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31.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

20 years ago today, I started working for Hewlett-Packard.

The high in Boise hit 58°F today, as promised; an incredible feeling in January in Idaho. The Boise Front looks sodden and much too uncovered. Will we have any more decent skiing this year. (Have we had any yet?) I left a little early and rode home along the river, enjoying the smells of a premature spring.

Doc Searls quoted Kurt Vonnegut's opinion of our current situation from an In These Times interview, and I'm moved to do likewise:

I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low- comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not- so-closeted white supremacists, aka "Christians," and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or "PPs."

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable medical diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete’s foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley. Read it! PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country, and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And so many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick.

What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

I was fat, dumb and happy for a lot of years, but then had just a tiny bit of first-hand experience with the sociopathic personality, and the shoe definitely fits here. (I'm not quite sure what the difference is between psychopathy and sociopathy, but I really think his point is true for SPs more so than PPs.) The worst of it is that if Saddam doesn't start packing, Bush will not be able to contenance not going to war, because of how much face he would lose.

Remember, "our actions (he meant my actions, of course; the royal 'we') don't depend on the decisions of others." Nor do they apparently depend on moral or ethical principles.

Business Week's cover story, The New Global Job Shift, describes a leveling playing field. Captains of industry in the US are looking for the cheapest labor they can find, and they are finding foreign workers increasingly skilled and able to replace white collar work at home. "Talented, innovative people will adjust as they always have," but it doesn't look like it'll be business as usual for the workforce as a whole, or the economy. Coupled with an aging workforce back home, the easy prediction is that age discrimination, earlier retirement (followed by lower paid unretirement jobs to help pay medical and other bills), and greater disparity in the distribution of wealth will follow.

The Warm Springs footbridge, and mirror-walled offices

Feel like time is running out? It actually is, according to an astrophysicist and paleontologist from the University of Washington. Their new book includes earth's clock of life, showing us halfway through the age of plants and animals. (Technically, it's an illustration of such a clock, but practically, the time's going to be about the same when the book's print goes out of existence.) "The Life and Death of Planet Earth."

Sniffing solvents is not a very good idea, unless you happen to be a bacterium known as TCA1 - it lives on trichloroethane. Neat trick, with a solid future for employment.

Dave Barry has a blog now. So much for trying to be funny, he's going to suck up all the humor from the blogosphere and there won't be any left for the rest of us. He put his vorpal blade through LOTR2, too. Why can't they just lose the ring in the sink?

AOL Time Warner out $99 bil. That's eleven zeroes with rounding, and no shortage of pixels for punditizing about it. Doc Searls' take is good enough for me.

Here's how Google can make money: a $23,000 Googlebox for the city of San Diego. Working search is a huge productivity boost. If the whole flameout had the sole purpose of producing Google, it was a smashing success.

WriteTheWeb is back, from wherever they went, with a new design. I used to get provocative email annoucements of new content from them, but haven't seen any of those in a while. I hope they come back. There's too much stuff to keep track of.

Here's why you make copies of everything before you turn in the forms: some whacked out bureaucrat might decide to shred the backlog. This is definitely a crime deserving of punishment with prison time. Figure 5 hours of someone else's life per document, and they should serve 25 years apiece.

30.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The low-key discussion between me and my co-worker about the topic of "intelligent design" continues... he forwarded a note about this story on Fox News, in which a legal complaint is filed against a Texas Tech University professor who has made his conditions for writing letters of recommendation for students explicit. He has three criteria: you should have received an A from him in at least one semester, he should know you, and you should be able to give a truthful and forthright scientific answer to the question "How do you think the human species originated?" The complaint is that this is religious discrimination.

My complaint is that the complaint is nonsense. Kudos to Dini for making his policy explicit, and providing an eloquent defense for it. Onions for Spalding who thinks the way through medical school is getting his ticket punched by whatever institutions are convenient, and who thinks that professors owe him something, whether or not he's learned anything in their classes.

Speaking of religion, this essay by Peter Gomes is a more practical application of it. "What do you do when your country is headed where you think your faith and your God don't want you to go?" Democracy can not be given over to experts, and dissent cannot be denied by appeals to patriotism (that last refuge of a scoundrel, in Samuel Johnson's words).

Meanwhile, the resonance from having everybody listen to George W. Bush speak for an hour continues. The New York Times provided an editorial ("But as he heads into his own re- election cycle with a war plan at the top of his agenda, the state of the union that the president leads is clearly laced with anxiety and doubt.") and Maureen Dowd's opinion ("The state of the union is skeptical.") among many others. The Raven provides a careful dissection of the speech, relegating the headliners - accelerated tax cut, AIDS initiative and so much more to things on "a wish list or being extended to us as an F.Y.I. item."

Oh, and no help for states and cities facing budget crises they can't escape by "no burden to the future" deficits.

Kasparov blunders, the match with Deep Junior is tied at 1½.

Talking on a cell phone -- even a hands-free phone -- while driving is an antisocial act. The study is in. Cell phone use by drivers "increases traffic congestion, it probably increases road rage and it increases air pollution because cell phone users are decreasing the volume of traffic that can flow on a freeway at any point in time."

28.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Well the big news today is the State of the Union speech. Bush ran through a grab-bag of treats on the domestic side before getting to the serious stuff, making his case for war on Iraq. That was still short on evidence, and long on emotional rhetoric by my estimate, but I'll admit it was a strong speech overall. My notes came out with an emphasis on questions.

We won't pass along our problems to the future? (Not only did he omit mention of the deficit, he made an outright denial of its existence, or at least its importance.)

We passed tough corporate reforms? We're holding criminals to account?

Growth is the answer for everything, jobs for everyone. (Our ecomony is recovering?)

This addresses the deficit?!

HMOs are bad?

Hydrogen cars, but what about improving CAFE standards? (Oh, that's "command and control regulation," that can't work.)

How are you going to prevent HIV infection without condoms?

Speaking about terrorism... we are winning? And what about Osama bin Laden?

We accept the responsibility for protecting the hopes of all mankind?

The course of this nation does not depend on others?

Nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation and continual hardship? (Then why are we planning for relaxing the constraints on their use?)

27.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yesterday's LA Times had a stunning piece from their military analyst, William M. Arkin. US military planners are reportedly considering the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in Iraq. "Entrusting major policy reviews to tightly controlled, secret organizations inside the Pentagon is a hallmark of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's tenure. Doing so streamlines decision-making and encourages new thinking, advocates say."

And it enhances the opportunity for groupthink, that wonderful bit of teamwork that brought us the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and now threatens to abrogate any semblance of leadership in the realm of nuclear non-proliferation. Arkin quotes Bush's introduction to his national security strategy from last fall: "The gravest danger our nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology."

It's beginning to appear that the most dangerous radicals this nation faces are running the government right now. Bill Keller's NY Times Magazine cover story about G.W., "Reagan's Son," looks at our radical-in-chief.

Ok, so not quite time to forget about football for 8 months: we have to clean up after the rioters first. In Oakland, win or lose, it's time to partay. Sort of.

Gray skies and steady rain today, the temperature "only" in the 40s, after yesterday's high around 50. This is January?! Trees are ready or budding, bulbs are coming up and we're either in for a very short winter, or some disappointed plants. For the first time I can remember, conditions weren't reported as "excellent" at Bogus Basin, with an early morning temperature of 40° and light rain. Turning was "soft and wet," yuck.

Our voicemail at work was augmented by a new "broadcast messages" feature just recently. When calling to check my messages, I had to listen to a long, unskippable introduction to the system, and mostly paid attention to how to skip over the messages that would stand between me and my voicemail. Using the power of ##, my next choice was to press 7 to delete all broadcast messages. Actually, "choice" isn't the right word, because that was the only option. I didn't want to delete all broadcast messages, actually, I just wanted to skip them and check my mailbox quickly before an appointment; I'd listen to them later.

Experimenting, I found out that other numbers were "incorrect key" and that [*] disconnected me abruptly. Of course, the machine has infinite patience and inperturbability at this game. It can wait forever for me to press 7, and there is no way I get to the next level until I do. Brilliant.

The aggravation provides the training required, however. Next time I'm in a hurry, it'll still annoy me, but I'll know that there is no faster way to what I want than to play it the computer's way.

In the world of sports, a surprising upset for Gary Kasparov, crushing Deep Junior in the opening game of their match. As usual, the little men behind the curtain will be doing brain surgery on their entry before the next game.

The dawn of agriculture and antibiotics... 50 million years ago. The ants got a hell of a head start on us.

If you're feeling left-out in the Astroturf campaign supporting Bush, you can sign up yourself at GOP Team Leader dot com and send your own messages.

Matt Miller offers several alternate plans for legislating class warfare. The "CEO Repentance Stimulus Plan" seems particularly appropriate for the moment.

26.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now Colin Powell is rattling his saber as well, adding to the feeling of inevitability of war. He seemed to be one of the few voices of reason in the administration for quite a while. Also on Super Sunday, chief of staff Andrew Card made the talk show rounds, without impressing all viewers with his consistency or preparation.

Ok, the game is over, and we can all forget about football for 8 months. In case you missed it, the highlights were: the Dixie Chicks' rendition of our national anthem, and a half-time show that wasn't lip-synched for a change. (It also seemed mercifully short, but then I was reading a book during the parts that didn't interest me.)

I guess there were some highlights for Tampa Bay fans, too. The Instant Replay covered for one terrible call on a fumble, saved a beautiful catch for an Oakland touchdown, and punted on the backjudge's emphatically wrong call on the 2-pt. conversion. Without the officiating error on the uncatchable ball (called pass interference) in the 4th quarter, there might have been an exciting comeback, but Tampa Bay's ability to intercept Rich Gannon sealed the deal.

Radio signals get a boost from a bounce: "with new technologies like Blast, maybe spectrum is infinite." Well, let's not get carried away, but they have demonstrated an 8X improvement on 3G, up to almost 20 Mbit/s.

Here's leadership: $200 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to re-examine and reprioritize research on global health problems, asking what will improve the most lives rather than just what will most improve the bottom line.

Today's church service was centered around Jeanette's sermon, "When Art is the Process," adventuring from that title into the realms of angels and the history they've shared with us over the millennia. The caption accompanying Niki de Saint Phalle's 20-foot tall "Angel of Temperance" (polyester, gold leaf, neon) in the Mingei museum in San Diego seems particularly fitting for the occasion. It's written in the artist's own hand:

Niki de Saint Phalle's Angel of Temperance

"Temperance is Number XIV of the 22 Major Aracan or picture symbols in the tarot deck, cards which form an ancient metaphyscial game. I have used these symbols to build my tarot garden in Tuscany, Italy: A sculpture garden I have worked on the last twenty years.

"The Angel is the guardian of the elixir of life which is constantly moved from one vase to another. It is the life blood of physical and spirtual union. The flow must remain in perpetual movement. If we are in a state of panic or obsessive thinking we block the flow of this great spiritual force that lies within each of us. If we tune into the angel's force we will make the right choices. Observing and interacting with nature can help us connect to this life force. The Angel's treasure is this flowing celestial blood. Everything in our universe is in movement. Let's join the Celestial dance."

Two-thirds of the British public have yet to be persuaded that there's cause to go to war with Iraq. The discussion over there is whether he's ahead in a leadership way, or ahead as in off the deep end.

Selena Roberts thinks Las Vegas and the NFL are perfect together, but the league doesn't agree. In an unconvincing holier-than-thou act, they refused to air a commercial for the den of iniquity during the Super Bowl,

25.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The quote of the day from the NY Times: "The audience is never wrong. They have a huge appetite for this and we've got a responsibility to satisfy that appetite." -SANDY GRUSHOW, chairman of the Fox Entertainment Group, on the popularity of reality shows.

Reality is winning the ratings, and producers are ready to toss all the talent in favor of no-repeat, always fresh... reality. Televised reality, that is, in increasingly contrived interpersonal dramas.

W32/SQL Slammer worm bolloxing the web today, 5 of the 13 root nameservers down from the traffic probing for unpatched Windows2000 machines running SQL server. The service patch was out 6 months ago, but apparently some folks didn't get around to applying it.

Shoot, the attendees at Davos have to give back the PDAs or pony up $700 if they want to keep 'em. The ones that are given up will go to a good home, though: "community projects in Brazil, India, Senegal, Uganda and Zimbabwe."

The protection money is an interesting angle, too: $14.5 million to protect "more than 2,000" attendees, for what, a week? That's a thousand bucks per person, per day.

24.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lance Knobel isn't going to Davos this year, but he's keeping up his weblog, and reporting on events and news from the meeting with a wistful air. If something important (or even interesting) happens, you can probably read about it there.

Gates v. Bush: who will win the battle over tax cuts? Bill Gates Sr. was interviewed by Bill Moyers last week on the PBS show "Now" ( transcript from In regard to the estate tax, he said:

"Well, you know, it my eye, it's just a question of fairness. It disturbs us, for example, that here we have a significant ingredient of the Federal revenue stream which people are taking away at the very time that our government is going to need revenue at a level that is unprecedented. We're talking about $200, $300 billion deficits now."

Seeing all, the eye that never sleeps?!

What's this? The US Senate refusing to fund the Total Information Awareness Project? The "giant information gathering system that would have allowed Uncle Sam to track your financial transactions on a daily basis" and even without all the caveats in Doug Thompson's piece, I think this may be more wink than snooze.

ScrappleFace, momentarily famous for popularizing the "Axis of Weasels" in a spoofed newstory about Rumsfeld using that term, hits another dinger with the listing of special events for the launch of the Homeland Security Dept.

Also on the subject of Rumsfeld, The Saddam in Rumsfeld's closet offers a bit of historical perspective on our Secretary's attitude towards Iraq's leader. Can't we all just get along?

It's impossible to gauge all the influences and nuances -- are we easing because the bluff is working, and we want to milk it longer? is the administration paying attention to opinion polls and the outstanding efforts of -- but we're going to let the inspectors work a while longer. This is good news, in my mind.

Bill Keller of the NY Times thinks the question is simply February or March? however. "The polls that show support for war steadily dwindling are not likely to get better. And while Americans may not be eager to go to war, at least they expect to go to war."

23.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The first Segway hits NY city, and it doesn't seem like a monster. "They look like fun, to tell you the truth." (Remember, if you're going to buy one, you can make my day, week and month by following this link to Amazon to do it.)

Pedal-powered computing comes to the jungle in Laos: a human-scaled outpost of the internet.

The executive summary of the latest results from the Pew Internet & American Life project: Most expect to find key information online, most find the information they seek, many now turn to the Internet first.

Some nicely presented optical illusions on the web. Brace yourself. "Should you feel dizzy, you had better leave this page immediately."

The National Resources Defense Council offers an easy way to take action to save Biogems: speak up about yet another war - the Bush administration's war on conservation.

Thinking about "what's next?" I would not have come up with this: inkjet printing tubes of living tissue.

Tracking an astroturf campaign of support for Bush:

What plausible explanation for so many "writers" with identical thoughts? OnePotMeal suggests: "The radio in my head tells me that I think W., Inc. is demonstrating genuine leadership." Henceforth, we refer to 'Demonstrating Genuine Leadership" as Alien Transmission 2003-01.

George W. Bush's military career was distinguished -- by favoritism. uggabugga organizes Rogers' timeline for us.

21.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I wore a black ribbon to work today, in honor of James Reeb, at the request of the Junior High class at church. They had a little handout to go with it, but I'd forgotten mine; after the first person asked me what the ribbon was for, and I embarassed myself with a sketchy answer, I double-checked history. The short version, from a sermon, "When I Went to Birmingham":

"Martin Luther King, Jr., had organized civil rights workers to march from Selma to Montgomery to push for change. The marchers were turned back at the Edmund Pettis Bridge outside Selma. Martin Luther King, Jr., then called for professional religious leaders from all over the United States to join him in Selma. I understand that while Unitarian Universalists may not have been the largest group in absolute numbers, our ministers were the highest percentage of any faith group.

"On March 11, 1965, as they left a restaurant after dinner, several unknown white men attacked three Unitarian Universalist ministers--Orloff Miller, Clark Olsen, and James Reeb. All had responded to Dr. King.s call, leaving behind families and homes. James Reeb was quite badly hurt in the attack. Eventually a black doctor recommended that James Reeb be taken to Birmingham where better medical facilities were available. After some wrenching mishaps with the ambulance, eventually James Reeb arrived in Birmingham. But his injuries were too severe, and he died two days later, leaving behind his wife and several children."

The meaning and importance of the event and its aftermath are ably captured in this first person account of Martin Luther King's eulogy for Reeb.

I don't suppose the people who were drafted back in the 60s and early 70s appreciated Don Rumsfeld's assessment that after they were "sucked into the intake, trained for a period of months, and then went out," they "add(ed) no value, no advantage, really, to the United States armed services over any sustained period of time." The families who survived the tens of thousands of them who gave their lives for the country can't appreciate his incredible remarks either. You can look up the full context of his remark and see if that makes it any better. He acknowledged the "disadvantages of using compulsion" to "the individuals," but he forgot to acknowledge their sacrifice; in some cases their ultimate sacrifice.

His phrasing reveals how things can appear from the office of the Secretary of Defense: soldiers are tools, available for what missions their leaders give them. With unemployment and the economy what it is, and patriotic motivation after 9/11, no doubt we have plenty of employees in our all-volunteer force. Back when we waged war on Vietnam, it wasn't that way.

An apology is certainly in order. If nothing else, it's needed to staunch the gaping opening that this has provided for criticism from the left. (Chris Floyd's attack is worth reading for the point he makes about the hypocrisy of the draft proposal in the first place.)

Saturday's anti-war demonstration in Boise
One of the four corners of Saturday's demonstration in Boise, photo courtesy of Roger Piper-Ruth

Kennedy on Iraq: "Wrong war at the wrong time." This doesn't look like it'll win friends and influence people in the Bush Administration, but bully for him.

Krugman: "A liberal and a conservative were sitting in a bar. Then Bill Gates walked in. ''Hey, we're rich!'' shouted the conservative. ''The average person in this bar is now worth more than a billion!'' ''That's silly,'' replied the liberal. ''Bill Gates raises the average, but that doesn't make you or me any richer.'' ''Hah!'' said the conservative, ''I see you're still practicing the discredited politics of class warfare.''...

"Meanwhile, let's look at what the administration isn't doing. It's not allocating enough money to meet its own goals for homeland security, or to provide adequate funding for Medicare. It has scaled back promised pay increases for the military. It's not providing a penny in aid to desperate state governments - it isn't even helping them meet the new burden of homeland security spending mandated from Washington."

It looks like Ed Rosenthal is going to be a casualty of that other war-without-end, the one against drugs. The DEA finds him a convenient pawn in their quest to crush states' rights when it comes to medicinal marijuana.

Arianna Huffington is driving a Prius now, too. Hey, it's the smart thing to do.

Er, unless you're following the plans for tax cutting: that says buy the biggest thing you can find, and increase your write-off. Bizarre.

Omigod, a NY Times Business blurb on Boise. They caught the capitol dome on a day with some blue sky, so they haven't been here lately -- featureless gray just isn't as photogenic. And yeah, we provide "the feel of a frontier town" for more than just the business traveler.

The Green Bay Packers: best franchise in sports.

20.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just in time for the Martin Luther King Day holiday, the NY Times' editorial page has taken note of "peaceable throngs of mainstream Americans came forward demanding more of a dialogue from political leaders." Opinion polls are showing Bush's general approval ratings at the lowest since 9/11, although still above 50%. About the same number also thinks that "Bush generally favors the rich"; apparently that's not a big problem.

Oddly, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll report just had a number for "National Defense," - 63% approve - and nothing specific about Iraq.

Al Hirschfeld died in his sleep at 99. His "Self Portrait at 98" included with the NY Times obituary is as fitting an epitaph as imaginable for a wonderful talent.

Goldman Sachs: Fear the Penguin.

One of the benefits of civilization in the northern latitudes is enjoying bananas as a dietary staple. Since bananas are propagated vegetatively, they've got almost no genetic variability, and are at risk of being wiped out by fungi, such as the Black Sigatoka fungus. The shocking headline is that they could be gone in 10 years! The Jamaica Observer's version of the story making the rounds holds out some hope, though. If we had to switch to apple bananas, that would be OK. Seems like we need something to avoid an agricultural process that requires spraying plants with pesticide 40 times a year.

18.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

An anti-war demonstration
with 150 or so other members of the Idaho Peace Coalition, today, a tiny reverberation of the protests across the country. It was cold and gloomy and our guaranteed audience at Fairview and Milwaukee was dumping unpleasant gases into the inversion. But hey, that's who needs to hear the message, eh? I carried a sign that said "Blessed are the Peacemakers" and collected the ire of one gal who shouted "how are you gonna feel when they take care of you? I just kept smiling and tried to avoid eye contact with her, that was just too weird.

Many people honked in solidarity, some honked in angry (it always seemed to be angry) disagreement, waved a fist or a finger. The "Honk if you love peace" sign pretty much takes care of the first of the those. Most of all, I enjoyed talking to friends while shuffling our feet to keep them warm, meeting a couple of veterans (one from WWII, one from the early 50s, who still fits into his submariner's jacket) and feeling good about expressing our opinion for all of Boise to see.

If you're in Boise next week, come out and join the fun - 2pm, Fairview and Milwaukee.

End User License Agreements (EULAs) are presented as one-sided, take-it-or-leave-it deals. You don't like our terms? Don't use the software. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer and his suit against Network Associates however, we have notice that the power of the writers is not unlimited. The company may not "require people who buy the software to get permission from the company before publishing reviews of its products." Pending the outcome of their "vow" to appeal.

Godspeed to the researchers who met at the MIT Conference to fight spam. A shocking statistic from the story: "Spam traffic has grown from 8 percent of Internet e-mail in 2001 to as much as 40 percent in 2002, according to Brightmail Inc., which provides filtering products for several major Internet service providers" (including ours, Earthlink. The quote's from the NY Times). 40 percent garbage.

The webcasts from the conference are available, they say for 6 months.

17.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The US (well, Rumsfeld, anyway) suggests Hussein could just clear out, that's generous. Then, the chemical rockets were found (but without payloads). Hmmm. Are they or are they not the excuse we need to wreak war on Iraq? Meanwhile, the strange parallel universe of US v. North Korea continues, with negotiation more likely than hostilities. North Korea is doing what Zog do, withdrawing from treaties and the like. Curioser and curioser. The Saudis, Turks and Egyptians have joined the cloak and dagger team lobbying for regime change, hoping to get Hussein out of the neighborhood before all hell breaks loose.

Opinion polls suggest that we're getting uneasy about our leaders' behavior, at least by Maureen Dowd's reading of them. Frank Rich is more direct about it (if that's possible): "If anything, the midterm election has emboldened the White House to use fictional rhetoric to paper over harsher reality in almost every policy area it can."

This weekend, there will be plenty of protests to demonstrate mass disaffection directly.

Microsoft finally decides to pay a dividend... a whopping 0.3% of their share price. At less than a tenth of their earnings, it's not much "share" for shareowners; some folks think it's just a smokescreen to cover the lowered outlook. ("Lowered" meaning a modest adjustment to the precision forecasts for machine that sucks in more than $30 billion a year and turns a third of it into profit.)

16.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Cottonwoods in glass, Boise River, 2003

I thought Dell could do no wrong, and all their customers loved them. Joel Spolsky's telling a different story. (He's got an interesting policy on vaporware, too. Might have something to do with him not appreciating being someone else's inventory stooge.)

Larry Lessig sings the praises of I like 'em too, and they're not paying either of us anything (I assume) to sing their praises. I don't meet any of Lessig's criteria, though: I can keep a job, I'm not running from the law, and I apparently don't need the reliability of multiple systems to store and access my mail. (Well, actually, for me to get any mail addressed to tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org, I need the reliability of pobox's service, the reliability of my ISP's service and the reliability of a computer at my fingertips, but I don't suppose that's what he meant.) My reason is that I don't have to tell people when I change ISPs -- my address stays the same.

It's not just Mickey Mouse that's embroiled in copyright law: they're fighting over Peter Pan, too. Actually, the Mickey Mouse case is over, and Mickey's still locked up: Ashcroft's victory in Eldred v. Ashcroft was affirmed by the SCOTUS.

It's good to get an idea of how others see us from time to time. Brian Eno's view of America from Europe is a little different from the shining beacon thing we get so much of at home. Did Bush really say that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress" recently? It reminds me of those "one true" religions that insist it's either their way or the hell-way. Rather narrow-minded.

15.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I broke the Law on the way to work today. 15mph-ish attempt to take the McMillan to Sunderland turn -- reverse banked, smooth pavement, and icy after last night's thorough soaking and return to high pressure. Mother Nature cited me.

"You're going down," She said.

Fortunately, traffic was light, and I was able to get up and brush off the gravel and continue on my way before anyone ran me over.

Google vs. Search King: the arms race between useful search indexing and touts goes to court. At what point will Google become a monopolist and have their "free speech" restricted? Search King's attorneys seem to be launching a trial balloon, $75k and fees if they win.

Microsoft opens up, in order to close down the competition. Governments can look at MS source, to help them decide to keep buying it. However much of their time and effort they invest in inspection and repair will enourage them not to shop around. Or so the kids in Redmond hope.

14.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Two from the Register: Lexmark siccing the DMCA on an upstart maker of chips to circumvent their toner cartridge lockout, and Adobe's love-hate relationship with DMCA-augmented copyright protection. Adobe seems to want to have the DMCA, but avoid any association with the muscle it takes to enforce it or the objectionable provisions it contains. They didn't want to be seen as promoting the prosecution of Elcomsoft, but they're sorry the government lost the case against it, and they'd like to see more prosecutions to enforce the DMCA. Not involving their good name, no doubt.

Lexmark has an interesting case concerning their "Prebate" deal, where you get a discount in exchange for agreeing to return the carcass. Should their suit be against the buyers who renege on their end of the deal, rather than Static Control Components for making chips that allow remanufacture of the cartridges? (And are all of their cartridges being sold as Prebates now?) The solution that works for the auto industry seems like it could solve the problem here: have a "core charge" for buying a new cartridge, the way you do when you buy a car battery. If you turn in an old battery, it's a wash, otherwise, you pay more. Asking people to recycle stuff out of the goodness of their hearts my work for beer bottles, but not for something that's worth $10 or $20 or more.

The Washington Post has a big collection of commentary on the Iraq situation. Faced with more than I can read, I'm drawn to read certain authors, or by good titles. In this case, Karen Armstrong, Jimmy Carter, Michael Kinsley, "Try Him for His Crimes" by David J. Scheffer, and a couple good letters to the editor about "chicken hawks." (In case you're wondering, I was too young to serve in Vietnam.)

Armstrong: "Every fundamentalist movement that I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is rooted in a deep fear of annihilation. Consequently, as history shows, violent attempts to suppress such movements are counterproductive, because they confirm fundamentalists in their conviction that they are about to be wiped out."

13.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This doesn't look good: the big picture sounds like HP hired a whistle-blower to get him off their case. "Whistle-blower" doesn't do Phillip M. Adams justice, though. He's turned an obscure defect in floppy disk controller chips into his own personal money machine. $4.5 million from California's settlement with Toshiba, $5 million from the federal government's settlement, and the big bonanza, $27.5 million for "consulting" for HP.

Toshiba is out some part of the $2.1 billion it settled for (since a lot of the "hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of coupons redeemable for Toshiba products" are probably worth less than face value), so a couple tens of $millions looks like a good deal. This is for something that might caused (or have caused) a problem, somewhere along the line. Where the heck are the class action suits against Microsoft for all the problems their software has caused? Oh, I forgot, the end user license agreement disclaims all responsibility.

By the way, how is your floppy drive working these days? Mine gets used so seldom that I think it's overloaded with dust, and most of the time I can't read a file on computer #2 written by computer #1, or vice versa. I email or ftp the small stuff, put the bigger stuff on a ZIP disk or a CD. But am I suing anybody about it? I don't think so.

I never got around to learning how to Graffiti to a computer. Now it looks like I won't have to. Xerox scares Palm away from Graffiti, and now they think Jot is a better idea. Not for marketing, though - they're going to call it "Graffiti2."

The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization: the truth is out there.

12.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A quote from Schopenauer leads off chapter 7 in Einstein in Love, which I'm reading at the moment (thanks to my sister, who gave it to me for Christmas):

"All society necessarily involves, as the first condition of its existence, mutual accommodation and restraint on the part of its members. This means that the larger it is, the more insipid will be its tone. A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is along that he is really free."

There's a lot more to be said about that little snippet, but I provide it here only to excuse my prattling on about that portion of my life that is being an NFL spectator.

I lost my last horse in that race today, with the demise of the Niners at the hands of Tampa Bay. The wild card race definitely makes the end of the season more interesting, but once the playoffs start, it seems increasingly predictable that "no bye" means "buh bye." (This year it was true for every team.) Teams who have to fight it out in the wild card games, while the division leaders recuperate for a week are way more likely to lose the next round. As if the week's vacation wasn't enough advantage, all those teams get home field advantage, too.

Hey, it's just a game. A game that some people get millions of dollars each year to play.

On an related note, I heard that the refs blew that final penalty call in the NY Giants - Forty-niners game last week; the lineman down field trying to catch the ball apparently reported in as eligible, making the pass interference actionable (and rendering the "ineligible receiver downfield" penalty moot). The Giants shoulda had the ball back for a gimme field goal, and got to play this weekend. Bummer. Nobody likes to see a bad call change the outcome of a game, least of all the referees. The "good" news for Giants fans is that their team probably would have lost this week, too.

I didn't see Arts & Entertainment's "Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor" tonight, but this review was a lot of fun.

11.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The sun peeked out for a bit, after some snow flurries, but now it's back to the gray blah of inversion. Where's that inch of snow they forecast for this morning?!

The big lies about drugs were bad enough, but now those whacky conservatives are lying about condoms?! How many lives must be wasted because of ignorance ideology?

Here's where to send those pictures you take at the airport security checkpoint when they ask you to prove that your camera is not a bomb: the Insecurities Project.

Postal experiments, from the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). Amazing. Incredible. Companion to a 7 year project in mail art. (Thanks to Sheila Lennon for the links.)

Safire describes the jackals gathering around Iraq. Everybody's got an angle to the war.

Hey kids! Check out the CIA's Homepage for kids. Try a disguise, break the code, get high on intelligence, not drugs. Complete with sound effects of aerial reconnaissance photography pigeons. What a friendly bunch of people those spooks are!

USA Patriot Art: Cartooning and free speech in wartime, hosted by the ACLU. In addition to the published disclaimer (WARNING: Contains the cartoon that Ari Fleischer said is "Wrong as wrong can be!"), note that some are not funny, simply because they're true.

What the headline giveth, the fine print taketh away: Microsoft Agrees to $1.1 Billion Settlement to 13 million California businesses and consumers who suffered from its monopoly pricing. Sort of like a big dividend from a company that normally only collects dividends, except that the payout is in... wait for it... "vouchers to buy computers and software." Buy more monopoly priced stuff, at a bit of a discount!

The Museum of Hoaxes makes for a nice diversion. Polish your incredulity with hoax photos, websites, April Fool's Day, Birth Hoaxes, more. They're also the folks with the hoax photo test, Christmas gullibility test, and top ten college pranks. I'm sorry I missed Lady Liberty in Lake Mendota, but the description of The Great Rose Bowl Hoax seems almost as good as being there.

10.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

From the Warm Springs footbridge mirror session

Time out today to attend the memorial service for the friends and family of Pat Hall, a wonderful person with a very big soul. There was music, and lots of quilts, as befits a cofounder of the Boise Peace Quilt project. Among other remembrances were the Five from Buddhism, which somehow I had never heard before. "...I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.
All that is dear to me, and everyone I love are of the nature to change.
There is no way to escape being separated from them."

Good reminder.

"The fact is, there are many people in the world who will take advantage of something like music or performing and use it for their own sinister purpose. Arts and culture is something that carries with it a patina of goodness and purity, but it can be misused, and it's our job to see if somebody is trying to do that." State Dept. spokesman Stuart Patt, quoted from the Philadelphia Inquirer, by Susan Martinez, writing in CounterPunch, "Censorship Through Visa -- How the INS is Killing Music."

Now that the Republicans are securely in charge, it's time to roll back some of the "Contract with America" vintage ethics rules. Bring on the trips to resorts! This business was important enough to make it on the agenda for the first day of the new Congress.

Lake Superior State University's banned word and phrase list for 2003 is out, but it doesn't seem nearly long enough. We'll need more than that, going forward.

9.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's payback time on K street: over-the-hill legislators find new life as high-paid lobbyists. Dick Armey's time, for example, is worth a lot these days, and he's got a good parking spot, too.

Sometimes the whole story is in a captivating headline: Vampire saliva could help treat stroke.

"You can outsource the work, but you can't outsource the risk." When software is written in distant lands, who makes sure it's free of back doors and intentional flaws?

I've been on the verge of leaving the Dark Side for a while now, and the latest MacWorld may be the nudge to push me over the edge and switch. The most important motivation is to be able to edit video, as the hours of miniDV tapes pile up. There are also the domestic disputes about who uses the computer (but a few hundred bucks at Walmart could address those). The semi-graceful decay of our now almost 5-year old Windows95 system needs attention. (It surprised me to use "graceful" in that sentence, but I have to admit, it still works for most of what I use it for and I know how to work around most of the blue screens.) A copy of Win98 SE could address that issue, but who wants to send $100 to Microsoft?

The reports from David Pogue and Robert Cringely sure make it sound like the time for sitting on the fence is over.

Speaking of dark sides, we've been wallowing in yet another inversion for most of a week. As I was driving to the dentist today in the hoary fog, I heard the ski report from Bogus Basin - 27° and sunny. The sun didn't really make an appearance down under, although the hoarfrost did mostly fall off the trees before the end of the "day." Something better is on the way, we hope - rain and snow showers over the weekend and into next week.

8.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This year's assignment from the Edge was to write a memo to our President, addressing the question: "What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?" 85 responses and counting, and coming to a highlight article in a mainstream publication (NYT, /., WSJ, etc.) near you.

If that question is not your cup of tea, start at the top and explore some other part of the amazing compendium of ideas on the site.

It was a court in Norway, but the decision sounds reasonable enough that perhaps US courts can figure it out, too: Defendant "Johansen was entitled to access information on a DVD that he had purchased (what a concept!), and was therefore entitled to use his program to break the code."

Meanwhile, back in the USA, DVDs are powering a different legal issue, concerning jurisdiction of states in regard to material posted on out-of-state websites. The SCOTUS agreed with California's Supreme Court (insofar as ending its stay on their ruling) that states can't reach out and touch external information providers.

While many are busy working to get data storage down to atomic resolution, Bing Fung and his Okie colleagues are going subatomic: 1024 bits in 19 hydrogen atoms, using "complex interaction of the protons' magnetic moments."

Some computer researchers consider redefining the "back" button in browsers to retrace your path through every page visited, rather than "up" the tree. Having designed my share of web pages and directory trees (and keeping the location URLs visible), I can visualize either choice without trouble, but I don't suppose most users can. Complex and database-driven sites easily confound any sense of hierarchy as well, so I'd welcome the choice between "back" and "retrace." I could live with "back" being redefined, but I'd rather have it augmented.

A big, faint ring around the galaxy: half a billion stars in a 120,000 light-year diameter halo around the Milky Way. The report on the article didn't give all the dimensions, but a torus of major diameter 120,000 light years and minor diameter 10,000 light years has a volume of 9.4 trillion cubic light-years, not quite 20 thousand cubic light years per star. That gives an average-sized box 26 light years on a side to each star, and 46 or so light years between stars.

7.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our governor, Dirk Kempthorne, delivered his State of the State address tonight, and laid out his plan for dealing with our portion of the budget crisis: 1.5% more sales tax and $.34 more per pack on cigarettes. We've done pretty well so far, using $200 million in "one time money" to balance the 2003 budget. (That's tobacco settlement money, isn't it?) Dirk and the Legislature also cut Idaho's income tax by what, $100 million or so, along with the Republican tide in Washington, so the combination adds up to a massive transfer of wealth and influence from the tobacco companies (buying Dirk another 4 year term) and the low income population in the state (most affected by the sales tax) to those with higher incomes. It's a basic Republican sort of plan.

6.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Happy Epiphany to you all, my favorite holiday on the liturgical calendar. It reminds me of a little ditty we came up with at Leadership School, "Epiphany Doo Dah." Next time we're talking, ask me how it goes and I'll show ya.

Paul O'Neill is out and big tax cuts are in. $674 billion in a decade. Nothing in particular to limit spending, so it'll all be deficit. Take it from the children, and leave no child behind. George II is working out of George I's playbook with the benefit of hindsight. Don't let the economy tank after the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, G2 is starting from a bigger hole than G1 had.

This just in from the Washington Post: "In a statement, Guillen said he had assembled experts to do the work but suspended the effort today. 'It's still entirely possible Clonaid's announcement is part of an elaborate hoax intended to bring publicity to the Raelian movement,' he said."

I understand all that except for "elaborate." The possible (or likely, depending on how you like the odds) hoax has just been a couple of press releases, hasn't it? Nothing too elaborate there.

Lotta skirt dropping down under, but no gasps of surprise from the defenders, and somewhat surprisingly, no gasps of protests for the Kiwis' double hull subterfuge to circumvent the Rule.

5.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not-too-cold and oh-so-sunny for the last day of vacation, seemed like a good afternoon for a bike ride. I thought of diligently going up into the NW wind first, and coasting home, but ended up cruising up the greenbelt with the wind helping me along, trying some sides I haven't seen much, or at all. The paths along the Boise river are justifiably one of the star attractions of the town, long after the river's polluted nadir has slipped from memory. They're being expanded, stretching from the west end of town out to Discovery Park at Lucky Peak dam, on both sides of the river in many places. Oh sure, there are some cottonwood roots pushing ridges into the asphalt, but for the most part, the maintenance is good, and the scenery is wonderful.

The Park Center Bridge, view from the South underpass

The "new" Park Center Boulevard bridge isn't all that special to most Boiseans, now that's it been up and carrying traffic for two (? or more?) years. I haven't gone over it yet, though, and I thought I might give it a try today. The path led me under it, first, and I did my best to get an interesting picture of the big, curving steel beams. Continuing upriver, I was thinking the next bridge was a good ways further, but another bridge I didn't know about popped up: a beautiful steel suspension footbridge at the west end of the Warm Springs golf course.

The Warm Springs footbridge, and mirror-walled offices

It's in a neighborhood of beautiful (although oddly nameless) office buildings, and the mirror walls and afternoon sun made an even more interesting photographic subject. I shot a "whole roll" of film, and most of the images feel like keepers.

My number 2 NFL team to root for is San Francisco, and their game today almost made up for the Lambeau debacle yesterday. I tuned in after the bike ride, when it was late in the 3rd quarter, and looking nearly hopeless - 38-14, the Giants up by 24. A great quarterback with a bunch of great receivers is way better than a great quarterback with almost no one left to throw to, and Garcia tore 'em up. The defense knocked 'em 3-and-out twice, while the offense marched down for two TDs and two 2-pt. conversions, followed by a field goal, and yet another TD. That made it 39-38, and the stunned Giants offense couldn't quite get it together to punch in a field goal on the last play of the game.

Ok you guys, keep going and win the Super Bowl!

On a more serious note, the scene in Israel is becoming ever more like Hell on earth. 22 more dead, and more than 100 injured in two more suicide bombings. It seems like the violence is just feeding on itself now.

4.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Well, after the ground ball from Frank Winters that Favre couldn't pick up, I finally had to stop watching the game. It was a great middle of the season for the Pack, but they ran out of gas about a week ago. One of the great winning streaks in history -- 13 playoff games at Lambeau field -- is over, and Green Bay has half a year of bye weeks coming up. The ugly, ugly game was played on a lovely snowy Green Bay evening, and also broke Favre's record of being undefeated in sub-35°F starts.

Speaking of playing in the snow, I had a nice afternoon in the forest today, although the snow was nothing to write home about. Warm, wet on top and heavy. Thinking wishfully, I put on the warmest wax that wasn't goopy (special purple, 0/-1°C), and that gave zero traction. Slapped on the skins and went up the steepest way I could find, to lunch on Banner Ridge. Coming down, there were plenty of untracked slopes, but I couldn't turn worth a darn in the stuff. The smell of the air up there was worth the hour and a half drive, though. Good stuff.

Friedman: Of course it would be a war for oil, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. "But when we tell the world that we couldn't care less about climate change, that we feel entitled to drive whatever big cars we feel like, that we feel entitled to consume however much oil we like, the message we send is that a war for oil in the gulf is not a war to protect the world's right to economic survival -- but our right to indulge. Now that will be seen as immoral."

Tomorrow's NY Times Magazine feature piece by Michael Ignatieff, "The Burden", discussing America's Imperium, and where it must go next. "A successful American political strategy against terror depends on providing enough peace for both Israelis and Palestinians that extremists on either side begin to lose the support that keeps violence alive."

He also notes that success in the Middle East will likely depend on changing the face of American presence there away from almost purely military. For example, "each month the United States spends an estimated $1 billion on military operations in Afghanistan and only $25 million on aid."

3.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just put my new headlight on my bike and took it out for a test drive. It's awesome! Drivers were giving me space, waiting at stop signs on cross-streets, moving left to pass, and hanging back rather than pulling ahead and cutting me off to make right turns. One guy two cars ahead of me at a light refused to turn right across the bike lane after he had the green, turning halfway around to look back at me and see what I was going to do. I waved him on for his turn, and grinned as I continued across the intersection after he'd gone.

A Merry Perihelion to you today (or perhaps tomorrow, depending where you live). The earth is at its closest to the sun at Jan. 4th, 05:00-ish UT, or 10pm tonight, MST. (Thanks to the US Navy for keeping track of that.)

Professional wacko Rael says "no DNA test for baby Eve," providing a persuasive argument that Clonaid's claim of having cloned a human is as incredible as the Raelians' creation story. The preparation for legal manueverings is interesting, though. Cloned or not, what business would the Law have with the life of this new human being?

One imagines that the parental confusion of "ownership" of one's child would be worsened by cloning as well, but the puzzle is not that hard to solve. Identical twins have identical DNA, but they are individuals, practically, and legally. We already have lots of different ways of making babies, but the end product is "created equal," as we say.

Analysis on the Iraq situation from the BBC: With the "despatch" of ground troops, Bush Jr. is signaling his readiness to go to war, while our closest ally, Britain, and the Secretary of the U.N. (whose resolutions we're supposedly enforcing) are not so certain it's time for that.

2.Jan.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If you're looking for the right mix of holiday cheer and political satire, consider The Night Before Christmas 2002:
More rapid than eagles the warlords they came,
as the little Bush whistled and called them by name:
"Now, Daschle! now, Ashcroft! Now Strom, don't relent!
On, Poindexter, Rumsfeld! On Henry and Trent!
To the top of the globe, while the crowd's at the mall,
now bomb away, bomb away, bomb away all!"

Cringely's predictions for 2003 start with a real downer (and some inside dirt I hadn't heard) about the company I work for. Hopefully that's among the 30% that will be wrong. Another, that's likely to be right: "I am sure we'll see at least four new laws giving corporations the right to invade our privacy, with most of those laws passed in the name of 'patriotism.'"

Happy 20th birthday to the internet yesterday, or at least to TCP/IP standardization.

1.1.2003 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Happy New Year! It's January. 2003. This new millennium is on a roll.

Two handy 2-letter words for Scrabble

We went to a Scrabble® party last night (the game's copyrighted, not the party, AFAIK) at Gary and Diane's and learned a few things about the more competitive variant of the board game. Two-letter words, for example. You know a bunch of these, but do you know all 96 of them in the 1998 Scrabble Dictionary? (Better yet, 120 of them, according to Chambers Official Scrabble Words, but what makes it "official"?) Qi, oi, ae, ee, ut, oo, sh, oe, ch -- these can come in handy for crowding into a corner and multi-word plays. But be prepared for some indignant incredulity the first time you try to foist some of these on the unititiated. Ta!

Unlike the earlier era when California took over the Colorado River, there will likely be more of a contest this time, as Arizona and Nevada are thirsty too, and more powerful. An intramural battle between California cities and agriculture has arisen over fear of liability for damage to the increasingly polluted Salton Sea, triggering a 13% cut to California's allotment of the Colorado, this month. From the Washington Post.

Now Bush's story is that an attack by Iraq would hurt the economy. Unlike an attack from North Korea?! Well, we don't really expect North Korea to attack us, but then the CIA said we don't expect Iraq to attack us, either. Unless of course we attack them, then they're liable to be as nasty as they can be. New year, but same incomprehensible disconnect in foreign policy.

The insight about the economy came in response to a question about the economic effect of a war with Iraq: won't a war (now estimated to cost "only" $50 or $60 billion) with Iraq cripple our economy? "An attack from Saddam Hussein or a surrogate of Saddam Hussein would cripple our economy."

And after months of beating the drums of war, he says: "You said we're headed to war in Iraq. I don't know why you say that. I'm the person who gets to decide, not you. And I hope this can be done peacefully." One man gets to decide if we go to war without provocation. This is not the way I understood it was supposed to work from Civics class.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Sunday, 09-Feb-2003 10:02:18 MST