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28.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's just an anecdote... of a Canadian citizen, who the US sent to Syria with "extraordinary rendition." Bob Herbert: It's Called Torture.

"President Bush spent much of last week lecturing other nations about freedom, democracy and the rule of law. It was a breathtaking display of chutzpah. He seemed to me like a judge who starves his children and then sits on the bench to hear child abuse cases."

Esther Dyson has a new 2.0, this one for space, and called Flight School. "It's not that there aren't space conferences, but nothing as tacky and commercial as we want to be." I can't help but think that if she had taken up hang-gliding instead, this wouldn't be needed, but since I'd be happy to go for a rocket ride (having not yet taken up hang-gliding myself), more power to her!

27.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

One commentator said "If itís good enough for the Sistine Chapel, itís good enough for Roseville (Michigan)," but that's not what the judge said. Bare breast! Bare breast! Protect the children! Throw that man in jail!

Oh wait, it's not the bare breast, it's that there's lettering on the mural, which the variance giving him permission for the large work prohibited. Well, it is the breasts, too, he's supposed to show Eve in post-Eden fashion. In 1997, his deal said "no letters, no inclusion of genitalia and regular maintenance of the artwork." He painted in "love," with "each letter depicted on open pages clasped by angels." (Are breasts genitalia these days? I must be behind the times.)

It's not the first time his art (or, shall we say "artistic behavior"?) has landed him into trouble. There was that McDonald's incident... But I'm curious how long this thing has been up, if he got his variance in 1997. Has he just finished it, or did someone get annoyed with him after years and years of suffering under the Boobs of Eve? None of the stories I read discussed that aspect. Well here, it's been up since 2003 anyway, when that fateful first complaint came in.

I have to say, God's fingertip reaching for the corner of an American flag carried by an angel is a nice touch.

In the international popularity contest, buddies Vladimir and George are close to a dead heat in Germany. Die Welt reported on a survey of 1,000 Germans this month by Infratest-Dimap, giving Putin a 29 to 24% margin, mostly thanks to eastern Germany. Maybe it's because he lives close to the neighborhood? "Trust neither" has a strong lead over trusting either, at 37%.

This probably explains why the Bush administration's obsession with drilling for oil in the ANWR hasn't come to fruition: "The major oil companies are largely uninterested in drilling in the refuge, skeptical about the potential there. Even the plan's most optimistic backers agree that any oil from the refuge would meet only a tiny fraction of America's needs." Not that what fraction of met needs is possible plays in the discussion; it's all about how much money there is to be made, eh? And right now, the oil companies are swimming in profits, with little reason to go get cold or dirty to keep them flowing.

Now available in a (cargo) pocket near you: a tiny photo printer which can eat 2 batteries and $78 to produce 130 2.4" x 1.8" pictures. How exciting! Give me a call on version 3 or 4.0, wouldja?

26.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Western US snowpack as of Feb. 1, 2005 The cruelest month is almost done, and out here in the Northwest, this year's cruelty is wrapped in warm sunshine. In today's report, 577 Sno-tel gauges show an average of less than 60% of normal precipitation in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Washington is below 30% of normal. It'll be in the high 50s here in Boise again today.

The same folks who brought you "truth" from Swift boat veterans are now working on Social Security. After the flashback to the 60s that came from reading about college Republicans chanting, "Hey hey, ho ho, Social Security's got to go," I flashed forward to the German contempt for a scripted "town hall meeting" with Fearless Leader. Ok, if you won't say just what we want you to say, how about a meeting with 20 cherry-picked "young leaders" and no press?

You've probably heard something about the "security breach" at ChoicePoint that resulted in con artists obtaining Social Security numbers and other personal data for 145,000 or so people, but maybe you didn't catch on to the snippet I heard in a radio report yesterday: the breach was in October, as in 4 months ago. But perhaps you did pick up on the fact that this was in the news only because those whacky, lefty liberals out in California passed a law requiring disclosure of this sort of incident to the affected parties.

"This is not about a rotten apple. It's about a rotten barrel," says Chris Jay Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, regarding the business of selling "claims history data, motor vehicle records, police records, credit information and modeling services... employment background screenings and drug testing administration services, public record searches, vital record services, credential verification, due diligence information, Uniform Commercial Code searches and filings, DNA identification services, authentication services and people and shareholder locator information searches... print fulfillment, teleservices, database and campaign management services..."

And this just in: Bank of America said yesterday that it had lost computer backup tapes containing personal information about 1.2 million federal employees, including some senators, with Visa charge cards issued by the bank.

I like this, from the bank's chief technology, service and fulfillment executive: "We are presuming it's not malicious activity." Yeah, what would anyone want with the records of 1.2 million Visa account numbers and the charges on the accounts, anyway?

If you're going to spend this much time carving watermelons, you should definitely take pictures of your work.

25.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Tamarack resort, viewed from Highway 55 and through the smoke, on the other side of Cascade Lake Busted out of town and tried the new regional-class resort in the neighborhood, Tamarack. The lift pass was on them, an offer they extended to a few thousand people to come "test drive" the place. It's off to a great start and is going to be a heck of snow-sports destination. Almost exactly 100 miles from our door, an easy 2 hour drive in good weather (but then who wants to go in good weather?!).

Like all of Idaho, they could use some new snow. They didn't get much last weekend, apparently, and what they had was used and icy up top, to start. It softened during the day in warm sunshine, and we had some early spring riding. Long runs, uncrowded, lots of sculpting on the groomed stuff, a ton of terrain park fun.

The atmosphere needs work, though. There was some slash burning going on upwind, and it was stinking up the resort, discoloring the snow in spots, and generally hanging over Cascade Lake in an unpleasant way. (Don't adjust your monitor; the photo shows the smoke. I notice their home page publicity photo shows a smoke layer, too. Lovely.)

Former SecState George Shultz has finally got with the program. About his Toyota Prius he says, "It's not a hardship to drive it. It's fun." Indeed. Driving should be fun, and efficient.

Here's an idea: instead of just taking tests and producing the right answers on cue, how about rewarding students for "asking good questions, rephrasing problems, explaining ideas, being logical, justifying methods and bringing different perspectives to a problem." It worked for math education in this California study.

22.2.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Happy birthday, George.

Yesterday was "break even day" for me, the 7th sticker put on my season pass at Bogus Basin. After too many weeks with no precip, we got a nice storm for the holiday weekend, with a few inches of new snow for Saturday and Sunday, and the beloved "4 to 6" for Monday morning. (Well "12" is more beloved, but we take what we can get.)

It was a bit sunny and warm, especially over on the backside, and it quickly turned to technical crud at the bottom of the south-facing runs, but there were plenty of tracks to be made, and I made my share from 9am on into the afternoon for the 2nd day running.

Perfect timing for their $199 "rollback sale," a 4-day offering of their industry-leading inexpensive season passes. It ended yesterday at midnight, but you can still go for $229 (plus tax) through then end of April. It may not be a great deal every year, but chances are it'll be a good one, at least.

Today's lesson: never throw away a remote control.

Our neighbors did, thinking their dish omni-remote was all they needed, but with no TV/Video button, they couldn't use their DVD player. (The instructions and process for programming the omni looked like a course in how not to design a user interface.) They could've gone out and bought a replacement remote, or tried their luck with another brand of omni, but they decided they might as well by a new TV. For a little over $300, they upgraded from 27 to 32" in the process.

And we got the hand-me-down, a week ago. Only problem was, we don't really have a room where we could put a 2nd TV, so it sat out in the garage until I got motivated to at least swap it out for our 23" model.

That happened last night, when our old JVC TV went bad. How's that for timing? While Antiques Roadshow continued taping, and just before my weekly fix of 24, I yanked the old and rang in the new, connecting up the DVD, stereo, cable and getting the channels programmed with the front panel buttons. All was good, except for the minor inconvenience of no remote. And no way to watch DVDs.

But hey, that old VCR that the neighbor kid broke one day had a really nice remote that could be programmed for various brands of TV... and sure enough, it works on this RCA model. Everything but the TV/video button, at least -- on/off, channels, volume, mute; the essentials.

19.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Everybody's seem a art at some point and said (or thought) "I could have done that!" (Yeah, but you didn't, did you?) Here's somebody who actually got off his butt and made his own installation after Christo and Jeanne-Claude showed the way.

"Often Hargo's 'The Somerville Gates' has been compared with Christo's 'The Gates,' Central Park, New York City. These comparisons have been unfair; sometimes the media has exaggerated -- even lied -- about the similarities. Differences abound, and some of the most overlooked are listed below."

Krugman on Alan Greenspan's performance this week. It's like watching a puppy roll over and scratched on its tummy, there's no meaning involved, but everyone has a good time, and the puppy validates the master's belief that he's a wonderful person.

"By repeatedly shilling for whatever the Bush administration wants, he has betrayed the trust placed in Fed chairmen, and deserves to be treated as just another partisan hack."

Judith Miller, currently awaiting the mercy—or judgement—of higher courts: "I risk going to jail for a story I didn't write, for reasons a court won't explain." The public version of said court's opinion has eight pages redacted to blank. And the Bush buddy who did write the story, how come his court case isn't in the news? "It is not known whether Mr. Novak has received a subpoena or, if he did, how he responded. His lawyer, James Hamilton, declined to comment on (Tuesday's) decision."

Findlaw has the court's opinion in a PDF. Its page 72 ends in the middle, "With respect to Miller, * * * * * [REDACTED] * * * * *". Then nothing. For four pages. Then, "Regarding Cooper, * * * * * [REDACTED] * * * * *" and four more blank pages. It picks up again with "In sum, based on an exhaustive investigation, the special counsel has established the need for Millerís and Cooperís testimony."

17.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What you don't know sure as hell can hurt you. Nicholas Kristof writes about the dangerous fraud of "abstinence-only" education:

"Other developed countries focus much more on contraception. The upshot is that while teenagers in the U.S. have about as much sexual activity as teenagers in Canada or Europe, Americans girls are four times as likely as German girls to become pregnant, almost five times as likely as French girls to have a baby, and more than seven times as likely as Dutch girls to have an abortion. Young Americans are five times as likely to have H.I.V. as young Germans, and teenagers' gonorrhea rate is 70 times higher in the U.S. than in the Netherlands or France."

Shoot, I lose focus on the news for a day or two and I have to deal with stuff like this when I get back:

"Conservatives, who supposedly deplore post-modernism, are now welcoming in a brave new world in which it's a given that there can be no empirical reality in news, only the reality you want to hear (or they want you to hear)."

Some kinda aliased hot stud muffin hanging out in the White House Press room, keeping some real reporter out of a seat and lobbing softballs to the Bush team? You couldn't make this up.

Mike Cassidy has a little fun imagining Carly's call to tech support during her free three months.

Tech guy: Have you tried disconnecting your printer from the rest of the computing business on your desk?

Fiorina: Spin off the printing business?

Tech guy: No, ma'am. Just disconnect it and connect it back to your USB port.

Fiorina: Nothing.

Tech guy: Hmmm. Maybe it's an internal conflict.

I just about hurt myself when I saw the updated everythingispossible site, ph has become "kumquat computer."

You can't vote against this pig in a poke because to do so would be to fail to support our troops. We can be sure there's pork in there, at least! And 7 or 11 $billions for Rumsfeld to shuffle around as he sees fit. The latest Frontline, "Rumsfeld's War" helped put it all in perspective.

Meanwhile the people looking at proposed cuts on domestic programs (some tens or even hundreds of millions here and there) aren't happy. Native American vets coming home to neighborhoods worse off than Iraq's, and even Republicans that fill up all those red states with agricultural productivity.

It's another déjà vu dud, an interceptor that didn't intercept. They don't call it "rocket science," for nothing. It's tough to get everything to go right, and even tougher to get everything to go right now, when you might need it. Five for 10, now, and 0 for the last 2. The difficulty is not reason enough to give up, but there are reasons enough.

15.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Living in the material world: George Monbiot, in The Guardian.

"Modern economics, whether informed by Marx or Keynes or Hayek, is premised on the notion that the planet has an infinite capacity to supply us with wealth and absorb our pollution. The cure to all ills is endless growth. Yet endless growth, in a finite world, is impossible. Pull this rug from under the economic theories, and the whole system of thought collapses.

"...Our economists are exposed by climatologists as utopian fantasists, the leaders of a millenarian cult as mad as, and far more dangerous than, any religious fundamentalism. But their theories govern our lives, so those who insist that physics and biology still apply are ridiculed by a global consensus founded on wishful thinking."

The NY Times' multimedia presentation of The Gates from space doesn't do a lot for Christo's and Jean-Claude's ephemeral artistry—23 miles of it!—although you can make it out in spots. More than that, it's a remarkable view of Central Park, and just how huge and wonderful that is.

The narrated slide show is pretty wonderful, too, the next best thing to being there, since chances are pretty good I won't be in Manhattan this month. (Expand your browser to full screen for it!)

♥.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

EH EEEE I O U The hubbub is starting to settle down and the retrospectives of Carly's tenure are getting more thoughtful and closer to the mark.

On the non-universality of happiness with the superstar exec, Bob Wayman says "She was brought in to drive change. Change is difficult, and certainly when you drive change, not everyone is happy with it." There was also the marking of her Lucent options to market (which turned out to have been done with incredibly good timing), the summary dismissal of 6,000 that was the warmup act for the Compaq merger announced the following month, and things like "She even asked the board to pay the cost of shipping her 52-foot yacht from the East Coast to the San Francisco Bay Area" (although this is the first I've heard of that).

"Culture" had something to do with it, but it's an external symptom, far removed from what really matters. Yeah, that produced a certain "antibody effect," but we would have all come to love her if her brilliant management style produced corporate results instead of just fantastic rewards for a handful of superstars, and most of all, her.

It turns out to be fairly difficult to re-form corporations on this scale, but not so hard to give it a good college try and be rewarded like Croesus for trying. (Speaking of which, did you see that Michael Capellas pulled off another magic trick? Sold MCI to Verizon, and I'll be you five bucks to a donut that he's on the loose inside 9 months. Maybe even sliding back into corporate HQ in Houston, who knows?)

13.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Inspiring graphics: the EESC 2004 Poster Contest Winners. The Engineering Education Service Center runs a ton of fun competitions, too.

2004 was the fourth-warmest year of the ones we've kept track of. 1998 was the warmest. 2002 was second warmest, 2003 third. Starts to look like a pattern after a while.

Today's toxic offering from the internet: a browser pop-up with the familiar "Wizard" look, titled "Warning" and carrying the bold text that "You may have critical errors on your PC." Fine print suggests that you "continue scanning" by pressing the highlighted "Next" button. "Back" is grayed out, but there is also a "Cancel" button.

The one honest clue about the spoof is fine (and gray) print in the lower left corner, "advertisement." And the whole screen-scraped image is linked to the same destination, at Clever, and nasty, as most people will instinctively choose "Cancel" and get redirected.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss Another view of the purple finger that's not so sanguine as mine was: "They aren't waving with their whole hand, Grandma—just with their middle finger."

"(T)wo years of bloodshed, bribery and backroom arm-twisting were leading up to this: a deal in which the ayatollahs get control over the family, Texaco gets the oil, and Washington gets its enduring military bases (call it the 'oil for women program'). Everyone wins except the voters, who risked their lives to cast their ballots for a very different set of policies."

12.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Why is Bush so hard-bent on Social Security "reform"? It's a bit of a mystery, really, but there is no doubt that ideology is a major component. Paul Krugman quotes Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute: "Social Security is the soft underbelly of the welfare state. If you can jab your spear through that, you can undermine the whole welfare state."

Strangely enough, Medicare and Medicaid would also seem to be a huge element of that, and getting bigger, and yet Bush is staunchly defending the recent increase sold as $400-some billion that's now estimated—before it even kicks in—north of $700B. I'm guessing Krugman's big picture assessment is right, though: "it's foolish to imagine some sort of widely acceptable compromise with Mr. Bush about Social Security," and we can expect M&M to be the next targets.

If you were feeling sorry for HP's dethroned leader, just stop it. She'll be stuffing her designer saddlebags with more than $40 million (counting her pension, options and stock) on the way out. More than $7 million of that is for "meeting certain performance goals" in the last 5 quarters, while HPQ's investors waited for the crash cart to put a blip in the flat-lining stock. It finally came this week when she got the axe, but the hospital bill is a nasty shock.

Given that the share price has fallen more than 50% since she took office, the options are mostly good for wallpaper but the "restricted grants" (read "outright gifts") of stock are an 8-digit chunk of change. And unlike the thousands of people who got escorted to the door one Friday in 2001, she'll "keep her computer, receive technical support for three months, and have access to a secretary for six months."

11.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Today's Most Annoying Microsoft Experience has to do with Visual Studio hosing my HTML every time I turn around. If you won't be assimilated, you will be very, very frustrated.

A bit of searching turns up a suitable enough topic heading, VS.NET code horrification.

I thought I'd figured out the basic workarounds to keep it from screwing things up, but today it's been doing clever things like discarding the <body> tag and inserting a </head> where it sees fit, leaving gee, some confusion about what's left. Not to mention fCKngWitHTHeCase in strange ways, and discarding formatting. (Wouldn't you think the "as entered" setting for HTML case would leave the case "as entered." Me too, but that would apparently be much too easy.)

With Softies loose in the blogosphere, we can see inside the beast and find explanations like this: Why VS 2003 keeps changing your HTML and what you can (and cannot) do to it.

The fact that one could bloviate an explanation for why it's hosed and have that pass for useful information... well, can you say "symptom of the problem?"

"We used a lame and broken parser, and that was the best that we could do, so it does a lame and broken job of parsing and then clobbers your output with no possibility of fixing that in configuration. Sorry about that. We really think our work is much better and more important than yours, even when we do a crappy job."

A simple, almost subtle change in Social Security could prevent a demographic and economic collision that's (likely) down the road: pegging benefits to prices rather than wages. A 1.1% annual differential is not much, but compounded over decades and multiplied by hundreds of millions of participants, it makes big, big numbers.

That has nothing to do with private accounts, which might mitigate worker's losses, and might save "a lot of grumbling." Let's see, is that a good reason to take on a $trillion or more of additional debt for transition costs? This seems far beyond ideology and well in to the realm of blatant stupidity.

Cringely connects the dots between Carly's demise, the New, New Buzzword technology and "the most furious venture investing cycle in history" arriving over the course of the next 18 months.

"Fiorina was a salesperson leading a company of engineers, yet not having any sense of the art of engineering. I'm not trying to portray Carly here as the bad guy and HP engineers as the good guys, because HP engineers haven't historically had any marketing sense AT ALL. It was just a bad hire. The company needed (and thought it was getting) a charismatic leader whose vision extended all the way from the lab to the marketplace. But what they actually hired was a very facile salesperson who came from a company that looked fabulously successful primarily by cooking the books (I wrote about this at the time -- it's among this week's links). Carly looked like she could walk on water because Lucent Technologies had been filled with helium."

Ok, so I misunderestimated the probability of the current regime getting after lawyers:

"In a startlingly sweeping verdict, Ms. Stewart was convicted on all five counts of providing material aid to terrorism and of lying to the government when she pledged to obey federal rules that barred her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, from communicating with his followers."

And, " the Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure on Thursday that would sharply limit the ability of people to file class-action lawsuits against companies."

Bob Herbert, responding to the The New Yorker article, "Outsourcing Torture": "Our henchmen in places like Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Uzbekistan and Jordan are torturing terror suspects at the behest of a nation - the United States - that just went through a national election in which the issue of moral values was supposed to have been decisive. How in the world did we become a country in which gays' getting married is considered an abomination, but torture is O.K.?"

What does it take to be the recipient of "extraordinary rendition," abducted and flown to a torture chamber? Perhaps you are the co-worker of a man whose brother is suspected of terrorism. And have a suspicious-sounding name.

Now that "class warfare" has been fully discredited as the language of losers in the topic of political conversation, the work can continue, in earnest. Paul Krugman puts the Bush budget in simple terms: "the budget proposal really does take food from the mouths of babes... (a)nd the budget really does shower largesse on millionaires even as it punishes the needy."

9.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here's very big news for those who were left behind: HP's board pulls the plug on Carly Fiorina. It's pretty big news for those of us with some HPQ left behind in our investment portfolio, too.

This is a switch: all those "other" browsers have a problem, and this time IE doesn't. That's because Microsoft took it's time getting with the Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) program and its enabling of Unicode characters in URLs.

One bit of information is that "The attack can be disabled in Firefox and Mozilla by setting 'network.enableIDN' to false in the browser's configuration (enter about:config in the address bar to access the configuration fucntions)," but the page linked above says that doesn't work. (Yet it did block their test URL—go figure.)

Hard to see how this man could occupy a more powerful position in the Bush administration (unless they make him Veep!), but Karl Rove is now Deputy Chief of Staff, rather than "just" senior political strategist. It makes me wonder how his power balances off with the Chief of Staff himself, who doesn't seem to get his name in the news near as much. That could be due to really effective, behind-the-scenes management for all I know...

7.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Groupthink on a bureaucratic scale? "The Environmental Protection Agency ignored scientific evidence and agency protocols in order to set limits on mercury pollution that would line up with the Bush administration's free-market approaches to power plant pollution, according to a report released yesterday by the agency's inspector general."

In Friday's Washington Post. On the other hand, "agency officials said yesterday that (inspector general) Tinsley did not understand the science and limitations of mercury control, disputing her charges that the proposal was politically biased or scientifically unsound."

The liberal rag, Business Week, with a preview critique of the Bush budget for 2006-2010:

"This budget... will largely ignore the costs of Bush's own top priorities, including Iraq, restructuring Social Security, and taming the Alternative Minimum Tax. Nor will it reflect the long-term costs of making his 2001 and 2002 tax cuts permanent, which will largely occur starting in 2011. At the same time, it will spotlight initiatives that are unlikely to save much money, such as effectively freezing spending on most domestic programs or slowing the growth in federal funding for Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program for the poor."

6.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Super Sunday, time to rate the ads. Overall, I have to say it was a disappointment. No legitimate blockbusters, some that amused, some still plumbing the depths of poor taste.

XXXIX I was delighted to see that they'd figured out a decent way to parade militarism for the Super Bowl opening: a mixed choral arrangement of the Star Spangled Banner, with some nice harmonies instead of the clueless pop-vocal stylings that seem more typical these days. I don't support my tax dollars being used for the flyover thing, but that criticism isn't going to get very far these days.

Then the moment the reprise and trumpet fanfare had finished, we switched back to the main event of the day, the commercials. Carl's Jr. came up with a really obscene combination of 28% of the 7 deadly sins, having a mechanical bull contort a sexy young thang while she's eating one of their Glutton-burgers. They didn't get the ketchup and mustard oozing out of her mouth and down onto her clothes, settled for just the finger licking and sucking. "Eat right. Exercise more."

Soon after, the tag end of the "Ford Kickoff Show" sounded to me like they were saying the "fourth Kickoff Show," which I don't doubt it was. Diet Pepsi's story of how their trucks got to be fashionable was cute. And look at that, 100% good taste. Maybe they'll start a trend!

Olympus goes for a new category intro: musc player cameras, "m-rope." That goes in the "wha'?" category. (If Apple had done it, I would've figured I just wasn't hip enough to "get it.")

Fed-Ex goes po-mo with their offering, a cynical deconstruction of a "successful ad," with "optional" product message. I'm thinking, do I want to spend my shipping dollars with a company wasting money for this kind of crap? Maybe it's reverse psychology.

Rockets and Volvos -- so much for dominating the safety category, but hey, they're giving away chances to go into space; they got my attention.

Aw, there's Pepsi again (and again), and this time they break back into venality, with disco beefcake and a whiff of homosexual tittilation, before they got cut off by..., playing on the wardrobe malfunction with way better bad taste po-mo than Fed-Ex. Were they just after a free mention in my blog?

Superheroes for Visa, that's clean, cute.

Ameriquest's two "don't judge too quickly" were cute but not so clean, "you're getting robbed" and the cat slaying.

The creepy Quisnos "Bob" thing, exploring pedophilia in prime time. Yeah, that makes me want one of their food items. Not.

MBNA, "If you're into it, we're into it." Gladys Knight inserted into a rugby game. If that makes sense to you, you probably understand the fine print in their credit card agreements, too.

Bud Lite using a parrot with attitude to protect the virtue of a woman in a bar? That's different. Totally out of character for the beer sellers.

Dennis Rodman selling... polymer laminates for countertops? Things are getting weird, very weird.

6:15, halftime. The game highlights seem really superfluous, bring on Paul McCartney!

I like the concept, and I've loved Beatles music for more than 40 years now, but I'm always asking myself -- are they really playing, or just lipsynching? I mean, the sound is right out of the early 60's studio; there's no way they're anything other than mimes out there. Well paid and still good looking, but c'mon. Must be hard to get pumped up for that kind of performance, and the less pumped up you are, the less convincing it all is.

Then on Get Back, he started to convince me he WAS doin' it. You think? Nah, couldn't be. He still makes the teeny boppers scream. Live and Let Die not as musically exciting, but the (perfectly synchronized) pyrotechnics made it pretty exciting. (And the drummer's definitely working out, I'm sure of that.) You think they could synch up fireworks with a live performance?

I like the conceit that you can set up a grand piano out there for the halftime show. A film about the technical logistics would be pretty interesting. They did it all without a "check check check," too, at least not one that they broadcast to the home audience.

And the Hey Jude thing -- that whole crowd wasn't lip synchin! "You were all great! Thank you Super Bowl, we love you!" That was very cool. :-)

Turns out Salam Pax went quiet because he was busy using a camcorder to chronical events in Baghdad.

William Pfaff, looking for an explanation of the inexplicable: "It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Bush administration is not torturing prisoners because it is useful but because of its symbolism. It originally was intended to be a form of what later, in the attack on Iraq, came to be called "shock and awe." It was meant as intimidation. We will do these terrible things to demonstrate that nothing will stop us from conquering our enemies. We are indifferent to world opinion. We will stop at nothing."

5.2.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A year and a half later, Luciana Bohne's lament over the state of education and culture has not gone out of date.

"You might think that reading about a Podunk University's English teacher's attempt to connect the dots between the poverty of American education and the gullibility of the American public may be a little trivial, considering we've embarked on the first, openly-confessed imperial adventure of senescent capitalism in the US, but bear with me. The question my experiences in the classroom raise is why have these young people been educated to such abysmal depths of ignorance."

Coming up to the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, this Salon piece (running in Speigel Online) probably has more history than I'd ever heard. I join the "most Americans" who know the name only because of Kurt Vonnegut.

Some folks think that truth in advertising should be required to protect potential eco-tourists at Rocky Flats:

"People shouldn't visit a so-called park that for half a century has been a radioactive waste dump without knowing about the malfeasance that happened there," Wes McKinley, former leader of the Rocky Flats grand jury said. "You get warning labels on hot coffee, why shouldn't you be warned that you could be walking on 'hot' ground?"

Nice quote from Orwell: "One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself." Thanks to Sean Gonsalves.

4.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Maya Lin's clock, detail, first blogged back in Jan., 2001 This is a useful reference page: Creating stronger passwords.

Bob Herbert: "A government with the power to spirit people away and declare that's the end of the matter is exactly the kind of government the United States has always claimed to oppose, and has sometimes fought. For the United States itself to become that kind of government is spectacularly scary."

Ok, this is WAY over the top: sushi made with an inket printer, "He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings."

At $240 per person (!), it's not a restaurant I'm going to be queuing up for anytime soon. Somehow my usual enthusiasm for creative technology does not make any of this stuff sound appetizing to me.

Back in 2001 when the lights were flickering on and off in California, notions of market manipulation were dismissed as "conspiracy theories" by Kenny Boy. Environmentalists were to blame, according to the party line, for not having let capitalism do its thing and supply what the market wanted. The "theories" have ripened into criminal prosecutions, and get a load this shiny piece of evidence, a recorded telephone conversation between an Enron trader and a Las Vegas energy official:

"This is going to be a word-of-mouth kind of thing," Mr. Williams says on the tape. "We want you guys to get a little creative and come up with a reason to go down." After agreeing to take the plant down, the Nevada official questioned the reason. "O.K., so we're just coming down for some maintenance, like a forced outage type of thing?" Rich asks. "And that's cool?"

"Hopefully," Mr. Williams says, before both men laugh.

The next day, Jan. 17, 2001, as the plant was taken out of service, the State of California called a power emergency, and rolling blackouts hit up to a half-million consumers, according to daily logs of the western power grid.

I was there, and it was an interesting thing to be in the middle of. The manipulation seemed pretty obvious back then, but of course it takes a while to produce the evidence.

"...personal accounts would have a net neutral effect on the fiscal situation of the Social Security and on the federal government." -- Sr. Admin. Official This big to-do about solving the "crisis" in Social Security with personal accounts? When the Administration tells the truth (which is so difficult for them that they only let unnamed "Senior Administration Officials" do it, here's what they say: "(I)n a long-term sense, the personal accounts would have a net neutral effect on the fiscal situation of the Social Security and on the federal government."

Hmm, net neutral? What's that going to cost? "Transition financing" (as in, we're only talking about the 1st 10 years) of $664 billion, and "debt service effects on top of that" of "another $90 billion." Three-quarter trill is a lotta damn scratch for a net neutral "enhancement," isn't it? That's the beauty of an unattributed backgrounder, the hard questions can be simply ducked. (That's the beauty of the big guy's speechifying, too, but we deal with that elsewhere.)

QUESTION: "How do the personal accounts guarantee permanent solvency for Social Security?"

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: "Well, we talked about the personal accounts being in the context of an overall plan to create a permanently solvent Social Security system. What I've laid out here are details of the administrative structure of the personal accounts. The larger question of the comprehensive plan to fix Social Security permanently is really subject to the details of discussions between the president and members of Congress."

On the rather important issue of what happens to those who don't get the as-good-as result of 3% above inflation, "would one (be made) whole or would one get less than the current guaranteed benefit?" SAO ducked and weaved and did not answer. Would you stick around the office of an investment advisor who did that?

I didn't think so. Neither would Paul Krugman who was kind enough to point me to the transcript of the briefing.

Chris Suellentrop's explanation of the Bush proposal is simple and clear: "His plan would allow the current generation of retirees and near-retirees to keep the current system, the one where they receive far more money than they put in during their lifetimes, while requiring the next generation to subsist on their own earnings for retirement. This isn't the equivalent of parents saving for Johnny's 529 plan. This is Mom and Dad asking Johnny to invest part of his allowance so that they won't have to bother with paying for college. You could call Bush's idea the Screw Your Grandchildren Act."

Finally, from Robert L. Borosage while George Bush is still on the marketing tour to states with vulnerable Democrat senators, how (and why) this deal will be sold (not counting the RNC astroturf): "(Bush) wants each worker to get an annual report from the government, reporting on what is in his or her 'personal account' set up by the good offices of George Bush and the Republican Party. Karl Rove thinks it possible to create a generation of grateful Republican voters..."

If you're not in one of the "carefully screened crowd of ticket holders" on the tour, I'm sure you can experience the "rapturous reception" over and over again on Fox News.

3.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The blue-stained fingers held up singly or in "V for victory" symbols in the crowd were my favorite part of the festivities for George Bush's 2005 State of the Union speech last night. Elections in Ukraine, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Iraq are indeed something to celebrate, even if our last election's results are proof enough that democracy doesn't always produce a salutory result.

Mr. Bush is on top of the world, a position which has always suited him. He's a real estate agent in a HUMMER, driving down the middle of the road, pointing out the new subdivisions and speeding up past the forgotten slums. 2.3 million new jobs last year, that's good. But we're still struggling to catch up to the employment numbers we had when he took office, let alone occupy all the new workers who've joined us.

He talks a good game, calling for "restraining the spending appetite of the federal government" after running the deficit from 0 to hundreds of billions on his watch. He thinks we could get down to half that by 2009, a surprisingly meager goal for the first big priority in his speech.

He drew plenty of bipartisan applause in his generic opening calls, but not from the Joint Chiefs of Staff up front. I like that; they have military discipline and don't just applaud on cue like everyone on the right side of the aisle.... (continued)

Now there's something better to do than simply complain about the sub-standard indexing and search Microsoft has for their own documentation: Google search < Microsoft >. Competition can be a wonderful thing.

Groundhog Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dried Yarrow above old snow Alan Murray has a new, high horse at the WSJ (and it's today's free feature, for however long that lasts), rolling it out with the question of whether anyone with a real job should be wasting his or her time at the WEF in Davos.

He mentions Bill Frist's attendance (I'm assuming the doctor was going to show up for his sponsored reception) without criticism, but then I guess being the Senate majority leader preparing for a run for president in 2008 doesn't qualify as a "real job." The good news about Dr. Frist's run is that we don't care for Senators as Presidents all that much these days.

If you're looking for that lost invitation to the Forum, I hate to tell you that it's over already, and the retrospectives are already underway. (Wasn't it grand?) Once upon a time, there was an interesting blog, Davos for Newbies, but Lance isn't getting asked back, and the now "official" forum blog needs something to make it a bit more lively, I'm afraid. But maybe I didn't give it enough of a chance, biased by Alan Murray's sneer that it was all a waste of time.

Murray didn't get invited either, eh?

1.Feb.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sundog in cirrus, over an inversion, from the Boise front, Jan.'05 Finally got around to using my Costco sign-up coupon for some digital photo prints. I'm still struggling with the whole user interface of that place, and have yet to have a wholly positive shopping experience, but there's apparently enough positive that I keep trying. The big test is whether I'll renew when my 12 months is up, of course.

The first try went pear-shaped when their input machine didn't recognize any picture files on a flash card full of TIFFs. The machine operator/clerk said "it doesn't always work with TIFFs, we recommend you use JPEGs." If he'd said it doesn't work with TIFFs, I think I would have felt better about it. But as it happened, I had another meeting in the neighborhood, so it wasn't too much trouble to re-save all the pictures in another format, drop them off again and pick them up afterwards. (It looks like their online interface/partnership hasn't made it out to the boondocks, yet.)

The second try ran into the touch-screen keyboard user interface design: no "backspace" key. It had a "del" key, but no cursor keys, and tabbing to the name or phone number fields always put the cursor at EOL. D'OH! Hint: pick a machine other than the "first" one that gets the most use.

The prints were great, and cheap, and since I only picked good shots to print, every one was wonderful. They loss-lead the 4x6s, for only $.19 apiece. At the big end, either 11x14s or 12x18s go for just $3, seems like a great deal. My coupon was for 20 4x6s and 1 8x10 (which I made 8x12 after I found out those are the same price), and I spent most of $20 on a bunch of 5x7s while I was at it. That's kind of an odd size, though: a little too big for a snapshot, but without the commitment to an enlargement.

I did discover one thing about enlargements: for editing preparation, you should zoom in and inspect the original at close range, because details are going to show up in the print that you won't otherwise see on a monitor. The electronic loupe concept.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Tuesday, 01-Mar-2005 19:41:05 MST