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28.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We're calling them the axis of evil these days, but just a few short years ago, we called them customers. Or at least Halliburton, under the leadership of Dick Cheney did. The Financial Times wrote about it in November, 2000, and Salon covered the story a year later, post 9/11.

Thanks to for keeping the story alive.

The NY Times had a report last Sunday on the Olympics receiving a flood of angry emails after Apolo Ohno was awarded a gold medal at the expense of a disqualified skater from South Korea. I got an email, too, with some links I couldn't quite follow, taking exception to my humble opinion stated earlier this month. The suggestion was that the fall in the race I commented on (in which Ohno managed to get up and stick a skate over the line for silver) was really Ohno's fault, and I was all wrong about the Korean kid pulling him down.

I politely disagreed, and also noted that I hadn't been able to verify the purported "worldwide opinion" running against Ohno, in searching newspaper sites in other countries. No word back on that, I guess the games are over, after all.

My buddy JQT wrote me in email, "the issue... in that specific race is: did the Korean use his hands to break his fall or did he also drag down Ohno? I watched it many times and, the more I saw it, the less sure I was about the intent of the Korean skater. You had four forces potentially at odds here: gravity, centripetal force, fear, and desire. Watch it again and tell me if you're 100% sure." Well, I don't have it on tape, so I can't, but I'm inclinded to take his judgment. I was commenting on my first view of short-track, and admitted I don't know much about it. Ohno took the crash with equinamity. The races are fast and furious, and those four forces act faster than consciousness, to be sure.

I hadn't thought about how links in my blog were votes before reading this piece by John Hiler, but of course it's so. I've been pointing out what I think is interesting, as have hundreds of thousands of other bloggers. It all adds up. Information democracy.

The NY Times piece that Hiler points to is interesting, not because it's about weblogs (they've done that before), but it's about the business (and technology) of them. They're coming up over the horizon and onto the radar. Pretty soon I won't be getting that blank "huh?" look with my engineer friends when I use 'blog' in a sentence.

Glenn Fleishman isn't so sanguine about the NYT piece; he thinks they should be further up the curve by now, I guess.

This Matt Loney piece on ZDNet got me to chuckling. As others have pointed out, the Microsoft guy he's reporting on, Don Box, makes some good points, but still. Http is working too well, Microsoft wants to replace it. Do they find ubiquity and functionality in others' software offensive? Or is it the ad-hoc "hackery" that rankles? Funny, that, it seems to make Apache a much better web server than IIS.

It might have been this quote: "I need a way to send a request to a server and not the get result for five days." Never mind the typo, who wants 5-day response time? Is this something Microsoft wants to implement for its user support?

I'm usually not much for Congressmen praying in public, but this one from Rep. Dennis Kucinich, sounds pretty good. "Let us pray that our nation's leaders will not be overcome with fear."

"We did not authorize war without end."

The Entrepeneurial Thought Leaders Seminar is a happening place, and it has a great website, offering up video and presentation materials from some leading thinkers and doers at the forefront of business. The production is for Stanford students, but Stanford makes it available to the web at large (through the Center for Professional Development) at no cost. Very cool.

If you're not sure where you might start there, I recommend Geoffrey Moore's talk from two weeks ago.

As a regular reader of the New York Times Magazine (mostly in print), I was disappointed by the contents of this Editor's note. Finkel's pieces were intense, and moving, and now there's a shadow over them. Ah well, as they say in the footnote to the end-piece, "Lives," they receive more submissions than they know what to do with. And they still have Michael Lewis.

I'm reasonably sure this site has more about Fibonacci numbers than you'll ever want to know. By Don Knott (singular).

24.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A slightly different perspective, from John Stanton and Wayne Madsen, published by Pravda: "Historians will record that between November 2000 and February 2002, democracy-as envisioned by the creators of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution-effectively came to an end. As democracy died, the Fascist American Theocratic State ['The State'] was born." Thanks to Doc for the link.

What do I do if my flight is cancelled or delayed? Trippler & Associates answers this and other questions about flying. Well, at least they will if they figure out how to make that user interface work. I heard about the site in an explanation of the "Contract of Carriage" that you enter into with an airline to go somewhere (even if you, like most everyone, has not heard of, much less read such a contract). As described in the more forthcoming "Defensive Flying" tips from the Department of Transportation, time is legally not of the essence of your agreement with an airline. "Contrary to the belief of some, airlines are not required to compensate passengers for 'damages' when flights are delayed or canceled."

They've agreed to get you there, as best they can, but not on any particular schedule. And you thought you were flying because you wanted to get there fast, didn't you? Time has no meaning.

23.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Where did the winter go?  A pond along the Greenbelt in Feb.

Yesterday was the warm before the storm, it was up in the mid-50s, felt just outrageously warm. I rode home with just a sweater, no gloves, and appreciated the forbearance of the big SE wind that was supposed to come up but hadn't. Some SW, but not enough to slow me down. The storm did come in last night, but didn't wake me. This morning it's wet, clearing, 40, the birds are flocking and the crocuses are coming up.

Where did the winter go?

Taking over ribosomes with a nanocircle Trojan Horse.

Nice digital clock, with hands. (Uses Flash.)

From the newsroom: "I DID NOT HAVE IMPROPER RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN: MISS ENRON." They also have the rundown from the Prez on his recent trip to China. Warning: 85% of you may find this distasteful.

Capitalism and Enron venture capitalism explained: You have two cows....

Building for sustainability, and using salvaged materials. Nice.

A mention of this online model of the solar system again reminded me of the local model that I wrote about last month. I rode by it today, and stopped at Pluto to admire the plaque. "Pluto" is 2150 meters from the (model) sun at the Discovery Center, and it's barely 2mm in diameter. Voyage's scale is less than a third of this - 600m from Sun to Pluto, so their Pluto must be less than a millimeter across.

It would be interesting to do this sort of "walking" model of the earth, with stations noting the transitions from core to mantle, mantle to crust, to atmosphere, ionosphere...

22.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let's see, what can we do with all those 2s? More palindromes: 22.02.2002 20:22 and 02.22.2002 22:20.

Little fun with our proxy war on ebay, bidding for "more than 1,000 votes" on the HP/Compaq merger, until ebay pulled the plug. You can't even auction off your vote for prom queen, ebay says. A snapshot of the bids in the middle of the day (the price was $66) showed some creative userID grabbing, so that "Carly S. Fiorina," "Walter Hewlett" and "Lew Platt" had all put in bids.

Meanwhile, the employee polling has indeed extended to Boise. We had a site-wide voicemail with management telling us the poll wasn't HP-sponsored, and expressing their regret for the employees having been pulled into this controversy. Yeah, it's been a sorry mess for some months now, but I hardly feel the need for an apology for being polled (should I turn out to be one of the chosen). They didn't apologize for Innisfree M&A's and Georgeson Shareholder's recent lobbying calls on behalf of the board of directors. (They did call our house, but not while I was here.) Those went to stockholders, of course, but there's a sizeable overlap in the populations.

And the proxy mailings keep rolling in. With 4 different accounts (old and new employee purchase plans, a 401k stock fund, and shares held in a brokerage account) and 2 colors (white and green, or WHITE and GREEN as the HP mailings like to say), we were due to get 8. Today's bulging mailbox had the last of the original set, and more duplicates from HP, for a total of 11 and counting.

Innisfree M&A doesn't seem to be a very capable administrator. Instead of business reply envelopes, they're sending stamped envelopes. For a low volume account, B.R.E.s can cost twice as much as first calss, so that might make sense, but sending out duplicates for everything spoils that deal. Then there's the multiple copies of the 190 page proxy statement; we could landscape our yard with all the trees they're wasting.

The .NET story is still confusing, although the part about not wanting Microsoft to control everything seems clear enough.

"We'll define the framework, (provide) the guidance, for example, of what a user is," said Eric Rudder, senior vice president of developer and platform evangelism.

It looks like a language I understand, but it doesn't make any sense. Microsoft will tell us what a user is?

Threatening to sue didn't get the job done, so the GAO has taken the next step: suing the Bush administration for the documentation of the secret meetings in which Enron and other companies helped shape energy policy. Somehow the ability of the administration to get "candid" advice from businesses, and keep that advice secret as they go about shaping policy to benefit those businesses doesn't seem like a high moral position.

It's not looking like a very high legal or political position either.

Also in the news-we-thought-we-already-knew department, from the Dow Jones Newswire (and forwarded via email), "LOS ANGELES -- A former Enron Corp. employee has written a letter to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer claiming that he has knowledge the company's trading arm manipulated wholesale electricity prices in California...." What a shock that must be. (I guess it was so unremarkable that the majors didn't feel the need to feature the story.) After it's proven beyond a reasonable doubt, however, I don't think consumers are going to get their $9 billion back.

There's just one after the other: now we learn that big music companies are attempting the monopolization of digital distribution. "These ventures look bad, smell bad and sound bad," Judge Patel wrote. You go, Napster!

I don't understand what the point of lip-synching and tap-synching for a TV audience is. But then I don't understand the attraction of figure skating night after night, either.

21.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Did you notice 20.02 2002 20:02 go by last night? Next shot at such a date/time is in 110 years, and then game over forever. Or at least until we invent a new calendar.

If I were Dave Barry, I'd have to say "I am not making this up." Alabama's chief justice declares homosexuality 'a sin.' Roy Moore says homosexuality is "an act so heinous that it defies one's ability to describe it," suggesting the state should wield "the power of the sword" to confine or even execute such sinners.

Also on, Jerry Falwell trying to cash in. Hardly seems like news, but he claims he was viciously smeared, by people quoting him. Interesting fund raising approach, though - "I made an ass of myself, and people have pointed it out unrelentingly. Please send money."

If I needed a model for an "accessibility statement," I'd dive into mark, definitely. Whew.

The executive director of the Authors Guild says writers need to be compensated or "they will be forced to turn to other lines of work." How exactly does extended copyright 70 years after the death of the author help that, I wonder? The NY Times on the Supremes' decision to hear the case from Eric Eldred and other plaintiffs, one of whom is "a choir director who buys inexpensive sheet music in the public domain." I can relate to that. Finding good sheet music is one of the hardests information retrieval tasks I know these days. If it weren't so hard, I could support more authors.

18.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Spending some of my holiday working for state and federal governments: doing our income tax returns. Last year, I was worried about having to do a California state return as well as one for Idaho, for our temporary relocation. California's a big state, with a big government, after all. But the nonresident return is not that bad -- two sides of form 540NR and a 2-sided schedule CA, with all of the numbers already handy from the completed federal forms. The forms and instructions are all available from a reasonably well-organized website, downloadable as PDF files. Some of our state tax money went to California, but we didn't have to pay any more state income tax: Idaho credits us for what we paid to the Golden State, and our total bill is the same as if we'd stayed home.

I was ready for a repeat experience this year, but noticed something new: "Fill-in" icons, noting that some of the forms are "fillable." Something like electronic filing? Not exactly: the PDF file comes up with two yellow "buttons" up top, "Print and Reset Form" and "Reset Form." After the Reset, clicking on one of the fields allows me to type into it, in neat, blue capital letters.


Hmm, that's kind of nice, I can print out a filled-in form and it will be clean and readable for the Franchise Tax Board down south. It doesn't do arithmetic, though; I have to add, subtract, multiply and divide on the side. And it doesn't link in the numbers that have to be supplied from schedule CA, so I have to pencil out one of those on the side, too.

And all the time I'm doing this, I'm thinking about those two options. There is no "save your work" option, or an "oops, I need to correct just one number" option. It's not just all or none, but all and none; printing erases your work. It's a perfectly idiotic user interface, but I imagined I could work carefully and get it to print, and then I'd have the most beautiful tax return I've ever filed, hot off the LaserJet.

But no. I got one page, 5 lines, in lineprinter font:

PCL XL error
       Subsystem: KERNEL
       Error:     IllegalOperatorSequence
       Operator:  SetCursor
       Position:  11852

Of course, the form had been reset, as promised by the button label, just as soon as I'd pressed the "OK" button on the printer dialog.

Maybe other people using a patched version of Acrobat v4.0, or a different operating system than my Win95 OSR2.1, or a different printer will get everything right on the first try, and print their completed forms, and be happy as clams. I'm not terribly upset, as it's not that much work (more to write about it, actually) or time that I've lost, but I am impressed with this idiot savant implementation of Adobe's product. (I blamed them first, but after my sister defended them, I see their product does have "save" capability advertised. Of course, with the printer error, it wouldn't do me any good to have it saved, either...)

John Ashcroft collects a prestigious award: Hillbilly of the Month. I liked the picture of the calico cat with a message for him.

Reading about riding the skeleton is about as close as I need to get. Not everything that can be done should be done.

More on the short track from the NY Times, including a slide show just after the AP photo I fairly used, below. I don't feel so bad about the Aussie collecting the gold after reading about his previous luck. Oi oi oi.

Reading Safire's column makes me think of 1984. So it took a couple extra decades; did you doubt it would happen? Orwell just didn't figure on the LDV measurement of window pane vibrations.

New meaning for refrigerator magnets: the magnetocaloric effect. Chilling.

Taking another look at the Fifth Amendment, and whether it's gone too far. I don't know what the answer is, but having Oliver North and the Enron team pay for their crimes seems an attractive modification.

Speaking of pictures of cats, Genetic Savings & Clone is the name of the outfit that came up with "CC," the cloned cat. Their home page is a hair too cute (and oddly Untitled when I saw it). The FAQ page has a stray band of orange and black running through the explanation of why CC doesn't look like her original, Rainbow. Rainbow's a calico, and CC came out tiger-tabby.

In keeping with the circus atmosphere, the explanation sprinkles in "not relevant here," "for reasons which are not germane here," then "on the other hand" and "conversely" in one sentence. The goal of the "Missyplicity" project is to work their way up to a dog. Aim high, as they say.

17.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Enjoying an acorn while standing on the lip of a bucket

We collected a lot of this year's acorns into 5 gallon buckets, and the squirrels have been enjoying the convenience. Well into winter, the buckets are getting low, and when a squirrel jumps up, they rattle a bit. That was my cue to get out the camera, and catch one in his two-legged-stand-on-the-edge trick. I'm not quick enough to catch the dive down into the bucket; they've figured out that we're pretty harmless when we're behind glass, but it's a long way down there, and not a comfortable position when someone's watching.

8 inches of wet snow in our front yard

It's been almost a month since I "developed" the pictures in the camera. This batch included the last big dump of snow we had, January 20th. The weather's gone kind of dry and monotonous since, sub-freezing nights, up to the 40s most days. Bulbs are pushing up, more birds coming around to check things out.

Watched a little of the Olympics last night, including the men's 1000m short track final. Ohno was robbed, but I guess that's the way it goes in short track. This AP photo is great, shows the moment just before Ahn Hyun-Soo pulled Ohno down. I guess the lesson is that if you go down, make sure you take someone with you. Happily, Apolo managed to get up and stick a skate across the line behind the "winner," who coasted through the melée from the back of the pack, and get the silver.

AP Photo: Apolo Anton Ohno of the United States collides with Korea's Ahn Hyun-Soo and Mathieu Turcotte of Canada in the final streach of the men's 1000-meter short track speedskating race at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 16.

Not clear yet whether the gash in his leg will keep him out of his other three events. :-(

16.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

There you are, a lowly Earthlink luser, with a page that gets noticed by someone at a big PC magazine, they send out the URL in a newsletter and in their column, and you're famous! Or, you're over quota.

Organique has an entertaining gallery of False Advertising. I liked No. 9. It also has a stylin' blog called Footprints. The "bloglinx" column has a list of sites I've never seen before. It's nice to get out once in a while.

O YOU (candy heart)

Acme Heartmaker. Check out "All your candy are belong to us." Wish I'd known about this site two days ago, eh?

Deconstructing school crossing signage. By Monsieur Jean - coiffeur.

"Lack of snow brings early warnings of fire danger" Sounds like a familiar headline in the intermountain west, even though we started off with ample snow this winter. But this warning is from Minnesota instead!

Bush "solves" the nuclear waste problem by declaring Yucca Mountain A-OK. If only we'd realize it could be that easy! Now it's time to start shipping nuclear waste in from all over the country, I guess. Well, almost: the Nevada governor gets to veto the move, and then the Congress gets to decide. I can imagine the House would be happy to stomp on Nevada, but the Senate?

With the market in the crapper these days, everyone's looking for a good investment. Political parties and candidates seem like opportunities: "David and Julie Kochís investment in the Republican Party paid off by a factor approaching one thousand to one." From The Cash 'N' Carry Chronicles.

"It is one of the greatest political scandals in American history, fusing financial corruption, extremist right-wing politics, and the most compromised White House in living memory." Doesn't seem to be making the newspapers. Yet.

Another hot tip from Joel, something that could be "Google for the desktop." Big claim, but Creo's future Six Degrees sounds like it could be it. I keep the things I'm working on spread out around me, and I can find important pieces of multiple projects quickly. But as things get stale, that works less and less well. If the relationships are captured, I can tap into old networks, and recover them.

Speaking of deconstruction and all, Larry Wall talked about Perl, the first postmodern computer language. Well, he titled his speech that, anyway. Mostly he talked about Modernism and Postmodernism. Interesting.

I don't go out of my way to listen to music the way I once did. I probably spend more time making music, arranging stuff for our choir, rehearsing, singing, and so on, and I don't spend near enough at all that. But today while avoiding doing the taxes, and the while getting going on them, I was stuffing CDs into my computer, to keep myself entertained. Two of note, one I hadn't heard before, The Rough Guide to the Music of Africa. It's an anthology of 15 songs from 15 disparate albums, and several of the tunes make me want to hear the rest of the CDs they came from.

The other is an old favorite, one I bought after hearing a tune from it on the radio: Mirror by Monte Montgomery. The tune that hooked me, "When Will I," seems like one of those perfect moments in a musician's life when he hits the groove, the audience is with him, and the tape is rolling. It couldn't have happened in a studio, I think. I still get excited listening to the energetic, free excursion of his solo, its smooth exit and smoother re-entry. It just makes me want to get up an' dance!

14.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's Valentine's Day. One nice way to celebrate would be to think about this request from the Dalai Lama. Step 2 of the practice seems just right for the day (and for every day): "Spend 5 minutes breathing in cherishing yourself, and breathing out cherishing others. If you think about people you have difficulty cherishing, extend your cherishing to them anyway."

BT: The internet is ours. WriteTheWeb: BT is daft.

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire looks like an interesting, and deep source of links to US political news.

"President Bush has taken a starring role in a new, decidedly critical advertisement that is running in the states of five Democratic senators who voted against his economic stimulus package." From the NY Times. Must be an election year, eh? So much for that wonderful bipartisan feeling. W. sez "don't cross me, bubba!"

I'm still finding interesting things in this Opera browser. Today's tip came from flutterby in a snippet about CSS. Ctrl-G changes how things look, what's that? Check the Ctrl-B list of accelerators, find 'Ctrl + G' = toggle user mode / author mode. Interesting. Try it on this site if you want to see it really go.

Ooo, another one - this guy has one of those Mac stylin' things with excruciatingly tiny type. Ctrl-G and I can READ IT without any trouble. Opera rocks. (The piece is worth reading, too - on Google's Search Appliance.)

I also found out from flutterby that Henry Kloss died on January 31st. I used to drive by his billboard on the freeway in Milwaukee. I used to groove on his headphones as a teenager. I've had a pair of Advent speakers for most of three decades now. And Cambridge Soundwork speakers on the computer, I think I'll put on some music, and raise a glass to his memory.

That page on Cambridge Soundworks' site is a lovely tribute to him: "He was a warm, clever, generous, funny man. We shall miss him very, very much." 45 years of acoustic innovation; what a guy.

Interesting collection of links and opinions on the subject of Are Tables Really Evil? It's an inside thing for HTML hacks. I use 'em, but I try not to rely on them for everything. I try to avoid them, actually. Is it misplaced purism? I dunno.

I haven't studied it much, but this three-column, table-free layout seems a tour de force. (What was wrong about just using tables, I wonder? Having to include a bunch of Javascript to make the CSS method work doesn't attract me.)

From where I sit, it's somewhat of a contest to figure out which is more tedious: CSS or XML/Web services. I read the FAQ. I don't get it. But if someone wants to tell Dave that they grew up coding CGI with perl, and that's all you need for web services, I'm sure it would be a good show.

Here's a demo for UDDI from IBM. It doesn't work with Opera v6. Thunk.

ArsDigita didn't survive without Philip Greenspun. The VCs wished he would get lost, and he did, buying an RV and an airplane, among other things. Do you suppose they'll be any more careful with what they wish for now? (Thanks to Joel for reminding me of Philip's Travels with Samantha. Someday I may even read all the way through Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing, too.

The drug war comes home: "We're saying, don't have a double standard here -- the Bushes want to treat this as a private family matter and well they should, but other people should have the opportunity, too."

Paul Andrews lets Davos have it: "Was there any real reason to hold the conference, especially with no ski slopes in sight?" (Another site that benefits from Opera's Ctrl-G. Woo hoo!) John MacArthur takes a bigger swing at the plutocrats. (Love that word.) "Above all, Davos is about the hollowness of public relations, the hot air of advertising and the monotony of mutual congratulation."

Inside the Olympics: Catch it quick before the 5-ring police shut it down! "HER: They respect rules and also they think itís funny the way Americans smile when they give you bad news." And lots more to smile about. More fun than being there, maybe.

12.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our local "Airport Police Chief" knows that this is his moment; all eyes are on him, looking for leadership. He's backing a bill in our state Legislature to make it a felony to intentionally smuggle a weapon past one of his security checkpoints. It's only a misdemeanor now, and he thinks the change will "significantly increase the safety of travelers," as the Statesman put it.

He probably thinks that having all travelers take off their shoes and run them through the X-ray machine is providing a significant boost to safety, too. Yup, we're keeping those terrorists away from flights out of Boise, yessirree.

11.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Digital Sensor Is Said to Match Quality of Film (NY Times). This sounds like a Very Big Deal to me, or at least to my digital photography hobby. "Having a sensor that measures all three colors at every element at full exposure has been the engineering holy grail," Alexis Gerard, publisher of The Future Image Report, said. (That trade newsletter's website looks like it keeps the good stuff for paying customers, though.)

10.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

As noted here on groundhog day, the Idaho Legislature has tossed out the term limits that voters expressed the desire for twice, via the initiative process. It's been a while since I thought about term limits, but IIRC, I was against them back when Newt Gingrich and his cohort thought they would revolutionize government. The national R. party was hoist on their own petard when the ancient ones had to give up the choice committee chairmanships, but that fell out of the limelight when Jim Jefford went Independent on 'em and they lost the Senate.

I do think it takes some serious chutzpah on the part of the Legislature to override two initiatives, but hey, they never did really care what I think.

Does it make me a conservative to think that we should be able to elect whomever we want? Could be: now there's talk of an amendment to the state Constitution to abolish any talk of term limits, for good. They've shown they can get 2/3rds of both bodies to raise their hands for this one, they'd just need a majority of the voters. You can follow along at home with the Idaho Statesman.

Their readers' letters are predictably full of indignation (perhaps the strongest motivator of letter writing?), but I'm not holding my breath for any of the bums to get voted out this fall, as they can be every other year. "Angry Republican" and friends will probably get distracted by November.

The Boise Weekly (whose website has devolved to a "look for our new website in 2002" page, alas) had a nice little "person on the street" feature, asking "when did you realize you were a grown-up?" Jeanette coupled that with an NPR interview we heard today, and deduced that it was when she realized there wasn't an afterlife, no pie-in-the-sky. (The interviewee noted that religious belief in the afterlife had a correlation with hardship in society.) On the one hand, I wasn't keen about stating such a thing publicly, fearing it could spoil a nice placebo effect, but then we had just heard it on the radio. It's only an opinion, nobody knows for sure, eh? And don't forget to keep your Pascal's wager paid in full.

Farming is no longer the only business that you can use to turn $2 million into $1 million any more. You can also do it with creating a power plant at home. The author's fight with PG&E to get them to trade low-cost power is interesting.


Our universe is a lovely shade of pale green, as it turns out. About like that over there, they say. (Be careful about judging it with a white background, as the visual effect of color depends on its neighborhood. Black seems more likely to me than white, but I guess we're not going to be able to know that for sure.)

It used to be bluer, and we're heading for red.

Utah's attempt to define "commercial" terrorism is designed to make America safe for commerce, but what about democracy?

9.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Chinese lantern, during decay

One of my posed shots of decaying Chinese lantern fruits won an honorable mention in an internal-HP photo contest. Since I can't refer the public to the pages with my 5 co-honorables, and the big winner, you'll have to settle for a couple alternate views. (They look better small, anyway.)

Chinese lantern, after decay

For those with botanical interest, the "lantern" is formed out of the fused calyx of the flower (petals -> corolla, and below that are the sepals -> calyx). After hanging around a while, the tissue of the calyx gradually disintegrates, and eventually leaves only the venation as a cage within which the round, orange fruit is no longer hidden.

Usually when I take plant pictures, I capture them "as is," but for the tissueless lantern, I figured a sharp shadow would really add to the image, and bring it back to a three dimensional view. It also shows the shape of the fruit better, since the veins still block the direct interior view somewhat. I posed it on a black matte board, and shot it in full sunlight.

Show us the damn cat

Or so said a faithful reader after I professed to be a cat person. I guess the last picture I posted was still fresh in my mind. (It's Jeanette's profile's background image.) Let that suffice for now.

Speaking of dog people, I might further comment that there are two kinds of dog people: those who pick up after their dogs, and those who do not. We have a neighbor who lets the dog out to do what it may, and what it may often ends up in our yard. This time, I privately scrubbed the bottom of my shoe, and picked up after it. Next time, I may provide delivery service.

7.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

There are roughly five kinds of people in the world. Cat people, dog people, cat and dog people, no cat and no dog people, and those for whom having an animal companion is a non sequitur. People in two or three of these categories make fun of cat pictures on personal web sites, and people in two of the categories do not. When this pithy thought occurred to me, I'm sure there was a punch line, but it has since escaped. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a cat person. Dogs are OK, but I don't care to live with one.

What I look for in a good review is definitive evidence for whether I should bother reading the work in question. My two favorite kinds of reviews are (a) the positive, entertaining review that leads me to a book (or whatever) that I really enjoy, and (b) the negative, entertaining review that saves me the trouble.

The ones I avoid are the gasbag reviews that hurt my brain, making me follow convoluted and overblown verbosity that leads me nowhere. These are, however, sometimes entertaining as parody. In that spirit, I got a kick out of a JOHO quoted paragraph that included all of the following words and/or phrases: McLuhanesque convolutions, ramifications, contiguity, digerati elite, stupefaction.

The problem, of course, is that I still don't know if I should trouble myself to read Weinberger's latest offering. Maybe. The book's own site (!) is attractive, and includes recommendations from some people I also respect, and includes chapters 0. through 2.

That is one beautiful photo of Saturn, from a ground based telescope with adaptive optics. I'm afraid I'm spoiled by "fly by" images, real and imagined, though. I expect edges to be sharp and the zoom to be infinite, as in the opening scene of Star Trek:Voyager.

Business Week asks (and tries to answer), What's the Truth about Walter Hewlett?

Did Tivo users know that when their set phones home, it can tell tales as well as fetch? I suppose it's in the fine print of the user agreement somewhere.

All those pop-up ads you're seeing lately may not be from the sites you're visting, but rather from the latest in scumware, FlashTrack.

Excerpted from's 'Hard Drive Mod'

I used to be in the disk drive business. Built clean areas, production lines, wrote procedures, solved mysteries, designed base castings, covers, seals, filtration, that sort of thing. HP exited HD manufacturing in 1996, and in retrospect it was a great move: we were never going to get big enough to compete with the majors, and profit margins have continued to tank. Consumers, on the other hand, have never had it better. Buckets of gigabytes for a hundred bucks.

That's the background info you need to know just how hard I hit the floor laughing when I got to the "Tools you'll need" section of Hard Drive Mod. And then the pictures. As he says, "have a method of contain the aluminum shavings." (Hint: do not try this at home. Also, do not view this site while eating or drinking.)

Britain's largest IT interest group did their own analysis of what Microsoft's "License 6.0" would mean. $1 billion over 4 years, flowing from its 98 member corporations, to Microsoft. As Larry Shutzberg, CIO of Rock-Tenn in Atlanta, says, "This sucks. This sucks all the way around." It's monopoly, baby. Darwinmag brings us the plan behind the curtain.

6.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Doc's snippet on the Enron end run reverberated with some of the corporate goings-on I'm in the middle of. His distillation of the corporation as "ways of organizing work and routing paychecks" seems pretty apt.

"Companies at their best have whatever it is that puts a good band in a groove." But how big can a group be and still have that sort of synergy? I suspect a connection to the brain's tribal limit, some 150 people that we can know well. The organization I'm in has a local presence of 50 or so, and multiple remote adjuncts of a similar size, and we could get it together.... The "workplace" has some real obstacles to making such a thing happen, though, not the least of which come down from on high.

My current thinking on HP is assembled from bits and pieces of our history and potential. First off, I keep reminding myself of the core statement of our Standards of Business Conduct: We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity. Second, in spite of (or in contradiction to) pundits' and others' blatherings, our culture is alive and well within the spirit of our experienced workforce, and if the company lives long and prospers, that will be why.

5.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Krugman: "In short, the administration's strategy is to prevent criticism of what amounts to a fiscal debacle by wrapping its budget in the flag. And I mean that literally: the budget report released yesterday came wrapped in a red, white and blue cover depicting the American flag."

I guess when you've got 85% of the population behind you, you can get away with quite a lot. Unfortunately, we'll be paying for this well into the next decade, the way things are going. But then the wheels didn't come off Reagan's voodoo economics until the end of Poppy's term...

Harmonic convergence of email correspondants: two pointers to SatireWire in a row. Angered by Snubbing, Libya, China Syria form axis of just as evil, and this one, about the surprise settlement in the Microsoft case. "Everyone here is asking themselves, 'Do I want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution?'"

Then another I can't leave off, Arafat, Sharon Walk Off Set of "Israel," just because the caption under the last picture made me laugh so hard.

Yet another pundit discovers and elucidates the blog phenomenon. Be still my heart. Diaries, Hyde Park corner blather, blatant exhibitionism and obvious self-indulgence? I'm sure many have or are those things, but as far as answering the question "what is a weblog?" that's just lame.

On Sunday, I mentioned a site whose URL I couldn't remember to a couple friends, and said they could find it on my blog. They had that smiling, agreeable look friends get when they don't know what the hell you're talking about, but want you to know they still like you well enough.

I stumbled to explain, and have since filled in the blank: it's some combination of a journal, an online commentary on news of the day, things on the web. It has daily, or at least regular postings.

That's enough, eh? To learn more, you have to go out and experience it for yourself. But please, no more columns about it, we've had plenty. (Not believing me? Check out this compendium that J.D. put together.)

Percent population growth in the US, 1990-2000, from the
 Statistical Abstract of the US, Fig. 1.1

The big, hairy, 2001 Statistical Abstract of the United States is online for your reading pleasure. I like information-rich graphics like this one, showing percent population growth, by state for 1990-2000. The colors are under 10% (tan), 10.0 to 19.9% (blue-gray), and 20% and over (dark green). We live toward the top of that big sweep from Texas to the Pacific Northwest.

40 pdf files, collect the whole set. (I wish I could remember where I found the link to this, so I could tell the fellow blogger that you can too copy/paste excerpts out of the PDF files... and even use a little brute force to put tabulated data into a spreadsheet, if you have a mind to, and change the sort of "No.65.Religious Bodies--Selected Data," for example, from alphabetic by "religious body," to numeric by membership reported, and find that more than a third of the reported membership is in the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics and the Southern Baptist Convention accounts for about half of the 157 million reported. One thing Acrobat doesn't have -- at least in my version -- is a "save" choice in the file menu, an idiotic oversight. You have to save it up front, or hunt it down in the cache... sheesh.)

The mean center of the population marching from the Chesapeake Bay across the lower Midwest and over the Mississippi river in the last 2+ centuries is also interesting. (Fig. 1.2).

Mean Center of Population, 1790-2000 from the
 Statistical Abstract of the US 2001, Fig. 1.2

4.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

As Bob Herbert says, "Alarm bells automatically go off when this administration claims to be helping the financially disadvantaged." It's a sneak attack to redefine "child" back to conception. "This rules change by Health and Human Services, which does not need Congressional approval, is both devious and dangerous. It exemplifies the administration's right-wing allegiance, and its contempt for the poor."

Palo Alto pools, from Behind the Curtain

In this new millennium, it's Russia providing the voice of reason in response to rabidly militaristic talk from the US of A. Something about Iraq being their next-door neighbor, and its headman being our headman's family feud. China sounds pretty reasonable, too. Wolfowitz, as is typical, does not. When the Brits start backpedaling, you know we've gone too far.

While reading this piece by Jane Perlez about teaching young Indonesian Muslims to follow the example of Osama bin Laden, I thought about just what the example was. Be born into a wealthy family. Become a radical fundamentalist, and hide in caves while sending young men off on suicide missions that they may or may not know about in advance.

I don't suppose Baasyir presents it quite that way, though.

Zeldman's glamorous life is often arresting, such as these moments from the urban forest.

3.Feb.2002 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not I, but the world says it:
———— All is one ————

In emptiness, wholeness:
The membrane of a cell,
the walls of a building,
the silence gathering our thoughts,
making space for us to share
our joys and sorrows.

So nice to hear from the "junior high,"
reminding us to roll down the window and stick
our heads out into the cold, refreshing
blast of LIFE coming at us.

Our speaker this morning was a visitor, a Pentecostalist Russian immigrant, who played music with his two children, and spoke to us on his view of two countries. In the time for congregational response, there was a wonderful question: given what you've observed of the two countries, are there ways in which we less free?

Viktor Goretoy's answer: "Let me be precise, and short. You guys have too many churches. (We laughed.) And every church wants your soul."

Seen on the literature table: one of the nice biographical vignettes from a series put on the web by First Parish and the First Church in Cambridge (Unitarian Universalist), Massachusets. (It was the one for Sofia Lyon Fahs but there are many more of a satisfying length, such as Bucky Fuller's. "Studying the whole thing, you find that all big government, all big politics, all big religion, almost all big business, would find it absolutely devastating to their activity to have humanity a success.")

Figure skating rules change: "undignified" is out, so no more of that pelvis pumping, an' stuff. SFGate commentary: "This is, needless to say, an outrage, not to mention bad for TV ratings."

He's a little fast and loose with the facts (or at least the chronology), but the overall picture is clear enough in Michael Moore's letter to G.W.B. File it under "Operation Enduring Graft."

Another link from J.D., Robert Wright responding to the State of the Union's rhetoric: Axis of Incoherence. "All incoherence has a common, primordial source, and is hence connected — and humankind's mission is to rid the world of it, a project that is, um, still underway." Invoking "enemy = evil" seems to be the precursor to justifying any means to an end.

More from Wright: the reasons for not making up new rules for holding prisoners at Gitmo. Others will follow our example. It matters what people think of the U.S. This administration doesn't show any signs of getting it, really, and I have my doubts that they ever will.

Play the Enron Blame Game, courtesy of Slate. Can I buy a vowel?

2002.02.02 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Is it A DODGY HOG URN? Or perhaps a HODAD GUN ORGY? Do we need to GOAD a GRODY HUN? Or are we witness to AN ODD HUG ORGY?

No, it's GROUNDHOG DAY! Somewhere designated "digital" Groundhog Day, thanks to the 02/02/02 binary rendering of 10/10/10. I'm looking forward to Palindromic Groundhog Day, in 18 years. There should be a suitable anagram we can serve up on that day...

Jim Wallis, writing on extracts the lesson from Enron: "The people on the top of the American economy get rich no matter whether they make good or bad decisions, while workers and consumers are the ones who suffer from all the bad ones." (As usual, Tom Tomorrow provides the Classics Illustrated version, in multiple installments. "It's indisputable proof that the system works." He's blogging now, too.)

Idaho enters the next phase of the Contract with America by repealing the term limits voters repeatedly expressed the desire for through the initiative process. The Gov. vetoed. The House and Senate overrode his veto. They all want the voters to throw them out retail, rather than wholesale. Let's see how we do.

2001.02.01 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Deus ex machina: in a two-second bloatware wait state this morning, I thought about how I needed a better response to that than irritation. Our UU minister offered a constructive response to a similar technological irritant: other people's watches that beep on the hour, disturbing the mood in church (or wherever). She said she tries to use the beep as a reminder of the ever-present manifestation of the ultimate reality of the universe (or "God," if you like shorthand).

If you don't notice those little pauses, good for you. If you do, why not use them as an internal bell, in resonance with the harmony of the spheres?

Shooting yourself in the foot with privatization: How our deal to increase security by turning megatons into megawatts ran aground on private shoals. (You need a free subscription to see some of Science magazine's online content, including this commentary.) Donald Kennedy writes: "It is worth noting that since September 11, some of our national enthusiasm for turning everything over to the private sector has faded; see, for example, the spasm of second thoughts about the airline security mess, another instance in which national security interests and the profit motive collide. This loss of innocence about markets is a good thing: They are fine in their place, but when market incentives conflict with national security, security should come first. The government probably can't repossess USEC, but it must make it behave."

The 1998 privatization of USEC leaves the security goal of moving weapons-grade uranium out of Russia hanging, hostage to a profit motive.

Also reported in Science: "A government investigation has found that much of the data from a 1997 ballistic missile test flight that the U.S. Department of Defense labeled a solid success may be useless. Sources familiar with two studies by the General Accounting Office say they highlight software and sensor problems on the 1997 flight over the Pacific...."

Then there's the high-stakes thriller of scientists trying to recover radioactive devices laying around in Abkhazia before the terrorists get them...

I've been debating whether to get the full, paid-for deal for this magazine, but I think I'm already a couple periodicals over the limit. I was about to respond to junkmail I got at work and accept a free subscription to Infoworld but then came to my senses.

Just the table of contents of Science is plenty (but with half the links and/or stories beyond the reach of my free sign-up, it's more annoyance than anything else).

The Supremes will hear the appeal in Utah v. Evans, potentially shifting one Congressional seat from North Carolina back to the beehive state. It's not really about statistical methods this time, but whether a Census Bureau method for estimating households when direct efforts to contact them fail meets the constitutional requirement of "actual enumeration."

Also on the docket, the Big Guy found to be running a monotheopoly.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 09-Dec-2002 22:54:43 MST