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30.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Misscurrilous Permalink to this item

Nothing new under the sun in the realm of sarcasm directed at political figures, but now that it no longer requires buckets of ink (or the money to pay for it), we have new territory to explore. One Tina Jacobson, (now former) chair of the Kootenai County Republican Central was subjected to some relatively mild and temporary ridicule in a blog comment on Huckleberries Online, a property of the Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, decided to take it quite seriously, and has worked herself into a legal lather and a defamation suit. Motions and memoranda fly about the ether, and it may just be that the plain tiff's tempest in a teapot will add something useful to the legal corpus.

The S-R reply to a memorandum responding to a motion to quash a subpoena of one "almostinnocentbystander" and two demostrably innocent bystanders is, at least, some fine legal entertainment if you go no further than the artfully written footnote to the word "bluster" in the one-sentence introduction. To wit:

"In her Memorandum, Plaintiff accuses the Spokesman-Review of filing a "motion to protect the guilty," apparently equating her asserted defamation case against one anonymous poster in this case to criminal activity by the poster, which, of course, it is not. Plaintiff also imputes some degree of "guilt" to the two anonymous posters whose identities she seeks merely because they commented on the allegdly defamatory post. Apparently this equates to "guilt" by association. "Guilt," of course, is not the issue; but rather the potential stifling of criticism of Plaintiff in her capacity as County Chairperson of the Republican Party.

"At the same time, Plaintiff accuses the the Spokesman-Review of being a "shill" for legally impermissible speech and asserts that its brief constitutes a "myopic invocation of law," references to the Spokesman-Review that could certainly be viewed as derogatory and baseless. However, the Spokesman-Review recognizes that the context in which these derogatory terms have been thrown about is one in wich opinions are expressed at that, as a result, they do not constitute statements of fact, a distinction that Plaintiff apparently fails to recognize or ignores when it comes to the speech of others. ..."

29.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Free wives Permalink to this item

It seems the deputy director of Idaho's Liquor Division has a keen sense of potential offense, and in a move to save "a prominent segment of our population" from that fate, has banned the sale of Five Wives Vodka at state-run liquor stores. (All the liquor stores in Idaho are run by the state; a prominent segment of our population is OK with that.)

The fellow who makes the stuff made some lemonade out of that sourpuss action, and is now offering Free the Five Wives t-shirts. Good one.

Thanks to Huckleberries Online for the tip to today's taste of the crazy.

Back to the future Permalink to this item

Wired magazine is an engine of post-modernism if nothing else, and I often appreciate its entertainments. It had a repost of much of Dale Carrico's amusing riff on his Amor Mundi blog, The Unbearable Stasis of "Accelerating Change." I'm sure it won't be the last word on futurology. (As The Firesign Theatre succinctly reported , "the future? The future's not here yet.") But I don't imagine anyone else is going to jargonify "liberal theoryhead academic of the elite effete aesthete sort" in quite this way:

"When I lampoon 'movement' futurology as a Robot Cult it isn't only the defensive groupthink and guru worship and annual conventions of True Believers that lend plausibility to the attribution of 'cult' to what amounts to a lame pop-tech journalism fandom with delusions of grandeur (and, I should add, actually existing 'membership' organizations peddling '-isms' to the rubes). And when I declare that the more assertively 'techno-transcendental' varieties of futurological discourse (like the transhumanists, the singularitarians, the techno-immortalists, the nano-cornucopians, the digital-utopians) are simply extreme and hyperbolic variations of mainstream neoliberal global developmental policy discourse and mainstream marketing, advertising, and PR forms, this latter claim shouldn't be seen as undermining the first. Because there is an unmistakably faith-mobilizing pseudo-transcendentalizing strain to be discerned in this very PR marketing imaginary, deranging us from our present distress into a yearning toward consumer techno-futures bathed in pastels and robots and cars and DNA helices and chocolate and glossy hair and youthful skin and golden sex."

Memorial Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Light Cycle Permalink to this item

Reuven Cohen's contribution to Forbes is that Interest in Cloud Computing Has Peaked—by which he actually comes to say that "from the point of view of a buzz word," interest has peaked. Which would lead one to wonder just what would be a buzz word's point of view?

He's pulling his "recent stats" out of the Google cloud, and reminds us that it "[says] nothing of revenue or venture funding, it purely shows web search interest." My key metric on the other hand would be Scott Adams, even if his attempt to stick a fork in it 17 months ago didn't finish the job, and it required further illustration on Friday.

"I think we should virtualize the process and move it to the Cloud."

Hey, that's a great idea!

I like the Forbes piece for its breezy illiteracy:

"So what does this all mean? Gartner was right. [Was?] Cloud Computing is now beyond it's [sic] peak of inflated expectations and moving quickly into what they describe as a trough of disillusionment."

The Wheel of Hype Decision Maker Who are those they, anyway? Somebody. Gartner! With "Research Methodologies" (five times the strength of an ordinary "method") and the essential description of Hype Cycles. ("How Do You Use Hype Cycles? "Clients use Hype Cycles to get educated about the promise of an emerging technology within the context of their industry and individual appetite for risk.")

The only thing we lack is a Wheel of Fortune to facilitate the management decision-making process methodology to guide us over the Peak of Inflated Expectations and steadily on through the Trough of Disillusionment on up to the Plateau of Productivity.

And just to reassure you that it's not that simple (and to "add value," as they say) Gartner has located no fewer than 35 specific waypoints on this particular cycle. The penultimate waypoint before the plateau is "email services," since we all know how productive those are.

"...the most transformational technologies included in the Hype Cycle will include virtualization within two years; Big Data, Cloud Advertising, Cloud Computing, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Public Cloud computing between two and five years; and Community Cloud, DevOps, Hybrid Cloud Computing and Real-time Infrastructure in five to ten years."

So, brace yourself.

27.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Love can be confusing Permalink to this item

I've got two old associations with "brand," neither one particularly sublime. The first is past tense, everywhere but Wikipedia where the mid-60's TV series starring Chuck Connors is undead. (Weirdly enough, the topic sentence in that encyclopedia entry mentions Proctor & Gamble's sponsorship, working into the marketing theme of my post.) A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and part of mine remains occupied by that show's theme song.

The second association was provided by Carly Fiorina's star turn as head of HP, reworking the corporate logo to include the word "invent," and talking in public, and before large industry audiences about "branding" as if it were somehow more important than the old HP's purpose of delivering high quality products and services that provide lasting value. Fiorina went on to do quite a bit to the HP brand.

So, from that, to this, in the NYT Business Day, Goodbye to Windows Live (and Whatever It Meant). I hardly knew there was so much to Live for, having dabbled a bit in "Essentials" and then cast aside the video editing stuff as too frustrating, time consuming, and buggy. I could've used a little Mesh's file synchronization among the personal computers (and stuff) in the house. Windows Live Family Safety, Windows Live Writer? Too bad they didn't think of something to brand as Live Wire. That could've been as effective as a HailStorm.

Rajeev Batra, a marketing professor promoting a Brand Love theme ("using a grounded theory approach"), dissed the confusing and disparate amalgamation.

Even if the services had been closely tied to Windows, the public didnít perceive the brand as having the attributes that would serve associated products well. Professor Batra says, "Our brand-love research shows that loved brands reflect and symbolize deeply held personal values, such as Apple does for creativity," he says. "Windows and Live each lack this type of brand strength."

26.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Polarization Permalink to this item

You hear complaints (I know you do) that the two dominant political parties in this country are just two versions of the same thing. The closest thing to electoral influence a third party has had in my lifetime was Ross Perot making George H.W. Bush a one-term president, and maybe Ralph Nader tipping the 2000 election from Al Gore to George W. Bush. (Florida's Secretary of State and the SCOTUS did more tipping than Nader did.) It's not nothing, but it's not the something proponents of more diversity are after.

I have no experience to suggest that multiparty systems are inherently better, but it strikes me that they must be more interesting, at least. Egypt became very interesting after they overthrew one-party (and one-man) rule, with a "wild and fluid two-month campaign by more than a dozen candidates." Next up, a runoff to decide between the top two candidates, most of who voters didn't pick in the first round, but leaving a decision between a military strongman out of Mubarak's regime, and an Islamist.

And over in this country... things are apparently not polarized enough, such that the opposing sides need to make stuff up about each other to make things more exciting. Bill Maher's take: conservative whiners, please explain how our current president is the most radical, the most leftist, the most divisive president in history?

"If Obama were as radical as they claim, here's what he would have already done: pulled the troops out of Afghanistan, given us Medicare for all, ended the drug war, cut the defense budget in half, and turned Dick Cheney over the The Hague."

Or start with something easy, explaining how high gas prices are all Obama's fault (as more than half of Fox News' coverage claimed) but then cue crickets when prices go down.

Blue fist logo, AFL-CIO 'Stand With Wisconsin' In my home state, formerly known for its "progressive policy, upper-Midwestern civility," "clean and open and honest government" and its triangular headwear, we now have David Koch (the, ahem, real one this time) chipping in more to the Republican Governors Association working to prevent the recall of Scott Walker than Walker's Democratic opponent has raised in total. 60% of Walker's $25 million campaign funding coming in from out of state. Once upon a time, the Wisconsin Legislature established workmen's compensation, laws limiting labor for women and children, collective-bargaining rights for municipal and state employees, a forest-conservation act. Now it's on a tear to be the most politically divisive state in the union.

"President Theodore Roosevelt described Wisconsin as a 'laboratory for wise, experimental legislation to secure the social and political betterment of the people as a whole.' Native icons like the populist senator and governor Robert (Fighting Bob) La Follette and the conservationist Aldo Leopold still loom in the stateís collective consciousness and legislative record. More recently, Senator Russ Feingold cast the lone vote against the U.S.A. Patriot Act in 2001. ..."

Scott Walker's new notion he's selling as "innovation" is a laboratory for ALEC to practice government and union vivisection, co-opting the very word "progressive" as he serves the interests of the sources of his campaign funds from around the country.

Wisconsin's moment of truth at the polls is June 5. Egypt's is June 16-17.

At least he ditched the hoodie Permalink to this item

Excerpt of Noah Kalin's photo of the bride and groom, for comment The NYT Fashion & Style coverage of it will satisfy my curiosity, fully, about the day-after-IPO nuptials between Mark Zuckerberg and his mystery bride, Priscilla Chan. If you know me, you know I'm not a fashion snob, but I do have a rudimentary understanding of costuming. When you get married, and your bride puts on The Dress and there's a photographer and everything, for god's sake, if you don't know how to tie a tie and button your shirt, ask for help.

Otherwise, you will be a doe-eyed doofus, for eternity. No matter how many $billions and toys you manage to collect.

25.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

But not funny "ha ha" Permalink to this item

Not that it'll put a dent in Frank VanderSloot's self-serving lamentation in service to his job fundraising for Romney, but the Idaho Statesman gave Jody May-Chang some space on its opinion page to rebut his recent Reader's View. It bears repeating that

VanderSloot was not "featured" on the post that Fox News has been branding as an "enemies" list. The two-sentence paragraph at the page's bottom says nothing new and has been reported several times before (Statesman Oct. 21, 2011).

(Enemies list, really? Yes, hosted opinions from Rabbi Brad Hirschfield; Ted Olson, defending the Koch brothers' private citizenhood; political strategist Douglas Schoen; once featured but now broken video, part of the recent VanderSloot blitz; and on back to Chris Stirewalt in October, 2010.)

"VanderSloot has only himself to blame for his anti-gay record escaping beyond Idaho where his legal team is no longer able to control his image by threatening journalists who publish unflattering commentary about his actions.

"...[T]his would not have made it to or the Rachel Maddow Show if VanderSloot's attorneys didn't send me and other Idaho bloggers letters demanding we pull our stories. In my view, it is VanderSloot that made his anti-gay record into a national story, not the Obama campaign.

"For Mr. VanderSloot and his public relations campaign to paint him as a victim is laughable."

Groundhog Day Permalink to this item

You probably thought that was in February or something, but here it is late May, and The Donald is in the political scene again. Talking about how Obama was born in Kenya. No doubt he and newest BFF Mitt Romney will enjoy comparing notes on firing people when they get together to raise campaign funds in—where else?—Las Vegas.

Update: RT @Pres_Bartlet picked up from FB is more succinct:
Mitt Romney will be touring Nevada, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country, with a guy who's catchphrase is "You're Fired."

24.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Education rags to riches Permalink to this item

This looks like it might be Tom Luna's main chance to get back to the big leagues in D.C., and put the second act on his brief but heady stint during the G.W. Bush administration: he's a policy advisor for Mitt Romney!

There's no question that Luna knows something about the business of politics, but there are a ton of questions about his qualifications in the field of education. Starting with... where are they? Good for him serving on a school board and everything, and finishing that online degree through Thomas Edison State College, but where in the world is the beef? Is Romney lining up make-believe "deep and diverse experience" such as Tom Luna's in education for his other advisors?

And has Romney actually tasted the "most comprehensive education reform in the country" Kool-Aid or is he just going by the press releases that bank on wishing to make it so? If a hodge-podge of union-busting and teacher abusing measures and expressed enthusiasm for spending money on technology instead of wages arises to "comprehensive," we are in some deep trouble.

The most important thing about the Luna-driven reforms in Idaho is that they're fresh off the boat, not yet subjected to the coming referendum, mostly unimplemented, and almost completely unmeasured. Pass the legislation, and hop a freight out of here before the house of cards comes tumbling down. It's a beautifully self-serving strategy.

Luna hasn't worked the angle of banker-friendly student loan "reform" into his elevator speech, but it's bound to be one of the talking points in short order.

What's for lunch? Permalink to this item

Today's lunch, before assembly Something healthier at a school in Scotland, thanks to NeverSeconds, "one primary school pupil's daily dose of school dinners." I was in early on the world of blogging, but not as early as this girl! She's gone viral, for good reasons. And good eating. Last Thursday, she wrote: "Today my blog has become massive in Taiwan." Yesterday:

"Whilst I was having my tea my blog went through 1 million hits!"

And hey, anybody can play. "Veg" is getting lunch pix from Yokohama, Liberia, Taiwan, Chicago, Spokane, comments from around the world. She's busy enough without hearing from me, so I'll just picture ours here, from the top:

Flour tortillas, a lovely chicken-bean sauce on its second day, greens from the garden (lettuce, orache, oregano), Greek yogurt, red bell pepper, sharp cheddar, hot sauce. Bubbling apple cider (for our 32 years together) and oatmeal cookies not shown. 11/10 for nutrition and tastiness.

Better living through chemistry Permalink to this item

Stewart Brand's nicely edited notes from Susan Freinkel's talk, "Making plastic even better" went from a mailing list (SALT = Seminars About Long-term Thinking) to Wired and connected me to her "engaging and eye-opening book," Plastic: a Toxic Love Story, and to next month's "big conversation on the future of plastic" in Rio, Plasticity.

Why it matters: "we've produced as much plastic in the past decade as we did in the entire twentieth century."

Ah, here we go: Freinkel gave her talk at Cowell Theater in Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, on Tuesday (a.k.a. "May 22, 02012"). Brand's got a pay-as-you-go funding model for promulgating information: video available to "Members," who have at least $8/month to contribute. But hey, the audio is free. Just think of it like you were in another solar system and only had the radio waves coming in.

In keeping with the "Long Now" theme, it's an 84 min. audio stream. Pace yourself. (And the "previous seminars" list goes back to 2003! This is a site with many hours of interesting stuff.)

This just in, from 202 738-5606 Permalink to this item

The robot tried yesterday, left a little blip o' Mitt on voicemail. I was home to answer today, and to experience something between a late-night used Vegomatic salesman and an alarm clock. It started with a bit of verbal fine print about "not supported by any candidate or campaign," "a sound bite from Mr. Romney himself, and then the pitch, asking for "even $3" because they "must raise fifty million dollars" so that they can buy more robots, I would guess.


Mitt? Is that you? Can you hear me? Are you there?

Something tells me we're going to get another bazillion of these calls between now and November, whether or not I make my disaffiliation official in the great Republican robocall database in the sky.

Philosophical malpractice Permalink to this item

The reader board at the Calvary Baptist Church on S. Cole today:


If it were a purely religious view, perhaps we could wave it off with a cheery À chacun son goût, but quasi-scientific nonsense makes a rather embarrassing declaration on a public street, (let alone the purple prose of a website devoted to "scientific creation").

It's hard to know whether Mitt Romney's new-found interest in education and its funding has to do with education, religion, or just the reliable anti-union message that Republicans seem to love so well, but perhaps by pushing low-income and students with disabilities as a wedge into the door (civil rights!), we could get some good old taxpayer money into private, religious schools and teach such science as the Calvary Baptists imagine.

23.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Looney Tunes Sheriff Permalink to this item

First of all, stop saying Arizona's Sheriff, would you? He's Maricopa County's cross to bear, and no, county sheriffs are not the right hand of God under the Constitution, they're just law enforcement officers for the county.

Second of all, those Maricopa County taxpayers are being taken for a ride by Sheriff Joe, who's now sent a "threats unit" deputy to Hawai'i on the county taxpayers' dime, to check on our President's birth certificate. Or, um, "security issues" or something.

"He's not going to make any arrests," Arpaio said, to which I'm sure the Hawai'i Five-O guys would answer "yer darn tootin'."

22.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

TBD for President Permalink to this item

An affable fellow gathering petition signatures in front of the library wondered if I was a registered voter today. "Yes, I am." I told him, acting as if I otherwise just fell off the turnip truck for the sake of argument. It was the undead petition for the Americans Elect Party, asking that it be on the ballot. Not a person mind you, but the party, for whomever it might choose, presumably with an announcement ahead of time.

But the fellow's pitch was about a lot of other stuff ("internet voting," seriously?) that wasn't on the petition, and thus had really nothing to do with what he was asking me to sign. I'm pretty sure that's a crime, but at least not "carefully following the ballot access laws of each state" as they claim to do. He seemed like a nice guy, almost certainly hoping to get paid by the signature, and simply parroting the literature he'd been given to "sell" the idea.

As I had the first time around, a few months ago, I looked at the petition and found no match between what it said and what he was saying, and said no, I'm not going to sign that, and what you're doing is dishonest.

Funny thing is, the AEP put out a press release last week declaring its primary process for a nomination at an end, with no candidate, and really, no way forward. Apparently they lack a communication means to their signature gatherers as well as a candidate?

Makes a nice résumé stuffer to say you ran for President I guess. Think you could top Buddy Roemer and his 6,293 supporters? Draft your own or declare yourself. After you log in.

Inconspicuous consumption Permalink to this item

The nouveaux riches are keeping it cool. Even the big guy's house is "large but nondescript." $7 million, but Palo Alto's a "a suburb [sic] so expensive that even a small, no-frills house easily goes for $1.5 million these days." Somini Sengupta's dateline is next-door Menlo Park, likewise a "suburb" in the San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland conurbation.

Facebook's IPO created a few bazillionaires, and an estimate of "somewhere around 1,000 millionaires," by a "former venture capitalist turned wealth manager" eager to help some of them "make their money grow." He's casting about for a new company name, since even the word "wealth" is a bridge too far. (It's wealthfront now, previously "Ka-ching," very tacky among the cycling and kite-boarding set.)

Here's a tip from their Upfront Blog, for what to do if your company's lockup is expiring: "it pays not to panic, but to wait at least a day or two after the lockup expires to start your selling strategy." That's advice aimed at insiders at Groupon, Jive Software, Zynga and Angie's List, among the dozens busting out in May and June.

The interactive graphic accompanying the NYT piece illustrates how the Facebook offering compares with the history of tech IPOs to date quite wonderfully. I won't spoil the surprise of slide #2 for you.

Let's just say the original pricing (mid-$20s) was probably inflated enough; the market's quite clear in its sentiment that $38 was too high, still looking support at 17% below that on its third day of training.

Truth of the matter Permalink to this item

Graphic from story Life is complicated enough without intentional confusion; selected "facts" and statistics being hammered for partisan effect need to come with a warning against possible brain injury.

This just in, regarding our spending "inferno": government spending has actually leveled off during Obama's term.

"The 2009 fiscal year, which Republicans count as part of Obama's legacy, began four months before Obama moved into the White House. The major spending decisions in the 2009 fiscal year were made by George W. Bush and the previous Congress.

"Like a relief pitcher who comes into the game with the bases loaded, Obama came in with a budget in place that called for spending to increase by hundreds of billions of dollars in response to the worst economic and financial calamity in generations.

"By no means did Obama try to reverse that spending. Indeed, his budget proposals called for even more spending in subsequent years. But the Congress (mostly Republicans, but many Democrats too) stopped him. If Obama had been a king who could impose his will, perhaps what the Republicans are saying about an Obama spending binge would be accurate."

Rocket science Permalink to this item

NASA/Alan Ault photo; linked to NASA gallery And rocket business, as SpaceX successfully launches their Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral, with a 500 kg payload. As "development milestones" go, this is major. More to "have been met fully" before the "$1.6bn ISS re-supply contract kick[s] in."

NASA's supplying the web candy for commercial space transportation still, with pix, vids and mission updates.

The Dragon spacecraft, powered by solar arrays that have already unfurled, will rendezvous with the station and go through numerous navigation and other tests before it is allowed to approach close enough to the orbiting laboratory to allow the station's robotic arm to grapple it and connect it to the station.

"There's still a thousand things that have to go right, but we are looking forward to this exciting mission," said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program.

Love the abbreviation for that: C3PO.

21.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Would you buy a used candidate from this guy? Permalink to this item

One of the demon sheep from Carly Fiorina's failed Senate bid Fred Davis III and I have something in common: we like to work from home, without the tedium of business travel and troublesome interference from clients. But unlike Fred, I don't have a director's chair with my name printed on the back, and I don't have a dozen dead animal heads looking over my shoulder. And I don't make creepy campaign videos for SuperPACs for millions of bucks a whack, either. Maybe the animals he's killed are haunting his brain.

Back to the future Permalink to this item

Mohamed Bouazizi's decision to sacrifice himself sparked the Arab Spring in more than a dozen countries. We have friends traveling in the country where it started, and the news does not sound good. Having put an end to the dictatorship of Ben Ali, a.k.a. "Le Grand Voleur" (the great thief), what happens next is very much up in the air.

"Tunisians are making full use of their new freedoms, as demonstrations are happening almost daily. The largest, most frequent, center on what kind of constitution should be written. One side wants Sharia, based on a literal interpretation of the Koran, the other wants no mention of Islam, completely secular. Large crowds of fundamentalists known as salafists, regularly gather calling for a very conservative religious state, and sometimes they get violent. Similarly large crowds demonstrate for protecting basic secular freedoms, including the right to buy and drink alcohol, and openly disobey Ramadan, that 'holiest' month where believers fast from daybreak to sunset. (Slackers and miscreants must eat and drink privately.) Central to all this, is the struggle over the role of women."

It's hard to imagine there is middle ground to be found.

"Ordinary Tunisians say they are worried. The police are not trying very hard to stop the salafist outbursts. Journalists have been beaten. Media, government, and political party offices have been attacked and ransacked, and no one is arrested. Women say they don't go out because they are afraid of the salafists, even more than the common street thugs.

"With the secret police gone, people are free to say and do as they please, and its often not pretty. Gone are the enforcers of littering laws, so trash is a problem. Graffiti is taking over, and seems to evoke a collective shrug. Building code enforcement is also gone, so a building boom continues even though it is said there are no investors.

"Tourists are staying away in droves, leaving mile after mile of fancy beach hotels eerily quiet. We've been getting unbelievable bargains at absurdly garish hotels, eating nearly alone in cavernous dining halls."

And this, reported on tunisialive earlier this month: religious extremists attacking tourists and students, "brandishing sticks and stones."

They don't envision democracy as having a planning and zoning meeting to decide where and when alcohol can be sold, for example, but rather more directly, burn down bars, and the house (and cars) of a bar owner for good measure. The police... suggest praying to God for revenge.

18.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

32 years downwind Permalink to this item

Not too early on Sunday, May 18, 1980, the latest spectacular explosion of Mt. St. Helens was touched off by an earthquake and fracture of the north flank, triggering a massive landslide, a phenomenal explosion that sent ash 12 miles high, and a massive catastrophe. The opening acts had started two months earlier, and everyone in the region knew something was coming, even as very few knew the scale of what was possible. Preliminary eruptions sending ash a couple miles into the air, and most falling in the Cascade mountain range seemed "local" even if some ash could be detected hundreds of miles away.

While bringing back my memories of the largest cataclysm I've ever experienced, and looking at the historical artifacts, one that stands out is the section of the USGS documents giving comparisons with other eruptions of this same and other volcanoes. Three of the largest four have happened in the last two centuries, with ample historical record: Mount Katmai in Alaska; Krakatau and Tambora in Indonesia. The estimated biggest is also in the Pacific Northwest, the explosion of Mt. Mazama that formed Crater Lake in Oregon.

Mt. St. Helens itself is on the list as well, with three eruptions all estimated larger than the one in 1980. C.1900 B.C., it's estimated there was an eruption several times larger, equal to that of Vesuvius (in ejecta volume) in the year 79.

Description of just this "smallest" of the ones we know still beggars my imagination.

Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980. USGS photo taken by Robert Krimmel

Hitchhiking from Moscow, Idaho, to Anacortes, Washington, with an absurdly late start on Saturday, I ended up somewhere in the vicinity of a SE Washington town so small you can barely find its name on a map to appreciate the foreshadowing: Dusty. You can still find Othello, WA, on the map, and there's still a gas and groc at the crossroads, where the fellow who gave me a ride early Sunday morning and I stopped for something to eat. He called me out to "look at this big storm that's coming."

It gives me a chill to remember coming outside, looking at the sky, and recognizing in an instant that "Mount Saint Helens blew up." A wall of pulverized mountain, still in the distance to the southeast, was headed our way.

He was going to Ellensburg; I needed to get to the other side of the Cascades. Still, in a moment of candor that he didn't take as seriously as he should have, I told him that if it were my brand new RX-7 we were in, I would turn the other way, and step on it. We drove on, under the darkening cloud still above us, stopped once while the air was still clear at ground level, and I realized that the indescribably ominous tableau unfolding overhead was not so slow-motion as it seemed at highway speed: water clouds billow at a speed you can barely detect; silica ash from a Cascades volcano billows fast enough you can watch the future unfold. By this time for us, it was unfolding directly overhead, directly down upon us, and static electricity sparked lightning in it.

Before the ash reached the ground, midday had turned to twilight, the sliver of daytime sky receding far to the east. When it reached the ground, the middle of the day was turned to blackest night, and we slowed to 25 mph and tried to keep sight of the fogline to avoid driving off the road.

Estimated distribution of ash from 1980 eruption, and my path through it The "big picture" map of ash depth, up to half an inch in yellow, ½ to 2" in orange, and 2-5" in red, is smoother than reality. Vantage, where the highway crosses the Columbia River (right dot), got a full 5-inch dump. Thirty miles up the road to Ellensburg (left dot), there were "only" a couple inches, but enough for the highway patrol to decide they should close I-90 for the duration, thus blocking my escape, and leaving me and a hundred+ refugees to spend the night at a local church.

We reached Ellensburg about 2pm as the initial fall had started to subside to an eerie twilight. (Still welcome, though: coming down the grade to Vantage, it seemed the sun might be blotted out for days.) I walked through town from my driver's destination to the bus station, leaving footprints in gray ash, marvelling at the powder still falling out of the sky. No buses going anywhere. Someone gave me a ride to the church on the east side of town, about the time a second big dump and wave of darkness came through, subsiding in time to expose sunset colors, orange-red, far to the east.

(The best single page report on the 1980 eruption I came across on the web is by Robert Tilling, Lyn Topinka and Donald Swanson, for the USGS, written 10 years after: Eruptions of Mount St. Helens: Past, Present, and Future. If you get to that, and down to photo MSH80_blowdown_smith_creek_09-24-80.jpg, showing some of the 150,000 homes' worth of damaged timber, do note the caption, and find the "two U.S. Geological Survey scientists (lower right) [who] give scale.")

Frank VanderSloot's fine whine Permalink to this item

It's old news by now, but it takes a while for the Pony Express to reach our far outpost, even when one of our own is the subject, and he's turning into a regular on the Fox Newsfauxtainment network. Front page fishwrap headline screams Idaho businessman VanderSloot says Obama is smearing him! There is one new piece of information in Sean Cockerham's piece: after the previously reported item that VanderSloot claims he lost a "couple hundred" customers—some time, whenever it's most convenient to amplify his tale—out of his 800,000 or so, he now tells the Statesman that "all the attention was turning out to be good for business." (To say nothing of fundraising for Romney.)

"We're getting a ton of national support, unbelievable, unexpected. The phones are ringing off the hook, everyone wanting to know about Melaleuca, people wanting to buy our product, they don't even know what we're selling."

Just send me some of that anti-Obama cream! (You might be able to find a better price on clown white than through Melaleuca though. I'm just saying.)

It is, however, Mr. VanderSloot who has the penchant for "rewriting history, as it were," that he likes to accuse others of doing. What's "smearing" is the whitewash Fox News and its pundits are applying to the historical record of VanderSloot's anti-gay activism.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of trees Permalink to this item

Bachelor buttons, drawn on the Palouse, scanned in 1997 The University of Idaho Arboretum and Botanical Garden has been recognized with Level III (penultimate) accreditation by the Morton Register of Arboreta. That's for at least 500 species of trees and woody plants, a dedicated curator, professional collaboration, and a substantial program of education, among other things.

Charles Houston Shattuck started it by sprucing up a 14-acre weedy slope west of the Admin building in 1910, and since then it's grown to 63 acres and much more than beautification (although it does provide that).

Not mentioned in the U of I's press release, my botanical mentor at the U of I, Dr. Richard J. Naskali, was instrumental in expanding the arboretum and its collection. You can get a flavor of his enthusiasm (and photography) in the most recent Arbor Notes newsletter, especially the piece on page 10, "By the Numbers: How Many Flowers in One Infloresence?"

And if you're in or around Moscow, don't miss the next Arboretum plant sale (and do plan on getting there early!): June 2, at the Latah Co. Fairgrounds.

17.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Character matters Permalink to this item

How about a superPAC campaign playbook to light up your morning? Fred Davis and Joe Ricketts sound like Waylon Smithers and Montgomery Burns, "release the hounds!" Ricketts is trading the fortune he made off others' trading at TD Ameritrade, and being the patriarch of the perennially losing Chicago Cubs. Nothing quite like having $10 million or so at your disposal to "take a stand" with a smear campaign, outlined with a "professionally bound," illustrated proposal.

GOP Strategist Fred Davis has quite the history of "evok[ing] racism, xenophobia, or general aversions to anything 'other'." (Not to mention the incomparable demon sheep for Carly Fiorina.) All they need is to round up some black guy to be the front man, to beat the inevitable charges of race-baiting their, um, race-baiting? will produce.

And their very own domain name, They've got .org and .net to stymie parodies, but really, this thing parodies itself. Character Matters. PAC. Dot com. Done.

"The document makes clear that the effort is only in the planning stages and awaiting full approval from Mr. Ricketts. People involved in the planning said the publicity now certain to surround it could send the strategists back to the drawing board."

What a shame that would be.

"But it serves as a rare, detailed look at the birth of the sort of political sneak attack that has traditionally been hatched in the shadows and has become a staple of presidential politics.

"It also shows how a single individual can create his own movement and spend unlimited sums to have major influence on a presidential election in a campaign finance environment in which groups operating independently of candidates are flourishing."

The strategists lament that "elusive independent" voters "still aren't ready to hate this president," but the team of strategists seems to have more than enough hate to go around, with their own "bumbling, crude attempts to inject social issues and class warfare into this election," as they so like to accuse Obama of doing. Here's from the overview:

"With a goal of incurring maximum attention in a limited amount of time with a finite budget, we recommend hitting Barack right between the eyes. A five-minute unusually unique film bringing his tutorship beneath Reverend Wright and others right to the forefront of popular discourse. A film that explodes on the world at just the right time...

"We start by raising an eyebrow. Teasers, hints of dark clouds to come... Then, at the magic moment, a barrage of one-minute mini-version of the film... All aimed at pushing voters to a website to view the full five-minute film, where we will capture, of course, their data."

Not your "typical, political 'video,'" but rather "much closer in scale and quality to your theatrical productions." Face-replacement technology to put "Barack Obama's computer-generated face on the filmed body of a similary-sized actor" who will follow directions to make a "spectacular short film."

"While the potential narrator is listed as Jon Voight, perhaps there is someone in the Ricketts film world who would be appropriate? In particular, we should at least discuss this narrator being an African American."

Consider it under discussion!

Update: all in the same news cycle, Romney "repudiated" the proposed effort, and Ricketts' "preliminary approval" vanished under the hot lights of media scrutiny. The Mercury News:

At the same time, Romney stood by remarks made in February on Sean Hannity's radio show that Obama wanted to make America "a less Christian nation."

"I'm not familiar, precisely, with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was," Romney said.

16.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Everybody should get out their checkbooks Permalink to this item

Vandersloot, grinning with Bill O'Reilly's check in his hands Not to give my, or anybody's conservative uncle and his crazy emails a bad name... but really, people, Fox News?

"Less than flattering terms" is a beautiful construct, innit? You remember flattery, of course—that thing that's supposed to get you nowhere. More than flattering terms would be fulsome; equal to flattering is excessive, usually intended for ingratiation; and less than flattering... well, it might be accurate. Let's go look at this website where those terms are spelled out. Scrolling...

Frank Vandersloot is the national finance co-chairman of the Romney campaign and, through his company Melaleuca, has donated $1 million to Restore Our Future. He is also a "litigious, combative, and a bitter foe of the gay rights movement" who "spent big" on ads in an "ultimately unsuccessful effort to force Idaho Public Television to cancel a program that showed gays and lesbians in a favorable light to school children."

Yup, that's less than flattering. Must be a good example of... Obama terrorism?! Sliming and smearing, and ample reason to have Mitt Romney's national finance co-chairman on for five fundraising (aka "news") segments.

Rachel Maddow on a new national ride on teh crazy, "alternate reality conservative media scandal that makes sense to nobody outside the conservative mediasphere," wherein Frank Vandersloot plays the victim card, and Bill O'Reilly puts his money where Mitt's mouthpiece is.

Prunus Permalink to this item

We stopped at Skookumchuck on the way home Monday, MDT lunchtime on a perfect spring morning in the Salmon River valley. The centerpiece of the picnic area is a big old plum tree, maybe a hundred years old? Its blossoms had come and gone, and fruit is on the way.

Two things in Nassrine Azimi's op-ed piece, Cherry Blossoms in Fukushima connect to those dots: how much further along the season is in one of Idaho's warm valleys, and old trees. Very old trees:

"In Fukushima we had tried to see the famous Takizakura, the 1000-year old weeping cherry tree and a national treasure, in full bloom just then. News stories were circulating about how residents of temporary housing units were finding solace in this ancient beauty. Not surprisingly, it was so crowded we gave up.

"Instead, that evening we visited a younger cherry tree in a nearby valley—this one a gentle giant of about 400 years. It stood by a stream, showering the small temple next to it with pink petals. The perfume of spring was everywhere and I could hear the reassuring croaking of the frogs."

15.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Reality disconnect Permalink to this item

The Romney campaign's writers came up with a new meme for the day, trying to ignite some enthusiasm for their guy. Our "spending inferno" is a "prairie fire," don't you know, just the message to wake up Iowans, who haven't hosted much in the way of "prairie" for what, three or four generations?

But everbody understands big red truck, and the manly hero of childhood fantasy, even if a guy in a suit and tie proposing he'll "bring us together to put out the fire" sounds vaguely cock-eyed. It's a metaphoric fire, so maybe a metaphoric CEO/fire-fighter would be the very thing.

Not that his supporters are big on facts and figures, but if they were, they might notice that Mitt's pants are on fire, mostly.

The verdict is in Permalink to this item

George W. Bush, Richard B. "Dick" Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, war criminals, according to the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission. They'll be forwarding their materials to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations and the Security Council.

Renouncing my affiliation Permalink to this item

It's been three or four hours since we rode our bike to Leisure Villa and cast our votes. Since it's a matter of public record now, no reason to beat around the bush. Jeanette looked over the three step instructions posted on the door and decided my plan made sense to her, but then discovered she had a pre-set affiliation; something about being on the ballot for Democratic precinct committeeman, we assume.

I declared my affiliation for the Republican Party, just to go on record in the least useful way for the idiots who have inserted three steps between me and a primary ballot. I voted Democratic because that was where my vote was most needed for the races in our district, and because Jeanatte was on the ballot, and how could I not vote for her?

And now, I'm happy to renounce my affiliation with the Republican Party and the crazy horse it rode in on.

Love and weasels Permalink to this item

The Gregory Brothers mash-up Mitt's many likes and loves. Almost heart-warming.

Which the story of Romney's high-school bullying is not. The dust-up in the news last week caught my attention, but without knowing if it was one person's hearsay, or what, I was waiting to see what it amounted to. Friday's account in The Washington Post gives what seems to be adequate documentation of what happened, the incident "recalled similarly by five students, who gave their accounts independently of one another."

And Romney says he doesn't even remember it happening.

Or at least he has a spokeswoman to forward his non-memory.

Andrea Saul, said in a statement that "anyone who knows Mitt Romney knows that he doesn't have a mean-spirited bone in his body. The stories of fifty years ago seem exaggerated and off base and Governor Romney has no memory of participating in these incidents."

But in any case, this isn't one of the "youthful antics" showing Mr. Romney's "capacity for harmless, humanizing pranks and as an indication of his looser, less wooden self."

Timothy Egan's not reading it as evidence of anything in particular, but the present-day response adding to the pattern of "continuing inability to honestly face up to his own life story," and "a tendency to dodge, weave, parse or deny in such a way that it outweighs the original offense." It's not a bully problem, it's a weasel problem.

14.May 2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Blogiversary Permalink to this item

Cary finishing the sheathing this morning Not a lot to say for the last couple of days, because I've been off on whatever you'd call a break from the regular routine and you go and work your butt off on a little construction project. The topic was a garage of a certain age, old enough to have acquired cedar shingles and then two layers of asphalt shingles, and then to need all that torn off and start over. It had a style about it, made to match the hundred year-old house it accompanies, but we don't think it was quite that old. Maybe half? There have now been four generations of Driskells up on that roof, working to keep the insides dry. (That's one of Gen 3 in the photo, nailing the last of the sheathing on Monday morning.)

Anyway, what I said to kick this thing off 12 years ago today still seems like a pithy observation about where we are, even if the "blogging" reaching mainstream seems an internet century ago:

This is what those thousands of years of evolution were all about: being able to share our thoughts with a million other humans.

Not that I've reached a million readers, but you never know.

10.May.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You're welcome to vote Democratic on Tuesday Permalink to this item

No tax dollars needed for the Idaho Democratic Party's presser reminding voters that when they go to the polls next week, anyone who wants to can vote Democratic, regardless of the affiliation we now get to publicly express for the benefit of Rod Beck, Norm Semanko and their ilk. (I just love it when I get to say "ilk," don't you?)

Unaffiliated, Democrat, Republican, Constitutionalist, Libertarian, bring us your poor, your huddled votes yearning to breathe free, they're all welcome.

"Republicans are the only party that is choosing to be exclusionary. They will only let registered Republicans vote in the Republican primary. They sued the state to impose this restriction on Idaho voters, and they succeeded."

The Dems spent some staff time I suppose, but not even 1% of the $200,000 the Secretary of State spent on their information campaign. For supposedly being the party of fiscal responsibility and smaller government, the Republicans turn out to be rather expensive to keep around. We had to pay their lawyers for suing the state, too.

Democratic Party chairman Larry Grant:

"Republicans closed their primary election in an effort to purify their ranks and purge moderate and reasonable candidates. Thank Republicans for the confusion and angst among voters. Democrats respect that Idaho voters pride themselves on independence and respect their desire for privacy in the voting booth. We welcome all to vote in the Democratic primary."

And after the Republicans provided for an arrangement very few voters had any interest in, made us pay for them to do it to us, made us pay for it again with a needed voter information campaign, they rolled out their chairman, Norm Semanko, to tell us how open and inclusive they are, because...

  1. you couldn't hardly tell from the facts of the matter;
  2. if they say it often enough, it will be true;
  3. when you wish upon a star and lie through your teeth, your nose will grow; or
  4. all of the above.

If only Obama could be more like Dick Permalink to this item

Maybe you've heard that the President of the United States said that he thinks same sex couples should be able to get married.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

We recognize that some folks are upset about this and aren't prepared to admit this is a civil rights issue, and if it goes against their religion, or whatever, that's ok, they don't have to do it themselves. Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church is so upset, he was falling all over the false equivalency of how "there is not that same kind of oppression and opposition, though it's always bandied about that it's just like the black civil rights movement," and he "[hasn't] seen a lot of gay people in the back of the bus recently or lynched or some of the things that blacks went through," and "is this more of a recruiting mechanism for the gay lifestyle, as opposed to a genuine, legitimate absence of civil rights?"

(Evan Wolfson tried to reassure him with the results in the state of New York, where "the gay people didn't use up all the marriage licenses. Nothing bad happened. No one was hurt.")

We understand this may be polarizing for some folks. But the Log Cabin Republicans? These people need a serious stretch to find the bad in this. Obama didn't do it soon enough to stop the people of North Carolina from outlawing same sex marriage at their polls this week, don't you know. And it took so long for him to "finally come in line with leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney on this issue."

I mean, three measly pages of accomplishments? What's up with that? And this wishy-washy statement from last October:

"Every single American—gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It's a pretty simple proposition."

But seriously, Dick Cheney? In the 2004 campaign, he and his running mate engineered initiatives against gay marriage in a series of swing states," if you want to talk about calculating. And once he was safely into history's footnotes, he made a lukewarm, if surprising statement of support for "any kind of union they wish," as regulated state-by-state, so in 31 states (as of North Carolina's Tuesday vote), that would be no support whatsoever.

I'll go with the current President on this issue, notwithstanding the Log Cabin folk.

9.May.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Closed primary, brought to you by an open and inclusive party Permalink to this item

Supposedly, cross-over voters in Idaho were monkey-wrenching the Republicans' desire to be as crazy as they wanted to be, and they sued to be able to exclude the riff-raff. Never mind that they have a super-majority in both bodies of the legislature, all the statewide offices, in "the most one-party state and least electorally competitive state in the United States," independents, Democrats and the other party people were hurting them! Given a chance to make their case in court, they... didn't actually offer any evidence of harm. So that failed.

But freedom of association! That won the day, Judge Lynn Winmill ruling that they could indeed freely associate, and disassociate, and close their primary, in order to choose more ideologically extreme candidates, if that's what they want.

And that is so what Norm Semanko's wing of the party does want. Come next Tuesday, voters will have to declare an affiliation (or lack thereof) before voting in the primary, and only those who declare Republican can obtain and cast a GOP ballot.

Norm Semanko issued an editorial [sic] today, breaking it down in terms his readers could relate to: a football analogy, using the "rivalary" [sic] between the Boise State Broncos and the Idaho Vandals as (rather apt) stand-ins for the Republicans and Democrats.

"[I]t might help to imagine a rivalry football game between the Boise State Broncos and the Idaho Vandals ... in which Coach Peterson selected the starting lineup for the Vandals, and Coach Akey selected the starting lineup for the Broncos. You would say that is crazy! But that is precisely what has happened in Idaho primary elections for almost 40 years. Non-GOP voters regularly switched over and voted in the Republican primary since they know their parties have difficulties electing their own candidates. In fact, a survey conducted in 2010 by a professional pollster found that almost 40% of non-GOP voters in Idaho admitted to having voted in a Republican primary."

Now the GOP chairman might have used this convenient excuse—Democrats have picked their starting lineup for almost 40 years!—to explain the sorry state of state politics, but no, he's just mindlessly thumping a Vote Republican drum. (Just like it used to be, except now you have to make a declaration and go on record before voting Republican. Watch for a campaign contribution solicitation in a mailbox near you!)

Meanwhile, we have the interesting spectacle of GOP stalwarts eating their own, as back room hacks such as Lou Esposito shuffle PAC money into primary matchups rejiggered by redistricting. (Esposito had done his best to hack the redistricting process too, but failed at that, leaving a slightly less partisan group to finalize it.)

Republicans espousing the goal of making others' lives miserable... it's almost like the Legislature is back in session.

Watch your step Permalink to this item

Photo courtesy of the Boise National Forest Mother nature's up to a little of her own artwork this spring, slimming down F.R. 327 along the north fork of the Boise river from "road" to "pedestrian pathway." That would be the all-natural weight loss plan. Thanks to the Boise NF for the picture, and KBOI for posting it on their website.

As of yesterday, the river managers were still running the main through Boise at near-8,000 cfs, well above what's called "flood stage" now (7k), and well over the natural flow as they reserve >10% reservoir capacity to deal with the vagaries of May weather. They're actually draining the reservoir system, down from 90% to 87% at last report, 10k cfs out of the lowest one, vs. 7k natural flow.

Not sure what flood stage on the N fork is, but 3660 cfs is enough for some remodeling, anyway.

Idaho roots Permalink to this item

Our friend Jim Prall is getting some extra mileage out of his 15 minutes of fame, in the Lewiston Morning Tribune. It's behind their paywall, but on a recent visit to Boise, he told us pretty much everything he told reporter David Johnson, and more, about making "amends" for disturbing the peaceful passage of ExxonMobil/Imperial Oil's oversized equipment on its way from Korea to Alberta's tar sands.

(Was there ever a more aptly named company than "Imperial Oil"?)

He's planting some trees on the edge of Moscow, "converting his five-acre hay field to an urban forest will be a lasting reminder that natural resource extraction must be countered by restoration." Call that "semi-urban," though: he's outside the city limits of north Idaho's sleepy college town, and hoping to keep it that way.

Prall's experience with protesting goes back to the 1960s, when law enforcement wasn't as polite as they were for this round:

"In the '60s, they didn't take you to jail. They just beat the crap out of you. They carried Joan Baez and delicately placed her in the paddy wagon. And then they turned around and wailed the tar out of us."

He admits his guilt:

"You bet I was disturbing the peace. I plead guilty to disturbing the peace. I'm always disturbing the peace," he said. "The peace needs disturbing more often around here to get these young people woke up."

What a fine legacy he might leave, if his 25 white pine seedlings survive the rodents and warming. One of our state's 14 native trees, Pinus monticola has had a hard go of it against loggers, pine beetles, fire suppression (yes, suppression) and mostly, white pine blister rust. Fewer than 10% of the trees survive from the good old days, making its designation as our "state tree" somewhat ironic. From the LMT:

When he's done, Prall estimated he'll have planted around 2,000 trees. He acknowledged that he won't be around to see them at full maturity, but he's giving them a start, creating, in effect, carbon credits for the future.

"I'm out there on my hands and knees putting baby trees in the ground," Prall said, "to mitigate the fact that we're rushing headlong toward destruction and that enough people aren't planting enough trees."

8.May.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Home of the whopper Permalink to this item

Mitt Romney stumping in Ohio strains credulity farther than, well, you would've thought was humanly possible:

"I'll take a lot of credit for that fact that [the auto industry] has come back."

It's a coffee spitter, and he glides over it smoother than the Teflon gipper. You say you'll what?

David Firestone deconstructs.

fotoMuses Permalink to this item

Photo by Joanne Barsanti, © 2012; Used with permission Bloomingdale( Illinois)'s oldest building, and some of my big sister's newest work: "One by One" in Gallery II, opening reception 2-4pm on Sunday, May 20th. She's new to the fotoMuses group, but looks like a great addition if you ask me. Not that I'm unbiased or anything, but she's showing some talent at this. So glad she gave up working for hire and started working for love.

Sore losergram Permalink to this item

Did you hear the news? If not, Rick Santorum's strategy to downplay his endorsement of Mitt Romney worked to a tee. We miss the splashier swan song of a Newt Gingrich, or the I'm-not-dead-yet political machinations of Ron Paul's supporters. (Motto: "we could still win!")

While some may find the question of whether Santorum will have a speaking slot at the convention compelling, the only thing I'm left wondering is which is less attractive, "lukewarm," or "tepid"?

Sailing off through night and day and in and out of weeks Permalink to this item

My memory of Where the Wild Things Are is inextricably bound with the Whitefish Bay public library, and the children's section I haunted around the time it came out. In Maurice Sendak's obituary today I see that was 1963, which would have been near-perfect timing for my reading appetite. I wanted to know where the other books like this one were.

Growing up in a safe and leafy suburb, the scary teeth of the monsters were not all that sharp; unlike Sendak, the "looming terrors" in my life were not very real. We had air raid drills and I could give some thought to what would happen if the Communists started WW III, but it hardly seemed likely and would be The End, at any rate, so What Me Worry? as I was reminded by some of my other illustrated reading material. None of the Depression, the war, or the Holocaust impinged on my awareness and I'd never heard of the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. And I had no secret as dark as his to hide from my parents for ever and ever.

...he cherished the letters that individual children sent him unbidden, which burst with the sparks that his work had ignited.

"Dear Mr. Sendak," read one, from an 8-year-old boy. "How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there."

7.May.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Happy anniversary Permalink to this item

The local paper made a bold move putting Fred Kaplan's May 1st opinion at the top of the Insight section yesterday, under their own headline, considerably more risible in this neighborhood of supporters for the Republican nominee than what Slate used: Romney attacks on Obama over bin Laden raid are preposterous.

"Preposterous" being the new normal in U.S. politics (and it is the charge Kaplan himself leveled). Said supporters have long written off the Idaho Statesman as just another example of the liberal lamestream media, but I wouldn't be surprised by a flurry of cancel-my-subscription letters on their way.

As Romney presses his case against an incumbent President, what Kaplan said: anything bad that happened in recent memory is Obama's fault. Anything good that happened was hardly his doing. And besides, it should have been gooder. That's an easy argument to make for the economy, which no one really understands, knows how to measure, or how to predict, and the weather forecast, but not so easy for a successful military intervention. The American people re-elected George W. Bush on the basis of a largely unsuccessful military intervention, you might recall. (Its primary virtue was timing: the full cost was still unrealized in 2004, and George and Dick didn't need to give a fig about John McCain's taking the hit 4 years later.)

And any mention of Jimmy Carter is a dog whistle brilliant argument. "Even Jimmy Carter" would have ordered the raid, and even Barack Obama's re-election bid would have faltered had the raid failed in any significant way. Had Carter's gutsy move to launch the mission to rescue American hostages in Iran succeeded, the economy might have rebounded out of malaise sooner, we'd remember Ronald Reagan as an OK actor rather than the savior of the free world, the younger Bush would have been recognized as having reached his Peter Pinnacle as Governor of Texas, and Dick Cheney could have stayed under a Wyoming rock.

But that was then, this is now.

Daring and skill and luck and deadly resolve and two extra helicopters got the job done, and there is quite possibly nothing the Romney campaign could talk about to less beneficial effect than foreign policy. It's hard to forgo what has worked in the past, however, and the recent Romney go was from an old playbook. Kaplan:

"Romney's position—or, more accurate, his pose—on these issues is so preposterous, one can only surmise that he can't be serious. More likely, he and his proxies in the right-wing press are adopting Karl Rove's strategy of attacking the opponent's strengths. In the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry's war-hero status posed a threat against George W. Bush, so Rove and the Swift Boaters painted Kerry as a war coward; Kerry and his team were so flummoxed, they didn't know how to respond. Now Mitt Romney, who has no foreign-policy experience whatever, is painting Obama as the dangerous naif."

The anniversary is past, and the dust will settle, and we'll be back to plan A: the bad economy is all Obama's fault, and the good economy isn't as good as it should be if Mitt were king of the world instead of merely heir apparent of a celestial kingdom in an undisclosed location.

Cinco de Mayo Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our tax dollars (and cents) in play Permalink to this item

The reverse side of a 2010 penny, cropped Middle of last summer, I got one of those dreaded piece of mail, from the IRS. They'd found something wrong... but not much, and not explained, and no immediate action needed. It seems that somehow, my recordkeeping and the return that TurboTax generated and e-filed did not line up with their calculations, to the tune of $1.77. Since they tell you to round dollar amounts, I thought the cents were odd, and I was curious how they'd arrived at the figure, but the letter didn't explain, and the prospect of calling a number and working through some number of support agents was not quite so alluring that I was willing to give it a go. Neither did it seem worth writing a letter and so on. (It certainly wouldn't be worth it in the big scheme of things. There's no way the Department of Treasury can receive and respond to a letter for less than ten times the amount at issue.)

Since our estimated taxes for 2010 had been more than what we ended up owing, and I'd told them to apply the refund (which was more than $1.77) toward our 2011 taxes, the only thing I needed to do was to make a note of the difference in what I thought we'd paid for 2011's estimated taxes and what the IRS calculated.

Which of course I didn't do in the middle of last summer.

And didn't do when the mid-April deadline loomed and it was time to do another year's returns.

Yesterday, another letter from the IRS arrived. Having not remembered any of the forgoing, all I had was the same old "oh oh" feeling any such letter provides. But reading the notice, it all started coming back to me. We were $1.77 short again, and more: a Failure-to-pay penalty of 0.01.

That's right, a penalty of one cent.

But the summary of the adjustment to my estimated tax total had a curious new math to it, totalling up to an amount due of $0.00. The What you need to do section, under If you agree with the changes we made said:

"You don't need to respond to this notice. We reduced your account balance to zero because the amount owed was so small. Please don't send a payment."

Um, ok.

Funny thing is, after the returns were done and filed and the checks cashed, I realized I'd forgotten a couple of charitable deductions for Idaho educational institutions, for which the state provides a generous 50% tax credit, and so worth the trouble to amend our returns.

Which leaves the question of what to do about the $1.77.

3.May.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Head in the cloud Permalink to this item

Sharon Fisher's piece on her Yottabytes blog, I Need a Synchronizer for My Cloud Storage Synchronizers is entertaining, and shades of troubles to come for your and her and my cloud-based storage. How do you keep track of the GB dribs and drabs all over the place, and your credentials to get at them?

This is right in the sweet spot for what she rights about on IT Knowledge Exchange, in the category of "storage and disaster recovery." Sounds like a disaster already, doesn't it?

"What I really want is one thing that would check all my cloud storage systems and tell me what's in each of them. And maybe while it's at it, it could also keep track of all the various special offers I get for more free cloud storage space—and when they're going to expire, and how to move the files around so I don't get charged for anything. ..."

Spring runoff Permalink to this item

View from the Glenwood bridge cam this morning The National Weather Service files it under Flood Warning but the text starts with "FLOOD STATEMENT" which is more accurate for the managed Boise River system: we dialed it up to 8,000 cfs, which is "flooding," and we plan to keep it there through the end of the week.

The (provisional) teacup tally shows the system with 10% space available, and natural flow less than the 10,133 cfs coming out of Lucky Peak... but rain in the forecast (and outside my window). Thus, management says: flood a little now, to make sure we avoid the unmanaged flood later on.

The USGS now has a data-rich web resource for the Boise River at the Glenwood Bridge, complete with an interactive Bridge Cam ("eLiveStream," get it?), which, um, could use a little tree trimming.

Your tax dollars are also providing a nationwide WaterWatch facility, mapping flooding and high flow conditions across the country.

As the local paper picks up the story (with a too-cute headline), I liked this observation down near the bottom: "Hardman said homeowners should consider buying flood insurance." Can you actually do that while the water is lapping at (or over) your property line? "He said it takes 30 days to get it."

I would guess that the show will be over, one way or another, by the end of May. But you never know; we might have a rainy month.

2.May.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Kool-Aid of the left-wing liberal conspiracy Permalink to this item

The Newshour segment on the balancing act teachers face over trying to teach about climate change included this observation from Colorado H.S. science teacher Cheryl Manning:

"I had students looking at data sets that were published online by NOAA and NASA and other international science organizations. And I had them comparing and looking at those and looking at projections and models, what were the models indicating.

"And I had some parents come to me during parent-teacher conference, and they were very upset that I was teaching about this. And they referred to peer-reviewed sciences, the Kool-Aid of the left-wing liberal conspiracy. And it was at that point where I realized what I was up against with this group of parents, and I knew that I needed to get some help."

Which I guess would justify destroying public education to save our children from the demon of peer-reviewed science.

May Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mr. Freedom strikes again Permalink to this item

Ex-reporter and now right-wing gadfly Wayne Hoffman is doing a fine job of self-promotion and corporate shilling, most recently getting free ink and pixels from the Idaho Press-Tribune to sing the praises of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The page looks to be one of those "how many things can you find wrong with this picture?" puzzle, starting with the too-big, oversharpened mug shot, for which I must apologize for pointing you to in advance. (Was the P-T piling irony on top of his straw man sarcasm and ridicule by positioning it next to his "it's an interesting picture" claim? If so, well done.)

"ALEC has been an invaluable resource and friend to me and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Few people know how often I have asked ALEC's staff for help battling big-government ideas, including the federal health care takeover and the imposition of confiscatory tax polices."

Few people know? Well, you could come right out and tell us, just as you could tell us who it is who funds your non-profit foundation, but no, you don't do that, because you (and they) have no interest in full disclosure.

"Corporate and individual donors give to groups like ALEC and IFF because they know that in order to improve the human condition, there is no substitute on Earth for free-market public policies."

And there is no substitute on Earth for effective manipulation of state legislatures to obtain corporate and individual benefits, even as one rails against "mammoth-sized, well-funded, take-no-prisoners opposition." (Seriously?) That opposition is "the statists' Goliath," not to put too fine a point on it, something Mr. Hoffman has never been accused of doing.

The online comments are more worthy than the puff opinion above them. ALEC is "a crony network that allows special interests to schmooze" with legislators, "providing an easy template for legislation that would better be crafted in an open forum with participation of those whose interests genuinely are at stake—not those with the most money."

And yes to bubbagump, it's not just you: Wayne Hoffman is becoming increasingly outrageous.

Sky not falling? Permalink to this item

Out on Highway 55 So many things I would've done, but clouds got in my way... but maybe they'll save the day, and keep our planet from overheating. (Just like, um, Venus?) That's what MIT professor of metereology Richard Lindzen is saying, as "the credible climate skeptics" push "all their chips onto clouds," according to Justin Gillis' report for the New York Times.

There's certainly a lot about clouds I don't know, and I can believe scientists are still sorting them out. But to go from that to the happy forecast that "less coverage by high clouds in the tropics will allow more heat to escape to space, countering the temperature increase" on the planet and Goldilocks continues her run, let's just say the risk of confirmation bias is rather high. This much is clear as day:

"[P]oliticians looking for reasons not to tackle climate change have embraced Dr. Lindzen and other skeptics, elevating their role in the public debate."

Nothing is quite so persuasive as a reason not to do something difficult. Lindzen's insouciant about the risk:

"If I'm right, we'll have saved money" by avoiding measures to limit emissions, Dr. Lindzen said in the interview. "If I'm wrong, we'll know it in 50 years and can do something."

Do nothing, for 50 years? Now there's an idea the U.S. Congress could get behind, don't you think? In the meantime, I appreciate the NYT account for its acknowledgment that there are some credible climate skeptics; that dissenting views may have to struggle to compete against consensus (if you think the mainstream is right, or "groupthink" if you think it's wrong); and some sense of how much of the dissent is arrant noise.

If you check it out, don't miss the colorful interactive sidebar, Clouds and Climate, which starts with the interesting factoid that at any moment, about 60% of the earth is covered by clouds.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Saturday, 02-Jun-2012 12:32:28 MDT