Pastor Fischer must be one of the Statesman's go-to guys for the right side of religious issues. He gets one of four commentary pieces about Idaho's contribution to the genre of so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, the "Free Exercise of Religion Act" that our Legislature passed last year. It'll go into effect this February.

Since the US Supreme Court threw out the federal version, states have been working to pick up the pieces. The laws require that when government imposes a burden on religious conduct, it has to show a "compelling interest" to do so, and that the "least restrictive means" are used, if alternatives exist.

The expressed viewpoints of opponents include concern that undesirable acts will be sheltered by the laws. Widened protection against requirements to report child abuse is one of the concerns mentioned. One writer notes Idaho leads the nation in the rate of child abuse, so it's not a hypothetical concern.

Three of the four pieces offered information about both sides of the issue along with their advocacy. Fischer does not seem to understand the opposition well enough to write intelligently about it. He says:

Those who oppose FERA have only one reason to do so: They do in fact want the opressive power of government used to bear down on churches or parishioners whose religious views are politically objectionable.

It's so much easier to oppose a simple enemy, isn't it? The irony is that it may well be state prisoners — still a growing segment of our population, in spite of dropping crime rates and our country's "only remaining superpower" incarceration rate — who get the most mileage out of the law. They have plenty of time to study the legal particulars, and to mine (or invent) religious history to sue for accomodation.

New Millennium Resolutions seem in order...


We don't see a lot of movies in the theater, but with a little vacation, we went for one last night. If you don't see many, you want every one to count, so the choice has to be "among the leaders." Neither of us are interested in gratuitous violence, or most of the cheesy comedies. We tried You Can Count on Me last night, and it was a definite winner.

Beautifully understated, dramatically engaging, difficult, rewarding, touching. A couple of really odd rough edits, and get that boom mike out of the way, would you?, but the concept was carried off beautifully, and integrated with a wonderfully eclectic selection of music.

Highly recommended.

Afterwards, we spent a quiet evening at home, lit candles in the fireplace, and spun some old vinyl. Jethro Tull Aqualung, Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon.

The Idaho Human Rights Education Center plans to include a quote from Billie Jean King in the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, to be built along the Boise river near the public library:

Everything I do is about equal opportunity. Race, gender, sexual orientation. Let's get over it. Let's celebrate our differences.

Not everyone here is ready to celebrate, much less get over it. Brian Fischer, a Boise clergyman, "criticized the quote Friday as endorsing different sexual orientations," the Idaho Statesman reported today. (Note that their site's "user tips" says "Our daily links expire regularly," and they have no search function. Lame on paper, lame on the web, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.)

The memorial is to have 60 or so quotes, and King's is the only mention of homosexuality.

Fischer's opinion might matter a little bit more than yours or mine because he's on the Board of Park and Recreation Commissioners.

Or maybe (and let's hope) not, as the Center has no plans to edit the quotations based on the lowest common denominator of public opinion. We'll see.


Downtown Boise, mid-afternoon, 12/31/2000

Another New Year's inversion, although not as thick (or as pretty) as last year's. Still plenty cold, but some sun coming through this morning, maybe from the SE holes left from airport cloud-seeding. Gotta keep those planes coming in and out!

Draft EIS out with Land Management plans for the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth National Forests, comments due by March 16, information meetings and public hearings through January.

These are national forests, yeah? Why are the hearings only in Idaho?

The census! I love the conceit that they've got the count down to every last person - 281,421,906. Except I think we got counted twice, in spite of my best efforts to follow the instructions and fill out a form in Idaho, and to not fill out a form in California.

Jeanette gave in to a follow-up worker at our remote site, partly due to the language barrier. It was too hard to explain. So make that 281,421,904, with California only 33,930,796.

The news stories are all about growth. Have you heard which state is growing the fastest? It's all relative — California added more than 4 million to their count from 1990, Texas added almost as many.

One in 8 of those counted is a Californian.

New York added 100,000 more people than "fastest growing" Nevada, but they lose a Congressional seat and Nevada gains one. Go figure.

North Carolina edged out Utah at the end of the "who gets another seat in Congress" race, by 856 people, well fewer than the number of Mormon missionaries Utah has temporarily relocated (3000). Recount anyone?

The debate about statistical methods to improve the counts accuracy continues, with a decision due in late February about whether totals adjusted by sampling will be issued. I'm guessing Congress or the new Administration will quash them, especially if they like the first count well enough.

W.'s retro-appointments continue, with Ford's Secretary of Defense called up from the dustbin of history. The Japanese have a lovely word, meaning "descended from heaven" for government officials who find a comfortable home as corporate head-men. But do they have one for those returning to heaven? "The Assumption" was what the Catholics termed it, seems about right.

Ridenbaugh Press' list of 100 most influential people in Idaho. If you're not from around here, you probably won't recognize many of the names. Senator Larry Craig is behind Governor Dirk Kempthorne, but nationally, Larry is bigger. His Op-ed "Reader's View" telling us that "help is on the way" for our energy woes, with W. apparently going to make up for all that Clinton didn't do.

Will it be with Larry as Secretary of Energy, perhaps? With OPEC getting together to raise oil prices, a booming population of land yachts, and the electricity mess out west, whoever it is will have his work cut out for him. Or her.

Elizabeth Greene, the minister of my home church, the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowhsip, made the list as #100. Brava!

The Statesman ran the story about Randy Stapilus' personal assessments, in spite of their having only one person who made the cut. Not even their lame "Online" pointer to it in print, though, as they avoid wasting ink on anyone else's URLs. They also don't seem to have their Op-ed stuff online, wouldn't want to cut into circulation, eh? They did have an ad saying www.idahostatesman.com was the "#1 media site" according to "Media Audit 2000." I'm sure. They seem to have made their online presence every bit as much a rag as their paper.

The state's better paper, the Lewiston Morning Tribune, has gone to a subscription model for their website, with the meat of the paper unavailable for free.


In the "be careful what you wish for" department, we have the French government seeking to protect their citizens from auctions of Nazi paraphernalia.

Yahoo! is resisting the idea. In the US, we're mostly in agreement that supressing unpleasant forms of speech is a slippery slope we want to avoid. The antidote to unwanted expression is more expression, in our view.

But how does that translate to hundreds of other countries and cultures?

So, if the old-line power companies lost $8 billion, where did it go? To the producers and traders upstream, of course.


Boxing Day, our foundling cat's 10th birthday.

Can Presidents(-elect) create self-fulfilling prophecies? Let's hope not, given the way W. and pals are bumbling onto the economic scene. Someone tell these nitwits the campaign is over, and a strong economy is in their best interests.


Speaking of recessions, why is Japan stuck? The Nikkei is down 30% from this year's high, make our situation look tame by comparison. And they didn't just have 10 years of prosperity (give or take a couple) the way we did.

Would you commute for a half a million dollars? I imagine I would, but without the forced choice, I'm damn happy to be bicycling 2-1/2 miles to work rather than taking a sleeper train.

All the same, I'm a migrant worker of sorts, not really tied to the community I'm in. This is not a good trend. Communities need people who live in them, and have time to devote to betterment.


Merry Christmas, all.

At Don and Doris' house, I tried making Lefse, ate a bunch of it, sang Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in Norwegian, and after the party, updated my top 100 market capitalization snapshots with Javascript sortable tables.

Dan Gillmor's take on Bush's appointees sounds about right. Feels like 1980 all over again.

His wrapup of the year's highlights and lowlights is a little more upbeat.


The New York Times' opinion on the bubble. "The current sense of despair in the dot-com universe may be as overdone as last year's euphoria."

Euphoria is the only thing that can account for more than a 100% gain in an index in the space of a few months.

My picture of the Nasdaq bubble


The Web is the Ultimate Copy Protection, says Michael Crawford, because web apps on servers are never possessed by their users.

No big surprise that Microsoft has just the thing in mind for the "Net generation" (cute).

The related issue is obsolescence -- binary data must migrate, or die a death of obscurity, in some strange format on some strange media (5-1/4" floppies anyone?) that you can no longer read. It's why I like writing in HTML, with a plain text editor. "You can't take this away from me."

The web is the ultimate backup for works of enduring quality. Imagine trying to eradicate all the copies of a well-written essay. Or of an infectious meme, like the world as 100 people.

The power problem in California: nobody knows what to do next. The companies that sold the power plants made a lot of money then but now they are losing $billions. The companies that bought the power plants are seeing their ship come in, and are not keen to accept new regulation.

It seems certain that a small number of people made off with a large amount of money when deregulation started. One way or another, the ratepayers are now going to have to pay the piper. Those ill-gotten gains weren't illegally gotten (were they?), so sorry, we just missed out.

And everybody has to care, because, as Laura Holson writes, we're talking about "the world's sixth largest economy and the center of the technology revolution."

Education was a big topic in the campaign. If only Bush showed evidence of having benefited from his... Edward Zigler's opinion , as one of the founders of Head Start, seems like a better deal than having it be a way to get us hooked on phonics.

Lawrence White proposes an easy way out of the US vs. Microsoft case for the Bush administration. A $10 billion fine.


It's winter!

Yes, it really was a bubble. The DJIA managed a decent gain for the week. The Nasdaq didn't.


Watch that wealth in realtime, with the c|net CEO Meter. Larry Ellison up a $bil today, he's at the top of the heap for the moment. "Updated intra-day," lest you miss any of the detail.

AT&T is looking like a utility again... P/E 9.6, 4.8% dividend yield. Oops, scratch that bit about the dividend! It's off 70% since its high in April.

Took a quick look at the top 100 market cap after yet another less than stellar day in the markets... About time for an update to my chart. I'll have to build in that Javascript for sorting columns this time.

You know the bubble has burst when your severance check bounces.

Given a gloomy market, how about some action from Congress? Is it just me, or does loosening up the limits of speculation seem like a rather bad idea just now?

Fucia bud

While reading Science News this morning (desperately trying to keep from slipping more issues behind), about DNA-based computing and peptide-catalyzed semiconductor assembly, I just got this epiphany that humans and their computing machinery are going to merge in the next few decades.

I mentioned it at lunch, and a colleague noted that Ray Kurzweil had the thought enough ahead of me that he's already written a book about it, The Age of Spiritual Machines : When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (1999).

More reading backlog! The library in my building had his 1990 book, The Age of Intelligent Machines. I checked it out. It's big, and heavy. (But lots of pictures. :-) The 1992 paperback edition is still for sale at more than $30!


Poor Microsoft! Their forecasts were a bit on the high side, and they'll only be making six and a half billion dollars this quarter.

Their P/E is down into the low 20s, after their stock dropped >7% to a 52-week low. Microsoft! Sure seems like it must be a buying opportunity (certainly a better one than I acted on a few months ago!).

But then buying opportunities abound right now... or do they? This cheery bear says Nasdaq at 1400 would still be "high" valuation. Who invited him to the party?!

Cisco was another stock clobbered down to a 52-week low (off more than 12%) but its P/E is still 89. I hope that doesn't mean it could go on down to $10!

I gave up my free site over at Free-conversant. Turns out my personal quota is two weblogs, never mind the cost. (The "other" one is tva.weblogs.com, in case you hadn't noticed. I try to focus that one on computer technology, as opposed to whatever this one is about.)

Anyway, if you wanted the "solstice" name at Free-conversant, but I beat you to it, it's available again (I assume).


The irony of this news item from Information Week made me chuckle. Clash of the Titans of hype:

Meanwhile, Microsoft officials say Oracle is trying to steal their .Net initiative's thunder with an overhyped product.

Notice of stage 2 power alert came in at work, just before 11:30. Lights off and back to the skylights. Fortunately, it's a beautiful sunny day, and I don't mind leaving before it gets dark.

The L.A. Times gives us an inside look at the market for electrical power, including this measure of the problem:

Since May the state's two biggest buyers--Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Southern California Edison--have spent a combined $8 billion more than they can pass on to the 24 million people they serve.

They also have a "package" of power stories.

The story from Rudny, Russia is humbling; a real energy crisis, as opposed to a foul-up of wasteful consumption and badly managed deregulation.

I wonder how Amazon sorts their reader reviews? I like to look for well-written responses on both ends of the spectrum, and reading the reviews of David Siegel's latest effort (at the top of my "recommendations" list), I had to go several pages into the 113 reviews to find the one I was looking for:

Compare the dull hypothetical ramblings of Siegel's new book with the exciting stories of real-life businesses that one finds in Jaclyn Easton's book, StrikingItRich.com.

Coincidentally, I'd just picked up that book at a library book sale. :-) The vast majority of the reviews of Siegel's book ( Futurize Your Enterprise are gushing. But one honest pan was all I needed, and the bonus pointing to something I already have in my "inbox" was the kicker.

I confess, though, I didn't imagine Easton's book as a "how to" as much as an historical novel. I can't wait to run the 23 stock charts...


PG&E has taken out 5 billion dollars worth of credit to buy high and sell low, meeting the demands of their electricity customers at a regulated price. I can't imagine financing them but somebody's doing it. (Their market capitalization is less than twice the debt they've run up!)

The electoral college was its usual anticlimax, in spite of some last minute attempts to get some of them to defect. Gore said he wouldn't accept any such votes. I wonder...

Barbara Lett Simmons, an elector from Washington D.C., said she cast a blank ballot instead of the Gore vote she was supposed to make, to protest D.C.'s lack of Congressional representation.

Meanwhile, the media are mining the Florida ballots for something interesting.

A law-breaking motorist almost ran into me on the way home from work. I was passing a line of cars starting up slow at Hanover, with a truck in the lead. She was trending right, for no clear reason. As I came alongside her, I looked in to make eye contact just about the time I sensed her signaling and "merging" right. She was going to slide into the bike lane, across a solid white line, for a 3 or 400 foot run at Hansen, getting out of the slow line and speeding up to make a right turn.

Fortunately, she saw me before she hit me, but I got a jigger of adrenalin and a deep breath out of it, turned to glare at her behind me after I had my lane to myself again.

Just the other night, I'd driven along there, thinking about how hard it would be to know a bicyclist was on the right, unless I'd overtaken him, and sure enough. I was still mad, though, she had no business crossing the line. That's my lane, damn it!

The rest of the ride had that dull, post-adrenalin flatness, but it could've been worse. A lot worse.


One of the things that's wrong with the death penalty is that someone has to carry it out.


Shaquille O'Neill and I have something in common - a Bachelor's degree in General Studies. His is a B.A. with a minor in Political Science. Mine is a B.S. with an emphasis on Botany.


Friedman on Gore in combat:

The five conservative justices essentially ruled that the sanctity of dates, even meaningless ones, mattered more than the sanctity of votes, even meaningful ones.

Peggy Noonan is sounding kind of misty-eyed and nostalgic for the Clinton showmanship. I must be hallucinating. Nor am I holding out much hope for W. being his own man; he'll be reading his lines most of the way through.

(Thanks to Dave Winer for his index of editorial pages. I didn't know the WSJ op-ed stuff was freely available, I stopped paying attention to their web presence when they started charging.)

Now time for the accusations, investigations and humor. Two lengthy and amusingly well-written email forwards today, "GOD OVERRULES SUPREME COURT VERDICT; Bush to be smitten later today" and Q&A re: The Supreme Court Decision: Bush v. Gore. From the second of these:

Q: Well, if the December 12 deadline is not binding, why not count the votes?

A: The US Supreme Court, after admitting the December 12 deadlines not binding, set December 12 as a binding deadline at 10 p. m. on December 12.

Don't feel bad if your copy hasn't come yet. It will.

Nice picture of the rent-a-mob on gwbush.com

Bush reaches out to Democrats for his cabinet... especially Democratic senators from states with Republican governors who could appoint Republicans to replace them and break the 50-50 tie. Now there's bipartisanship for you. Funny that the Washington Post didn't get to the punch line until 3/4ths of the way down.

And more Bush-style bipartisanship, explaning why the Texas House of Representatives had so many vacant seats for Bush's speech the other night.

The Congress that kicked off its session by impeaching Bill Clinton finally finished its work, by passing a budget for this fiscal year. You know, the one that started two and a half months ago, on October 1st. Sounds like sub-par performance, doesn't it? But the continuing members will get a nice raise shortly, $3,800 a year, to more than $145,000 annual salary.

Not because they voted it for themselves (how would they have found the time with those 20 stopgap spending bills?), but because they didn't vote against it. Think of it as self-service salary administration.

Calculators are turning kids into arithmetic cripples. No wonder people distrust statistics, they must look like voodoo if you can't understand adding and subtracting.


Sam Savage illuminates the Flaw of Averages: statistics can lull us into a false expectation of uniformity.

Going with the skylights at work again today, with more power alerts and potential for rolling blackouts. PG&E and SoCalEd are near bankruptcy, we're told, due to their being forced to buy high (unregulated) and sell low (regulated). Suppliers are demanding cash! Whoa.

Have they turned off the pumps that move water around the state? My preference would be to cut off southern California before rolling a blackout through the Bay area, but who knows what the ISO's first priority is...

Tom Elias' California Focus column in the Dec. 12 Palo Alto Daily News (not online, sorry) pointed out that California was going to have to pay PG&E's "gambling debts." They sold the power generation facilities and made beaucoup bucks, figuring they could always buy cheap power.

Now that they can't, they could go under. Let's have a government regulated monopoly again, shall we?


Odd that I should have little to say on the day the election finally ended. I missed Gore's speech, unfortunately, but did see Bush's. So I'm cheating and writing this on the 14th.

As I wrote to my family, it was Bush's best job of reading I've seen to date, and very graciously written.

Gore's was gracious, I'm told, and mostly conciliatory, but those who like him least found something to dislike, I'm sure. The big thing is, he conceded and didn't just say "I'm not going to pursue it anymore, even though I think I won."

That let the Florida Senate off the hook, for one thing.

Video bite of Clarence Thomas talking to a group of students, warning them not to apply the same standards of partisanship to the Supreme Court as to the rest of the political world... I don't know the man other than as a public figure, but I have to say I despise the public figure. I feel he's unworthy of being on the court (I believed Anita Hill), and that he's going to make trouble for a long, long time. Him and Scalia. Brrr.

Anyway, I used to figure the Supremes were above the fray, with their lifetime appointments and all, and the danger from them was ideological, rather than political. But this decision seems decidedly partisan, running against their ideology of states' rights as it does. The states should govern their own affairs.... unless we don't like the decision they come up with! The justification did not meet the circumstance in my opinion (or in Justice Ginsburg's). It's still the South, but it's not the Jim Crow South anymore. (If anything, this time it was the US Supreme Court disenfranchising black voters!)

The other end of the "are they partisan?" question comes from a coworker, who wrote to me saying "anyone who doesn't believe they are is too simple to be alive!"


Heaven forbid you should need this, but in case you do, the gov has a site concerning identity theft.

The Mercury News reports on IBM's CEO, talking about privacy, and IBM's intention to provide services to companies who want to outsource computing functions... under an incredibly poor headline, "IBM CEO: expect more outsourcing."

The Florida house rolled over for W. easily enough, but the Senate's being coy a while. It's funny to hear them talk about protecting the voters of Florida when half the voters of Florida are not too pleased about the result.

Meanwhile, back up the hill, Mrs. Thomas' work looks like a conflict of interest for her husband, but she assures us not to worry about such things. La la la la la.

Should we just assume that "undervotes" were intentional abstentions, and that our machines have spoken? Are we willing to ignore the observed fact that there were five times as many undervotes in punch card ballot counties as in optical ballot counties?

Guess what: manual counting the ballots is likely to give a more accurate result. (The L.A. Times tells us a little about "margin of error" from biased, and unbiased sources.)

The only "chaos" and "disruption" the Republicans care about is that which will give the election to Gore. The Freedom of Information Act says we can count them now, or we can count them later, but they will be counted. And the Florida Legislature, the Supreme Court, and the U.S. Congress (they haven't started yet, but they're likely to) have a lot to lose if they try to supercede the voters.

Then, at the 11th hour (literally?), the day that state electors were to be certified, the Supreme Court of the U.S. rules in favor of Bush, in an unsigned opinion. Rhenquist adds an affirming opinion joined by Scalia and Thomas. Four separate, signed dissents.

As an engineer, I find what passes for "fact" in the minds of 55% of the Supreme Court to be amazingly weak. Manual recounts are no good because they're "standardless," as if the machine methods (Florida uses 5 different ones) were standardized, and providing "equal protection under the law."

In their listing of inconsistencies, they note that a ballot read by a machine as overvoted leaves no chance of the voters possible single vote intent to be read, while undervoted ballots might be manually counted one way or the other. That's unequal? The Votomatic machines, at least, don't tend to count votes where they don't exist. An overvote is likely genuinely void, whereas an undervote may be readable. This is not "unequal protection," it's just the way the ballot system works.

Their way out for the side requesting recounts demands a standard of consistency far beyond what the original system provides. Going forward would require

...substantial additional work. It would require not only the adoption (after opportunity for argument) of adequate statewide standards for determining what is a legal vote, and practicable procedures to implement them, but also orderly judicial review of any disputed matters that might arise....

Maybe if the Court hadn't interfered with the process as much as it did, its observation that this couldn't possibly be done by December 12th (in a ruling issued only a few hours before midnight on that day, thank you very much) would seem ingenuous.

In his dissent, Justice Stevens (joined by Breyer and Ginsburg) notes that "the percentage of nonvotes in this election in counties using a punch-card system was 3.92%; in contrast, the rate of error under the more modern optical-scan systems was only 1.43%," more than two-and-a-half times as many undervotes. The footnote elaborates without doing the final math: if the optical scan undervote rate were correct, the excess 2.49% of 3,718,305 punch card ballots — more than 92,000 votes — might be legitimate, countable votes which lost their chance of being counted with this ruling.

Where is the complaint about equal protection in the uneven administration in the first place of voting in Florida? Stevens concludes,

Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this yearí s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nationí s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.

Souter's dissent follows, saying the Court should not have taken either case from the Florida Supreme Court, noting that "if this Court had allowed the State to follow the course indicated by the opinions of its own Supreme Court, it is entirely possible that there would ultimately have been no issue requiring our review..."

Then Ginsburg's, concluding,

In sum, the Courtí s conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the Courtí s own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the Presidency of the United States.


Interesting picture of the cost of electricity: Spot prices for peak power typically burble along under $100/MWh (the units aren't show in the table), which is less than 10 cents per kWh.

High voltage

Last week, spot prices in the "northwestern" index (including California, I assume) shot up above $1000 per MWh and over $3000 on the Dec. 7th. That's 3 dollars a kWh.

In Boise, we pay well less than $.10 for a kWh. In Spokane, Kaiser Aluminum can pay as little as $.0224 for kWh, and in this market, they can make more money reselling their contracted power than making aluminum. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that they were selling their 2 cent kilowatt-hours for more than 50 cents. (Their report says "megawatts" when they must mean "megawatt-hours." If that doesn't look like a gross blunder to you, trust me, it is.) They report the spot price peaking at $5000 last week!

"It's a huge" difference, Peter Forsyth, Kaiser's vice president for Northwest regional affairs, said of the $52 million transaction. "We are making significant revenue here."

The story also reports that Kaiser, which just settled a 2-year strike, laid off 400 workers for 10 months; apparently they plan to be "making" more MWh than ingots for a while.

The Boston Herald opines that "decades of disdain for development, a mindless devotion to environmentalism and unworkable new rules" are to blame for the crisis. Their organization of the facts is good, even if their conclusions may not be fully on the mark (imho).

Lots of related stories and links from powermarketers.com

Meanwhile, back on the campaign trail...

Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, a Bush backer, dismissed the idea that winning a narrowly divided court decision on the votes of five conservative justices would cost Bush legitimacy as president.

"That's something that's bestowed by the American people," Racicot told CNN.

Does he really think the American people are going to bestow legitimacy on one of these candidates?!

It seems the lawyers protest a bit too much on this "court ruling will create chaos" theme, when it's been the Bush team using the courts to disrupt the process in every way they can imagine, starting on November 11th. "We have a count we like," they're saying, "we don't think we should keep counting."

And of course, the other side doesn't have a count they like, so they want to keep going. Where's the legitimacy in this?

Speaking of bubbles... How 'bout that 252 million dollar deal for a baseball player?


Paul Krugman thinks a quarter of California's electricity generating capacity being offline is an odd fact, also. (Why generate, when less is more?)

Maureen notes that "the Bushes are always gracious, until they need to go ugly."



I stopped paying close attention to the news for a day or two just as all hell breaks lose.

The Florida Supreme Court rules in favor of manually recounting the undervote.

The Federal Appeals court refuses to overturn that, and then the U.S. Supremes slap a stay on the process, say they'll hear arguments 10am Monday morning.

That's Monday, December 11th, just one day before the states are to have their electors certified to the Electoral College.

It seems certain that the Florida Legislature will approve the Bush slate of electors, even if the SCOTUS doesn't rule against further recounting, or complete its pocket veto of the process.

Tom DeLay angrily declares "this judicial agression must not stand," speaking of course of the Florida judicial agression, rather than the U.S. Supreme Court judicial agression. His general preference is for legislative agression, perhaps?

This map of invalid votes in Florida is nicely done. Color-coding of counties shows the percentage (from less than 1% to more than 12%) of invalid votes, with mouseover detail of the voting system used, the total number of votes, and the total number of invalid votes.

There were more than 100 times as many invalid votes as the difference between the totals for Bush and Gore.

Both sides of the SCOTUS have valid points: you can't count the votes first and then decide which are valid, and this stay likely amounts to ruling that Bush wins.

It comes down to a 5-4 vote for the POTUS by the SCOTUS. This is winning ugly.

Reviewing stories today reminds me that the Republicans have been using every means of disrupting the process they can find, from before the original Florida certification (their first lawsuit was November 11), to bringing Governor Pataki of New York down to Florida to cause trouble today.


What's in your Burger King meal? Things like hydroxy propyl methylcellulose. Prepared in partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening.

Mmm mmm good.

Remember irrational exuberance? Here's a list of 215 internet stocks that have fallen a bit from their 52-week highs; 81 to 98% to be specific. Ouch. Bellwether Yahoo! is on the good end of the list, off "only" 84%.

This author also has interesting comparison graphs of bubbles in Nasdaq, Nikkei and gold.

NPR reported on what's up with California's power shortage: a quarter of the generating plants are off line... for maintenance? price control? Last night we almost went to "stage 3" and rolling blackouts.

Gee, maybe deregulation wasn't such a good thing? Certainly the San Diegans looking at their bills don't think it is. But market forces will have their effect, as new (fossil-fueled) generation capacity is likely to be built, just as fast as possible.

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!


What's in your dossier? And how many of the more than 70 companies in the Customer Profile Exchange Network have access to it?

Computerworld has an excellent index of other privacy-related stories.


Stage 1 power shortage alert today at work, being the good industrial customer that we are, we scale back by turning out the lights on upper floors (with their nice north-facing skylights).

That's fine for mid-morning to mid-afternoon, but past 4 o'clock, it's starting to get a little dusky inside. Some whizzy javascript keeps hanging a web page I need to see, and my productivity is going downhill. Seems like a good reason to leave about 4:30, with a little light left in the sky.

Out on Page Mill, I wait for the signal on Hanover to cycle, to make sure I don't lose the hill's boost at a red light. While I'm waiting, and noticing I could've made the first one if I'd just gone ahead, I see the start of a rainbow over the bay. The forecast said "possible sprinkles" and even though none came close to PA, this one was lighting up in the sunset.

Behind me, the clouds over the low coast range were all lit up gold, and in front of me, this swath of colors broadened and lengthened, and pierced some low clouds and made a pot of gold (and red, and yellow...) at the end of the rainbow.

Down the hill, through the lights, Ramos pimped me, but I did a right/U/right circumvent, and joined traffic starting up on the green at El Camino. Segue behind a mid-sized flatbed, with screened sides and a wide tailgate pulled up, a perfect draft. I let him pull me into a full top gear spin, then eased back, and took the spur to zig zag under Caltrain.

Another lovely commute.

The Florida Legislature is ready to endorse its preferred slate of electors. Jeb and W. want to have a good back-up strategy, no doubt.

I especially like the president of their senate saying he likes the vote as of November 14th the best, and they'll go by that one.


Apparently the Supreme Court isn't in a hurry for the finality that W.'s team seeks. They seem to have asked the Florida Supremes to clarify their recent decision, so that it wouldn't have to be overturned.

Judge Sauls took a timeout to look over the SCOTUS decision, then ruled!

Speaking of deadlines, now that Congress is back in session , do you suppose they'll finish work on the budget (two+ months late and counting) before their term expires?! 4 of 13 spending bills are unfinished.

One thing that won't have any problem going through is Congress' regular salary increase. That's automagic, unless they pass a bill to prevent it. It's 2.7% this year, to $145,100 for the rank and file. Good work if you can get it.

Friedman on bipartisanship, calling for the Democrats to be bigger than DeLay:

Ramming through an election victory no matter what the vote count is what Raúl Castro does for his brother Fidel in Cuba. Not here. Shame on the Bush brothers for even contemplating this.

Past due for some lighter side. I just about busted a gut on this one.


Today's the end of our 9 month lease agreement here. (But we're staying on a bit longer.)

I'm hoping my the human v. Rhinovirus contest tips enough my way that I can go to the opening gala at SFO today. The Magic 8-ball said I'd be getting better today, but at the moment, It Looks Doubtful.

SFO International Terminal Open House ticket

The comp ticket has the www.flysfo.com URL on it, and I went there to see what they had about the event. Not much, as it turns out, although their site is one of the whizzier I've seen lately, with most of the features useful, and functional.

Watched the scroll of traffic reports for a bit; all segments of 101 are "Heavy, flowing (or worse)" at 8:30 Sunday morning. It's time for finer gradations in their categories, eh? Parking is $1 every 15 minutes (cha-ching, cha-ching), up to $14/day in LT, $18 at the International terminal, $22 in short term. Caltrain would be $6.50 for both of us, but a round trip in one day would really impress us with how slow that winds up being. We could take our bikes, and ride to SFO from Millbrae... that would be an adventure!

The museum link launched a new window, and showed me "current exhibitions" that were a year old, and "future exhibitions" only went through October. Oops, must be too busy on the construction project to update the website. How many sites get fully featured by junior rocket scientists and then go stale once they're gone because nobody among the regulars knows how to deal with it?

Scripting News sent me off to weblogger in regard to an easier way to edit Manila navigation than XML. I can edit Manila macros, instead. Hmmmm.

"To create a new link in the navigation all you would have to do is write that pages name in quotes." And some magic genie types in the URL for you?? As the author says, it's "Not Hard," but "it is step intensive." Like the process of dressing your site in shiny chrome, which he's done nicely.

He's got a pointer to the alistapart treatise on pixels in style sheets, the overblown title ("...or give me death") makes me think of David Siegel and his cult of single pixel gifs. (What's he up to lately, I wonder? Registered his name as a trademark, and ripping off Andy Warhol. Whoopee.)

I did get around to putting 0em top and bottom margins back in my paragraph style yesterday, to try and tighten things vertically, and differentiate context breaks. It seems to have worked, but I think Netscape may get too tight on pages where I haven't been careful to close all my <p>s.

The other Dave points us to Trent Lott putting on his best possible dude imitation down on the Bush ranch.

These are the men that run your country, America.

Maureen has a darker view than a dude ranch, also mentions Seminole and Martin counties. Even with a genuinely unhypocritical "let's just fairly count every vote" approach, those counties could be a problem for W.

The drama in Judge Sauls' court is not as grand as the Supremes, but it may make more difference, ultimately. A room full of 40 lawyers, discussing the minutiae of punch cards, with the clock ticking to the electoral college deadline, the Florida legislature poised to supercede the courts, and the U.S. Congress next in line behind them.

And some people think a tie is a boring result!

Watched almost the full testimony of William Rohloff, and was a little shocked (but not surprised) to hear he was just the 4th witness to be called. He was quick. He might've dimpled his ballot, and he didn't want that vote counted.

An odd juxtaposition of engineering, statistical and anecdotal evidence, to be sure. The engineer is enjoined from stating fairly obvious things about common materials because he himself has not performed a particular (but straightforward and predictable) test, and yet we get to listen to "a voter" tell a story about his visit to the voting booth. (How many others did the Bush team line up for the witness list? But the judge is planning to expedite this, he wants it done today, clearly.

The queen of SFO?

We made the party; it was lots of fun, although I was pretty much toast after 2+ hours, then waiting for the shuttle with a crowd, and 101 "heavy, flowing" on the way home.

While we were there, a tried to explain to someone why a digital camera was "worth it." Being able to capture an event like this... not quite priceless, but it's a lot of fun.

Incredibly, Judge Sauls listened to closing arguments past 10pm EST. He said he'll render a verdict in the morning. Seems like too much to ask one man to do, really.


More live court coverage, CNN in the Judge Sauls' Leon County Circuit Court where they're discussing the characteristics of various elastomer compounds used for the backing material on chad punching balloting equipment, trying to decide if 14,000 ballots from Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties should be manually recounted.

The combination of verbal engineering descriptions and legal niggling is not a happy one. The expert witness testifies that the frequency of impact from a stylus that could generate sufficient heating to change the hardness of a particular material was "1 to a thousand times per second." It should be obvious and go without saying that this is more frequent stress than it'll see in the voting booth. The Bush lawyer extends the witness' answer by saying "if you were to impact this rubber strip more than a thousand times a second, it might change its hardness?" and he answers "yes."

A bit later, same sort of question about another material, the plaintiff's lawyer objects that the witness hasn't done such a test himself on this particular material. The judge asks him, "have you?" No. The objection is sustained.

The judge is rocking, with increasing impatience, at about 1 Hz. We might surmise that if his leather-covered rocking chair has a rubber damper, it is being heated enough to change its material properties.

And so on, until they call it quits just after 6pm EST.

Dimpled or pregnant chad aside, the business in Seminole County, where Republican staffers helped almost 5 thousand absentee ballots get through the process, while Democratic and unclassified ballots languished without special attention seems particularly interesting.

Set aside all this other nonsense, and that one incident could change the outcome. I didn't see a count of how many Democratic and voter's-own-initiative ballots didn't make it through the process; the county is said to be "heavily Republican," so presumably less than the 5 thousand. But even a 4:1 or 5:1 Republican margin would mean there were more Demo votes lost than the difference in the certified total at this point!


Looking to see just what "gandy dancer" meant after reading Doc Searls' weblog piece about his father, I found this very nice site: World Wide Words.

Speaking of pleasing curves...
I wrote to Doc noting that where he used "parabola," he really wanted "catenary," a curve formed by suspended, flexible material in a gravitational field with non-negligble mass per unit length. Things like electrical and telephone wires or suspension bridge main cables.

Michael Quinion's "weird words" list turned up tautochrone, "a curve on which an object falling under gravity will reach the bottom in the same amount of time, no matter from where it starts."

Solar eclipse coming up, on Christmas day. Doesn't look worth writing home about, though, unless you live near Hudson Bay, as this wonderfully concise map of the event shows; a 14kB inspiration of efficiency!

Conference report from Pop!Tech 2000, on "Being Human in the Digital Age." Well-written and thorough coverage, often better than being there.

One of many interesting ideas in it: "the more important you are, the less smell you have," from David Weinberger, one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto. Even with my nose stuffed up, I'm reminded of smelling a boatload of cruise-ship tourists in St. Petersburg, who bucked the general trend. (What does it mean that we can't smell each other on the 'net? :-)

Another, the working definition of a robot, "something that contains at least one sensor and one actuator with processing power connecting the two." From Rodney Brooks of MIT and iRobot. (In case you haven't noticed, robots will be big this Christmas.)

What happens when the sensor and actuator are hardware, but the "processing power" is human? That's what telepresence is about, and perhaps the thing to watch for Christmas 2001.

One of many possible explanations why Microsoft products are less than they could or should be. I hear that they (a) don't have officially stated standards of business conduct, and (b) don't feel they need them.

Their "Reviewer's Guide" to their brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals provides a concrete illustration. Step through key sections of their appeal:
Tying Claim - Windows and IE aren't separate products.
Monopoly Maintenance - Gee, we don't even have a monopoly, and even if we did, we don't engage in anticompetitive behavior.
Attempted Monopolization - we never intended to be a monopoly.
Remedy - The court didn't allow us to tell them what we wanted for a remedy.
Pre-Trial and Trial Proceedings - We didn't like the way the trial was run, and didn't have enough time to del^H^H^Hprepare.
District Courtís Public Comments - The judge didn't keep his mouth shut during the trial.

Here they're quick to point out when others don't adhere to given standards of conduct. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether my prediction (no meaningful points overturned on appeal) comes true.

Dan Gillmor of the SJ Mercury News sees M$' brief about the same way I do.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org


Saturday, 08-Sep-2001 13:38:03 MDT