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31.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Today's shopping expedition gave me some new material for considering the merits of buying local: the little guy versus the Big Box. Attitude can make a difference.

First snow in our yard, on berries

Didn't get to see charged particles in the sky last night, as it was overcast; the clouds brought snow down here to 2600'. It'll be clear tonight, which is nice for star-gazing, but cold: the forecast low is 19°F.

Good, maybe even great news on the economy, and we're squarely facing the post hoc, ergo propter hoc logical trap. The answer to every economic problem from the Bush administration has been "tax cuts," so now that we have some good news, it must be because of... the tax cuts! The big buts are that the bold advance in consumer spending is on credit (hey, just like the government!), and we still have that jobs problem: while the economy grew an estimated 7.2% in the 3rd quarter, the number of jobs went down. Again.

There's also this problem of headline timing and attention span: "By the way, for the last month there's been a peculiar pattern: each week, headlines declare that new claims fell from the previous week; a week later, the past week's number is revised upward, and the apparent decline disappears.)"

And on that other front, where Saddam Hussein is "no more," "no longer a threat," on the run and so forth, there's also the chance that he's coordinating the attacks by his loyalists. One or the other.


It's kind of pitiful, but there is at least one race that the Green Bay Packers are winning -- Click for Cans. The Cleveland Browns put up a challenge early on, but now we're pulling ahead strongly.

30.10.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another fillibuster, another judicial nominee on the cutting room floor. The usual accusations fly, but try this on for size: "Democrats said they had filibustered only four of the 171 judicial nominees who have come before the Senate. Republicans said that was four too many and predicted more filibusters by the Democrats." Is that because they know more sub-5th percentile nominees are going to be offered up?

If you're making a list of bad places to go in certain kinds of Halloween costumes, I noticed a sign in the bank today suggesting that was one, and Congressional office buildings would be another. Add to your irony collection: "One of the hearings disrupted by the incident was a meeting of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security."

Domestic cats (among other species) can carry SARS. Not good.

First dusting of snow on the Boise front, Oct. 30th

Little bit of dusting up there on the Boise front, think snow! Got in one last sailing session yesterday, some chilly tennis today to call it a season. It is almost November, after all.

Speaking of storms, we're getting blasted by yet another coronal mass ejection. Might be time to bundle up and go out to see if we can find an aurora tonight. Check the map to see if it's in your neighborhood.

A sun dog in the late October sky over Boise

Even if we don't get out in the cold and dark we had one nice celestial event already today: a multi-colored sun dog in late afternoon.

After seeing an interesting email from one of my lists, I took a quick look to see if I could find the original source, but it seems to have rapidly moved into urban legend status. Legends, of course, can be true, and George Herbert Walker Bush did indeed decided not to march to Baghdad, and write this in his and Brent Scowcroft's political history book, A World Transformed: "Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

What he said. And what his boy and his pals didn't pay attention to. (Or as Jeanette points out may be the problem, what they held in contempt.) Who could imagine looking back on GHWB's presidency as the good old days? But then the Cold War did come to an end on his watch, after all.

Once upon a Time, a longer excerpt of the Bush/Scowcroft book was published -- and then redacted -- by a popular news magazine, a fact preserved by The Memory Hole.

I'm knocking back the big bucks on Amazon Associates referrals; this last quarter I got 2.7% of a $1.50 item, for a whopping 4 cents. Maybe it was editorial commentary, the title was Your Eyelids are Growing Heavy.

Speaking of Amazon, I'm wondering if they discontinued their Trivia game wherein web visitors could collect a few nickels every day for slogging through some pages and advertising. If they're still doing it, they sure make it hard to find on their site. Searching for "nickels" or "trivia" doesn't get you there. For a while they were automatically embedding the questions in whatever page they assembled for you, and chopping them out when you were done for the day. But now, nothing.

Could you imagine if they paid people to watch advertising on commercial TV? You could have Tivo report on what all you watched, and if you like some ads, just watch them over and over.

There's a new low-cost Segway soon to be available. Only 4-large now. You could make my Associates day, week, month, quarter and year by buying one of those via a referral link. I put it on my wish list, too, in case you're feeling really generous. (Apparently I have to wait "a few days" for it to become visible to others.)

I just spent some time wandering around the myriad recommendations Amazon has for me. Their starting point is the handful of things that I've bought from them, but they also use things I've searched for, and each item that's added opens up new connections. It's all rather fascinating. The limits on time and attention are the big problem, of course, even if I were the sort of person who bought things regularly.

At first I was a little annoyed at the idea of asking celebrities about their great ideas; you don't need to be famous to have a good idea, after all, just being asked might be enough. But ideas are what they are, and the correspondents are quirky enough to make this collection of vignettes interesting. I don't know if the NYT will let them run free longer than their 7 day window, so get 'em while they're fresh.

John Perry Barlow and Patricia F. Russo want a simpler technological life: "my whole life is a sea of gimcrackery and doodads." Bill Joy: The Cone (or cap) of Silence. Margaret Cho: the computer of her dreams. Moby wants a new drug, hasn't figured out that Life offers more than enough recreational opportunities. William Gibson: make George Bush's speeches more colorful. Donald Trump wants everyone to know what he wants (so we can provide it for him, of course). Michael K. Powell just wants a decent application for a PDA, the MePod. (He probably wants it to be theft-proof, too...) Chris Collinsworth will probably get his portable TiVo, unless DRM gets in the way. Maybe Michael Powell could help with that. Martina Navratilova wants a good call. Scott Adams probably wants his link on the other pages, but he'll settle for a cat locator.

Now I know the feeling of power that comes from being a name dropper, and from being Donald J. Trump.

When you're Fannie Mae and you have a mistake in your spreadsheet, the error can go to 10 figures: "its mortgage portfolio grew by $1.7 billion; its total assets by $1.04 billion; and its unrealized gains on certain securities, by $1.3 billion." Nice that they were all on the plus side, but do we believe these numbers now?

29.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I'm not sure who this Carl Estrada guy on Paul Chasman's dot org is, but he writes some funny letters, like the one on September 9th (permalinks anyone?) with a clever suggestion for George: "Here’s what I think you should do: Go to your Photo Shop program and erase 'Mission Accomplished.' In its place, write: 'Mission Impossible.' You can do it--trust me--you’ll be amazed at what Photo Shop can do."

That would have been a better plan than the one that was rolled out yesterday, at the garden press conference, which Scott McLellan referred to playfully as "bannergate," while he was being rotisseried by the press corps today:

Q Scott, knowing what we know now, that the Navy, apparently they say that they did request this banner, that what the President said was technically accurate, but would you concede that the gist of what he was saying was misleading because it left the impression for -- that he was saying that the White House didn't have anything to do it. You don't think it was misleading?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's not what he -- no, that's not what he said.

I swear, the guy must have "No, that's not what he said" written on a cue card. If not, he ought to. I happened to see the excerpt of W.'s press conference (RealAudio), wherein "what he said" (with that "I've got a secret joke" smirk going), was "The 'Mission Accomplished" sign of course was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff, ah... they weren't that ingenious by the way...."

Yeah, I think that was misleading. Was W. lying again, or was he just misinformed, and how long are we going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt for being misinformed all the time?

A funny thing happened on the way to a picture of the moon

The new camera arrived in good shape yesterday evening, and now I'm figuring out how to make it go. I like the user interface, I'm lukewarm on the digital viewfinder, downright cool on the toy image editing program. 8X zoom is like having a really, really big hammer -- works great on the 16d nails, but for finishing nails it can be somewhat overpowering. One oddity is a very limited number of choices for resolution (the default shown bold):

Best2.6 MB1.25MB

I'm still messing around, but I expect I'll dial it up to the max size and resolution and mostly leave it there; if I'm lucky enough to take a keeper photograph, I want it to be the best it can be. It's easy enough to discard or downsize the less archivable shots, but you can't improve the quality after you've pressed the shutter. It feels like there ought to be more choices, but since I'm unlikely to use them anyway, I guess I shouldn't mind that there aren't.

The "first shot" here was from trying to take a nighttime, hand-held shot of the crescent moon, and I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I liked the result! :-)

Thanks to alert reader Mark Odell for catching three of my favorite media topics reaching harmonic convergence: Rupert Murdoch threatens to sue himself. You can listen to the source of the controversy on... Fresh Air, of course.

It's understandable that Fox News wouldn't want The Simpsons to do the news crawl parody, "because it might confuse viewers into thinking it was real news." Or confuse them into thinking that Fox News is a parody.

27.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

AP photo of smoke from the California fires, visible from space

The BBC's coverage of the California fires has emailed first-person accounts, along with video and photos (including the one excerpted here, showing the smoke visible from space). We have family down there too, and had an update from my dad midday yesterday: "The skies in Solana Beach are overcast with smoke, the sun (at 11am) is orange (like a sunset) and a scattering of large white flakes (in Milwaukee we'd call it snow) drift down onto our driveway." Close to a thousand homes destroyed already, and things sound worse today.

Bill Gates has the road show going for the next big O/S revision, somewhere between 1 and 3 years out. At this distance, it's all about mindshare, trial balloons and distraction, but the touted features don't sound all that exciting. Better security, a filesystem more tightly integrated with proprietary application file formats, "more sophisticated" graphics, etc.; in other words, they're going to get closer to successfully delivering all the things they've promised for the last 5 or 10 years. If they can include the best of what Apple has already done (this year), the market will probably continue to accept their monopoly.

If I could put in one small request... (ha!) it would be to please include something that unix operating systems have had for, um, 20 years or so? Links to files provide multiple names and/or paths to the same information, so that "USbudget2004" could be filed under /Clipfile/politics/budgets and /Clipfile/economy, say, without copying the bits. Two pointers, one file. Simple, effective, brilliant, and missing in action in DOS and its offspring. (And yes, I would also support correcting the erroneous use of '\' to mean '/'.)

Giving the Avant browser a whirl, and there are some things I like a lot. Number 1 is tabbed browsing, with the middle mouse button opening links in the background. I got used to that with Opera on my win95 machine, but I haven't got around to installing that better software on the w2k machine.

The installation seemed fast, seamless and clever, keeping all my MSIE Favorites (although alphabetizing them -- I hate that), as well as its cookies. After looking around a bit, finding keyboard shortcut customization and a useful Help index missing, it became apparent that it's not a browser at all, but rather a (much improved) user interface wrapper for Internet Explorer. No wonder the installation was quick and easy! The good part about that is that (almost all of) MSIE's familiar shortcuts remain exposed; the bad part is that all of MSIE's shortcoming are along for the ride.

My buddy on the inside keeps telling me to try Mozilla... so I did that, too, but its tabbed interface doesn't seem quite as simple or effective as Avant's or Opera's. He said it didn't have that old Netscape feel, either, but it rather did to me. I liked that, once upon a time...

26.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

That other Ichiro, Ichiro Irie, made the news just after the baseball season, for what has to set a new standard in the realm of bizarre fetishes. As the Associated Press reported, "police arrested a man for stealing shoes at a southern Japanese hospital then found a collection in his home of 440 women's shoes -- all for the left foot."

Doc pointed to the NPR ombudsman's report, criticizing Terry Gross for her interview with Bill O'Reilly. I added to his email load with this:

I disagree with your assessment -- and your castigation -- of Terry Gross. As you say, she is "one of the best interviewers anywhere in American journalism," and it was O'Reilly who made the interview the ugly thing that it was. His shtick is all about bluster and intimidation, and poor little Bill got beat up by Ms. Gross?

Puhlease. There is enough liberal hand-wringing and second guessing going on in our little "culture war," without us abasing ourselves before the forces of self-righteous commentators who know no truth but their own.

Surely you read the report that viewers of PBS and NPR are better informed than those of FOX News? That's what the culture war is about -- people who are looking to find what the truth is, against those who are certain they know it already.

So just when you're wondering what else can go wrong, there's this coronal mass ejection from the sun headed our way, at two million miles an hour. That sounds fast, but then the sun is a long way away -- it takes a few seconds for the light to get here, and almost two days for that CME to cover the distance. (This is a bit of old news; the first wave arrived Friday.) You can check whether there's an aurora to view without leaving the bright city lights on a NOAA site. It says we're on the fringe at the moment, less than 0.1 erg/cm2/s. (Ergs, you say? 1 erg/s/cm2 is a mW/m2, versus the [very] "round number" solar constant of 1.4kW/m2 at our orbit.)

25.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It looks like 6 games will do it this time, with a fantastic performance by Josh Beckett to silence the Yankees in 9 shut-out innings. I had no trouble staying awake for all of this one! That 27th championship will just have to wait while the Marlins enjoy their 2nd, and the magic of Yankee Stadium can take a break until April or so. The look on Juan Pierre's face as he ran in from centerfield told the story: uncontainable physical joy.

And they did all that on one-third the payroll. Just goes to show you, money ain't everything.

It used to be that parents would aspire for their children to someday grow up to be President. Now they can aim for a more widely achievable goal and have their children grow up to be a blogger, just like George, er, just like, who seems to be the "person" making the entries in that site's "Official" blog. Of the many heart-warming entries, I especially enjoyed the quotation from George Will's latest paean to the Chief and Rummy, where we find out that (a) our Defense Secretary has as an axiom, "A narrow focus on the certain obscures the almost-certain," and (b) the administration may have been wrong, but their intentions were true:

"Critics correctly fault the mistaken certitude of some of the administration's prewar pronouncements. But critics indicting the administration not merely for mistakes but for meretriciousness would do well to avoid that in their indictments."

I don't tend to think or write much about "meretriciousness," so I checked what the dictionary says about the lovely word. Was Will thinking of the 1a sense (in the 4th ed. of The American Heritage Dict.), "attracting attention in a vulgar manner," or more likely 1b, "plausible but false or insincere; specious." (We assume he wasn't referring to the 2nd sense, "relating to prostitution.") So, we critics are not to fault the Administration for insincerity. George Will somehow knows that their hearts are pure.

I think what he wants to say is that "they weren't lying to us, even though it sounds like they were," but that doesn't sound nearly as mellifluous and is a much harder argument to make. Buried in the florid prose is the purpose of his essay: Rumsfeld is A-OK, and we shouldn't even think of firing his ass for the mess in Iraq. It was a really, really hard job (maybe impossible), but we had to do it to stave off the "grave and gathering" (not "clear and present") danger that was (apparently) Hussein's Iraq. It became very important this week to note that no one in the Administration ever said the danger was imminent; in fact Bush said just the opposite in his State of the Union address: the danger is NOT imminent, so we should act before it becomes imminent. There are NO elephants in the living room, so we should get going on that elephant hunt to keep it that way. (Oh wait, there are elephants in the living room, aren't there?)

If you got the impression that there was some imminent danger (say, of a Weapon of Mass Destruction landing on our shore, or a "mushroom cloud" headed your way), or that Iraq was somehow involved in the 9/11 attack on our country, why, you must have been confused, and how ever did you get to be that way you silly goose? Rest assured, it wasn't meretriciousness.

Or, maybe it was. For a different point of view, consider the teachings of Leo Strauss, "a great believer in the efficacy and usefulness of lies in politics" according to Shadia Drury, who's studied him at least as well as the neocons. Consider Irving Kristol, for example, striving for a higher ideal: "(T)he goals of American foreign policy must go well beyond a narrow, too literal definition of ‘national security.’ It is the national interest of a world power, as this is defined by a sense of national destiny ... not a myopic national security."

On a similar subject, I finished Michael Moore's book, Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! Even for a sympathetic reader, his attitude can get in the way at times; it's better suited to film, I think. This book was written before 9/11, before the latest war in Iraq, so it seems dated in some ways, but the collection of facts he had to work from into early 2001 were damning enough. Read the details of how Jeb delivered Florida to W. (it was more than just the Supremes), the Wars on intelligence, Drugs, poor people, and on and on. He doesn't spare the Democrats, or Clinton/Gore, either; the last minute barrage of Executive Orders from the last administration was more of an indictment for what they didn't get done, rather than a grand finale. (Lest we forget, however, 3/4ths of the Clinton administration was post-"Contract with America"; they had a lot of help.) The book has a lot of funny stuff in it, but not so much funny ha ha when it's all said and done.

24.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Well, I actually tuned in for the whole baseball game last night, although I dozed off for some of the later innings; yet another reason to tape the beginning and check in at the end. Out of some sort of masochistic impulse, I even watched the playing of the national anthem, which was done by Yanni, accompanied by an unnamed violinist and an another electronic technician. This guy is insanely popular around the world, but I've yet to hear any of his music that attracts me. His treatment of The Star-spangled Banner seemed to define "insipid," with no singing and the violin blanketed by two workstations' worth of electronic noises. He seemed to be swimming in waves of smirky self-satisfaction while he diddled the thing out... hmmm, there's a parallel with our President now, isn't there?

Just to experience this cultural phenomenon to its fullest, I checked out the "Fan Area" to see how the devoted felt about the performance. I think member LADYGOLD probably speaks for all umpteen million (or is it billion?) of them:

"I absolutely loved the way Yanni got that little grin on his face and couldn't wait to put that special touch of 'Yanni' music on the end of the anthem!!! I loved it when he did that and did his famous hair FLIP!!! Man, if some people didn't know who Yanni was before, they should by now! What great exposure! Good also to see Ming and Karen Briggs....!!"

Yes, now we know who Yanni is.

(Actually, there was one dissenting voice in the fan zone, but "Yanni Management" (a.k.a. YMusicMuse) stepped in and reminded folks to "move on" should any polite disagreement arise.)

Paul Krugman observes that Treasury Secretary John Snow's optimistic forecast still leaves the bar far too low: "Bear in mind that the payroll employment figure right now is down 2.6 million compared with what it was when George W. Bush took office. So Mr. Snow is predicting that his boss will be the first occupant of the White House since Herbert Hoover to end a term with fewer jobs available than when he started.... (T)o have kept up with the population growth since Mr. Bush took office, the economy would have to add not two million, but seven million jobs by next November."

From the last time (?) we'll vote by punching chads

Jeanette and I voted yesterday, for Boise's next mayor, and four city council members. Boise is till using those infamous punch card ballots, and voting absentee, you're completely on your own with the card and a stylus. They give you a styrofoam backing card, but that's it. I've punched a lot of chad (or is it "chads") in my day, and never considered it a problem. But who knows, maybe all my ballots have been thrown out. It certainly wouldn't have changed any of the results in this state!

A big old black spot on the face of the sun and a coronal mass ejection headed our way means problems for radio (can you hear me now?), and likely auroras. How nice that we're getting longer nights to view them with.

So, it turns out that Rumsfeld understands the situation well enough, but is just running on a spin cycle with a broken timer. Talk about a loose cannon; how long before W., Big Dick and Condi send this guy and his high priest General Boykin packing? He's not exactly on message with W.'s current theme song, It's Getting Better All the Time.

The time has come to upgrade our digital camera. It's not an order of magnitude improvement in multiple dimensions the way computer upgrades tend to be, but then it didn't take 5+ years, either. (Our 1998 computer with a measly 6GB HD and 266MHz processor seems quaint, while our 3-year-old 2Mpx camera is merely outdated.) I looked at local retail outlets for the model I wanted, but since it didn't turn up there ("we have them on order") I went mail-order.

Tracking the "5 to 7 business days" FedEx ground shipment is the compensating entertainment while waiting for the goods. After my order the evening of the 22nd, the first entry is "Customer-Loaded Trailer Picked Up" at midnight, meeting the promise to ship an order placed by 10pm on the same day. The trailer was picked up in Memphis, meaning the vendor has put their distribution center at FedEx's hub, long-ago chosen for having an airport that could be taken over and put to work. (No doubt the Interstate Highways around there are nicely upgraded, too.) 45 minutes later, "Package information transmitted to FedEx," and then half a day later, it was "Scanned at FedEx sort facility." This morning, at 9:21, it left the sort facility, for its road trip west.

23.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Last fall watering in our garden

Rush Limbaugh's tribulation with addiction gives us a chance to reconsider the whole mess of outlawing drugs. Charley Reese's point of view is close to my own: "The phony war on drugs that has cost billions of dollars and wrecked the lives of thousands of people is Prohibition all over again. Whenever the government decides to arbitrarily outlaw a product people want, outlaws organize to provide it.... What has the drug war accomplished? It has created new, more deadly criminal organizations, expanded the power of government and practically institutionalized public corruption. In neither case has the original purpose -- reduction of consumption -- been achieved." (Thanks to Lee Killough for the link.)

Friedman: "(T)here is nothing about the Bush team's performance in Iraq up to now that justifies a free pass. If Republicans don't get serious on Iraq, they will wake up a year from now and find all their candidates facing the same question: 'How did your party lose Iraq?'"

Turns out I don't have any missing or rifled mail after all (at least not that I know about). The company decided to stop sending out pay statements, and their notice to "all employees" didn't include me. (The alternate source for fetching the statements, "The Portal," no longer includes me, either.)

I have to admit, I've been skipping most of the World Series. For one reason or another, I end up with the first part of the game on tape, tune in toward the late middle, and just pick up the highlights as time permits between innings, pitching changes and after the game. Watching things out of order doesn't seem to make it any less interesting, surprisingly, although the "live" part is better, once I remind myself that I don't know what will happen next. With 75% of the Marlin's offense in the first inning last night, and the remainder in the last swing of Alex Gonzales' bat, it worked out nicely. I got to see Roger Clemens sent off smartly by the Marlins batters and then by the Florida fans, after he'd settled down for 6 innings.

I can also appreciate the work of the Fox cameramen in as much detail as I like. Going to a ball game was never like this, with intimate close-ups of pitcher, batter, runner, fielder, in endless succession. Watching the flop sweat of Ugueth Urbina develop over the course of his blown save in the 9th inning was remarkable, for example. And those extra innings -- and commercials -- gave me time to watch more of the first part of the game.

22.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Waht's the dael wtih tihs ntioon taht you dno't need to get all yuor leettrs in the rghit odrer as lnog as the frsit and lsat oens are crorcet? It smees to wrok eevn tohguh it's hguley ipmroablbe, and wr'ee not srue if any uvinesrity has stdueid it or not. Wierd.

Two letters from my Congressman arrived today, in response to opinions I'd passed on by phone and email. One was about the $87 billion appropriation for Iraq; the long and short of his letter was that he was backing the President and the money. He didn't comment on whether or not half of the money for rebuilding Iraq should be a loan. But there was this fascinating snippet: "I believe there are many other nations across the globe -- including France, Germany, and Russia -- that will benefit a great deal from the removal of Saddam Hussein. They should be forced to contribute financially to the reconstruction of Iraq." (My emphasis.)

Mr. Simpson did not give any hints how he would propose to force those countries to contribute... it did make me think of an old Randy Newman song called Political Science, though. My goodness, that record came out 31 years ago.

Sometimes speaking truth to power isn't enough. Robert Byrd's speeches will make one hell of a historical collection, but at the moment they seem to be falling on deaf ears. Last week, he told the Senate the story of the Emperor's New Clothes, which seems to be segueing into The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

"It is dangerous to manipulate the truth. It is dangerous because once having lied, it is difficult to ever be believed again. Having misled the American people and stampeded them to war, this administration must now attempt to sustain a policy predicated on falsehoods. The president asks for billions from those same citizens who know that they were misled about the need to go to war. We misinformed and insulted our friends and allies and now this administration is having more than a little trouble getting help from the international community. It is perilous to mislead."

The so-called Right to Life folks are having a great month. Action on abortion from the Congress, and now Jeb Bush overriding the judiciary, a woman's presumptive widower and common sense, with the help of the Florida Legislature. The good news, if there is any, is that the person nominally at the center of the case, Terri Schiavo, isn't feeling any pain. She checked out more than a decade ago, leaving a family who apparently believes denial can overcome the inevitable outcome of living.

Imagine if someone were wounded and brain-damaged as Ms. Schiavo was, and it was proposed that her body be kept alive for 10 or 20 years as an experiment. We would be justifiably outraged, I think. But with this amazing stunt, we're now told that the decision could be good for the GOP at the polls. It's enough to make you get that Living Will written, isn't it? I'm an organ donor; please don't waste the good parts after my brain is gone.

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

Even though I'd read Robert X. Cringely's lament about how the U.S. Postal Service doesn't really care or do anything if your mail is lost, I still believed that there might be something they might do about a concern at our house. It seems my most recent pay statement didn't arrive with the punctuality I've come to expect after 20 years. After waiting 5 deliveries past when it should have arrived, I gave a call to the number listed under my local branch in the phone book. That's an 800 number, and it doesn't go to my local branch. The woman on the other end said I'd have to go talk to the people there.

So I did, and I was given a 5-part Form 1510 to fill out. I took it home and used an older statement to describe it as exactly as possible, sender, addressee, size, color, etc. Then I took it back to the Cole Rd. branch office. "You know, you should really take this to the downtown office," the clerk said. I wasn't all that keen on adding to my trouble at that point, and as we conversed, the particulars of the situation became clearer to her. "It has to be missing for 30 days before they'll even do anything," she said. Blank incredulity from me. "You can't even file this claim for something that was sent to you. It has to come from the sender."

I don't suppose the sender really cares, and even if they did, they couldn't ask to start the investigation for another three weeks. Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor dark of night and all that jazz; we still get plenty of junk mail, but when the stuff we want goes missing, tough.

Well the twenty-umpteen time "world" champion Yankees are up 2-1. I'm sure if they prevail in the series, they'll be highly regarded everywhere they go, except maybe in Boston, where there's now a summons out for for Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia for their class-act pounding of a Fenway park employee and Red Sox fan.

18.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Steve Linane stylin' at Lucky Peak, Oct. 2003

It was the 2nd day of a 3-day fall classic at Lucky Peak today, the lake's best windsurfing of the year, late in the season. Most of the locals seem to have put away the gear, but those of us who showed up had a great time. The wind was even more camouflaged than usual, with the flags limp and lifeless up on the plateau by highway 21 and Federal Way, but the Boise River canyon filled in and cranking. Not too cold (with a good rubber suit!), sunshine (in between some clouds), clean water and plenty of lake left.

It was the opposite of the result I was looking for: Marlins vs. Yankees, when I wanted the Cubs and Red Sox. We have to work with what we get though, and since the Yankees have won quite enough forever, it's Go Marlins!

I love the "lead off man" part of baseball, and the top of the 1st was perfect: a beautiful bunt single, a hit and run bloop single and a sac fly and "my" team is up a run. Juan Pierre makes me remember how much fun it was to watch Ricky Henderson. The Yankees tried to match the effort with Soriano, but no dice. He got the first inning steal, but didn't get home, and then grounded out and into a double play. And Johnson picked off third base to end the bottom of the 3rd? You call this a baseball team? The only thing that could be better is if the pitchers were batting. ("Designated hitter" -- that is so lame.)

Juan Pierre did a number on storied Yew Nork; scored the first run, hit in the last two, stole a base and collected the last out to end the Yankees home streak at 10. As George Bush says, "bring 'em on!"

Frank Rich: the Rat Pack is back. "One survey shows that even a large number of high school students, some 30 percent in all, have adopted Mr. Bennett's high-rolling habits; surely no former secretary of education has ever been so successful a role model to impressionable youth."

Rich includes this, in case you missed it, from that dependable source of humor, the Wall Street Journal editorial page: "It looks as if the first party to get totally wired-in to a mega-celebrity is, incredibly, the G.O.P. Something weirdly attractive was coming off the Schwarzenegger camp's victory stage on TV round about midnight Tuesday." Weirdly attractive, indeed. And I guess Deputy Editor wasn't born yet when the GOP went ga-ga over Ronald Reagan? (This is a trick question, of course; no True Believer could deny RRR's "mega" anything status, but fawning over the Terminator must have got away from him.)

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

Don't bother with just the MPAA's FAQ on the "broadcast flag" when you can have their FAQ along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation's illumination. Here's a little snippet:

Q: Who created the "broadcast flag?"

MPAA answer: The Broadcast Flag was created by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), which is the standards-setting organization that developed the technical specifications for digital television in the U.S.

EFF comment: The broadcast flag was created by Fox, and subsequently ratified by ATSC as an optional part of ATSC's standards. (ATSC did not create any obligation for manufacturers to respond to the broadcast flag in any way.)

There's a new top dog out west: Gail Norton has shown she's more powerful than California's irrigators. It would be too clumsy a pun to call this a sea change, but trust me, it's big. Very big. "The deal calls for the largest movement of farm water to municipal users in the nation and will be in effect for at least 35 years." But the quid pro quo is in the next sentence: "As compensation, farmers, some of whom might need to plant less, will be paid handsomely for water they get for a very small cost from the federal government." Read on down to quantify that "buy low, sell high" deal: $15-20/acre-foot delivered by the US Govt., $258 going out to a California municipality.

Speaking of irrigation, with the New York Canal turned off, the Diversion Dam pool has reverted to something riverine. Lucky Peak reservoir is 115 feet below full pool, but still fine for sailing with a late blast of Indian Summer in the neighborhood.

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

The Idaho Statesman's outdoor photo contest winners include some lovely scenes from our fair state. It's a bit heavy on the fawns and smooth water reflections for my taste, but there's something for every taste. I liked the 3rd prize full moon over an inversion, skiing at Schweitzer from Chris Grant of Boise, among others.

Time for the rivers around here to dry up; irrigation ditches are done for the season, and the Boise will be throttled from 684 cfs to 300. Aside from a touch of frost and some clouds and a hint of rain yesterday, you could still imagine it's summer: a warm wind out of the south today, high just above 70F.

Well, I wish Steve Bartman hadn't got in the way, but I'm not going to throw a beer on him or anything. I'd like to think I'd have been more heads-up and would've stayed out of the way myself, but then those other 5 people around me would've got after it, eh? Nah, I probably would've gone after it, too, and I would've had a mitt on. Note to self: don't get front row tickets. Nothin' left to do but root for the Red Sox.

I was thinking about the Bill O'Reilly / Fresh Air debacle this morning, and how Bill had summarily dismissed Terry Gross and her program as a personal attack on him, a "hatchet job." Having listened to and enjoyed many Fresh Air interviews, I know that O'Reilly was the exceptional, negative component, rather than something integral to the show itself. Thinking of the interaction in William Isaacs' terms, I see that at least part of the problem was that O'Reilly and Gross were acting at different places on the spectrum of communication. I suspect (having seen only a few snippets of it) that O'Reilly's show tends to be in the realm of controlled discussion or skillful conversation -- defending a point of view, which I'm guessing usually gets back to his theme of the "culture war in America."

What makes Fresh Air a great show is how often Gross is able to find a space of reflective dialogue with her guests. The most interesting part of the O'Reilly interview was there, in fact, when he was talking about his upbringing, his relationship with his father, etc. When it came to owning up to name-calling, though, O'Reilly got into a different space, one where he wasn't in complete control. He didn't like where it was going, thinking it was at him, when in fact it was in to him. Both can be dangerous directions, but for very different reasons.

Comparing O'Reilly's website with the online presence of Gross' show gives another snapshot of some of the differences. O'Reilly is all about selling things - license plate holders, Bill's latest book, premium membership in the club (which gives you access to discussion forums with other paying customers, access to the "Exclusive Viewer Voting feature where you can rate every segment on The O'Reilly Factor," "Outrage Funnels," "Behind the Scenes" Photos from Bill and his production team. and much, much more...!), DVD rentals, insurance, credit reports. It feels like a world onto itself, in fact. (Not an attractive one to me, either, but apparently there are plenty of people who like it.)

The Fresh Air site is about a wide range of ideas, and most of the information comes your way "free." (There are some things for sale, but they're immediate parts of the program: collections of interviews, Barnes & Noble partner links to books mentioned on the show.) It's about generative dialogue, rather than polemics and rhetoric.

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

I windsurfed off the California coast a couple of times (c.f. the end of this day's entry), at Waddell Creek. I found it more of an "advanced" spot than the Columbia River Gorge; the Columbia is a mighty river, but the ocean is a world onto itself. I survived, I avoided being shark food, I had kind of a good time, but all in all it was humbling.

Doug Yamamato's outing at nearby Davenport sounds a bit humbling as well. It had a happy ending, too, but with a way better story to tell before it was over. Trapped for two days between a cliff and the ocean, drinking water seeping down the cliff. Just in case you're not sure this is a California story, there's this tidbit about the 55-year-old: "He was brought to Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, the first hospital stay he's ever had. Monday afternoon, he was treated and released." The last word from his mom is kinda cute, too.

Wherever you are on the political spectrum, I would hope that you could agree that the Bush administration and its Justice Department has gone too far with Jose Padilla. Nat Hentoff gives the details in which we see our Commander in Chief playing the role of absolute monarch. The official arguments lead to the conclusion that "according to the Justice Department and the president, the separation of powers -- at the core of the Constitution -- has been suspended in the war on terrorism." Donna Newman, "after . . . combing through sealed court papers the Justice Department was obliged to reveal . . . concluded that the government's case against her client relies on two informers: one with a drug problem, she said, and the other who has recanted."

Two informants against you and you're locked up incommunicado, indefinitely.

14.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fall sunset on the Palouse

Discovered a trifecta of expirations today: two cars and my driver's license. The former were half a month gone, the latter a month and a half. Coincidentally, Jeanette had been to the DMV, alerted to her due date by a grocery store clerk. It had been a two hour wait for her, and she warned me to take something to read. I tucked The Mind of God under my arm and headed out into the afternoon sunshine, prepared to enjoy whatever wait I had coming. I got my take-a-number from the driver's license side, then one for vehicle licensing, then hit the hot dog stand outside. In response to one gal who was complaining about how screwed up this city seemed to be, the chorizo guy said it was pay day for a lot of people, plus it was the day after a holiday; "it's not usually like this."

While my dog was cooking, a passer-by spotted my book, calls out "The Mind of God, huh? Who's it by?" "Paul Davies," I said, showing him the cover. "Paul Davis, huh? What do you think of it?" I told him I'd just checked it out and hadn't started reading it yet.

"Have you heard about 'Intelligent Design'?" In retrospect, plenty of more clever answers occur to me - yeah, I've done some intelligent design myself. I told him a friend of mine was big on that. He says "you know, Intelligent Design is beating evolution..." and when I expressed my skepticism about that, he says, "oh yeah, at the University of Virginia, Harvard, Yale..." I'm looking at the guy, trying to assess how likely we are to have an Intelligent Conversation, and toss him a bone with "cool! If it's a good theory, it'll win out."

As he walks off to the parking lot, he says "it's not a theory," and that's the last word in the exchange. Is it a hypothesis? A belief system? A logical certainty? I didn't get that far inside the Mind of the Passer-by.

The interim report on the search for WMDs in Iraq has generated op-ed conclusions that are as wide as the political spectrum. One of the "further reading" links from PBS/Frontline is to David Kay's statement to Congress; you can get closer to the soruce and draw your own conclusions from it.

The evidence on the ground seems certain to satisfy those who want to conclude that "the world is a safer place now that we've gotten rid of Saddam Hussein." Except of course that we haven't actually rounded him up, and we don't know, and probably won't be able to determine what all his regime had cooked up, and more importantly what has happened to the stuff, and all the people who have the expertise to use or recreate it.

More directly, even though the evidence is limited and equivocal, the Bush Administration has enough to claim that its pre-emptive war was justified, and opponents will be tilting at windmills to try to use "no WMDs" in their campaigns. The issues of deterrence, containment, threat assessment, and accuracy of intelligence are subtle, nuanced and open to interpretation. That makes them non-starters as deciding issues in the broad forum of public opinion. The concept of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" was brilliantly devised to ensure success. It's adjustable enough to contain a wide range of weaponry, and once we have existence proof of even one (never mind the date, tacit US support of its use, or whether it's a "related activity" or even just the inferred desire in Hussein's mind), it can be used successfully to justify war. Given that we knew Iraq had used them once upon a time, the Cheney/Rumsfeld/ Wolfowitz/Perle team had a winner simply by focusing the discussion on WMDs.

The power to frame the discussion is considerable. It has a lot to do with why incumbents usually win.

Here's the down-under perspective on sexing up intelligence in the rush to war. Sounds like the same program we had, basically.

13.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In a move of near-stunning irrelevance, China is about to launch somebody in to space for 14 orbits. They want to go to the moon, apparently (oh and maybe do some Star Wars stuff along the way). That'll be heroic, but you have to wonder what they're thinking; even the Soviets figured out that robotic space exploration made more sense, decades ago. My opinion today is colored by Robert Park's book, mentioned yesterday, Voodoo Science, in which he devotes a whole chapter to describing why the era of manned space flight is behind us: "The Virtual Astronaut, In Which People Dream of Artificial Worlds."

My first opinions on the subject were colored by a book with a slightly different point of view, You Will Go To The Moon. Park didn't say much about the opportunities for space tourism; there are a lot of people still waiting for that 1959 promise to be fulfilled in some way. Watching it on TV was exciting, but not the same as being there.

Breaking news, it seems Rush Limbaugh's rehabilitation has changed his political philosophy! Amazing stuff.

Recognizing that the usual suspects in television news are filtering what he as to say (improving the grammar perhaps?), we hear that President Bush is seeking unconventional media to get his message out. The ABC story doesn't say exactly what television outlets he's talking about... QVC? The WB network? The Cartoon Channel? I guess there are hundreds to choose from these days.

12.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Got to hear the tail end of Terry Gross' interview of Bill O'Reilly replayed today, with the follow-up about his retort on his own show, complaining about how we all paid for it, thanks to the "billion dollar funding" the public radio gets. Only off by an order of magnitude, Bill, and rather ironic after the recent reports (seen here, two days ago) about how well-informed FOX News viewers are. (It turns out that NPR and PBS are worth paying for after all.) Having listened to the rest of the interview via the web, I have to say I don't find Bill an attractive character, and have no plans to pay to watch his show.

"The true story of that is, I didn't even know I was registered as a Republican.... It was either an oversight on my part, or... because I was never an ideologue." "It might have been a rush job, or it might have been a myriad of things." Pretty wild stuff for somebody who sees the political scene as a "culture war."

Kind of sad that the poor guy can dish it out but can't take it. "I had to stop the interview," he said, "I actually enjoyed telling the woman off." No sense of humor, apparently. You call people pinheads, you gotta expect a certain amount of backatcha. The good news for Bill is that his new book is #1, bumping Al Franken from the top of the list; the bad news is that he can't show defamation because that requires damages, and for the moment, at least, he's bullied his way to the top of the pile, where he's puttin' the damage on everyone else.

Finished reading Robert Park's Voodoo Science book, and enjoyed the read. I'd read about some of the topics he covers (cold fusion, for example) in ample detail, but his narrative ties together threads of credulity, foolishness, misperception (gee, that sounds familiar), secrecy and fraud in an interesting way.

Among many interesting tidbits, we find out that the National Institutes of Health has a Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Go figure.

11.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In one of life's little ironies, my copy of George Johnson's Shortcut Through Time got mixed in with other reading, and when it surfaced recently, I thought I'd already read it; but no, it had a bookmark in it, in front of the last chapter and epilogue. I'd started back about early April and while I thought Jim Holt's review was a bit terse at the time, it remains succinct: "gets across the gist of quantum computing with plenty of charm and no tears."

Catching up on reading is one of those things that you can do when you retire, so after filling in some of the blanks on my private reading list (using Quattro, Amazon and telnet/Lynx/the Boise Public Library), Jeanette and I rode down to the library to pick up some books. I'll say more if and when any of them make my best books read lately list, something not many books have done. (Not because there aren't good books out there, but because I haven't been getting around to finishing them.)

The process included a reminder about monopoly power. My copy of Quattro on a win95 machine can read and write Excel files, but my copy of Excel2000 on the win2k laptop can't read (or write, ha!) Quattro's format. I was surprised to see that once I'd "saved as" from Quattro, and then done some editing, it continued to save in Excel format, quietly, competently. Of course, there is no incentive for Excel to be quietly competent; it excels at getting you converted, and keeping you there.

10.10.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

As the old saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Maybe the new technology in voting machines is a big improvement, and results will be more reliable and accurate. Or maybe not. I've been punching chads for a lot of elections now, and am prepared to look back on them as part of the good old days. I don't like the sound of technology that's uninspectable, because it contains "trade secrets," or the possibility of increased numbers of "amazing upsets."

The Agonist examines the problems (in two parts) with less vituperation: "(T)hese systems share a crucial feature: all information about the votes is stored exclusively in digital format. The crucial difference from more traditional voting systems (e.g., punch card and optical scan machines) is that those systems keep the original vote in a physical form (usually paper) that can be directly verified by the voter." Read on for details of what testing has been done to date, and the less-than-reassuring results. "Just trust us" doesn't seem like a good idea.

Our Comptroller General, David M. Walker, calls B.S. on the big guy: "The idea that this is manageable or that we are going to grow our way out of the problem is just flat false. Even if we repeal all the tax cuts, you are still going to have to make tough choices." Thanks to the Daily Misleader for the link.

Apart from David Kay's imaginative extrapolation, it now seems reasonably certain that Hussein's regime did not have WMDs. History may record his bluff as simultaneously brilliant and idiotic: he utterly fooled the Bush administration even as he brought Armegeddon down on his regime.

Frontline's examination, Truth, War and Consequences, considers the questions why did we go to war? what went wrong? and what's at stake? (If you missed it on PBS, you can watch the whole show online.) For counterpoint, the latest word from GWB is that hey, actually things are going way better than you hear about in the media. Just like with the voting machines, I suppose. Just trust him.

If you're trusting broadcast media for your information, though, you might want to consider changing the channel: "In the run-up to the war with Iraq and in the post-war period, a significant portion of the American public has held a number of misperceptions that, as we will see, are highly related to support for the decision to go to war. While in most cases only a minority has any particular misperception, a very strong majority has at least one key misperception." Does it belabor the obvious to point out that manipulating public opinion is essential to garnering political support? Perhaps, but here's the interesting part:
"...the frequency of these misperceptions varies significantly according to individuals’ primary source of news. Those who primarily watch Fox News are significantly more likely to have misperceptions, while those who primarily listen to NPR or watch PBS are significantly less likely."

They focused on three significant misperceptions: (1) evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda have been found; (2) weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq; and (3) world public opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq. If you watch PBS and/or listen to NPR, chances are 3:1 you don't hold any of these erroneous statements to be true. If you watch FOX "News," chances are 4:1 you believe one or more, and you're more than 3 times more likely as everyone else to believe all of them.

Number of
per respondent
None 20% 30% 39% 45% 45% 53% 77%
1 or more 80 71 61 55 55 47 23
2 or more 69 51 41 38 34 26 13
All 3 45 15 16 13 12 9 4

View the original report that everyone's writing about at The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) website.

If the media do nothing more than report what George Bush says, there's plenty of opportunity for "misperception." Stumping for his re-election, he justifies his pre-emptive war post-WMD, presumably without irony: "I acted because I was not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman. I was not about to stand by and wait and trust in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein."

"We're making great progress (in Iraq). I don't care what you read about," Bush said in Kentucky. Is he getting his information from Fox News, I wonder?

9.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Governor-elect Schwarzenegger's plan is to get a handout from Washington to help "streamline bureaucracy," make a whopping deficit disappear and keep from raising taxes. "There's a lot of money we can get from the federal government," Arnold says.

It would be brilliant if the state could print its own currency, the way Uncle Sam can, but eventually someone is going to have to explain to him that the buck stops at the states. It does raise the interesting question of how much federal aid it would take to buy California's electoral votes for George W. next year, though. Cheaper than votes in Baghdad, no doubt.

Unlike our efforts to find Osama ("it doesn't matter where they hide, as we work with our friends we will find them and bring them to justice") or Saddam ("it's a matter of time before he is found and brought to justice"), our president doesn't "have any idea" if we can find the senior administration official who spilled the beans. You can give him a hand by signing an affidavit that it wasn't you. Unless of course it was you, in which case you can help by confessing.

8.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

North fork of the Payette, in autumn

I've been out of town, took a trip to north Idaho in a weekend with the most glorious October weather imaginable. Worked outside for three straight days in Palouse sunshine and weather in the 70s and 80s. Monday night was warm and still, the moon dodging clouds and spotlighting stubble fields in a cool, silvery glow. Some time in the night, the wind picked up, bringing in a weak cold front to make the drive home more pleasant: clouds, 70s in the canyons and 60s in the mountains, until the lower Payette opened to the sunny desert down here. I took the scenic route off of Paradise Ridge, on Lenville road by Tomer Butte and down the grade to Julietta.

I passed blackberry patches, thinking "it's gotta be too late for blackberries," then spotted an apple tree and put on the brakes. It's not too late for apples! The tree was old, gnarly with unpruned branches and standing on the edge of a steep bank. It's a variety you won't ever see in a store, the fruit golden, firm but not hard, sweet and juicy. Around another bend, a huge bramble and easy pull-over enticed me to check the berries. It's not too late for them, and I had my choice of the sweetest and blackest, without having to move into the thorns.

Who knows if it was really a vast, right-wing conspiracy, but the Republican plutocrats have to be chortling about Arnold the Barbarian taking over California this morning. Most elections don't give us the option to "just say no" to politicians; somebody ends up with a majority, or at least a plurality. This time, the majority said "throw the bum out."

The faith-based initiative of the Bush Administration is burbling along on the back pages while war and economy scandals soak up the front-page ink. Nothing wrong with this country a good dose of Christian morality couldn't cure.

2.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You gotta love the Republican National Committee complaining about the Democrats "scandalmongering". I mean, how cool a word is that, to start with: mongering scandals. The question of someone -- let's say, Karl Rove, perhaps -- outing Joe Wilson's wife because he had the audacity to point out the administration's bogosity on the Niger yellowcake deal somehow being unworthy of a full blown scandal... hey, it's just plain old character assassination, regular gummint stuff.

Perhaps this is progress, though: a few months ago, anyone disagreeing with the administration was being called a traitor, now the worst epithet they can come up with is "partisan Democrat." Sure looks like time for an independent investigation by a special prosecutor to me.

Surprisingly, there is no room for an opiniated, right-wing racist on the Disney team of sports pundits. With his usual panache, Rush Limbaugh assumes that if people are upset, gee, he must've been right: "All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something. If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be the cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community." Whatever. Just clean out your locker and get the hell out of here.

Two words to warm the heart of any captain of industry: tax holiday. If the tax advantages of moving operations off-shore come as a surprise, you haven't been paying attention. They've been there for the whole length of my 20 year engineering career, and it's probably past time to restructure things in a domestic light. There will be plenty of whinging about the fairness issue, though, without even considering the complaints of the other countries who are going to hear a giant sucking sound as cash runs home.

The "marginal activity" of snow skiing in Scotland may be on its way out. Not enough snow up there, and less all the time with things warming up. If the Gulf stream shifts, it'll be a bonanza, though.

Here's a prize you might have a shot at: the Ig® Nobel. This year is the "13th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony," which will have a live webcast in case you can't be there. 7:30pm EDT tonight.

ideogram for dao (or tao)

China's cracking down on intellectual property pirating, starting with Dow Jones & Co., who alledgedly swiped a calligraphy character from Guan Dongsheng. (They say he said they could have it.) $50,000 for one character, you could make a living as a writer for that kind of pay. His lawyers will take a big cut, I suppose. He sued for $600,000.

"The Dao whose price can be named is not the Eternal Dao."

1.Oct.03 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This compassionate conservative administration is demonstrating the significant difference between "conservative" and "conservationist." The latter wants to protect lands; the former wants to make sure land is available for mining, logging, oil and gas drilling and so on. Unlike the majority of Americans, the administration is willing to forgo wilderness designation for millions of acres in the west, in a move whose boldness might make Ronald Reagan and James Watt blush.

David Pogue reviews Office2003, and gives me a dose of déjà vu for the 6 reasons not to buy Office2000 that I listed 4-½ years ago. He's lukewarm on the (minimal) changes to Word, Excel and Powerpoint, but enthusiastic about Outlook's makeover. Rush right out to give your $110 bill to Microsoft for that one....

In 1999, it appeared that the company had designs on making HTML proprietary, and while they've probably made some inroads, I think the need for and the strength of standards has largely resisted them. Now comes their go at making email a proprietary thing: "Information Rights Management" (IRM). "If someone sends you an IRM-protected document and you don't have Office 2003, meanwhile, you can't open it at all." How many big corporate IT guys are going to roll over for this, and insist that everybody, absolutely everybody in the company must get this new version, so they can have self-destructing messages and "secure" email for all?

I'll wait a year or 5 while the bugs and malware opportunities get shaken out, I think.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Monday, 17-Nov-2003 18:25:59 MST