a hell of an apology. It almost seems like he recognizes that he got more than a little carried away effusing at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday and Senate swan song. Thurmond was remarkable for his longevity, but I'm happy to see him leave the Senate. All the "girls" will have to get their candy somewhere else now.

Our Idaho schoolteacher had her shuttle liftoff schedule bumped up, to November of next year. You go, Barbara!

K-man decides his consulting firm could not withstand the light of scrutiny, and bails out of the 9/11 comission. Perhaps Mr. Bush can find a more suitable candidate for his next try.

Yet another critical security flaw in Internet Explorer. I see they're no longer offering patches for Win95. Yet another reason to stick with Opera.

No big Christmas present for California: instead of the $9 billion payback they wanted, Judge Birchman says they were bilked out of $1.8 billion, but that leaves $1.2 billion owed to their power suppliers. Just what a foundering economy needs, eh?

Ya wonder why government gets run for the rich? (Ok, maybe you don't, but let me tell ya anyway.) It might have something to do with 40-something retirees from Goldman Sachs with a hundred million dollars in their pocket, ready to do something righteous for "the team."

12.12.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

An arresting decision from an Australian court: posting to the web opens you up to prosecution from any country that has internet access.

"Stuart Karle, a lawyer for Dow Jones, said yesterday that libel law in (the Australian state of) Victoria -- going further than even the strict British libel laws -- allows plaintiffs to bring suit based on their own particular interpretation of the offending passage in an article. Defendants are not permitted to suggest a more benign reading of the passage, he said."

The ink is barely dry on Michael Capellas' $14.4 million severance check from Hewlett-Packard, and now he's set up for $9 million when he quits Worldcom. A federal judge is not too keen on that and the $20+ millions in compensation and stock that the bankrupt company proposes to pay Capellas. See chutzpah, definition of.

Alan Arnette's going to try to climb Everest again this year. The starting page on his website gives a nice, terse description of the process, but you need a longer version (his journal from this year's attempt, say, or Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer) to start to comprehend how far over the edge this undertaking is.

The pictures are fantastic, though.

2002.12.11 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Joel on Software: "Big handwavy generalizations made from a position of deep ignorance is one of the biggest wastes of time on the net today." That's a self-indicting statement, I think, but he makes the case for specialization at some length. The only problem I see with that is that 5 or 10 years from now, all those nuts and bolts are going to be obsolete, and you'll have to learn new ones.

Cool case of the month: Fatal Error. Yet another realm (along with piercings and tatoos) that I have no desire to enter, but I can admire it from afar.

2002.12.10 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Last three ternary dates before the 7 year wait for 2010. The weather cooperated in making it a joyous occasion by snowing some today, busting up the inversion, if briefly. More storms coming, bring 'em on. We need the water, at the end of the driest year in Idaho's recorded history.

Iowans for Peace are maintaining a compilation of myths and misinformation given to justify war with Iraq. No shortage of material there.

Case studies in right-wing media from Scoobie Davis; visiting Rush Limbaugh's show, Moonie disinformation campaigns.

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

I was reading along in the NY Times story, California Is at Fiscal Brink, thinking how bad for them (and for the US economy, since they're such a large part of it), when I got to the part about only 5 states being in worse fiscal shape as a percent of the budget; Idaho is one of the five. There's no happy way out for either state. Higher taxes and smaller government are in store for both.

8.Dec.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

From democratic process in action on a small scale (our church voting on a new mission statement, and deciding not to vote on a resolution against the war in Iraq) today, to the larger scene: the latest CBS/NYT poll results. The full detail of the latter is fascinating. After the election, more people - and more than 2/3rds of those polled - approve of the United States taking military action against Iraq to try and remove Saddam Hussein from power. (The support drops off at the prospect of "substantial U.S. military casualties," but it's still a majority.) About the same 2/3rds expect it to come to fighting. And what will that do to the threat of terrorism against the US? 7-to-1 think the threat will increase rather than decrease, almost 3-to-1 increase rather than stay the same. (63% increase, 9% decrease, 23% stay the same.)

Wrote another postscript to my page on the neighborhood buzz (a.k.a. "hum"), after observing it in Spokane Valley, and more local observation. I'm noticing it more, but still managing to not let it bother me. If and when that changes, I'll be shopping for a white noise source. Would I get tired of a CD looping in my sleep every night? Or just tune the radio between stations, I suppose.

Try your skill at detecting photographic hoaxes with this on-line quiz from the Museum of Hoaxes. I got 80% on round 1, 60% on round 2. 5 of my 6 mistakes were failing to believe a real photo, so I tend to err on the "this is fake" side.

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

Deepening inversion, nothing really like sunshine today. The sky is a featureless grey, and at best not too close to the ground. At worst, visibility is a quarter mile and the putrid fog closes in around you. While there are ample things that might make it smell, the sugar beet factory over in Nampa is the most pronounced and unwelcome odor. Our big oak has finally let go of most of its leaves, and they add a bland beige to the scene.

We're one of United Airlines' creditors, with a couple of prepaid tickets for later this month. When bankruptcy becomes official, what becomes of our tickets? UAL looks like one of those dot-com bubble stocks, off well over 90% for the year, now trading around and below $1, off the Dow Jones Transport Index, and may be delisted from the NYSE. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I'm glad we burned off most of my frequent flier miles a while ago.

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

It's the ugly time of year in Boise, trapped under an inversion that looks to last a week and a half. Relief is in sight - sunshine and high clouds - but out of reach in a bubble of our own effluent. Visibility was less than 2 miles on my way to work today, with a 2-county ban on wood stove burning, warnings against exertion outdoors and pleas for people to carpool or use mass transit. This is the same stalled air mass that was over eastern Washington and NE Oregon last week, it's now exanded to cover most of the Pacific NW east of the Cascades.

Jonathan Freedland, writing in the Guardian says we need to use brains, not brawn in the war on terror. His proposal for a middle road between the hawks and doves makes a lot of sense.

Received any good email greeting cards lately? In the last month, the "friendgreet" worm has been spreading, using infected machines' contact lists. The interesting part about this one is that it asks for permission, presenting you with an end user licensing agreement (EULA) that describes what it's going to do. Ok? If you don't read those things, maybe it's time to consider starting to.

Clay Shirky on Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing: "Weblogs aren't a form of micropublishing that now needs micropayments. By removing both costs and the barriers, weblogs have drained publishing of its financial value, making a coin of the realm unnecessary."

The darknet sounds like something vaguely disquieting and evil, and for those who make their living distributing expensive content, it is. The Register can't figure out whether Microsoft will have the last laugh or not, but the conclusion that content swapping/theft is here to stay seems certain.

The revival of an old piece about innovation of gunfire at sea reminded me of the Vasa, a 17th century warship that sank on its maiden voyage. It's been raised and preserved in a remarkable museum in Stockholm, but unfortunately neither the museum's website nor the piece above tells much of the story of what led to the disaster. "The king himself dictated the Vasa's measurements and no one dared argue against him" is true as far as it goes, but it conceals the fact of a (presumably) well-engineered vessel that had an extra deck of guns added to please the pointy-haired boss. Physics did not bow to the king, however, and the boat sank in a sudden squall. The museum is a must-see if you ever go to Stockholm, and you'll get the whole story (and the whole ship!) there.

4.Dec.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I've been laid low with a stomach flu virus (apparently). Got the wake-up call early Tuesday morning and answered on the big white phone. Back to more-or-less solid food today, I'm enjoying the pleasure of plain white rice (each kernel an event), boiled potatoes.

Arianna Huffington pulls out the stops on TomPaine.com over the last-minute revision in the Homeland Security bill to let expatriate corporations continue to get US government contracts. The $70 billion tax avoidance and the work, nice if you can get it. Just a little sampler of the sorts of things we'll get out of 2 years of Republican rule.

Paul Krugman's reading of the Wall Street Journal's editorial stance is that the conservative goal is for government to be hateful to all. One of the interesting things is the WSJ's easy dismissal of payroll taxes, coming up with a 4% tax burden for someone with wage income of $12,000/yr. Krugman estimates it as "probably well over 20%" but at any rate, 4% is a big, fat lie from a newspaper that's supposed to understand economics. Ah well, no one ever claimed their editorial page was worth the ink and paper.

Don't Bust the Crust Logo

Soil crusts now have their own website. You may not know about them, because they're more common where people are less so. If you're curious, this is the place to find out more.

The City Stories Project looks interesting. Urban stories from particular places, "halfway between a personal journal and a travel book."

One striking story, found on an affiliate site more or less at random tells the story of the Angel-Devil game in South Gate, California.

2002.12.02 Permanent URL to this day's entry

30 years on, and the War on Some Drugs has some recent legislative "victories" if nothing else. Bill Keller analyzes the Bush administration's approach, and why they're demonizing marijuana.

"Who better to investigate an unwarranted attack on America than the man who used to instigate America's unwarranted attacks?" Maureen Dowd's take on the return of Henry Kissinger. "Now Mr. Bush can let the commission proceed, secure in the knowledge that Mr. Kissinger has never shed light on a single dark corner, or failed to flatter a boss, in his entire celebrated career."

William Safire weighs in as well, "(yielding) to nobody in presenting credentials as a Kissinger critic." Safire thinks he's the right man for the job, eager to please history rather than the current boss.

Harry Shearer does a great Henry K., to compliment his Dick Cheney - Confidential. (Real audio)

The possibly darker side of Bush's maladroit use of language, from Mark Crispin Miller, writing Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder "It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes." When it comes to retribution and applying authority, he gets it right the first time.

2002.12.01 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Owyhee River meanders, view from the hot springs

The Idaho Statesman did a big spread on the Owyhee Canyonlands in today's paper, detailing the history, the conflicts over land use and the natural beauty of the place. It's 8 pages, full-color and no advertising, earning them a $1.50 sale from us. The website has more photos than the special section did, but I was disappointed by the poor quality. The print edition suffered from having them blown up too far in many cases, and also from a little bit of shift between the color plates on at least one of our printed sides. Their web team doesn't seem to know how to maintain resolution and quality; the reduced pictures should be much better than they are.

The website also has a longer slice of Pete Zimowsky's journal, rather than the floating sidebars with a few snippets in the print edition. (It's from a trip in May - of this year? - and datelined 11-26, so maybe it ran in its entirety last week. I see the longer copy of the insert is also datelined 11-26 on the web, so I don't know what it means.)

I think they did a good job of showing the breadth of viewpoints of the various parties, and outlining how difficult it will be for a compromise to be reached.

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Saturday, 11-Jan-2003 14:22:59 MST
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200212.html