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unraveling

29.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Winners and losers Permalink to this item

It seems remarkable to have one of our two major parties and its camp followers to be rooting for failure, but here we are. Timothy Egan:

"The Republican Party started a failure campaign earlier this year, but then the strategy got sidetracked in a coercive government shutdown that cost us all $24 billion or so. With the disastrous rollout of the federal exchange, Republicans now smell blood. A recent memo outlined a far-reaching, multilevel assault on the Affordable Care Act. Horror stories—people losing their lousy health insurance—will be highlighted, and computer snafus celebrated."

But computer problems get fixed eventually, and substandard health insurance will get replaced, sooner or later. While that all gets ironed out, there is actually some success to report, by Paul Krugman's estimate:

"Since 2010, when the act was passed, real health spending per capita—that is, total spending adjusted for overall inflation and population growth—has risen less than a third as rapidly as its long-term average. Real spending per Medicare recipient hasn’t risen at all; real spending per Medicaid beneficiary has actually fallen slightly."

That's a bigger deal in the long run than the pointless shutdown last month, and I expect there will be more net success than failure by the time 2014 campaigns reach deciding points.

Thanksgiving Permanent URL to this day's entry

Evangelii Gaudium Permalink to this item

Among the many blessings I have to be thankful for, Pope Francis. The last Pope to have my attention was the first one I knew, John XXIII, with influence far beyond his death in 1963. His successor seemed most of all to be completing the work that John started with the Second Vatican Council, and before his term ended (and for reasons to discuss some other time), I'd parted ways with formal Catholicism.

Now, this apostolic exhortation, the "Joy of the Gospel" seems a wake-up call to a world rapt by sirens of "free market solutions," here on the shoals of "Black Friday," extended into our most American of holidays.

“Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door peole are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37).”

“God’s word is unpredictable in its power.”

The Pope urges us to say no to "an economy of exclusion," to "the new idolatry of money" (which doesn't seen all that new, actually), and no "to a financial system which rules rather than serves."

“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

It's an enormous document compared to what ever so momentarily grabs our attention these days. It's not meant for a single day's reflection; reforming a two thousand year old institution is not something lightly taken.

26.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

There's something happening here... Permalink to this item

Brian Knappenberger's Op-Doc, "Why Care about the NSA?" considers excuses for apathy:

"I'm not doing anything wrong, so I don't need to care."

Are you sure?

"We need this to keep us safe"

Sen. Ron Wyden points out that secret operations are one thing; secret law is another. And gee, what could possibly go wrong with outsourcing surveillance? A "market solution" creates an invisible thumb to tip the scale toward "more like this." Outsourcing prisons creates an incentive to increase incarceration. Outsourcing spying expands the traffic in—and thus the market for—secret information.

On The Electronic Frontier Foundation's DeepLinks blog, Katitza Rodriguez argues in favor of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, toward legal, legitimate, proportional means, with transparency, public oversight and safeguards.

Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm expand on the topic in the short video from the NYT, Busting Eight Common Excuses for NSA Mass Surveillance. (No, allowing mass spying is not "patriotic.")

25.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shop till you drop Permalink to this item

Just days before Thanksgiving, I seem to be steeping in advertising. Not as much the wave of broadcast media that breaks upon home shoals this time of year, most of which I'm inured to as a non-shopper, but the memes and meta that surround something I usually just try to block out to keep from being distracted from whatever else it is that I do.

There is the anti-shopping campaign going up against retailers trying to get the jump on Black Friday by breaking the midnight taboo. (I've never been a fan of the Black Friday shopping experience, so it's not an imposition to add Thursday to the days of the week I don't shop.)

It's that window art time of the year

Email today included teasers from the Nielsen Norman Group, defining "Conversion Rate" and considering Seamlessness in the Cross-Channel User Experience; my alma mater co-marketing Vandal Crest wines made with grapes from the Horse Heaven Hills in Washington; Staples shouting "BLACK FRIDAY ALL WEEK LONG" (can we, ahem, at least take Thursday off?); and selling mobile phones with improbably ridiculous markdowns: "Now $49.99 Reg $659.99".

Business Insider has a piece, Apple Thinks People Still Don't Know What An iPad Can Do, which I'm sure is true, and even wanted to see what, maybe, but it went to a site full of whizzy Flash (Flash, seriously, the stuff the iPad won't even play?) videos showing people in a restaurant kitchen, underwater, and atop a wind turbine doing things with their iPad. (And here I was mostly curious about finding something on the web, and having it just stay available the next time I want it, and am not WiFi-connected. Or, ah, transfer a file without sending it through email.)

In the reverse brainstorming department, 5 Ways To Destroy Your Customer Experience. And 10 surprising social media statistics that might make you rethink your social strategy, or get one, if you don't have one? They're more fun than the 5 ways to destroy, at least. I'm in the age bracket that's the fastest growing demographic on Twitter. Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the web. (Whoa.) And a quarter of smartphone owners ages 18-44 say they can't recall the last time their smartphone wasn't next to them. How else could you spend more than two hours a day, on average diddling with it?

Idaho's Tea Party ticket Permalink to this item

It seems that one of the prerequisites to running for state office in Idaho is having a friend with a plane who can fly you around to make a "state-wide" announcement to kick off the campaign. (I didn't see any actual details of Meridian State Senator Russ Fulcher's arrangements, but you can't fly commerical "from Meridian to Coeur d'Alene to Idaho Falls" in a day, and can't actually fly "from Meridian," unless you start in a helicopter. The announcements featured Courtyard by Marriott in Meridian, and a couple of hangars in the other two cities.

Not that covering points southwest, north and southeast in a single day was necessarily required; Fulcher's month-long run-up took the surprise out of his Big Day. Dan Popkey pointed out three days in advance that you don't announce you'll fly all over the state to announce you decided to forgo after your month-long "listening tour."

Still, some charming touches in Popkey's account of the southwest corner of the triangle, starting with the Meridian hotel being "two miles from the dairy farm where he grew up," back before an Idaho morphed from being famous for potatoes to selling more dairy than spuds. (That was 1997, by the way.) And a speechwriter who's a fan of alliteration (or is this Fulcher's own text?):

"From the farm to the fab to foreign lands with faith, the last 51 years have taught me how to prosper for the next 51 years," Fulcher said.

Fabulous!

It's been an interesting ride up the ranks for Fulcher, who will now have to figure out how being No. 4 in the Senate as Majority Caucus Chair will work while he campaigns to defeat the current Republican Governor, C.L. "Butch" Otter, getting ready to run for his third term. Fulcher was appointed to the state senate to replace the self-dealing Jack Noble in 2005, and then was next in line when John McGee infamously stumbled out a country club party after too much to drink, and into the news.

As if our Congressman Raúl Labrador weren't (more than) enough, Fulcher's "Tea Party-insipired campaign" seeks to give our state a governor along the lines of Texas and Kentucky clowns Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, in a tent big enough for Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project, Oath Keepers, the undead John Birch Society, Rod Beck, Sharon Ullman, Brandi Swindell, and yes, Jack Stuart in his tricorne, "front row, center." But he's apparently not quite that corny himself, by Popkey's account:

Fulcher said he has no opinion on abolishing the Federal Reserve or re-establishing a gold standard, doesn't believe the 9/11 attacks were a domestic conspiracy and said he has "no reason to believe" President Obama wasn't born in Hawaii. While not taking a position, he said "it's going to be difficult" to repeal the direct election of U.S. senators and return that authority to state legislatures.

"I'm not going to be waving those flags," Fulcher told the Statesman.

The centerpiece of the campaign seems to be running against Obamacare, because that just never gets old.

(And speaking of never old: Marc Johnson's take, on this "Rhyme of Political History" notes that the last time a sitting Idaho Governor had a serious primary challenge—and Goldwater Republicans tipped him to a loss, in 1966—the incumbent was 51, the same age as our 2014 challenger. Otter has a two decade headstart on Fulcher, both in age and in time in elected office. If the parallel holds, Idaho will elect a Democrat Governor in '18?!)

21.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

On the lighter side Permalink to this item

xc on Mores Mtn above an inversion, Feb. 2004

Ok, that's an overdose of political posts this morning, without even getting into Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats finally going nuclear and putting an end to the filibuster to block nominees.

It looks like we might have an epic winter in the Rockies this year. Ten years after learning to snowboard, I seem to have had as much fun as possible at the local hill, and declined the cheap season pass this year (and the not-quite-so-cheap weekend sale they just tried, artfully timed to go with fresh snow). I resolved to go further afield in search of uncut powder, with or without solitude.

How about... today's tweeted deal from the Mountain Collective: $379 for 2 days at Alta/Snowbird, 2 days at Aspen Snowmass, 2 days at Jackson Hole, 2 days at Mammoth, 2 days at Whistler Blackcomb and 2 days at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows?

Ok, so there'd be some considerable travel and lodging involved, well into four figures at least, but it's a weird and entertaining idea for what would be my most unforgettable season ever. More realistically, a "neighborhood" possibility along these lines is Grand Targhee, on the Idaho side of the Tetons (but over into Wyoming), where they've already had 8 feet of snow this fall, with 4 ft. of that left for base. A foot and a half in the last week. $200 for a "4 pack" before Dec. 1, $250 after.

If economy and solitude score higher than steep and deep, 17 Park N' Ski locations in Idaho (plus however many Oregon has, with our reciprocity deal) could be mine, all mine for $25.

Spiraling into failure and despair Permalink to this item

The story of the House Republican Playbook to kill Obamacare was shocking enough to prompt yet another missive to my Congressman. It smells of desperation, I know, but at least I'm on the record.

Just when I thought my opinion of the work of Congress couldn't be any more negative, this genuinely shocking report in the New York Times: "G.O.P. Maps Out Waves of Attacks Over Health Law."

The contents of that article are disgusting.

The veracity of it is self-evident.

When the tactics to force repeal through the government shutdown, and the "crisis" of raising the debt ceiling failed, I hoped against experience that we might finally be ready to make some progress.

But no, it's become even worse. Problems in the rollout of healthcare.gov and in the implementation of the ACA have been taken as a signal to amplify the sabotage, to the full extent political dirty tricks can muster.

The ACA could be improved. It desperately NEEDS to be improved. It could also by utterly destroyed by a determined campaign to do so, at an incredible cost to the people of this country, and to our very system of governance.

What do you stand for, Mike? The Speaker of the House complained recently that "this isn't a damned game," but from what I see, that's EXACTLY what it is, and his protest was disingenuous acting for the assembled media. The "winners," such as they are, are the individual members who raise money for themselves and get to keep their VERY generous government employment, while the rest of us are stuck paying the bills.

I've written you many times in the last couple months, asking, BEGGING for you to show some leadership in changing what has become a dysfunctional, toxic system.

What are you going to do, Mike?

While we've got nothing better to do Permalink to this item

Robert Reich is a very smart guy who has mastered (it seems to me) at least two of our modern media: The Colbert Report, where he appeared this week in a interview done remotely, and Facebook. For the first, he manages to dodge around Colbert's need to make it funny, gets his key points across in a very limited time slot, and manages to avoid being distracted by the clown act of his interviewer. (Even the very faint smile he showed once or twice seemed artful.)

On Facebook, he's mastered the art of an expressive, medium length (in FB terms) punch in the gut. Here's this morning's, with the link to the item he refers to in the NYT added:

"Having failed electorally and failed in the courts, Republicans are hell-bent on destroying the Affordable Care Act in Americans' minds. A document circulated among House Republicans (revealed in today's NY Times) contains talking points to be repeated continuously: “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance.” “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs.” “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk.” Fox News and right-wing radio amplify them. The mainstream media reports them as news.

"Admittedly, Obama played into their hands by botching the roll-out of the Act. But keep in mind the larger reality: Private for-profit insurers have wrecked the American healthcare system. Ours has been the only system in the world designed to avoid sick people. A single-payer system would have been preferable, and we'll eventually get there. But the Affordable Care Act at least sets minimum standards, requires insurers to take people with preexisting conditions, bars them from dropping coverage of people who get sick, and extends insurance to the poor and working class. These are huge accomplishments relative to where we've been. Initial problems with the website, and cancellations of some policies by insurance companies that can't meet the standards, are small potatoes."

The headline in the Times is enough to make you vomit: G.O.P. Maps Out Waves of Attacks Over Health Law.

“Yeah, there is a method being followed here,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess, a Texas Republican involved in the effort, “but, really, these stories are creating themselves.”

But are they really, Mike? They don't amplify themselves, that's for damn sure. Apart from the bedrock of Fox News bloviators, the House Republican Playbook provides instruction on social media outlets, sample opinion articles to send to local papers, and oh, this is rich:

"an extensive timeline on the health care law and an exhaustive list of legislative responses that have gone nowhere."

Including, one would hope, the 40-some House Republican "legislative responses" that have gone nowhere fully by design, up to and including the $24 billion government shutdown they orchestrated last month.

The plural of "anecdote" is marketing, and social media are a wickedly good way to collect them and turn them into negative ads, negative commentary, negative campaigns.

If the House were to just take the next 11 months off to campaign for re-election (which is not hugely different than what they're doing, but still), we would see considerably less damage than what we're about to witness from this "playbook."

It's disgusting. It's contemptible. But individual members of Congress don't have to care about their collective failure. All they have to care about is fundraising, and keeping their staff and perks and cushy government job. For most of them, solid gerrymandering makes it a walk in the park.

Nothing from nothing leaves nothing Permalink to this item

Haven't heard much about sequestration lately, because healthcare.gov! There's only so much news oxygen to go around, and so many squirrels. But back in the day, remember when Congress dodged the "crisis" of its own fabrication by coming up with a package of spending cuts "designed to be so repellant and so wrong-headed that both parties in polarized Washington would at least be able to agree to get rid of them"? But then couldn't agree, surprise surprise. Robert Borosage, on the undead budget nightmare:

"The simple truth is that sequestration should never have been adopted and should be repealed. Immediately. Completely. Period."

Another thing that hasn't been making the news as much as stock market hits news highs is his point #2: "Out of control spending isn’t the problem; mass unemployment is the problem." That and the mass underemployment problem, which did make the news thanks to Walmart's employee-to-employee donate food for Thanksgiving plan, at least as much as the company feeding at the public trough through various tax breaks, government gifts, and having the rest of us subsidize health care for employees whose jobs don't come with insurance, as we do for fast food workers (to the tune of $7 billion, give or take).

But hey, have you heard the latest horror story about healthcare.gov? That seems like a really good excuse for the G.O.P. to do nothing whatsoever. Nothing on immigration reform, nothing on a budget agreement, nothing on confirming judicial appointments, nothing on entitlement reform and especially, and most damning, nothing on jobs.

20.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I think we're all bozos on this bus Permalink to this item

Every time there's an altercation between a bicyclist and a motor vehicle, and a forum for people to spout off about it, there is an inevitable parade of anecdotes of the stupid moves bicyclists, and motorists have been seen to have made. We have such a keen eye for the mistakes of others, and such good memory for "evidence" that confirms our heuristics. (See that book at the current top of the reading list, Being Wrong.) As a motorist and a bicyclist, I could play in either category. As a numerate person, I also know that there are far, far more mistakes made by motorists around here than by bicyclists. The relative size of the populations insures that, even if the bicyclists' error rate was much higher than motorists'. Those error rates have doubtless been studied, but no amount of personal anecdotes can illuminate them for us. The most likely operating assumption is "about equal."

I'm not an unbiased observer of myself either, but I know I've had my share of mistakes on two wheels as well as four, with plenty of first-hand experience of the consequences. My guess is that I'm more careful when bicycling, because the personal consequences are that much closer to my heart.

But tonight, I have to say, four motorists teamed up to produce the most remarkable series of gaffes in rapid succession that I have ever seen, and one that will set my personal benchmark for some time.

One, two, three... the fourfecta! We were still laughing at all that when two of the malefactors added two more, to make a total of six gross blunders inside of 2 minutes at the most.

Sketch of the scene of the violations We were northbound on Cole, shortly after 7pm, fully dark this time of year. Just one car in view, and he's stopped at the light where Cole tees into Mountain View. Reverse lights. He's backing up? Yes, he's backing up, because he went almost completely past the stop line, was hanging into the cross street and maybe figured he wasn't going to trip the sensor for the light. We pulled up in the right lane, signalling for the left turn to the right lane of Mountain View, and will trip the sensor regardless. An RV creeps up, eastbound on Mountain View. Why so slow with the green light? Can he not make the turn with #1 guy ("Backer") hanging out past the stop line? Don't know, but veeerrry sloooowly, motor home makes the turn to southbound Cole. As he's doing that, a car westbound on Mountain View, the driver talking on a phone, turns left at the same time... but ok, he did kind of yield to the motor home and nobody hit anybody else.

Green light, Backer and we make our left turn, and HELLO, the guy who lives on the corner of Mountain View and Cole decides this is a great time to pull out of his driveway and into the line of fire. Again, no crash, but we're laughing at the fourth nutty move all in the space of about 30 feet, and keeping our distance as the three of us now head for Glenwood and the right turn down the hill. Backer's in the left lane, Corner Guy in the right (which he got to by cutting right across Backer's line), and as we get to the next intersection, WHOOP! Backer's wanting to turn right don't you know and cuts across two solid white lines and the bike lane, cuts off Corner Guy (who, ok, had that coming), rolls the red light to make the right turn, except the red light is a RED ARROW with a sign that says NO TURN ON RED. Corner Guy makes it an even half dozen bozo moves by also taking the right turn on NO TURN ON RED.

Let's get social, maybe Permalink to this item

After checking the local NWS forecast, I thought I might see about plugging its RSS feed into my igHome page. Following the "share" icon I got a popover with a remarkably long list of where all I might do that, fueled by AddThis Social Bookmarking. The list of 289 (!) possibles includes the Facebook and Twitter gorillas, of course, and email (whatever your default client is?), print, gmail. And goes on from there, a few generic items, a few specific email programs and then hundreds of things I've never heard of along with the relatively few I have.

Excerpt of the AddThis widget/icon listing

AddThis offers "content engagement done right" with "website tools, advertising solutions and massive data" tailored to publishers, advertisers and partners, and aimed at you, the possibly hapless viewer and conduit for their business models. Drive more traffic! Target your audience! Expand your data! (My emphasis, their teases.)

In the NYT, we read that the still-dominant Facebook is striving to keep its cachet against this dizzying array of upstarts, and figuring out which of them to absorb with its spare $billions. The Snapchat deal didn't go through, because... we can only guess. Because the Snapchat kids thought they could get more $billions from someone else. Because its being "centered on impermanence and offer[ing] privacy and anonymity" didn't fit with FB.

Now with younger users preferring Snapchat — which says it processes nearly as many photos as Facebook each day — Snapchat may well have the upper hand.

“It’s head-scratching,” said Christopher Poole, 25, the founder of 4chan, the message board. “From a business perspective, I understand it. But from a cultural perspective, it’s like, ‘Wait, what?’ ”

I'd like to have this 20-something explain the "business perspective," just for fun, because there's a lot of "Wait, what?" here for me in the business end.

For their own account, AddThis sees Facebook and Twitter as the Big Two, with Google+ and LinkedIn next up. They feature Pinterest in what they offer in their standard styles. They've got an API for their sharing button.

And if you don't know, and don't care to know what in the world Adfty or Amen Me! or EzySpot or Cherry Share or Flaker or Nasza-klasa or SUP BRO or Stuffpit might be, and you don't want to land in the Links Gutter or Librerio or YouMob, and you're afraid of a little too much SpinSnap and Formspring and if you don't want to ZingMe or anyone else or get Zinged yourself, you can get yourself an opt-out cookie and keep those data kids off your lawn.

That won't break your 4chan or Snapchat or Zynga or Instagram or Waze or Frontback, anyway; none of those things mentioned in the NYT article are among the nearly 300 choices AddThis is shilling for. Yet.

Impeach Nixon! Permalink to this item

I thought it was a comic typo and buried lede when I saw that one Missouri state lawmaker wants "to pursue impeachment proceedings against Nixon," but that's about the only thing funny in this item about Oklahoma and other states "defending" their notion of marriage by denying all spousal benefits so that they don't have to provide any to tey gay. SecDef Hagel recently ordered Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia to get with the program, but they're prepared to take away good old married National Guard members' rights in order to defend marriage.

Hey, a few more states in that list and they could have a whole Confederacy.

19.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Economic utilities Permalink to this item

A story in the Spokesman-Review says the average Spokane city utility bill for trash, water, and sewer is going up 3% next year, to just over $110 a month, which caught my eye because it seems pricey. They don't break everything down, but it looks almost half of that average is the flat rate for sewer: "Monthly wastewater charges in 2014 for homeowners will be $52.87." We pay $15/mo. in the West Boise Sewer District. Our quarterly bill is less than Spokane's monthly!

Graph of our 2013 city utility bills

Boise City's curbit page makes it look like the trash and recycling rates are simple, but they're not, as the detailed rate schedule shows. The best part of the design is that recycling is better than "free" (as it is in Spokane): trash + recycling is cheaper than getting just trash pickup service. Not so good, from my point of view as a low-generator, there isn't much discount if you use less than the 95 gal. "standard" wheelie bin. $1 less for either a 65 or 48 gal. bin, and only $1 more for a second 95 gal. Not counting yard waste I put in the bin from time to time (figuring it improves the quality of the landfill, although that's hard for me to say), we typically go 2 or 3 weeks without filling the mid-sized trash bin.

Spokane charges an additional $14 for yard waste, 9 months of the year. We get free leaf collection in November, with a discount on the (required) paper bags, and the city has a composting facility. (Most of our compostables, including oak, sycamore, pine, spruce, fir, russian olive, grass and some of the neighbors' leaves, go in our own residential compost pile, just like our parents taught us.) All told, we pay just over $13/mo for trash, recycling, and leaves.

Our bottom line works out to a bit under $50/mo for water, sewer, trash, and recycling. Hell of a deal.

18.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Awkward holiday plans Permalink to this item

As reasons for supporting gay rights in general, and same-sex marriage in particular go, finding out your child is "one of them" is not terribly high on the scale of ethical evolution, but it's a step. Dick Cheney was one of the higher profile politicians to come around on the question of same-sex marriage with the help of his child.

Over the weekend, the conflicting ideology of his two daughters made the news mostly because super-conservative Liz has moved to Wyoming in the hopes of an easy ride to the Senate, and same-sex marriage is not yet playing well in the Cowboy State.

Wyoming is also, officially, and ironically nicknamed the "Equality State" thanks to taking the lead on women's suffrage. Apparently that still hasn't set well with all the cowboys.

Or with Liz Cheney, irony upon irony, who seemed nice enough at the weekly family get-togethers in Northern Virginia, but is now publicly distant.

"Mary Cheney, 44, said in a phone interview Sunday that she presumed her sister shared her father’s views on marriage, and that view was reinforced because Liz Cheney “was always very supportive” of her relationship with Ms. Poe and the couple’s two children. She learned otherwise in August when Liz Cheney declared, shortly after announcing her Senate candidacy, that she was opposed to same-sex marriage rights. Mary Cheney said it is now “impossible” for the sisters to reconcile as long as Liz Cheney maintains that position."

So much for family values, eh. "The ugly family drama and questions about what Liz Cheney truly believes could reinforce questions about her authenticity" out here in the Wild West, whether or not she can get right with gay marriage in general, or her sister and sister-in-law in particular.

Liz got on the wrong side of former Senator Alan Simpson too, which is bound to make for some entertaining color commentary. Said to be "a longtime friend of the family," he's faced with choosing sides too, complicated by Dick's wife telling him to "just shut up" three times and then saying that never happened.

Thanksgiving is planned for Northern Virginia, and Liz is not expected. Christmas in Jackson Hole... where the forecast is bound to be "chilly."

17.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Location, location, location Permalink to this item

Seems ancient history to not know exactly where you are on (or near) the surface of the planet with the help of a cheap gadget and/or your mobile phone. The Global Positioning System used to have noise built-in to make all answers approximate, but once the receivers became ubiquitous, the availability of work-arounds to dial things in made the possibility of security by obscurity less tenable.

From our nation's point of view, our system is a utility, and the infrastructure makes sense as a regulated monopoly. From other nations' point of view, they're not so keen on us having all the fun. Or maybe they don't trust us? If war were to break out, and we turned the system off, or fuzzy for others, but somehow still on for us, it would be quite the extraordinary advantage.

Whatever the motivations, it seems China, the European Union and Russia can all imagine benefits from having their own geographic positioning system. And to keep satellites spinning overhead well-calibrated to the earth's surface, Russia wants to have "monitor stations" here and there, in Brazil, Spain, Indonesia, Australia... and the U.S. of A.

The CIA and the Pentagon are not convinced this is a good idea. Me neither.

Idaho's exceptional man of mystery Permalink to this item

Randy Stapilus has been following Idaho (and regional) politics more closely than I have, for more years. He highlights one remarkable aspect of the Mark Patterson case in his blog post today, Idaho man of mystery. It's not just that there are some gaps to fill, but that we have a 50-something guy with thirty years almost entirely missing.

"This isn’t a matter of tracking down every last detail about a relatively junior member of the Idaho House. I raise all this here because you likely cannot find a similar gap in the record for any other Idaho legislator, current or recent, or even not so recent. It’s a gap unlike anything I can recall in four decades of watching the coming and goings of elected officials.

"Who is this guy?"

Comments in Facebook include another pretty interesting question, from Sharon Fisher:

"What I don't get is how two Congressmen, and two members of House leadership, would endorse him while knowing so little about him."

It's more than a suspicion that declaring affiliation with the Republican Party and spouting some anti-government rhetoric (preferably anti-federal government, but that's not a requirement) is enough to get you elected in most Idaho districts. His campaign website features quotes from Calvin Coolidge about business along with the glowing endorsement from Idaho Republican elites. Congressman Raúl Labrador celebrates Patterson's "expertise in the manufacturing industry" [sic]. So business! Manufacturing! And don't you know that

"Government is one of the huge roadblocks for business success, and many manufacturers fail because of high taxation and over-regulation by government."

That was apparently enough said to collect all the endorsements this man with a mostly missing biography needed to reach the Idaho legislature.

Mapping life travels Permalink to this item

My visited states and provinces, recolored

The owner of the defocus blog says he doesn't know what triggered it, but his clever wep app to create your visited states and provinces "is suddenly very popular on Facebook," in spite of it having "no direct Facebook sharing functionality." These things happen... when you give people a catchy way to tell stories about themselves.

I thought the idea was great, but the color scheme somewhat inscrutable. The four step scale (touched upon, at least slept over, fair amount, great deal of time) is fine, even if I might not have worded it quite that way, and the colors are clearly distinguishable, but they don't "read" in a sensible way. The weakest category is "red" [more of a salmon pink to me, rgb(255,177,177)], and reads stronger than it should, for starters, but mostly the problem is you can't see the progression from "least" to "most" visited without consulting the key. And reconsulting it, because it rather defies visual memory, at least for me.

But the design of the app is about brilliant. 0-4 radio buttons for each state and province, the map-in-process updates immediately with client-side javascript, and when you're ready, you can generate a map of whatever size you like, US and Canada together, or side-by-side.

Here's one different take at a gradate intended to show "intensity" more step-wise, from my "home" states darkest, through lighter many-visits, to only a few, and to just passed through once or twice.

From defocus.net auto-generated map

With fifty or so years of various sorts of travel, it also occurs to me that people will like to map one or more individual trips, rather than just going for "collect the whole set." The set of states I visited the summer after high school, hitchhiking around the west, for example.

16.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Full disclosure? Bring it on! Permalink to this item

It's probably in the realm of "never going to happen," at least not voluntarily, but kudos to the Idaho Statesman editorial board for yesterday's call to have media sensation Rep. Mark Patterson fill in the tantalizing blanks in his history between the 1974 guilty plea and withheld judgment for assault with intent to commit rape and his stumbling into a seat in the Idaho legislature in 2012.

"Patterson must come clean about his past. If he can’t be truthful and forthright about that, what else matters?

"We hope the House Ethics Committee moves to investigate Patterson. ..."

Yes, and perhaps someone will get around to answer the question of why it's legal for this man to possess or own firearms at all, given his record. Elected officials in the state get a pass for concealed weapons permits, but a felony is a bar to having a weapon, period. Last I checked Idaho Code Title 18 Chapter 33 section 16.

Since healthcare insurance anecdotes are all the rage Permalink to this item

My friend said: "I got my first bill last week, I've never been so excited to pay a bill."

13.Nov.13 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Putting a finer point on it Permalink to this item

From the latest weekly tête à tête between New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich and contributor Eric Benson, CBS’s Benghazi Report Was a Hoax, Not a Mistake. Her lovely visage and plummy accent notwithstanding, Rich makes a good case that CBS should send Logan packing. The first of his four follow-up questions:

"(1) How could Logan (by her own account) have worked “for a year” on this report and not done the elementary cross-checking that allowed Karen De Young of the Washington Post to expose the fraud almost immediately after it aired? Indeed, what was Logan doing during that long year?"

And from the third, a bit more about "the relationship between Logan, her source, and the source’s publisher," also owned by CBS and not your father's staid publishing house Simon & Schuster, but rather

"an S&S subdivision, Threshold, whose authors include Glenn Beck, Karl Rove, Mark Levin, Lynne Cheney, and Jerome Corsi, best known for promoting the Swift Boating of John Kerry and the birther conspiracies about Barack Obama. Why would Logan and CBS News be in bed with such a partisan publisher? Who was the editor who vetted the book containing the same hoax that Logan aired on 60 Minutes?"

And, wait for it,

(Threshold’s editor-in-chief is Mary Matalin.)

Asking for a friend Permalink to this item

Elm Grove sunset #4

It looks like Dan Popkey is checking with the Sheriff on a daily basis to see what's new. What's new today is that Gary Raney has alleged the two gun-totin' members of the Idaho Legislature that have been too much in the news the past couple days committed ethics violations.

Over her florid signature on August 1, Rep. Judy Boyle wrote to the Attorney General to ask some questions about this year's legislation concerning concealed weapons permits. Just what penalties are there if a citizen's privacy is violated? (None) Just what crimes would disqualify someone from getting a permit? (A long list) And "Are you assured the current and new enhanced forms ask only the questions allowed by Idaho Code 18-3302 and 18-3302K?" (One question—"Have you previously applied for a concealed weapon permit in Idaho?"—was deemed unnecessary and has been removed.)

(It's understandable there could be some uncertainty about Idaho's Code for "Issuance of Licenses to Carry Concealed Weapons", after 21 amendments and 11 added sections since 1990, including three amendments and a new section this year, as the Legislature carries out its stated intent "to wholly occupy the field of firearms regulation within this state" as best it can.) )

It was "handy," at least, for Mark Patterson to have the answer from Deputy A.G. Paul Panther in hand at a late August Sheriff's hearing, except for that fact that yes, actually, the list of disqualifications for a concealed weapons license does include what's on Patterson's record.

The question of guilt, withheld judgement or exoneration is relevant as well: Idaho Code excludes "persons who have commited a wide variety of crimes from owning or possessing a firearm," let alone concealed carry. The special exemption for any elected official and lots of others for getting a permit does not trump the restrictions against possessing or owning a firearm.

While that gets sorted out, perhaps some member of the House can forward the Sheriff's complaint and put the House Ethics Committee in gear, to dig in and determine whether Rep. Boyle's zeal for the Second Amendment and "helping her constituents" was actually Boyle and her buddy Mark Patterson committing theft through deception and/or diversion per Idaho Code 18-2403(5).

Update: Yet another sad story from Idaho goes viral on the intertubes, with Wonkette covering the news rather more directly than the staid media can do.

Update #2: Rachel Maddow picked up the story on MSNBC, giving it the appropriate voice of incredulity.

Eleven.Twelve.Thirteen Permanent URL to this day's entry

Live and let live Permalink to this item

By Wikipedia's reckoning, Hawai`i has played a lead role in the give and take and give-back of same sex marriage. In 1993 that state's Supreme Court declared the state's prohibition unconstitutional. In 1998, the voters pushed back and approved an amendment to their state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Today, on a numerologically pleasant date, the Hawai`i Senate signed a bill allowing same-sex marriage, and sending it on to the the Governor. There's a bill for the Illinois Governor to sign as well, to make 16 states, the District of Columbia that provide for same-sex marriage. More than 40% of the population is in those states and D.C. that either recognize same-sex marriage or "civil unions" with similar rights.

There's not much mystery which way history is going in this matter, even with 29 states still with constitutional prohibitions. The only question is how long it will be before all those are swept away, and how troublesome the contest will be in courts, state legislatures and Congress between now and then.

In Idaho, four couples are suing C.L. "Butch" Otter in his official capacity as Governor, and the Ada County recorder arguing that Idaho's constitution violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process, and that they "have been harmed by Idaho's refusal to allow them" to marry.

For his part, the Governor's first response was to declare that "Marriage is the dominion of the states," and that this is a matter of "state sovereignty." The nominally libertarian bent to Idaho politics is not at all absolute; consider it libertarianism of convenience.

We did obtain a "license" for our own marriage here in Idaho, which was not controversial at the time. Since then, the state has had pretty much no business in our marriage, much less "dominion" over it, from my point of view. There are state laws having to do with community property, and protecting our mutual right to make medical decisions, and so forth. We can fight over the kids if we want to, but not their custody: they're on their own.

Rachael Robertson's news release is straightforward, and touching:

"Idaho is our home, and in my heart I believe it's the best state in the nation. People in Idaho believe in treating people fairly. Amber and I want all the same things that other families want. We want to build the life we dream of together, to share a home and a family name, and to be treated the same as any other married couple."

The state's going to make its case against all that, but it's certain to be a losing argument. Sooner or later.

11.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

New low for the Idaho Legislature Permalink to this item

It would be a game of "how many things are wrong with this picture?" if the picture weren't so disturbing. Not just that District 15 representative Mark Patterson lied on his concealed weapons permit, but that he and thousands of other elected officials are exempt from license requirements while in office. Not just that his one term in the state legislature is a testimony to the power beyond reason of "R" in state politics, but that he has at least one fellow legislator making stuff up to try to tar the sheriff who attempted to enforce the law (before Patterson was exempted).

Not just that he lied to the direct question on the application (“Have you ever had an entry of a withheld judgment for a criminal offense which would disqualify you from obtaining a concealed weapons license?”) but that he has since had a tall glass of milk of amnesia. (And ok, not just that why would you even keep filling out the application after you've said "yes" to the question "are you disqualifed?")

Not just that he now can't remember the events in question and doesn't want to look at any documents to refresh his memory, but he does "know that the cops lied."

Really, Idaho Republicans, is this good enough for you?

Dan Popkey's reporting has definitely lit up the comments, and one of them included a link to a week-ago post about the "Liberty Expo," presented by the Republican Liberty Caucus of Idaho, bringing together a variety of anti-government reliables, making the case for nothing quite as much as the need for government to protect us from people such as these: "Rep. Mark Patterson on gun rights," no less. Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman, on crony capitalism; former Republican state Senate candidate Gresham Bouma on preparing for social and economic collapse; and John Birch Society organizer Dale Pearce, on the Rio Principles, a United Nations environmental initiative.

Maybe the keynote talk over lunch with the "award winnning" Ben Swann, on “Liberty is Rising: Truth in Media” was good, but it's hard to say without having ponied up the price of admission: I didn't see any media coverage of what happened at the event.

Notwithstanding Patterson's contining and peripatetic denials and blaming regarding the dark history of his youth, this is pretty much what gives libertarianism a bad name. He may be an upstanding businessperson and his bicycle, motorcycle and firearm lubricants could be the cat's meow, but without going back to the 1970s, and just going by today's version of past events, his memory lapses, and recent interactions with law enforcement makes it obvious he has no business in an elected capacity as dog catcher, let alone state representative.

9.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Scam alert: domain slamming Permalink to this item

Having a domain name registration expire is no fun. Your website usually "goes away" and you're under the gun to quickly negotiate with your registrar to get it renewed. If you don't act quickly enough, the vulture robots (a.k.a. drop catchers) waiting around for unclaimed property will glom it and hold it for ransom. Meanwhile, your own registrar can name its price; last time one of my clients missed their date, that was $75 for one year. Lots of people sell loss-leading name registration for 50 cents or a dollar; renewal prices vary a lot, but my reference price from the good old days when the business was better regulated is $20/yr for one year, and "volume discounted" from there.

That makes email scams for domain name "renewal" a successful enough business that it has a place in Wikipedia: Domain slamming. The trick is that the nominally legitimate business offer looks like renewal, but in fact is for the transfer of the name, to a new registrar we assume will be your least favorite ever.

A scammable prospect list is as convenient as the Whois lookup services that display the required contact information for registrants (or at least those who haven't taken the trouble to pay someone to anonymize their registration). Thus, catching my eye in my spam bucket today, as intended, with the subject Attn: fortboise.org Registration Ending Soon

Inside, a fairly respectable looking "Notice" with an eight-digit "Order #" and an "Order Date" of November 8, and my name, address and phone number in the "Bill To" field. Of course, it's an "Order" I didn't place; hard to imagine clicking a link (or big green button) to "Process Payment."

Among other things wrong with the picture, there was the price: $75 for one year. Crazy wrong, even with "search engine submission" services, which, ha ha. Plus, offering to renew on the day of? That would've been beyond urgent to late. Act today! (And why didn't I hear about this sooner?!)

The reason I didn't hear about it sooner is that fortboise.org's expiration date is in October. 2019.

Time for a change Permalink to this item

With a little time on my hands this morning, I wrote a poem on that topic, and added commentary to it, filed it in /journal/. That "filing" used to be in bound books (and still is, sometimes), but I wanted to—knew I would have to—shape and sculpt it some. In the writer's group at Bookpeople in Moscow, Jeanette remembers someone suggesting an edit to something I'd written in a journal and read aloud, and my (indignant, was I? or just) peremptory statement that I didn't edit. Thought to hand, ink to paper, that's that.

There's something to be said for stream of consciousness, but more to be said for the ability to easily correct mistakes, and improve upon an early draft. (Taming the streams to irrigation works? Hmm, that's less attractive-sounding.)

Top left headline in this morning's feed when I got to it was A Founder of Twitter Goes Long, with the blurb explaining that

"Evan Williams, who helped create companies like Blogger and Twitter, is setting his sights on longer-form writing with a new blogging platform, Medium."

Too cute, eh? Going long with Medium. The image leading the story is artful, framed with a pseudo-negative border (on a positive image), black and white, him in low sun, lights on (for no reason), bare space in an artist's garret because he can live sparely now that his "worth soared in Twitter's IPO," as the caption says, a couple more $billions for the guy who did Blogger and sold that to Google, and then went even bigger in round two. Whatever he used to be, he's now "a contemplative 41-year-old," "trying to reclaim some of the territory" lost to smartphone-haiku soon to service advertising.

“We want to create the potential for great things to be created and found.”

Hip hip for a new Medium, and "longer-form writing to thrive." (Headline, blurb, image, and caption seem completely sufficient for this story, funny. But it's news, so yes, there's more, including a multimedia sidebar of Twitter's Main Characters.) This strikes me as quite precious:

“In the early days, I bought into the idea that the Internet would lead to a better world, that the truth was out there and that we didn’t need gatekeepers,” he said. The idea that he and many others embraced was that an unfiltered Internet would create a democratic information utopia. “Now,” he continued, “I think it’s more complicated than that.”

So... this new Medium is going to

"use algorithms to help identify blog posts that readers consider valuable and to bubble them to the surface."

Which is important, because we're busy people, with short attention spans. "Some see little evidence," Matt Richtel writes for the Zeitgeist "that people want to consume anything that takes much time."

We wish him and ourselves all the best in sorting the "cacophony of information that makes it easy to be overwhelmed and hard to know what to trust" into something more useful and would be OK if it can stay devoid of a "business model" for a while, "all clean lines, beautiful typography and no advertising."

8.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

North of Superior Permalink to this item

While tidying up, I came across a file in my /blog/ folder dated January, 2003, some tidbit I'd saved, intending to blog it, but... apparently not getting around to it, until just now. Almost eleven years on, it's still there, still an intriguing architectural presentation. Only very slightly edited from that old bit:

Journey to the north shore of Lake Superior and the Tofte Project, a collaborative effort for sustainable design. Best—and deepest—use of Flash I've seen for a multimedia presentation. I liked the writing in the sand trick.

The "more information" link points to Amazon's book page for Sarah Nettleton's 2007 book published by Taunton Press (who also publish the beautiful Fine Woodworking and Fine Homebuilding magazines), The Simple Home: The Luxury of Enough. The reviews are curiously all over the map. Two-star says the "pictures are very average," five-star says s/he bought it for the pictures. Three-star says "not too simple," another one-star "'The Luxury of Enough' that I can't afford." But perhaps...

"six paths to simplicity, each illustrated by human-scaled, unadorned homes with straightforward floor plans and forms. These are open, light-filled homes (with rooms or spaces that are often multipurpose) that express their beauty in their utility and practicality. Simple homes are low maintenance and often green, designed for homeowners who wish to embody a different set of values in their housing choices than the run-of-the-mill starter castles littering the landscape."

The "paths" are enumerated as attributes: "Enough, Thrifty, Flexible, Timeless, Sustainable, Refined." Sounds good. And my library branch has a copy, checked in. Nice.

Pushback with attitude Permalink to this item

Map of states not expanding Medicaid

You've probably heard that a lot of states have so far refused to expand Medicaid as was planned as part of the Affordable Care Act. That ability to reject part of the ACA was all that survived the challenges that made it to the Supreme Court. The dozens of Republican attempts to throw a wrench in the works, culminating in last month's government shutdown, mostly failed, but there is the fight against Medicaid expansion still going.

You may have seen news and/or social media memes with headlines including leaving millions of people uninsured. One handy map presentation shows 55,000 in Idaho, for example, with buttons to share on Facebook and on Twitter:

"Nearly half of states are so locked into the politics of Obamacare that they're willing to leave nearly 5.4 million of their own people uninsured. Take a look at our map—and make sure you share it."

That would be on... whitehouse.gov. Where you can sign up for more maps, infographics, and attitude, if you like.

You won't believe this new medical discovery! Permalink to this item

And, as Caleb Garling chronicles for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (under a seattlepi.com staff byline, curiously), you shouldn't. "People were discussing how incredible it is that even after decades and decades of knee surgeries by thousands and thousands of doctors, in the year 2013 we had finally stumbled upon, discovered a new body part."

No shortage of "incredible" stuff out there on the internet.

And yes, I do think "we" should know basic anatomy, but I'm most familiar with my own parts that have had trouble, and happy day, my knees are so far good to go. I've heard of various cruciate ligaments, and now one more, but haven't had to discuss my knee anatomy with any knowledgable professionals. Knock on wood.

I picked up the coverage in Time from Facebook, read it and went "huh, really?" because there have been a lot of "macroscopic dissections" over the centuries, and it was hard to imagine anything so newsworthy being overlooked. But it could happen! I let it age overnight before seeing what a search for "anterolateral ligament" turned up this morning.

That helpful "24-hour snapshot of bunk information's life on the Internet," as it turns out.

There's an orginal paper you can click right to (if the server weren't overloaded, which it almost certainly is right now), don't you know. Talks about how the thing was first described in 1879. And the Wikipedia entry is more reliable than what you might see in your Facebook news feed.

7.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now more responsive than ever Permalink to this item

Carnival squash: it's what's for dinner

If you've explored any of the nether regions on my site, you may have noticed a curious mix of "somewhat dated" styling, but I hope and trust that most everything remains readable and functional. Can't vouch for any off-site links of course; those do go out of date. Now in this site and domain's 14th year, I have tried to keep my work as durable as can be. Just because it's the right thing to do.

Still haven't tumbled to anyone else's commercial blogging software. The one thing that might have motivated me to do so, a comment facility, is more fraught than ever. I'd be happy to host your opinions, if they're good ones, and you're willing to share them with me (for publication), even if (especially if?) they're good and contrary. But to take the trouble to write a bunch of submission and vetting and other code (or change platforms) to open it up for any passing miscreant? Not seeing the upside to that.

When I see room for improvement, I will try to go there, and Tuesday night, I was given the gift some Giftie gie us to see what (a) the splashy home page, and (b) the blog looked like on one of those new-fangly smartphone thingies.

Hell, I'd have to explain to 99% of smartphone users what a "splash page" is, given that they went through the cycle of ridicule and quiet death in a dark corner about an internet dog's lifetime ago. That part isn't fixed (but won't take too much when I get to it), but I did just dial the blog up from HTML 4.01 Transitional (the New New Thing just before Y2K) to HTML5, put the site navigation up top and shoved the sidebar over from left to right, so that tiny screens might have a better shot at showing something interesting, and readable.

If you're thinking "meh," call it a success; at least I didn't break anything. If you're seeing something broken, sorry (and please let me know so I can maybe fix it). If you're new and excited, or just mildly pleased, feel free to let me know that, too.

Winners and losers Permalink to this item

TWTR's opening day is a big win for the folks who got $26 shares and the ability to flip 'em: mid $40s by midday. The analyst giving it its first downgrade said high 30s and beyond is "simply too expensive," perhaps obviously, but who knows?

Snippet of statista's IPO chart, Amazon.com's dot

I did not know about "statista, The Statistics Portal" before, but I do now, thanks to their graphic answer to the question What If You Had Invested $1,000 in These Internet IPOs? (Answer: Amazon would have made you one heck of a big green circle, whereas Facebook, so far, would have barely outlined your little blue grubstake. I like the footnote that "values have been rounded." Can't wait to see what other statistics they've made interesting. And for them to turn off the dynamic style that grays out what you want to look at when you hover over it. But maybe if you cuteify something like defense spending in the U.S. and worldwide you could wound your credibility.)

Whereas stick a fork in Blockbuster: Internet kills the video store.

Closer to home, I found my iGoogle replacement, moments after I wondered if I was going to have to djinn something up on my own. Answer, no: igHome FTW. Stock ticker isn't quite as nice and the weather doo-dad relies on Flash (thus blocked by FlashBlock, by my preference), but for what I wanted—a handful of terse news feeds and a list of my non-feedy bookmarks —it works just fine.

While checking my Firefox add-ins, I see the wmlbrowser I'm not going to be needing. WML is over, amirite? There's also the RealPlayer Browser Record Plugin, disabled, because it's "known to cause security or stability issues," where by "security," perhaps they mean Adobe breaking it on purpose? I'd guess.

Speaking of losers, the password "123456" edges out "123456789" and "password" but, um, all three and any factory defaults are best not used. You could lose some valuables.

6.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Speaking of nullification Permalink to this item

AP photo excerpted for critical commentary; original on Politico site

More convenient to read pre-election news after the fact, by which I mean not as emotionally taxing, and more likely full of unintended humor. The AP photo leading Politico's coverage of Ron Paul stumping for Ken Cuccinelli, for example. It's easy to read too much into a still photo, which may or may not be representative of anything, let alone the people pictured, but it just feels like this has it all: Ron Paul doing what he loves best (exhorting a credulous crowd), Cooch soaking up the star power and boost he imagined he was getting, and the unnamed staffer cum photo-bomber grinning ear-to-ear. Ron Paul was saying he's

"been working on the assumption that nullification is going to come. It's going to be a de facto nullification. It's ugly, but pretty soon things are going to get so bad that we're just going to ignore the feds and live our own lives in our own states."

Not to say he couldn't be right twice a day, but Mr. Paul has long had the predictive power of a stopped clock. And Cooch showed the kind of savvy ability that got him a second-place finish, by bringing in Paul to "limit the bleeding of support" to an also-running Libertarian with bon mots such as:

"I don't know whether Ken calls himself a libertarian or not, but I know he's a constitutionalist."

And speaking of tough acts to follow, Paul followed the warm-up act of the family golden retriever ("named Pony") taking an on-stage turn. James Hohmann, for Politico:

Then came Paul. Free associating, he touched virtually every libertarian erogenous zone in his riff.

He tore into the Constitution's 17th Amendment. Ratified in 1913, it's the one that allows for the direct election of U.S. senators by popular vote.

"That undermined the principle importance of the states," said Paul.

He criticized the 16th Amendment, which allowed the federal income tax.

After the crowd chanted "End the Fed," Paul decried the printing of more money by the Federal Reserve.

"We need someone to stand up to the authoritarians. They're dictators."

5.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No more calls please, we voted Permalink to this item

Leisure Village on an election day past

Bit of a shock to see the overnight temp in the TWENTIES, but by the time we rolled out the tandem to go to Leisure Villa, it was up to a pleasant-enough 40°F with some sun coming through, and glorious fall colors flying from trees to the ground. No arterials need be transgressed between here and there, so it was just a lovely morning for the ride.

The nice lady poll-watcher made Jeanette recite our address before proffering the register for her signature, whereas I tailgaited and just said "I'm #16," short-circuiting the poll test.

We voted for open space and parks, public safety, environmental quality, and ever so slightly higher taxes via authorization for $32,915,000 in municipal bonds. (And if, as the ballot states, those come through at 4.6%—tax-exempt—interest, we might be happy to lend the city some of our money, too.)

4.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Purple prose Permalink to this item

One of the businesses whose websites I look after got a spam from a fellow with a mildly unusual name, and a semi-legitimate website behind the domain name of his return address. They shall remain nameless for my commentary, but the surname led me to a slightly different spelling and a more famous person who was alleged to be a chess and sudoku cheater back in 2009. The business is in the realm of "Search Engine Optimization," a.k.a. SEO, which might be helping you get your marketing out to people who are legitimately interested in your product. Put in the best possible light, there may be "several factors" that could be tweaked to

"increase your web traffic. These are long-term, Google-friendly solutions that boost sales, not just rankings."

Am I available to discuss? He says he can cover the important points in 15 minutes.

An odd/amusing bit that prompts me to write is that this particular spammer inserted something in the email header to cause my Mail User Agent (MUA) to show me "Purple Category" as if it were a colored category in the color-categorizable view of my inbox:

Keywords: Purple Category

You don't say. Give him credit for attention-getting, and for persuading some spam filter that his status should be "No, score=-1.0" but it seems reasonable to assume that I am not available for 15 minutes with a spammer on the finer points of marketing, no matter what color his category may be.

2.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The iGoogle opportunity Permalink to this item

Horse Chestnut, coming out of its shell, 2013

As threatened for more than a year, and on schedule, the useful panoply of feeds and gadgetry and a gmail widget that I'd been happily using as my home page was vaporized on November 1, replaced with the almost plain-old search widget in a stark field of white that was Google's early stylistic claim to fame. Plus, an invitation to "Install Google Chrome," which will bring back the gadgets, mebbe? But I already have one browser I like well enough, and another I don't (but use when I sometimes have to), and don't need a third terrible much.

While laboring in Yahoo Groups (and speaking of horrible new product rollouts, the "Neo" interface to that hoary product), I noticed a link to "My Yahoo" and was reminded that Yahoo was a portal before it was anything and back when I turned my nose up at the idea of a portal, really, before Google had done such a nice job of persuading me otherwise. So I gave it a try.

First thing I noticed was the big teaser addressed to iGoogle users! Import your settings to My Yahoo by Nov. 1st, which is a combination of seizing the opportunity, and stumbling. (It was exporting that had to be done before November 1st; if you did that, you can import any old time.) I did that, and lo and behold, NYT, BBC, NPR, Wired, Slashdot fields and a gmail widget. (Do I want to tell Yahoo how to get into my gmail account?! Hmm, not really.)

And the silly weather widget, oddly set to Idaho Falls. A sub-widget offers to "Detect my location," and a selection of Boise, and Spokane. How about, Boise, where I live? It does that, but it does not persist my selection next time I visit. That's remarkably poor execution, kids.

And instead of compact, terse news item headlines with tiny blurbs (slightly expandable on hover), each of the short-list of three items in the feeds is BIGGER, and with a little PICTURE if it can be (and even if it shouldn't be, as for Slashdot's, which is an odd little text snippet blown up too big). Sort of colorful and whizzy and splashy and not as useful, which is why I used to turn my nose up at portals back in the day.

Memory hole Permalink to this item

Given all the news about spying and what-not, and hearing yesterday that some folks in Europe (where Google has a dominant market share) are deleting their gmail accounts, it occurred to me that it was time to at least trim the ancient history from my own account. (I looked for a news link on the subject of European users deleting Google accounts and didn't see anything recent. Surely Google's search wouldn't be hiding that, would it? Checked bing.com, and also did not find much that wasn't months or years old. "That's odd.")

I do find gmail's excellent search facility worthwhile, and do appreciate its mostly effective spam filter, and it continues to be handy for dealing with email when I'm away from my primary machine, and I don't think I have anything to hide, really, but still.

Like a lot of long-time email users, I err on the side of saving things, and I have many GB of email from many years, and since I've been using gmail as well as Outlook, and leaving messages in the former when I pop them to the latter, multiple copies of most things, most of which I really don't need any more. gmail says I'm currently using 3.5 GB of my free 15 GB allowance.

A bit of futzing with the search showed me that I could set a selection date fence with before:yyyy/mm/dd

and after a couple of long-range tries returning zero results, 2008/12/31 showed me a 20-message index, 1-20 of about 44, from which I inferred I must have started using gmail in late 2008. "Select all" selects the 20 messages shown, and offers a link to further select ALL messages that match the search. I did that, and hit the "trash" button, confirmed, and waited... longer than I expected I'd have to, but then confirmed that searching before:2008/12/31 now returned no messages.

Moving right along, before:2009/12/31 returns... about 44 messages?! That's odd. So I paged into them with the [>] button, and each time I did, the "about" number went up. ... 142, 177, then finally "many."

Ok, that is funky—saying "about 44" when the answer is in fact "at least 200." (They should've said "about 42" to start, eh?) Tried with a narrower window, just one month from what I've scrubbed, before:2009/1/31.

That does the same thing, first showing "1-20 of about 43" and then stepping larger, and larger, going to "many" after 180-something. I scrubbed everything before:2009/4/1 and then asked for in:trash before:2009/4/1 and said REALLY trash all that.

And gmail still says I'm using 3.5 GB.

1.Nov.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Strong suggestion Permalink to this item

There's nothing quite as powerless as the rank and file of corporate shareholders, so when they do manage to get a word in edgewise, it makes the news. Given the opportunity to make a statement on Oracle's pay practices, that company's shareholders dealt a stinging rebuke to CEO Larry Ellison. A nonbinding rebuke, but still. The vote was 2.0 billion to 1.6, a clear but not overwhelming majority, except for...

"Subtracting Mr. Ellison's roughly 1.1 billion shares, however, suggests that the margin of defeat was bigger than the initial numbers suggest."

Methinks the writer doth "suggest" too much. One use of that word would have been plenty, given that said subtraction of self-serving shares says TWO BILLION OPPOSED to ONE-HALF BILLION IN FAVOR.

Call it a vote of FOUR to ONE that Ellison's compensation ($78 million last year, down from $96 million in 2012) is beyond the pale. While it may be "a defeat for the board however you spin it," it doesn't actually require them to do anything about it. Yet. All of Oracle's directors were re-elected.

In the comments under the NYT story, "CP" in Chicago figures that

"The system as a whole is working correctly here. ... What is happening here is that the shareholders have expressed discontent to the board about his (and other executives') level of compensation as we move forward. ... If his compensation continues to be out-of-line, shareholders will vote their dollars. But this is the first step in the process: expressing disapproval to the board."

MikeH in Maryland, on the other hand, says that "as long as Oracle is profitable, he deserves every penny and more," and furthermore, all you kids, get off his lawn.

"If we took Larry out of Oracle and put any of you in there, Oracle would be out of business in 30 days."

Really, you think I could put Oracle out of business in 30 days? If the business is run that precariously, that dependent on one Hero at the top, it sounds like a perfectly awful enterprise as an investment, a supplier, or an employer.

But maybe Mike's right, maybe our captains of industry are the true secret sauce of corporate exceptionalism, and Larry creates $150 of executive value every minute of every day, 24/7/365¼, whether he's awake, asleep, using the Executive washroom, meditating in his Zen garden or drinking champagne on a racing yacht in San Francisco Bay.

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007