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31.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ethics for Sale Permalink to this item

The New York Times editorial board makes the same observation about Disowning Senator Craig that Mark Shields did tonight on the Newshour: he was dumped off the bus, and now they're backing up to run him over an extra time or two.

There was no call for an Ethics Committee investigation when Duke Cunningham was selling his vote, for example. The homophobia runs so strong that Larry Craig couldn't even bring himself to admit what is now brutally obvious to everyone.

There's the ick factor of sex in a public restroom (not to mention the gymnastics; under the partition?!), but ultimately it's the gay marriage issue that makes it impossible for the GOP to contemplate letting Craig hold that position.

And forget about the helpful suggestion from the executive director of the state Democratic Party to appoint one of our elder statesmen (women?) who isn't interested in running for election next year. The backroom deal has already been sealed in smoke.

Who's Up Next? Permalink to this item

Matt Singer handicaps the "short bench" for Idaho's GOP as we wait for the inevitable resignation of our senior, s(w)inging Senator. Current Lieutenant and one-time Governor Jim Risch is estimated by many to be the most likely choice by our current Governor. "He has money in the bank" is one of the recommendations he comes with, not to put too fine a point on the depth of Republican thinking here.

The NYT reports that the announcement may await wrangling over House and Senate committee assignments, the local party trying to mitigate the loss of money and influence that will be moving out of Larry Craig's office along with him. Not a great bargaining position, with the timing of the concession speech all that's left, but you do what you can with the cards you're dealt.

29.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A Little Help, Anyway Permalink to this item

Betsy Russell reports on the Idaho Dem Party Chair, former Representative Richard Stallings supposing that our little media event had something to do with Gonzales' ouster. Nice to see that picture of my sign, again (the big one by the tree, "Recall Your Oath ?"), and imagine that we did make a difference. In case more recent events have pushed it clear of your mind, the story was that Gonzales was trying to put the scandals and apparent perjury behind him with a little upbeat dog and pony show in this most red of red states. Safe market for a quiet summer day? Huh uh.

God's Protection At Risk Permalink to this item

Alberto Gonzales and Bill Sali may be pleased to have Larry Craig take the front page, talk radio and late night attention off the two of them. Not that Sali's really interesting enough to get that much airtime anyway, but his "one nation under my God" schtick still has some life in his own Congressional District. Today's paper had two letters to the editor ever so perfectly chosen and placed on their "Second Opinion" page.

"Lead us from the unreal to real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality. May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we work together with great vigor. May our study be enlightening."

The first, from Gary Allen of Boise, provided the actual text of the Hindu prayer that was delivered in the Senate, and to which Sali saw fit to object. Did Sali actually read the prayer, or was his reaction simply to "Hindu" and its "polytheistic demonic belief," as local Christian zealot Val Lee from Meridian put it?

"Deviation dismantles our blessed foundation," Ms. Lee writes. Removing God's protection from us? One blog comment regarding Larry Craig's errant behavior and said protection reminds us what's at risk: God is currently burning Idaho to the ground. Oh oh.

28.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Today's Most Generous Comment Permalink to this item

The Statesman has worked this story about Larry Craig's orientation more dilligently then anyone, and gave up the front page above the fold, and two complete pages inside the front section today. They had a predictable, and forgettable remark by self-appointed house mother of Boise, Bryan Fischer, and one worth considering from our state Legistlature's first openly lesbian Representative, Nicole LeFavour, of Boise:

"Iím sorry we don't live in a world where the senator feels he can be open about his sexual orientation."

Dark Thirty Permalink to this item

Looks like I forgot to post that item about last night's lunar eclipse, so you didn't hear it from me. But if you did get up in the wee hours, you saw our companion dusky red, strangely diminished up there in the middle of the sky. We were up in time for the pre-totality umbral phase, which I confess to not understanding, exactly. Fussing around with the telescope gave us reason to hang out in the cool night air until close to the 4:37am MDT midpoint.

I had a dream about setting up my camera on a tripod and taking a picture of the eclipse, but that dream didn't come true.

27.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lunar Eclipse Tonight! Permalink to this item

It pales in comparison to the other news today, but it's really a much bigger deal albeit without the staying power. Totality for 45 minutes, and an hour and a half in the umbra, centered around 4:37am MDT.

So I Guess He Won't Be Running Again Permalink to this item

This may well explain the "uncertainty" about whether Idaho's Senator Larry Craig would run for another 6 year term. Would the June arrest for "disorderly conduct" in the Minneapolis airport stay covered up, or hit the press? It's out now, and even with his protestations of his behavior being "misconstrued," we have to start believing that those rumors were—are—true.

I'm not the only one having the "can this possibly be true?" reaction on hearing of this story. It's also my first exposure (!) to the foot and hand signals that seem to be well-known for some occupants of adjacent stalls in men's rooms. The "wide stance" explanation rather reminds me of the "good lawyer" (perhaps the one Larry now wishes he'd had in Minneapolis) of the old joke who could get a charge of sodomy reduced to "following too closely."

Going Out in Style Permalink to this item

from Doug Mills' NYT photo of Gonzales testifying to Congress Word is that Gonzales is finally gone, but in his inimitable style, even after the word is out from a "senior administration official" credible enough for The New York Times, Fredo is still lying to his own spokesperson, or else having his spokesperson lie, uselessly, for him:

As recently as Sunday afternoon, Mr. Gonzales was denying through his press spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse, that he intended to leave. Mr. Roehrkasse said Sunday afternoon that he had telephoned Mr. Gonzales about the reports circulating in Washington that a resignation was imminent, "and he said it wasn't true, so I donít know what more I can say."

Among the other artifacts of his tenure is this gem of a photograph by Doug Mills during Gonzales' testimony before Congress. Timing is everything.

Do you suppose the fact that he couldn't find a positive reception even here in Boise, Idaho, played a part in the denouement?

24.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"The U.S. government is freaking out" Permalink to this item

That's the chief executive of Seagate's observation about the response to an unnamed Chinese company wanting to buy his company, one of the leading manufacturers of computer hard disk drives.

Of course, much of the manufacturing is already done in China (or its closest neighbors), but owning. That enabling technology that currently works so well (and so ridiculously cheaply) that no one thinks about it very much. That's different.

Noughts and Crosses Permalink to this item

We missed part 2 of Jonathan Miller's fine film A Brief History of Disbelief, but caught up with it courtesy of Google Video. (Available with the other two parts until the BBC gets snooty about their copyright?)

One person I mentioned it to said she didn't like the production; Jeanette pointed out that it was very post-modern, which some people aren't so fond of as she is. It's a lot of Miller (and some others) talking, but the images (and locations) cut in are very clever, in a way more refreshing than Ken Burns' now-tired panning over still photographs. Having it on-screen with a stop/still/replay slider allowed us to better appreciate the videography.

I especially liked the visit to the crumbling stone church, timed to illustrate the crumbling arguments of dogma, fighting against the revelations of science in the 18th century. Inbetween the commentary, some historical quotes are recited by an actor; others rain down in a white-on-black typewriter font:

There is in every village a torch: the schoolteacher.
And an extinguisher: the priest.
Victor Hugo

One of the ideas Miller explored that I found particularly illuminating for our own political history is that of the spectrum of religious and philosophical thought that gathered under the label of "Deism," that religious big tent sheltering many of our Founding Fathers. It provided an important defense, for some, against the accusation of Atheism, which in remembered time came with the penalty of death.

22.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who Says Government Doesn't Have a Sense of Humor? Permalink to this item

Nastygram from the IRS in today's mail, it seems my manual tax job fell short of perfection yet again, and we owe a wad more taxes. And penalty. And interest. Ick.

I called the number listed to get a more specific explanation of why they were after us, and talked with a nice fellow in Account Management, and then a slightly less nice woman in the Law department, after he couldn't explain what error I'd made.

During one of the spells while I was on hold, I realized that the slightly too-loud music boring into my brain via my right ear was from The Nutcracker Suite.

Seventh Best! Permalink to this item

The glory days of Bronco Football continue to be flogged mercilessly by the Statesman. Hell, half the writers of letters to the editor feel compelled to add "Go Broncos!" as their closing. Today's banner speaks of the inevitable deflation ahead, however, as we garner the title of seventh-best minor-league sports town by the Sports Business Journal..

After the storybook circus of last year's Fiesta Bowl win, and the hallucination that we had the best college football team in the country once upon a time, there is simply no way to go but down.

We're going down selling videos and books, all the way. Former star you've never heard of will be at the State Fair today, signing copies of Blue Magic, if you're interested. And we're going through the positions one-by-one in the Sports section. Yesterday was Linebackers, today's choice makes a luscious headline: Tight End in Good Hands with O'Neill. Subhead over the jump: TIGHT END WILL STRETCH FIELD. Much better than the other way around.

Local investment tip: stay long in Blue and Orange ink, for at least another year.

Frustration in the Quagmire Permalink to this item

Today's headline over the Statesman's collection of wire services reports is "Bush expresses frustration with Iraq." What's wrong with these people, eh? If nothing else, we can all rally around someone to blame for everything that's gone wrong. And no, it's not Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz or Ahmed Chalabi (let alone the President himself), but rather Nouri al-Maliki. Yeah, that's the guy. Ambassador Crocker says "our support is not a blank check."

We might forgive them for thinking it was, given our story so far.

This morning's news cycle brings a softening of the criticism, after al-Maliki complained that we were being "discourteous." (That might have lost a little in translation.) Al-Maliki is now "a good man with a difficult job," which is perhaps the same generous allowance our leaders would like to be given.

And after years of avoiding comparisons to Vietnam, George W. Bush is making his own, even as he proves his artful dodging of service in that war kept him from learning its essential lessons. His takeaway is conveniently shaded to his current position: pulling out has consequences.

Yes, as does starting a war.

Could he possibly believe that the mistake we made in Vietnam was leaving too soon?

His observation that "millions of innocent citizens" paid a price for our withdrawal from Vietnam can be put in the context of millions of innocent citizens having already paid the price for our incursion into Iraq. It tells us precisely nothing about whether we should have started this war, or whether we should reduce or end our presence in it.

Are we making things better by staying in Iraq? Consider this most candid view from the ground, written by four Sergeants, two staff Sergeants, and an Army Specialist: The War as We Saw It.

"(W)e see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side."

19.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Upholding the Rule of Law Permalink to this item

I hope the Democratic candidates watched NOW 2 weeks ago and made a note of the name of Lt. Commander Charles Swift (ret). The lawyer who successfully argued Hamdan v. Rumsfeld before the Supreme Court of the United States sounds to me like he would be a great person to have on the staff of our next President.

SWIFT: We wanted the Supreme Court to decide whether the president had the power to unilaterally just set up a justice system that departed from both established international law and military law. In other words, the president said, "I'm the president. This is a new war, and I get to make up all the rules." He took it on himself the power of being the legislature, the power of being a judiciary, and the power of being an executive. He became a king in this small sphere.

BRANCACCIO: Even though you're in uniform, you work for the U.S. Navy and the president that you're questioning his authority on this issue is your commander in chief.

SWIFT: Sure. The oath I swear is to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, it's not an oath of loyalty to the president. You don't combine the powers. No matter how good the man, the Founding Fathers' brilliance was they understood that if the powers are all—are combined, nothing good will come of it.

I Know You Are, But What Am I? Permalink to this item

Karl Rove, spinning from his political grave, says it was the Democrats who have been the dividers all this time. Who knew? It's because they say Bush "was not elected, he's illegitimate, he's a liar, he deliberately misled the country."

The truth can indeed be divisive.

18.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dungeons for Dollars Permalink to this item

It's not cheap maintaining the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. Idaho's a small state (population-wise), but we carry our share of the expense, and the difficulty of keeping ahead of the demand curve. Our governor has an outsourcing plan involving enticing private firms to underwrite the project that the citizens of the state apparently wouldn't want to. Randy Stapilus identifies the linchpin of this plan: financial magic. Either these private jailers are saviors and suckers, or else we'll be paying the cost of daily maintenance, their capital outlay, and their profits.

Take your pick.

And like any good real estate rental, after the landlord has recouped the initial expense, it's the gift that keeps on giving. We'll bear the cost of capital but someone else will own it.

Here's the you-don't-need-to-be-an-accountant version of how you imprison people more cheaply: cut costs. And if that's what we're after, why not do it the way US corporations have been doing for the last several decades? Outsource the job to China.

Oh You Kid Permalink to this item

Our once short governor and now Lt. Gov. Jim Risch was seen stumping about Iowa for Mitt Romney, who local bookmaker Randy Stapilus tells us has a lock on Idaho's electoral votes in '08. Romney is first at the moment among Iowans willing to pay to vote, too.

There's not a lot of news here, but the Statesman's quote from Risch gave me that déjà vu feeling all over again: "I look for character in a presidential candidate and what draws me to this candidate is character."

Didn't we hear that about George W. Bush, too? Or maybe that was Bush talking about Vladimir Putin, I forget.

Onward Christian Soliders Permalink to this item

So now we have Bill Sali's private apology to US Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota: he's ok, but just don't go bringing any of those wacky Ko-ran prayers to breakfast. And Hindu? Fugheddaboutit.

Spinmeister Hoffman is doing his best to downplay the incident, belittling it as just "bloggers quoting bloggers who are quoting other bloggers." Which is kind of funny, given his foray into anonymous blogging. If he's just a blogger, should we even listen to his blather?

We bloggers are just "trying to twist it and spin it into something that is horrible"? Nice try, but no twist or spin is needed to make Sali's religious bigotry horrible all on its own. It's not just any religion that's a "pillar of our freedom," but the Christian-branded flavor that Sali and his sycophants see as the One True Religion. (Sort of like the Pope does.)

Bryan Fischer is, however, his own man, and since religion is his livelihood (as best we can tell), he's not prepared to downplay anything about this. It's "impossible to overestimate the importance of this controversy," he writes. So be it.

16.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still a Nasty Little Man Permalink to this item

He may be cleaning out his desk at the end of this month, but Karl Rove is a long way from going home and quietly spending more time with his family. Is he really attacking the apparent Democratic front-runner, or is this reverse psychology, "trying to help Mrs. Clinton win the Democratic presidential nomination because she would be easier to beat than Mr. Obama"?

Consider his track record to measure the validity of these criticisms: "so weak" on national security? (Rove's team took us on the fool's errand to the Iraq quagmire.) Lacks vision? Criticism that generic bespeaks anemic talking points.

15.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Intelligent Simulation Design Permalink to this item

What would be the difference between living in someone else's simulation and living in a universe where an omniscient and omnipotent God cares about which nation is more righteous than another and who's hitting the next home run?

Hard to say.

Escalating the Quagmire Permalink to this item

Tom Englehardt, author of TomDispatch and Mission Unaccomplished (Interviews with American iconoclasts and dissenters), runs down the mind-numbing numbers from Iraq. We're at an all-time high.

Estimated total cost of the Iraq War, if Robert Sunshine's "optimistic scenario" -- 30,000 U.S. troops left in Iraq by 2010 -- plays out: Over $1 trillion. (If his less optimistic scenario proves accurate -- 75,000 troops in 2010 -- closer to $1.5 trillion.)

Remember that quaint dispute over the facts of how much the war had cost when George Bush and John Kerry were debating? Was it $200 billion, or only $120 billion back in 2004? Count on that liberal media to set things straight.

13.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"I Want to Bifurcate That a Little Bit" Permalink to this item

Bill Sali's spokesman is out there in yet another way than his boss. He wants to make it clear that that bit about the Founding Fathers not having contemplated a Hindu prayer or a Muslim serving in the Congress was not a slight of any sort, just a plain old "historical observation."

Yeah, that's it. Just an observation.

The other fork of his bifurcation is "the necessity to reach out to the Christian god in asking for His guidance, and His continued blessing upon the country." Or else. Or else...

That Christian God might send lightning to strike Idaho 1,600 times in one day, raining a little hellfire down on our iniquity.

Edge of Adventure Permalink to this item

As we drove home with the grandkids yesterday, we gave them the auto tour of the dramatic whitewater of the N. Fork of the Payette, talked about how it was one of the most challenging rivers in the world, and let them dip some toes in, at a stop at one of the eddies. I was after Big Eddy, but found the smaller one above it. There were three kids splashing around already, and we practiced enjoying the safety of and eddy and the excitement of the river's current at the edge. We also banged a few toes on rocks here and there, when we slipped away from the more friendly sandy area.

Today's headline brought a shock: another expert kayaker killed not far from where we swam. We weren't anywhere close to the Class V rapids, of course, but it still gives one pause.

I wondered if the kids felt a little over-protected by me bringing and having them wear their life jackets (especially with those other three kids splashing about without them), but they didn't complain or question the instruction, and given the news, "grandfather knows best" got validated.

Now the Rats Really Are Leaving Permalink to this item

And the profiles roll in: from the Times Online, Karl Rove, the Turd Blossom, The Village Voice, Rove's 'Generation of Peace' to Finally End, The Economist on the incredible shrinking White House, and Doug Feaver's blog roundup.

"The only thing Rove could do in this war would be to don a uniform, fly to Baghdead, and lead a surge."

"Basically a nice and good-humored man" who couldn't find a tactic that was beneath him. "Bad luck and unfortunate rumours" seemed to find the opponents of the candidates he worked for, most especially everyone in George W. Bush's way.

So: what will Bush do without his Brain?

12.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Conflagration Permalink to this item

Fire in the Boulder White Clouds The firefighters had picked up their Cottonwood camp over the weekend, but the Salmon river camp was still in place, and there is more than enough work to do, as high fire season kicks in with a vengeance. The huge ridge of billowing smoke over the front range of the Boulder White Clouds today, made for an arresting skyline from New Meadows past Excerpt of a fire perimeter and closure map Cascade.

15 major fires in central Idaho rage between the middle fork of the Salmon and highways 95 and 55, and on down to the south fork of the Payette. This towering cloud was from the fires around Yellow Pine and Warm Lake.

Down to Brass Tacks on Tolerance Permalink to this item

Bill Sali's wild ride over multiculturalism has lit up the Dems, calling for his resignation (ha!), and adding to our rich monocultural tradition of sending buffoons to Washington D.C. Which is more scary, that he's one of Idaho's two Representatives in Congress, or that he might actually represent the majority of people in his district?

I'm going with the latter.

With his pipeline of insight to the mind of men two hundred years dead, he tells us that a Muslim elected to Congress and a Hindu prayer to open a Senate session are "not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers."

Sali says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through "the protective hand of God."

Ain't it grand? God is on our side! It must be because we sing God Bless America at our baseball games now.

There's a reader board just north of the Payette canyon along Idaho 55, currently displaying

which seemed like a rather weird thing to say. Are we hiding Him in an undisclosed location? Gitmo? A Texas prison run by Corrections Corporation of America? Can't say, but I'm guessing the person who put the letters up on the sign is a Bill Sali fan, and he's talking about the Christian God, not anyone else's.

10.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Go Away Now Permalink to this item

I wrote about Cableone's Collossally Bad Technical Marketing Department a couple days ago, but it gets worse. It's now apparent that they have wired in their web-surfing interrupt message on a daily basis. That is, every day between now and Sept. 1st, when they'll cut us off cold unless we've run out and bought a new modem, they're going to force us to see their message, and reboot the modem if we want to get on with using the web.

I knew it was useless, but I had to try anyway. I turned on CAPS LOCK and wrote to their email support line: ARE YOU REALLY SUCH MORONS THAT YOU PLAN TO MAKE ME REBOOT THE MODEM EVERY DAY BETWEEN NOW AND THEN END OF THE MONTH?

Apparently, yes. They sent the same boilerplate reply as they had in response to my first email. I only wish it cost them more effort to do that, I'd send them a daily message. Maybe Bible versus would do the trick.

9.8.7 Permanent URL to this day's entry

ACHD Open House for Bikeways Permalink to this item

At the ACHD open house; T-shirt: 'ONE LESS CAR' Gala late afternoon event up here on the west Bench, with the Ada County Highway District holding an open house to discuss bicycling facilities in the county. It was enthusiastically attended while I was there, people looking over lots of nicely presented maps and charts, writing ideas down on flip charts, placing colored dots on various score sheets, and marking up maps with their "favorite" and "worst" places to ride.

Marking up the 'favorite places to ride' map I asked "is there no markup on Cole because it's just so obvious no one would ever want to ride there?" I got a nice, fat red line from Mountain View Road down to Emerald in response to that.

In amongst the many staffers, and the well-dressed post-work crowd, and the gaily festooned Riders (one comically sucking on his Camelback in the middle of a conversation), there was a lone farmer, being pushed out of his comfort zone, and there to complain about bicyclists out on the rural roads of Ada Co. He was explaining to a staff person how riders were "a pain in the ass" because his equipment is so wide, and shoulders are narrow. The nicely dressed 5-foot woman next to me listened for a while and than said "it sounds like you shouldn't be on the road either, then. I mean, it goes both ways."

His argument was the he pays fuel taxes. As if the cyclists don't ever do that. Or as if we're all driving on toll roads?

The War on Cheatgrass Permalink to this item

We seem to have a growing backlog of unfinished wars, as we add one more. If you didn't know better, you'd recognize the "war on" label as a flag for a problem we're not going to solve. Lady Bird Johnson took care of litter for a while, and dealt billboards a setback, but even both of those are still with us. You can adopt a highway if you want to work against the former (even as you contribute to the latter, go figure).

But since cheatgrass just lays there, or at most dandles in the breeze, it doesn't exactly support the rising bile being felt after a million acres of Idaho burned last month. A lot of Idahoans are mad as hell, and they want somebody to blame. Idaho legislator Bert Brackett has Jon Marvel and the Western Watersheds Project in his sights.

WWP has successfully sued to reduce the overgrazing of public lands, and Brackett is as sure as he can be that that "management strategy" is to blame for the conflagration. The logic is simple, if unattractive: if only we had grazed all the vegetation off the range, it wouldn't have burned. This is the same logic fueling the so-called Healthy Forests Initiative: all we need to do to stop forest fires is cut down the forests more often.

From the alternate point of view, WWP's Fire essay:

While it is true that cattle turn wildlife habitat into barren wasteland - it will not take long for cheat (grass) and other highly flammable weeds... to colonize this land given a little rain.

Furthermore, we must ask ourselves whether degraded and abused land such as this is any more desirable than the burns themselves. Intensive grazing will not ease us toward the balance necessary to mitigate unhealthy fire - grazing perpetuates the unhealthy conditions which serve as precursors to fire.

WWP has a lengthy piece on the Murphy Complex fire itself. For the Statesman's part, they did put a larger, and better reasoned Reader's View next to Brackett's. Dino Lowney, an archaeologist at the Idaho National Laboratory rebuts the astounding show put on by our Congressional delegation, ready to blame the most convenient federal agency.

Matters of "extended drought, hot temperatures, high winds, and remote, rugged terrain" just don't make the same kind of scapegoat as the gummint. Never mind that we can plan on more of the first two as the earth's climate changes/is changed.

8.8.7 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Power of Appointment Permalink to this item

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, we've been told, and Adam Graham is apparently working to show he's hobgoblin-free. As inexplicably seen in the Statesman's "Other Voices" feature on the opinion page for the 2nd day running, Graham is hoping that our governor will follow up appointing a moderate legislator to his staff by naming a more conservative candidate as a replacement, and shift our reactionary Legislature even more to the right.

We suppose he'd find gerrymandering a good thing if it pulls to the right, too?

The column noted three other shifty appointments. How nice to have a governor taking care of what the people of the state apparently weren't willing to do on their own.

Space Shuttle Endeavor On Its Way! Permalink to this item

Space Shuttle Endeavour during liftoff. NASA photo Tuned to NASA for the final hour before the launch, anticipating Idaho's schoolteacher Barbara Morgan's long-awaited trip, and remembering the Challenger disaster, that taught us all the "Go at Throttle Up" moment.

No chilly O-rings today, in the thick humidity of the Cape in August.

Loved the close-up of the gimballing test of the main engines, and clearing the GOX beanie cap. It was a bit odd to have a 50 second offset between the official countdown clock and the web video, but that's OK.

"Roger roll, Endeavor."

"Go at throttle up Endeavor."

On Model Railroading Permalink to this item

Tim Woodward's piece on today's "Our Towns" page, about your chance to 'drive' digitally operated toy trains in Boise this Saturday, prompted me to wonder...

Excuse me, did you know my grandfather?

We were taught the distinction between "toy" trains and "model" trains from a young age, as we accompanied my father on occasional Saturdays to "the office" of the business my grandfather started in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, William K. Walthers, Inc.

Shunting at the wye in Smith's Ferry, Idaho Northern & Pacific He loved trains, the "prototypes" more than the models, but his love for modelling was expressed through the business of designing, manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing everything for the serious hobbyist who wanted to recreate the world of railroading in miniature.

Our family summer vacations when I was growing up involved getting to the National Model Railroading Association convention, and I have fond memories of riding in the (way) back of the family station wagon to Vancouver, B.C., with stops at Lake Louise, the Athabasca Glacier, and Yellowstone N.P. on the way home. The Seattle convention included a thrilling side trip to Snoqualmie Falls. The St. Louis convention ended with me joining one of my dad's business colleagues who had a son about my age for a road trip to L.A.... and my first "solo" airplane ride home for the return. The thrill of those western adventures eventually lured me to move from the home of Walthers Trains to Idaho.

My grandfather's first train was indeed a wind-up toy, with "digital control" providing the motive power (and guidance). But "his" latest trains include a fabulous array of everything imaginable in the realm of model railroading including, of course, the latest in digital control and sound systems.

I haven't been on the payroll for some decades now, but as a teenager, I worked at various times in the print shop, shipping and receiving, the warehouse, the decal department, and at the retail counter. My favorite moment was when out-of-town customers would come in with starry eyes and ask "can we get a tour of the factory?" All they had to do was ask!

7.8.7 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yes by Four from Idaho Permalink to this item

I see from the roll linked to the NYT Editorial on the omnibus domestic spying bill that our junior-most Representative, Bill "Just Say No, No, No" Sali finally found something he could Yea for.

It's funny (not ha-ha) how little libertarian spunk our supposedly ruggedly western legislators have when push comes to shove. When the Democrats take over the White House in January 2009, there may be some lingering regrets on their part.

Two Spruce Be Gone Permalink to this item

Davey Tree chipping up our spruces The Power that be sent a certified Arborist over to talk to us yesterday, and Davey Tree made short work of two 20 foot spruces that were (a considerably smaller) part of the charm that sold us on this house 23 years ago, this morning. The grapevine had jumped from fence to tree and then when we weren't looking, from tree to power lines. The Arborist pointed out that those were bare wires, and on a rainy day... that wouldn't be a good thing, eh?

We salvaged grapes slightly ahead of their perfect moment, and firewood, they carried off a truckload of chipped compost and reminded me of hot summer afternoons when the chippers would wind up, chop up, and wind down the elm-lined streets of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.

Also left behind: new sunlight, a more candid view of the neighbor's tired fence, and oh, their house, too. Hi neighbors! We get a $100 nursery credit to help adjust that, this time with a bit smarter positioning, hopefully.

6.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Aim Twice, Shoot Once Permalink to this item

That'd be the hook-and-bullet version of "measure twice, cut once," and the advice Boise mayoral candidate Jim Tibbs should be heeding about now. He's shooting off his mouth in multiple directions, trying to create some reason for the contest to become polarized. Failing to find genuine cause to unseat the incumbent, he's doing his best to manufacture something. Going after his fellow City Council members doesn't help us imagine how he's going to lead us with "respect, cooperation, and collaboration," as so ably pointed out by commenter "Boise Colleen" in last week's Boise Weekly coverage, Tibbs Finds a New Target.

When is a Republican not a Republican? Permalink to this item

When s/he isn't authorized to be one, for a legal suit, I suppose?

The Idaho Republican Party chairman would like it to be "absolutely clear" that Rod Beck and his 70-some fellow travelers seeking to close Idaho's GOP primary "individually or collectively, are not agents of the Idaho Republican Party or the Idaho Republican State Central Committee, and that they are not acting on behalf of these entities."

Rolling Over and Playing Dead Permalink to this item

Trying to imagine how to tell the difference between an utterly dead Congress and one that's merely gone prostrate, after the Democrats chose to vote for a bad bill over the risk of being accused of voting against the "Protect America Act." Just imagine those screaming headlines for that, eh.

Maybe this was really, really needed, but whether or not it was, the NSA is free to conduct broad and warantless searching of electronic communication, for at least six months, and toward that end, install what will likely be permanent backdoors to our information infrastructure, in order to monitor anything that "concerns persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States."

After half a year, either there will have been no spectacular terrorist attacks (see, it worked!), or there will have been a spectacular attack (we needed it sooner! We need more of this!), and the program will be renewed.

Collossally Bad Technical Marketing Department Permalink to this item

With a reboot pending to get back to being able to SEND email as well as receive it from my current ISP, CableOne, I followed a link from a blog and was redirected to a service page, telling me that my modem would cease to function on September 1st, 2007.

It seems mine isn't good enough for them anymore. They just thought they'd take over my session to let me know. Every web page I try to load redirects me, and I'm instructed to power cycle the modem, and "within a few minutes you will be able to surf again."

Within a few minutes, nice.

I'd love to give them some feedback, but experience has also shown that that is an unsatisfying thing to attempt. Let's just say that if I'm buying a new modem, I think I might get a DSL modem instead of cable modem, and their obsolescence notice is just the kick in the butt I've been needing to overcome that ISP switching hurdle. While I'm at it, I might just go with that DirectTV bundle Qwest has been trying to sell me, and say "bu BYE" to Cable...

I'm sure the changeover will cause headaches, and the new ISP will annoy me from time to time, but if I end up with better features, at least adequate service, and the same or lower monthly cost, I will be most appreciative of this incentive CableOne thoughtfully provided.

5.Aug.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Clearwater (Beach) Permalink to this item

From our hotel balcony in Clearwater Beach, Florida When we'd all arrived in Florida, had time to get to the hotel and so on, and sleep some, we gathered for our meeting. By way of "check-in" and introductions, we were invited to maybe share a travel story. If we had one. Good news for me, there were none to share this time around, just an uneventful and more or less on-time transit from the dry side of the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf side of Florida.

Moist. Very warm. Water in the sky, and in the air, and right next to our sandy spit, splashing in a reasonable facsimile of ocean waves (and ocean saltiness), driven by a steady southwest breeze.

Warm and humid at sunset, at dusk, at dawn, at sunrise, and hot well before mid-morning.

Most of our week was spent in air-conditioned spaces, sometimes in "comfort" and sometimes just cold. Our Tuesday stroll to the grocery store on a nearby island, for example... we ducked under the bridge to let the first wave of the squall go by, but before we'd finished our mile-long stroll, the second wave had set in with purpose, and we were seeking shelter from lanai to portico and wishing the architects had made them better connected. We were genuinely wet by the time we entered the store, and found it to be closer to refrigerated than air-conditioned. This is why the locals were all staying under-cover and watching our progress with amusement. It's cold when you get wet. Indoors. Outdoors, it was a lovely day for a stroll, or perhaps a swim.

Ok, just one travel story. Someone in United's "Ted" branded branch (at least) got the bright idea that they could unload and load planes twice as fast if they open the back door and use that, too. But not with a jetway, they're doing it with stairs: down to the tarmac, across to the building, and then up, up, up. The loading might have been a bit faster, the unloading was exactly zero minutes faster, and mildly annoying to boot, carrying-off all our luggage, of course, cheating the baggage handlers of the opportunity to lose or abuse our goods.

And then the same ol', same ol': don't connect in Denver (or Chicago!) in the summer time (or winter!) if you can avoid it. Thunderstorms and a good soaking downpour didn't hamper our arrival, but United couldn't get a plane for our outbound leg in until 3 hours past the schedule, getting us home about 1 am, Monday.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Sunday, 02-Sep-2007 09:03:44 MDT