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Excellence Lost

18 January 2018

Tonight I learned this.

I’m sad. I feel old.

The inspiration that first came from Textpattern, Textdrive Lifetime Accounts and the writing of Dean Allen have faded to a dim glow like the wick of an old, oil lantern.

My only self-serving way to hold those memories and trim the wick will be to revive a bit of writing here and get reacquainted with all that remains from the list above, Textpattern.

Perhaps 2018 is the year. Thank you, Dean. You have been and will continue to be missed.

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Boiling before drinking.

31 December 2012

Don’t watch. It will be ready…soon(ish).

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When I Was Fifteen

2 January 2007

It was 1969. I was in the tenth grade. Clearly, we weren’t thinking about things like this.

There’s not much no chance that I’m going to take up computer programming any time soon. However, I like the motivational aspect of seeing what a 15-year old has done with his skills. Spend a few minutes at Yuvi’s weblog and you’ll probably find a lot to like about his weblog design as well as its content.

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Quality in the New Year

31 December 2006

Sometimes I find myself wishing I could be more positive about goods and services that I spend money on. More accurately, I wish I could bring myself to spare loyal readers the grimy details. Alas, I can’t.

Regular readers are well aware of The HP Way and how After Hours ships the wrong sizes of clothes for the most important events in a person’s life. It’s tiresome to write about such atrocious service, but cathartic and necessary.

On December 8 Amazon took an order for a camera. I didn’t realize at the time that they were “farming the order out” to TigerDirect. Worse, TigerDirect was backordered. None of that stopped these two companies from billing my credit card and going completely silent. When I finally inquired I got a string of differing delivery dates and promises.

When I attempted to cancel the order, I was given a couple of email lectures followed by a return authorization. Why would I need a return authorization when TigerDirect is backordered and I never received the camera?

Finally, when I suggested that TigerDirect simply cancel my order, they went silent again. Please understand that this is all about $129.99 plus $7.24 for shipping which has already been charged to my credit card. In other words, it ain’t about the money, it’s about the lousy service and misrepresentations. Hint to both companies: Christmas has come and gone!

We’ll see whether Amazon and/or TigerDirect are willing to make good on this mess. As for not reporting these matters in the New Year, fugedaboudit.

If your company is clueless (and careless) about quality, the public (including my 7 readers) deserves to know.

UPDATE: For those who want to read a little more about Tiger Direct and the parent (public) company, follow this link and then, this one. Here’s a quote:

Users at several Internet scam-reporting message boards report that TigerDirect and its sister organization OnRebate.com deliver shoddy equipment or fail to pay promised large rebates on items. Support requests by e-mail and phone are refused or delayed. The Better Business Bureau has given TigerDirect an “unsatisfactory” rating for its performance in these matters. These allegations also exist against its twin site (in design and merchandise), globalcomputer.com. A website named TigerDirectSucks.org carries pro and con messages about the company, including what purport to be postings from ex-employees.

Oh, by the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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262 Tractor Trailers

28 December 2006

In the early 1980’s I spent some time heading up a firm that developed computer-generated energy management models for commercial buildings. We modeled a facility using software that dealt with three primary aspects of building operation: architecture, mechanical equipment and electrical equipment.

Architectural issues included the orientation of a building, how the windows were installed and maintained and what type of energy-conserving techniques were employed at the windows and doors. Mechanical issues included plumbing and HVAC demands for energy, but also the additional HVAC demands that might be required due to excessive electricity use for lights. Finally, we looked at both the demand and consumption that the building presented as an electrical load.

Our models provided detailed payback analyses for each retrofit that might be introduced to the facility. In those years our lighting retrofits often resulted in substantial savings, but required some compromises to the aesthetics of the occupied space.

Now, Charles Fishman, author of The Wal-Mart Effect" and editor of Fast Company magazine, has written How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change the World? One. And You’re Looking At It.. It’s an excellent introduction to the energy (and dollar) savings that result from changing light bulbs. It also explains the current state of the technology, and how compromises in performance have been overcome.

If you’re interested in technology, the article is worthwhile. Here’s a point that caught my eye:

How much is 100 million bulbs? It’s 25 million classic GE four-packs. That many boxes of bulbs would fill 262 Wal-Mart tractor trailers, a ghost convoy of Wal-Mart trucks, loaded with nothing but lightbulbs, stretching 3.5 miles—a convoy that will never roll. Every year for six years—just from one bulb, this year. Not to mention the line of garbage trucks necessary to cart 100 million burned-out incandescent bulbs to the landfill.

You see—it’s one thing to save on your own electricity bill—but, it’s quite another to accrue the kinds of ancillary savings that keep on giving for years. With 262 fewer trucks on the highway, imagine how much more pleasant your next road trip might be!

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Free 2.8 Windows Experience Index

27 December 2006

Here’s a headstart on the new year.

Show me a Windows Experience Index above 5.0 on a laptop for less than $1500 and I’m all over it.

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A Plea for 2007

24 December 2006

Let There Be Light
by Point of Grace

(Star of wonder, star of might)
(Star with royal beauty bright)
(Westward leading, still proceeding)
(Guide us to thy perfect light)

From the beginning the Father
Had a magnificent plan
Revealed through the law and the prophets
To fulfill the redemption of man
He spoke after centuries of silence
In the midst of a still, starry night
And Emmanuel came down among us
And the Father said “Let there be light”

Let there be light!
Let it shine bright
Piercing the darkness with dazzling white
Hope for the hopeless was born on that night
When God sent his Son
And said “Let there be light”
Let there be light! Oh Yea Yea!

People who walked in great darkness
Gathered from near and afar
Shepherds with flocks in their keeping
Three kings who follow a star
Together the poor and the richest
Witness that Bethlehem night
And the sky full of angels announcing
The birth of a glorious light

Let there be light!
Let it shine bright
Piercing the darkness with dazzling white
Hope for the hopeless was born on that night
When God sent his Son
And said “Let there be light”
Let there be light! Oh Yea Yea!

We who are His have this calling
To praise Him, and make His name known
So one day the presence of Jesus
Shines in every heart and every home
(Shines in our home)
(Star of wonder, star of beauty bright)

Let there be light!
Let it shine bright
Piercing the darkness with dazzling white
Hope for the hopeless was born on that night
When God sent his Son
And said “Let there be light”
Let there be light! Oh Yea Yea!

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After Hours My Foot

25 November 2006

After a week-long cooling off period, I’ve composed myself well enough to write clearly about After Hours Formalwear. This company is a classic example of a company that wants to appear good, but is unwilling to pay the price to be good. Companies that have grown almost exclusively by acquisition often show this trait.

The short story comes first. They botched the ordering and sizing of a tux for the father of the bride. Their attempt to recover was worse. They simply do not understand the importance of what they are doing. No matter how many people I talk to, I’ll spend the rest of my days discouraging anyone who will listen from using the services of After Hours Formalwear.

Now for the longer story. My oldest daughter got married last Saturday. The wedding was far removed from Memphis where I went for the tux fitting. I was instructed to pick up the tux the Thursday prior to the wedding in a city near the wedding site.

I put the tuxedo on that Thursday and discovered that the coat had been improperly measured and sized. For overnight delivery, I requested a replacement coat in the proper size. It was then that I discovered that “overnight” meant after 3pm on Friday.

Now for some conjecture and lessons. After Hours probably knows better than I ever will – they have the data – but, I suspect a majority of weddings occur on weekends. Just a guess. Further, most traditional and semi-traditional weddings have a rehearsal and a rehearsal dinner the evening before the wedding. The father of a bride must attend the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The last thing he has time to do is to go to some After Hours location after 3pm when a rehearsal is scheduled for 4pm.

The lesson here is that After Hours should design and implement a business process that accommodates the tight time table and the importance of the product they offer. This will be difficult to pull off when you employ teenage girls who think that fathers-of-brides are simply the downside of the job — sort of like cleaning the tables was the downside of flipping burgers at their last job.

Here are the things that After Hours got wrong:

  1. the shirt sleeves were not the right length
  2. the shirt was missing a button
  3. the shoes were caked with dried mud
  4. the coat was the wrong size
  5. the time for picking up the replacement coat was unacceptable
  6. the attitude toward a Dad trying to look good for his daughter’s wedding was awful
  7. the replacement coat was the wrong size
  8. there was no time to correct the second error made concerning the coat
  9. when inquiring about how to escalate my concerns, both locations were well-schooled to say, “we can’t do anything here; you’ll have to talk to a district manager.”
  10. neither location was able to provide information about how to reach a district manager

These are not the idle rantings of someone with too little to do. They are not the ravings of some persistently offended consumer. Rather, they are the complaints of a customer who attempted to use the services of After Hours Formalwear. They are the complaints of a customer who was further offended by the lack of concern and attention given to the original errors and complaints.

If you are planning a wedding or you have any influence over the planning for a wedding, advise this:

  • DO NOT RENT TUXEDOS FROM AFTER HOURS FORMALWEAR
  • Rent from someone more dependable or advise the wedding party to buy traditional tuxes for future needs
  • Make certain that any company you rent from appreciates the importance of their role in the wedding

As a long-time quality professional who has some insight into quality and customer service challenges, it’s obvious what is needed. After Hours should immediately undertake a detailed process and measurement review to fix their quality problem. They must begin by getting brutally honest about what an error or non conformance is in the eyes of their customer. They won’t, but it is precisely what they ought to do. They simply don’t have a clue.

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Today Minus 31 Years

13 November 2006

Since our last meeting we have been through a disastrous election. It is easy for us to be discouraged, as pundits hail that election as a repudiation of our philosophy and even as a mandate of some kind or other. But the significance of the election was not registered by those who voted, but by those who stayed home. If there was anything like a mandate it will be found among almost two-thirds of the citizens who refused to participate.

Bitter as it is to accept the results of the November election, we should have reason for some optimism. For many years now we have preached “the gospel,” in opposition to the philosophy of so-called liberalism which was, in truth, a call to collectivism.

Now, it is possible we have been persuasive to a greater degree than we had ever realized. Few, if any, Democratic party candidates in the last election ran as liberals. Listening to them I had the eerie feeling we were hearing reruns of Goldwater speeches. I even thought I heard a few of my own.

Those words were in Ronald Reagan’s 1975 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference. They could have been delivered this morning. They probably should have been.

The first individual, group or party to (seriously) stand for most (or all) of the following principles and run for office will get my next vote. Each is supported by another quote from Reagan’s speech!

Operate government efficiently and with common sense:

They went into every department of state government and came back with 1,800 recommendations on how modern business practices could be used to make government more efficient. We adopted 1,600 of them.

Reduce taxes (of all types):

We also turned over—for the first time in almost a quarter of a century—a balanced budget and a surplus of $500 million. In these eight years just passed, we returned to the people in rebates, tax reductions and bridge toll reductions $5.7 billion. All of this is contrary to the will of those who deplore conservatism and profess to be liberals, yet all of it is pleasing to its citizenry.

Balance the budget:

What side can be taken in a debate over whether the deficit should be $52 billion or $70 billion or $80 billion preferred by the profligate Congress?

Inflation has one cause and one cause only: government spending more than government takes in. And the cure to inflation is a balanced budget.

Drive free market capitalism:

Shorn of all side issues and extraneous matter, the problem underlying all others is the worldwide contest for the hearts and minds of mankind. Do we find the answers to human misery in freedom as it is known, or do we sink into the deadly dullness of the Socialist ant heap?

Rebuild our military:

We did not seek world leadership; it was thrust upon us. It has been our destiny almost from the first moment this land was settled. If we fail to keep our rendezvous with destiny or, as John Winthrop said in 1630, “Deal falsely with our God,” we shall be made “a story and byword throughout the world.”

Stand for lofty ambitions:

Americans are hungry to feel once again a sense of mission and greatness.

Fix the broken and ponderous tax code:

Let us also include a permanent limit on the percentage of the people’s earnings government can take without their consent.

Let our banner proclaim a genuine tax reform that will begin by simplifying the income tax so that workers can compute their obligation without having to employ legal help.

And let it provide indexing—adjusting the brackets to the cost of living—so that an increase in salary merely to keep pace with inflation does not move the taxpayer into a surtax bracket. Failure to provide this means an increase in government’s share and would make the worker worse off than he was before he got the raise.

Who will drive for this vision?

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Can You See This?

7 November 2006

Bill Whittle hasn’t given us anything new to read in a while. This week is different. We now have Seeing the Unseen-Part 1.

Are you able willing to see it?

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The Sun Also Rises

4 November 2006

I like what Simon Phipps writes. His reporting of what others are saying about the Novell/Microsoft alliance as well as his own comments are worth your time.

Sun is one of those companies I’ve always liked, but wished could achieve even greater market share. In spite of that company’s challenges, they’ve always been on my short list of companies I’d gladly work for.

I’ve seen so many better mousetraps cast off for want of a market big enough to sustain them. In the early 1980’s there were numerous Silicon Valley startups focused on multiuser Unix systems running on Motorola 68000 chips. Those companies are long gone, but Sun found a different niche in 1982 and sustained itself.

When Sun began applying all of that Unix and 68000 know-how to single-user workstations in a network, it became clear what the future of multiuser systems would be. Fuzzy recollections prevent me from being certain whether I first saw Sun’s product running SunOS or an early Solaris. Whatever, I remember seeing Sun’s software desktop wrapped around Unix and thinking, “that’s where this whole thing is headed.”

Recent experimentation with Ubuntu Linux brought back some of those impressions. No operating system in common use today has been through the depth of history and development that Unix/Linux has been through.

Now there appears to be a serious attempt to control Linux with announcements from Oracle/Red Hat and Microsoft/Novell.

Let’s hope that Sun and some respectable alliance of FOSS folk can prevent all the patents from stifling innovation.

Sun’s Blackbox has gotten a lot of press. Rave reviews have come in on Sun’s X4500. Now is a great time for Sun to restate its position in the operating system, hardware and networking industry.

Now about those desktop OS choices...

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On Civility, Faith, Politics and Government

2 November 2006

I voted yesterday. My selections of candidates were based upon whether or not I thought they understood the most important issues facing city, state and nation. In my view there are very few priorities that rank higher than the security of our nation and our families. There are plenty of other important matters.

Our stands on so many issues simply cannot rise to the level of importance of seeing our nation continue. Clearly, in a time of peace, those other matters are vital issues to debate. In a time of threat, I sense a need to focus on survival. Perhaps you disagree and will make different choices when you vote to fill state and federal positions.

One of the great mudpuddles in the national debate has seen all of us splashing around, getting each other really muddy, but with little real result. It’s often described in weighty terms by those who lead with a constitutional argument. Others lead with a concept of personal belief that involves some degree of hell-fire and brimstone. Another group seems to think examples set for us are more important than rules that were set in stone. Still others believe we are entirely self-sufficient, entirely capable of making wise and moral decisions apart from a God they say doesn’t exist.

Again, we return to priorities. What do we emphasize? How does one respond when attacked — either physically or intellectually? Once we determine what we believe, how does it relate to our government? Should faith guide someone we elect? Does one who lives a life of faith inherently make decisions that run counter to the First Amendment? Can a person who believes there is no God make consistently moral decisions?

Too often we get testy when these questions are pressed or debated at length. I voted for candidates that probably don’t have a good handle on the answers to every one of these questions. Your candidates aren’t likely to have them all down cold either! However, I voted for people that impressed me as being a bit better prepared to deal with each of these debates and the many more questions which we’re going to face in the coming years.

To get one set of perspectives on how this might play out in civil discourse, I encourage interested readers to watch the dialog going on between David Kuo, author of Tempting Faith and Andrew Sullivan, author of The Conservative Soul.

Here’s the sequence of the conversation thus far:

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Reread a Book

25 October 2006

Ralston Holcombe had no visible neck, but his chin took care of that. — from The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

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Extreme Contrasts

24 October 2006

Berkshire Hathaway’s closing share price for an A share topped $100,000 this week. Today, the stock has traded between $100,000 and $101,000 per A share. The company is clearly on track to have an outstanding year. Remember, when one buys Berkshire Hathaway the thought process is that you are buying small slices of the great list of businesses that Berkshire owns.

While we’re talking about businesses, how does a business make and sell 1,511,000 of something in three months and lose $5.8 billion? In other words, on every unit you sell, you are losing $3839 in either direct losses or write-downs associated with past decisions. At Ford, quality is job 1. The fact is that quality is the path from where they are to where they want to be—not in a quarter, but during the coming years. Their’s is a stressful, but interesting problem to solve if quality, value and US manufacturing catches your fancy.

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Textpattern Test at 7:14am

23 October 2006

This is the final test in this sequence.

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Textpattern Text at 7:11am

23 October 2006

This is yet another attempt to uncover the recent difficulties when posting new articles to the web site. To all my readers, I apologize for having to expose these tests to you, but the nature of the problem doesn’t lend itself to offline work. This should be over relatively soon.

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Textpattern Test at 4:09am

23 October 2006

The computer now shows 4:09am.

The weblog is still in debugging mode.

Data about how this posts to the website will then be noted and posted in the Textpattern support forum.

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Textpattern Test at 4:02am

23 October 2006

It’s 4:02am as shown by the time on my computer.

This weblog is in debugging mode.

I’m going to post this article, check its placement on the home page and immediately post another test article. The goal of these tests is to uncover some coding problem that is causing the most recent articles to post out of sequence on the home page.

EDIT: This is a simple addition to the original article to see if it properly updates on the home page.

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Backbone Bob Indeed

22 October 2006

Some political issues never captured my attention as the most important thing that government should be about. Abortion is an example. Clearly, given two (theoretically) identical candidates—something impossible—I might use their respective stances on abortion as a deciding factor. However, long before I get to abortion or gay marriage or some other issues, I’ve made up my mind about most candidates.

With the USA targeted as it is right now by various people and countries, I find security high on my list of issues for testing candidates. Mike Hollihan has written well about last week’s October surprise in Tennessee politics. Political stunts are of little interest to me when we face such stultifyingly complex problems as control of nuclear knowledge, economic polarization and religious extremism.

However, in this one stunt, we get to see our candidates reacting to real, unscripted situations that tell us a great deal about the character of the men and how they respond when decisions must be made alone and on the spot.

In fact, they tell us enough to decide our vote!

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Things That Fry Me

22 October 2006

I ranted a bit a few days ago.

A trip to the bookstore not only reignited my frustrations with drivers, but it reminded me of the sorry state of publishing these days. You’re buying books for $27.95 (give or take) and they contain grammatical mistakes, spelling errors and word omissions. That shouldn’t happen.

Whether you go to restaurants, wait on service in department stores or have people doing contracted work, you are no doubt experiencing the same levels of service and quality that AlphaPatriot is seeing.

The key question? What do you do about it? What is the consumer able to do about such miserable quality and service?

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Date & Time in Textpattern 4.0.4

19 October 2006

It seems that there might still be some problem with the way this new version of Textpattern is assigning the date and time to each new article.

The latest suspicion is that a plugin might be causing the problem.

This is a test post to see if the problem persists.

EDIT: This article posted correctly with the date and time assigned properly. This edit will determine whether the date and time can be updated correctly after editing an article.

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Testing Textpattern 4.0.4

18 October 2006

Two recent articles initially posted out of order on this weblog. Only after resetting the date/time for the article was I able to move them to the top of the weblog.

The articles each carried the proper article number indicating that Textpattern assigned precisely the right sequence.

This is simply a test to see if this article appears at the top of the weblog when I press publish.

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Makezine Blog

18 October 2006

The gadget and technology fans among you are most likely Gizmodo and Engadget readers. But, have you been reading the Make magazine weblog? It’s more than one can keep up with in a day!

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First Impressions of Textpattern 4.0.4

18 October 2006

After an afternoon and evening of updating sites to Textpattern 4.0.4, there’s much to be pleased about. Four websites updated without any tweaking at all. Those happened in a matter of minutes. Exploring the new feature set and improvements took a bit longer.

The developers, testers and all the contributors have done a fantastic job of improving the product while protecting sites built with prior versions.

Built into the new version is Textile 2.0. It fixes the problems associated with multi-paragraph blockquotes and a host of other difficulties.

There isn’t a tutorial for Textpattern. There’s a wiki for documentation and there are some new help screens for the fields that make up the heart of the system. Unfortunately, some of those help screens contain typos and spelling errors which can be distracting.

There are still some challenges for a rookie who wants to take the software from download to a styled site with minimal frustration. I suspect there will be a renewed effort to help those of us who are not site designers and software developers now that 4.0.4 is out.

With so many content management systems available, these notes about documentation, tutorials and help screens are the only things that prevent Textpattern from competing with and surpassing Blogger or LiveJournal or TypePad or other “starter” systems. Before raising anyone’s ire, let me add that Textpattern isn’t really a competitor to those entry-level blogging tools.

Textpattern clearly goes well beyond basic blogging software in capabilities and power. It’s the initial start that can be a little tough for those of us not steeped in deep site design and software development knowledge. A tutorial that takes you from software download through installation to theme and template implementation for both a basic weblog and a basic web site would open the product up to a new realm of users.

Unfortunately, any mention of these kinds of things is often met with a write-it-yourself comment in Textpattern’s support forum. However, it is that very forum which is the ultimate documentation and resource for virtually any challenge one faces with Textpattern. The folks there are a savvy bunch and helpful.

To undertake the list of small improvements planned for this website, two approaches are available. One involves taking each individual improvement into the forum, asking a question and implementing the change. A second approach involves finding a Textpattern designer/developer who can optimize the installation of Textpattern, rid it of unnecessary plugins and ready the site for its next 4500 articles.

One’s knowledge is enriched with the first way. The results come quicker with the second approach. Either way, Textpattern is clearly capable of taking any type of web site from back-of-the-napkin to thousands of pages of content. It’s all a matter of just how deeply involved with the workings of your site you want to be.

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Without Focus

17 October 2006

In no order whatsoever are the following ruminations:

More people are issuing dares in traffic. It’s not the least bit unusual to have someone turn in front of you daring you to somehow violate all laws of physics that say an automobile driving at the speed limit can be stopped by a competent driver in ten feet or less.

More and more cars are being sold in Memphis that apparently lack turn signals.

Textpattern 4.0.4 was released this morning. I’m impressed that all prior sites work, but can now avail themselves of all the new features in the product.

Crime is up. Election day is near. Some world leaders are daring the rest of the world to do something about their contempt for all authority.

We’ve now got over 300,000,000 folks in this country.

IBM has just announced outstanding third quarter results.

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Television That Teaches and Inspires

26 September 2006

The best television show of the new season won’t be decided for several more weeks—except for me. Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip has already won my loyalty. Aaron Sorkin’s writing of dialog has simply soared since he last wrote for Sports Night and The West Wing.

In something shy of two minutes last night, we caught a glimpse of the creative process required to fill ninety minutes of air time with a live television broadcast. The two minutes illustrated the breaking of a writer’s block and the sudden flood of inspiration that essentially developed the rest of the show.

The episode was called The Cold Open, and it indicated Sorkin’s respect for the intelligence of television viewers. He doesn’t waste our time and he doesn’t coddle. Listen and watch carefully and he’ll reward you with some of the finest dialog and actors that television has ever offered. Try to multitask with the TV as background noise and Sorkin’s work will be lost on you.

Teamwork, collaboration, chaos and deadlines were depicted as realistically last night as in any television show I’ve ever watched. Whether you wrestle with collaborative work among scattered people, or spend time considering the intrinsic business value of NBC as compared to Google, this show has something for you. It’s entertainment. It’s TV about TV. It’s metaphor. It’s full of lessons for anyone who feels challenged by the ways and means of today’s work place.

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Motive

18 September 2006

17Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18 NASB

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5 Years, But Far More

11 September 2006

There’s more. Bali, London and Madrid. And, countless more.

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Proper Identity Theft?

10 September 2006

Anticipating some word this afternoon from Hewlett-Packard’s telephone conference among board members, I went to the Wall Street Journal’s web site and read this article [subscription may be required]. The title is Divided H-P Board To Discuss
Leak Scandal, Dunn’s Future
and it was written by Joann S. Lublin and Peter Waldman. Here’s a paragraph that caught my eye:

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Friday, Ms. Dunn said she knew little about the tactics used by outside firms hired by H-P, and said she was “appalled” to learn in the past two months that investigators disguised their identities to obtain private telephone records of reporters and H-P directors. She said she had previously thought the directors’ phone records were obtained properly.

What does it mean to “obtain the directors’ phone records properly?” It seems to me that anyone—short of the FBI—who calls my phone company and identifies themselves as me has instantly committed fraud. If a private investigator has been asked to get my phone records, they are faced with asking me for them, asking me for (written) permission to gather them or they must commit a crime to get them. What am I missing here?

Why isn’t’ something called pretexting also called identity theft and a crime? Can a chairman of a company the size of Hewlett-Packard be so naive as to cover her own mistake with something so silly as, “she thought the records were obtained properly?” Apparently so.

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Pretexting and Pretense at HP

6 September 2006

My admiration of and disappointment with Hewlett-Packard has been no secret here. While in engineering school, I calibrated HP oscilloscopes. My first scientific calculator was an HP, and I later taught the RPN notation that made HP’s calculators unique. One of the first HP-150 touchscreen PC’s was shipped to a company I co-owned during the 1980’s. I loved HP products.

The story of HP’s founding, the garage and a long list of amazing products stands as one of the great business stories of all time.

Now HP seems to make headlines for its stories of corporate intrigue. From high profile ousters to boardroom spying, the company is improving operationally under an outstanding leader. Yet, the board seems to thrive on taking its own debates public.

There was a time when the worst thing that could be said about HP was, “oh, that’s just a bunch of engineers over there who don’t know anything about marketing.” Great products and amazing innovations have given way to all the trappings of the rat race. Why can’t sensational engineering be the goal? Why must politics undermine each and every professional effort in the world today?

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Replacing Plugins in Textpattern

2 September 2006

Replacing Textpattern PluginsTextpattern is a feature-rich tool for publishing on the web. It provides for a wealth of additional features using independently-developed plugins.

This site currently has a dozen plugins installed with eleven of them “active.” Once added to your Textpattern installation and made active, these plugins provide sets of tags and features that extend Textpattern’s features beyond the native capabilities.

In other cases, plugins simplify the way something might be done in Textpattern. However, as Textpattern’s own features have become richer, some plugins may not be required. Plugins used in 2004 may not be required when using Textpattern 4.0.4—which is on the horizon—in 2007. In other words, plugins that plugged feature gaps might be displaced when Textpattern’s own capabilities expand.

Hundreds of plugins have been written. Little has been said about what liberal use of plugins does to a Textpattern site’s performance. By the way, what is liberal use of plugins? Even less has been said about which plugins make serious impacts on a site’s web host! How many plugins is too many? Do they conflict with one another? Does a site become more fragile after exceeding a certain number of plugins?

Clearly, there are challenges—38 pages worth—associated with administering plugins as they are updated and as Textpattern changes versions. This is largely a manual process completely dependent upon a user’s vigilance.

Textpattern’s developers are “doing everything they can” to prevent breakage as users upgrade. Plugins make this more difficult, even though specific rules exist for writing plugins that minimize the risk of problems.

But, here’s the real challenge: with eleven plugins installed and active, where are all the occurences of each plugin’s tags in the templates of the site? How does one locate all of the tags related to plugins and distinguish them from native Textpattern plugins? What if you are managing a dozen Textpattern-based web sites? Imagine how long it might take to “fix” the sites if plugins aren’t updated or compliant with the rules.

The work required to answer those questions is about to begin here. We mentioned a bit about some of the goals this week. Stay tuned for more information as we learn the secrets of applying plugins wisely.

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Titles and Words and Numbers

31 August 2006

Since January of 2002 this weblog has accumulated 4683 entries, posts, essays or articles. The terminology varies depending upon who you talk to about weblogs.

With some design improvements and structural changes expected in the next few months, it was time to review those articles and make some decisions. Interesting by-products resulted:

  • 23 entry titles begin with the word “so”
  • 32 entry titles begin with the word “there”
  • 34 entry titles begin with the word “if”
  • 41 entry titles begin with a numeral or a special character
  • 58 entry titles begin with the word “another”
  • 65 entry titles begin with the word “it”
  • 84 entry titles begin with the word “I” or “I’m”
  • 195 entry titles begin with the word “a”
  • 288 entry titles begin with the word “the”

That accounts for 820 entry titles or 17.5% of all I wrote for the past 1703 days. These numbers also show that my early (experimental) blogging days were multi-post days. With multi-week gaps in writing of late, I’m still averaging 2.75 entries per day!

What about entry titles that begin with questions?

  • Who? 19
  • What? 121
  • When? 44
  • Where? 40
  • How? 74
  • Why? 29
  • Which? 8

Those questions produced another 335 titles or 7.2% of the entire crop. This means that you might conclude that the other 3528 entries began more imaginatively. You would be wrong. Plenty of the entries from those experimental years were names of people I was quoting or admonitions to “please avoid Voicestream.” (They were a particularly disgusting predecessor to what is now T-Mobile.)

What changes can readers expect?

First, I’ll do better with the titles. Second, a major revision of Textpattern is just around the corner. That will provide some new behind-the-scenes features. Anticipate a switch to a strict doctype. Expect some improved accessibility.

If I’m successful at locating a designer who wants to help with the clean-up, paint-up and fix-up, there will be some new photos in the header rotation and some improved color schemes here and there. Archives and searching will be better along with the possibility of tags as replacements for categories.

Textpattern plugins may give way to native features – again, depending upon the kind of help I’m able to procure. I’m not crazy about the way my comments feature behaves or looks, so that’s probably due for a makeover. Links from Ma.gnolia may find their way into the site as well.

It all begins the instant I find a Textpattern-savvy collaborator who is willing to add to what has already been built without proposing a tear-down-and-rebuild. I’m looking for an architect who likes to add a room or two and tear out a wall here and there – not a McMansion designer!

Bottom line? Things will get better here over the next six months!

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Rant, Learn or Teach

9 August 2006

This is a call for the right kind of CSS instruction for people who are just getting their start with web design.

Modern arguments about any subject usually contain some elements of truth from both sides. Except in those (often political) debates where one side knowingly distorts the position of the opponent, the tidbits of truth can serve as a perfect starting point for a real education.

There was a CSS rant. Then, there was a CSS training offer. “What would those two days of training cost…?”Now, what is there for the more pedestrian users of CSS? While there were some misguided conclusions in Dvorak’s article, there were also elements of truth. CSS can be very frustrating when one is left to some sort of self-taught methodology. Standards bodies don’t provide the kinds of answers that work-a-day CSS users need in spite of protestations to the contrary.

If experts can’t agree, what are those of us on the outside supposed to do? Books about CSS sometimes use valuable chapters explaining table-based layouts before declaring those techniques to be wrong. What we need is a video of Molly’s two-day training session. Better yet, we need An Event Apart focused on those of us who want answers like the ones Molly promises to Dvorak.

The question is this, “what would those two days of training cost if they were provided to an audience of about ten or twelve interested designers?”

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Increase Apple Store Sales in Germantown

4 August 2006

Once upon a time I owned an awarding-winning computer dealership in Memphis, TN. Part of that time we were the leading reseller of Apple products in the area. With a degree in electrical engineering and thirty years of technology industry experience, I’m not completely clueless about technology, obsolescence (whether technical, functional or economic) or sales techniques.

Apple stores could achieve a sales increase of at least fifteen percent with some relatively simple attitude adjustments. First, make sure Apple store employees don’t treat customers as second-class beings. Second, make sure Apple store employees don’t dress like homeless people. Third, make sure Apple store managers don’t look like they are in a drug-induced stupor. Finally, teach Apple store employees to ask just a few simple questions, clarify the answers, empathize just a bit and then offer some suggestions. You see, Apple stores, it’s not about you. It’s about your customers and prospects! Shut up and listen to them!

What set me off? An incident approximately one hour ago at the Apple store in Germantown, TN has frosted me. I’ll tell the story, but some background is needed.

This city and county are having a sales tax holiday beginning tomorrow and running through Sunday. That amounts to a savings of 9.25% on stuff like computers.

Because one of my daughters works in one of those ultra-creative fields, she wants a Mac like many of her compatriots. What better weekend to buy at the Apple store than during a weekend when the 9.25% sales tax is suspended?

Here’s what she wants to buy:

  • 2Ghz white Apple MacBook $1299.00
  • AppleCare for the MacBook $249.00
  • Apple Mighty Mouse $49.00

Add Apple’s Back-to-School Promotion to all of this, and she could wind up with an iPod Nano as part of the deal. However, two of Apple’s (obnoxious) Germantown store employees weren’t able to listen carefully to this question:

What if she buys the Mac tomorrow to take advantage of Tennessee’s sales tax holiday and Apple announces something on Tuesday she return the unopened box for a full credit?

Apple store employee #1 responded with, “we’re not aware of nor are we allowed to comment on any upcoming product announcements.” I know that. Can I return the computer on Tuesday for a full credit and buy whatever newly announced machine better suits her needs? Apple store employee #1 responded with, “we won’t be able to honor the sales tax holiday?” I know that. Can she return the unopened computer for full credit five days after buying it? Apple store employee #1 says, “that’s a question that will have to be answered by someone else; I’m not the one who makes our policies.” Clearly, she not only doesn’t make the policies, she doesn’t have any idea what the policies are.

I then ask her to point me to someone who can answer my questions. Apple store employee #1 says, “only the store manager can answer your questions.” Is the store manager here? In quite a huff Apple store employee #1 says, “I’ll go find her, and walks—I kid you not—three steps to a woman straightening accessory shelves. “This man wants to buy a Mac without paying sales tax and then get credit for it on Tuesday with the sales tax included.”

I’m not making this up. That’s what she said. The store manager then looks at me and says, “no.” After some explanation and corrections to my question, I finally get this answer, “all returns of unopened cartons will be credited with a deduction for a 10% restocking fee.” So, here’s how that scenario looks if Apple announces a new and improved MacBook on Tuesday with exactly the same price as the current one:

The $1597 price—if I buy tomorrow—saves me $147.62 in sales tax. Return it on Tuesday and Apple keeps $159.70 as a restocking fee. I pay the $1597 for some new product and owe the $147.62 of sales tax because the “holiday” is over. So, Apple has cost me $307.32 that I could use to buy external drives, cases, software, memory, etc. Through it all I’ve dealt with people who don’t give two hoots in Hades about me, my daughter, her needs or our business.

Two web sites I read regularly are written by James Lileks and John Gruber. Both are Apple loyalists. How in the world do they get straight answers to simple questions when visiting Apple’s stores?

The experience this evening makes me realize that there are reasons beyond technical lock-in that breaks the bough! That was Mark Pilgrim’s reason. Obtuse answers and obnoxious treatment are mine. I’ll avoid Apple at all costs. The daughter will get what she wants, but it won’t be because the employees in the Apple store in Germantown, TN want her to have what she wants or show any willingness to make the sales process a pleasant experience!

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The Design Hinterlands

2 August 2006

I’ve found a community I want to join! It’s the growing creative class in Memphis.

Memphis would not make anyone’s list of global centers of design excellence in any field, much less web design. In fact, Memphis is probably one of those places where the nephew’s FrontPage site is good enough for eight out of ten small businesses (i.e. fewer than 50 employees). Memphis is a place where price always trumps any other criteria for purchasing anything.

A few of the weblogs written by people in this area actually strive for valid (X)HTML mark-up. Many of them are excellent political, lifestyle or gossip blogs. Apparently, there’s even a gathering of bloggers from time to time. However, there isn’t a great deal of discussion—that I’ve been able to locate—involving web standards, design tools and techniques or sites free of tables and spacer gifs.

Perhaps that is changing! Our local fish wrap ran an article this weekend about tech firms that use blogs to connect with others. The article specifically mentioned the following blogs, firms and people in Memphis:

Weblogs I read are written by people who are hitting all the latest conferences for the best and brightest. While those conference attendees are looking at next-generation technologies and techniques, Memphis wrestles with how to become one of the so-called Smart Cities.

Contrary to popular notions, some of the leaders of the march to creativity in Memphis are not twenty-something. Rather, there is a blend of leaders who have caught the vision that Richard Florida has described for urban centers along with the young creatives who are actually getting it done. The beauty of this blend is that it isn’t limited to specific age, gender or other demographic data. Those with a willingness to grasp the ideas can drive the growth of and focus on creativity.

There appears to be a practical side to all of this as well. People who are leading the efforts here are profit-minded capitalists who have recognized a better way of providing products and services to customers. They understand what Jeff Cornwall explains in Revisiting Self-Interest. Whether one sees self-interest from the perspective of the designer or the designer’s client, the rewards are congruent.

Take web sites as the example. The hierarchy of enlightened web design creativity looks something like this:

  1. Creatives using standards-based design for all their work.
  2. Web site designers who found a tool and use it free of any concern for web standards.
  3. Ad agencies who added a web site design department without understanding the medium.
  4. The nieces and nephews with a copy of FrontPage or Dreamweaver.

Each of these groups is creative. Each of these groups makes a (handsome) living. However, only one of the groups is fostering the growth of their businesses, growing their clients’ businesses and leading a community to see creativity, design and the role of standards in a completely different way. That’s a community I want to join!

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Learn Your Trade, Moron

27 July 2006

Is it just me or is Chris Matthews among the most unskilled, rude and pompous interviewers in all media? I’m just sayin…

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Technology in Small Companies

12 July 2006

Whatever you do with your choices about technology in a small company (defined as a business with fewer than 25 employees), DO NOT use the Microsoft Active Directory Migration Tool or the document (doc download) that tells you how to use it.

After almost 21 hours of phone time on a $245 Microsoft case number and 7 engineers’ efforts, recovery from the effects of using the ADMT was complete. The real work could then begin. Remember the Apple ad that says something like, “sounds like you’ve got some stuff to do before you can do stuff?

Weeks ago answers were promised. We were seeing beta versions of Office and Windows Vista. Ubuntu was making a splash and has made even greater noise since that time. Long-time loyalties to a single platform continued collapsing.

Apple runs Windows, though it’s been unclear just how dependably a Mac can remain joined to a Windows server domain when there are multiple network connections installed on the computer. With all of the announcements, what’s a dependable path? Remember, we’re not talking about businesses rich with I.T. savvy or time to work on their I.T. problems.

To keep this brief, I’ll boil it down this way:

  • Career-perspective: Were a new entrant into the business of installing and supporting basic I.T. needs in small businesses to inquire about where to develop expertise, what would we answer?
  • Business owners perspective: Were a small business with basic collaboration, email, file-sharing, backup, calendar sharing and office productivity needs to inquire about what to install, what would we answer?

Short answers go like this:

  • For the server, install Microsoft Small Business Server 2003R2.
  • For the workstations, install Intel Pentium 4-based PC’s running Windows XP Professional.
  • For the adventurous who have access to a knowledgeable support team, you can consider replacing MS-SBS with Ubuntu’s server and a mix of Windows XP Professional and Ubuntu PC’s. Just be certain you know how to replace the Windows applications that users are accustomed to with their corresponding products in the FOSS world.

Finally, whatever you do, begin to think of long-term data storage as something that must withstand a series of short-term technology changes. Remember, 8-inch floppies? Remember when you took photos at low resolution to “save space.” Remember when you downloaded music at low bit-rates to “save space.” Some of those things will be terribly disappointing in thirty or forty years. Decide whether or not your applications really are providing data that you can save and see long after the application or the storage medium is gone.

Know how to pick and update your technologies in 36 to 60-month intervals so that the 40-year run is sustainable!

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A Thoroughfare of Freedom

4 July 2006

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beatAmerica the Beautiful
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Thank you Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward.

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Making Life Better for Others

25 June 2006

Warren Buffett has announced plans to make substantial annual donations to five foundations. You can read the five letters at the Berkshire Hathaway site. You really should. You’ll gain some insight into how the really large sums of money change hands.

Rick Warren launched his P.E.A.C.E. plan. Beyond merely identifying his notion of the globe’s five (previously) insoluble problems, he’s thinking of the ways that technology and coordination can help the efforts of the many service initiatives around the world. In effect he’s identified the five really large problems in the world today.

Bill Gates has a 2-year plan that allows him to migrate from full-time duty at Microsoft to full-time focus on the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With today’s announcements by Warren Buffett, the Gates Foundation will have to find ways to double the amount of money they distribute annually by 2009.

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Got Firefox?

9 June 2006

If you aren’t a Firefox user, there’s no time like the present. If you haven’t seen the recent Firefox Flicks, use some weekend to catch up.

Stay tuned for an upcoming essay. You just might answer some of these questions:

  • What’s the state of Linux on the desktop?
  • Will your next computer run Windows, OS X or Linux?
  • Will you upgrade your PC to run Windows Vista & Office 2007?
  • Can anyone make money in PC’s any more?

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Impressions and Attitudes

2 June 2006

...a simple “cheat sheet” for those confused and worried about the place of Christianity in AmericaIt’s easy to carry a flawed notion about people of faith these days. Sometimes the notions are spot on. Encountering the choir member berating the waitress etches an image that’s probably not flawed at all. Reading the mainstream media’s views of Christians, one gets the impression that Sunday mornings involve snake-handling wherever Christians have gathered. That’s a bit less accurate.

Too many Christians want credit for their behaviors while doing their Christian stuff. Then, they want that credit to buy them a pardon when they do their non-Christian stuff. Like berating the waitress! That’s the way it is with all of us though, isn’t it? We hope the good things we do gather some slack for those moments when we get wound a little too tightly.

There’s humor in all of it. There’s humor in the misimpressions that people form. There’s humor in the attempts people make to appear holier than thou. After all we’re humans and we can be pretty funny regardless of how you look at us.

Mike Holihan points to the glossary that can untangle all the flawed thinking in a Salon article by Michelle Goldberg. Read the Salon article first. Follow that with a bit of a rebuttal—in glossary form. Here’s the teaser:

To be fair to these perplexed and terrified people, Christians are not easy to understand. To begin with, there are roughly 2,000 years of history to grasp, and certainly more denominations and subdivisions than that to take on board. For people who were raised secular, I imagine it’s like trying to understand an opera after coming in halfway before the end: the stage is crowded with people, two of them seem to be dead, a woman is wearing a hat with horns, and everyone is making a terrible racket.

Once you’ve had your humor fix, change gears and read what the Real Live Preacher has to say about Gospel Living in a Superficial World.

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What Did They Fight For?

28 May 2006

How timely that the branches of our government have chosen to fight amongst themselves on this Memorial Day weekend. For me, the play-by-play announcer, color commentator and referee who One hundred percent turnover of Congress in the next three elections!can call this game correctly is Glenn Reynolds. The links are here, here, here and here, and they lead to all manner of insight into this separation of powers crisis. Once you’ve read those (and the included links), take a look at these: 123456789—My gosh; just keep reading this stuff.

Our veterans didn’t fight because we’re entitled to our opinions. They fought for the rights, privileges and the rule of law derived from our Constitution. No one is above the law—not me—not you—not Hastert—not Jefferson—not Boxer—not Pelosi—none of them.

I’d like to see a movement in this country that calls for all 535 members of Congress to be replaced during the next three elections. That’s a hundred percent turnover! Make sure that no more than a fourth of them are lawyers, too. Then, require the newly-elected to operate under a balanced budget equal to 75% of our current budget. Sure—it sounds naive, but give me a better idea!

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Not the First Time

19 May 2006

I’ve got friends of faith who are in a tizzy over The Da Vinci Code – book and movie. They’ve been going to seminars to learn how to refute those who object to what my friends have been believing since they were nine years old.

Somehow, I don’t think revisionist history should be that threatening. After all this isn’t the first time that the Christian faith has been challenged. If you can get to it—subscription may be needed—read what Joseph Loconte has written in Debunking the Debunkers. Loconte quotes C.S. Lewis as follows:

“I do not wish to reduce the skeptical element in your minds,” Lewis explained. “I am only suggesting that it need not be reserved exclusively for the New Testament and the Creeds. Try doubting something else.”

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Omaha Weekend

6 May 2006

Lots of news has converged around Berkshire Hathaway and the annual meeting in Omaha today. Three key bits:

Yesterday’s closing numbers for Berkshire show that an “A” share carries a price of $88,710. Learn more about the company by reading here and here. Just to whet your appetite, the business press is reporting that Berkshire’s first quarter earnings show a 70% increase over the same quarter last year!

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Reprise of the Simple

4 May 2006

College textbooks cost too much. Even timeless books of literature, calculus and basic chemistry cost too much. Move into a study of computer science, microbiology or biomedical engineering and the books, which sometimes take a year or more to get to print, are out of date before they are a professor’s required text, and…they cost too much.Also a story about an angry Hispanic lacrosse player who vanished from a cruise ship during Bush’s low poll numbers

The “simple” in the title of this article refers to this question which you’ve read here before:

How much of an American citizen’s income should be paid to the government in taxes?

Nevermind the debate about what those taxes will be used to pay for. The question is how much is enough? In Memphis, TN we pay almost ten percent in state and local sales tax. We pay city property taxes. We pay county property taxes. We pay for car tags and driver’s licenses. We pay many other taxes.

Send a child to a state-run university and either you or your government subsidize the cost of that education. The only question is a trick, “who pays the greater share of the student’s education cost?” Answer: You paid 100% of the cost. The government has no money it didn’t receive from you.

Readers still with me at this point will enjoy an essay titled Tuition Soars Due to Knowledge Shortfall by Anne Coulter. Though one of her clever, obscure asides, here’s the quote that captures:

The two big topics on CNN last week were (1) high gas prices and (2) the high cost of college tuition. (Also a story about an angry Hispanic lacrosse player who vanished from a cruise ship during Bush’s low poll numbers.)

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Let the Joneses Have It

1 May 2006

Kathy Sierra’s weblog makes you think she’s reading your mind. Her recent articles read like confessions from clients. The things that keep clients awake at night—at least my clients—are clearly explained at Kathy’s site.

In The Myth of Keeping Up we see the reading pile that has become all too familiar. Unfortunately, the reading pile that once resided at the office has a big brother gaining weight at home. Articles, books, magazines and even newspapers accumulate like loose change, but that loose change grows in value as its weight increases. Those reading piles do not!

Put the pile on a scale and you’ll discover another sibling or two with their toes on the corners pressing down. These siblings are email—in multiple accounts—along with RSS feeds, pdf downloads and web sites far and wide. Even the best automated filters and organizers do little to reduce the pressure people feel when falling behind.

Never has it been more important to understand what you are truly passionate about, what your purpose is and with whom (or what) you’re trying to keep up. Here’s a tip: if you’re trying to keep up with somebody else, stop! Stop now and free yourself from that struggle. It’s unimportant.

If you work in a place where the culture pits you against your coworker, get out now. It is 2006 and if your employer hasn’t discovered the benefits of collaboration over competition, he or she never will. You, your health and your relationships to others are far more important than trying to “keep up.”

Constant striving in these areas defines the rat race. There’s a big difference between the rodent regatta and a peaceful afternoon of sailing. Purpose, passion and balance characterize the latter. Toil, frustration and a fuzzy finish line characterize the former. Let the Jones family pull ahead. You won’t lose a thing!

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Syndication

19 April 2006

Some of the brightest developers I know about are doing open source coding for the Textpattern content management system. They are continuing to improve and extend the capabilities of that software.

One challenge involves properly providing RSS 2.0 feeds from Textpattern-based sites given a rather wide variety of site designs. My own RSS feed was once described as funky. That saga dates to the summer of 2003. 1234. Absent solid, understandable answers at that time, I went about my business. I actually believe that around the time of those links, the Atom initiative was getting off the ground. It gave birth to another syndication technique. Many sites now provide both RSS and Atom feeds.

With the request from the Textpattern developers comes an opportunity to solve the RSS 2.0 problems once and for all. I’m no developer, but I’m a cheerleader for bringing some resolution to the entire debate. The call is out for a who’s who of (apolitical) developers to answer the questions raised here. Maybe those who write the feed readers could weigh in as well.

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Nuclear Implosion

31 March 2006

Twenty four 8 1/2in. x 5 1/2in. pages hold my web passwords. Firefox manages passwords fairly well, but the pages are beyond dog-eared due to frequent references required to log into a news service, software forum or web site.

Three questions remain unanswered in the whole arena of web 2.0, hosted, software-by-subscription, software-on-demand, utility computing, web apps…you get it. I talked about those questions earlier. Here’s the quick reminder:

  • Who has my data and can I get a copy of it that is useful?
  • What do I do when you—my web app provider—go away?
  • Can you really survive the bubble?

Now, a far more eloquent essay about the matter exists. Joel Dueck has written The Nuclear Proliferation of Little Rails Apps. He hits on all the concerns, but with a more immediate focus on whether or not we are really more effective with dozens of specialized “little Rails apps.”

This one is drop-everything-read-it-right-now good.

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1095 Hours

28 March 2006

The whole thing began as a short weblog entry by Jason Hoffman at the Joyent weblog. That entry pointed to an article titled Shaking Up Tech Publishing. There are currently forty six comments about that article.

Here’s how that turned into a two-day excursion through all kinds of new thinking:

In addition to being a creative genius who came up with a brilliant new teaching methodology, Kathy is also a great promoter, with an amazing blog, and hugely successful training seminars at our conferences.—Tim O’Reilly commenting about David Heinemeier Hansson’s Shaking Up Tech Publishing and Kathy Sierra’s development of O’Reilly’s Head First series.

The questions begged. What’s the Head First series? Who is Kathy Sierra? What’s this “brilliant new teaching methodology?” How do I find Kathy’s weblog?

On the web one thing leads to another. I found Kathy’s weblog first. In the sidebar of her weblog, I noticed How To Be An Expert. That one has a bunch of comments, too.

Finally, I made my way over to the Head First series at O’Reilly. There are more articles there, a short bio for Kathy and links to some more of her work. It makes me want to be a programmer, and, after all, this all began with it’s almost never too late.

What do you want to learn? Whatever it might be, I encourage you to add Kathy’s sites to your regular reading list. Start it all with the links above followed by Multitasking Makes Us Stupid and Mediocrity By Areas of Improvement.

I headed for my bookstore, bought a Head First title and launched a push for new expertise. Intense focus on a subject for one hour each day for three years could make you (or me?) an expert. You might not have spent 1095 hours on your undergraduate major. Oh…and you could do far worse than to keep David Heinemeier Hansson’s site on the reading list as well!

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Sell It To Us

27 March 2006

Then we spent a day building a dead-simple shop in Rails that would take $19 from your credit card and give you a PDF.—David Heinemeier Hansson

The shop he refers to should be put on sale. Joel should put Ship It on sale, too.

One challenge that extremely bright, young people face: knowing what is marketable in spite of their own view that it seems so mundane or simple. ERP suites that have been revised over a period of ten or twenty years sometimes lack the brilliance of these simple tools.

Writers who have spent dozens of hours searching for a way to get published would happily pay for a simple tool that could be dropped into their website to sell a pdf file.

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Dark Corrosive Ichor

17 March 2006

What a quote:

So that’s why I said nothing yesterday; I was filled with the dark corrosive ichor that comes when even your hobbies disappoint. The Bleat by James Lileks on March 17, 2006.

Been there. Frequently. Lately.

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Something for Everyone

11 March 2006

Joyent’s weblog is on my morning reading list. This morning, Dean Allen dropped a little entry out there that provided fodder for the Web 2.0 fires.

He linked to an entry about fonts and colors in the logos of web 2.0 companies.The Logos of Web 2.0 If the logos don’t get your attention, a museum of beta sites might.

Three things continue to bother me about the concept of software as service, web 2.0, software on demand, utility computing or web applications. They are:

  1. Can I back up my data to a local PC or device?
  2. What happens when the application(s) are down? They will be.
  3. Who will win among the contenders as populous as in 1999?

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Not the Answer

9 March 2006

Yesterday’s Order II has met this morning’s reality. Origami is not the answer that a mobile business professional seeks. The Reuters story reveals many of the reasons why Microsoft’s UMPC just won’t serve the converging needs. At a minimum, you’ll still need your phone. Worse, you may also need to hang onto the phone and the PDA—whether those have converged for you or not.

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Order II

8 March 2006

About a month ago, we discussed Order. Bringing order to life in an orderly way seems to get more challenging each day. I’ve never spent much time using Outlook Express, but I have been a long-time user of Outlook.

Because my life (and work) are about projects, I carry a Treo 650. Before that I carried a PDA of one type or another. For a Palm, palmtop or Treo, the synch between the device and Outlook has been flawless for a decade or more.

Weaknesses remain. These devices are too small to browse the Internet, research articles, write and do web design work. Weaker still are the techniques for managing projects at such a small scale. I have a rather finely tuned project management methodology that has served me well for a long time. Documents, spreadsheets, project management applications, email, contacts, calendars and prioritization tools are all part of the suite. Currently, a laptop is the only tool that really makes that suite mobile. When collaboration leading to a launch date is essential, the tools cannot be weak.

Alternatives to my trusted methods are creeping over the horizon, but what will they really permit? Will one of them emerge or will you still need a meshed suite of hardware and software? Here’s a glimpse of my radar screen:

  • Joyent – can one web app do it all?
  • Origami – is this a WinTel wifi viewer to web apps?
  • 37Signals – is this where collaboration is headed?
  • Google – Google this and Google that
  • Strongspace – part of the suite or its foundation?

What do I really want? It may boil down to a lean, light Mac of some (upcoming design) with one or more web apps at the core.

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CSS Laundry List

7 March 2006

The time has come to dive deeply into CSS, XHTML, standards, doctypes, validation…again! I’ve produced a laundry list of embellishments I’d like to make to this website. Most stem from a suggestion or request from readers.

You’ve read here many times that I have a mental block when it comes to spanning the connections between a tag in a template, XHTML in an article and the CSS that styles both. A simple example is in order. Styling Links

What you’re looking at when you click on the thumbnail is a section of my home page. You’re seeing the tags from the Web Developer Toolbar (for Firefox) produced by Chris Pederick. The challenge for me is understanding how to observe that image and go into the stylesheet for the page and make appropriate changes to alter the way links appear within articles.

Please understand—I don’t want to alter the way a link appears in the navbar, in the titles of articles, in the sidebar or anywhere else on the page. I do however want to style the links within an article differently from their existing (obscure) styling.

I know people who see this, visualize the change, find the appropriate selector and change it in less than 30 seconds. For me, this will amount to a half day of trial-and-error digging, research, reading and tedium. That’s the frustrating part about not being a designer with deep skills in web development.

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Insane Greatness or Financial Engineering?

6 March 2006

What would you do if you held the reigns at a place that made an announcement like this one? What if less than 90 days later you had to amplify that decision?

Maybe your challenges run to something a bit different. Your engineers and designers came up with a new vehicle. Then, after all your promotion and advertising activity, you learn that the insurance folks have a little different impression of your new car. Sadly, it brings to mind your company’s past.

Clearly, both CEO’s have the toughest jobs in business. It’s time to do something revolutionary. It’s time to stop dithering and make some things happen. Selling nine million cars a year at GMC and with Ford seeking The Way Forward, you cannot shrink to greatness. Do something radical. Regain your prestige, but do it with insanely great products.

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Insight By Marshall via Gruber

6 March 2006

I want a Mac, but I want a Mac that I can work with as effectively as I can work with my PC. Wait…perhaps that’s an overstatement. Plenty of days I find myself hating PC’s and Windows and USB and technology…and, I digress. Why haven’t I switched?

The three reasons are beautifully summarized by John Gruber’s essay this morning called Familiarity Breeds a User Base. He quotes liberally from and responds to this entry from Joshua Micah Marshall. However, the spur to the flank that apparently got all of the discussion under way is here.

* * * UPDATE * * * Less to do with Macs per se, but a clear message about technology, here’s I’m just sayin’. * * * UPDATE #2 * * * All (logical) objections notwithstanding, Joshua Micah Marshall bought a Mac.

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Another Annual

3 March 2006

At roughly 9:00a.m. EST tomorrow, Berkshire Hathaway will post the annual report and letter to shareholders on the web site. Each year we remind readers that careful study of Warren Buffett’s letters and annual reports since 1977 may provide a better education than a couple of years in a top-notch business school. Others said it; we believe it.

Berkshire completed the acquisition of BusinessWire this week. You can read about that here and here.

The company’s results for 2005 will include some charges for the losses incurred for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, other storms and other catastrophic losses. Remember, Berkshire is first and foremost an insurance company, though its list of holdings grows nearly every year. In the third quarter alone, Berkshire recorded almost $3 billion as an estimate against the ultimate losses recorded from Hurricane Katrina.

Yesterday, March 2, 2006, an “A” share of Berkshire closed at $87,000. Many believe that number might be well below the company’s intrinsic value. Let’s watch!

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I Need A Project

28 February 2006

After all the planning and preparation, a large technology project I’ve been leading will wrap up in the next two or three weeks. It’s been a great success for everyone involved.

What’s next? That’s where I need you—fellow participants in life’s Rodent Regatta—to offer some suggestions. I’m looking for a big project. Define big along any of several dimensions: numbers of participants, scope of the challenge, timeline, budget or mission/impact.

Some examples might help:

Leaders at Bass Pro Shops are talking about taking a public arena off Memphis’s books and turning it into one of the great destination stores in the USA. Once they finish the contractual details of acquiring or leasing the property from the city, the fun begins. Architects, engineers, merchandisers and a broad selection of contractors and subcontractors will take the next two years and $75 million to transform the Tomb of Doom into a store rivaling the company’s 300,000 square foot flagship store in Springfield.

Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana has a dream. When oil sits at $200 a barrel and gasoline is $6+ a gallon, many initiatives that have been dismissed will be pursued desperately. Let’s pursue something right now on a national scale. I could see myself spending some time making the Fischer-Tropsch process economically viable in a production environment.

There’s also corn.

Rick Warren’s dream is as big as they come. There are five problems in the world that have proven nearly intractable in the face of government efforts.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Shuttleworth Foundation and Samaritan’s Purse each have great ideas.

Unfortunately, I’m looking for something other than a voluntary opportunity. Who is hiring folks to rebuild the Gulf Coast? The volunteer opportunities abound, but I’m looking for a project-for-pay.

I’m ready to go to work. I’m looking for a project. Let me know what’s on your radar screen! If you’ve got contacts that have inroads into one of these initiatives, I’d like to talk to them. If you know of other big projects, use the comments to tell us about them. Oh…and thanks!

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The Money Is There Somewhere

28 February 2006

Today a shipping carton arrived on my doorstep. Inside was a display carton like those you might find sitting on a retail counter. Inside the display carton were twenty (20) cardboard CD cases with two (2) CD’s in each one.

Clearly, there is money in all of this open source stuff somewhere.Made out of good materials and with nice-looking graphics, both the CD’s and the cardboard carriers were from Ubuntu or Canonical, LTD. I’m not a Linux user. I’ve never really had a notion that I’d replace my Windows laptop with anything other than a Macintosh. Yet, compelling graphics coupled with these twenty sets of open source software CD’s shipped unexpectedly to my desk make me curious.

These CD’s carry version 5.1 of the Unbuntu distro of Linux. The second CD in each package contains such things as Firefox, Open Office, Thunderbird, etc. Check it out here. I don’t know when I might need Linux, but this unexpected package and the sites that I’ve linked to make me curious. I’ll pay more attention to what Linux is doing and what Mark Shuttleworth is doing to promote it.

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So Long and Thanks!

26 February 2006

Don Knotts as Barney Fife

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When It's Hard to Get There

21 February 2006

Back country flying presents a host of challenges. Operating conditions take a toll on aircraft that were designed for those situations. Yet, service intervals, mean time between failures and pilot flying styles alter even the most rugged aircraft’s ability to perform on a continuous basis.

You saw End of the Spear? You got a glimpse of one type of aviation need in the field of mission and humanitarian flight. Now comes word that the Quest Aircraft Company is preparing the next generation of airplanes designed for this work.

Take a look at the media gallery.

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Order

10 February 2006

From a daydream several weeks ago to yesterday’s receipt of instructions providing access to Joyent, things are changing. What things? What changes?

Joyent bought TextDrive. Now Joyent lists three products on their weblog. They include the “Joyent connector services. There’s the TextDrive’s hosting service. Then, there is the Strongspace service.

All three services are needed. They are needed by the small business, and they are needed by the freelancer providing any type of collaborative goods or services to a list of customers. The question is whether or not the small business and/or the freelancer can manage all of these features without an intermediary. If so, how? Let’s work an example…

The best experience I’ve ever had trying to manage four or five domain names at a web host and the associated email accounts involved a product called cpanel. However, as I read through the discussion forum at TextDrive, the techies show great contempt for the product. Though it was easily understood by even a novice user of web hosting, it must have some underlying technical problems that make it less than desirable as the administration center for a next generation host like TextDrive.

If cpanel is wrong, what’s right? TextDrive talked for a while about writing a product called TextPanel. It was to be their answer to easy to use and technically sound administration of hosting services (and email). There was even some suggestion that TextPanel might provide a way to administer all of the services that the Joyent-TextDrive-Strongspace folks offer.

I’m ready for it. With the introduction of the Joyent services, there is yet another set of administrator name and password, user name and password and forum name and password. Those come on top of the TextDrive user name and password, the forum user name and password and all of the email names and passwords. I suspect the same will be true when I get the Strongspace services. Another user name and password combo for the administrator. More for the user(s). There’s a weblog and a forum for this one as well.

Joyent (et al) will make their mark when they simplify the management of all of these. Clearly, any of them stand alone as services that individuals and businesses need. However, the three are so compelling that they’ll be used together. There needs to be a single administrative center for these. It’s time to combine the forums. It’s time to reduce the number of user names and passwords. It’s time to combine the weblogs using sections or categories to help someone see it all or filter the content to suit their needs.

If something similar to this recommendation does not happen, we’re going to see intermediaries hired to manage it all. If they aren’t hired for their technical know-how, they’re going to be hired to save time for those who have higher and better uses of their time than to keep track of a multitude of user names, passwords, weblogs, forums and administrative centers.

Perhaps all of this has already been designed by folks far smarter than me. Perhaps it is simply a matter of time before it rolls out. If not, let me say I want a place where I can manage all of this stuff without having to become an übergeek. The list calls for a variety of services to be taken to the Internet so that no person is bound to a single PC to get work done:

  • Backup services
  • Storage space
  • Domain hosting & management
  • Email management & spam blocking (including everything one can do with Outlook and Gmail, as well as clarifying aliases, forwarding, etc.)
  • Shared calendars & project status information
  • Contact & address book administration
  • Statistics about hosting, email, storage, etc.
  • Capacity and account information related to costs (i.e. am I doing anything to drive my costs up or to harm others given the shared nature of the services?)

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Carts and Horses and Rat Races

8 February 2006

I’m visiting too many sites that expect me to make the switch now from reading to listening. There are problems with that. First, the behavior of Windows Media Player, RealPlayer and QuickTime on a Windows PC is highly variable from one PC to the next. Get them all together on a single machine and you’re simply begging to watch the turf wars as they fight it out for control of your PC. Take a look at that URL and imagine yourself trying to jot it down…Second, there remains a lot of variability from one day to the next in what passes for broadband in this country. [Hint: 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up isn’t broadband except in the marketing suites of America’s ISP’s.]

Finally, if you’ve got a well-behaved and properly-configured PC and your bandwidth is working just fine, you still lose something when a link-filled weblog entry becomes a podcast. For now, there are places where traditional entries and podcasts coexist very well. However, and strictly as an example, 43 Folders is also a shining example of a site where going all-podcast-all-the-time wouldn’t work. There is too much information there that is right-brained—you simply have to see it to fully grasp how you might use it. Take a look at that URL and imagine yourself trying to jot it down or type it in while listening to a podcast.

Meanwhile, back at the Rat Race—we’ll add podcasting here when 100Mbps up and down is the rule rather than the exception. By that time a podcast will be all-video-all-the-time complete with a clickable whiteboard showing the links as the podcaster talks. Then, I’m in.

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No More Second Banana

5 February 2006

Dan Benjamin has fired that second person.

It’s time for Super Bowl XL, and today’s the day for CSP LII.

Life is good.

* * * UPDATE * * * Do meetings happen within the deep recesses of the NFL where referrees and “league officials” discuss the upcoming outcome of games? Wait…that’s wrestling. Sorry.

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Public Service Advisory NAV2006

3 February 2006

Norton Antivirus 2006 from Symantec carries a passenger. He goes by Norton Protection Center, and he’s one of those arrogant blowhards who knows everything about everything. Dealing with him is ponderous at best and like watching your computer handle every bit on screen at worst. He’s big, loud, unentertaining and slow.

If he visits you, here’s what you should do:

  1. Right-click on My Computer and select “manage”
  2. Navigate to Services and Applications in the left-hand window and expand that menu
  3. Click on “services” and then find Norton Protection Center in the right-hand screen
  4. Right-click on the surly pig and choose “properties”
  5. Neuter him by stopping him and changing his startup type to “disabled”

Having sufficiently crippled him, you will now return to antiviral computing at speeds approximating normal.

Oh, and thanks Symantec for bringing this louse into our lives. Your pursuit of all things anti-computing continues to make you one of the least customer-friendly companies in existence.

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Some Facts

1 February 2006

Our President spoke tonight. The sound bites were plentiful, but the statements of fact were compelling. Either we believe these things or we do not:

  • “But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger.”
  • “We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom – or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life.”
  • “No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it.” Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.
  • “Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.”
  • “The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions – and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons.”
  • “We must also confront the larger challenge of mandatory spending, or entitlements.”
  • “By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire Federal budget.”
  • “Our Nation needs orderly and secure borders.”
  • “Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.”
  • “We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations.”
  • “Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?”

Are there problems of national scope and scale that should rank higher than these? If so, we must identify and agree on them. If not, we must get on with the (civil) debates that lead to lasting solutions.

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Inspired Solutions

26 January 2006

As I heard the story told, it went something like this:

Henry Ford’s assembly line went down. Teams of engineers tried everything to no avail. Losing money by the minute, Ford called Thomas Edison. Edison arrives, spots the problem and instructs the engineers. Ford’s dollars start flowing again. Two weeks later Edison sends Ford a bill for $10,000. Ford replies by letter that Edison was only on site for a few hours and he (Ford) needs an itemized invoice. By return mail Edison provides this itemized invoice:

  • Time on site......$100.00
  • Know-how.......$9900.00
  • Total due......$10,000.00

It’s a story representative of what a designer or expert in any field faces when billing for services. Read what Andy Rutledge has to say about staring at ceiling tiles and billing for your results.

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Memo to Politicians

22 January 2006

Don’t state your position relative to your opponent’s. Don’t state your party’s position relative to the opposition. Tell us what you think. Tell us what you plan to do. Tell us what your party stands for.

We’ll do the comparing and contrasting. When your next statement begins with, “Contrary to what my opponent believes…,” you’ve already lost me. I want to know what you think without all the flourishes and embellishments. Veiled commentary about your opposition buried within your remarks will cost you my vote…period.

Whether you seek a career in politics or have chosen to term-limit yourself to 1, 2 or 12 terms, I don’t care. Just tell me what you think. If you want to talk about the war, don’t begin your remarks with some backhanded slap at how we find ourselves in a war. We’re there…what’s your position on what we do now? Some tax cuts were put in place. Don’t critique that decision. Tell me what you will do about taxation, now.

I’m not interested in whether or not you are angry. I’m not interested in whether or not you feel threatened. I’m not interested in how much (or how little) you fear for our nation. I want to hear your position on issues. Spending time talking about somebody else’s legal entanglements or failed policies or lousy strategies doesn’t tell me what you’ll do.

All we want to hear is what you will do if you get elected.

Oh…one more thing. When you get elected, remember that you are then to get on with the business of running the government of the country, the state, the county, the city or whatever. You are not there to run the politics of the country or state. Simpler, politics isn’t government. Politics is a method for getting elected to a role in the government. Learn that!

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Infrequent BRK Update

20 January 2006

Berkshire Hathaway’s shares closed at $90,200.00 and $2963.50 for the A & B shares respectively. The annual report is scheduled to be posted on the company’s website in the next few weeks.

Here’s a link to the pdf file covering Berkshire’s acquisition of Business Wire. The annual meeting is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 2006 in Omaha.

Long-time readers will recall the statement that a thorough reading and re-reading of Warren Buffett’s letters to shareholders is worth more than two years in a good graduate business school. Hyperbole aside, a bit of understanding and insight helps!

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Merged Company Mixes Grill

19 January 2006

Joyent acquired TextDrive and the two companies began merging their know-how, dreams and skills. Thanks to Dean Allen, the company continues to offer incredible products and services with the best still on the horizon. Today, there is another lifetime hosting arrangement offered with the first taste of combining the services of Joyent, TextDrive and also Strongspace. Take a careful look at The Mixed Grill. Here’s a glimpse:

TextDrive

  • 2 GiB disk space
  • Up to 15 top-level domains
  • 20 Gig bandwidth/mo
  • Unlimited mailboxes and subdomains
  • Up to 20 databases
  • All the great standard features

Strongspace

  • 9 GiB storage
  • 3 upload users
  • Unlimited read-only users

Joyent (available Feb 2006)

  • Complete hosted application suite, including email, files, contacts, calendar, and all future updates
  • Up to 5 users

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I Asked They Answered

16 January 2006

In the Textpattern support forum I asked, How did you learn CSS? Do you have advice for someone who wants to learn how to properly “write CSS” and position elements on the screen?

  1. a book or books
  2. strictly by doing; is there a sample problem you’d recommend?
  3. an online site or tutorial
  4. a software tutorial (e.g. StyleMaster or TopStyle?)
  5. by asking questions and getting answers
  6. a tutor
  7. a certain set of tools/software/websites
  8. some other way

They responded:

As a bonus, I learned of Hemingway, a template for another weblog application. I’m hoping that the Textpattern Theme Competition produces some templates like that one!

UPDATE: Resources for learning CSS continue to come in. One writer pointed to the following people and links:

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I Love Web Serendipity

14 January 2006

Chariots of Fire was playing on A&E this morning. The coffee was a repackaging of four bags of remnants. I called it pilgrim berry.

Deciding to really learn more about what Newsvine is all about, I began browsing. The first thing that caught my eye was I Have Seen the End of the United States. What an excellent take on the behavior of politicians and what it foretells of our future.

Wanting to learn more about Andy, I visited his web site. From there I learned of his employer’s web site. The message is clear that great, attention-grabbing web sites can also be standards-compliant and key marketing components for businesses.

Revisiting Andy’s site, I learned about his minimalist views of web site and weblog comments. Batting two for two with his writing, Andy’s site took me next to Online News Just Got Interesting where I learned of Khoi Vinh, his new role with The New York Times and the agency he departed.

Now, back to that Newsvine thing. It appears the vine really works.

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The Rat Race at Four

13 January 2006

After the towers collapsed and the news coverage of the event subsided, I found a need to change some things. I wasn’t sure what needed to change, and there were some false starts.

This weblog became part of the answer and has lasted. January 13, 2002 marked the date of the first post. By some quirk of Userland hosting, you can even visit that first post by clicking here. The home page of that site is here. In case ties back to the old beginnings get severed, here’s how that post appears under today’s design.

Thanks to all of you who read here!

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New Tools and New Versions

12 January 2006

Recently some new software has entered the toolbox or will very soon. Different people get excited about different features in software. Sometimes there’s a definite functional aspect that sets a product apart. There are look-and-feel issues that carry the day for others. Notepad sits at one extreme. Perhaps TextMate sits at another.

Here are some tools that are becoming a bigger part of my work:

ma.gnoliaNewsvine
FeedDemon 2.0SnagIt

Social networking tools haven’t typically been on my radar screen. However, I think ma.gnolia may have the potential to change my thinking. Newsvine is a new way to look at (and contribute to) reported news. I’ve used FeedDemon to subscribe to RSS feeds for some time now. Under new ownership and with version 2.0 just around the corner, I’ll be spending more time reading sites via the aggregator. Finally, SnagIt has caught my fancy as a useful tool for dealing with images.

Click the logos above for more information about each tool!

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Governments and WiFi

11 January 2006

I like the concept of city-wide wireless access to the Internet. I dislike the notion of taxpayers covering the costs—either the capital costs or the operating costs. Government does some things well and other things poorly. Internet access provides a new set of examples of things governments do poorly.

However, it’s beginning to look like the concepts behind municipal wi-fi may be as flawed as some other things that cities do. In my city they frequently repave a street only to have a crew cutting holes in the new pavement once the paving crews get a few blocks away. Department A in public works didn’t know what Department B had before it; that’s life in government.

Some of the municipal network activists get blind-sided by picking the wrong technologies for the job, expecting those technologies to work as theorized and believing the hand-off from installer to operator (the municipality or it’s subcontractor) will be easy.

Techdirt has lots of coverage as you’ll see if you visit the links above. Here’s the extent of what I believe a city’s involvement should be: the city has the easements; donate them!

Let a business (with enough capital and knowledge to do the job right) have a long-term lease on those easements for $1.00 a year. Then, be willing to listen to the endless grousing by the legacy phone companies who will whine like little children.

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An Official Design Competition

9 January 2006

Complete with sponsors, rules and a deadline, there’s now a template design competition for Textpattern. Reviewing designs will be a great way to learn the details of Textpattern’s tags, forms, sections and pages.

If you’re a designer looking for new business, this might be an excellent community to support.

Many thanks to Tom Fadial for making it all happen!

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Newsvine By Invitation

7 January 2006

Newsvine is a place to get, write and comment on the news. Here’s how the company describes itself:

Seattle-based Newsvine, Inc. was founded in 2005 by a small team of like-minded colleagues with one purpose: to build a perfectly different, perfectly efficient way to read, write, and interact with the news. Founded by veterans of Disney, ESPN, and other media organizations, the mission of Newsvine is to bring together big and little media in a way which respects established journalism and empowers the individual at the same time.

The “private beta” of Newsvine is under way. I have fifteen invitations available. Leave a comment below and I’ll get an invitation on the way to you.

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Some Thoughts About the Pack

7 January 2006

Technologists don’t understand Google. Some say the Google Pack is worthless because it’s focused (first) on Windows XP. Others point out that the software is already available elsewhere. Still others know a better way. There’s more to the story than what the insiders believe is reality.

What the techies don’t get is everybody’s not a techie! Having a trusted source say, “do this,” well, it’s what so many users of PC’s need. A friend and I often help individuals and small businesses with their information technology strategies and implementations.

Most users know there’s something called spyware, but they have no clue as to what to do about it. Viruses offer the same puzzle. Multi-media is loudly hyped, but what does a business user select as the single application or suite of applications for this “need?”

Google is providing quite a service by making a decision for the unknowing and—more importantly—providing a centralized spot for keeping everything up to date! If you don’t have a trusted advisor, I’d suggest you uninstall any and all of your past attempts at the tools that Google Pack replaces. Then, download it and use it!

Here’s my history with the applications prior to Google Pack:

  • Google Earth – got it; love it
  • Picasa – what to use?; Flickr?; this one awaits my camera choice
  • Google Pack Screensaver – I use plain vanilla Windows XP screensavers
  • Google Desktop – it’s downloaded, but I don’t use it
  • Google Toolbar for IE – I recommend it to clients who stick with IE, but I use Firefox
  • Firefox with Google Toolbar – my daily browser
  • Norton AV 2005 Special Edition – I use & install Norton; it or something like it must be on every PC
  • Ad-Aware SE Personal – use it every week & recommend it along with Spybot Search & Destroy
  • Adobe Reader 7 – this & Winzip belong on every Windows PC

You’ve got alternatives? That’s what the comments are for!

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Photography 2006: A Call for Help

6 January 2006

Start with an aside: Dr. Michael A. Covington writes an online notebook almost every day. He’s a prof at the Artificial Intelligence Center at the University of Georgia. He photographs the skies among other things. He also has wisdom to share. While I haven’t found a syndication feed, I’ve got his site bookmarked and enjoy his work.

I need any reader’s advice. Within the next thirty days or so, I’m going to dive into digital photography. There’s a photography show coming up in February which gives me some pause. New product announcements are frequently made there. That’s the only thing that may delay my decisions.

Otherwise, my dilemma is one of too many choices. Here are four cameras I’m thinking about:

  1. Canon EOS 20Da
  2. Canon EOS 350D Digital Rebel XT
  3. Canon PowerShot S80
  4. Canon PowerShot SD550

The other piece of this puzzle involves printing photographs. Two printers caught my eye:

  1. Epson Stylus Photo R1800—or R2400?
  2. Canon i9900

I’ll be photographing everything from travel sites to family gatherings to items to list on eBay. Some of those cameras are reach-in-the-pocket-and-shoot. Some are semi-pro SLR’s.

Now for the questions:

  • What do you use and like?
  • What are the must-have accessories to go with these?
  • Where do you like to buy this stuff?
  • What are the good rumors about new equipment?
  • What can I buy now that offers pleasing and broadly flexible photographic options for the next thirty six months?

I’ll hang up and listen to your answers.

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Reporters Should Stop Playing Telephone

4 January 2006

Journalism is fact. It’s not your thoughts about fact—that’s opinion. It’s not presenting the facts with your findings—that’s editorial.

Journalism is fact. It exists when someone writes or reports fact. Fact comes from someone who knows. The journalist’s job is to determine who knows the facts, collect them and report them to the rest of us. Telling us what some other reporter or network might have reported isn’t journalism. That’s called a grapevine.

TV infobabes emotionally chatting with others about what either of them thinks they might have overhead—well, that’s just chit-chat. It’s not reporting. It’s not journalism. It’s hardly entertainment. It’s a poll. It’s a man-on-the-street discussion. It’s not journalism. It’s simply an airing of opinions.

When reporters go crazy like this, it’s colossally cruel and the furthest thing from journalism. Hey, news people, stop playing telephone with each other!

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Throttled

2 January 2006

Why does it take over seven hours to download an update to Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 3.0? The 4.0 update is a 500MB+ file.

This application better really be good. What on earth could Adobe’s Download Manager be doing to throttle the download to such an extent. Oh well, here’s to better doctored digital photos in 2006!

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Thinking About the Year

31 December 2005

Everybody’s doing stories about the stories of the year. Things that caught our attention this past year are in the news again. Past is prologue.

What will (or should) catch our attention in the new year called 2006? Here are local, national and global stories that came to mind this morning:

  • Hurricanes on the US gulf coast have created ongoing needs.
  • Tsunami recovery efforts remain.
  • Murders In MemphisMurders in Memphis continue at rates not seen in bigger places.
  • The Tennessee Waltz goes on and on.
  • After 88 years in business a local bicycle shop is closing in 2006.
  • The Wall Street Journal listed the actors/movies that Jeff Daniels watches over and over to improve his skill: Alan Arkin in The In-Laws, Eddie Bracken in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon, Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson. It seems the star of Dumb and Dumber might have been acting! [Thanks to Lauren Mechling of the Wall Street Journal for the insight.]
  • Bill Miller of Legg Mason managed a mutual fund so that for the fifteenth consecutive year he beat the S&P500. No other mutual fund manager has done that.
  • What can I do to help Wal-Mart with quality and customer service?
  • Someone used the term “junior seniors” this week to refer to people aged 55-64. Demographics are becoming more important. Young folk may see their forays into age discrimination come back to haunt them.
  • A minister wrongfully dismissed from a smallish church after 21 years of faithful service now ministers in a church over twenty times the size of the former one. Life loops. Good wins. God is good.
  • Natural gas prices continue to escalate in Memphis. I wonder what a normal annual inventory turnover rate is for Memphis Light, Gas & Water?
  • In 2006 some more CEO’s will discover that employees and investors and customers expect more from them than celebrity, financial engineering and high profile shenanigans. Run the business, please.

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An Open Goal for 2006

29 December 2005

During 2006 I’d like to interview Mr. Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart for about one hour – in person. All of my questions during that interview will relate to how he views Wal-Mart’s performance in the areas of quality and customer service. Let me explain.

First, I’ve previously written Mr. Scott in an open letter here. That letter was prompted by a bad experience with the automotive department at one of Wal-Mart’s stores. Recently, the scene was repeated with some really bad twists. Yes, I went back.

I like to buy Michelin tires at Wal-Mart, because they are cheaper than anywhere else I’ve found. However, once things began to go horribly wrong in the area of customer service, I asked one Wal-Mart employee, “Do you or any of your co-workers really care about what’s happening to me or these other folks that have been waiting?” The answer came with a vacant stare, “Not really.”

My experience left me pondering Wal-Mart’s particular challenges in the areas of quality and customer service. It seems to me there are three areas where Wal-Mart’s “risks” go beyond merely selling a product and letting the manufacturer of the product handle complaints. Those three areas are automotive services, pharmacy services and food storage services.

If I buy a hammer, hit my thumb with it and want to sue someone for my stupidity, I’d have to look to the hammer manufacturer – not Wal-Mart. However, if I buy a side of beef that has been stored at improper temperatures and the block party sends a herd of people to the emergency room, Wal-Mart might have some exposure. Similar scenarios can be cooked up with pharmacy operations.

Let me be perfectly clear. These are extreme, ridiculous examples. I have no intention of entering into any form of litigation with Wal-Mart.

All of this is driven by a desire to see the company improve. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with so many of the things others are using to slam the company. Outsourcing is fine. Employing people at prevailing rates with prevailing benefits is fine. Making suppliers find new ways to cut costs, become more effective and improve service is fine. Aggressively moving into new markets is fine.

My belief – and what I’d like to talk to Mr. Scott about – is that with some rather simple improvements in customer service practices, Wal-Mart might go further in countering the naysayers than with any public relations budget or morale-boosting campaign.

Continue to be known as the place to go for low prices, but add a touch of kindness and customer appreciation and the sky is the limit.

Clearly, I’m tipping my hand. Mine is not going to be a contentious interview. Rather, I want to have an open dialog about quality, customer service and how he views things. I’m a fan of what of Wal-Mart wants to be. Capitalism is the only way to go. Wal-Mart’s critics and those clamoring for “social reform” must constantly weigh their social causes against the risk of becoming socialists.

I just want to talk about how you bring a servant’s attitude to over a million employees. We can meet anywhere at any time that is convenient for both of us. We can meet in Bentonville. We can meet in at an airport where you’ll be traveling. We can meet at a Wal-Mart store.

To those assuming this is some idle dream, it’s not. If we have a discussion that ultimately makes Wal-Mart one of the friendliest and most convenient places for customers to get great prices and great service attitudes, well, we will produce one of the highest returns on the investment of an hour’s time in the history of free enterprise!

It’s a fun goal. Mr. Scott, let’s talk.

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Organization for Minimalists

28 December 2005

Do you like design? Do you have goals for 2006? Do you plan? Do you need focus? Do you take notes? Do you want order?

via Ryan Schwartz, I give you The PocketMod

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Merry Christmas

25 December 2005

Merry Christmas
Wishing all who read here a
M e r r y  C h r i s t m a s !

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Just As I Suspected

23 December 2005

Memphis owns and operates its own public utility company which sells or resells electricity, natural gas and water. Along with those services we get sewer services and some billing of other city services.

The utility is called MLG&W and it can only be mismanaged. It cannot lose money if properly managed.

So, quite predictably, they raised rates on natural gas in the same month that Memphis has its coldest (coolest) temperatures. Not only is your utility bill higher because of consumption, but it is also higher because of new rates.

Here’s a web site devoted to all the maladies that make Memphis so special.

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They Are Fleeing

21 December 2005

Memphis, Tennessee is in Shelby County. This county is bordered on the west by the Mississippi River and Arkansas. On the south it is bordered by Mississippi. It’s a city that is flagging in spite of superficial signs of progress.

Memphis is dealing with political corruption that is as bad as at any point in its history. Within the city limits we pay a county property tax as well as the city’s property tax. Poorly run government causes the tax rate to go up each year. Greed makes the property assessment go up as well. No one has been able to peg the level of taxation that is due to corruption. Whatever the case, people are fleeing.

The impressions have been there for a while. Now, the data is coming in. The local newspaper, called The Commercial Appeal, documented another round of citizens fleeing the city and the county. You can read about it in this article [free subscription may be required].

Here’s an example of just how bad it has become:

The U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday estimated that Shelby’s median household income dropped from $41,048 to $39,099 between 2000 and 2003, while Tennessee as a whole and several surrounding counties had gains.

Those are 2003 numbers. Expect those trends to accelerate when 2004, 2005 and 2006 numbers are examined.

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Escalator

21 December 2005

Check the end of this entry called Edit 3 for an update on TextDrive specs. It seems that everybody participating in TextDrive’s various “VC” plans can now occupy 2GB of disk space with up to 15 domains and use 20GB of bandwidth per month.

My own interpretation of this says that someone who combined the VC200 with the VCII now has 4GB of space, can host 30 domains and possibly can use 40GB of bandwidth each month. This for single payments of $199 and $399 respectively. That’s $598 for a lifetime hosting arrangement.

As of this entry, similar specs would cost between $16 and $40 per month for shared hosting arrangements from popular hosts. Payback is sweet and takes only 15 to 37 months!

TextDrive

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And Now This Interruption

20 December 2005

New York City Transit StrikeNo, you cannot enter state or city-sponsored retirement at age 50.

No, you cannot have a 12% raise.

Yes, I am going to do what Ronald Reagan did.

Give ‘em 24 hours beginning right now or…

Fire ‘em—Now

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

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The Bluff City

20 December 2005

Memphis sits on the high river bluffs on the banks of the Mississippi River. Known as the “Bluff City,” the city is viewed by cynics as a place where bluff city refers to an attitude.

The wannabes in Memphis—typically new money—frequently turn any traditional event or activity into a place to be seen by their latte-sipping, Lexus-driving friends. Nowhere is this easier to find than at the theater. Whether an opera, symphony, ballet or Broadway show, the wannabes want to be seen.

Here’s a tip: get to your seat before the show starts and get back into that seat before intermission ends. You’re annoying enough as it is. It’s simply rude and ignorant behavior to be walking to the front of a theater and sliding into your row five seat when little kids are trying to see the stage. You are what you are; there’s no bluffing your way through that.

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Scrooge Week

17 December 2005

Over the next few hours or days, I’m going to flush my craw of some things that have stuck in it. Here’s the somewhat tentative list:

  • Theater attendees in Memphis are wannabes
  • Utility management at Memphis Light Gas & Water
  • A Wal-Mart story you simply won’t believe
  • Why they’re leaving my county in droves
  • When will CEO’s get real jobs?

This—again somewhat tentatively—will be a batch of five articles during the rest of this weekend and into the new week. By Christmas weekend, the goal is to cleanse the attitude. Clueless customer service, or worse, customer service driven solely by the assumptions and preferences of the server is getting much worse. I’m beyond tired of it.

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Living It

16 December 2005

There’s a Slashdot pointer to an Ars Technica history of the most popular computers in the personal computer industry.

As someone who built a large computer dealership, then helped build one of the largest PC distributors in the country, there’s a lot to recall about the greatest days of the industry. We sold to commercial users of personal computers. Most often we were talking to people who were looking for alternatives to stand-alone word processing systems and better terminals to the “mainframe.”

Clearly, there was a consumer and hobbyist demand that sustained the market for small, personal computers in the earliest days. Yet, the industry was built by sales to those with volume requirements for PC’s. There were some tricky periods within certain eras. Difficult to imagine today are the moments when it wasn’t completely clear that AT&T or Texas Instruments would ultimately give way to IBM’s clout. Would Compaq or Corona prevail or would both fall by the wayside?

Faced with buying inventory, training field engineers, stocking replacement parts and selecting software, the choices of brand were anything but trivial. Our dealership launched in 1981. I sold in 1990 and helped build one of the big distributors. By 1994, it was obvious that consolidation would bring about some huge reversals of fortune. I left the PC distribution industry and largely observed the implosion from afar.

Organizations built around names like Computerland, Entre, Inacom, MicroAge and others began to fold in the face of slow shifts from their controlled (franchise) distribution models to the wide open distribution models being pursued by Ingram Micro, Tech Data and (ultimately) the major manufacturers.

In those years, owning computer inventory was like owning heads of lettuce. One day it had value. The next day it looked a little brown around the edges. By the next day it was beginning to smell. What a great place to learn high-speed logistics, sophisticated inventory control and zero-stock distribution models. Some got it. Many did not.

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Dollywood or Putt Putt?

15 December 2005

Measuring things can be tricky. To correctly provide a metric, you must usually have some certainty about who wants to know and why? Otherwise, you get purposeful distortions or you get inaccuracies brought about by imprecision.

“I think they should count them differently,” she said of the list, which combines single-ticket attractions, such as Dollywood’s theme park, with multiple-ticket attractions like the Golf & Games Family Park. The park counts every ticket sold to its three 18-hole Putt-Putt courses, two go-kart tracks, an arcade, a golf driving range, batting cages, a laser tag arena and, in warm weather, a bumper-boat ride.—from Bigger Draw Than Graceland by Michael Lollar writing for The Commercial Appeal [free subscription may be required]

There you have it. Memphis offers its number one attraction to the state of Tennessee list with a putt-putt golf course. Let’s hope we do a bit better job of appraising and assessing property for taxation. Oh, wait, this is Memphis! Yet, ten million people go to Dollywood every year?

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Why Some Technical Folk Don't Get It

14 December 2005

Hubris is a subject we’ve covered several times before. Lately, it has come to mind again. This time it’s about technical people who simply cannot tolerate the “ignorant users.”

Examples include:

  • a web host unsatisfied with a customer’s requests
  • a technical writer indifferent toward a customer’s ignorance
  • a medical office receptionist accusing the patient when the receptionist is unable to find fifteen years of patient history
  • a university forcing people to park in the wrong place in order to go inside a building and request that the gate be opened into the area visitors are supposed to park—complete with reprimand for parking in the wrong place
  • a software company overly confident that they know the better way in the face of customer requests to the contrary
  • a community of users now seeing their discussion forum dominated by a narrow group of snarky experts threatened by any intrusion from the outsiders

There are solutions, but those in a position to change things must want to satisfy customers. You must be willing to ask (sincerely), “who are the customers and what do they want?”

In a 2002 poll, the Consumer Electronics Association discovered that 87% of people said ease of use is the most important thing when it comes to new technologies. “Engineers say, ‘Do you know how much complexity we’ve managed to build in here?’ But consumers say, ‘I don’t care. It’s just supposed to work!’ ” says Daryl Plummer, group vice president at Gartner Group.—from The Beauty of Simplicity by Linda Tischler writing for Fast Company magazine.

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What's Next?

14 December 2005

StarbucksHad you invested $25,000 in Starbucks back in 1992, your investment would be worth about a million today. You can see the details here.

Hindsight like this raises a question. What can we see going into 2006 that carries the potential for an annual compound growth rate of 32%? Starbucks delivered in excess of 4000% over thirteen years in spite of a bubble. What’s next?

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by December 11 of 1941

7 December 2005

Only four days after our Pacific Fleet was bombed by the Japanese in 1941, the United States was at war with Germany throughout Europe and the Japanese throughout the south Pacific. American industry rose to the challenges of supplying the nation’s needs at home and abroad.

Yes, there were sacrifices. Yes, there was rationing. Women worked unbelievably hard in factories where men had left jobs behind to go fight for freedom.

I’m thankful for the Greatest Generation. They provided in ways that some current and nearly all future generations will never understand.

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Ten Years of JavaScript

5 December 2005

Today marks the ten year anniversary of the joint announcement from Sun and Netscape. Read the press release and remember.

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Fat Pipes Plus

2 December 2005

Linksys Wireless Router An old WAP11 died quite suddenly today. Natural causes.

They say when your favorite dog dies, nothing helps with the grief like a puppy. So, this new one is smaller, faster and easier.

Highly recommended.

Did I mention how much faster it is. When the incoming pipe is only about 5Mbps, it seems everything on the LAN (10/100/1000Mbps) would be overkill.

However, this new one simply screams. It’s also more secure.

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Day Dreaming Over Coffee

1 December 2005

This morning I’m writing without a solid outline. The topic blends the recent news about TextDrive, Joyent and hosted (ASP) applications. The thoughts are partially fueled by Seattle’s Best made too strong this morning, but also by this entry in the TextDrive forums.

I’ve bought, sold and invested in way too many businesses to have any of the sense of ownership and control that some members of the TextDrive community have. I’ve received more than a fair ROI from my two purchases of lifetime hosting from TextDrive. I may never use the disk space, bandwidth or domain counts that I’m allowed. Yet, when I think of the entire investment as education, I’ve gotten quite a return.

Now, how to build from here. I’m no designer. I’m no programmer. Yet, I’ve spent thirty years watching small to large companies manage and mismanage information technology. I’ve watched driven owners tell the receptionist to just pick a phone system. When he can’t get his email, he yells, “call the computer guy.” I’ve seen overloaded CIO’s commanded to build Rome in a day.

What can we bundle together that makes it easy for a 5-person business or a 50-person business to get all of the services they count on from technology? How can we get to the benefits without having to pore over every specification? Security ought to be a major part, but it shouldn’t require a hacker to set up, operate, monitor and verify. Simply providing great contact management and follow-up isn’t enough.

Email is part of the need. Shared calendars and documents are needs. But, what if you’re attempting to create this week’s “call list” and you want to also mention past due accounts to those who have them? What if you’re calling someone about a new promotion, but they have orders pending? How do you make sure the caller (your employee) is made aware of those pending orders and their status in advance of or during the call?

It goes beyond project management. It’s more than collaboration software. The need bridges the acronyms. ERP, CRM, SFA, SCM and the rest of the alphabet soup doesn’t lead to bottom line results for businesses. Rather, tools, processes and techniques that allow proactive and preventive actions with coworkers, suppliers and customers create profit.

What might it mean to be a “Joyent VC” in the TextDrive meaning of VC? How might that be used to benefit small businesses? What are the differences between installing a Joyent Connector and a “server appliance?” Remember the Cobalt Qube? What are its equivalents in today’s market?

I recently helped a client install a fully-managed and hosted VOIP system as part of a larger I.T. project. Rather than buying and managing Cisco switches, they have subscribed to a point-to-point T1 line, and the datacenter is hosting 100 telephones fully equipped with all the features of Cisco’s VoIP technology. How do we drop that service into a business along with Joyent, along with NetSuite, along with the ISP, hosting and other I.T. requirements that any growing company needs?

I don’t want to spend all of my time making the technology work, either. I want to help businesses (i.e. owners) get the benefits. This isn’t about selling gear at cost just to get paid for support, training and configuration time. Remember, we’re talking about businesses that may not realize that they need I.T. and phone accounts in the general ledger. Some of them track copier costs more closely than personal computer costs.

Perhaps this is a search for something that doesn’t exist. However, the first one to find it wins big. Enough. We’ll figure this out.

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Hosting Across Four Lifetimes

30 November 2005

Below is a table that represents my best recollection and research concerning the various lifetime hosting arrangements provided by TextDrive. These are not meant to be binding or to put words in anyone’s mouth.

Disclaimer’s done. I also think there has been some shifting in the specs of the older arrangements as newer ones have been offered. Then, add a couple of these together and you get still another mix of specs. Finally, merge TextDrive into Joyent and a bit of additional updating happens. Here’s my take on the original offers, but watch for edits and updates:

Mo/YrCalledPriceDomainsBandwidthSpacedb
05/04VC200$1991010GB1GB20
06/04LHR1$19932GB200MB6
02/05VCII$3991520GB1GB20
09/05VC3$3991520GB1GB20
11/05VC42$3991010GB2GB20

Perhaps we’ll provide another table showing how each of these has been updated to newer specs.

EDIT 1: 1LHR stands for Lifetime Hosting Redux and was briefly offered during June of 2004. That makes five offers of lifetime hosting—not four. 2VC4 is also known as The Mandelbrot.

EDIT 2: Corrected the date on the LHR from 2005 to 2004.

EDIT 3: On December 20, 2005, we got a spec for the VC accounts at TextDrive. These specs will henceforth be known as the Stairway to Heaven specs. Combine two or more and you’ll have an escalator.

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Firefox 1.5

30 November 2005

For those who don’t check often, Firefox 1.5 is now available for download. Take a look at the release notes to see what’s new.

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More Joyent

29 November 2005

In the discussion forums for TextDrive I mentioned that I’d be willing to work the mailroom for a company like Joyent/TextDrive. It’s true. There is simply no doubt in my mind that for the masses who try to configure their home wifi routers or move everything from the old PC to the new one, Joyent is a better way. For those who operate a small business and try to keep their copies of Outlook populated with data from Quickbooks Pro, Joyent is better.

Extend the notion to web sites, hosting, shared files and the need to keep regular backups and the Strongspace, TextDrive and Joyent approaches are far superior. Web-based applications will offer lower life-cycle costs and greater benefits than client-server apps installed on customer-owned (and administered) servers.

One of these days there is going to be a way to launch a company completely on line. Some blend of applications like NetSuite and Joyent and Strongspace is going to be installable with a web-based form that triggers all of the integration small businesses need so badly.

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The Elements via AJAX

29 November 2005

The talk about TextDrive and Joyent fuels the roaring fire that is AJAX and Ruby on Rails. Yet, it takes an application like this one by Andrew Sutherland to really demonstrate what a new direction web apps are taking. Click on an element. Notice the additional links. Expand the level of detail just under the title. Amazing.

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A Seat At Their Table

28 November 2005

Few things in the technology arena have interested me as much these past few months as the development of TextDrive. Watching and using their offers of lifetime hosting accounts, their team development and their handling of technology and projects—well, it’s all been quite fascinating. It’s amazing timing given the direction things are taking on the web.

Today, TextDrive is a Joyent company. The press release is here. If you are young and technically skilled, I doubt you’ll find many opportunities that are as expansive as what I see ahead for Joyent/TextDrive et al. If you’re old and technically inclined, crawl up in the stands and be a spectator. This is going to be a great show!

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Wannabe Equals Fake

27 November 2005

There’s something that is simply revolting about a group of people who so openly seek everything that’s pretentious. Once called yuppies, these social climbers use any and every means to try and raise your impression of them while tearing down others. Worse, they pass these habits along to their offspring. They are the difference in a life that is a rat race and a life that is genuine.

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A Chore

27 November 2005

Mint is a software product designed to help you determine how the web views your web site. It goes beyond mere referrer logs and groups information into meaningful blocks so that future design decisions can be more appropriately tuned to your audience.

This morning I made the update from Mint v1.14 to v.1.23. It wasn’t exactly gene-splicing, but it also took some time, some concentration and some care. Mint allows other software developers to add something called Peppers. These are like extensions or plugins that capture or sort web traffic information into other views.

There is still a bit of a task to determine which Peppers have been updated for the latest version of Pepper. They lag behind by hours, days or weeks. Then, the installation of these Peppers involves copying exactly the right files and folders into precisely the right places at the appropriate time.

Finished, it is worth the effort.

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How To Feed

21 November 2005

Everyone’s talking about RSS. Some mean Atom. Some mean 0.92. Some mean 2.0. Then, there’s the whole notion of feeding on these feeds with a feed reader.

Textpattern is wrestling with the proper production of feeds as a standard feature of the software.

I used the test files provided in the Textpattern support forum and subscribed to them using FeedDemon 1.6.0.11RC2. A screen in FeedDemon looks like this after the subscription.

What needs to happen now? Here’s a portion of an email discussing the subject:

It looks like, in the list, FeedDemon is displaying the exact contents of the feed items, without any HTML entity decoding. On the right hand side, it’s displaying the HTML source. I’ve no idea why, other than that the RSS spec in particular doesn’t explain how HTML should be encoded and decoded. The Atom feeds are definitely done right, so this could be a FD problem.

The bottom line boils down to whether or not the test files are somehow wrong or whether FeedDemon’s current release candidate is handling them wrong. If Nick reads this, perhaps he can take a look for the benefit of Textpattern and FeedDemon users everywhere. Better still, if you’re a RSS genius, give the folks at Textpattern and/or FeedDemon some help. Me? I’m just the messenger.

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Hallucinations Don't Make Truth

20 November 2005

This led me to the conclusion that the religious right are the American equivalents of communists. They make us sound silly and stupid. Petty. Ridiculous.Dave Winer

It’s time to write again.

I’ve been quiet lately. There have been too many things going on, but none are more important than the protection of the freedoms cited by the Founders. To have a member of the far left in this country insinuating that conservative people of faith are communists would be laughable were it not so sad.

He’s better than that—I think. Americans—of both parties—are better than that. Derision is not part of the solution to this country’s challenges.

Write what you believe, but let’s try to find some balance between merely criticizing our fellow citizens and proposing alternatives to what they espouse. We need ideas far more than we need venom. We need brilliance not braggadocio.

It’s time to write again.

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Real Data

3 November 2005

Imagine the advantages to space planners if they could see a nearly real-time map of where people congregate. MIT has provided just such a capability by mapping the users logged onto its wireless network. Uncertainty and speculation give way to time-of-day knowledge of where the concentrations of people are likely to be.

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Which of these men is most dangerous?

1 November 2005

A. Lewis Libby B. Harry Reid

Answer: B.

Why? A. is under indictment and removed from his position in government. B. continues to whine, manipulate and undermine the long-standing traditions of civility in the United States Senate.

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Half a Second

30 October 2005

Slashdot is linking to this story about transmitting a two-hour movie in 0.5 seconds. The article begins to answer the question, What Is Broadband?

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Of Late

25 October 2005

Buried in the bowels and intricacies of CSS and XHTML, I’ve been learning – slowly. Sidetracked by a bit of client work, I keep my eye on things like openoffice.org, Google, AJAX and Ruby on Rails.

If such matters interest you, there’s a repository that seems to have tentacles in all those directions. It’s called TextDrive. Going beyond basic hosting, it’s an educational institution and a thriving community. My enthusiasm for what these folks are doing grows. While you’re at it, check out Strongspace as well.

For an insiders view, look here for the real upside of what’s going on.

Now, back to these blasted div’s, id’s and classes. I still don’t get it.

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What is Broadband?

13 October 2005

How much bandwidth is required to stream a high definition movie that is two hours long to a home receiver that will play that movie on a 52 inch display?

Same question, but instead of streaming that movie, we want to download it in a minute.

The point is that our current notion of a domestic Wi-Fi cloud probably won’t meet many of the needs that we have. I remember 10Mbps Ethernet. I use 100Mbps Ethernet today, but my Wi-Fi throttles that to around 11Mbps or less.

Something tells me that really high definition video is going to require us to move 6 or 8 GB of data in a hurry.

Calculations if you have them, please!

* * * UPDATE * * * Okay, here goes.

First, let’s clear up the confusion that arises when telecommunication types talk to computer engineering types. For the purposes of this discussion and mathematical simplicity, we’re using the following (slightly inaccurate) conventions:

  • 1 byte = 8 bits
  • 1 gigabyte = 1×109 bytes = 8×109 bits
  • 1 Gbps = 1×109 bits per second

Also, in light of the Blu-ray disc, we’re going to use 50GB as the capacity of a dual layer disc that holds 8 hours of high definition video with audio. In other words, that disc will hold approximately four movies. So, a two-hour high definition movie represents roughly 12.5 GB of data (or 100×109 bits).

To move that much data over the wires (or air?) and save it in a minute, we need a system with a throughput of 1.67Gbps. Contrast that with a cable modem speed of even 3Mbps, and you see that we need something that is over 550 times as fast as what is generally considered fast today.

An optical fiber in the telecommunications world that carries that much data that fast is called an OC-48. It will carry 2.488 Gbps. That’s the long-haul need. In the last mile and the local area network, you need that same 1.67Gbps. That means we’re looking at something beyond 10GigE to insure the kind of throughput required.

There aren’t many telecommunications carriers that can meet that requirement, much less ISP’s, regional phone companies or WiFi hotspots. Yet, does anyone doubt that we’d like to be able to move a DVD worth of information from place to place in a minute or less? Does anyone doubt that we want to do that from a laptop situated anywhere in the USA?

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News and Opportunity

7 October 2005

There is opportunity buried here somewhere. The news about things happening on the Internet is compelling. We’re nearing another transformation in the ways that people get and share information and entertainment.

For some this will mean investing in public companies or IPO’s. For others it will mean going to work at a new business or in a new industry. Startups will form.

Skeptics continue to ask who will pay for the Internet. The answer can be found by asking, “who paid for all of the big media coverage of the recent storm disasters?” Hint: the business of advertising is changing.

The key is sifting through the news to find the underlying opportunity.

A conference called Web 2.0 has been going on.

Weblogs.com has been sold to Verisign.

Weblogsinc.com has been sold to AOL.

NetNewsWire has been sold to NewsGator Technologies, Inc. shortly after NewsGator bought Bradbury Software, LLC.

AJAX is all the rage.

Large fiber optic networks can still be purchased for $2.21 per share, yet they will clearly enable our use of future web applications and more.

Open source mounts its latest challenge to Microsoft’s market share with Google, Sun and OpenOffice.org announcing allegiances and alliances. Some yawned.

Cities are pursuing “free” Wifi networks at an unprecedented pace, but government doesn’t know how to deal with that trend.

Where do your dreams, aspirations, interests and skills fit in the sweeping changes that are afoot? What will you do?

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Who Does Wifi?

6 October 2005

Read with interest the news that San Francisco wants a wifi cloud. Lots of cities do. When it gets right down to it, though, which companies have the capability, financing and technical relationships to pull off something in such a tricky topographic region as San Francisco?

For a short list (i.e. 26 companies) that might make the cut, take a look at the list of companies that responded to SF’s Request for Information. That’s RFI, not RFP. As I understand municipal bidding, there’s a rather significant distinction. I suspect responses to the RFI may lead to an even shorter list of companies that are offered an RFP. (Just a hunch).

It’s also interesting to note that Cisco is in the hunt with a partner, but not alone, but HP is apparently there and ready to go to work.

Reading about Korea, I conclude that the USA needs a wifi cloud from coast to coast and north to south. Don’t make it some 300kbps nonsense, either. We need a plan for 10Mbps. Yeah, I know, it’s the physics. But, get the minds at Google and Level 3 together and the problem won’t be intractable.

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Something a Bit More Challenging

4 October 2005

Fine. Congrats all around. But I’ll bet those guys never had to move or change seven domains at three different web hosts, make eleven email accounts work and see to it that all seven sites were visible to the public.

Had they tried, they’d still be working on it, and their temperaments would be very dour by now. Not just dour, very dour.

* * * UPDATE 10-6-05 * * * Okay, the domains have all be relocated and are resolving at TextDrive. Email is (mostly) squared away. Now for the challenges of restoring web sites.

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Of Tickets and Forums

3 October 2005

Time was you just called somebody on the phone when you had a problem. Talking a bit, your problem might be solved over the phone. Otherwise, dispatching began and help was on the way.

Rev. 2.0 of this phenomenon involved a call center. With a call center came two things to help the call center—not the customers. Hold queues lined your call up in a straight line, no talking. Voicemail said, “talk now, but make it snappy, we’re very busy.”

Rev. 3.0 emerged from the bowels of the world wide web. We have trouble tickets and we have a forum. Type your problems and perhaps some kind soul will be watching. If you’re lucky, the spectator will be someone who has experienced something similar or knows the answer to your problem. Otherwise, you wait.

I’m snarled in the tangles of three hosting companies, five forums, three trouble ticket systems and six domains with email addresses. I have successfully created a condition in which none of the email addresses will work, none of the hosts can send me email and from roughly 3a.m. this morning (we’re now at 1p.m.) the condition has only grown worse.

Isn’t technology progressive!

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What's On Your Mind?

22 September 2005

All is well with you. That’s great. The yuppie lifestyle is intact. You’ve kept up with—and even passed—the Jones family, in spite of their new BMW. You live in a place free of any possible adversity. That’s great.

Of course, just because you don’t depend on levees, don’t get too comfortable. Oh, and just because you don’t have to attach your bookshelves to the wall, don’t be complacent.

There’s a time, a place and a lifestyle that might surprise you. Yes, even you might be surprised at what’s required of you. Perhaps it’s a natural thing—earthquake, flood, tornado—you know the lot. Or, maybe the rolling blackouts roll over you for thirty days at a time. Imagine your lifestyle without power for thirty days.

Or, imagine what could happen when everything that can’t happen happens at once. Odd sequences of tornadoes in a six-state area accompanied by a terrorist attack on a scale never-before-seen on the west coast wouldn’t necessarily do it. What if we were also at war in three places simultaneously? What if there was a sudden run on the dollar due to years of trade imbalances? What if anarchy became common?

When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein tells the story of some rather bright guys who bet against some things occurring concurrently. Design for a number three catastrophe when you know number fives are possible, and you get trouble. Blunder a bit in your estimates, and trouble swamps you. Global currency collapse isn’t likely, except...what if your government gets so deep into debt and deficit spending that…nah, can’t happen.

There is a combination of events that cannot happen simultaneously. You believe they can’t. They can and they might.

You’ll want to pick a way to live differently even if it’s 2008 before you need to!

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Under Competent Leadership

20 September 2005

From the third quarter’s newsletter of The W. Edwards Deming Institute, I’ve reprinted a letter shown on page two. Succinctly, it provides the thinking in American business then—and NOW. One sentence says more than any dozen of the bestselling business books of the last two years!

W. EDWARDS DEMING, PH.D
CONSULTANT IN STATISTICAL STUDIES

WASHINGTON 20016
4924 BUTTERWORTH PLACE
TEL. (202) EMERSON 3-8552

6 April 1981

Dear Sir,

Your article about Japan in TIME for 30 March 1981 is excellent, but the paragraph concerning my work is ridiculous and can do a lot of harm to American industry at the very time when they need guidance. Dr. Deming did not just give a lecture in 1950. He gave 35 lectures in the summer of 1950 to engineers and to top management. Six months later he was there again, and six months after that yet again. He has made 19 trips to Japan.

One trouble with American industry today is that top management supposes that one lecture or one day will do it. “Come, spend a day with us, and do for us what you did for Japan, that we too may be saved.” It is not so simple. Few people in top management in America understand their responsibilities and know that they must serve a life term on quality and productivity from now on, under competent leadership.

W. Edwards Deming

To the Editor
TIME

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Editions or Copyright Dates

19 September 2005

Hotels ought to carry edition numbers or copyright dates. I don’t buy many books on technology with copyright dates back three years or more. I don’t buy many first editions when a book is now published in its fifth edition.

Even hotels operated by fine chains need to let a customer know in advance if the hotel is getting a bit worn around the edges. A property shouldn’t qualify for a new edition if the lobby got a new rug. You don’t get a new copyright date until every room, every bathroom, every hallway and every public convenience has been updated.

That said, mold in a dated bathroom is unacceptable under any circumstances. Charging for Wi-Fi in the lobby is like charging for hot water in the rooms – don’t do it. If you’re wanting to compete with the lower-priced suites hotels that offer a free newspaper, Wi-Fi, free breakfast and nice office-oriented amenities in the room, then compete. Don’t nickle-and-dime!

Here’s the way it works currently at some Courtyards by Marriott. A weekend room rate might be $80. Breakfast costs $8.95 if you want to visit the buffet. Spend $95 per night and two people can go through the buffet line. By the way, don’t bring me a check for this meal with a spot for a gratuity glaring at me. I don’t fill my own plate, then tip someone for bringing me the check. The daily rate for wireless Internet access is $9.95, but only in the public areas. If you want to use the DSL lines provided in their office services area, they want a $10 deposit to loan you an ethernet cable. Internet access in the rooms is free, but only if you don’t need to borrow one of their ethernet cables for $10!

Some of this might be acceptable if you weren’t looking a little tired in spots, Mr. Marriott. Hit me with these sorts of surprises and an exterior door near my room that won’t function forcing a walk around the property just to get in, and, well—I become surly. Sorry, but I do. Fix it, please, and give us a copyright date or edition number for each of your properties. Thanks.

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After Check-out

18 September 2005

I feel a letter coming on. The air conditioner in this room makes it too damp to operate a computer (safely). The mold in the bathroom makes it a little hazardous to inhale. Let me get checked out of here and situated elsewhere, and I’ll write a letter that Marriott can use to launch a serious continual improvement effort.

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Not So Broad

16 September 2005

What passes for high speed in this country is pathetically slow compared with Internet service in some other countries.

For instance, Verizon’s entry-level DSL service, at 768 kilobits per second for downloads and 128 kilobits per second for uploads, is considered high-speed here. But in Japan and Korea, families can buy moderately priced Internet service measured in the tens of megabits per second.

Walter Mossberg made these statements in his column today titled Verizon’s Fios Service Moves U.S. Internet Beyond a Snail’s Pace.

Until we learn to think of Internet access at speeds similar to 10Mbps, 100Mbps and gigabit Ethernet service, we’ll always lag behind the Asian providers of high-speed, low-cost service. When can we expect 10Gbps (i.e. Gig-E)?

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How Do It Know?

14 September 2005

Remember the old joke about the guy just discovering the thermos? Hot things it keeps hot; cold things it keeps cold—how do it know?

Google is out with their Google Blog Search. I entered the following searches, just to see how this weblog stacks up:

Revisiting these searches in a few months might reveal a bit about how and at what pace Google is able to index weblogs.

* * * UPDATE * * * RSS feeds are used by Google to identify weblogs. Read the how’s, why’s and what-not’s here.

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Advice

12 September 2005

Mistakes can be costly. Many mistakes result from a lack of proper attention and diligence. This is never so true as it is when a property owner discovers that purchased insurance does not cover a particular risk.

Examples include (but are not limited to) homeowner’s insurance that doesn’t cover damage due to flooding, earthquakes, a neighbor’s tree falling through your house, damage due to a city sewer problem, etc. That list truly can go on and on.

In the face of the very public (media) debate that will no doubt occupy vast blocks of time during the coming months, every property owner should sit down with a trusted insurance representative and evaluate each and every calamity that might happen along. The time and education you’ll receive will no doubt remove many of the surprises you might get.

We talked previously about several of the articles concerning the legal battles on the Gulf Coast. As things move from the ridiculous to the absurd, beware.

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Four Years

11 September 2005

Some things happened to us on September 11, 2001:

  • 08:46am American #11 hit the north tower in New York
  • 09:03am United #175 hit the south tower in New York
  • 09:37am American #77 hit the Pentagon in Washington
  • 10:03am United #93 hit in a field outside Shanksville

After the towers fell, we listened to a great speech . Then, we decided to visit Afghanistan and Iraq. We also formed a commission which wrote a report. Perhaps it needs another chapter or an appendix.

Or, as Mark Helprin wrote so well in this week’s Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required), perhaps we need to do something more:

Perhaps this and previous administrations have had an effective policy just too difficult to comprehend because they have ingeniously sheltered it under the pretense of their incompetence. But failing that, the legacy of this generation’s presidents will be promiscuous declarations and alliances, badly defined war aims, opportunities inexplicably forgone, ill-supported troops sent into the field, a country at risk without adequate civil protections, and a military shaped to fight neither the last war nor this one nor the next.

Mr. Helprin, a Journal contributing editor, is Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute and Distinguished Visiting Fellow of Hillsdale College. He is the author, most recently, of “Freddy and Fredericka” (Penguin, 2005).

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Silliness Chasing Distortion

10 September 2005

Let me start by saying I’ve contributed to a charity that is providing help to victims of the hurricane. I also pay taxes which are clearly going to victims.

Now, there’s a possibility that insurance companies that I’ve invested (substantial) retirement funds into will be coerced or even ordered to pay sums of money they never agreed to pay. Insurance is a contract. Buyers and sellers of insurance know in advance what that contract covers.

Flood damage is caused by a flood. Wind damage is cause by the wind. Limits on liability exist. Exclusions exist. It is not a lack of compassion that makes me say, “stop there.” Here’s a quote from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that caught my eye:

Though home-insurance providers face little or no exposure to flood damage, some are calling for them to step in, given the widespread, costly scale of damage. Among them is Richard Scruggs, a well-known class-action attorney who made his name suing the tobacco and asbestos industries—and whose own beachfront house in Mississippi, which had flood insurance, was partly destroyed by Katrina.

Mr. Scruggs said he plans to urge Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to try to override flood-exclusion clauses in homeowners’ policies in that state in the interest of public policy, a move that could force insurers to pay many billions more toward rebuilding costs. Through a spokesman, Mr. Hood said: “I’m reviewing these contracts to determine if there are unconscionable provisions.”

Two more articles containing similar illogical notions can be found at:

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It's Going to be a Good Weekend

9 September 2005

Technology frustrates as much as it helps. Yet, when it turns the corner, it can be fantastic.

After several days of a mysterious ftp problem, my ftp software simply worked today. This site is now (successfully) running Textpattern’s latest version.

Also, somewhat unexpectedly, I’ve now made Shaun Inman’s Mint work. I updated to version 1.06 and it appears to be functioning normally. A word or two of caution may be in order.

First, Mint doesn’t feel like a single product that you pay for, download and begin enjoying. Rather, it feels like a set of software. You have multiple downloads to do. You have files to edit. You have pages or templates in your weblog which need to be edited. Then, you have some installation steps that must be followed to the letter of the law. Otherwise, you might become frustrated.

Then, with all due care, you can begin tampering with something else called Pepper and the additional software features that other developers offer for Mint. All of that is still a bit fuzzy, as are some features within Mint involving searches and local searches. More when the fuzz falls off.

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Looking for ftp Software

7 September 2005

Two things:

  • Updating the Mint application on my site has failed and no amount of troubleshooting has thus far solved the problem. I’ve removed the script lines from pages and deleted the code from my hosting account. It’s a $30.00 lesson learned.
  • I’m looking for a new ftp package. CuteFTP has suddenly stopped working since TextDrive moved their servers to San Diego. There’s no reason why it stopped working. I don’t toy or tamper with the accounts I have set up in CuteFTP. Rather, I set the configurations once, then I just use it.

Let me know if you’ve got a world class suggestion for a Windows-based ftp app.

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TextDrive Does It Again

5 September 2005

TextDrive VCIII

TextDrive has another lifetime hosting offer. What this means is that you’ll pay a single fee and you’ll receive the listed specs for life. No more monthly or annual fees—ever. Click here or on the image above for details.

They’ve just moved their datacenter into one of Level 3’s Gateways. They’ve just populated it with Dell 2850 servers. It just gets better with age!

Oh, and they’re donating a bit of money from each subscription to the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

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A Plan for Rebuilding

5 September 2005

Those who love a city will rebuild it. History provides many examples, but none better than Nehemiah’s work to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Organizing, battling the politics, getting support, planning—it’s all there. From the time he heard the news that the walls were down to the time he told the king he wanted to rebuild them, Nehemiah planned. When the time came, he was prepared. Pick a translation you like and read it through. It’s a good story, but it’s a great lesson.

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Next Year A Bridge Will Collapse

4 September 2005

Intellectual consistency is not all that common. Causes we believe in strongly often cloud our ability to think critically. When that happens, we suspend critical thinking and intellectual consistency. Once our emotions take over, we’re in an area we don’t understand.

One commentator used the word perspective dozens of times last Friday. It was his attempt to deal with all of the emotions that were coming to him from “the field.” He was safe, dry, hydrated and well-fed in New York. Others were talking to him from devasting conditions. His attempt to gain perspective resulted in his own emotions ruling the moment.

Helplessness fosters a similar response. Viewing the media’s treatment of the plight of so many, we want to help. We see the ways. We have the ideas. Why don’t others see the same things. Conversely, those arriving first know the issues. They realize that all things we depend on are missing. There’s no food. There’s no water, except everywhere one looks. Cell phones don’t work. There’s no pathway to the disaster. Fuel is scarce. Debris is everywhere. Water impedes all progress. There are no computers, phones, cash registers or ATM’s.

Why doesn’t someone do something? Absent answers, blame begins. The sense of when the disaster happened is lost. Three days becomes five days in conversation. At this writing it’s been 6 days, 10 hours and 35 minutes since Hurricane Katrina made landfall south of New Orleans.

Moving as slowly as it did, the storm took another 15 to 20 hours to clear the area. Then, flooding began. Those who didn’t leave were in trouble.

As we seek to place blame on all the folks who might be blamed, let’s also decide who will be to blame for a bridge that will collapse next year; or, who will be to blame for an industrial accident we cannot now foresee. Who will be at fault for a massive traffic accident months from now?

Be assured we have just as much factual information for affixing blame for those future calamities as we now have for a disaster that is still unfolding!

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Inflection Point

4 September 2005

  • Hurricane Katrina disaster
  • Currency-threatening trade imbalances
  • An ignorance and poverty cycle
  • Two Supreme Court openings
  • Red state – blue state division
  • Disagreement over our Founders’ intents
  • A desire to blame
  • War on terrorism
  • War on our culture
  • Failing government schools
  • Debt
  • Israel and the Palestinians
  • Nuclear threats
  • Infrastructure needs
  • Rebuilding one of the fifty largest cities in America
  • Dependence on foreign oil
  • Willingness to divide ourselves over debates—big & small
  • Gas shortages and prices at $3.50 per gallon & more
  • Unlawful immigration and its challenges

We face much. Answers exist.

What will your role be? Are you a participant, spectator or critic? How will your great grandchildren see the world? What’s important now?

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Change Your Outlook

2 September 2005

You need a break. There’s simply too much to absorb channel surfing amongst the 24×7 news crowd. Here’s how to leave the funk and see a way out:

Michael Medved came over to Jasperwood tonight to sit out in the Target Gazebo for a couple of hours and chat over beers. Brilliant fellow. I mean, if there’s a lacuna in his intellectual database, it’s probably something like the Latin names of flora in pre-Cambrian reptile digestive systems. Conversation was a brisk gallop over 1,829 topics, and if you’re starved for Real Adult Conversation as I am, it’s like ending up at the Old Country Buffet after six years in Ethiopian desert. What a joy.

Read the rest.

[Note: Lacuna is here.]

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Watching History

2 September 2005

  • Hurricane Katrina made it’s Gulf Coast landfall on August 29, 2005, at 06:15a.m. CDT as a category four hurricane in Buras-Triumph, Louisiana.
  • Earlier a category five storm, its pressure dropped to as low as 902mbar.
  • The history of this storm and what it has left behind is still unfolding. Wikipedia has some of the best information. The story continues.

The clock is running since the Gulf landfall. Elapsed time is now showing 102.75 hours. That’s four days, six hours and forty five minutes.

Rescue efforts are continuing in New Orleans. Others in New Orleans have been rescued from their homes, but they are stranded at the Superdome or in front of the convention center or on an I-10 overpass. The U.S. Coast Guard is making some miraculous (televised) aerial rescues from helicopters.

A convoy of buses just rolled into New Orleans this morning. A convoy of military vehicles carrying food (MRE’s) and water rolled into New Orleans this morning.

The President has toured Biloxi this morning with Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s Governor, and Trent Lott, Mississippi’s Senior Senator, and others. There’s hope he’s headed to New Orleans.

We’re witnessing a need to completely rethink what it means to be prepared for a disaster—as individuals, as families, as neighborhoods, as communities, as cities, counties, states—as a nation.

Convoys of buses followed by convoys of trucks with pallets of food or water are one thing. Convoys of buses with an MRE and two bottles of water in every seat would be a different (better?) approach. Roll in, load 50, feed and hydrate them as they ride. Put a nurse on every bus in advance.

We must learn to think and think differently!

[Edit: Okay, okay. Busses is acceptable, but you prefer buses. They’ve been changed.]

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What We Knew and When We Knew It

2 September 2005

For the mainstream media the first step in problem-solving involves finding someone to blame. Yet, in an honest search for accuracy, they could have uncovered this dramatic story which ran in National Geographic in October of 2004. Here’s the nub:

As the whirling maelstrom approached the coast, more than a million people evacuated to higher ground. Some 200,000 remained, however—the car-less, the homeless, the aged and infirm, and those die-hard New Orleanians who look for any excuse to throw a party.

You really owe it to yourself to read the whole thing!

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Scalability Revisited

1 September 2005

Ham radio once was, and probably still is, a tool for the masses when catastrophe strikes. Internet technology has similar potential, but it is only potential right now.

The number of hosts, companies and bandwidth users with the capacity to handle a step function in instantaneous bandwidth demand is quite small. Google comes to mind. Microsoft might be in the hunt. Is Yahoo there? Who else?

Here’s an example of what can happen. Imagine 1000 requests per second!

* * * UPDATE * * * Revealing is the following quote from one of the administrators over at TextDrive:

To put this in perspective, a mid-tier dot.com such as ESPN.com, Realtor.com get anywhere from 20 to 30 million page views per day. IIRC, last year Amazon.com was in the order of 80 million. This site, if we let it stay up and the hit rate was steady, would’ve gotten 86 million in 24 hours.

No regular host can survive that amount of traffic. The bandwidth costs alone would be ruinous. And, since this surge of traffic came with absolutely no warning, we couldn’t do anything ahead of time to stop it.

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Help

31 August 2005

Use your best critical thinking to decide how to help with rescue and recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. For one of the most comprehensive lists of possibilities, Instapundit is, as usual, a great place to start. Review Glenn’s suggestions by clicking here.

Engineers are meeting here in Memphis to develop the best ideas for solving problems in New Orleans. Let’s pray that they pick options that work quickly.

A great service that webloggers can provide is to serve as an information conduit among those who are seeking information about family members. With power out and all other manner of mayhem, people don’t know if their family members made it.

Soon, we’re going to see useful members of the media in the streets of New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, Gulfport and other communities. Useful will be defined by those who gather names from those on the street, and provide names from weblogs they’ve read. Useful will mean helpful and compassionate.

Obviously, victims may never see these listings, but the big media companies have communications in the midst of the catastrophe. Let’s put their pretty faces to work doing something fair, balanced and humane. Here’s one place to start. Let’s compile a more comprehensive list.

Closing, I give you a rant. Under present circumstances, looters come in two varieties. One is a street-thug with no morals, ethics, values or heart. He or she steals a television he can barely carry only to walk into three or four feet of water in a city that is dying or dead.

Shooting the looter on site borders on too merciful, but it’s not our way.

The second looter also lacks morals, ethics, values and heart. He or she has the authority to mark up gasoline at a BP Oil station in Atlanta, and stopped only after marking the gasoline up to more than $6.00 a gallon.

Again, it’s not our way, but chaining looters in the filthy flood water on Canal Street might make an example of them. But, it really isn’t our way.

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Ocean Front Property

29 August 2005

Fox News continues to slip badly. Too focused on the pretty, energetic personalities, they are losing the opportunity to be a serious news organization. McNews is what I’m seeing.

In the midst of coastal devastation from Hurricane Katrina, a “breaking news bulletin” full of all the bombastic sound effects and throbbing music just showed waves crashing in—wait for it—wait—yes, Jackson, MS.

Katrina has clearly done damage. I’m relatively certain the Gulf Coast has not receded to Jackson.

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From Texas to California

28 August 2005

The fine folks at TextDrive are using the weekend to move into Level 3’s colocation facility in San Diego. For a host, this involves the installation of new servers and connection to new sources of bandwidth. That work has been done over the past couple of weeks.

The weekend is all about moving information. Those who are good at it make it look easy—like professional golfers make their game look easy. Yet, the 1001 details make the tasks extremely complex. This post is a bit of a test to be certain that my installation of Textpattern on TextDrive is still happy.

By the way—to make a move like this happen, a bunch of very bright people spend big blocks of time doing and monitoring the work, only to need their best brain power late in the process when they are exhausted. At that point the risk of errors skyrockets. Think Apollo 13 without the risk of death!

Here’s a hearty thanks to all those folks for work completed thus far and the huge amount to come.

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Simplicity Circles

27 August 2005

As long as a simplicity circle doesn’t become a track around which rats race, the concept sounds rather appealing. However, the real win in the whole notion goes something like this:

“I save half my pay,” she said. “So for every month I work, that’s one month I won’t have to work.’’—Ann Haebig

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Another Four Point O

23 August 2005

Just in time to see a new batch of website owners catch the web standards wave, A List Apart updates to version 4.0. In a further intersection of excellent things, TextDrive now hosts A List Apart.

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An Open Letter to Lee Scott

21 August 2005

Dear Mr. Scott:

Your company has a quality problem.

Before I describe your problem, be assured that the solution is not in your public relations department. It isn’t in your communications efforts. The problem isn’t because your company is large. It isn’t because you are the sales leader in so many categories of products.

Your problems begin when a Walmart employee answers the phone and answers three questions. The first question asked at 5:00p.m. is, “what time does your automotive service department close?” The answer is 8:00p.m. The second question is, “do you have a set of four Michelin tires of a certain size?” The answer, “hold on, I’ll check…followed by a brief wait…and then, yes we do?” Finally, the third question was, “if we arrive in the next twenty minutes, can they be installed this evening?” Again an affirmative answer, “yes, but there might be an hour and half’s wait.” Assuring the associate that wouldn’t be a problem, we left for Walmart and dinner at a nearby restaurant during the wait.

Arriving at Walmart by 5:20p.m., we were told that the automotive service people stopped taking tire orders at 4:30p.m. Furthermore, there were only three of the tires we had inquired about. No, the missing tire had not been sold during our twenty minute drive.

This incident continued over another three days while two other Walmart stores gave us different answers by phone and in person. As a last effort prior to a vacation trip, I returned to the original store and inquired about the tires. I was told there were five in stock that had been there all week. It would take three hours because there were six cars ahead of mine.

Again, willing to have a late lunch at a nearby restaurant, I accepted that condition and put my car in your care. It was about 3:15p.m. Finally, I got my car back at 8:00p.m. and one of the windshield wiper blades had not been replaced, so I waited for that. To his credit the counter person who had been waiting with me was equally frustrated with the indifference of the mechanics doing the work. He offered a $15 discount on each tire. It was obvious that this was the only thing he was empowered to do.

Spend your time on EDI, on logistics on clever just-in-time inventory techniques if you choose. Do so at the very great risk that even less demanding customers will eventually become disillusioned with Walmart. The peril in that weighs far more than most other topics that might get your attention.

Cordially,

Former Walmart Customer

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Intersection

21 August 2005

Once in a while things you like and admire cross paths. As a long-time shareholder in Level 3 Communications, I’ve followed the
company’s progress through the long build-out and boom period. I watched as the stock plummeted with the rest of the telecommunications industry.

They survived and continue to add business. This morning I learned that the folks at TextDrive have selected Level 3’s San Diego co-lo center as home. In aligning Textpattern with TextDrive and Level 3 it seems excellence attracts!

On top of all that I’ve added some recent assistance from Joel Dueck to this web site and the circle seems complete. Excellence defines Joel’s work.

Archives are back. Some things have been optimized. Some problems have been eliminated. All seems right with the world.

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Textpattern 4.0

15 August 2005

Behind the scenes of this entry is Textpattern 4.0.

Many hours of improvements, updates and enhancements to this site are imminent. Stay tuned, if you please.

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Scalability, Weblogs and Prevention

22 June 2005

This long article is going to call into question the issue of weblogs and scalability. It’s based on personal experience and flawed information flows. Yet, it’s going to raise the specter that shared hosting, years of writing and tools that backfire combine to make for a very fragile blogosphere.

Scalability is going to be an issue. A boom in weblogs began in 2002. Now, many weblogs have large numbers of entries, posts or articles. This begs questions of disk capacity, software performance, server performance and bandwidth impacts. In other words, questions of I.T. architecture, information architecture and user habits need to be understood and communicated effectively.

Instapundit has over 23,000 24,000 articles. This tiny weblog has between 4000 and 5000 articles. Together we have tens of thousands of readers. grins How do we optimize without stifling the desire to write? How do we write without bringing down a host? The Questions and Issues
  1. [An urgent request]Does anyone know how to set up an archive page using Textpattern so that the web host doesn’t get hammered each time the archive page is refreshed?
  2. Is it the number of articles in a weblog or the total amount of text in the weblog that is most likely to put an undue load on a host?
  3. Does anyone know which (pre-release) version of Textpattern is better to use to minimize the impact on the host?
  4. Is there a way to know in advance how many inquiries to a database a weblog might make, or must you run your own server to get those test results?
  5. Standards-based web design is important, but it isn’t sufficient. What are the essential pieces of knowledge required to be a writer on the web?
  6. I’ve only spent $600 on a lifetime of hosting with TextDrive. I spent some more commissioning a designer. Now, what are the roles & responsibilities of the host?
  7. What metrics should I be watching and where are they?
  8. What is the role and what are the responsibilities of the customer? Who is the customer? What does he know? What does he need to know?
  9. What are the responsibilities of plugins and plugin authors?
  10. Was the situation you’re about to read about really a silver bullet or am I merely someone who know longer starts their air conditioner at 5:00p.m. thereby lowering the load on the generating plant?
  11. When will Textpattern 1.0 be finished? When will the TextPanel control panel for TextDrive be available? [Hint: “soon” is not an answer!]
Current Condition

This weblog has been offline. It had caused service disruptions at the web host, TextDrive. Rejoining the blogosphere without an archive page may prevent further problems, but it’s very difficult to be sure.

I’ve been told that ignorance of all things XHTML, CSS, hosting, plugins, templates, forms, sections, articles—and that list goes on and on—is no excuse for having harmed the web host and its customers. However, no one can (or is willing to) take the time to spell out the minimum body of knowledge required to write a weblog, have it hosted and be a good (technical) citizen on the web.

The Background

This particular problem began back in February when I returned to the web with a new design I had commissioned using Textpattern. However, the problem was called to my attention on June 4, 2005. Here’s the email I received from TextDrive’s team:

6/4/2005 Steve: Please have a quick look at [a link went here] [a text file name went here] and let us know how you’re going to resolve that issue where you’re running 7,401,285 queries in less than 24 hours (Yes, that’s 7.4 Million). And #2 looks to be yours as well. More details to follow from one of the other staff, but whatever it is needs to stop. [name withheld]

Eight minutes after receiving that email, I responded this way:

6/4/2005 [name withheld]: I’m totally clueless. Obviously, I see my name in lines one and two of that text file, but I don’t have a clue what they mean. Is my weblog doing something behind the scenes that is causing that? Is there some setting in Textpattern that I’ve got wrong. Be assured I’m ready and willing to be cooperative, but I don’t know what to look at to fix the problem. If you can offer any further advice or pointers, I’ll take care of this immediately. Steve

A bit of explanation might help. I commissioned my present design. Perhaps every other weblog author has intimate knowledge of every detail of every feature within the weblog tools and templates they use. I do not.

About 18 minutes later, I got this reply from TextDrive:

6/4/2005 Steve: We’ll take a bit deeper look, and sorry if I was presumptuous, we may have pegged you for “Steve” and have the wrong one. Not sure one way or the other yet, but the top 2 listing a steve of some sort made me want to fire out a quick email just to see if you were aware of something, or had some plugins or such going amiss. We’ll see how things shake out and be in touch. [name withheld]

Then, roughly 9 minutes later, this came in from TextDrive:

6/4/2005 The query is 7401285 select realname from txp_users where name=’Steve’ [name withheld]

I took an hour. I dug around in my weblog, but wasn’t at all sure what I was looking for. Frankly, I was under the impression that something had changed in the last day or two (i.e. early June) that might have created the problem. I had no idea that the problem they were talking to me about had probably been going on since February. Here’s what I said to them:

6/4/2005 [name withheld]: Other than posting to Rodent Regatta (rodentregatta.com), I’ve not made any changes to it in a couple of months. No new versions of Txp. No new plugins. I use CuteFTP to access TextDrive and frequently update to the latest (SVN) version of Textpattern on rodentregatta.org. However, there are no plugins or anything else running there.

[Name withheld], I want nothing but the best for TextDrive, and if I’m doing something on my end to harm the business, please let me know. I assure you it will be out of ignorance and not out of any malicious intent. I go by “Steve.” My name is Steve Pilgrim and I have used spilgrim as email names and such. However, for logging into TextDrive, I think I’m logging in as [user id withheld].

I’ve just checked everything that is loading when my laptop boots up. I’ve run antivirus, spybot search & destroy and adaware. Clearly, I’m showing my ignorance, but I can’t find a thing that involves MySQL other than my weblogs. Tonight is a good night for me to work with anyone you suggest to get to the bottom of all this. So, let me know how you want to proceed. Steve

My goal was to be cooperative and disclose fully what I knew. I couldn’t imagine what had started causing the problem. I was looking any and everywhere. In hindsight—and by inference—I’ve been accused of saying I wasn’t running plugins or that I didn’t mention all of the plugins. Two things: 1) I said there were no plugins running at the dot org domain; 2) my colophon lists every plugin that was being used.

About three hours after the original June 4 email, I got this email:

6/4/2005 Steve: Like I somewhat suspected after hearing from you the first time, we really don’t think it’s you, as the query is looking for name=Steve, and yours is name=[user id withheld] and realname=Steve. I’ll keep you posted nonetheless, and don’t sweat it, we’ll track it down, and it doesn’t look like you. Sorry if I was a bit brusk in my initial conversation – no harm intended. That said, does rodentregatta really get traffic to do that #2 query 132K times in a day? [name withheld]

By the sixth of June, I had inquired within the support forums.

Perhaps I didn’t ask the right questions. Perhaps I didn’t understand the answers I was getting. Whatever the case, I heard nothing more and it concerned me. Attempting to be a “good shared host customer” I initiated additional discussion on June 14, 2005. Here’s what I said:

6/14/2005 at 11:02a.m. [name withheld]: I haven’t heard any more about this. I’m just curious as to whether the TextDrive staff has been able to find out what I might be doing that puts undue stress on the TextDrive servers. My situation is this: I use Textpattern to publish my weblog. I use FeedDemon to read RSS feeds. I have no scripts or custom code that I’m aware of. Is there something I need to do to stop “abusing” TextDrive? Am I still considered a “problem” customer? Steve

By late afternoon on June 14th, I received this response:

6/14/2005 at 4:17p.m. Steve: It was you and your archive page. We turned my attention to the other Steve after you said “However, there are no plugins or anything else running there” and I took your word for it. Throttling the other Steve didn’t do anything, so we ran a complete a complete trace and it was your rss_superarchive.

Your archive page was taking the normal 300,000 queries an hour to nearly 3 million and that was only with a few hits on it. And continuous blocks of [code blocks you’ve already seen] in your archive Page was just cooking the mysql server.

Now besides costing me thousands of dollars in direct man hours (because even today I had two working on it for the last 8 hours), the additional time supporting mysql problems on barclay, having lost a couple of clients and having things about our “mysql problems” out there … I don’t even want to think about it.

Regardless, it can’t happen again, and while not-knowing-better isn’t an excuse, I’ll go ahead and take it as one. You can read some numbers on the forum about it, it won’t identify you but I have to discuss it. The general rules apply even to plugins: if you’re experimenting, then do it somewhere else and push things that are solid up to the server. [name withheld]

Needless to say, I was charmed. The rest of the emails are mostly defensiveness on my part concerning the misreading of the dot org vs. dot com domain names. I won’t repeat them here. However, I never intended for TextDrive users to experience another 10 days of trouble after TextDrive’s initial email to me.

It also came as a surprise that TextDrive would use backdoor techniques to log into my copy of Textpattern, set themselves up as administrative users, rename my archive page and delete a plugin that was doing the harm. Please understand I had/have nothing to hide. I’m thrilled that they found the problem. I would have gladly done exactly what they asked of me, but they didn’t ask me to alter anything.

The Conclusion

If you’ve read this far, I want to be perfectly clear. I admire the initiative, determination and technical savvy of the folks at TextDrive. I’ve wrestled mightily with myself in the last week regarding whether or not I’m personally qualified to own a TextDrive account and be their customer. I continue to want only the best for the organization. They are young, aggressive, effective and will polish their skills over time.

What would be ideal at this point is to have some way to guage what we need to know to be effective customers of TextDrive or any other web host. Until that is specified, count on others to do things that are as harmful as what I did to TextDrive. It’s time to prevent those things!

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Our Litigious World

14 June 2005

Sometimes I’d like to just thumb my nose at the “risks” that are rampant in the world around me. However, it is an unfortunate fact that anyone can find a lawyer who is willing to sue anyone else for anything at any time. Be it something you do, something you say or something you write, someone’s willing to come after you. Jason Kottke discusses the EFF’s Legal Guide for Bloggers. It’s a tool that belongs in every blogger’s toolkit.

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Instant Cred

14 June 2005

Yesterday saw a lot of news coverage of the deal Aruba Networks has struck with Microsoft. It appears Microsoft is replacing its old (1999) Aironet gear with a completely new technology. This is interesting stuff and probably an excellent model for anyone contemplating a serious, campus-wide wireless network.

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Peers For Peds

14 June 2005

Article [VI.]—In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Interpretation? If you live in California and you commit a crime and you’re crazy, you’ll definitely face a jury of your peers.

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Shameful Bush League Behaviors

10 June 2005

Bad bosses take credit for the work of others. Bad friends steal ideas and treat them as their own.

From a distance I’ve learned of two brides—once good friends—who were both planning October weddings. Bride A’s wedding was to be two weeks prior to Bride B’s. Bride A “put the word out” that certain colors were her selections for dresses. Bride B, though having somewhat similar tastes, made a decision about another color.

In less than twenty four hours Bride A announced that she had selected the same color as Bride B. Bride B was heartbroken.

People will forever disappoint us. Some people spend their time finding ways to needle others. It’s one of the tragedies of living in a society so obsessed with form over substance.

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Pioneers, Africans and Soccer Moms

8 June 2005

Two things came to my attention today. The first was an article that appeared in USA Today last week. Titled Tyson: ‘My whole life has been a waste’, the article laments the legacy that Mike Tyson has built to date. The second item involved the car chase that occupied much of Los Angeles today.

At one point news people were lamenting the suspect’s wasted situation. Their view said he was to commit suicide, be killed by police or spend the rest of his life in prison. No possibility existed for his life to ever mean anything again.

About the Tyson story, my friend Dan Miller asked the following questions:

  • Is it possible to break this cycle of self-destruction?
  • Can a person really draw a line in the sand and create a new start?
  • Are some people predestined to lives of low self-esteem, and the accompanying self-defeating actions – or can we all make the choices each day that set the stage for a positive future?
  • Is it possible to have tremendous disadvantages and still rise to health, wealth and success?

I plan to ask Dan for better answers than he gave in his most recent newsletter. Until those answers come, I want to share some thoughts.

We need to better understand the meaning of “a wasted life.” It’s not what so many people believe. John Piper’s book titled Don’t Waste Your Life offers this tip on the back cover:

I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells…’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.

Making the rounds recently has been one of those emails you are to forward to everyone you know. It reads variously as Ten (or in several of the emails I got, fifteen) Things God Won’t Ask:

  1. God won’t ask what kind of car you drove. He’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.
  2. God won’t ask the square footage of your house, He’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
  3. God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet, He’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.
  4. God won’t ask what your highest salary was. He’ll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.
  5. God won’t ask what your job title was. He’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of our ability.
  6. God won’t ask how many friends you had. He’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
  7. God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived, He’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.
  8. God won’t ask about the color of your skin, He’ll ask about the content of your character.
  9. God won’t ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation. He’ll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of Hell.
  10. God won’t have to ask how many people you forwarded this to, He already knows your decision.

When a pioneer family settled in the great unexplored West, they might go months without seeing others. Yet, they raised families. They grew. They lived. They loved. The African mother walking miles to get anything resembling fresh water for her children doesn’t know a life that is better than her’s. The soccer mom suffering from road rage and the fear that her son might not get to start in today’s game is certain no life is better (or more deserving) than her’s.

Piper concludes: “The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.” It’s rather easy to see that our station in life should not be the litmus test for determining whether our lives are wasted or of supreme service.

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IBM Outside

6 June 2005

Now that Intel is going inside the Mac, IBM is trading at this moment at $75.26. Apple is trading at $38.08. Intel is trading at $19.37.

As the migration at Apple unfolds during 2006, we’ll watch the prices of these stocks and see what the impacts might be.

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When Your Sweetheart Is A Dollar

6 June 2005

Believing it couldn’t get any better, I stopped following most coverage of the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz sting. However, this morning it remains in the news as defense attorneys prepare for their clients’ upcoming court appearances. With great appreciation to Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King for lyrics that simply fit:

I was dancing with my darling to the Tennessee Waltz
When an old friend I happened to see
I introduced him to my loved one
And while they were dancing
My friend stole my sweetheart from me

I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz
Now I know just how much I have lost
Yes, I lost my little darling
The night they were playing
The beautiful Tennessee Waltz

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Your AP Courses Won't Count

1 June 2005

Scoot over U. of P. It’s time to catch up MIT. Both of you will have to make a great deal of room for the one, the only…

Trump University – Take Charge of Your Success.

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Now We're Getting Somewhere

26 May 2005

Tennessee is taking a stab at corruption. You’ll find a lot of the news as it breaks at Mike Hollihan’s site.

This effort is long overdue and, as a property owner in Tennessee, I can only hope that e-Cycle changes its name and continues to go after other state and local officials who operate outside the boundaries of their elected position and mostly in a lawless way.

Arrests haven’t shaken my confidence at all. Arrests give me hope. What has shaken my confidence are the years of corruption that have gone uncontested. Let’s fix this!

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Are You Smart Enough?

23 May 2005

Arizona IQ Test
By Craig J. Cantoni
HAALT Press
May 22, 2005

Are you smart enough to live in Arizona? To find out, answer the following five questions:

1. Who is at fault if your kids fail the AIMS test, which is a statewide test in Arizona that public school students have to pass in order to graduate?

a) You and your kids.
b) The government.
c) Rich people.
d) Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Enron and global warming.

2. What should be done about your kids failing?

a) You should make them study more.
b) They should get free tutors so that you can watch Oprah uninterrupted.
c) They should get free breakfast and lunch at school so that you don’t have to get up early and prepare their meals.
d) You should whine to local politicians and media until the state lowers the cutoff for a passing grade.

3. What should you do if your kids graduate from high school with poor reading and math skills?

a) You should accept responsibility for the problem.
b) You should demand that colleges lower their entrance requirements.
c) You should request that your kids get into college through affirmative action.
d) You should claim that the SAT is a biased test.

4. What will you do when your kids enter the work force and can’t find good-paying jobs?

a) Blame yourself.
b) Blame Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Enron and global warming.
c) Blame rich people.
d) Blame China and India.

5. Why are you and your kids overweight?

a) Because you consume at one sitting a gallon of Pepsi, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a bag of Cheetos and a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
b) Because of Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Enron and global warming.
c) Because of bad genes.
d) Because of suburban sprawl.

Congratulations! If you did not select answer “a” for each of the above questions, you are smart enough to live in Arizona. You will fit right in with the Arizona parents who got the state to lower the passing grade on the already dumbed-down AIMS test for reading and math to 59 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

Thanks to you, your kids will end up working at Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, and the nation will eventually lose its technological edge to China and India.

Gotta run now. Oprah is on and the Kentucky Fried Chicken is getting cold.

* * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). His new book, Breaking from the Herd: Political Essays for Independent Thinkers by a Maverick Columnist, can be purchased for $18.95 at retail or $10 from him. He can be reached at haalt1@aol.com

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Opportunities Missed

22 May 2005

Tourist traps mean different things to different people. For some, they are treasure troves of trinkets and tribal lore. All alliteration aside, most people prefer to avoid the place known as a tourist trap.

Historic downtown Memphis, Tennessee is a place that has some tourist traps and some remarkable places to visit. Short on recollection of the latter, I’ll mention a place that has the potential to go either way. Last night it was the former.

Type “the peabody” into Google and your first link will take you to one of Memphis’s grand ole hotels. Rennovated and operated by a local family, this fine old place is full of the tales of the past. It’s beautiful, but attempts to preserve it as designed have left it looking a bit tired and worn in some areas.

Attempts to add modern expansion to it have resulted in the worst kind of disasters in space planning, customer convenience, parking and traffic flow. Park your car in one of the first available spots for “self-parking” and you’ll hike from somewhere in North Mississippi to the lobby. Forget to prepay for parking and you’ll wind up in a line of cars idling while owners exit their vehicles to search for one of the machines that takes money and validates your parking receipt.

If the place is busy – as it was last night – no one is in charge. Bellhops are feuding with valet parking attendants. “Not my job” can be heard often. The concierge desk is unmanned. Curbside luggage handlers are deciding what kind of item they will and won’t handle based on their own interpretations of “liability.”

One guest continually referred to the concierge as the connoisseur. Were it not for those moments of hilarity, I’d have made quite the scene. As it was, I exited with the full assurance that the Peabody’s ducks – look it up – will forever get better treatment than customers, guests and those who attend events there.

That is, until someone realizes that the difference between a fine hotel and a tourist trap has far more to do with substance than image.

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For Designers and Investors

17 May 2005

Long-time readers know that Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s company, has been an interest of mine for many years. Some of you will recall that I repeated an often cited statement that, “a careful reading and rereading of Warren Buffett’s letters to shareholders from 1977 to the present provides a better education than two years in a top business school.”

To further that education Charles T. Munger has collaborated with Peter Kaufman to produce a masterpiece. It’s a book and it’s called Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger. Part of it is biography. Part of it is philosophy. Mostly, it is a book about the kind of knowledge one should accumulate to succeed in life. Mr. Munger is Berkshire Hathaway’s Vice Chairman of many years.

For those who are designers and look this way from time to time, you’ll find this is a book unlike any other you’ll pick up in the next year or two. From the book jacket, to the cover, to the illustrations inside, it is one of the great design accomplishments in publishing. If you’re serious about owning books that last for generations, this one is worth adding to your collection.

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The Last Best Chance

5 May 2005

If you own a business, you need this. If you have a family, you need this. If you believe every initiative you hear about outside of those supported by your political party is nonsense, you need this. If you walk American soil, earn income on American soil or spend even a single week of each year on American soil, you need this.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative is sending out DVD’s of a movie it has made about the risk of nuclear terrorism in America. You can learn more by clicking here.

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Stuff Needs Fixing

4 May 2005

Deep in study recently, several varied topics have captured my attention. They are varied, disconnected and—at first glance—unrelated. Upon closer examination, it seems there’s a thread of connectivity among them all. Enjoy!

Watch batteries are $3.04 at Walmart after a 9.25% local and state sales tax. The kiosk in the mall wants $14.95 plus tax. The jewelry store wants $24.95 and two days. Which supplier is more competitive?

At the Berkshire Hathaway Annual meeting Charles Munger said, “We are living at (or very near) the apex of a great civilization.” Are we continuing to get better or about to decline?

Social Security ideas are everywhere. Give us options or give us $2000 at birth and each year until we’re 18 years old; or, do away with the 12.4% tax and leave financial security to personal responsibility!

Tom Friedman has written another book. Talking about outsourcing recently, he suggested a national science and math initiative aimed at energy independence. Comparable to our moon shot, he believes it reenergizes the interest of youth in science and math. Taken with a recent comment by Bill Gates in which he said, “America’s high schools are obsolete,” Friedman might be onto something. That is, unless you are among those who believe that if anyone ever had a bad idea, every idea they have from that point forward is bad.

It’s past time that we privatize the Post Office by auctioning its primary regional distribution operations to FedEx, UPS, DHL and others. We’ll improve the government and the companies in the process.

General Motors has approximately $1600 of cost in every vehicle it produces due to healthcare costs. Another Tom Friedman prediction is that China or Japan will wind up owning all of the General Motors manufacturing operations. Remember when General Motors could have written a check for Toyota?

Six Sigma education in this country is fragmented among many suppliers. Smarter Solutions in Austin, TX is as good as they come. Forrest W. Breyfogle, III is the name behind the business. I recently read another of his books titled Lean Six Sigma in Sickness and in Health. As I read it occurred to me that if every unemployed I.T. worker pursued a Green Belt, Black Belt or Master Black Belt from a proper six sigma training authority, this country could insure its global competitiveness for decades to come. Now, how to capitalize on the idea?

Golfers, there’s a new Dan Jenkins book. It’s as profane as ever, but genuinely accurate in its portrayal of the most avid golfers I’ve known. Forrest Breyfogle has also addressed the golfer’s desire to get better.

Did you ever feel as if you had found the great unifying theory of how to improve anything? Dr. Deming did.

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Rats As Ultimate Survivors

4 May 2005

True to the materialistic rat race for power, prestige and position, an analog may exist in the animal kingdom. On this earth rats may indeed prevail – figuratively and literally. In something called eternity, the figurative rats face a life of warmth or one of extreme heat, based upon a decision they can make right now.

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Supplying the Luxury Rat Race

2 May 2005

For those with more money than good ideas, there’s always been Neiman Marcus. All signs indicate the company will soon be under new ownership.

If your faux-pearl encrusted mermaid suit is looking a little worn or there’s just no more waiting for those his and hers bowling alleys, Neiman Marcus can help you out.

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No Excuses

20 April 2005

No, I cannot solve the problem you created over the last two years in ten minutes. No, your impatience doesn’t intimidate me. No, you don’t have (self-diagnosed) adult ADD—you are simply rude or don’t understand the skill of listening. No, the fact that you think you are more important than anyone else doesn’t impress me.

There is no instant pudding when it comes to improving your business operations. There are incredible results available to you as a result of sensibly applied methods. These methods require that you learn and practice some new approaches. They require you to focus—yes, for more than one hour—and think unemotionally about your business.

Power, prestige and position are your domain. Performance, facts and analytics are mine. One runs right down the middle in the rat race. The other is a ninety degree that takes you off the rat race course quickly. You choose.

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Convergence and Consolidation

18 April 2005

The big ideas:

What’s the point? The software companies are consolidating, and the pace will quicken. If you assume that bandwidth and storage costs are approaching zero as incremental costs of doing business, you come to some interesting conclusions about what might be next. With a long-haul bandwidth provider sitting on a global network of fiber optics and (at least) six or eight empty conduits, but trading at two bucks a share, you get some perspective on bandwidth prices. Then, you see a major technology company that has already concluded that bandwidth and storage costs approach zero. They’ll definitely want more of both.

Finally, if you can’t make it all work together, you’ll have to find someone who can show you how to transform the operations of your business around the notions of convergence and consolidation. Pick the wrong player and cheap bandwidth, great software, web services galore and your position in the market will be undermined by those who don’t blunder.

This is absolutely a time when every business should be asking (and answering quickly), “Do we know and have what it takes to compete in a world of ubiquitous technology?” If you can’t answer that question, be assured it is getting answered as we speak in Bangalore, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Shenzhen.

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Leonardo Paints Google

15 April 2005

Leonardo da Vinci

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Regulating Your Status Symbols

12 April 2005

In another magnificent act of stupidity your government (and mine) has found a way to protect us from ourselves. Craig Cantoni is all over it!

A life is worth $9.8 million but not $10
By Craig J. Cantoni
April 11, 2005

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just announced that tire sensors will be required on vehicles beginning in 2008. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently issued a report showing that car ownership costs are the second highest household expense in the U.S., second only to housing costs and three times as much as medical costs.

Maybe the two agencies should talk to each other. That way, the NHTSA would know how its regulations have increased the cost of car ownership over the years, one regulation at a time.

The establishment media could help. Instead of reporting that the U.S. has a medical cost crisis, they could start reporting that the nation has a car cost crisis. At the same time, they could change the way that they cover new safety regulations.

The current way is to report the cost of a new regulation and the estimated lives that it will save. For example, in reporting on the tire sensor regulation, the media said that the cost of a dashboard warning light for low tire pressure would average only $59 per vehicle and would save 120 lives a year. No mention was made of the cost per life saved.

After conducting five minutes of Internet research and using fourth-grade math, I calculated the cost. Apparently, reporters either don’t think that readers are worth five minutes of research or can’t do fourth-grade math.

By the time that all vehicles are equipped with the tire sensors and the first 120 lives are saved, the cost will be $13 billion, or $108 million per life, based on the NHTSA estimates. After that, the annual marginal cost will be $9.8 million per life.

Of course, these costs are accurate only if the NHTSA estimates are accurate. Unlike the media, I don’t accept the NHTSA numbers at face value.

First, it is doubtful that the government really knows how many deaths are caused by low tire pressure. We do know, however, that safety advocates have a record of exaggerating dangers and underestimating the cost of safety regulations. Second, the government’s cost estimates don’t include the cost of repairing the sensors when they inevitably malfunction, or the cost of lawsuits when trial lawyers claim that deaths were caused by malfunctions. Third, it is doubtful that the government knows how many drivers will ignore a dashboard warning light and drive with low tire pressure.

On the last point, I have two cars with dashboard warning lights that are always blinking red. Both are giving a false indication that there is something wrong with the emission control system. I have fixed the ersatz problem by placing black electrical tape over the lights.

This is not to suggest that I would ignore low tire pressure. I check my tires every two weeks, adding air when necessary with an air compressor that cost $120. My “tire sensor” is a hand-held digital pressure gauge that cost $10, or 17 percent of the cost of a government-mandated tire sensor. And it can be used on more than one car.

Evidently, many people don’t think that their life is worth the $10 cost of a tire gauge. But our compassionate, munificent government thinks that their life is worth $9.8 million to the rest of us.

* * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (haalt.org). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com

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Roars Through Georgia Pines

10 April 2005

The three-point shot with time running out is exciting. The Hail Mary pass on a cool November Saturday afternoon ranks up there. Oh, and there’s not much like an 11-year old’s first soccer goal.

But, for sheer thrills, the roars in Augusta, GA in April are completely infectious. Filtered by pine needles, the sounds tell the story to those four holes away. Those are the sounds of an elite performance in front an august crowd in a treasured setting.

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An Open Letter to Martha Burk

8 April 2005

In today’s Wall Street Journal you said this, Ms. Burk:

Augusta National Golf Club, which openly and proudly discriminates against women, will produce its Masters Golf Tournament with considerable help from the masters of corporate America.

A bit later, you added:

The harm to stockholders pales beside the harm to working women.

Ms. Burk, should you ever find yourself reading this, get a clue. Yes, get a clue. You’re doing nothing to help the world-wide cause of human or women’s rights. You’re grandstanding. You’re disenchanted with not being part of the crowd at Augusta. You’re clueless about where women need your brand of activism. Here’s one example from the streets of Mecca:

Finally, someone managed to open the door and hundreds of terrified girls rushed into the street to escape the suffocating smoke and encroaching flame. In their hurry to escape, however, they did not have time to go to their rooms to get the obligatory head coverings they needed to venture out-of-doors. A score of Muslim religious policemen (called Mutawas), outraged at seeing bare-headed girls swarming openly in a public street, converged on the scene with one intent—to guard the decency of the community by forcing the girls back into the burning building!

That’s the mildest thing I could quote from Secrets of the Koran. I suggest to you, Ms. Burk—and others who lament the “plight” of women in America—that a brief search will uncover far greater harm to women in unimaginable circumstances far from Augusta, Georgia. Please, just get a clue!

[Please note: Ms. Burk, chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, is the author of Cult of Power, published this week by Scribner.] How timely.

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Most Want Fast and Cheap

5 April 2005

There’s a discussion going on at Jason Kottke’s web site. He has asked, and others are pondering, criteria such as fast, cheap and good in any design effort. Conventional wisdom says you can have two, but not all three.

We see the selection of only two of these in every walk of life. We see it in politics. We see it in product compromises. We see people who make this trade-off decision every day of their lives.

Follow the discussion and you’ll learn two things. You’ll learn of examples where this logic is applied. You’ll also learn how quickly people are to accept that only two choices are available.

With the benefit of hindsight, there’s a more important question: has any product, service, project or effort fulfilled all three of these?

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Diversifying Google

1 April 2005

Google has now made the leap into the beverage business. Look for it today. It’s likely to be unavailable shortly.

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The Rat Race Expands

1 April 2005

For a long time the “rat race”—as defined by me—involved the panic-stricken looks on people’s faces as they drove for ever greater material gains. Conspicuous consumption was a particularly annoying arms race that neighbors, church members, coworkers and associates engaged in as if “it” mattered. Deeply entrenched in the battles, these people only look puzzled when questioned about why they think their choices are necessities.

Today, I see yet another dimension to the rat race. Unfortunately, it means one of my favorite writers is taking a break. After a few weeks of talking heads talking simultaneously about rights, wrongs…wait, they only taked about rights. No one ever spoke up to say, “that which is legal may still be wrong; those things labeled rights may involve thoughts, deeds or words to be left alone.” Now, James Lileks brings the muddle of addled thinking into sharp focus. Purpose-driven doesn’t begin to adequately describe the depth of his commitment, insight and influence.

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The Time Is Now

30 March 2005

Mark Twain said:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

It’s time to make a difference. There’s not a great need for another participant in the software industry. There’s not a great need for another company providing widgets that feed conspicuous consumption. There’s no need at all for any more lawyers.

Pave a path out of the rat race and it will be well-traveled!

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Lawyers Just Don't Grok It

29 March 2005

DISCLAIMER: I believe that—more often than not—lawyers earn money by introducing confusion where there was none.

Should the manufacturer of a fence used to hold pets without food or water be held liable for the fence owner’s abuses? Should the manufacturer of a pickup truck be held liable in a case where one person drags another to his death? Should the manufacturer of a pot or pan be held liable when someone uses the implement to cook up an illegal substance? Should one who makes a router be held accountable for illegal file swapping or downloading?

Grokster is in no more libelous a position than the installer of the ethernet cables connecting a computer to a network gateway.

Grok – to understand profoundly through intuition or empathy.

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And On the Third Day

27 March 2005

In Remembrance
by Ragan Courtney and Buryl Red

In remembrance of Me eat this bread
In remembrance of Me drink this wine
In remembrance of Me pray for the time
When God’s own will is done

In remembrance of me heal the sick
In remembrance of me feed the poor
In remembrance of me open the door
And let your brother in, let him in

Take eat and be comforted
Drink and remember too
That this is my body and precious blood
Shed for you, shed for you

In remembrance of me always love
In remembrance of me don’t look above
But in your heart, in your heart
Look in your heart for God

Do this in remembrance of Me
Do this in remembrance of Me
In remembrance of Me

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The Role of Journalism

25 March 2005

My friend and fellow critical thinker, Craig Cantoni, does a thorough and thoroughly entertaining analysis of the way journalists in some cities are promoting the biotech frenzy. He’s guarding our dollars again, and I appreciate it!

Journalism and the Biotech Feeding Frenzy
By Craig J. Cantoni
March 24, 2005

The Arizona Republic has been advocating huge public investments in biotech research, due to a belief that such investments are a way for Arizona to gain economically from the coming biotech revolution. Other big-city dailies across the nation have advocated the same thing for their hometowns.

This raises two questions: First, are the investments a smart and proper use of public money? Second, is it the proper role of journalism to be an advocate for such investments instead of being neutral and presenting both the pros and cons of this use of public money?

Let’s start with the proper role of journalism.

Last Sunday’s edition of The Arizona Republic devoted six pages to a new biotech research center that was built with public money in Phoenix. Three of the pages were in the news section, and three were in the opinions section.

In a blurring of news and opinion, there was no difference between the coverage in the news section and the editorials in the opinions section. Both sections quoted people and organizations that have a vested interest in the public investments, and both sections steered clear of people, studies and statistics that question the wisdom of the investments.

Such one-sided coverage plays into the hands of critics on the right who say that the mainstream press is losing market share because it has a big-government agenda and can’t be trusted to report the news objectively. My view is that newspapers should be a watchdog over the public purse and should have a healthy skepticism about government proposals to take money from the purse, especially for the purposes of industrial planning and economic development.

Let’s turn to the question of whether public investment in biotech is a smart and proper use of public money. I’ll skip the “proper” part of the question, because that comes down to a philosophical, ideological, constitutional and moral issue of whether the government should have the power to forcibly take money from citizens for what is essentially a modern form of mercantilism.

To determine if it is a smart investment to spend public money on biotech research, we first need to know the following:

  1. The expected rate of return on the invested money.
  2. The historical return on investment of both public and private capital invested in biotech research.
  3. The success of such investments in other cities and states.
  4. The economic opportunities that were lost by taking capital out of the private sector.
  5. The competition faced by cities and states in biotech, and whether, instead of investing in biotech, they would be better off playing to their natural competitive advantages, coupled with removing tax and regulatory barriers to economic growth.

Amazingly, to the best of my knowledge, neither the local government nor the press has provided the foregoing information. Worse, with respect to No. 1, the local press did not challenge a specious claim by the head of Phoenix’s new research center that there has already been a sizable return on investment. How did he calculate the ROI? He included federal research grants in the center’s revenue. In other words, if money is taken from taxpayers twice – once to build and operate the research center, and once to fund research grants – the center is generating a profit. In reality, taxpayers have experienced a loss.

It’s not as if the information listed above is difficult to find. I found it in one hour by doing two things: one, typing various city names into an Internet search engine, along with the words “biotech research;” and two, sending an e-mail to contacts familiar with public policy issues, asking them if they knew of any authoritative studies on the subject of publicly-funded biotech research.

Here’s what I discovered from my city-by-city search:

  • That scores of cities are pinning their hopes on publicly-funded biotech research but have not provided the information listed in Nos. 1-5 above.
  • That scores of big-city newspaper are advocating biotech research as an economic elixir but have not provided the information listed in Nos. 1-5 above.

Here’s what I discovered from authoritative studies by the Cato Institute, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and others:

  • That there is now more biotech research capacity in the nation than the number of scientists needed to fill the capacity, a situation that is similar to the excess convention center capacity in the nation, due to cities exaggerating the economic benefits of the centers and racing each other to see who can build the biggest and fanciest facilities.
  • That advocates of publicly-funded research centers have exaggerated the returns on investment.
  • That privately-funded research centers have higher returns on investment than publicly-funded research centers.
  • That the research centers are based on the idea of cluster-based economic development, an idea that has dubious merit.
  • That politicians are in a bidding war of financial subsidies for a small number of biotech companies, thus driving up the value of the companies beyond their true economic value.
  • That a smart strategy for a city or state is to reap the benefits of biotech research while letting other cities and states incur the cost of the research, by instituting tax and regulatory policies that attract biotech companies (and other companies).

For more information, see the following sources:

http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj14n1-6.html

http://minneapolisfed.org/pubs/fedgaz/03-09/biotech.cfm

San Francisco Chronicle

http://minneapolisfed.org/pubs/fedgaz/03-09/clusters.cfm

In closing, it would seem that before hundreds of millions of dollars of public money are spent, the government and the press should at least do an hour of research and report the results.

* * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). His new book will be published in a couple of months (Breaking from the Herd: Political Essays for Independent Thinkers by a Maverick Columnist). He can be reached at either ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com.

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Global Warming Fact and Fiction

23 March 2005

With any important idea, something serves as a catalyst. In the field of organizational improvement and development, the best way to fuel interest is with anecdotes. Tom Peters mastered that skill in print and on stage. Some books are best at “proving the need.” An executive may not be driven to pursue quality by reading Out of the Crisis, but Customers for Life might motivate. The difference—the anecdotes!

Michael Crichton has a similar ability to create interest in a field of study by telling the story. He did it with Airframe. He did it with Prey.

Now, State of Fear uses a story to teach some uncommon wisdom about environmental science and politics. There are better novels. However, for those who believe everything you see, hear or read in the mainstream media, this book is an eye-opener. The theories of global warming and the sciences which underpin them are explored carefully. Remember, Michael Crichton writes novels, but the footnotes in his novels are nonfiction. The sources of data and the bibliography are also real sources for beginning a study of global warming that is built on scientific truth, facts and the scientific method. All else is propaganda!

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I Am Vendor Hear Me Roar

21 March 2005

Ten days of immersion in web services and managed service models has me wondering if anyone will figure out how to return to the feature-function-benefit school of selling. I’ve seen accounting and ERP products offered as managed services. I’ve seen complete voice-over-IP phone solutions that just happen to blend email, messaging, digitized voicemail, telephony and a host of other things that only a technologist can imagine doing with a phone. Each supplier represents his or her product as the one with the faster, bigger or better technology. Sadly, not one has sought to understand the problem their product might solve, but they certainly love to hear themselves.

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Get the Government Out of It

18 March 2005

Why we perpetuate bad ideas just because we embraced them once is beyond me. The government has no justification for subsidizing telecommunications as they once did. Instead, times have changed. Let the market prevail.

There’s an alternative to traditional telecommunications technologies that were difficult to get into rural parts of this country. That alternative doesn’t require a special subsidy(USF). Just get out.

You can read more about it if things like VOIP interest you.

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Get Spicer On This One

16 March 2005

Do you relate your own tax bill to the budgets provided by city, county, state and Federal agencies? Do you understand the correlation between government spending, budgets and the amount of money in your paycheck? Craig Cantoni does!

Sixty-two percent of federal budget is theft
By Craig J. Cantoni
March 16, 2005

President Bush’s proposed federal budget for fiscal 2006 is $2.479 trillion, or a whopping $21,600 per household. According to my research, at least $1.537 trillion of that, or 62 percent, is money that is taken from some people for the benefit of other people (theft) instead of for the true common good. The $1.537 trillion of theft comes to an astonishing $13,392 per household.

These figures do not include state and local spending, which, in my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, averages $8,608 per household. Nor do the figures include the indirect cost of regulations, which reliable sources estimate to be $8,000 per household. When total federal spending is added to state and local spending, the total direct cost of government is $30,208 per Scottsdale household. The cost is higher in higher-cost parts of the country.

It took a half-day of research to come up with the figure of 62 percent for the amount of theft in the federal budget. It took that long because, to my knowledge, no federal agency, think tank, economist, or media outlet has analyzed the federal budget from the perspective of theft. The standard analysis is to separate discretionary spending from mandatory spending, or in some cases, to calculate the amount of “transfer payments,” which is an establishment euphemism for “theft.” Unfortunately, the standard method of calculating transfer payments does not include all forms of theft. As a result, transfer payments are estimated to be 40 percent of the federal budget, or 22 percentage points lower than my calculation of theft.

An aside: Transfer payments were only two percent of the federal budget 100 years ago. Unless spending on Social Security and Medicare is curtailed, transfer payments will account for over 60 percent of the federal budget in 20 years

Some libertarians say that all taxes are theft, since they are taken from citizens at the point of a gun and through the tyranny of the majority. And some left-liberals say that taxes for social programs are not theft, because they benefit the disadvantaged and help to achieve social justice. I disagree with both.

I’ve written in-depth philosophical essays on government theft and on moral alternatives to helping the poor. Moreover, there is a chapter on these subjects in my upcoming book (Breaking from the Herd: Political Essays for Independent Thinkers by a Maverick Columnist). But for the purposes of my analysis of the federal budget, I defined “theft” in brief as follows: Theft is the taking of money from some citizens for the direct benefit of other citizens instead of for the benefit of everyone equally or as equally as practical.

To take an example using that definition, taxes for national defense and homeland security are not theft, because they benefit all citizens equally or as equally as practical. Of course, a considerable amount of spending on national defense and homeland security is distributed to politically-favored groups, locales and companies in the form of pork-barrel spending, but it was beyond the scope of my analysis to uncover such waste.

To take another example, I did not count the budgets of such agencies as the Federal Aviation Administration as theft, although I believe that the FAA and others should be privatized. The FAA is financed largely through user fees, and the air traffic control system benefits all Americans equally or as equally as practical.

On the other hand, I counted Social Security and Medicare payments as theft, because current workers and future workers (today’s children) pay the bills of current retirees. It certainly does not benefit my 14-year-old son to be stuck with the medical and retirement bills of my generation

A partial list of the budget items that I counted as theft is below. Please note that the focus of my analysis was on theft, not on whether an agency or program is constitutional, necessary or should be provided by the private sector. Clearly, much of what is done by the Department of Education and Department of Commerce is unconstitutional, much of what is done by Health and Human Services should be done by private charity, and much of what is done by NASA and the National Science Foundation should be done by private industry. But those are subjects for another time and place.

In closing, here is the partial list:

PARTIAL LIST OF THEFT IN THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT BUDGET,
FISCAL YEAR 2006

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

  • $176 billion in farm assistance
  • $359 million in loans to companies that install broadband in rural areas
  • $5.5 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
  • 214 million for USDA-financed multifamily housing
  • 33.1 billion for the Food Stamp Program

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

  • $3.7 billion for the Strengthening America’s Communities Grant Program, including the Minority Business Development Agency the Advisory Commission on Asians and Pacific Islanders, and the International Trade Administration
  • $47 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

  • $13.3 billion in Title I spending
  • $1.1 billion for Reading First and Early Reading First
  • $412 million to help states test students under No Child Left Behind
  • $500 million for Teacher Incentive Fund
  • $2.9 billion for Teacher Quality States Grant program
  • $40 million for the Adjunct Teacher Corps
  • $50 million for the Choice Incentive Fund
  • $219 million for Charter Schools Grants
  • $37 million for Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities
  • $1.2 billion for High School Intervention Initiative
  • $250 million for High School Assessments
  • $175 million for Striving Readers program
  • $269 million for Math-Science Partnerships
  • $12 million for State Scholars Program
  • $12.2 billion for all IDEA programs
  • $4.3 billion to retire Pell Grant shortfall
  • $17.9 billion in Pell Grants
  • $125 million to improve access to community colleges
  • $299 million for Historically Black Colleges and Graduate Institutions

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

  • $56 million for Nuclear Power Initiative 2010 (public-private partnerships)
  • $286 million for President’s Coal Research Initiative
  • $1.2 billion Hydrogen Fuel Initiative
  • $3.6 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy and hybrid and fuel cell vehicles
  • $96 million to modernize electric transmission and distribution systems
  • $230 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

  • $67.2 billion in discretionary spending and $642 billion in mandatory spending, for Medicare, Medicaid, State Children’s Health Insurance Program, health information technology and other programs

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

  • $161.5 million for the American Dream Down-payment Initiative
  • $40 million for housing counseling
  • $2.5 billion for the Single Family Home Ownership Tax Credit
  • $4 billion for homeless programs and grants
  • Unspecified amount for Housing Opportunities for Persons with Aids (HOPWA)
  • $74 million for Prisoner Re-entry Initiative
  • $20.8 billion in rental assistance
  • $5.7 billion for public housing
  • $583 million for Native American Block Grant

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

  • $4 billion for job training

SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION

  • The entire budget of $593 million is theft

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

  • $9.5 billion in discretionary spending and $564 billion in mandatory spending

THE CORPORATION FOR NATIONAL AND COMMUNITY SERVICE

  • The entire budget of $921 million is theft

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS

  • The entire budget of $121 million is theft

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES

  • The entire budget of $138 million is theft

REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

  • The entire budget of $78 million is theft

* * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). He can be reached at either ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com.

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Next FCC Chair

16 March 2005

Kevin J. Martin has been nominated by the President to be the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

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Eleven Billion Dollars of Fraud

15 March 2005

This business alert from the Wall Street Journal hit my email about 11:30 a.m. today:

Ebbers was found guilty on all counts for his role in the $11 billion accounting fraud that brought down WorldCom. The former CEO could spend the rest of his life in prison.

In no investment have I ever lost as much money as with WorldCom. When you heap a fraud of this magnitude upon the difficulties created by failing to merge and integrate a hundred or more software systems, you don’t get much good.

I don’t wish a long prison stay for this 63 year-old, because the lost pride and the lost riches have clearly taken their toll. However, something must be done to discourage those who haven’t yet achieved real riches from using this path.

* * * UPDATE * * * By 1:30 p.m. the Wall Street Journal had sent this:

Securities regulators sued Joseph P. Nacchio, the former chief executive of Qwest Communications, and six other former executives, accusing them of engaging in a “massive financial fraud.”

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Memphis Media

15 March 2005

Memphis can be a muddy little river town at times. It comes complete with all the corruption, scandal and fly-coated filth one might expect. As instruments of the politicians in this town, the local media have long hedged any inclination toward serious, investigative reporting—particularly of politics. It’s been this way for decades. With the mayor’s recently announced indiscretions comes a new low in how the local media sees things. Yet, we remain proud of our new basketball arena and the one we’ve left sitting mostly empty.

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Predictive Analysis

15 March 2005

Craig Cantoni is now able to predict his local newspaper’s “slant” before reading it. The article he discusses hits close to home even though it is fifteen hundred miles away. Our local property assessor—believing that the “housing bubble” grants expansive powers to government—has just sent out new assessments that move already inflated housing prices up another twenty percent in a single year.

On a limb over Republic housing story
By Craig J. Cantoni
March 14, 2005

As I’ve done before, I’m going to crawl out on a limb and predict what an Arizona Republic story says and doesn’t say. Then I’ll read the story and let you know if I was right or wrong.

The story in question was a lead story in yesterday’s edition on the lack of affordable housing in metro Phoenix, due to the recent run up (bubble?) in housing prices. Because of a busy Sunday, I didn’t read the newspaper yesterday. I only glanced at the front-page headlines.

I predict that the story will follow the standard newsroom formula and state that public employees can’t afford to live in the communities where they work. It will make the specious claim that living where one works is an important public policy issue that the government should address, it will spotlight a public school teacher who says that she doesn’t make enough money, and it will spotlight a firefighter, police officer or other public employee who says the same thing. In doing so, the newspaper will plant a seed that teachers and other public employees should get a raise or some sort of housing subsidy.

The story will include sob stories about working people in the private sector who have to commute long distances to work in high-priced suburbs for low wages.

And the story will give statistics showing how housing prices have risen faster than other necessities of life.

Here’s what the story will not say:

  • In keeping with a gloom-and-doom theme, it will not say that only 37 percent of housing was occupied by owners 100 years ago, versus 66 percent today. Nor will it say that half of households consisted of at least six people living together 100 years ago, versus 10 percent of households that have at least six people living together today.
  • The story will not say that modern homes have amenities that were unheard of years ago. For example, as recently as 1950, only 50 percent of homes had central heat, only 47 percent had washing machines, only 76 percent had flush toilets, and none had air conditioning.
  • The story will not say that when pay, benefits and hours are considered, teachers receive more remuneration than workers in other occupations requiring similar skills and education. (I published an article with the facts on teacher pay in June, 2003, based on my primary research. USA Today ran a similar story a week later.)
  • It will not say that firefighters in my hometown of Scottsdale pay nothing for medical coverage and are eligible for a pension plan in addition to a 401(k) plan. To compare, only about half of private-sector workers have any type of company-paid retirement plan, and the vast majority pay $500 a month or more in health care premiums.
  • It will not say anything about the expensive cars, trucks and SUVs parked behind firehouses and in faculty parking lots at area schools.
  • It will not say anything about how tax policies and zoning regulations affect home prices.
  • It will not say that when my poor grandparents immigrated to this country in the early 20th century, they could afford a two-flat, because tax rates were about a third of today’s confiscatory levels. (My aunt and uncle lived downstairs and raised five kids in a two-bedroom, one-bath flat. That would be considered substandard housing today for people on public assistance.) My grandparents could afford the two-flat even though the average income in inflation-adjusted dollars back then was only about one-fourth of today’s average income.
  • It will not say that the Arizona Republic has advocated that $4 billion be spent on light rail, downtown development and publicly-financed sports stadiums, hotels and research centers. That is equivalent to the annual income of nearly 100,000 households or to 20,000 homes priced at $200,000.
  • It will not put the housing situation in perspective by comparing local housing to housing in other countries. It will not point out, for example, that the average home size in the workers’ paradise of France is about 500 sq. ft., and that the French social welfare state has produced double-digit unemployment. Nor will it compare local housing to Mexico, where some Mexicans actually live in garbage dumps, where the average daily wage is four dollars, and where a lack of property rights has kept people poor.
  • And last, it will not delve into the personal lives of the people highlighted in the article to find out if they have made bad choices in life or if they have squandered money on gambling, drinking, expensive cars, cell phones, big-screen TVs, and cable TV.

Okay, time for me to read the paper. I’ll return momentarily.

[Ten minutes later] It’s worse than I thought. Not only did the story in the news section follow the standard formula as I predicted, but the opinions section had five editorials that followed the same formula.

In retrospect, I was never in danger of falling off the limb.

* * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). He can be reached at either ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com.

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Reporters Have Opinions, Too

13 March 2005

From the time this weblog began (January, 2002) I’ve been thinking about terms. Words have meaning. When two people communicate, their different definitions of words confuse the communication. If they have the patience to really understand one another, those differences get resolved so that they can communicate effectively.

In the practice of strategy and process improvement, facts are important. They are seldom in dispute. Once the facts are understood, a basis for proceeding gets just a little easier. The terms used to describe a process and its subsequent improvements have to be well-defined and understood.

That brings us to the ongoing debate between mainstream media (aka professional journalists, MSM, etc.) and those who write weblogs. Apple—and now the court—says a reporter who collects information and writes about it in a weblog should be forced to reveal the sources of the information. Traditional (MSM) journalists are “protected” from having to reveal their sources.

All of this gets tremendously fuzzy if a crime is committed. As one judge opined, “Why isn’t a journalist an equivalent of a fence for stolen property?” My opinion may change, but for now, I think the notion of “protected sources” needs to be re-examined more than the notion of whether newspaper writers and weblog writers are equals.

Opinions clearly influence reporters, writers, journalists—whatever. Once the facts are presented, few reporters can resist some editorial remark about them. Face reporters with a first amendment issue and they close ranks quickly. It’s time to question whether or not there are any circumstances under which a reporter should be compelled to reveal sources. What are the precedents?

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Just One Book

11 March 2005

From World Magazine’s blog:

They have agreed on one thing: each will read—as objectively as possible—one book recommended by the other. Now, how to choose that one book!

In the comments, a number of readers compiled a great reading list for the rest of us.

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Op-Ed Disinformation On Education

9 March 2005

Craig Cantoni clearly assesses the slanted disinformation provided in two recent op-ed pieces about the state of public education. As usual, it’s a critical thinker’s treasure.

Teacher union and advocacy group in disingenuousness contest
By Craig J. Cantoni
March 8, 2005

The Arizona Education Association (a teacher union) and the Children’s Action Alliance (a left-liberal advocacy group) had a contest in The Arizona Republic yesterday to see who could be the most disingenuous and spread the most disinformation. You be the judge and pick the winner.

Carol Kamin, the CEO of the Children’s Action Alliance, wrote an op-ed on “early childhood education.” Andrew Morrill, the president of the teacher union, wrote a companion op-ed on two voucher bills being considered in the Arizona legislature. Let’s begin with Morrill’s disinformation.

Morrill claimed that if the bills become law, “parents who intend to send their children to private schools from the very beginning come away with $49,500 plus inflation at the taxpayer’s expense.” Morrill didn’t say that the $49,500 belongs to private school parents to begin with, not to the state. Moreover, the amount represents only 26 percent of what they pay in education taxes.

Let me explain: The government takes $190,000 from the heads of the average household in Arizona over their adult lives. If it returns $49,500 of that amount, or 26 percent, to private school parents, that still leaves a whopping $140,000 that private school parents contribute to the coffers of public education and to Morrill’s union members.

Let’s look now at the contribution of public school parents with two children in government schools. It will cost the government schools $216,000 to educate the two children. Since the parents will contribute $190,000 in public education taxes over their adult lives, that leaves a deficit of $26,000 that has to be picked up by other taxpayers.

Here is a multiple-choice math question for Morrill: Who is contributing more to public education? a) private school parents, or b) public school parents.

Morrill said nothing about the United States being the only Western democracy that forces parochial parents to pay double for education in order to exercise their right of religious freedom. For example, in addition to the $190,000 that my wife and I will pay in public education taxes, we will pay about $60,000 to give our son 12 years of Catholic education. By comparison, it would cost public schools $9,000 a year, or $108,000, to give our son 12 years of inferior education.

Morrill said that “Catholic schools turn away nearly two out of three applicants.” He didn’t say that the statistic applies to Catholic college prep schools, not elementary schools. Nor did he say that Catholic schools accept non-Catholic students whose parents are fed up with public schools, and that an adequate number of Catholic schools would be built to meet the demand if parents didn’t have to sacrifice dearly to pay public education taxes in addition to parochial tuition. Of course, he also was silent about the fact that one of the reasons that the public education movement was begun in the mid-nineteenth century was to stop the growth of parochial schools and to teach Catholics the St. James Bible.

Let’s turn to Kamin’s disinformation.

In writing about the glories of “free” preschool, Kamin conveniently said nothing about the billions already wasted on such programs and the fact that preschool will not address the root causes of poor academic achievement, especially among Hispanics and blacks.

One of the best scholarly studies on the subject is the book, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom. One chapter is entitled, “The Sad Story of Head Start.” And what a sad story it is.

The authors say that since 1965, 20 million children have gone through Head Start, at a cost of $60 billion. Currently, nearly one million children are in Head Start, at a per-child cost of $6,600. Incidentally, that is twice what my wife and I pay in parochial school tuition for our eighth-grade son.

The authors then discuss the “dismal results” of Head Start, detailing how the modest benefits of Head Start fade away in elementary school. This follows chapter after chapter showing conclusively that two of the root causes of poor academic achievement are the increase in single-parent families since the advent of the Great Society program in 1965 and the culture of low expectations among blacks and Hispanics, a culture that is the opposite of the culture among Asians.

Kamin does not explain how free babysitting, er, preschool, will decrease the number of single-parent families and turn the culture around.

So what is your vote? Who was the most disingenuous, Kamin or Morrill? I say it was a tie.

* * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). He can be reached at either ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com.

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Annual Education Instalment

5 March 2005

The beauty of one lesson from Warren Buffett is that it keeps on giving. It makes you want to learn more, and he tells you how to go about that.

The 2004 annual report and letter to shareholders is different only in that it provides a greater incentive to dig deeper. Take these topics for instance: (Note: the first two are pdf files.)

  • Fuzzy Math and Stock Options
  • America’s Growing Trade Deficit is Selling the Nation Out from Under Us
  • What were the titles of the eighteen (recommended) books sold at last year’s annual meeting?
  • What are the three reasons most investors suffer results “ranging from mediocre to disastrous?”
  • What’s the second largest real estate broker in the country?
  • Why is a $20,000 hiring decision a $3 million business decision?
  • Why would Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger applaud a business manager who is reducing his sales volume?
  • The World Trade Center disaster cost the insurance industry an estimated $35 billion. What would happen if the insurance industry faced a $100 billion event? (Hint: “At bottom, any insurance policy is a promise, and as everyone knows, promises vary enormously in their quality.”)
  • “Like Hell, derivative trading is easy to enter but difficult to leave. (Other similarities come to mind as well.)”
  • Are women wearing more or less underwear these days?
  • What company leads the world in training pilots and who is their number one customer?
  • Why did Berkshire Hathaway own approximately $21.4 billion of foreign exchange contracts at the end of 2004?
  • How do the budget deficit and the current account deficit differ?
  • ”...lemmings as a class may be derided but never does an individual lemming get criticized.”
  • What should you read if you want to keep abreast of trade and currency matters?
  • “Self-interest inevitably blurs introspection.”
  • Options expensing is scheduled to become mandatory on June 15th. What should you expect between now and then?
  • What book has Warren Buffett asked to be added to this year’s list of annual meeting titles?

Stay tuned for some answers to these questions. In the meantime, please understand why any person participating in the business world today should pay any attention to this stuff:

“I do this in the spirit of the farmer who enters his hen house with an ostrich egg and admonishes the flock: ‘I don’t like to complain, girls, but this is just a small sample of what the competition is doing.’”

Now, get busy. It’s free. It’s fun. It’s enriching.

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Warren's Wisdom

4 March 2005

Others have said that a thorough reading and re-reading of Warren Buffett’s letters to shareholders from 1977 to now is a better education than two years in business school.

Tomorrow, at 9:00a.m. EST, we get another instalment in this great body of work. The annual report (and letter) for Berkshire Hathaway is due to be posted on the web. You can find it by visiting the company’s web site here.

For the techies in the crowd, you should know that Bill Gates has joined Berkshire’s board. A Saturday morning, a hot pot of coffee, a notebook and good pen and a new annual report. Priceless.

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Just Cancel It

3 March 2005

Politically, I care little for the Social Security system. I understand the historical context of its founding. I understand the “benefits” of its initial ten years.

Philosophically, I believe the lower taxes a person has, the more good results. Families, churches, charities and society as a whole benefit when a person has a lower tax burden and can provide for his or her own needs.

Financially, I’m in a tiny group of people who continue to believe that conservatives are missing an excellent opportunity to discuss a five-to-twenty-five year plan for eliminating Social Security altogether. Such a plan removes a burden from families, from employers and from government. Remember, I’m speaking of a way to accomplish this financially—not politically.

Methodically, I’m in the small group of people who believe that solvency and private accounts are two completely separate matters when dealing with Social Security. Private accounts are the method that each of us should have in place to provide for retirement, disability and life’s unforeseen emergencies. As for raising the retirement age, raising the cap, raising the tax rate—well, these are all tax increases.

For one who can envision doing away with the program altogether, any alternative that increases the tax is like trying to remove a wart by cutting off a limb.

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The Technology That Walmart Built

3 March 2005

Yesterday’s discussion of RFID was intentionally written to counter Walmart’s cheerleading. There is no doubt that the 3000 people attending this RFID conference are largely there because of the impact that Walmart has made on its suppliers.

That’s enough to build an entire industry focusing RFID on supply-chain work. It doesn’t mean that there is an easy return on investment for the suppliers. They do things to come into compliance with Walmart’s requests, regardless of whether they can see the ROI.

No one wants to be left out. A sale to Walmart is the biggest sale many of these suppliers will ever make. Nevermind what it costs them to adequately serve the customer.

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Spots Are Running Out

2 March 2005

TextDrive is a hosting company formed in 2004 by Dean Allen. Recently, TextDrive has been offering hosting accounts for life to a limited number of participants. This morning, Dean announced that there were only 33 spots remaining in this current offer.

For $399 you get the following:

  • 1GB of server space
  • 20GB of bandwidth per month
  • up to 15 top-level domains (with unlimited aliases)
  • unlimited email mailboxes and aliases
  • shell access

Details and a way to sign up are here.

* * * UPDATE * * * They sold out. Whether 100, 200 or 500 customers bought this deal, TextDrive has broken the code when it comes to raising the capital required for capital improvements and expansion. Operating revenues come from those who choose to pay for their services as they use it. It’s quite the ingenious technique for financing.

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A Solution With No Problem

2 March 2005

RFID just can’t seem to get over the hump. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear what the “hump” might be. Some business owners dream of a day with no physical inventories. I don’t mean no physical goods; I mean no counting of those physical goods on a monthly, annual or other cycle. Wouldn’t it be great to send a signal out to the warehouse saying, “all you RFID tags out there, sound off.” With that your physical inventory would be taken in the time it takes the electrons to stream back to their aggregation point.

Reality is much different today. RFID seems to be making some inroads with manufacturers. After all, tagging the same size box with the same type of tag on a conveyor you control is rather easy. Enter a UPS or FedEx sort facility or a Walmart warehouse and the challenges multiply.

In these scenarios, we’re asking RFID for ubiquity. No matter the shape of the container and no matter where and how the label was produced, we want RFID to work one hundred percent of the time. It doesn’t. It looks as if it won’t for some time to come.

With read rates of tradiitional barcodes approaching 100%, RFID technology is going to have to change dramatically in performance and price to make the impact on general distribution. In the meantime, we can keep going to conferences and hoping for a breakthrough.

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Three Rusty Nails

27 February 2005

There is a solution to your problem. There is a path out of your plight. There is a dream for the discouraged and a hope for those with none.

10,000 Lures
by Kate Campbell & Mark Narmore

Wasn’t no copperhead, wasn’t no cottonmouth
Just a garden snake that brought us all down
It didn’t look deadly, didn’t look venomous
Wrapped around that tree so lovely and sensuous

There’s vices and voodoo always enticing you
From the day that you’re born ‘til the day you leave this world
The devil’s got a line for you for sure and 10,000 lures

You may think I’m preaching, even evangelizing
But what he’s throwing out can be so tantalizing
He’s a master of disguise, he’ll reel you in with power
Roaming to and fro seeking whom he may devour

He knows every weakness, knows just when to strike
You know he was an angel once and he knows what you like
For you it might be money, for me it might be fame
Better cover up your ears now when he whispers your name

Before I end this song, before the music’s through
Oh I’d like to share a good word or two
There’s 10,000 angels watching over you
From the day that you’re born ‘til the day you leave this world
Three rusty nails, that’s the cure for 10,000 lures

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Do Your Podcasts Buzz?

25 February 2005

I’m told that any product or service launched today requires buzz. With buzz comes the risk of someone co-opting—no, stealing—your idea. Some forms of buzz simply amount to renaming something that already existed, which brings us to podcasting.

Much like my first exposure to the world wide web, I think I first began to grasp the notion of mp3 files when Napster was all the rage. You know, back before people realized it was wrong for me to put my entire audio collection out there for anyone to download.

As an audiophile, the whole phenomenon of downloading digitized music was of interest. When Apple released the first iPod, there was great unrest amongst the record players. That’s the group who spends tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to play vinyl disks on equipment that can find even microscopic dust in grooves. No digitized music has ever sounded sweet to the avowed vinyl fan. He’s far more concerned about preventing his vinyl from warping than whether or not he can digitize it.

The next time music downloads crossed my mind involved the announcements of iTunes and Walmart’s music downloads. Suddenly, there was a way to legalize what Napster had been doing. Now I think, even Napster is reincarnated.

Comingled with those announcements were a series of press briefings and analysts conferences about bandwidth. Level 3 Communications would mention the costs of moving a compact disk of information from coast to coast. You could fly it. You could mail it. You could transmit if over dial-up. With a global IP network made up of many conduits and the latest fiber optics, Level 3 could move that cd of info quicker and at lower cost than anyone. After all, we either create, store or move information. Level 3 wants to be in the moving business.

Two other events then coincided within a few weeks or months of each other. I became aware of Chris Lydon’s work to put interviews on line. About the time I was pondering that capability, a friend and I were considering putting talk show-styled interviews with business owners on cd’s as promotional pieces. Long story—brief idea—not much buzz.

Other than the regular receipt of Stereophile magazine and playing my own cd’s, all of this left my radar screen for a while. I dismissed mp3 files as having lower overall sound quality than cd’s or vinyl. I dismissed a lot of the digital work with my music collection as tasks that ultimately would undermine the sound quality. Did I mention that speaker wire can be as large as a garden hose for some audiophiles?

The next time mp3 files made an impression on me involved the study of the Book of Revelation. A men’s Bible study group I’ve attended from time to time was launching the study. I learned that the church had been putting the pastor’s sermons on line for download. Visiting their web site, I could see the listing of messages that was available. Then, lo and behold, there were the weekly studies of Revelation—on line and ready for download. The same day I saw this, I ran into another member of the group who was trying to find out where he could buy something called an iPod; “everybody’s doing this. It’s like being able to Tivo the 6:15 a.m. studies.” The church was podcasting and didn’t even know it.

Today, I was spurred to write this because someone whined about having an idea stolen. His buzz outran his ability to keep up with it. Others have actually formed a company and gone into the business of “commercializing” or profiting from podcasting. Digging into the subject a bit more, I started reading the things that would tell me how simple mp3 downloads to computers or mp3 players differ from podcasting.

The short answer is they don’t. At least they don’t differ very much. It seems that podcasting largely adds one other piece to the technologies involved in downloading digitized information. The information syndication format known as RSS is a way to aggregate weblog posts, mainstream media articles and other sources of information into a personalized newspaper. Everything is brought together into a piece of software known as a news reader or aggregator. There, without having to visit every one of your favorite sites, you can see recently updated information in a way that you have organized to your own tastes.

Now, that same technique—RSS—permits attachments that can be digitized audio (and one day video) files. In other words, instead of having to visit the church’s web site to get yesterday’s study of Revelation, I subscribe to their RSS feed and it automatically synch’s to my computer, my mp3 player or whatever the device might be. In this specific example, the church does not (yet) offer those files via RSS subscription, but you get the idea.

With Odeo presenting at TED today, and Apple announcing new audio players every sixty days and content from over seven million weblogs exploding, podcasting is buzzing. As an old audiophile, I remain concerned about the quality of my music. As an old student, I’m thrilled at the possibility of being able to subscribe to topics of interest and have them synch to my listening device for on-the-go instruction.

Today is the day that podcasting ceased to be a buzzword for me and began to shape the way I see audio and video of tomorrow. Stay tuned.

* * * UPDATE * * * Reading out of order today, I’m late getting to Lileks. Here’s the teaser:

Let me speak for millions here who just want to listen to music: I don’t care about Ogg Vorbis. If Ogg Vorbis came to my house and waved tentacles at me demanding in a slobbery moan that I kneel and submit, I would shoot it. I don’t know what it is and I don’t care.

Ogg Vorbis may be the audiophile’s answer to digitized music. In time we’ll know.

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When Image Haunts

24 February 2005

“It makes us look like bad people, but we’re really just a bunch of kids who never had a chance to grow up.”—Brian Welch

Any image can be remade. Any life can be transformed. Transformation goes well beyond an image make-over. There’s a line that’s been drawn. Cross it and your life will be transformed.

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Micropaid

23 February 2005

I am a kottke.org micropatron

Gripe or whine if you must. There’s a future in providing information, services, good writing and design on a micropayments basis. The kinks will get untangled in time. If you don’t agree, then consider this a donation to someone doing something you always wanted to do.

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Rapid ROI

23 February 2005

In May of 2004 I made one of the great investments we get to make in a lifetime. Today, that investment effectively doubled in value.

TextDrive

Rather than gloat about my little tale of good fortune, I’m making you aware of a similar opportunity. It’s a web hosting account for life if you take the folks at TextDrive up on their offer.

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Quiet Calm vs. Desperation

22 February 2005

The world is full of people seeking power, prestige and position over others. Obvious in their words, their manners and their unwillingness to listen, these are the ones leading “lives of quiet desperation.” If only those with all the answers understood how little they really know!

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.—Thomas Merton

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Voters or Believers? Faith or Politics?

19 February 2005

Religion, not faith, will be a part of every Presidential race from now on. Candidates are likely to select ministers and organizations they can use as instruments of influence. This isn’t new.

What’s new is the degree to which it will be used disingenuously. Rather than saying, “they believe as I do,” or, “I believe as they do,” we’re going to see religious figures used as pawns of manipulation. To sort through this mess, interviewers are going to have to become much more adept at questions that will reveal what a candidate really believes.

  • Do they hold with the views of a given organization or have they merely aligned themselves with it for campaign purposes?
  • Have you always been or have you only recently become a person of faith?
  • Since your dramatic conversion experience on the road to the New Hampshire primary last week…

Rumors abound that members of the Democratic Party are beginning to see the wisdom in presenting a clearer “values statement” to the public. To this end, there seems to be early indication of the political left and right conscripting the religious left and right.

Howard Dean vs. Ken Mehlman. Jim Wallis vs. Jerry Falwell. Hillary Clinton(?) vs. Rudy Giuliani(?). Imagine how confusing it’s going to become to determine what someone really believes. If advertising works—and I’m told it does—the power of religious figures and organizations to influence elections has only begun.

What we’ve called a “culture war” is about to become a full-fledged war for (or over) the beliefs of a nation.

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How Programmers Think About Service

18 February 2005

Computer programmers need business people to set their directions, monitor their progress and remove them from the mire. They don’t believe this, but it’s true. For too many years, I’ve witnessed projects—some of which should never have been launched—stuck in endless loops of missed due dates and fuzzy status reports.

Because they are smarter than everyone else and they believe they hold the keys to the kingdom, or at least the backdoor bypass to all the security in your software, programmers often miss the point. Software is a capitalist tool. It isn’t a hobby unless you are pursuing it on your own time. It’s a vehicle for helping a business do things more effectively.

Unless this happens:

The first program I spotted was Adobe Acrobat 5, which I don’t need any more because I now have Acrobat 6. But when I tried to remove Acrobat 5 (using Windows’s Add/Remove Programs program), a message said, “The system indicates that the following shared file is no longer used by any programs and may be deleted: C:/program Files/Dell/ShareDLL/djbsdk.dll. If any programs are still using this file and it is removed those programs may not function. Do you want to remove the shared file? Yes/No.” WHAT THE…!?!? Like I’m supposed to know if some other program is going to need C:/program Files/Dell/ShareDLL/djbsdk.dll?

Read the rest of David Pogue’s latest essay called Want a New Headache? Try to Uninstall?.

You’ll eventually get to this:

Of course, you already know the answer. Microsoft doesn’t improve this kind of thing because it doesn’t have to. It’s got a bad case of a little thing called Monopoly Complacence.

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A New Medium

17 February 2005

Few companies can boast a circulation for their internal newsletter that rivals the circulation of a daily newspaper. Few weblogs get readership beyond the family, neighbors and a groupie or two.

That isn’t stopping an explosion in the numbers of weblogs and the weblog tools behind them. This study titled Weblog Tools Market—Update February 2005 provides the details. Notice where each weblog tool stands and how fast it is moving. Elise Bauer has done a fantastic and thorough job of assembling the data that tells the story. It is a continuation of work begun in August, 2004.

One clear message to tool developers: it’s a crowded field already. All of the things required to retain and grow a customer base in a competitive market simply must be in place. If you want to take share from others, what’s the value proposition?

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Standards and Security?

17 February 2005

A lot has been going on the past week and a half or so. It seems that this must be one of the busiest times of the year for conferences. Flashing ever so briefly across my radar are the following:

Along with these events and all of their announcements, there’s a new Six Apart web site”. There’s talk of a new browser from Microsoft. Will it deal strictly with security or will it address the stuff people have clamored for?

Finally, WordPress released version 1.5 and those behind Textpattern continued incommunicado.

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Media Changes, Journalism Does Not

16 February 2005

During the late 1990’s people began to refer to the “new” economy. Rather quickly it became obvious that there was not a new economy, but the same capitalistic system we had nurtured for a couple of centuries.

With some of the recent reporting by weblogs on national and international events, the talk of “new” journalism has been making the rounds. The fact is that journalistic principles have not changed. The media types that require journalists have changed and expanded.

Read more about it in Al Mohler’s essay.

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The Worst of Everything

14 February 2005

An email from the Wall Street Journal this morning produced this:

Verizon agreed to acquire MCI for $6.75 billion in cash, shares and dividends, marking the end of the nation’s last independent long-distance giant.

The worst investments I ever made involved the telecommunications industry. The worst treatment as a customer I ever received involved the telecommunications industry.

Unfortunately, the call center which sits behind so many organizations is actually a creation of the telecommunications industry. Consequently, we have the worst providers of service in the entire world shaping the practices of countless other companies.

The telecommunications industry proves conclusively that the size of the organization doesn’t equate to knowing what they’re doing!

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Where Sprint Means Saunter

12 February 2005

What experience are cellular companies trying to provide in their retail stores? Do they want you to feel as though you’re at Circuit City or Best Buy? Are they imitating grocery stores? Do they really want to behave like a car dealer? Are they trying to act like the private banker?

At some point they treat you like they are the FBI, and they have the right to dig into everything about you. I’ve got news for them—you sell cellular telephones. That’s it. Quit acting as if you hold launch codes behind your counters.

I use Sprint. For national travel, I’ve been happy with Sprint. However, happiness equates to not thinking about Sprint. When I have to think about dealing with a cellular company, I get rashes. Yesterday, I went to three different Sprint stores. I got three different interpretations of whether I was eligible—as an existing customer—for certain promotions that are being run.

In every case I had a sales rep from “the floor” who needed to check with his manager to determine whether or not I was eligible. If I use the six opinions I got, I conclude the cellular companies have no clue about the old adage that it’s far cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to get a new one.

At one location I pre-registered at the front door where my name was typed into a computer and then appeared on a public monitor that was four feet across. “Now serving number 54,”—just like the tire dealer. It’s Saturday and I’ve yet to be served.

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An HP Prescription

11 February 2005

What should HP do now? Each of the following:

  1. Talk to the 151,000 employees. Talk to the ones who were fired. These people have answers for the Board, for the new CEO and for their co-workers.
  2. Over-engineer everything as in the past. It wasn’t so bad when HP was known as just a bunch of engineers who didn’t know how to market anything!
  3. Analyze specific statistics for the last thirty days of calls to any foreign call center. Examine carefully each customer’s experience. How many buttons did they have to push? How long did they wait to talk to someone? How many times and how long were they put on hold? How many times did they have to have something repeated?
  4. Strengthen your joint design/development work with Apple. Determine why Palm languishes and your calculators and handheld devices are no longer the pride of the company. Resume work on handhelds independent of industry standards. Make HP the standard.
  5. Become a resource for desktop Linux. Talk to Novell. Talk to Apple. Decide how HP can get out of me-too products in the PC industry.
  6. Assess the impact of the Agilent spin-off before doing anything. Agilent was the largest IPO in Silicon Valley’s history when it went public in 1999. The technologies in that company put HP on the map.
  7. Manage with facts. Don’t assume your focus should be on Dell.
  8. Drop any product which isn’t #1 or #2 in its field and simplify each product line. More than good-better-best confuses customers.

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Bonfire For Your Vanity

9 February 2005

Posting an essay called The Self-Esteem Myth, Al Mohler discusses the following:

The idea that self-esteem is an essential part of a healthy personality is now virtually institutionalized in American culture.

He goes on to explain the findings of a study published in the January 2005 issue of Scientific American. Basically, the study—and Mohler—fully discredit the notion that all of one’s ills are attributable to low self-esteem.

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Hubris Fails Yet Again

9 February 2005

Carly Fiorina has resigned from HP. Some reports say she stepped down, while others indicate she might have been helped down from her perch high atop HP.

This follows a feud with heirs of HP’s founders, a lackluster acquisition of Compaq, countless service problems and Carol Loomis’s masterpiece in Fortune. Now a dispute with the Board apparently leads to this. We can only hope this marks the point at which the company begins revising The HP Way.

UPDATE: HP closed up $1.39 at $21.53. Dell closed down $0.03 at $40.99. IBM closed down $1.43 at $92.70. The companies’ P/E ratios using the last twelve months of earnings and their annual sales are:

  • HP – 18.72; $79.90B
  • Dell – 33.88; $47.26B
  • IBM – 18.72; $96.50B

HP and IBM pay dividends. Dell does not. We’ll see how things look over the next five or ten years.

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Third Rail My Foot

8 February 2005

Mooing in unison about Social Security
By Craig J. Cantoni
February 7, 2005

They can be seen at all hours of the day at the casinos on the Indian reservation near my house in Scottsdale, Arizona. They can be seen making left turns from the right-turn lane and driving 20 mph slower than the speed limit in their Cadillacs, Buicks and motor homes. They can be seen waiting in line at the nearby Pancake House for a breakfast of three eggs, three pancakes and sausage.

It’s not just the sunbelt where they can be seen. They can be seen driving 90 miles east from Erie and 60 miles southeast from Buffalo to gamble at the Indian casino in western New York State near the hometown of my in-laws. And, when I lived in New Jersey for 10 years, bus load after bus load of them could be seen on the New Jersey Turnpike, heading for the casinos in Atlantic City.

Who are they? They are the elderly. According to the conventional wisdom, they are the people who would be living in poverty if it were not for Social Security.

When the press and politicians from both parties begin mooing in unison about something, it is a safe bet that they are regurgitating what they’ve heard instead of checking the facts. Lately, they have been mooing that Social Security had been responsible for lifting the elderly out of poverty after its enactment in 1935, and that without the program, most of today’s elderly would be living in poverty.

Ted Kennedy has said that, the Bush administration has said that, the New York Times has said that, the Arizona Republic has said that, liberal pundit Mark Shields has said that, and conservative pundit David Brooks has said that.

But is it true?

Since pebbles of truth usually can be found in an avalanche of propaganda, let me answer the question by separating the truth from the propaganda.

First, it’s important to recognize that “poverty” is an arbitrary classification that does not take into consideration improvements in the standard of living. Thanks to capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, today’s poor have a much higher standard of living than aristocrats 200 years ago. A king in 1805 could not buy an aspirin for his headache, penicillin for a fatal infection, vaccines for polio and smallpox, central heat, a television or even an antiperspirant.

But accepting the government’s definition of poverty, is it true that most seniors would be living in poverty without Social Security?

The conventional method of determining how many seniors would be living in poverty is to subtract Social Security payments from the income of the elderly. By that method, half of seniors would be living in poverty if it were not for Social Security.

There is a serious flaw in the method, however. According to Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, the method does not take into consideration the amount of personal savings that seniors would have accumulated if they had not been forced to pay into Social Security (and Medicare) over their working lives and had not been given the expectation when younger that the government would provide a safety net for them in old age.

It is impossible to determine what the savings rate would have been without Social Security, but history provides some clues. We know, for example, that the rate of voluntary savings was higher before Social Security was enacted. According to the Concord Coalition, between 1870 and 1930 the United States had the highest average net savings rate of the top seven industrialized countries. It now has the lowest.

We also know that China and other developing countries have a savings rate that is much higher than ours, although their per-capita income is but a fraction of ours. And we know that because the total tax rate 100 years ago was about a third of today’s, workers could save a higher portion of their income back then.

There are other clues, mostly anecdotal. One clue is the demise of bromides about the importance of saving. Today, we rarely hear bromides that were popular during my grandparents’ generation, such as: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” “Waste not, want not.” “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

Another clue comes from my family but can be found in other families as well. My grandparents lived below their modest means and saved money for old age without the government’s help, although they immigrated to America poor and unskilled. For example, my mother was orphaned as a young child and raised by her immigrant aunt. The aunt pinched pennies all of her life, invested the savings in blue-chip stock, and bequeathed the sizable nest egg to my mother, who, in turn, wants to bequeath the now larger nest egg to her grandson. Such wealth is not included in income statistics.

Another change between today and yesteryear is that most seniors now live in their own homes, not with their children and grandchildren, as in the past. I’ll let sociologists debate whether this is good or bad for society, but it suggests that the elderly of today have considerable assets that don’t show up in income statistics. It also suggests that the elderly of yesteryear may not have been as destitute as income statistics alone would indicate.

The elderly of yesteryear not only relied on families more extensively than today but also on mutual-aid societies and charities. Sociologists, historians and economists disagree on the adequacy of such voluntary arrangements, but an interesting book on the subject is “The Tragedy of American Compassion” (1992), by Marvin Olasky, whose hypothesis is that the voluntary compassion of the past was more compassionate and effective than the involuntary “compassion” of today.

It is true that the elderly suffered during the Great Depression, but it is also true that FDR’s economic policies protracted the depression. Besides, it was not necessary to socialize everyone’s retirement in order to address a temporary problem that didn’t affect everyone. Social Security collectivization is akin to putting all Americans on the food stamp program because some Americans do not have the wherewithal to buy food, or forcing all Americans to live in public housing because some Americans can’t afford their own homes.

Many economists say that the elderly are the wealthiest group of Americans and that children are the poorest. Yet for every dollar the government spends on children, eight dollars is spent by the government on the elderly. Worse, Social Security and Medicare have become pyramid schemes in which the future income of today’s children is transferred to today’s elderly.

Still worse is how Social Security and other entitlements have changed the American culture and political system in profound ways—from individualism to collectivism, from self-reliance to government reliance, and from national and personal savings to national and personal debt. For more on this perspective and for a little-known history of Social Security, the link below will take you to a 100-page essay from the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, entitled, “The Revolution of 1935: The Secret History of Social Security.” The Introduction alone is worth reading.

http://www.mises.org/journals/essays/bresiger.pdf

When all of the foregoing facts are considered, it is a safe assumption that if Social Security didn’t exist, the number of seniors living in poverty would be far less than 50 percent, perhaps as low as the poverty rate for all other Americans. Whatever the percentage, the issue of Social Security reform would put in a different context if politicians and the press stopped mooing in unison and started to present the whole truth to the American people.

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). He can be reached at either haalt1@aol.com or ccan2@aol.com.

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Times Change

8 February 2005

On January 24, 2005, Mark Helprin wrote another piece for OpinionJournal.com. Mark is one of the great minds of this generation. His essay was titled Our Blindness. His point was easily made and easy to see:

Our own absorbing passions, which are remarkably similar, have blinded us in the same way. We have yet to find a serviceable framework for the application of our military power in the war on terrorism; in view of potential catastrophes of which we have a great deal of forewarning, we have yet to provide adequately for what used to be called civil defense; and we have no policy in regard to China’s steady cultivation of power that soon will vie with our own. Though any one of these things is capable of dominating the coming century, not one has been properly addressed.

The power of the closing paragraph should lead you to read the entire essay:

Uneven and ineffective application of military power, vulnerability to mass terrorism and natural epidemics, blindness to the rise of a great competitor: matters like these, that may seem remote and abstract, are seldom as remote and abstract as they seem. A hundred years ago, our predecessors, unable to sense what had already begun, did not know the price they would pay as the century wore on. But, as the century wore on, that price was exacted without mercy.

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Here's to the Veterans

7 February 2005

The Wall Street Journal lists eleven of the Super Bowl ads as contenders for “best ad.” It lists five ads as contenders for the worst ad. People have been voting since the wee hours this morning.

The Budweiser Veterans ad has received 37% of the “best ad” votes. The GoDaddy.com ad has received 32% of the “worst ad” votes and leads its nearest competitor by seven percentage points.

This sounds about right.

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FOX Reminds CBS

7 February 2005

Without speaking a word of disrespect, FOX-Sports has successfully reminded CBS of all the people who fought, are fighting and will fight to make certain CBS has the right to air its counter-cultural nonsense.

Given such a reminder, one wonders if CBS really believes that taking the low road is the right choice given the price that has been paid.

Patriots defeat Eagles 24-21.

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Weekend Assignment

4 February 2005

Your weekend assignment is to become familiar with the views of Bob Parsons. Who is Bob Parsons? He’s the CEO of GoDaddy.com, an Internet registrar.

Pay particular attention to his Blog Rules and his Rules For Survival. Between those entries you’ll find much more about the company, Bob, Tsunami relief, PTSD and about the United States Marine Corps.

I encourage you to start at the beginning and get caught up. You’ll find an interesting story behind Super Bowl advertising that is getting much attention.

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Bandwidth Bullets

3 February 2005

Most estimates indicate that IP traffic continues to grow at rates exceeding 50% per year. Yet, we have the following situations unfolding as we speak:

  • Carl Icahn owns around 65% of XO Communications with no clear game plan announced. The company currently operates as a traditional CLEC.
  • SBC is buying AT&T for around $16 billion.
  • Qwest is negotiating to buy MCI for around $6.3 billion, but has $17.2 billion of debt already.
  • RCNC went bankrupt.
  • David McCourt has resigned from boards at Level 3 and CTE.
  • Level 3 trades at $2.97 from a high of $130 with over 100% share dilution.
  • Vonage and Skype continue to make inroads at the consumer level.
  • Cisco continues to preach VoIP.
  • 1.5Mbps costs an American consumer about $45 per month.
  • Leucadia/WilTel are private and quiet at the moment.
  • MCI holds the tattered remains of what was once at $180 billion combination of Worldcom and MCI.
  • Sprint is paying $35 billion for Nextel.

Can anyone see an endgame in all of this?

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Journalists Without Shame

2 February 2005

To the list that includes Dan Rather and Jayson Blair, let’s go ahead and add Eason Jordan. Add him to the list and ask questions later. That seems to be the technique he uses when he shoots his mouth off. Follow the link and the ones you find there. You’ll get the picture.

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God Bless America

2 February 2005

“Blowback” is a term I had not associated with geopolitical events and military operations. This morning’s trolling uncovered an article from the Rocky Mountain News that brings that term to the fore.

The premise is that we have no way to know what the unintended consequences of our actions might be. With hindsight, we begin speculating about why events unfold as they do. Was it Islam? Was it putting military bases in Saudi Arabia? Was it past support rethought and removed? Was it some other specific element of foreign policy? Was it envy? Speculations fuel many a latenight debate.

However, it was completely predictable what type of blowback might result from Churchill’s drivel. Any patriotic American readily sees that Chalmers Johnson also arrives at flawed conclusions about root causes. It is really tough to see through lenses so frosted by partisanship. Yet, we give these people voice and protect them with the rest of our citizenry.

God bless America!

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Google Earns

2 February 2005

Google announced blow-the-doors-off numbers today. For the year the company posted $3.189 billion in sales. That was more than double the prior year. Against those sales, they recorded a net profit of $399 million. That was almost four times the prior year’s profit.

Google employs just over 3000 people and has approximately 286 million shares outstanding. Profitability amounted to $1.46 per share and $133,000 per employee.

At a market price of about $191.90 per share, the whole company is valued at $54.6 billion. Invest your $192 expecting a five percent annual return, and the company is going to have to post earnings of $9.60 per share. They are on their way, but with a P/E of 230.37, well that’s a 1999 multiple!

For perspective consider that Berkshire Hathaway earned $4,134.48 per share during 2003 with a current share price of $90,850. That’s a P/E of only 21.97 by comparison. Invest your $91,000 and, to get a five percent return, the company has to earn only $4550 per share. Sometime in March we’ll know how they did against that target.

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Liberals At A Loss

30 January 2005

Liberals—without dismal news from Iraq—have decided to whine about Social Security reform. With Iraqis dancing at polling places and celebrating one of the highest turnout percentages in the history of elections, the liberals have to find their own visions of gloom and doom somewhere else. It’s almost beyond comprehension how badly they hate liberty.

Big media is still in shock that the vast majority of their news reports from Iraq have had to be positive this weekend. Try as they might, they’ve been unable to find a downside to the story of a totalitarian government turning to democracy in the span of twenty four months. Worse, they have completely missed the fact that this is the first free election in the history of Mesopotamia.

Sometimes the urge to say, “just shut up,” seems so appropriate. Give it a couple of days (or less) and they’ll concoct something to lament. Of this, you can be sure! By the way, there’s a 6.2 percent solution to the Social Security problem.

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What He Meant

30 January 2005

As you think about what’s going right and what’s going wrong in the election process in Iraq, please keep in mind that no election is ever “perfect.” As you listen to the debate about our role(s) in Iraq, remember what liberty has meant to you and your family.

When you realize that you simply cannot get all the way through Kennedy’s recent speech at Johns Hopkins, take a look at what he really meant by reading It Is Finally Time To Exit the Oldsmobile at IowaHawk.

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The Christian Blogosphere Convention

29 January 2005

If you haven’t stumbled across it already, be aware that a conference for Christian webloggers is gaining momentum. With limited initial discussion, there are now many details set. It’s called GodBlogCon I.

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Chess and Sunny D

28 January 2005

We will witness an election on Sunday. The world’s media will be there focused with a precision unlike we have ever seen. They will do human interest stories. They will do stories that tug at the heartstrings. They will connect dots that have no connection at all.

The Iraqi people deserve better, but the world’s media are the best we have to offer. With all the intense focus will come all manner of unrelated speculation and opinion and media bias. The Iraqi people deserve better. Here’s how one great dad, put it:

...haven’t the time or inclination to argue with people who think “No WMD!” is the argument equivalent of a spreading a full house on the green felt table. It may seem so, but unfortunately we’re playing chess.

Those elite members of the media will cover themselves with the contraction. Mr. Lileks describes it as the DB. He’s right. They’ll toss you a bone, then toss you a knife:

“The election went as planned in 95 percent of the country, but violence marred polling in the disputed Sunny D Triangle, where insurgents opposed to Tropicana Juice fired automatic weapons into an juice concentrate factory.”

A bit of perspective on this whole thing will serve everyone well. The things we measure in days and weeks, the Iraqi’s measure in centuries. An election without the winner declared in advance hasn’t been held in very many of those centuries.

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The Fruit of Feminism

27 January 2005

It’s not often that I read something and say to myself, “that’s exactly right.” More likely, it’s, “I agree with most of that and like what he or she had to say.”

However, George Will has just about captured precisely the right set of considerations for the recent meeting at Hahvad. Perhaps there’s a red state or blue state residing inside his remarks, but I doubt it. Referring to Hahvad’s President, Will said this:

He thought he was speaking in a place that encourages uncircumscribed intellectual explorations. He was not. He was on a university campus.

You owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.

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Slipping Into Deep Noah Mode

26 January 2005

Hugh Hewitt has been spending some time with the “traditional” media recently. After all, there’s a Blog to flog. With every moment spent there the distinctions between traditional news reporting and blogging becomes more evident. Conciliatory comes to mind as the description for how bloggers are viewed. Here’s an excerpt from his description of the experience:

So I find myself slipping into deep Noah mode: When interacting with my colleagues in broadcast, I will answer their questions and tell them that the flood is not just coming but has begun. But I do not expect they will believe me.

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Under New Management

26 January 2005

Keeping bookmarks, RSS feeds and blogrolls synchronized with one another and categorized correctly is a challenge. Wishing for a single (web-based) application for managing all three of these, I learned today about a solution that has genuine merit.

If you have a similar interest or need, you might enjoy this entry, which offers enough detail to whet the appetite.

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A Packaging Problem?

24 January 2005

Lest ye think I would lead thee astray, I want to assure you that my guesstimate of last Friday as a target day for the release of Textpattern 1.0 was a somewhat informed guess. I had read what I thought was a conservative estimate based upon a recently missed target or two.

To my knowledge, said software still hasn’t shipped. I’m sure it has become a much bigger job to finish the caligraphy in all the user manuals, duplicate all those CD’s, print the boxes and, we all know that shrink-wrapping takes time.

Be patient. It will be worth the wait!

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Somebody Strike A Match

23 January 2005

Pee-uuu! Craig stinks up another room

by Craig Cantoni
January 22, 2005

Well, once again I’ve been the skunk at the party. This time, as I will describe momentarily, I made a stink at an education conference hosted by a respected conservative organization that believes in limited government and personal responsibility. Most times, I make a stink at meetings of left-liberals.

By “stink,” I mean asking questions that make audiences angry or uncomfortable, by revealing their intellectual inconsistencies, hypocrisy and self-interest. The only time I’m not a skunk is when I attend gatherings of classical liberals or small “L” libertarians—not because I agree with all of their positions, but because they have the most intellectual consistency and the least hypocrisy and self-interest. And, thankfully, they are very quick to point out when I exhibit intellectual inconsistency, hypocrisy and self-interest—traits that I dislike more in myself than in others.

Anyway, most of the education conference was free of inconsistency, hypocrisy and self-interest. The speakers, panelists and audience spoke about how school choice (vouchers) would improve the academic achievement of American students, especially in math and science, and advance the cause of liberty. They also spoke about the subtle racism of low expectations for minorities in public schools. The positions of the majority of the attendees were not only aligned with the host organization’s mission of limited government and personal responsibility, but also aligned with my own beliefs and values.

I didn’t raise my skunk tail until four hours into the meeting, at the lunch break, which is a rude time to be odoriferous.

The stench was triggered by some of the participants deploring American scores in math and science, and the paucity of students who become engineers and scientists. I responded with comments that I thought were odor-free, but to my surprise, made the others hold their noses and walk away, as if I had emitted a green cloud.

What did I say? I said that incentives matter, which is something that I mistakenly thought would not be controversial with conservatives. I explained that my research shows that the best and brightest American students have been going, in rapidly increasing numbers over the last 35 years, into financial professions and into occupations that are joined at the hip with the regulatory state, such as lawyers, tax accountants and regulatory experts—occupations that don’t require a knowledge of calculus or physics to earn a six-figure income. Why should the best and brightest put on steel-toed shoes and become engineers in factories, I asked, if they can earn more money wearing Gucci loafers while pushing paper in an office, especially if that’s how mom and dad make their money?

Why would that be a malodorous comment? Looking back on it, I believe it was malodorous because the majority of the attendees were lawyers, accountants, regulatory experts, financial professionals and scholars at think tanks. I met only one attendee who was an engineer, which is about how many engineers I meet at other large gatherings of the best, brightest and wealthiest Americans.

It’s somewhat hypocritical for non-engineers and nonscientists to preach about others not going into science and engineering when they haven’t done so themselves or encouraged their kids to do so. And it’s very hypocritical for conservatives to rant about the burgeoning regulatory state and at the same time to earn a six-figure income by being a regulatory expert.

My smelliest remarks came after lunch, in response to the remarks of a speaker and panelist of Puerto Rican ancestry, which she wore on her sleeve, as if she wanted to be judged by her race and not by what she had to say.

The young woman’s initial comments were fine, especially about believing in school choice. But then she said that she headed an activist Hispanic organization that accepts government funding and that teaches Hispanics to pursue their “rights” and “entitlements” under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program.

To put her remarks and my subsequent comments into perspective, NCLB is not only unconstitutional but is also a very expensive program. Among other “rights” and “entitlements,” students can get free tutors if they don’t do well academically. The cost of NCLB is in addition to the $104,000 that it costs to educate a child for 12 years in Arizona. Without NCLB, an immigrant family of four children is already receiving $416,000 in education benefits, which, for some reason, are never classified as welfare, although that’s what it is when people receive more education benefits than they pay in education taxes.

It’s also relevant that I lived in the barrio for five years, was a leader in civil rights in the early 1970s and, unlike many conservatives, including some at the conference, favor immigration. But I don’t believe in coddling or patronizing so-called minorities, because that is a form of the subtle racism of low expectations.

Given that background, let me describe how I stunk up the room. Since the speaker’s remarks about rights and entitlements seemed to be at odds with the host organization’s mission of personal responsibility and limited government, I asked her if she saw a contradiction between saying that she was for choice and advocating for NCLB and its higher taxes and increased regulations.

The audience gasped and held their noses.

She responded with a platitude about choice, to which I responded that other people are not given a choice about their money being taken to fund NCLB for her racial constituency.

The audience grabbed their gas masks.

I believe that my comments were particularly offensive to the white audience, because I had directed them at a minority woman and gone against the subtle racism of low expectations. If the comments had been directed at a white man, the gas masks would have stayed in their bags.

In closing, a piece of advice: Don’t invite skunks to your party if intellectual inconsistency, hypocrisy, self-interest and racial coddling are going to be served.

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org). He can be reached at either ccan2@aol.com or haalt1@aol.com.

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This World Is Not Heaven

22 January 2005

Red states and blue states symbolize a profound difference in the interpretation of what America has been and what it should be. People contest the election and argue about whether:

  • we were on the wrong track, but things are getting better
  • we are on the wrong track and things are getting worse
  • we were on the right track, but now we need a course correction

The debate has been raging for some time. One group thinks we should work toward what the Founders had in mind. Another group believes we cannot know what the Founders had in mind. Still others think the Founders’ views were clear, but we lost that vision long ago.

Two people on very different ends of the political spectrum used the following terms to describe what they see:

Include God or exclude God—tolerate or enforce—liberate or let live—foreign or domestic—fight or flee—love or hate; these underpin our every difference.

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The Strongest Nation

21 January 2005

President Bush was re-elected this past November and was sworn into office for another four years yesterday. His views of the world, America’s values and our role in the world are clear and clearly communicated. Some people like that and others do not.

Take a look at two different views – first, this one, then, this one – (would you call these interpretations?) of the second inaugural address.

Some people are continuing to struggle with how the majority in this country see things and how they vote. They have problems with America being the strongest nation. To those who prefer that America stand down from its position of strength, I’d suggest a careful reading of each line in the speech – not the lines between the lines. Read the lines all of us can see. Tell me which line (or lines) is not factual or true or an optimistic view of our role in the world.

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How to Start a Weblog

21 January 2005

There’s at least a rumor that sometime tomorrow Textpattern’s version 1.0 will be released. If not then, it’s not far off.

Today, at my local bookstore, I found three copies of Hugh Hewitt’s new book called Blog hidden behind a biography of Ronald Reagan. Blog is at your bookstore. You might have to uncover it.

So, how do you start a weblog? There are plenty of alternatives, but I’d suggest two things:

  • Buy a copy of Hugh Hewitt’s book and start reading it.
  • Watch for Textpattern 1.0 and download it when it’s available.

Do these two things in the next couple of weeks and you’ll be ahead of the masses who will do something similar in the next 24 months.

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Get Your Financial House In Order

20 January 2005

We live in an era of great uncertainty. The risks are higher than ever before. Risks are about probabilities. We’ve dealt with those throughout history. What makes this era so different is the set of events which – given the right set of circumstances – could happen which have never happened before.

This country sits on a record level of debt as do its citizens. Long standing industries have now moved to other nations. Rates of personal bankruptcy set new records each year. Our trade and budget deficits soar. Our currency is shrinking in value.

Today, warnings he has given before were the topic of an interview with Warren Buffett. If you have not done some serious reading and study in this area, I’d encourage you to understand what he said today and where the mindset that influences is remarks began.

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Who Wants to Get Things Done?

18 January 2005

I learned the best system for personal productivity and organization in 1976 from an expert in inventory control and replenishment. While unrelated to his automated replenishment savvy, his method for staying personally organized was flawless, and not one electron was energized to make it happen. It was and remains a paper system.

Getting Things Done by David Allen explains a system that is analogous to the one I learned. There is also a weblog called 43 Folders which amplifies this and other techniques for personal organization and priority setting. Merlin Mann who writes the weblog recently suggested the Hipster PDA as an alternative to your $400 electron eater. Click on the photo and read the comments.

Is It Urgent or Important?

We look cool or connected or important when we punch, poke and tap our electronics, but how effective are we? How certain are we that we have not fallen into the trap of the Tyranny of the Urgent? (Buy five and give four away.) The urgent is seldom our most important priority.

Moleskine notebooks have been mentioned here a few times. Surprise yourself this year by thinking outside the (PC) box. Before you cast off any paper solution as silly, wasteful or unworkable, do some reading. Make sure you realize just how effective some tried-and-true techniques can be.

Go back to some simple tools that lend themselves to thinking about your priorities rather than thinking about your technology. You’ll be glad you did. It’s 2005: the year of the text.

A Note About Amazon

Amazon needs to facilitate their partnership with webloggers. It was once easy to post a simple, small image of a book cover along with a link to that book’s page at Amazon. As a member of Amazon Associates Central, you might record a few cents of income each month when others bought the books using your link.

Now you get non-validating, grotesque images as long as a grocery receipt. Ah, you doubt me? Examine this carefully immediately after memorizing the periodic table:http://www.amazon.com/gp/browse.html/ref=sc_fe_c_4_3435371_3/103-7479907-4810204?%5Fencoding=UTF8&node=12920511&no=3435371&me=A36L942TSJ2AJA

I like Amazon and buy things there. I just wish they’d enhance their affiliate program and the ease with which we can link to books and products. There is no reason we should not be able to generate a personalized link to any book just by clicking on the proper button while logged in. The link and the image should be well-formed. They should not look like they were intended for Crazy Al’s Used Car Lot.

Perhaps I’m merely assuming that Amazon wants to get things done.

Comment [1]

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It's All Good

18 January 2005

You well-wishers have made my day. Thanks for a nice return to the weblogging world. Oh, and those comments about links not being as visible as you’d like, those have been duly noted.

Though I haven’t been writing here, I haven’t completely lost touch. It seems that during my hiatus, we re-elected a President. Now some folks want us to wear bracelets to show our loyalties. Thank you, no, none for me. What did we learn about our Democratic Republic? We learned Ohio is the new Florida.

Oh yes, there was also that small matter of RatherGate. Apparently, Mr. Goldberg was right after all. Will we ever learn?

See, I didn’t miss a thing. Thanks for your support.

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Hiatus Ends

16 January 2005

I’m back! Prowl around these pages. You’ll find all the old stuff and some new. As always, we appreciate any comment that helps us make this site better for you.

Pay particular attention to the Colophon and About pages. There are some changes explained and some talented people credited there. There’s also a hearty thank you to one enormously talented Andy McCulloch.

Stay tuned for some fresh, new content this year.

Comment [5]

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An International Regatta

14 January 2005

The rat race knows no boundaries or borders. Bringing this to you is a truly international effort. Acknowledging all who have taught me along the way creates a list too long to post.

However, there are those who deserve a special note of thanks:

  • from London – Andy McCulloch is simply an amazing designer. His mastery of Textpattern and all of its underpinnings is nothing short of astounding. Andy’s site is called Branchleft. Everything you see here resulted from Andy’s (intuitive and accurate) interpretation and translation of my rambling about what I wanted.
  • from BostonDaniel Bulli adapted a couple of javascripts that make images fade and randomly display. His site is an outstanding piece of work and a great source of knowledge when you want to understand how various design techniques were achieved.
  • from Bagnols sur Cèze – Dean Allen is the horsepower behind Textpattern. He writes Textism. When I began to search for an alternative to Movable Type, Textpattern emerged as the right choice.
  • from Dallas – Dean Allen also brings us TextDrive. The technical savvy behind TextDrive is without peer in the hosting world.
  • from TorontoRamanan Sivaranjan created the script that imported Movable Type entries into Textpattern. It’s an amazing piece of work and widely-used. It’s even more widely-admired!
  • from ParisBenoit Pepermans has written plugins for Textpattern. We use two of his on this site. fla_altstyle_link and fla_style_switcher assist with the style switching duties.
  • from SydneyAlex Shiels wrote zem_contact which provides our contact form.
  • from New YorkMatthew Moss provided a plugin called mdm_if_category.
  • from StockholmHenrik Jönsson’s plugin is called ob1_if_section.
  • from OhioRob Sable provided rss_suparchive.
  • from SaskatchewanScott Woods-Fehr provided swf_if_empty.
  • from San FranciscoChris Pederick wrote a web developer plugin for Firefox. Without Firefox and Chris’s plugin, this weblog might not have come out of hibernation. No single tool or piece of information has done more to help me understand how site’s are designed and constructed.

From California, Florida and Missouri come people who have helped tremendously. Since beginning this weblog in 2002, Dane Carlson has dropped by from time to time to provide invaluable advice. Stacy Tabb of Sekimori fame provided the design for Rev. 2.0 of the Regatta. It’s a big step to leave behind her work and the traffic that results from the Sekimori and Movable Type links. Shirley Kaiser has an incredible site called Brainstorms & Raves. Shirley did a great job of teaching me an approach to learning XHTML and CSS.

Most recently, during the search for a new weblogging tool, Shelley Powers provided both the encouragement and the cautions as I evaluated WordPress. Stay tuned as Shelley continues her own project called Wordform. Last, but certainly not least, coming to you from Burr Ridge, IL, is Jenny Levine. In one of my most confused states after loading Radio in 2002, Jenny’s documentation and emails showed the way.

If I’ve missed anyone it’s due to a flawed memory and not a lack of appreciation. Support forums, emails and comments in weblog entries have been constant sources of encouragement and information. If you feel you were omitted, let us know.

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Why Write?

14 January 2005

This is a personal site written by Steve Pilgrim. Living in Memphis, TN I'm a business executive interested in improving business operations by reducing variation. However, I'm also very concerned about the human condition, our debt, our conspicuous consumption and our endless attempts to get ahead of one another.

Rodent Regatta is about finding significance in life and work. For too many life has become a rat race. When you win you're simply the number one rat. There's got to be something more!

Life and work need to be better for people. We shouldn't drive to work, open the back door of the car, hang our dreams inside and go to offices or cubicles to work at things we hate or don't really care about; only to return to our cars, grab our dreams and think about them all the way home. Arriving home too tired to do anything about our dreams, we collapse into a chair and dread the new day tomorrow.

We'll write about the things that might make your particular rat race a bit more tolerable. Topics span a huge spectrum:

  • I'm a patriotic American who believes our government needs to be smaller. You'll read perspectives on politics, government and what our Founders intended.
  • I'm a person of Christian faith. You'll see me "coping" with my own challenges here, and hopefully you'll get a sense of how faith plays a part.
  • I believe most mainstream media are biased sources for information. We deserve better. Weblogs are (at a minimum) a new form of personal journalism. We'll talk about the critical thinking necessary to get useful information.
  • Technology has been important to me for many years. It's the career I've chosen. We'll cover a wide variety of topics - from Wi-Fi to bandwidth to software to how to manage information technology and more.
  • I love music, the arts, audio systems and literature. You'll see song lyrics as well as poetry from time to time.
  • There will be book reviews. I read a lot.
  • As a value investor, I'll occasionally write about Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway and other individuals and companies that pursue that school of thought.

For 2005, we'll cover all of the above, plus:

  • Litigation (tort) reform.
  • Shrinking the Federal government.
  • Achieving energy independence.
  • Quality, customer service and continual improvement of processes leading to excellence.
  • Great design
  • Health care reform.
  • The mounting evidence that having defeated communism, our nation's next "ism" is going to be "Islamism."
  • Photography will get more attention in 2005. It's possible you'll see a gallery or two.

Quality, Customer Service and Improvement

I'll never forget the first time I heard Tom Peters speak. I was watching a video of one of his "performances" in the training room of a business I co-owned at the time. It changed my outlook on my role and the possibilities for that business and all the others I've come in contact with since that time. In the late 1980's I became deeply involved in the methods that companies could employ to find excellence in their operations and their service to customers. In 1991 I attended Philip Crosby's Quality College. I began to learn about W. Edwards Deming, statistical process control, Donald Wheeler, Six Sigma, operations research and process reengineering. That has been the focus of my working life for the decade and a half. Those topics are bound to find their way into much of what you see here.

The Tools of Weblogging

Dan Bricklin's influence on my web interests has been paramount. From the earliest search for a tool to use to do a simple web site, I found Dave Winer, scripting.com and Radio. From these people and sites I've learned of many more. I'm interested in some of them because they taught me about weblogs and Radio in particular. I'm interested in others because they write so well about something I'm interested in.

Late in 2002, I switched to Movable Type to write and edit this weblog. Sekimori Design deserves all the credit for helping me get started with Movable Type and making this weblog look the way it does.

Now, in 2005, we're up to Revision 3.0 with Textpattern. Several tools and great talent are responsible for this update.

The Motivators

Here are the key reasons this work exists:

  • Beginning in January of 2002, I wanted to write to focus my thoughts about 9-11-2001.
  • to learn the hands-on stuff associated with web sites, HTML, web services, XML and the future of computing
  • to have a place to post my thoughts and document my thinking
  • to have a way to influence change - this will come with readership, but Dan Bricklin's essay about pampleteers sums it up
  • to see if there is money to be made in writing, weblogging or providing assistance to others who need tools for collaboration
  • to journalize my interests

Most of all I want to write a weblog in order to learn! I'm learning something more about software, web services, web design and what it takes to build truly collaborative tools, systems and thinking.

The Meaning of Life

On May 8, 2002, I responded to a question I read at Scripting News. Without much time or attention, I wrote this entry and titled it. Before I knew it, it had put my weblog "on the map." It wasn't a big dot on the map, but what I had to say was getting read. Here's how that went:

Dave asks: Is business the purpose of our civilization, or does civilization have some other purpose that business supports? Do our lives have any meaning beyond that which we produce for sale, and that which we purchase for consumption? Who is really qualified to answer such questions for other than themselves?

G.K. Chesterton said, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience." Victor Frankl wrote Man's Search for Meaning to explain meaning when you become a number. His dehumanizing experience at Auschwitz gave him the answers.

Does the woman living in a cave in Afghanistan and sleeping in the dirt have the same life purpose as the woman who woke up in a 10,000 square foot home in the American suburbs, drove her SUV to drop her kids at private school, grabbed a $3.85 cup of coffee at the drive-thru window and rushed to her desk to work at 'getting more' today? Is daily survival a different life purpose from daily achievement or daily accumulation? Should the person waking to a shopping list for a week's worth of groceries have the same life meaning as the person who awoke hungry, but driven to find sustenance before dark?

Different people must answer Dave's questions in different ways. Influences often drive how we answer the question. Sometimes the answer feels different on different days. The fact is a life of simply earning more, buying more or selling more can get pretty futile.

Surely, at the end of our days, there should be more than the toys, the comfort and the luxury that we've accumulated for ourselves and those we care about. I cannot compartmentalize my life in such a way that 'the getting' is what I do on the job and life's meaning is something that happens at a different place, with other people or at a different time.

Regardless of religious background or persuasion, people need a plan, a place and a purpose. More often than not those are found in some area of service. I find that the periods in my life where I have not been serving others are the most miserable periods I've faced.

If civilization is to be defined as 'life as we know it,' then business, in all its forms, is a part of that. To say that our civilization has business as its purpose seems to fall short of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' It also falls short of any greater meaning that those who see themselves as spiritual beings might seek.

I'm reminded of the wealthy Texas oil baron who died somewhat unexpectedly in his 60's. Some weeks following the funeral, one sincere old friend asked his youthful widow, "how much did he leave?" Her reply was quick, "all of it." You just don't see any Wells Fargo trucks in funeral processions!

There's got to be something more!

Were It Not For Grace

If a single song can explain my own journey, my struggles in life, the attempt to find meaning and hold onto significance, this is it:

Were It Not For Grace
by Hamilton McHugh

Time measured out my days; Life carried me along In my soul I yearned to follow God, but knew I'd never be so strong. I looked hard at this world to learn how heaven could be gained. Just to end where I began; where human effort is all in vain.

Were it not for Grace, I can tell you where I'd be.
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me.
I know how that would go, the battles I would face.
Forever running, but losing the race;
Were it not for Grace.

So here is all my praise; expressed with all my heart.
Offered to a Friend, who took my place,
And ran a course I could not start.
And when He saw in full, just how much this love would cost,
He still went the final mile between me and heaven so I would not be lost.

Were it not for Grace, I can tell you where I'd be.
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me.
And, I know how that would go, the battle I would face.
Forever running, but losing the race;
Were it not for Grace.
Forever running, but losing the race;
Were it not for Grace.

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September 11, 2001

11 September 2004

R E M E M B E R

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Still On Hiatus

6 September 2004

A lot is happening behind the scenes, but this site is still on hiatus. More when it’s time to go public. It could be a day, a week, a month or a year.

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Contemplating A Break

20 August 2004

Since around midnight last night, I’ve been without Internet service. Thank you Road Runner. This comes on top of all the frustrations of the past two weeks – Firefox problems, syndication problems, blockquote and code problems, etc.

This weblog has too many problems and they are mounting. I get valuable advice from readers. Unfortunately, I find myself not knowing enough to even understand the advice I’m getting.

Asa pointed me toward the DOM extension for Firefox. When I tried to take a look at it, I got an error. Truth be told, I have no idea what a DOM is, does or should mean to me. Only after I understand some of that could I begin to grasp how a DOM inspector might help me.

I know this sounds like I’m being ungrateful to Asa and others who have offered help. That’s not my intent at all. Rather, my lack of knowledge makes me unworthy of the help extended. I’ve simply got to study harder and in a more effective way.

Some changes are needed…

I’ve got to decide once and for all which CMS tool I’m going to use in the future. Is it going to be Movable Type, WordPress or Textpattern?

I’ve got to resolve things like why my comments and trackbacks point to one domain and my weblog points to another. I’ve got to figure out what’s really wrong with my copy of Firefox on this computer. I’ve got to learn how RDF, RSS 2.0 and Atom are supposed to be formatted and where/how one learns the way to ”write” those feeds. Each of them ought to be capable of providing a complete entry in whatever news reader people are using to subscribe. Mine don’t include extended entries from Movable Type.

I have a design in mind with a four-style switcher. I have a new logo in mind. I know how I want to write. I know that I always want to be able to post some XHTML or CSS code and have it fit on the screen, be legible and be understandable. I want to properly format blockquotes with CSS. Right now I can’t even spell MySQL and PHP, but I have a web site and multiple hosting accounts that depend on my use of those tools.

This weblog has become the rat race it seeks to avoid. It just seems as though it’s the right time to take a break, get some fundamental knowledge somewhere and return with a fresh design, a fresh CMS tool and a fresh outlook on how to make this all worthwhile. It’s the only way I can make this of real value to those who read here.

This past couple of weeks have made me realize that I don’t have the skills or know-how to do a site redesign that comes anywhere close to those that I most admire. I’ll probably have to seek out one of the top designers and get them to help me achieve what I want to with this weblog and the porting of it to a new design.

So, where does this leave us? I’m going to contemplate the notion of backing away from this for a while. I need to learn XHTML, tags, CSS, how to use editing tools for text and code and images, etc. I need to improve my understanding of the terminology that web people toss around. I need to learn a CMS tool so that a simple blockquote doesn’t taint my entire site.

How long will I be away from here? I’ll likely continue to read web sites while I’m away. I might drop a post onto this existing site from time to time. To learn XHTML and CSS, select a CMS tool, find a designer, do the redesign, port this weblog to the new one, understand syndication feeds, master some tools…it could be a month, a quarter or a year. Having done this the way I have for almost three years, I’m not optimistic that I have the intellect to make it all happen quickly.

Programmers use different standards for quality from those I’m accustomed to. I’ve got to understand why that is and get comfortable with the fact that there are thirty ways to do everything on the Internet, and all the standards-based gurus have different opinions about which ways are ”right.”

Be assured, it’s my intent to return to regular posting when I feel I have something to offer again. Troubleshooting code is NOT why I have a weblog, but it’s a skill that simply must be developed if one is to have a web site that is as feature-rich as many are. Call it designer. Call it developer. Whatever it’s called, I’ve got to become more of a coder to manage a weblog well.

We’ll see how my thoughts evolve over the next few days, but know that posting here is going to be infrequent for a while. I’ll be reading what you write and admiring the savvy so many of you have that allows for great writing and amazing web site designs. When I return, perhaps I can even contribute a little.

Comments [4]

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Fourteen Golds As Of Tonight

19 August 2004

Athens 2004

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A Fix?

19 August 2004

Okay. Vertical stripes have returned in IE6. Mick put his finger on the problem, and Susan confirmed it. But, I didn’t really solve it, because I can’t figure out what caused it. All I did was take the two major entries below which contain blockquotes with code in them and added the small tags so that anything that was too wide would “shrink.”

I’m using the Movable Type text entry box to post all of these. I don’t know how something became too wide, but Mick was certainly correct in that assessment.

Many thanks! ! !

The Firefox rendering of the site is still hosed.

Comments [7]

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Six Apart Gets More Talent

19 August 2004

Brad Choate is going to work for Six Apart.

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Decline and Fall of the Rodent Regatta

19 August 2004

For those who are inquiring as to what the problems are with this site. There are several/many. However, the most obvious at this point is the failure of the vertical stripes to show up as they have for many months. The most obvious examples start with the correct look from yesterday, and it is followed by the improper rendering that is currently happening in Firefox and IE6:

  1. Here’s how the site looked yesterday in IE6 [CORRECT].
  2. Here’s how it looks tonight in IE6 [BAD IE6].
  3. A week or so ago, it did the same thing in Firefox [BAD Firefox].

Some have pointed to CSS as the culprit. Others have blamed Firefox. With today’s deterioration in IE6, I’m not sure what to think.

All I know is things are coming apart and Textpattern 1.0 is still not out.

Comments [2]

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Code

19 August 2004

Why are there so many gaps in these posts of code? Why doesn’t Movable Type correctly show the   in the code? How is it that everybody else knows exactly how to put code in blockquotes to describe what they are doing and get help?

I’m nearing the end of my blogging career. This stuff simply doesn’t work.

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Here's A Modified Atom Feed

19 August 2004

The revised Atom feed:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="<$MTPublishCharset$>"?>
<feed version="0.3" xmlns="http://purl.org/atom/ns#" xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" xml:lang="en">

&nbsp;<title><$MTBlogName remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title> &nbsp;<link rel="alternate" type="text/html" href="<$MTBlogURL encode_xml="1"$>" /> &nbsp;<modified><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryModifiedDate utc="1" format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%SZ"$></MTEntries></modified> &nbsp;<tagline><$MTBlogDescription remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></tagline> &nbsp;<id>tag:<$MTBlogHost exclude_port="1" encode_xml="1"$>,<$MTDate format="%Y"$>:<$MTBlogRelativeURL encode_xml="1"$>/<$MTBlogID$></id> &nbsp;<generator url="http://www.movabletype.org/" version="<$MTVersion$>">Movable Type</generator> &nbsp;<copyright><MTEntries lastn="1">Copyright (c) <$MTEntryDate format="%Y"$>, <$MTEntryAuthor encode_xml="1"$></MTEntries></copyright>
<MTEntries lastn="15"> &nbsp;<entry> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<title><$MTEntryTitle remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<link rel="alternate" type="text/html" href="<$MTEntryPermalink encode_xml="1"$>" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<modified><$MTEntryModifiedDate utc="1" format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%SZ"$></modified> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<issued><$MTEntryDate format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S"$><$MTBlogTimezone$></issued> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<id>tag:<$MTBlogHost exclude_port="1" encode_xml="1"$>,<$MTEntryDate format="%Y">:<$MTBlogRelativeURL encode_xml="1"$>/<$MTBlogID$>.<$MTEntryID$></id> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<created><$MTEntryDate utc="1" format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%SZ"$></created> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<summary type="text/plain"><$MTEntryBody remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$><$MTEntryMore remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></summary> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<author> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<name><$MTEntryAuthor encode_xml="1"$></name> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<MTIfNonEmpty tag="MTEntryAuthorURL"><url><$MTEntryAuthorURL encode_xml="1"$></url></MTIfNonEmpty> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<MTIfNonEmpty tag="MTEntryAuthorEmail"><email><$MTEntryAuthorEmail encode_xml="0"$></email></MTIfNonEmpty> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</author> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<MTIfNonEmpty tag="MTEntryCategory"><dc:subject><$MTEntryCategory encode_xml="1"$></dc:subject></MTIfNonEmpty> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<content type="text/html" mode="escaped" xml:lang="en" xml:base="<$MTBlogURL encode_xml="1"$>"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<$MTEntryBody encode_xml="1"$> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<$MTEntryMore encode_xml="1"$> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</content> &nbsp;</entry>
</MTEntries>
</feed>

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Test

19 August 2004

Test main entry in Atom feed.

Test extended entry in Atom feed.

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This Site Is Declining

19 August 2004

Now this site’s vertical lines are starting to disappear in IE6 just as they did in Firefox. I have no explanation at all for what’s causing this. It seems that the time to either abandon weblogging or move to something more stable has come again.

Comments [1]

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Can Anyone Tell Me What's Wrong?

19 August 2004

After a great deal of trial-and-error, I’m still baffled by where to look, what to do and how to go about solving my syndication mess. All of these feeds validate using the Feed Validator. However, only the RSS 2.0 feed provides both the entry and the extended entry. What do I need to change in the Atom and RDF feeds to make them include extended entries from Movable Type?

All of this junk is so bizarre. Some lines are indented. Others are not. Some people have empty lines in the middle of their feeds, but many do not. New lines of code actually start on new lines in the feeds some people publish. Other times a brand new tag/line/whatever simply starts at the end of the previous line. Hah – and people say, “just use Notepad and ‘knock out’ a quick syndication feed.” So smug. Sometimes people have encode lines, but others do not. There is absolutely nothing uniform, consistent or predictable about how you’re supposed to do this.

The Syndication Feeds for http://www.rodentregatta.com:

Here’s the Atom feed:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="<$MTPublishCharset$>"?>
<feed version="0.3" xmlns="http://purl.org/atom/ns#" xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" xml:lang="en">

&nbsp;<title><$MTBlogName remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title> &nbsp;<link rel="alternate" type="text/html" href="<$MTBlogURL encode_xml="1"$>" /> &nbsp;<modified><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryModifiedDate utc="1" format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%SZ"$></MTEntries></modified> &nbsp;<tagline><$MTBlogDescription remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></tagline> &nbsp;<id>tag:<$MTBlogHost exclude_port="1" encode_xml="1"$>,<$MTDate format="%Y"$>:<$MTBlogRelativeURL encode_xml="1"$>/<$MTBlogID$></id> &nbsp;<generator url="http://www.movabletype.org/" version="<$MTVersion$>">Movable Type</generator> &nbsp;<copyright><MTEntries lastn="1">Copyright (c) <$MTEntryDate format="%Y"$>, <$MTEntryAuthor encode_xml="1"$></MTEntries></copyright>
<MTEntries lastn="15"> &nbsp;<entry> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<title><$MTEntryTitle remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<link rel="alternate" type="text/html" href="<$MTEntryPermalink encode_xml="1"$>" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<modified><$MTEntryModifiedDate utc="1" format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%SZ"$></modified> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<issued><$MTEntryDate format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S"$><$MTBlogTimezone$></issued> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<id>tag:<$MTBlogHost exclude_port="1" encode_xml="1"$>,<$MTEntryDate format="%Y">:<$MTBlogRelativeURL encode_xml="1"$>/<$MTBlogID$>.<$MTEntryID$></id> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<created><$MTEntryDate utc="1" format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%SZ"$></created> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<summary type="text/plain"><$MTEntryExcerpt remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></summary> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<author> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<name><$MTEntryAuthor encode_xml="1"$></name> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<MTIfNonEmpty tag="MTEntryAuthorURL"><url><$MTEntryAuthorURL encode_xml="1"$></url></MTIfNonEmpty> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<MTIfNonEmpty tag="MTEntryAuthorEmail"><email><$MTEntryAuthorEmail encode_xml="0"$></email></MTIfNonEmpty> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</author> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<MTIfNonEmpty tag="MTEntryCategory"><dc:subject><$MTEntryCategory encode_xml="1"$></dc:subject></MTIfNonEmpty> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<content type="text/html" mode="escaped" xml:lang="en" xml:base="<$MTBlogURL encode_xml="1"$>"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<$MTEntryBody encode_xml="1"$> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<$MTEntryMore encode_xml="1"$> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</content> &nbsp;</entry>
</MTEntries>
</feed>
  • * *

Here’s the RSS 2.0 feed:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="<$MTPublishCharset$>"?>
<rss version="2.0">
<channel>
<title><$MTBlogName remove_html="1" encode_xml="1"$></title>
<link><$MTBlogURL$></link>
<description><$MTBlogDescription remove_html="1" encode_html="1"$></description>
<language>en-us</language>
<copyright>Copyright <$MTDate format="%Y"$></copyright>
<lastBuildDate><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryDate language="en" &nbsp;format="%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S "$><$MTBlogTimezone no_colon="1"$></MTEntries></lastBuildDate>
<pubDate><$MTDate language="en" format="%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S "$><$MTBlogTimezone no_colon="1"$></pubDate>
<generator>http://www.movabletype.org/?v=<$MTVersion$></generator>
<ttl>60</ttl>
<docs>http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss</docs>

<MTEntries lastn="15">
<item>
<title><$MTEntryTitle remove_html="1" encode_html="1"$></title>
<description><$MTEntryBody encode_html="1"$><$MTEntryMore encode_html="1"$></description>
<guid><$MTEntryPermalink encode_html="1"$></guid>
<category><$MTEntryCategory remove_html="1" encode_html="1"$></category>
<pubDate><$MTEntryDate language="en" format="%a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S "$><$MTBlogTimezone no_colon="1"$></pubDate>
</item>
</MTEntries>
</channel>
</rss>

  • * *

Here’s the Index.rdf feed:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="<$MTPublishCharset$>"?>

<rdf:RDF xmlns:rdf="http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#" xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" xmlns:sy="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/syndication/" xmlns:admin="http://webns.net/mvcb/" xmlns:cc="http://web.resource.org/cc/" xmlns="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/">

<channel rdf:about="<$MTBlogURL$>">
<title><$MTBlogName encode_xml="1"$></title>
<link><$MTBlogURL$></link>
<description><$MTBlogDescription encode_xml="1"$></description>
<language>en-us</language>
<dc:date><MTEntries lastn="1"><$MTEntryDate format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S" language="en"$><$MTBlogTimezone$></MTEntries></dc:date>
<admin:generatorAgent rdf:resource="http://www.movabletype.org/?v=<$MTVersion$>" />

<items>
<rdf:Seq><MTEntries lastn="15">
<rdf:li rdf:resource="<$MTEntryLink$>" &nbsp;/>
</MTEntries></rdf:Seq>
</items>

</channel>

<MTEntries lastn="15">
<item rdf:about="<$MTEntryLink$>">
<title><$MTEntryTitle encode_xml="1"$></title>
<description><$MTEntryBody encode_xml="1"$><$MTEntryMore &nbsp;encode_xml="1"$></description>
<link><$MTEntryLink$></link>
<dc:subject><$MTEntryCategory encode_xml="1"$></dc:subject>
<dc:creator><$MTEntryAuthor encode_xml="1"$></dc:creator>
<dc:date><$MTEntryDate format="%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S"$><$MTBlogTimezone$></dc:date>
</item>
</MTEntries>

</rdf:RDF>

Comments [1]

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Yet Another Syndication Test

19 August 2004

Does the extended portion of this entry show up?

* * * UPDATE * * * No…Atom and RDF still do not provide the extended entry.

It should show up in Atom, RSS 2.0 and RDF.

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Another Test Of Syndication Feeds

19 August 2004

Still modifying and doing trial-and-error work on all the syndication feeds. It really is a shame that the only tips for creating and offering these feeds is written by programmers for programmers.

Unfortunately, it is only a concern for readers that makes me obsess over them. I don’t use them at all, but I know others do.

When the Internet matures a bit, some will realize that this stuff ought to be available for people who have other interests besides code-for-the-sake-of-code.

* * * UPDATE * * * Unfortunately, the RSS 2.0 feed seems to be the only one that is providing the complete entries. The Atom and RDF feeds are displaying only the entry body, not the extended entry. Why?

What do you see in the Atom feed?

What do you see in the RDF feed?

What do you see in the RSS 2.0 feed?

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Testing Atom, Rss 2.0 And Rdf

19 August 2004

This is a test of the type of feeds available from the Atom, RSS 2.0 and RDF templates.

This is the extended entry associated with the test.

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Rss, Rdf And Atom

19 August 2004

I’ve spent some time again today editing the templates that create RSS, RDF and Atom feeds for this web site.

My hope is that you can still see the feeds in your news aggregators. I’m also of the opinion that you can now read my entire entry if you subscribe to my RSS 2.0 feed. The RDF feed provides only entry titles. The Atom feed seems to provide only the first part of any entry that has an extended entry.

Anyhow, your comments, suggestions and complaints are always welcome.

  • * * UPDATE * * * For those of you who prefer to subscribe to Atom feeds, I can only apologize for the lack of complete entries. I’ve looked, but cannot find the solution to the problem of my extended entries not showing up in the feed. If you know how to fix this, please let me know. Thanks!

Comments [1]

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More Please

19 August 2004

I’m guessing that $163.30 wasn’t enough. Had I only known that the ”perfect” resource exists, I’d have picked it up while I was there.

Now, where are my keys?

Filed under:

Where Our Focus Should Be

19 August 2004

The following letter ran in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. subscription may be required

Strength at Home
By BEN STEIN
August 18, 2004; Page A10

(This is a letter I wrote to the newsletter of an Army unit called The Strykers, stationed in Iraq out of Ft. Lewis, Wash. The editor asked me what I would say to make the wives feel appreciated while their husbands are in Iraq. This is what I wrote to one soldier’s wife.)

Dear Karen,

I have a great life. I have a wife I adore, a son who is a lazy teenager but I adore him, too. We live in a house with two dogs and four cats. We live in peace. We can worship as we please. We can say what we want. We can walk the streets in safety. We can vote. We can work wherever we want and buy whatever we want. When we sleep, we sleep in peace. When we wake up, it is to the sounds of birds.

All of this, every bit of it, is thanks to your husband, his brave fellow soldiers, and to the wives who keep the home fires burning while the soldiers are away protecting my family and 140 million other families. They protect Republicans and Democrats, Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists. They protect white, black, yellow, brown and everyone in between. They protect gays and straights, rich and poor.

And none of it could happen without…

...the Army wives, Marine wives, Navy wives, Air Force wives—or husbands—who go to sleep tired and lonely, wake up tired and lonely, and go through the day with a smile on their faces. They feed the kids, put up with the teenagers’ surliness, the bills that never stop piling up, the desperate hours when the plumbing breaks and there is no husband to fix it, and the even more desperate hours after the kids have gone to bed, the dishes have been done, the bills have been paid, and the wives realize that they will be sleeping alone—again, for the 300th night in a row.

The wives keep up the fight even when they have to move every couple of years, even when their checks are late, even when they have to make a whole new set of friends every time they move.

And they keep up the fight to keep the family whole even when they feel a lump of dread every time they turn on the news, every time they switch on the computer, every time the phone rings and every time—worst of all—the doorbell rings. Every one of those events—which might mean a baseball score or a weather forecast or a FedEx man to me and my wife—might mean the news that the man they love, the man they have married for better or worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, is now parted from them forever.

These women will never be on the cover of People. They will never be on the tabloid shows on TV about movie stars. But they are the power and the strength that keep America going. Without them, we are nothing at all. With them, we can do everything.

They are the glue that holds the nation together, stronger than politicians, stronger than talking heads, stronger than al Qaeda.

They deserve all the honor and love a nation can give. They have my prayers, and my wife’s, every morning and every night.

Love, and I do mean Love, Ben.

Mr. Stein, a television personality and writer, is co-author with Phil DeMuth of ”Can America Survive,” forthcoming from Hay House.

Comments [1]

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Usa Takes The Medal Lead

19 August 2004

Athens 2004

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Time To Redefine Insurance?

18 August 2004

There once was a small effort to promote pay-at-the-pump insurance for automobiles. The theory was that by adding the price of insurance to every gallon of gas, you’d wind up with a plan that was far easier to administer and truly matched the coverage to the amount of driving. There were many details. It never happened.

Now, we’ve got another notion about how car insurance might one day be priced and managed. They’re calling this one pay-as-you-drive.

Insurance is defined as, ”insurance protecting against all or part of an individual’s legal liability for damage done (as by his or her automobile) to the property of another.” It’s usually expected that a given form of coverage is priced based upon a specific risk or set of risks and the history of statistics and probabilities that describe various insured events.

A box in the trunk or under the hood doesn’t spread risk across a group or statistical population. Instead, each individual carries the risk. I dunno. This one could be a recipe for profiteering. One bout of road rage and next month’s premium sky rockets. Take a month-long vacation to Fiji and the premium goes to zero. I really dunno.

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Learn To Help Or Learn A Trade

18 August 2004

Two people who write things that make you think believe it’s time to learn a trade. Another person who has a lot of influence in the USA and the world believes that our currency could really see some hard times ahead.

Lean Six Sigma for ServiceOthers lament the offshoring of manufacturing, programming and customer service call centers. More jobs are likely to take that route before returning here.

I believe several things about offshoring. First, it is not nearly as harmful to the macro economy as some say it is. Second, many offshoring decisions have not been carefully considered, and customers will suffer or hidden costs will soar. Finally, there are steps that can be taken to improve operations right here at home. Those steps can narrow – if not eliminate – the gap between the offshoring choice and the current situation.

While it’s not a trade, helping companies improve their operations will be a growth industry during the coming twenty years. While I might be better off as an electrician or a gunsmith, we’ll continue to help companies far and wide with their internal and external business processes and operational choices. What’s your trade?

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Amateurs Try Harder

18 August 2004

It’s time to return to sending amateur athletes to the Olympics. I don’t care what the Chinese do. It makes no difference that the Russians might not be amateurs.

The USA will be better served by sending amateur athletes to pursue medals. Professionals simply don’t have the desire, drive and determination required to make their best showing.

Nice try Venus, Andy and Allen.

Comments [1]

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$163.30

18 August 2004

Eric Meyer On CSSBooks are too expensive. Both of Eric Meyer’s books list for $45.00 each. Fortunately, I don’t pay that, but they’re steep nonetheless.

More Eric Meyer On CSSI’m hoping that by reading book 1 and book 2, I can figure out how to do some of my own redesign work. I know, I know – not a chance – but hope springs eternal.

Remember, I have no idea at all why you are visiting Rodent Regatta, but if you leave a trackback or a comment, the link will be via stevepilgrim.com. And, in spite of that, I’m going to learn CSS. Stop laughing, you’ll hurt my feelings!

Anyhow, I bought some things that are likely to go back to the store, but I want to determine whether they are worth owning permanently or not.

I’ve spent enough on design fees, consultation, software, training courses and books that you’d think pretty soon this $5000.00 education would begin to pay off in some semblance of a style sheet and a weblog that validates. That must be the four-year program, though.

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Follow The Constitution Or Get Reelected?

18 August 2004

Unpatriotic gigolos and public education
By Craig J. Cantoni
August 18, 2004

The government of the United States has become a government of unpatriotic gigolos. Congress and the President not only screw us out of our money while pretending to care about us, but they also commit one of the most unpatriotic acts possible: They brazenly violate the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, a document that embodies the very essence of the nation. Their actions are worse than spitting on the flag.

At the same time, the political institution of the Supreme Court ignores the lawbreaking, government schools encourage it, and anyone who has the temerity to call it lawbreaking is labeled as a crackpot by the establishment media. As a result, most Americans are unaware that they are being screwed and that the Constitution is being violated.

Take public education.

The federal government clearly has no constitutional authority to issue diktats to the states about local public schools, but that hasn’t stopped Congress and the President from expanding the authority of the federal government over local schools.

In 1965, the United States government spent about $25 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars to fund the education programs of various federal departments. Today, it spends over $108 billion, including $63 billion for the Department of Education, which has seen its budget increase 35 percent over the last four years, due to the generosity and compassionate conservatism of President Bush.

What a guy!

To put the $108 billion in perspective, it is equal to the annual income of 2.7 million families.

A big chunk of the $108 billion pays the office overhead and salaries of federal bureaucrats, and much of the remainder is sent back to the states with expensive strings attached to it. Under the guise of helping families, politicians take money from families, send the money to Washington, and then buy votes by returning what is left to the families from whence it came. In short, taxpayers are paying government gigolos to screw them and the nation.

The 400 percent increase in federal education spending since 1965 is in addition to the 300 percent increase in per-pupil spending in real terms at the state and local levels over the same period.

Although the spending has done little to improve education, the Supreme Gigolo, President Bush, has come up with a new program, No Child Left Behind. Like the supreme gigolos who came before him, he promises that his program will be different.

”This time,” Bush whispers lovingly in the public’s ear, ”the money comes with accountability and standards.”

”Oooo!” the public coos in response. ”You’re such a compassionate conservative and such a hunk in your leather flying jacket. Here, take my money.”

The President, Congress, the establishment media and the clueless public do not care that the transaction is illicit—that it is a violation of the supreme law of the land. Given a choice between the law and lust, they pick lust.

Tellingly, no big-city daily has run a front-page headline such as this: ”Bush breaks law with No Child Left Behind!”

Since the man in the leather flying jacket thinks of himself as a patriot, it must be patriotic to ignore the Constitution. Maybe taxpayers should follow his lead and show their patriotism by ignoring the 16th Amendment and not pay income taxes.

Of course, that would upset blubberous Senator Ted Kennedy, another patriot who ignores the Constitution. His state of Massachusetts was given $2 million in federal education money for the New Bedford Whaling Museum. No, the money didn’t come from the No Whale Left Behind program. It came from the Historic Whaling and Trading program, which ”supports culturally based educational activities, internships, apprenticeship programs, and exchanges for Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and children and families of Massachusetts.”

In other words, if your forebears made their living from catching salmon in the Salmon River, your family has to subsidize a museum honoring whaling families, because whaling is important to public education but salmon fishing is not.

Thar she blows! Is it a whale? No, it’s Ted Kennedy swimming near Chappaquiddick Island, carrying a satchel of public money.

Not surprisingly, the government takeover of education began in Massachusetts. In 1647, colonial Massachusetts enacted the Old Deluder Satan Act, which mandated that children of the colony be sufficiently literate to read the Bible and thus not succumb to the temptations of Satan. Then in the early 1800s, Horace Mann and others led a movement in Massachusetts and other states for ”free” government schools. Their objectives included making the nation homogenous (i.e., having White-Anglo-Saxon values), stopping the growth of ”Papist” Catholic schools, and teaching the Protestant Bible to Catholics.

The legacy of discrimination against Catholics continues today, with parochial school parents being forced to pay double for education—once in public school taxes and once in private tuition—in order to exercise their right of religious freedom. Of course, the self-serving public education establishment and greedy public school parents think that taking money from parochial school parents for no services rendered is a dandy idea. After all, it’s for the public good and not for their own good. Wink-wink.

The federal government’s role in education began in 1867 with a federal department that had the narrow mission of ”getting information on what works in education to teachers and education policymakers.” In 1890, the federal mission was expanded to include financial support to land-grant colleges. In 1917, it was expanded again to include responsibilities for vocational education. In the 1940s and 1950s, the mission ballooned with the GI Bill and with laws authorizing the federal government to compensate school districts for lost tax revenue due to federal facilities being within their boundaries.

In reaction to the Soviet Union launching Sputnik, the National Defense Education Act was passed in 1958 to provide fellowships, grants and loans to college students to study math and science. In 1965, as part of President Johnson’s Great Society, Congress passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which has become one of the largest federal programs.

In 1979, the Department of Education Organization Act was signed, establishing a separate Department of Education. In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published A Nation at Risk, which detailed the abysmal state of public education

After 18 years of poor returns from the billions spent on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, common sense would have led politicians, the press and the public to conclude that government control of K-12 education was the problem, not the solution, for what ailed American schools. Instead, they came to the opposite conclusion.

In 1984, because of the national uproar over A Nation at Risk, the Republican Party dropped its plank for the elimination of the Department of Education. Given a choice between following the Constitution and getting reelected, Republicans chose getting reelected—a path of political expediency over principle that they have been following ever since.

Now, 20 years later, as further proof of the maxim that government bureaucracies grow until they devour the entire public treasury, No Child Left Behind is gorging itself on your hard-earned money.

If taken literally, the program will certainly bankrupt the public treasury, for it is impossible, regardless of how much money is spent, for many children not to be left behind, especially gang-bangers and disruptive delinquents who are going to drop out of school someday and who would improve the education of their classmates if they dropped out sooner rather than later.

To the unpatriotic gigolos at the head of our government, per-pupil spending of $12,000 in such districts as St. Louis, Missouri, and Newark, New Jersey, is not enough. It is not enough for responsible parents to subsidize irresponsible ones to the tune of $144,000 per child for 12 years of education, or $576,000 for a family of four. Now, thanks to No Child Left Behind, responsible parents will be paying for private tutors and after-hours programs for the children of irresponsible parents. Only government gigolos understand how screwing responsible parents will stop irresponsible parents from being irresponsible.

In closing, a question: Why do Americans keep paying the unpatriotic gigolos to screw them and the nation?

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com. Some of the information for this article came from an outstanding Cato Institute report, ”A Lesson in Waste: Where Does All the Federal Education Money Go?” It can be found at http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-518es.html

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Staying Away In Droves

18 August 2004

Athens 2004

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Common Stock Holdings

18 August 2004

Berkshire Hathaway Common Stock HoldingsAs of the end of June, here’s a list of the public companies in which Berkshire Hathaway had major holdings. The point of this was going to be to discuss the notion of holding over $25 billion in common stocks.

Because of all this, I lost interest.

It was going to be such a simple matter to simply clip a portion of a text document that was filed with the government and post it here. Hours later, I’m too frustrated to focus on the content.

Weblogs – bah!

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Another Simple Web Design Question

18 August 2004

Berkshire Hathaway Common Stock HoldingsI asked about drop shadows on images earlier this week. I’ve just about concluded that the answer is to set up a div or id or class or something in CSS that is specifically for images. It will include the drop shadow effect. Don’t ask me how to do it, but I’m under the impression it’s the ”right” way.

Today, I’ve got another simply question. How do you copy and paste a table of information from a text document into a weblog entry? An image of the table I’m talking about can be seen here. Had I wanted to ”quote” that table here, how was I to do it? Did I need to have the foresight when the original style sheet was created, so that another div or class or id was waiting for me to use it on a table of common stocks?

Am I supposed to truly turn it into an XHTML table with a header row and table rows? That takes forever! What’s the proper way to handle this sort of thing? If there can be so many opinions about how to represent an address in XHTML, there must be a thousand opinions about tables that are really tables.

Just the act of creating a thumbnail in the two different programs required to do that work, followed by uploading the larger image and the thumbnail…well, it is all very involved and tedious. Surely, the experts have got a streamlined way to copy and paste a portion of a text document without going through what I’ve had to go through.

Comments [5]

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It's Simple Algebra

17 August 2004

The algebra of entitlements
By Craig J. Cantoni

Most politicians of both parties don’t know algebra, probably because most went to public school and are lawyers. And given the fact that reporters never point out that politicians don’t know algebra, they must not know it either.

For example, in speaking recently to a group of greedy seniors, Senator John Kerry said that he was going to give them free medicine and provide them with options for obtaining the free medicine that President Bush didn’t give them. Of course, he is not going to give an option to taxpayers, including future generations, of not picking up the tab.

Not knowing algebra and being a liberal, Kerry doesn’t understand the following equation and sees only the left side of it:

e = t

In the above, ”e” represents the entitlements received by special-interest groups and ”t” represents the taxes levied to pay the entitlements. Like all Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans, Kerry only speaks about the left side of the equation, thus leaving the impression that entitlements are free.

In the case of Medicare, the taxes are imposed on both current taxpayers, or adults, plus future taxpayers, or today’s children. Thus, if ”a” represents adults and ”c” represents children, the equation becomes:

e = (t)(a) + (t)(c)

But the above isn’t complete, as it doesn’t reflect the costs that are in addition to the entitlements. There are the legions (l) of government bureaucrats needed to administer the entitlements, private-sector (p) money spent on complying with the diktats of the government bureaucrats, the dues (d) that go to lobbying groups like AARP, the unclean (u) campaign contributions given to politicians to encourage them to steal other people’s money, the rent-seekers® in private industry who earn handsome incomes interpreting regulations, and the damage done to the moral fiber of the nation (n) in allowing neighbors to steal from neighbors.

The equation becomes:

e + l + p + d + u + r + n = (t)(a) + (t)(c)

Rearranging the letters to make the equation easy to remember, it becomes:

p + l + u + n + d + e + r = (t)(a) + (t)(c)

Or this shorthand:

plunder = (t)(a) + (t)(c)

Or this sentence:

Plunder equals taxes levied against adults and children for other people’s entitlements.

Now we know why kids don’t learn the algebra of entitlements in government schools—so they will grow up and elect politicians who don’t know the algebra of entitlements.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Righting The Record

17 August 2004

Almost two weeks ago, I thought version 1.0 of Textpattern was about a week away. I was mistaken. I think my interpretation of a Textpattern support forum led to the mistaken notion. For those who read here believing you are seeing credible information, I’m correcting that entry with this one. I’m not sure anyone knows when version 1.0 of Textpattern will be released.

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Expanding Home Furnishings Interests

17 August 2004

Berkshire Hathaway’s latest quarterly holding report shows an 8 million share investment in Pier 1 Imports, Inc.

Comments [2]

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Seating Is Available

17 August 2004

Athens 2004

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Government Education Or Learn A Trade?

16 August 2004

Screw everyone but the Amish
By Craig J. Cantoni
August 10, 2004

How does the government recognize and reward citizens who are model parents, spouses and citizens? It screws them.

For example, the government screws all of the many Americans who believe that they have a responsibility to themselves, their families and society to live below their means and save for retirement so that they don’t become a burden on anyone else or society. It also screws all of the many Americans who believe that they have a responsibility to take care of their elderly parents if they can no longer take care of themselves. And it screws all of the many Americans who believe that it is their responsibility to see that their children are educated, just as they believe it is their responsibility to see that they are fed, sheltered and clothed.

How does the government screw them?

By forcing them to participate in the Ponzi schemes of Social Security and Medicare, and to follow laws and regulations regarding K-12 education that harm their children. In essence, the government says, ”To recognize and reward you for being responsible citizens, we’re going to take your money, put it in the collective, and then pretend to be magnanimous by doing less for you than what you would have done for yourself with the same money.”

I exaggerate. The government doesn’t screw all of the many Americans who take responsibility for their own retirement, health care and education. An exception is the self-employed Amish, who are excluded from paying into, and participating in, Social Security and Medicare. The Amish also are allowed to educate their children for only eight years in one-room Amish schoolhouses, where the children are taught by Amish teachers who have only eight years of schooling and are not state certified teachers or members of a leftist teacher union. Interestingly, the students usually perform better than local public school students on standardized tests. And they certainly ”outperform” public schoolers in values and skills not taught in public school.

Why does the government engage in a double standard and screw all responsible Americans but the Amish? Because of convoluted logic.

The Amish are excluded from Social Security and Medicare due to the IRS deciding that since they take care of their own, the Amish don’t need the help of the state. And they are excluded from compulsory high school and other education regulations due to the Supreme Court deciding in 1972 that since they train their children to be homemakers, farmers and craftsmen, the Amish don’t need to attend high school.

These decisions are not convoluted, for it is entirely logical for the government to exclude people and groups from the coercion of the collective who take care of their own and teach their children to lead productive lives. However, it is illogical for the government to let the Amish escape from coerced collectivism but not all of the other people who take care of their own and teach their children to lead productive lives.

After all, there are plenty of non-Amish individuals, religions and organizations that take care of their own and teach their own, albeit far fewer than there used to be before the government began doing what people used to do for themselves.

Before the advent of the New Deal, the War on Poverty, the Great Society and compassionate conservatism, almost all Americans took care of themselves or were helped by neighbors, churches and mutual aid societies. After the advent of these programs, about 40 percent of Americans have become dependent on the government, with such dire consequences for society as skyrocketing numbers of out-of-wedlock births, single-parent families, obese ”poor” people, and other social pathologies. Now, because of our munificent government, Americans are immorally sending $40 trillion in unpaid entitlement bills to future generations instead of taking care of themselves and their children. Screwing other people has become a national pastime, thanks to the government being a role model for screwing.

In 1900, transfer payments were only two percent of government spending. Today, because of entitlements and welfare, transfer payments are 40 percent of government spending and growing. These payments do not include the $500 billion spent on public education, much of which is transferred from people without kids in public school to people with kids in public school.

Contrary to what Americans have been led to believe, all Americans do not need four years of high school to be productive members of society and support themselves and their families. Like the Amish, there are many young people who don’t plan on attending college, who don’t need algebra and science, and who would be better off skipping high school and learning a trade or taking the $40,000 that a high school education costs and starting a business.

Is it better for someone to graduate from high school and work in a call center, or for someone to skip high school and learn a trade or start a business? Judging from the intelligence, skills, hard work and business savvy of the Amish I visited this summer, that question isn’t as black and white as the government and the education establishment want us to believe.

But to the government, one size fits all. Thus, other than the Amish, it screws all Americans equally through coercive collectivism, whether or not they deserve to be screwed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of being screwed.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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The Return To Athens

16 August 2004

Athens 2004

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Answers - Slowly, But Surely

15 August 2004

Visiting Chris Pederick’s site this evening, I found two entries that begin to answer some of my questions. The first points to a toolbar for IE6 that mimics many of the features in Chris’s own Web Developer Extension for Firefox. That was a link to molly.com.

The second was a link to Sitepoint where Five Free Windows Web Design Apps You Can’t Live Without are covered.

Still no word on what’s gone wrong or how to fix my copy of Firefox, but we’ll continue to seek ways to overcome the trouble. I’m also beginning to get my head around answers to some of the questions I posed earlier today. Stay tuned this week!

Filed under:

Css Drop Shadows: How Do You Know?

15 August 2004

Are you better off with images that include the drop shadow, or should you use any of the various CSS Drop Shadow techniques to apply drop shadows to an entire group of block elements?

ImageWellLet’s take an example. Look at this site, and notice the thumbnails of screenshots. Those thumbnails include the drop shadow within the image. When you click on a thumbnail, you see the drop shadow as part of the larger image. [Note: This also brings to mind a question about the ”best way” to handle the posting of thumbnails and larger images. Does a well-managed site include a style guide for the size of the thumbnail and the size of the larger image? >From one article or entry to the next, how do you recall what size your thumbnails have been in the past?]

Back to the topic at hand. If there is a way to apply a CSS-based drop shadow, why wouldn’t it be applied to images? Surely images that include drop shadows are larger files than those that don’t. Why wouldn’t the CSS drop shadow technique be assigned to a block element?

Is one way preferred over the other?

Here’s another tangential question: is there an inexpensive tool in the Windows world that accomplishes what ImageWell accomplishes for Macintosh users?

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Recipes And Checklists

14 August 2004

Ben Hammersley points the way to a web standards checklist. It’s a useful resource and set of reminders.

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Perseverance

14 August 2004

I’ve recently fought a couple of technical battles that didn’t end well. As one who has worked in the ”quality” field for many years, I’m not satisfied to pass over these failed attempts by merely deriding the technologies and the tools. I simply had to bail out in order to get onto other productive tasks.

Be assured, with some help, we’ll get this stuff figured out. While there may not be ”one best way,” there are ways to solve the problems. Many choices and decisions are ahead, but here are some things we’ll focus on:

  • Correcting” RSS feeds – The goal is to get the proper mix of feeds in the best formats available. I don’t mean rdf, RSS 2.0 and Atom. I want to understand specifically how each of these syndication feeds can be built from scratch to validate and provide the proper amount of information.
  • Firefox – There are two issues here. I get odd results using Firefox. I cannot pinpoint anything that’s wrong with my computer or the installation of Windows XP Pro. The second problem is the (suddenly) failed rendering of this site in Firefox.
  • Planning – This site is going to get redesigned and possibly moved to a new content management system. I’ve got lots of things I want the new site to do. This may take some time, but I’ve got to figure out how to capture the details and put them in a sequence that insures they do not get overlooked as the redesign is started. Yes, there will be a new logo, but details are not finalized yet.

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Things I'm Missing In Firefox

13 August 2004

Having just bailed out of all efforts to make Firefox work, I’m tempted (and struggling to resist the temptation) by this excellent entry and comments at Douglas Bowman’s site. Most, if not all, of the discussion relates to the Macintosh. (I plan to join that happy band of users in the near future). However, much of it would be suited to any user of Firefox on any platform.

I continue to puzzle over ”what changed” that made this site suddenly stop rendering correctly in Firefox. For a long time it was fine. Now it is not and nothing has been (intentionally) changed in my code or CSS. While I wish all the Firefox users were seeing Rodent Regatta as it was intended to be seen, I have no idea how to return to that look. Something was altered, literally, overnight. At 10:30 or 11:00p.m. on Tuesday night, it worked. On Wednesday morning about 8:00a.m., it did not. I’m not content with ”things are sometimes just weird in…XHTML or CSS or browsers or whatever.” There’s some logical explanation for what is different and how it came to be different.

One of the things I miss most about Firefox is the web developer toolbar extension. I didn’t realize how dependent upon it I was becoming. In the struggle to learn CSS, XHTML, standards, etc., it’s an incredible resource.

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Let The Games Begin

13 August 2004

Summer Olympics 2004 from Athens

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Movin' On Up

12 August 2004

Dane Carlson’s going to be guest blogging for Fast Company’s weblog called FC Now. Keep an eye on it.

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Bug Fix

12 August 2004

In the last thirteen or so hours since we announced version 0.0.2, many people have reported bugs which we are trying diligently to fix. Designed primarily for a 12 inch wheel, we are learning that slight variations in size exist for many users. Future versions will address this need.

[If you have no idea what we’re talking about here, you might put your tongue in your cheek and read a bit more here. This is the last time we’ll give you a hint, because…well, because making things easy is not what the open source movement is about.]

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Open Source Is A Buzzword

11 August 2004

It seems the market is ready for a pre-release version of an open source automobile. Version 0.0.2 involves a steering wheel cover which will be standard on our open source car. With no more (qualified) developers than we have on board at the present time, we’re not sure when you might actually have a steering wheel for the cover, or tires, or an ignition switch, but many open source fans have been quoted as saying in breathless tones, ”Wow, you should see this, it’s simply unbelievably great and so much better than having to buy a steering wheel cover for that silly $85,000 BMW. With the announcement of version 0.0.2, we understand that BMW is really scrambling to figure out how they’ll keep up. After seeing the steering wheel cover, we know why!”

To those who tried to assist with Firefox, I continue to say, ”thanks!” Why it sort of worked, then stopped rendering properly, then headed steadily downhill is something I may never figure out. Apparently, software is like that and software people know it. All manner and fashion of suggestions have come in pointing at anything but the application called Firefox. Ignorant user. Wacko CSS. You must have changed something in Movable Type. Delete your profile. Have you considered reformatting your hard drive? Delete Firefox and reinstall it – five times! Try these five edits of the registry, but be aware that they may cause some systems to fail. Which systems? Well, we don’t know how to predict which systems. I see; well, thanks, but no!

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Release The Hounds

11 August 2004

Before it grows dark, Firefox will be in my forgettable past. I’m thinking that I have one of the computer/OS/registry/version combinations where Firefox simply cannot be made to work. For those who want to compare, my combo is P4-2.4Ghz,1GB/XP Pro SP1/who knows/who cares.

I’ve spent enough time looking for userChrome and userContent because they don’t install as part of the default. Adding them does no good.

I’ve spent enough time going to Start-Programs-Mozilla Firefox only to find there is no profile manager. When someone advocates getting rid of the existing profile and setting up another, I’ve got news. First, I deleted everything before my most recent install of Firefox. I also cleaned the registry. Yes, the app data-mozilla folder was deleted.

Simply going over there now and deleting the default profile, also removes all the extensions, bookmarks, etc. That’s where I started this morning and it’s no different from doing a complete reinstallation to get that stuff squared away.

For those enamored with computers, software, browsers and tinkering endless, I say, ”Enjoy Firefox.” For those plagued with a computer combination that is intolerant of Firefox in its pre-release version, save yourself. Don’t bother. Leave it alone. You can find better ways to waste time.

Perhaps when the product really has some market share and is installable by those who don’t live and breathe bits and bytes…well, we’ll see.

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A Firefox Puzzle

11 August 2004

Way too much of my day has been spent uninstalling Firefox, cleaning up the registry for any mention of Firefox, saving bookmarks, noting which extensions I was using, then installing a new, fresh version and testing. I was finally prompted to do this after a rather odd rendering of my own weblog wouldn’t correct itself. My past problems with Firefox have been well-documented and some great tips have been offered by Firefox enthusiasts.

As nearly as I can tell, none of my problems have been corrected by the fresh installation, but I’m continuing to do some testing to be sure. The latest puzzling problem is brand new as of this morning. Here is a cropped screenprint of my weblog as it looks in IE6. Here’s the way it has looked (all morning) on my computer in Firefox.

Notice that the vertical stripes don’t show in Firefox and the width of each entry is wider than the entry and day separators. I don’t know if other Firefox users are seeing it this way or not.

Can anyone tell me what is causing this difference? Nothing about my Movable Type templates or my stylesheet changed in the last 24 hours. Opera renders my site properly. What’s going on?

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Last August

11 August 2004

A Table of Contents for The HP Way.

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We Have Rules Here

11 August 2004

My friend, Craig Cantoni, and I share some notions about immigration. We’re both for it. Neither of us is for the precise way it is being handled today.

I’m pro-immigration, but I’m not for illegal immigration. I’m not for providing the full rights and privileges of U.S. citizenship to illegal immigrants. I believe drivers’ licenses should go to U.S. citizens. I believe U.S. citizenship tests should be offered in English. I believe that people who want to make America their homes should understand that America existed before they did. We have ways that things can be changed, but we also have rules that come with being an American citizen.

Here’s how Craig puts it:

Dear Thinkers:

I’ve always believed that Latin American immigrants are similar to Italian immigrants of the early 20th century and, to the dismay of conservative friends, have been pro-immigration, minus the welfare state. After reading the article from City Journal found at the address below, I’m hanging on by my fingertips to my pro-immigration beliefs. Highly politically incorrect, the article goes where your local newspaper fears to tread and shows how gang affiliation and aversion to education permeates a considerable segment of Latin American culture and persists for generations. If the article is accurate, then President Bush will bankrupt the nation with his ”Leave no child behind” program, for no amount of money can counter such cultural influences.

http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_3_immigrant_gang.html

Regards,

Craig J. Cantoni
Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT)
Because stealing is wrong, especially by the government

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If...Then

11 August 2004

I guess if you believe that terrorists might use limousines to gain access to the private, underground or other areas of closest proximity to buildings, then the verbal haranguing of a couple of taxi and limo inspectors by a belligerent elderly man might not be the best choice at the moment.

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Simply Shameless

11 August 2004

Today, I wrote the following note to the Treasurer of the Democratic National Comittee. It was prompted by my reaction to an article he posted today.

August 11, 2004

Mr. Tobias:

I began reading your work in the mid-1970’s. I have a hardback copy of The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need. You helped me set the proper financial course during my first years out of college. I have provided recent editions of the book to my three daughters. I’ve been a ”fan” a long time.

Today, I am making the decision to discontinue the quickbrowse subscription to your daily articles. Over time, you and I have changed. You have become as shameless as many other ultra-liberal democrats. Today’s article (8-11-2004) called ”Pray For Us” is the final evidence I need to know that what I say is true.

Once you and your party have decided to stoop so low just ”to win,” many people will no longer consider you worthy to engage in the debates about the greater ideas. It’s a shame you’ve decided to waste such a keen intellect on the petty (and demeaning) message you provided today. You have far better and far more to offer this country.

Know that my ire is not over politics. Had you made today’s remarks about my local sanitation worker, I would feel the same way. You crossed a line. It is terribly unfortunate.

I wish you well and thank you for the many years of financial savvy you have provided.

Steve Pilgrim

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A Treasure Trove Of Links

10 August 2004

If you’re slogging through the effort to learn CSS/ XHTML/web design/standards…you know, all that…the treasure chest at the end of the rainbow exists at Paul Scriven’s site.

Me? I’m still arguing with myself about whether there is any chance at all that I can upgrade this site to MT 3.0/3.1 without rendering it invisible for weeks.

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Just So We're Clear

10 August 2004

Q. Who is the only President of the United States to ever provide any federal funding at all for stem cell research?

A: George W. Bush.

Let’s not get too confused about who stands for what and by how much!

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Hp 49g+

10 August 2004

I came within a heartbeat of buying a new calculator today. My better judgment sent me to the computer for a quick search. After reading reviews here, here and here, I’m glad I waited. It seems HP has lost their touch with calculators. What an incredibly unfortunate decline of a product that engineers everywhere cherished.

For those needing scientific and statistical processing in a handheld, here’s a future product that holds promise. Better yet, if someone can figure out how to make HP calculators with a comparable quality to the HP 35, 45, 25c and 41CV, people are still willing to pay the $395 for a product with the outstanding quality, manuals, accessories and packaging that made HP calculators cult items.

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Looking For Signs Of Intelligence

10 August 2004

Pontificating about intelligence restructuring
By Craig J. Cantoni
August 5, 2004

Not being an expert in subjects has not stopped me and other big-mouthed pundits from pontificating about them. For once, I’m going to pontificate about a subject in which I have expertise—30 years of expertise to be exact.

The subject is the 9/11 Commission’s recommended restructuring of national intelligence. My expertise is not in national intelligence, but it is in making large, complex organizations more effective. Here, free of charge, is what I’ve learned over the years:

- When departments, or stovepipes, within a large organization are not communicating, cooperating and coordinating effectively with each other, tinkering with the organization structure is almost always the wrong solution.

– Likewise, establishing a new layer of management or ”assistant to” and ”coordinator” positions is almost always the wrong solution. – Investing in an expensive computer system is almost always the wrong solution. – Having the problems ”solved” by top management or committees of high-level people with no front-line experience in how work gets done lower in the organization is almost always the wrong solution.

-Having the problems ”solved” by attorneys and other narrow staff specialists who have worked at the top of the organization all their careers without any operational experience in the ”real” work of the organization is almost always the wrong solution.

So what is the right solution? The right solution is for cross-departmental teams of lower-level employees to identify, prioritize and solve the interdepartmental problems, and then to establish fluid processes and mechanisms that will enable them to communicate, coordinate and cooperate with each other across departmental boundaries without having to crawl up their stovepipe for approval, and without worrying about violating their job descriptions and getting in trouble with the head of their stovepipe or with the personnel department.

The role of top management is to support, encourage, reward and exemplify such cross-departmental teamwork, and to establish pay and promotion systems that incentivize employees to operate in the best interest of the entire organization and not in the parochial interest of their own department.

The 9/11 Commission and Congress, where most of the Members are attorneys, have it exactly backwards. They have recommended a super-coordinator position of Intelligence Czar, whose responsibilities and authority viz a viz the FBI, CIA and Military Intelligence will be even less clear than those of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and even more removed from employees on the firing line than the current directors of those agencies.

Incidentally, there is now an Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. In other words, Tom Ridge, who supposedly reports to the President on matters of homeland security, has a counterpart who reports to the President on matters of homeland security. I kid you not. It is unfathomable how this bizarre setup improves communication, cooperation and communication between the various agencies and departments that are responsible for homeland security.

The reason for the extra homeland security position might be the fact that Ridge (and other cabinet members) spend most of their time appearing before congressional committees, the number of which has skyrocketed over the years, due to self-serving Members wanting the status, power and publicity of serving as committee chairs. Since taking office, Ridge has had to appear before 130 committees. By contrast, Osama bin Laden does not have to appear before any committees to plan direct and coordinate his evil work.

All of this would be funny if it were not so serious. When The Decline and Fall of the American Empire is written 100 years from now, one of the later chapters will be about the lawyers in Congress who restructured American intelligence.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and president of Capstone Consulting Group of Scottsdale. He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Foretelling The Futures

9 August 2004

Guessing or gambling in futures contracts is not something I’m qualified to do. However, I invest with someone who knows that business well. He has now raised his bet against the future strength of the dollar to $19 billion. You can read what Reuters is reporting here. The back-drop for all of this is best understood by reading Bloomberg’s news release.

Also, note that this comes in the face of oil prices approaching $45 a barrel. As a nation, we are in debt. As individuals, many are in debt. A higher percentage of our cars are gas guzzlers, and we live in homes that are palaces by global standards. Not knowing what else to do, many executives are outsourcing service and production work to other countries in their endless search for quick fixes and short-term profits. Some of these events, taken to the next level, will converge to form a ”perfect storm” of economic impacts that could make each of the next twenty years resemble the meltdown of 2000.

Even though some 1200 to 1500 A-shares of Berkshire Hathaway will be sold over the next two years, I’m standing by my investment and adding to it when (and if) it goes ”on sale.”

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Update On Firefox Use

9 August 2004

This morning I upgraded my copy of Firefox from version 0.92 to 0.93. The upgrade went fine. However, all of my past annoyances remain. I’m updating the list in bullet form here:

  • clicking a link in an email message triggers a dialog box titled ”Locate Link Browser,” even though the link I click on has already launched another copy of Firefox and taken me to the link URL.
  • Firefox often just locks up and stops responding
  • If I post an extended entry in Movable Type and want to use the editing icons (b, i, u and URL), they don’t work. Instead, they paste the link I’m trying to add in the entry body rather than in the extended entry.
  • pdf files open, but they’ll lock up Firefox
  • the feature called ”clear search history” in the Google toolbar for Firefox won’t delete the last search item; it has to be deleted separately
  • my scrollpad still won’t scroll; the scrollpad works like a mousewheel when I’m using IE6
  • favicons stop displaying fairly often
  • instead of properly displaying some web sites, I often see the broken QuickTime logo instead; I think this has something to do with the way some sites are built for IE viewing, but it may be a Firefox failure as well

Comments [3]

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Hypocrisy And Double Standards

9 August 2004

Why don’t left-liberals have epiphanies?
By Craig J. Cantoni
August 4, 2004

Many people are libertarians and classical liberals because they had an epiphany at some point in their lives about the danger of concentrated state power, central planning and socialism, often from reading such novels as Atlas Shrugged and such economic treatises as The Road to Serfdom.

My epiphany began as a kid from reading every history book I could find on the evils of the Third Reich, which, as I came to understand, was exactly like the Soviet Union in terms of putting the interests of the state before the rights of the individual. The totalitarianism of both the Third Reich and the Soviet Union sprang from poisonous cultures that had a long history of squelching individualism.for the ”greater good” of society.

Now, 40 years later…

...I’m wondering why left-liberals do not have similar epiphanies. Why do they and their allies in academia and Hollywood demonize Hitler and fascism so much more than Stalin and communism? And why are there so many more popular books and movies about the horrors of Hitler and fascism than about the horrors of Stalin and communism?

Whatever the reasons, the result is that left-liberals only get it partially right. To their credit, they respect civil liberties. To their discredit, they espouse group rights based on class and race, they enact speech codes and restrictions on political speech, they restrict the right of free association, they believe that an individual’s money belongs to the collective to be redistributed for the ”greater good” of society, they see nothing wrong with the government and unionized teachers having a monopoly on K-12 classroom thought, they have utopian notions about what people should drive and where they should live, and they disparage capitalism, which is nothing more than the manifestation of economic freedom.

In short, left-liberals believe that the individual is secondary to the state and society. They believe this because they have not had an epiphany about the nexus between socialism and fascism. And they have not had an epiphany, I believe, because Hollywood and academia have not demonized socialism to the same extent that fascism has been demonized.

Such thoughts are on my mind for two reasons. First, I am reading an excellent new book about Stalin and the Bolshevik Revolution: Stalin: The Court of the Red TSAR, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Second, for about the tenth time, I recently watched the classic movie Judgment at Nuremberg, starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Clift. Clift felt so strongly about the importance of the movie that he acted in it without recompense—and, in my opinion, gave one of the best performances in the history of cinema.

The movie is a fictional account of German judges being judged by an American tribunal for following Nazi law and holding sham trials. I know of no comparable film that dramatizes how Soviet judges followed the diktats of Stalin and held sham trials. Nor do I know of any left-liberal actor who has starred without recompense in a movie that shows the horrors of Bolshevism.

Of course, there were never Nuremberg-like trials of Stalin’s evil cabal after the Second World War. To the contrary, in an ugly display of hypocrisy and double-standards, Soviets were allowed by the United States and the other allies to join them in sitting in judgment of the Nazis for crimes against humanity that rivaled the crimes against humanity committed by the Soviets.

I understand the political reasons at the time for the hypocrisy and double standards, but I do not understand why the hypocrisy and double standards continue today in the unequal treatment by Hollywood, the publishing industry and academia of the two equally evil ideologies.

Yes, equally evil.

Stalin and his henchmen killed as many of their fellow citizens as Hitler and his henchmen. The difference was that Stalin’s genocide was based on class while Hitler’s was based on race. Ironically, many of the perpetrators in the Politburo and Congress of Soviets were Jews, while most of the victims in the Third Reich were Jews—a fact that some people stretch to explain why Hollywood has demonized fascism more than communism.

In any event, images are permanently etched in American minds of the unspeakable horrors of Nazi concentration camps. I still remember horrific documentaries that were shown in Catholic elementary school in the 1950s of the concentration camps being liberated and the piles of bodies, spectacles, gold fillings and hair. (No mention was made by the nuns of the Vatican’s Concordant with the Third Reich.) The images have been refreshed by such fairly recent documentaries as Shoa and by such powerful movies on the Holocaust as Schindler’s List, Sophie’s Choice and The Pianist.

Speaking of the The Pianist, it shows, through the masterful direction of Roman Polanski, the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto by Nazi troops. But to the best of my knowledge of movies, there is not a similar American movie that details the complicity of the Soviets in the quelling of the Warsaw Uprising. Soviet troops were close enough to Warsaw to come to the aid of the city, but Stalin chose to let the Nazis do the dirty work that he would have to do later to subjugate Warsaw and Poland.

Tellingly, there is a paucity of movies about Stalin and a plethora of movies about Hitler. For example, I recently went to Hollywood Video to rent the movie Stalin, one of the few movies about the Bolshevik dictator, starring Robert Duvall. The store did not carry the movie.

There were only two movies at Hollywood Video on the Bolshevik Revolution, Doctor Zchivago (1965) and Reds (1981), neither of which glorifies communism but both of which gloss over Bolshevik atrocities.

The same is true for the movie Stalin. Having seen it before, I know that it touches on Stalin’s genocide, but unlike movies about Hitler’s genocide, it does not show graphic reenactments or actual footage of the genocide. For example, it does not show millions of peasants being sent to Siberian concentration camps for the ”crime” of owning land and wanting to keep some of the fruits of their labor. Nor does it show women and children dying ghastly deaths from starvation, unlike movies on the Holocaust that show women and children being gassed in the ”showers.”

In a similar vein, there is a Holocaust museum and memorial on the Capitol Mall but not a museum and memorial dedicated to the hundred-million or so who have been slaughtered in the name of communism.

Even current political language and labels perpetuate the unbalanced view of the Left and Right. For example, the epithet ”right-wing extremist” is used far more in the mainstream media to describe conservatives than the epithet ”left-wing extremist” is used to describe liberals—as if left-wing extremism is somehow morally superior to right-wing extremism.

A similar phenomenon (propaganda?) has occurred with respect to the portrayal of Israel by Hollywood and academia. In such movies as A Woman Called Golda (1982), early Zionists, many of whom were Bolsheviks, were shown as beleaguered heroes standing for democracy against Arab barbarians. The portrayals conveniently overlooked the sordid history of the Balfour Declaration, the fact that Jews and Moslems were living in relative harmony in Palestine before Britain and France began carving up the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and how American Jews hypocritically went against their commendable belief in the separation of church and state by influencing American foreign policy to support the religious state of Israel.

The adjective ”left-wing” was not used by left-liberals to describe the early Zionists, even as they formed collective communes. Today, however, as left-liberals have come to see the Israeli government as increasingly capitalistic and militaristic, they use the adjective ”right-wing” with regularity to describe it.

In summary, left-liberals do not have epiphanies about the evils of leftism for one reason: They believe their own propaganda.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Downloads Of 100Mb Will Be Common

7 August 2004

Microsoft has released the Service Pack 2 for Windows XP to manufacturing. This article from Computerworld explains some of the particulars. I use a cable modem that reliably provides approximately 2.2Mbps of download speed. That’s the typical throughput on a line that is rated at a theoretical 3.0Mbps.

Assuming 8 bits to the Byte, and assuming the typical download from Microsoft will be 100MB, let’s look at some realistic download times. There’s always going to be a contradictory use of terminology between the computer folks and the telephone folks. But, assuming Microsoft is on the computer side of the house, they want to send 100MB or 100×1,048,576 bytes of information. At 8 bits to the byte, this works out to 100×1,048,576×8 = 838,860,800 bits.

Now, the telephone folks are going to allow me to download that at 2.2Mbps. What they mean is 2.2×1,000,000×8 = 17,600,000 bits per second.

So, my download is probably going to take 838,860,800 / 17,600,000 = 47.66 seconds. Slow that download speed to 500Kbps and it’s going to take about 3.5 minutes. That’s the download time. Installation and configuration and testing will take some more time.

Multiply any of these numbers by the number of users of Windows XP and you begin to see what’s going to happen to the Internet, bandwidth and computer users for a few days.

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Dolls And Swift Boats

6 August 2004

The news today noted that the men arrested at the Albany mosque were fingered by some documents found at Al-Ansar sites in Iraq, of all places. Iraq! Imagine that. I would sleep better if I could snort sure, its a plant and tell myself that its all made up, its all a joke, a phony show designed to make us look the other way while a cackling cabal of Masons and Zionists figure out how much arsenic they can put in the water next year. (Arsenic: the fluoride of the left.) But no. I am one of those sad little pinheads who think its really one war, one foe, with a thousand fronts. And I want us to win.

If you bridle at the terms us and win you really are reading the wrong website.

James Lileks
The Bleat
August 6, 2004

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Dividends And Losses

6 August 2004

MCI posted a loss for the quarter and announced a dividend. Apparently, while they were hiding from their creditors in the bankruptcy court, the coffers filled up.

This is the industry that gave you ”slamming.” That’s the practice – less prevalent now – of changing your long distance service without your knowledge. I’ve now dealt with three different telecommunications companies in various reseller roles. Not one of them has been able to honestly calculate and pay the referral fees they claimed they would pay. In two different companies, the commission rates they agreed to pay were altered because they changed the terms on the customers’ contracts. The appearance is that they simply did not want to pay what they agreed to pay.

We’ve got a long way to go before reliable, ethical and revolutionary IP communications technologies are available end-to-end from a top-performing company. The mystery in all of this is why some industries just seem to attract and retain the unethical types.

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Assessing Cellular Services

6 August 2004

David Pogue sends me an email every week. He writes for the New York Times, and one of his articles gets emailed to those who have chosen to subscribe to his (free) email.

The title of this week’s article is Judging a Phone by Its Carrier. Here’s what he had to say:

As I flew back from a trip to California last night, I tried to analyze why I felt so wiped out. Then it hit me: speaking engagements, trade shows, meetings and family vacations have taken me away from home 11 times since June. (Out of 22 flights, moreover, four of them turned into all-day stranded-at-airport nightmares. When one particular flight was canceled, in fact, the employees were so hostile and noncommunicative, I’ve sworn to change the airline’s name in my Rolodex program from Spirit to AvoidIt.)

But I digress.

Anyway, the bright side is that all of this traveling was a perfect opportunity to test the two cellphones I reviewed today and last week in the ”State of the Art” column. Each is a ”communicator”-a cellphone with built-in camera, thumb keyboards, Web browsing and so on. All those layovers, cab rides and airport shuttles were great opportunities to test these phones under a wide variety of conditions.

As it happens, both of these phones-the HP 6315 PocketPC and the Sidekick II-are offered exclusively by T-Mobile. As it also happens, both phones often said ”No Service,” or displayed very weak signal bars, in a few situations where my own Verizon Wireless phone was going strong. (For example, T-Mobile phones say ”No Service” in my home in the New York suburbs. Bummer-I really liked that Sidekick II.)

Now, T-Mobile, in my experience, isn’t noticeably worse than Cingular, AT&T or Sprint; the phenomenon I’m describing is a testimony to the superiority of Verizon’s national range. In four years of writing cellphone reviews for the Times, I’ve often found myself carrying phones from several different companies-and where there’s a difference in reception, Verizon nearly always wins. (Consumer Reports’s much more scientific testing arrived at the same results.) Which made me realize three things.

First, I can’t believe the gall of AT&T Wireless’s new newspaper ads. They show a full-strength, all-bars signal indicator along with claims that suggest that AT&T has the best cellular coverage in this country. In my experience, that’s pure wishful thinking.

Second, tech reviewers seem to ignore the fact that the carrier you choose may actually be more important to your happiness than the phone you choose. Coverage, pricing and customer service will probably mean a lot more than this bell or that whistle. Every phone review ought to include this warning in bold red type: ”NOTE: You’re not just buying a phone; you’re buying a carrier.”

Finally, it’s too bad you can’t get the best phones with the best coverage. I love the signal coverage of Verizon Wireless, but man, are its phones boring.

For example, my Toyota Prius has a microphone built into the rear-view mirror, a ”Make a call” button on the steering wheel, and Bluetooth circuitry that lets you make calls without even removing the cellphone from your pocket or purse. But you can use this feature only if your cellphone has Bluetooth-and at this moment, Verizon doesn’t offer a single Bluetooth model.

Verizon doesn’t offer any phones that capture video, either. And it took until last month for Verizon to offer the Treo 600 smartphone, only about a year after the other carriers.

Sprint offers at least two videophones, not to mention the only TV phone. T-Mobile offers the cool communicators I just reviewed. Cingular has a phone with built-in radio and MP3 player. AT&T offers five Bluetooth phones and four BlackBerry models.

So I asked a Verizon spokesperson: What does Verizon have against high tech?

She emphatically disagreed with my ”good coverage, boring phones” premise. She said that Verizon simply tests its phones much more thoroughly than the other carriers, who may actually be trying to compensate for their smaller networks by offering trendier phones. And she pointed out that Verizon will finally offer its first Bluetooth phone-with a 1.2-megapixel camera and video capture, no less-on August 11 (called the Motorola 710).

I may just have to upgrade.

But if I had to choose between a cool phone and a boring one that works almost anywhere, in the end, I’d pick the coverage. Verizon had me from ”Hello. Can you hear me now?”

Visit David Pogue on the Web at DavidPogue.com

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Next?

6 August 2004

Craig Cantoni’s regular opponent in point-counterpoint columns for the Arizona Republic is quitting the column. Craig’s last faceoff with him ran on August 4th.

John is the winner
By Craig J. Cantoni

As my worthy opponent leaves the space next door, I want to wish John well in his new assignment of public school principal. I also want to concede that he and his fellow liberals have won the political debate in America.

Congratulations, John.

Much of the world has come to understand that central control and collectivism hurts people, especially the poor. Yet the United States continues on a path of centralization and collectivism, thanks to liberals like John and their big-government allies in the Republican Party.

Take ”transfer payments,” which is a euphemism for ”theft.”

In 1900, almost all government expenditures were for the common good—for government services like national defense that benefit all citizens. Back then, transfer payments, which benefit some citizens at the expense of others, were only two percent of government spending. Today, they are over 40 percent and growing.

In 1900, total government expenditures were 8.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Today, they are about four times higher. A century ago, 60 percent of government spending was at the local and state levels. Now, federal spending is twice as much as local and state spending combined, costing each household a whopping $23,000 per year.

In 1914, the year after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, the income tax per capita was $69 in today’s dollars, versus $2,500 today. Less than one percent of the population had to file a tax return in 1914, versus 45 percent today. There were 4,000 IRS employees and four pages of IRS forms in 1914, versus 100,000 employees and over 4,000 pages today.

Politicians bray about the small percentage of jobs outsourced to other countries but are silent about the millions of jobs ”outsourced” to the government. There are now almost twice as many wealth-consuming public-sector employees as wealth-producing manufacturing employees.

Health care is increasingly unaffordable, due to the government destroying a consumer market in health care 60 years ago. Now, economic illiterates want to make health care ”free” and thus more expensive.

As a result of our spending binge, the U.S. is a debtor nation, capital is fleeing to other countries, and we are sticking future generations with a $40 trillion entitlement bill.

Big-government Republicans and liberals like John have won, but the nation has lost. At the risk of sounding like a sore loser, I take back my congratulations.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, public speaker and consultant. He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Microsoft's Breaking News

6 August 2004

CRN is reporting that Microsoft’s upcoming Service Pack 2 for Windows XP may break the company’s own CRM solution. Rest assured there will be procedures, processes and workarounds you can do to get things back in order. As always, running a secure Microsoft computer only requires a little more time and money.

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Another Question Asked And Answered

5 August 2004

Andy Budd wants to know which of these should be used:

  • Web Site or Website?
  • Site Map or Sitemap?
  • Log-in or Login?
He gets plenty of answers.

Here, we’ll be doing it this way:

  • web site
  • site map
  • login
  • and, just so you’ll know, email

I’m not guaranteeing I’ve stuck to that until now, but henceforth, let it be writ.[Confirm this at dictionary.com]

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Even (Great) Designers Debate Markup

5 August 2004

Dan Cederholm produces entries at SimpleBits every so often called SimpleQuizzes. The latest one, Part XVII: Addresses, is produced by Dave Shea and asks how a multi-line address should be marked up. As of this writing, I see 122 comments/responses.

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Shelves Stocked With Designs

5 August 2004

Picking from a stylesheet provider’s list of options yields a design that looks fine. The only problem is that you are likely to encounter that design at another site.

Alex King has led the way in producing templates/designs for WordPress users. At this site you can preview the designs much as you would at the CSS Zen Garden. Simply scroll down the sidebar until you see the list of styles. Pick one and the style switcher will render the site accordingly.

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Admiring

5 August 2004

I can admire these, but I certainly can’t produce one!

Francey Designs has produced a new design for a site called Second Symphony. All the right pieces are in place: XHTML, CSS, PHP, Movable Type, etc. It’s great looking, too!

Comments [1]

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Knowledge Builds Slowly

5 August 2004

Cameron Moll has written Eight things I wish Id known when I started. They are great design tips. Here they are in a pdf file.

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A New Version Of Mt-Blacklist

4 August 2004

There’s a new version (1.6.5) of MT-Blacklist. It’s a one-line bug fix, but with comment spam being what it is today, Jay Allen is strongly encouraging everyone to upgrade. MT Blacklist 2.0 for the MT 3.0D users is slated for August 11th.

Spread the word.

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A Week Or Less

4 August 2004

This set of support forum entries contains a hint that we might see Textpattern 1.0 sometime before next week. From the current gamma 1.19 to a version 1.0, we might see some truly sensational features. Stay tuned. It’s probably going to give us a lot more to learn.

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Falling Behind

3 August 2004

In the two and a half years that I’ve been writing a weblog, I have never set one up from scratch by myself. I’ve always had help. Tonight, I faced the fact that in that same period of time there are quite a number of people who have had three or four (or more) weblogs and weblog designs running on different weblog tools.

I’m still trying to figure out what to put on a Notepad page to make a vertical line appear on a web page. I’m still not sure how the width of a weblog’s text is established. I couldn’t move a sidebar from the right side of a weblog to the left side if my life depended upon it.

It’s been terribly frustrating. I want to comply with standards, but I can’t figure out my RSS/Atom/RDF files. I want to use CSS, but I can’t determine how to right or left justify information. I’ve never edited a digital photograph. I’ve never used Photoshop to accomplish anything.

In spite of all the reading, all the books bought and all the sites visited, I’m no closer to figuring out why my comments show one domain while my weblog shows another. I’m no closer to understanding why a link inside a comment opens in a window that cannot be resized or navigated.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if I’ve learned anything at all. How is it that other people have mastered four or five weblog tools, developed complete designs and made all of it validate? My approach must be wrong, because I’m not getting anywhere.

Comments [1]

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A Restart

3 August 2004

Dan Rubin is planning a redesign of SuperfluousBanter and a new set of contributions to the web design community. Dan’s one of the people in my top 10 designers list (which has 30 names in it).

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Indecision

3 August 2004

There is a wealth of information and instruction in Mike Davidson’s latest entry and the comments that follow.

I’m still arguing with myself about the notion of trying to modify my site design myself vs. sticking by a tried-and-true designer. If I don’t do it myself, I fear I’ll never learn this stuff. If I do try to do the work myself, I expect there to be long outages and flaws as I go through the trial-and-error of figuring things out.

If I didn’t have such an interest in standards-based design, the choice would be clear. I do and it isn’t.

Comments [1]

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Come On...Think A Little Bit

3 August 2004

Winer continues to distort and listen to distortions. He continues to cite big-media companies, apparently assuming they report accurately. Just because the information on a computer was three years old, that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t ”new” information in our search for terrorists, their planning methods and their targets. As he would say in his most condescending tone, ”Dave, you’re better than this.”

It would be no different from discovering offensive information on one of Winer’s old computers. It might be old information on the computer, but it would be new information to those who have just learned of it. It would shed (new) light on what kind of threat was posed. That’s an example of how we are piecing together the way terrorists work. The information Dave and others are calling ”old” was discovered last week!

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Liberals Looking Through Lenses That Distort Truth

2 August 2004

I’ve wrestled with what to say about this. While completely counter-productive to try and reason with people like Mr. Winer, I have concluded that offering no response would be unpatriotic. The cynicism (at best) and hatefulness (at worst) which motivates such comments by Howard Dean and Dave Winer should not go unchallenged. Yes, I know there’s a first amendment.

It’s that first amendment that allows me the freedom to say that their comments are moronic, motivated solely by a desire to ”win” and the frustration of not getting the recognition they whine for. To the question of how effective the efforts since 9/11/01 have been, I offer the fact that there has not been a single follow-up attack on our homeland. Agencies which previously would seal information behind layers of legal protection now share it with other agencies on a daily basis.

To the statement by Winer that ”The President lied about the connection between al Qaeda and Iraq,” I say, ”horse manure.” Winer does not know what he’s talking about, and he doesn’t know what to read, whom to listen to or how to learn the truth – on any subject. His motives are impure, his words are hateful and his thoughts are illogical.

He wants proof (and attention). The proof rests in the fact that he/we can continue to live, work, travel and prosper from coast to coast in the USA without the degrees of fear found in Baghdad, Jakarta, Jerusalem, Darfur, Kabul and countless other places around the globe. This is true in spite of the fact that the world is more dangerous today than it was just ten years ago. Yet, as Americans, our freedoms remain.

If Winer wants to be constructive, and I believe he does not, he will use his influence and his training to get his candidate (formerly Dean, now Kerry) to provide specific details of what will be done in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the USA and anywhere else where we know that terrorists operate or find safe harbor. Some reminders are in order:

Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat. Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.

Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

President George W. Bush
Address to a Joint Session of Congress
and
the American People
September 20, 2001

Our President told us what he was going to do and he’s doing it. If members of Al Qaeda are shooting videos as they cut the heads off of Americans in Iraq, how is Winer able to conclude that there is no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq? There is but one obvious answer to this question.

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I Just Heard Part Of The Problem

2 August 2004

Keeping this nation safe has become more difficult than it was twenty years ago. I just heard that Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has testified more than 140 times before committees in Congress. This is a man who was appointed shortly after Septempber of 2001, and these 140 appearances occurred in the 34 months since then.

It’s pretty difficult to build a new approach to anything when you are so continuously diverted and second-guessed by bureaucracy. This is true regardless of political party.

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An Important Announcement

1 August 2004

Steve Jobs had cancer surgery over the weekend. Few companies of Apple’s stature are as dependent upon their CEO as Apple is. With no chemo or radiation therapy required, we’ll continue to hope and pray that Jobs really can use August to recuperate.

Comments [1]

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I Don't Understand This, Either

1 August 2004

Later tuned in to some highlights from the Kerry speech. He said he would respond if America was attacked. Well, duh. I take something else from this distinction: he will not attack if America is provoked.

”I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as President.”

This really intrigues me. I agree that Vietnam was a defense of the United States, inasmuch as we were trying to blunt the advance of Communism. So: only Nixon can go to China. (Only Kirk can go to Chronos, for you Star Trek geeks.) Only Kerry can confirm that Vietnam was a just war. This completely upends conventional wisdom about the Vietnamese war, and requires a certain amount of historical amnesia. Why does this get glossed over? The illegitimacy of the Vietnam war (non-UN approved, after all) is a key doctrine of the Church of the Boomers; to say that service in Vietnam was done in defense of the United States is like announcing that Judas Ischariot was the most faithful of the disciples. Imagine if you were a preacher who attempted such a revision. Imagine your private thrill when everyone in the congregation nodded assent. The past was more malleable than you had ever expected.

James Lileks
The Bleat
July 30, 2004

This is an important point. If you want to now use your military service as a badge of honor, how do you reconcile your anti-war language and your ribbon-tossing antics as patriotic? I know, I know – your opponent in this election never served in Vietnam. That’s not at issue here. What’s at issue is whether you’ll respond when we are attacked and/or provoked.

Be assured of this. During the next five to ten years, we’re going to see threats and actions against what this country stands for on a level that we’ve never known. If you are a Christian, know that your worldview will encounter some truly horrible attacks from those who don’t understand, who hate or who equate your Christianity with your American heritage. It’s illogical. It’s inevitable. It’s foretold. Get ready.

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When Blogging Went Dark

1 August 2004

A year ago today, Memphis was still trying to recover from a serious straight-line wind that tore through the city. At approximately 7:30a.m. on the 22nd, power was cut to over 300,000 customers of the city’s public utility. My power was restored at about 5:20p.m. on August 4, 2003. July and August heat in Memphis with no power is no fun. Living without lights in the middle of the night is no fun, either.

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Are You At Risk Of Being Blacklisted?

1 August 2004

If you’ve given up the fight against comment spam, please reconsider. Adam Kalsey talks about the problem and Jay Allen amplifies the issue.

If you own technology (or an automobile), maintenance and upkeep are inevitable.

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A More Reasoned Approach

30 July 2004

The burgers and fries I’ve been getting from the White House lunch room have not been as bad as the ones that Keith has been getting. I’ve also been fortunate in that my treatment as a customer hasn’t declined in the last few years. I’ve been able to understand the people and I never realized a fryer blew up.

I like the way he’s expressed his thoughts, and he’s been on my high-priority reading list for quite some time![Note the comments he’s getting.] I’m very interested in the quality of the debate in this country. Anger at one person may not be the right or a sufficient basis for replacing them with another. Keith makes it clear that there are multiple areas in which he feels John Kerry can do a better job than George Bush. Those thoughts were expressed without venom and emotion. Keith does a good job of characterizing the nature of far too many of the so-called peaceful protests.

In my daily work, I work with people who need help getting to the heart of their business processes, their metrics and the facts about their work. I like facts. I like things that we agree on. What to do about those facts can be debated, but I like the point at which there is agreement on what the real facts are.

That’s what’s frustrating about politics. Instead of dealing with the facts associated with an issue, the public debates often begin without defining the problem, how it is measured and discussion of possible ways to solve it. Career politicians (on both sides of the aisle) foster this by becoming part of the media machine that spins their takes on the matter. From there the public is faced with listening to the spin to make choices. It’s a broken system!

As for labels, I agree with Keith. However, I’m guilty of participating in the labeling process, even though it is largely destructive to meaningful processes for finding solutions. I’ve even used a label to try and provide a ”snapshot” of my political leanings. Issue by issue, I use a framework of mental models assessment and study of any topic. It’s basically a cognitive technique that can be applied to anything. Yet, when a debate becomes emotional, the cognitive approach can get abandoned as quickly as any other reasoned method.

One of the most important questions facing us as a nation is whether or not we can return to statemanship and civil debate as a means for finding solutions to our problems.

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Hey, Clueless, It Ain't An Elected Position

30 July 2004

A woman interviewed on Linda Vester’s show today believes that Teresa Heinz Kerry is running for first lady.

We’re in deeper trouble than I thought.

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Days Of Loss

29 July 2004

This is a link to the news release (pdf file) from Berkshire Hathaway concerning the death of Susan T. Buffett. As a long-time holder of shares in Berkshire Hathaway, I offer condolences to the Buffett family.

This day also marked the loss of a neighbor to my mom. They had been friends for forty-six years. To that family, we also extend our sympathies and prayers.

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How Many H1's Can There Be?

28 July 2004

I realized again tonight that I don’t really understand the use of header tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.). I use a fair number of blockquotes. Within a blockquote, I may have a style or two that should be marked up using header tags. The discussion I’ve linked to at Jon Hicks’s site simply confirms how little I understand.

I’m told you need to use header tags in order on a page; you shouldn’t have an h3 if there’s not an h2 somewhere on the page before it. It seems like a really complex matter to decide (and be limited to) the use of only six header tags. If you’ve got a header on the home page, it might be the h1 tag. Each title might be tagged with h2. The sidebar might use h3 and h4. Can you complete the stylesheet for blockquotes (and all other needs) with only the h5 and h6 tags remaining.

I’m really confused about this stuff. I need to go back to the books. Which one?

Comments [1]

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Tools Again

28 July 2004

Keith Robinson is thinking (aloud) about some possible ideas for refreshing his site. He’s even open to a change from Movable Type to a different weblog tool/CMS. The features he wants and the discussion in the comments is an enormous help to anyone contemplating design changes or tool changes or both.

What did I learn from a cursory glance? Apparently, Movable Type 3.1 will have functionality that eliminates the rebuild time when posting. WordPress and TextPattern already post instantly. It’s an important feature.

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A Sampling Of Ten

28 July 2004

Eric Meyer refers us to a table where 10 web sites (mostly designers) are compared in a table of twenty-five characteristics. It’s useful, interesting and furthers the cause of web standards.

It seems to me that designers are nearing the point where a set of rules for ”proper” design will be accepted. These won’t be rules about colors or fonts, but rules about such things as links, character encoding, printing stylesheets, etc.

Things like ”clean URLs” or titles as URLs need to be nailed down. Basic navigation techniques need to be nailed down. These statements of preferred techniques don’t have to limit the artistic freedom designers have. Rather, it focuses more time on the graphic design, because the basics will be understood.

  • * * UPDATE * * * Note the discussion by Dave Shea and Jon Hicks in response to their inclusion in the survey.

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Contemplating Site Redesign

28 July 2004

Web Standards SolutionsI’ve been listing site designs and specific features I like. I’m in the early stages of planning a site redesign. Pondering the obvious disruptions, inconveniences and ugliness that will happen if I undertake the changes myself, I’m also considering how I can learn design, if I continue to use professional design services. I’ve even put the sites I want to emulate at the top of my news reader. There are thirty great designs/designers on my ”top ten list.” I know.

In the last couple of days, I’ve been rereading Dan Cederholm’s sensational book. Then, just as I’m putting some more thoughts on paper, I run across Shirley Kaiser’s latest entry. She links to some very recent essays, articles and entries on web standards.

It’s great, and it will whet your appetite for what she’s planning to say on the subject in the coming days.

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Uh, Oh...The Batteries Have Recharged

28 July 2004

It’s been a long hot summer in Arizona. My friend, Craig Cantoni, has taken some time off, traveled a bit and refueled for the fall foolishness. His latest attempt to escape the heat in Phoenix just made things hotter. Get ready. This one pulls no punches.

Public ed plunderers at 7,000 ft.
By Craig J. Cantoni
July 28, 2004

Last week, my wife and I drove 110 miles to Flagstaff, Arizona to escape the summertime furnace of Phoenix and to take our minds off of political issues, especially the meeting of plunderers and economic illiterates known as the Democratic National Convention, which will be followed by a meeting of plunderers and economic illiterates known as the Republican National Convention.

Pulling into the hotel in the pines at 7,000 ft. elevation, our soaring spirits took a nosedive when we saw the marquis, where, emblazoned in large letters, was a welcome to plunderers and economic illiterates.

As luck would have it, the Arizona School Boards Association was holding a conference at the hotel. The parking lot was full of cars from school districts across the state, and the lobby was full of people who looked, spoke and dressed like Soviet apparatchiks on a weekend retreat to a dacha.

There, in all of their bureaucratic glory, were members of the public education establishment. There, in all of their political power, were the people who have a stranglehold on the Democratic and Republican parties, who are responsible for the economic illiteracy of the American public, who have a dangerous monopoly on K-12 classroom thought, and who, when they retire to their bedrooms at night, get in bed with their masters, the teacher unions, and engage in disgusting sadomasochistic rituals with public money.

After adopting a bureaucratic persona and attire, I spied on the meeting and schmoozed with some of the attendees.

Tellingly, the meeting agenda had nothing about academics, cost reduction or school choice. The three main agenda items were: 1) what to do if you are threatened with another district wanting to take over your district; 2) a presentation by Jamie Vollmer; and 3) a luau in the evening.

Who is Jamie Vollmer? He is a retired businessman, a popular speaker at education conferences and a fool.

To his credit, Vollmer admits his past foolishness. He says that he once believed that public education could be run like a business. Apparently not knowing anything about public choice economics, he did not realize that government schools are going to behave like the government and thus be held hostage by politicians, bureaucrats, rent-seeking unions and other special interests.

To his discredit, Vollmer continues to be a fool. After having an epiphany about the true nature of government schools, he has become a big fan of government schools. He is like a smoker dying of lung cancer who, after learning the true nature of smoking, becomes a cheerleader for the tobacco industry, earning a good income by speaking at industry conferences about the glories of tobacco.

Vollmer’s new shtick is to change America in order to improve public education. To quote from an article of his in the March 6, 2002, issue of Education Week: ”For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.”

Well, it certainly doesn’t mean learning proper grammar, as the above sentence shows.

Borrowing a page from the Bolsheviks, Vollmer arrogantly believes that America should be changed to meet the needs of the government, not vice versa. And how does he propose to do this? Through propaganda, of course.

But Vollmer doesn’t call it propaganda. He calls it ”marketing” and ”getting good information to the community.”

Education associations and teacher unions love his message. For example, The Washington Education Association had this to say about Vollmer’s ideas in a recent newsletter:

”The solution requires getting good information to the community. That doesn’t mean holding a meeting at school, a setting where many may already feel alienated. It doesn’t mean sending home a letter to the small portion of families who have children. It does mean teachers and concerned parents (not administrators) taking their message on the road, to the community’s turf—the Rotary Club, the senior center, the church socials—and on the community’s time.”

The above paragraph is astonishing. The WEA says that meetings should not be held at schools, where ”many may already feel alienated.” So instead of addressing the alienation and giving alienated parents the freedom to escape the government school monopoly, the WEA agrees with Vollmer that ”You must talk to the community about your successes.”

The WEA then lists people who have ”their own narrow agendas.” According to the WEA, they include ”talk show hosts, school board wannabes, disaffected parents, tax fanatics.”

The list does not include the WEA, because it does not have its own narrow agenda. Guffaw, guffaw! But it does include a tax fanatic like me who has the temerity in a free society to question why my wife and I are coerced to pay $190,000 in public education taxes over our adult lives, although we exercise our constitutional right of religious freedom and send our son to parochial school. To the WEA or a Bolshevik, only a ”tax fanatic” would dare to ask such questions about the redistribution of his money.

The WEA also agrees with Vollmer that the ”three Rs” are outdated and should be replaced by the ”three Ts” of ”Thinking, Technology and Teamwork skills.” What the WEA and Vollmer really mean by ”Thinking” and ”Teamwork skills” are ”group-think” and ”conformity,” which are the ”skills” needed to be cogs in the bureaucratic wheels of big government and big business.

I left Flagstaff sick to my stomach—not from altitude sickness but from a sickening realization that bureaucrats, Bolsheviks, propagandists and buffoons have a monopoly on K-12 classroom thought and a stranglehold on American politics.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Minimizing Manipulation

27 July 2004

Sales manipulation is notoriously bad in the automobile business. There are ways to minimize it and win in the end. Shirley Kaiser uses her own experience to help others.

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Anybody Got A Feeddemon Tip?

27 July 2004

I’ve subscribed to lots of RSS feeds. They’re arranged in channel groups in my news reader, which is FeedDemon. Now I want to put them into a reading order inside each channel group.

I’d like to have a ”Top Ten” inside each channel group. Is there a way to do that? [I don’t spend much time in support forums. They seem inconvenient to me. So, I’ve not done the requisite searching in the FeedDemon support forums!]

Comments [1]

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An Agreement Between Professors And Students

27 July 2004

Here’s the letter I wish I had received on the first day of every college class. No…this should have come to me as a condition of acceptance into college. It should have been clear that this was going to be the stated agreement between me and every professor I had. Professors and students would understand it was the way things would be.

Susanna is to be commended for writing it. One of the key points:

But it’s important that you realize what my job is. This is not kindergarten. This is not elementary school. This is not even high school. This is college. My primary job is to make you think critically.

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Bowman Rebuilds Microsoft

27 July 2004

Doug Bowman of StopDesign uses the Microsoft site to explain why a standards-based, tableless design would be so much better than the current ”many-table” design.

In Throwing Tables Out the Window here’s an example of what he has to say:

The shame is that Microsofts site isnt as optimized as it could be. They havent taken the plunge yet. Users download unnecessarily larger pages, and servers waste extra bandwidth to keep up. At 40 KB, the HTML for Microsofts home page is not exactly a bloated beast. But it is burdened with inaccessible, kludgy, table-based markup filled with proprietary attributes and some awkward JavaScript. Notice I didnt mention whether it was valid markup or not. Despite using the flavor of XHTML, Microsoft omits the doctype on their home page.

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Six Apart Announces Again

27 July 2004

Movable Type 3.1 is on the way and some details about it have now been posted.

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Need A Motivational Uplift?

27 July 2004

If you want to read something that will lift your spirits, take a look at Jay Allen’s story of how he came worked to win the Movable Type Developer’s Contest.

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Another Sensational Design

27 July 2004

A couple of days ago I mentioned how much I liked the design at Sonnenvogel.com.

I’ve just found another site that I’m crazy about. Mike Davidson has all the elements I want to bring into this weblog. Here’s how I see it:

  • colors are more muted
  • lines are not nearly as heavy as here
  • comments are styled well
  • there are four styles that you can switch between
  • there’s a user-selectable font size
  • I like the way the text area sits with drop shadow on the background
  • the width of the home page and text area is great
  • navigation at the top of each page is well done and simple
  • the sidebar is simple, but useful
  • the color schemes for links really work
  • essays are moved to a link within the navigation bar
  • the separation of entries and the timestamp lines are light, but useful

Tonight he’s posted an entry about clean URL’s. It’s been a hot topic and one I want to pursue in the refresh of this site.

How can I get those things done to this site? I know it when I see it, but I don’t have the CSS and XHTML and Movable Type skills to make it happen.

* * * UPDATE * * * Two other things I want to include are determining what it takes to write and entry and post it without causing my site to stop validating. Is this something that MT 3.0 or 3.1 solves? Is it something that a plugin will solve? Is it only solved by composing entries external to MT and then posting them?

Also, I want to resolve the domain issues. Sometimes you are rodentregatta.com, but if you leave a comment, you see stevepilgrim.com. I want to fix that once and for all, but without disrupting past comments. It will take some digging, but I’ve got to believe it can be done.

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Topstyle Pro Is Getting Attention

27 July 2004

There’s a beta of TopStyle Pro 3.11.

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Cspan, Networks And Bloggers

26 July 2004

Here’s a good tip – compliments of Marie Carnes. Go to the Convention Bloggers web site. Near the end of the left sidebar is a link to the *.opml file for all of the RSS feeds from the bloggers who were invited to the Democrats’ convention.

In whatever news reader you have, simply set up a group specifically for the convention. Import the opml file. When you’re tired of it or the convention ends, delete the feeds you no longer want, move some feeds into your other groups or delete the whole group.

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What Are You Waiting For?

26 July 2004

In addition to good advice about how to handle the upcoming Service Pack #2 for Windows XP, this article serves as a real incentive to buy the Macintosh.

If Apple were on top of its game, it would be launching another ”Switch campaign,” complete with hardware incentives, how-to guides and software promotions. The aim would be to get Windows XP users to use the time required for SP2 on their Mac conversions instead!

I’d sign up for that idea immediately!

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Reaching The Ten Percent

26 July 2004

As things stand right now, the race to elect a President in 2004 is (approximately) tied at 45% of the votes for each candidate. The two candidates are actually competing for the 10% of voters considered ”undecided.”

What message does each candidate have for someone who is undecided? President Bush has a fairly specific agenda. John Kerry has a series of plans.

Can an undecided voter read these documents and decide? If you see things in the USA as rather gloomy, which candidate’s documents appeal to you? If you see things in the USA as rather upbeat, which holds the most appeal?

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An Idea I'd Embrace

25 July 2004

Here’s the premise: The best native format for a word processor is XHTML plus CSS.

A wiki has been established to debate this notion. All I can add to the concept is the notion of a layout and color guide that allows for proper positioning of the sections of this home page. Let me see what it’s going to look like while insuring that it is valid XHTML, valid CSS and all links are operable.

[Thanks to Marc Pasc for the link.]

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Requested And Done

25 July 2004

CNN and Al-Jazeera are doing a bad job. Consider it said. From there you can substitute the names of fifty or one hundred other major media companies in place of those two.

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What A Nice Site Design!

25 July 2004

It validates as XHTML Strict. The CSS validates. The navigation scheme is great. The background images look very nice. It’s done in Textpattern. Visit Sonnenvogel.com.

Congratulations, Horus!

Comments [1]

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Your Biggest Supplier, Your Biggest Competitor

25 July 2004

There continues to be a lot of nonsense flying around about ”outsourcing” and ”offshoring.” We defined these terms once before.

Focusing on the offshoring trend, it’s obvious that there’s more to the issue than just ”cheap labor.” John Dvorak gives you a taste of what’s going on. Deming spoke of a system of profound knowledge. Until we view this problem as a complete system and from all the angles, we’ll continue to arrive at wrong conclusions. There are economic, political, business, customer, employee, supplier, transportation, insurance, warehousing, social, security, regulatory and a host of other dimensions to this problem.

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Former Reporter Documents Movable Type

24 July 2004

Movable Type Bible Desktop EditionA new book called Movable Type Bible Desktop Edition by Rogers Cadenhead is on the way.

This should be really, really good.

Some of the best advice I received during my trial-and-error efforts with Radio Userland came from Rogers. He understands the ”gap” in knowledge that exists between those who write software, those who document software and those who ”merely” use software.

He’ll do this right. It’s already available at Amazon for pre-orders!

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Free Makeovers

24 July 2004

Where do I sign up for one of these?

Comments [1]

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Autographs Anyone?

23 July 2004

It’s probably too late to get a bargain on Jay Allen’s rookie card. He’s already in the big leagues and his star is rising fast.

Late today Six Apart announced that Jay’s the Grand Prize winner of the Plug In To Movable Type 3.0 Developer’s contest with his MT-Blacklist 2.0. I’ve been using MT-Blacklist on this MT 2.661 weblog and love it. Were Jay (somehow) getting paid for every spam comment he’s blocked here, he’d be getting wealthy by the second.

Congratulations, Jay! When I learn how to upgrade to MT3.0, MT-Blacklist 2.0 will be right there.

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Some Annoyances

23 July 2004

Yesterday, during the marathon effort to correct some deficiencies with the syndication features of this web site, I discovered some other things that need attention.

Firefox – While I think I’m avoiding some security risks by using Firefox, the list of frustrations continues to grow. If I get an email in Outlook with a link in it and I click on that link, Firefox launches again and a dialog box opens asking me where I want to save a file. The links are not files I want to save at all, but Firefox doesn’t get that. The almighty ”tabbed browsing” doesn’t open the link in a new Firefox tab, either.

Couple this with the growing number of times that I’m seeing Firefox completely stop responding, and I begin questioning the wisdom of being on pre-release software. The other big nuisance I’ve found is the loss of the functionality of the editing icons in the extended entry field of Movable Type. Meryl had provided some tips on making them work in the ”entry body” text box. If you try to bold, italicize or insert a link in the extended entry field, Firefox puts it in the entry body. Here they are in list form:

  • pdf files lock up Firefox
  • Firefox stops responding fairly often
  • Movable Type’s text entry icons don’t work in the extended entry field
  • email links open a new copy of Firefox and a dialog box to save a file
  • favicons frequently stop displaying

Syndication – The problems are well-documented. Three different feeds. One is completely hosed. One of these days, I’m going to put a link in the sidebar that says, ”Syndicate This Site.” That link will take you to a separate page of syndication possibilities like Shirley has created. On that page will be an Atom feed, an RSS 2.0 feed and an RSS 1.0/RDF feed. From there, you’ll (one day) be able to get to RSS feeds for each category. You’ll be able to get to feeds that include comments and some that don’t. This seems like a reader-oriented way to design things. People can see what they want to see.

Comments – I need to rethink how my comments work. If there’s a link inside a comment right now, it opens in the same pop-up window as the comment. That window cannot be resized or scrolled. That’s just wrong. Also, the XHTML allowed for entering and editing a comment needs to be changed. Examples of comments (numbered sequentially) and styled well can be seen at Matt’s and Keith’s and Paul’s sites among many others.

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Apple Looks Better And Better

23 July 2004

Apple’s AirPort Express caught Walter Mossberg’s attention yesterday. Today, David Pogue [free subscription may be required] weighs in with his own analysis. While not the end-all-be-all solution, this seems like one more favorable entry on the side of the ledger that says, ”Apple is the right alternative to Microsoft’s security mess.”

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Not Enough Iq

22 July 2004

After nearly a full day of trying to figure out how to edit my three syndication feeds so that full entries are shown in FeedDemon, I can tell you that I simply do not possess enough IQ to make it happen. My experience and background simply doesn’t involve day-to-day programming.

For those readers who would like to read full entries in your news readers, I apologize. I simply cannot figure out how to provide that to you. Something between Movable Type, the three feed templates, FeedDemon and the way I use scripts and other features on my weblog is in conflict.

To those who have offered suggestions and advice, I appreciate the help. I wish I were smart enough to take advantage of it, but…

...that is not to be!

This marks my fifth entry about all this. Here are the previous four: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

I’m simply documenting my efforts so when this rolls around next year, I’ll have some backdrop for all that I’ve tried to do. Never mind RSS feeds for categories, with and without comments or feeds with the author’s name identified. I can’t make the most basic of changes to this stuff. Currently, the index.rdf file isn’t even viewable. Having begun my day at 2:45 a.m. this morning, this has felt like a total waste. It’s now 8:30 p.m.[NOTE: There really should be some documentation for this mess!]

The other joy I’ve discovered is the the editing icons do not work in the Movable Type Extended Entry text box when Movable Type is running in Firefox. They work fine in the primary text entry box, but not in the extended entry.

How fast can I buy and get transferred to a Macintosh? I want to use a computer – not spend all my time troubleshooting it.

Comments [1]

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A (Frustrating) Second Test

22 July 2004

I hate testing a live weblog for all the world to see. If I understood more about how all this junk works, I might be able to somehow test offline so that the weblog isn’t cluttered with RSS and Atom and RDF testing.

All I’m trying to do is get an extended entry to show up in one or more of the three feeds. I’ve given up on figuring out how to make ”author name” appear in a news reader.

Whatever. This is a second test for the morning. Can you see the extended portion of the entry. It follows…

Here’s the extended portion of the entry. I doubt very seriously that it will be visible in your news reader.

  • ** UPDATE * * * Just as I expected, it doesn’t work. I can’t tell whether or not this is a result of running the script for ”read more/hide more” when there is an extended entry. Maybe it is some missing element/tag/variable/container/syntax/XHTML/CSS/add your acronym here/add your term here/dollar sign/frustration sign/why isn’t this explained somewhere/.

This will probably wait another year.

Comments [2]

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Testing Rss For Extended Entries

22 July 2004

MT Entry Body

MT Entry More

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Passengers Are Customers, Too

22 July 2004

Delta Airlines announced this week that they had lost $1.96 billion during the quarter ended June 30, 2004. After 75 years in business, this is a company that is in dire straits.

About 4:00a.m. this morning, I saw one of the reasons why. Just because you call them students, passengers or patients, it doesn’t mean they are not customers!

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Rss, Rdf And Atom

21 July 2004

I have all three types of feeds. None of them will provide you with a complete entry, if I use Movable Type’s extended entry feature. I cannot figure out why.

A hearty thank you goes to Marie Carnes for her help. The fact is the feature/script on my weblog that allows anyone to see entries from the same day last year and in prior years pointed me to Marie. When I wrote about my RSS travails this morning, she commented again.

This time, I’m not going to let a year go by without solving this problem. When I figure it out, I’ll solve it for all three syndication feeds. While I’m at it, I hope to be able to add the ”author field” to the feeds.

It’s a nuisance to maintain three different news feeds!

Comments [2]

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Morning Test

21 July 2004

This entry is nothing more than a test of my RSS 2.0 feed. What I’m attempting to do is modify the feed to make certain that full entries are passed to your news reader.

I use a script that allows me to display a portion of an entry on my home page. At the end of a long entry is a link that says, ”read more.” If I put text into the Extended Entry field of Movable Type’s text entry boxes, the script kicks in. You’ll see it next:

This is now the extended part of the entry. Up until this test, the RSS feed did not show this portion of an entry. I’ve made a change and I hope it will now provide the complete entry.

Once I’ve tested this, I’m going to move to the Atom feed and make certain it is providing full entries. Be patient. Once this is resolved, I’ll get back to other topics.

  • * * UPDATE * * * It did NOT work. It will take more time to figure out why or what to do to make it work. In the meantime if you get flakey results from my feed, please let me know.
  • * * UPDATE 2 * * * The Atom feed does not pick up the full entry either. Anything I put in the ”extended entry” field of Movable Type is not passed with my RSS or my Atom feed. Some savvy user may be able to point me in the right direction.
  • * * UPDATE 3 * * * Scriptygodddess is the author of the script I use. She also uses the same script. I’ve just checked the RSS feed I get from her. It shows the extended or complete entry. That tells me that what I want to do can be done. I’ve simply got to find which line(s) in the RSS feed and the Atom feed need to be changed. Then, there’s always the index.rdf file which may need to be changed as well. Why am I having to modify three files to allow people to read my site in a news reader?

Comments [1]

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What's On Your Mac?

20 July 2004

Good information for anyone contemplating or running a Macintosh is continuing to build up in the comments at Photo Matt.

Comments [1]

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People Adrift

20 July 2004

Inquiries for help come in waves. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of counseling with people who find themselves adrift. Men have lost jobs. Women want to go back to work. Homes are broken. Recent graduates are uncertain.

In so many cases, the people we talk to have become obsessed with themselves and their circumstances. They’ve lost the ability to see service to others as the path out of the dilemma. Some are worried about how they are seen by others. Some are worried about keeping up a charade.

Some bury themselves in their appearance. Obsessions with makeup, appearance, exercise and diet block all other thoughts. Some are merely muddling through, focusing on nothing. They are ”hoping” that something will ”come along.” They are without a method.

Others are living in clutter. They see every event through the lens of ”how does this affect me or how do I ’feel’ about this?” They cannot see that their negligence in small things is directly impacting the bigger things in their lives. They seek more ”stuff,” but remain confused about why they are unfulfilled.

What are these people to do?

Many times there are similarities from one case to another. The woman who spends hours in personal grooming each day (her family’s claim, not mine) faces the same issues as the guy with piles of material he intends to read, but hasn’t. Here are a few of the components of the common denominator:

  • lack of discipline
  • lack of focus and direction
  • lack of ambition and motivation
  • selfishness
  • unclear priorities
  • no method for solving problems or making decisions
  • missing or limited structure and routine
  • envy and jealousy
  • sullen demeanor
  • confusion over what’s a symptom and what’s a root cause
  • materialism
  • unable to be alone without feeling lonely

Plenty of psychiatrists would diagnose ”depression” as the problem. Plenty of drugs get prescribed to treat these conditions. Without a doubt, there are cases of clinical depression. They should be treated professionally with the best that the medical industry can provide.

However, every unfocused, selfish person is not a case of clinical depression. Some of them are simply lazy. Some are merely self-absorbed. Some are unwilling to change. Some truly are content in their misery. Others want to change, but need a method. They want a structure and some guidelines for their lives. Someone needs to use a bit of compassion and tell these people the truth.

Deadlines, checklists and accountability work wonders. By simply narrowing their options, some their places of service. Once they realize that there are more important things in life than how they feel or look, they begin to get better. They find meaning.

It sounds harsh, but it is not. If they seek a job, there is a way to go about that. (Wishing is not a method.) If they seek appreciation, there is a way to find real reward for service. If they seek direction, there are methods for finding the way. If they are tired of living a compartmentalized life where they appear outwardly prosperous and well-adjusted while fighting turmoil within, there’s a pathway out.

If you’ve been ”hoping” for a change, isn’t it time to really seek a disciplined way to make change happen?

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Finding Your Passion

20 July 2004

Style matters when you are seeking a career coach or a methodology for identifying the work that truly matches your passion. Curt Rosengren is the ”Passion Catalyst.” If you are looking at your life and the role that your work plays in your sense of fulfillment, take a look at Curt’s site and services.

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Bonus To New Subscribers

20 July 2004

Dan Miller is about to launch a new book. He’s also ramping up the circulation of his (free) weekly email newsletter. If you’re not pursuing the career of your dreams, it’s time to find the alternative. Dan has a process for doing it.

Use the comments to leave your email address and I’ll forward a copy of Dan’s latest newsletter explaining the offer. [Oh yeah, you won’t get spammed, either. Dan guards his list of subscribers closely.]

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Understanding The End

20 July 2004

Virginia Postrel takes a look at Nicholas Kristof’s analysis of Christian eschatology. So many people have wrong-headed notions about why they were placed here. It’s difficult to help them understand what the final battle really means. There’s a lot of ground that needs to be covered before Armageddon is placed in proper context.

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Firefox After 5000 Miles

19 July 2004

Meryl has provided an update on Firefox after spending some time with it and Mozilla. I’m continuing to see the same flaws that I mentioned earlier.

Comments [1]

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Sites For Study

19 July 2004

Angie McKaig provides a link to The best collection of web design links, ever.”

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What Is Vigilance?

19 July 2004

Life In America began Friday’s entries by pointing to James Lileks. This morning, he deals with the aftermath of having dealt with the Syrian band. Here’s a quote or two:

Syrian band update: it now appears that they were a Syrian band. (It’s an Insty link, which should send you to skeptics and supporters.) I am duly chastened for encouraging you to read this story and draw your own conclusions. In the future we must hew to a new rule: if you are on an airplane and you see a group of Arabic men with foreign passports work in concert, including standing up en masse and taking to the lavs during landing, you are obliged to give the give them the benefit of the doubt. Do not report your concerns to the flight attendants.

Later he continued with this:

So its a sign of frantic paranoia to ask if we should pull aside Syrians before they get on the plane. Its full-blown nutso nonsense to request that people should read the piece and decide for themselves.

Repeat to yourself: there is no threat. Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Wisdom! Vigilance is, uh, racism!

To some people, the very idea that a woman writes her account of being worried on a plane is tantamount to the government requiring the TSA to put a knee on the neck of anyone whose skintone trends towards the swarthy. Noted. But Ill tell you this: Id rather we err on the side of concern and inconvenience a few than wave on board four twitchy Saudis and suffer the loss of the Sears Tower. Because Im one of those nuts who thinks theres a war on. You know: a paranoid. Full blown. I see visions, and in these horrible dreams I see two towers falling. Some days I think that really happened. Time to double up on the thorazine.

James Lileks
The Bleat
July 19, 2004

What James Lileks reports is rather consistent with a few discussions I had over the weekend. There’s the notion floating that Americans are forfeiting their civil liberties right and left. I examine what I did on September 10, 2001 and what I did over the weekend and I find little difference in the amount of freedom I have. I guess there’s some way for me to view my life as existing under some oppressive regime, but the choices I make about what I do every day just don’t support the words ”oppressive” or ”regime.”

Am I willing to sacrifice something I do, buy or choose if it would prevent the loss of a city? Absolutely. There’s a war. Remember?

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Another "How To" Guide

18 July 2004

I saw a link to this site somewhere today. I added the RSS feed to my news reader. However, I’ve now forgotten which site I was reading. They deserve a link. This is a great CSS tutorial.

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A Year Ago

18 July 2004

Last year about this time we were studying Zeldman’s book and watching the redesign of Ben Hammersley’s site. There were many questions. We quoted Deming and recited a prayer from September 14, 2001.

There’s still much to learn. Some questions have been answered. Many remain.

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Somebody Got A Mac

18 July 2004

No, it wasn’t me; at least not yet. It’s coming though. Take a look at Matthew Mullenweg’s purchase and the tips and comments he received after posting about it.

Here’s a list of recent Mac-related entries that I’m using to make a purchasing decision as well as to define a migration and learning curve:

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An Apple Weblog

17 July 2004

Sean Bonner was kind enough to answer several of my Macintosh questions. He’s also the brains behind a nice Apple weblog. If you’re thinking about making the switch, this one needs to be in your regular reading list.

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Macintosh Questions

17 July 2004

  • When is the next generation of PowerBooks expected?
  • Is it anticipated that the next PowerBooks will be G5-based?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages to 15” vs. 17” PowerBooks?
  • Is there a favorite carrying case in the Mac PowerBook world?
  • Can a Macintosh join a Windows Server domain?
  • Can a Macintosh comunicate with a Windows Terminal Services server?
  • Is a Windows-emulator required to make these things happen?
  • Is a CD or DVD the only or best way to move data from a PC to a Mac?
  • Will a new PowerBook connect easily to an existing Linksys WAP?
  • Memphis will charge almost ten percent for sales tax. That $300 or so will buy lots of software. Is there a way to buy a Macintosh that would dramatically lower my sales tax?

Comments [2]

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Justifying The Macintosh

17 July 2004

There’s a risk in using IE6. If you use Windows and IE6 there’s a lot to do to keep your PC safe from intrusion and running well.

You can switch to Firefox. I’m running version 0.9.2 with only two or three extensions. There are problems. Open a pdf file in the browser and Firefox will ultimately lock up. Cancel it from the task manager and Firefox quits. Relaunch Firefox and you will face a long startup time, all favicons will be lost until the sites are revisited, and the pdf problem will return the next time you open a pdf file.

What to do? Well, I like Firefox as an alternative to IE6. It takes some downloading of extensions, but it works – sort of. My problem is the fact that I need a system that is more dependable. I can’t deal with my browser locking up and needing to be restarted just because I viewed a pdf file.

Solution: I’m going to buy a Macintosh with all the trimmings.

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Routine Mac Maintenance

16 July 2004

Well…there just isn’t much to do. The Macintosh running OS X, which is a Unix/Linux variant, is apparently either untargeted or impervious to all the junk we often have to do to keep Windows machines running well (or at all).

These notions were confirmed at the Apple Store and by browsing the web. Here’s a set of entries at the TextDrive support forum that supports the idea that Mac’s are rock solid. Take a look at the comments posted with this entry, too.

Comments [2]

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Life In America

16 July 2004

  1. Read James Lileks’s entry this morning.
  2. Enjoy Lileks’s descriptions of his life.
  3. Follow and read these links.
  4. Reflect on what this upcoming election really means.
  5. Consider what the next three or four Presidents may face.
  6. Decide who you trust to fight the terrorists?
  7. Then, think!

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Color Illusions

15 July 2004

Chris Lott at Ruminate posts something he calls Linklogs. This week he points to something called Checkershadow Illusion. It further links you to some other illusions. For a rookie designer this is clever and educational stuff!

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Why Visit Authentic Boredom?

15 July 2004

Cameron Moll, a Textpattern user, is listed on Eric Meyer’s list of Luminous Beings. The request was for CSS-savvy folk who might tackle a book-writing assignment that Eric had to pass on. Don’t miss the comments with Cameron’s entry.

Why do I visit Cameron’s site? I’m considering the move of a 4000 to 5000 entry Movable Type site over to Textpattern with an update of the design. Cameron’s site shows the kinds of things I’d love to build in.

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Not Your Stock Template

15 July 2004

Chapter Six of Designing the Band wraps up the project and provides some information about total hours and costs for designing such a site.

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Clean Your Pc

15 July 2004

Forever Geek provides great advice. Today, they offer 7 Tips To Keep Your PC Running At Peak Performance. Sometimes I think that do-it-yourself I.T. management is one of the worst drains on productivity to ever come down the line.

The failure to do some periodic upkeep on a computer is the very reason many people suffer with five or ten minute startup times, annoying pop-ups and rather bizarre system performance. Consequently, they suffer at every computing session when fifteen to thirty minutes a week could save them twenty minutes every time they sit down at the computer.

Comments [2]

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Security

15 July 2004

When I read a story about the hijacking of a server owned by the State of Arkansas, I’m reminded that security will likely be the number one concern for the next couple of decades. From physical security of homes and offices to the security of every form of technology we use, we’re at risk.

Think about his as you consider which web host, credit card, cellular company or online banking service you’ll use.

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Does One Campaign Issue Trump All Others?

15 July 2004

Former Mayor Ed Koch of New York City settled – for me at least – the leading issue for the Presidential election. Appearing in an interview with Neil Cavuto, he said something close to this:

I’m going to support President Bush for reelection because I believe terrorism is the biggest concern we face. He, the President, has taken the position that we’re going to take the war to the terrorists. We cannot enjoy any of our other freedoms if we live under the cloud of fear that terrorism brings.

While that’s a loose paraphrase, it’s right on the money in ideology. Either we’re under attack or we’re not. Isn’t there some way for us to agree on that fact? If we’re under attack, we’re going to fight on American soil or elsewhere. Surely, that’s obvious.

These facts don’t depend upon whether or not France likes us. They don’t depend upon whether or not Dictator A, B or C has or had a given number of weapons in the arsenal. Make note that Osama Bin Laden didn’t have a single Boeing aircraft in his ”stockpile of weapons.” Yet, that’s what was used to attack us.

More than the economy, more than healthcare, more than jobs, more than the next course of action in Iraq…the war on terrorism and how it will be waged should be our focus. Are we going to fight the war on terrorism or are we going to leave that to the United Nations? As I understand it, the two campaigns come down on different sides of that question.

Comments [3]

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Need A Hobby That Helps In Other Ways?

15 July 2004

The Scene: One of the power places for breakfast in the Memphis area. I was waiting for my breakfast meeting guest to arrive. Two women were departing, and as they passed, I heard the following brief exchange…

First Woman: You told me the bridge would increase my concentration in other areas.

Second Woman: Isn’t it amazing?

First Woman: I’m playing the best golf of my life, and the only thing that’s different is the bridge.

What were they discussing?

Both of these women happened to be carrying study guides to the game of Bridge. Warren Buffett has said similar things in past writing or speaking at the annual meeting for Berkshire Hathaway. He and Bill Gates play, rather frequently, and often together. They play online.

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Firefox Turns A Corner

14 July 2004

This set of entries at the TextDrive support forum allowed me to turn Firefox 0.9.2 into a tool unlike any browser I’ve used thus far.

I don’t yet have it configured to launch my favorite text editor for viewing source or CSS, but that’s a small thing compared to all that the browser with several extensions will do!

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Building A Software Business

14 July 2004

I don’t like the time it takes for my site to ”rebuild” after an entry. However, that’s not the worst thing I’ve ever said about Movable Type. The worst thing I ever said about Movable Type and the company behind it, Six Apart, is that they had become too quiet. That, more than any other factor, led to the noise level about their release of MT 3.0.

All of that – except the rebuild times – seems to be changing. Mena Trott has posted several entries today that sheds a much greater light on what the company has been doing and how much depth the company is building. They are getting what appears to be excellent advice about early stage funding and organizational structure. I wish other software companies would take notice of the approach.

Now, about those rebuild times…

Comments [1]

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Navigation Bars

13 July 2004

A semantically correct navbar, without the heartache provides the background and a link to a new tutorial from Westciv. The title says it all. If you’ve ever wanted to add standards-compliant navigation to a web site, this is the tutorial for you.

The only thing that would make this better is a web service that allows you to build your navigation and copy-paste it to your content management system. But, that would be too easy!

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A Great Book Review

13 July 2004

Todd Dominey reviews Dan Cederholm’s Web Standards Solutions: The Markup and Style Handbook. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Web Standards SolutionsWeb Standards Solutions is the perfect book for those who are interested in developing standards-compliant web sites, have written a little CSS, have a pretty decent handle on the differences between HTML and XHTML, but have difficulty explaining why one style of markup is semantically, and technically, superior to another…

Web Standards Solutions shines brightest when covering the most mundane—rudimentary, raw markup elements like headers, paragraphs, lists, and so-on. They’re the every-day alphabet soup of HTML, and are abused, misused, or underpowered by countless web designers the world over. They’re not the sexiest topics (which is why there are countless ’Cookbook’ books out there), but they’re the very bedrock of web design, and with Cederholm’s guidance any web designer can tap into their inherent power.

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There's A Top Ten List

13 July 2004

There is a top ten list when it comes to web designers. Paul Scrivens is chief curator, statistician, judge and jury. He’s also on the list! These are the places to go to learn.

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Design For Quality

13 July 2004

Jeffrey Veen has written an entry titled Learning From the Apple Store. He uses it to introduce an essay by his partner, Jesse James Garrett. That essay is called Six Design Lessons From the Apple Store.

If you know anything about trying to drive variation out of a business process or customer experience, you’ll see signs of how Apple accomplishes this using design. You cannot inspect quality into a product, service or experience. It must be designed in from the very beginning.

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Outstanding Investment Resources

13 July 2004

Understanding income and what to do with it is a factor that separates the haves from the have-nots. Understanding how net worth grows also separates those who prosper from those who constantly scrape by. This holds for individuals and businesses.

Few topics get as much coverage as money. The investing shelves are full of resources at every library and bookstore. The list of truly useful material is much shorter.

In February of this year, Michael J. Mauboussin left Credit Suisse First Boston and joined Legg Mason. One of his first essays since joining them is available as a pdf file. It is truly outstanding. For more articles you might take a look at the Cap@Columbia web site. Dig a bit and you’ll find some outstanding tools for improving your thought process concerning investments.

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Great Advice From One Of My Favorite Designers

12 July 2004

D. Keith Robinson gives those of us who aspire to web design skills some tips on how to learn CSS. This is a valuable set of tips and advice.

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Where Are The Risks? Where Will We Fight?

12 July 2004

At Blogged and Dangerous you’ll find a serious concern about the missing ”removable media” at Los Alamos. This one bothers me as well. These incidents now span multiple administrations and both political parties.

It begs the question: do we want a war fought against terrorism on American soil or somewhere else? Does anyone believe that we are not a target? Is there really a debate about which candidate the terrorists would rather have in the White House?

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Non-Funky Was Never Defined

12 July 2004

Over a year ago, I asked for some specific instructions on how to create a ”very nice clean non-funky simple RSS 2.0.” To date, nada.

Right now, I simply need to know how to modify my feed templates in Movable Type – Atom and RSS 2.0 – so that two things happen:

  1. Add an author to the feed so that my name shows up in FeedDemon when the RSS feed is read there.
  2. Improve my feed so that anything appearing in the ”extended entry” field of Movable Type will show up in my RSS feed. In other words, I want everything I write to be readable in a news reader.

How? Where do I go? What do I type when I get there?

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The Lawyers Behind The Lawyer

12 July 2004

Walter Olson writes about legal matters in a way that makes sense. I can’t tell you how many times some legal matter gets distorted by a legal twist or maneuver that seems so illogical. Walter exposes those things for what they are.

Today, he provides a glimpse into the powerful ”machine” behind John Edwards.

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Self-Feeding Robot

12 July 2004

Roomba’s updated model finishes its chores and heads for its base station to recharge itself.

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The Switch

11 July 2004

I’m still contemplating a major switch of all of my technology from Windows XP to Macintosh. If you’ve got thoughts about what the real essentials for a Macintosh might be, let me know. Here’s what I know I’ve got to have:

  • Office
  • Outlook (for email)
  • browser
  • spam protection
  • virus protection
  • spyware protection
  • RSS feed reader
  • photo editing (using Photoshop Elements now)
  • text/XHTML editor
  • TopStyle for CSS
  • FTP software
  • any other “must haves” that I haven’t listed?

Oh, and thanks for the help!

Comments [7]

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How To Start And Finish

11 July 2004

Chapter Five of Designing the Band came on line last week. If you haven’t been keeping up and you are interested in the design process, this is a great series by D. Keith Robinson.

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Amazing

11 July 2004

Sometimes a web design just stops you. Matthew Mullenweg points to Orderedlist.com’s new 2.0 design. Notice the curved navigation bar at the top of the site!

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Impressive

11 July 2004

WordPress is not my current content management system. However, there is an awful lot to like about it. I’ve just run across the explanation of customizations and modifications that Shelley Powers made within her own copy of WordPress. As usual, her explanation is well-written and, I believe, useful to anyone who maintains a weblog with any of the popular tools.

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From Windows To Mac

11 July 2004

Over at the Textpattern support forum I’ve posted a question about the well-equipped Macintosh. I’ve asked about the proper software for replacing some key Windows applications.

I can’t command the audience that Paul Scrivens draws when he does one of his ”non-scientific polls,” but if you’re a Macintosh user and know the ”must-have’s” for a well-equipped Macintosh, I’d appreciate your input!

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Fact Checking Ac Bandwidth

11 July 2004

Avoiding the NYT focus I’ve accused others of, here are a couple of companies that are actually accomplishing what James Fallows spoke of in his NYT piece. Take a look at Main.net and Current Communications Group. Both are overcoming the obstacles to carrying broadband signals over powerlines.

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Ac Bandwidth

11 July 2004

Is Broadband Out of a Wall Socket the Next Big Thing?

I WANT to finish this column before a familiar mood has passed. That is the sense of wonder at seeing that a new form of technology actually works. Based on previous episodes, the mood will soon give way to jadedness. (The first time I used a digital camera, I was amazed that I could see the pictures immediately after I shot them. Within a few days, I had a list of ways the camera should be improved.) So, in this fleeting upbeat moment, here is a word of appreciation for an advance that already has me wondering how I lived without it.

James Fallows
The New York Times
July 11, 2004

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Get A Clue

11 July 2004

People who continue to form their opinions by starting with the reporting from the New York Times are missing perspective. They simply can’t accept that the New York Times has become ”Katie Couric for those who read.”

Campaigning on an anti-Bush platform might be successful. We’ll know in November. For those interested only in ”winning,” that’s sufficient. For those interested in the American way of life, the values set forth in our founding documents and the debate about whether or not a different policy concerning terrorism is needed, the campaign thus far is proving to be awfully superficial.

Of course, it’s probably time for me to stop reading a weblog (or two) that simply rant and link without logical analysis of facts. The litmus test should probably become, ”Is he a source of understanding or a source of confusion?”

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Here's Great News

10 July 2004

TextDrive is Dean Allen’s new hosting company. Dean is also the mind behind Textpattern, Textism and Textile. Tonight, I was catching up on some back entries at the TextDrive and Textpattern support forums.

Some announcements just reaffirm instincts you had when you made a decision. The announcement that Brad Choate has joined the TextDrive staff did exactly that. Here are Brad’s own comments about the new work with TextDrive.

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If Only They Wouldn't Grow Up

10 July 2004

Look at these guys. They are incredible. [Thanks to You Can’t Get There From Here]

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Go Further Wirelessly

10 July 2004

Both Linksys and D-Link have announced high-gain antennas for (legally) extending your Wi-Fi network. Thanks to Gizmodo for the links.

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His House Became An Embassy

10 July 2004

Using the term ”crafty operator,” Walter Olson wrote an op-ed piece about Mr. Kerry’s running mate.

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News You Can Use

10 July 2004

Curt Rosengren continues to provide great resources for those seeking passion, vigor and enthusiasm in an existing or future career. If your newsreader doesn’t include his writing, you should make it a part of your regular reading.

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What Do You Believe?

10 July 2004

Individuals believe different things. We define liberal and conservative differently. We define Republican and Democrat differently. Often, we define these terms in light of specific individuals. Define a liberal using Franklin or Eleanor Roosevelt as your model and you’ll get a rather different looking critter from the one you get using Whoopie Goldberg or Alec Baldwin as your model!

Here’s a very small portion of how one conservative attempted to explain the issues to an impressionable, teachable 24 year old who is seeking her way.

”Take the universe of the American people. We all want, for the most part, I mean there are some exceptions to this, we all want the same things in life. We want freedom; we want the chance for prosperity; we want to be the best we can be; we want as few people suffering as possible, economically; we want to have healthy children; we want to have crime-free streets; all these things, they’re pretty common. Doesn’t matter what race you are, doesn’t matter what gender you are, doesn’t matter what sexual orientation you are, these are the things we want. The argument is how to achieve them.

Now, the American left, or liberals believe, that the individual, on balance, is not capable of providing all of those things him or herself, because American left believes that most people are not equipped to make the best judgments for themselves, they’re not equipped to access the economy and do the best for themselves economically.

The American Conservative, the right, believes that freedom is the essence of life in America and that freedom allows everybody to seek whatever it is they want and need on their own terms, and that they are far better equipped to get what they want and need than a central government distributing things to people based on what that government thinks people should want and should need.”

Rush Limbaugh
Responding to a caller’s question/dilemma
July 9, 2004

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Things That Interest Me

10 July 2004

There are some changes under way that stand to be fundamental to our lives during the coming two or three decades:

  • Regulated telecom will fail in the face of VoIP.
  • Bar codes will yield to RFID.
  • Energy choices will become a matter of daily budgeting in our daily lives.
  • Heathcare reform will become far more than a policy debate for every citizen.
  • Insufficient savings and retirement resources will reach crisis proportions for millions of Americans.
  • Personal and technical security will be a mounting issue for families and businesses.
  • The fundamental choices about how we achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will drive a new awareness of the importance of our right, responsibility and obligation to vote. We will once again address the notion of whether it is the government or individuals who are better suited to make the decisions.

Note: these things aren’t negative. They are simply changes. How we deal with them will determine whether they become positives or negatives for us.

Comments [1]

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More Than Style

10 July 2004

Early in my working life a couple of things became clear to me. As a matter of day-to-day practice, I was more inclined toward longer term, incremental approaches to improvements than in go-for-broke revolution. I was more inclined toward the power of compound interest than the power of swing-for-the-fences risks. Through boom and bust, Ben Graham’s value investing philosophy, as revised and extended by Warren Buffett (see pdf file), has served me far better than the momentum investing philosophies of the late 1990’s.

Whether management style or investing style, longer term approaches simply suit me better. With those things in mind, I have a suggestion for anyone who is considering the alternatives for long-term financial needs. Take a look at the Longleaf Partners Funds as managed by Mason Hawkins and the outstanding team at Southeastern Asset Management, Inc. [Disclaimer: I have money invested in these funds, but I have no equity ownership in Southeastern.]

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Revisionist History

10 July 2004

Clinton’s book about Clinton apparently is selling well. Drugs sell well. Divorce lawyers have little trouble selling their services. Things that sell well aren’t always good things.

In the noise level again rising around Clinton and his book, pundits are going out of the way to recast the legacy Clinton left us. If you need to separate signal from noise or to recalibrate your right-from-wrong sensors, take a look at Ken Starr’s factual and brief discussion of what really happened while Clinton was lying to a Federal Grand Jury. It ran in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal and you may need a subscription to read all of it.

Here’s an excerpt:

Mr. Clinton glosses over this enduring lesson about the role of the independent counsel, as well as sliding by many of the investigation’s undisputed findings. His epic-length reflections sweep aside not only the flinty facts, but the vital importance of history and tradition in our constitutional architecture. That impoverishment in the presentation reinforces the unfortunate sense that only personalities and (alleged) motivations count in modern public life, when in truth, it is the integrity of ideas and principles that have lasting consequences.

Mr. Kenneth W. Starr
My Job
The Wall Street Journal
July 8, 2004

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Getting It Wrong Some More

10 July 2004

In addition to all the flawed notions about how we’ll determine who to vote for, there’s a crowd on the Internet that believes the crowd on the Internet is going to be the group that decides who gets elected. They are not.

The vast majority of citizens in America do not currently get the majority of their news or the information that influences their opinions from the Internet. Dream on if you believe otherwise. Katie Couric, unfortunately, will influence more people than any ten weblogs.

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Two-Party Politics

10 July 2004

Shouldn’t we clearly understand what the issues are in any two-party race? Shouldn’t we have some clear position statement about every issue from each candidate? Finally, shouldn’t the planned course of action for each issue during the first month, year and two years be spelled out?

It makes no sense for one party to run a campaign by simply opposing each position of the competitor. ”I don’t agree,” is just not good enough. A candidate should spell out what he stands for, why and what he plans to do. Otherwise, he doesn’t get my attention – much less the possibility of my vote.

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What Is Conflict Of Interest?

10 July 2004

Asking Congress to rule on tort reform is like asking the teen children of parents who drink to rule on the legal drinking age.

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A Million A Year

10 July 2004

Earn a million, file no return?
The state wants to talk to you

By Mark Schwanhausser

Maybe it slipped their minds. Maybe they were busy counting their money. Or maybe the dog ate it.

Whatever the reason, 65 Santa Clara County residents who hauled in at least $1 million in income still haven’t filed their 2002 tax returns. Ditto for many more local professionals who really ought to know better: 59 certified public accountants and 221 lawyers.

State tax officials said Thursday they are mailing notices to about 700,000 scofflaws—or nearly one of every 20 taxpayers—statewide. All told, they owe $450 million that could help plug the state’s $6.5 billion budget gap.

The county is home to about 8 percent of the 865 Californians who earned at least $1 million in 2002 and didn’t file a tax return. That’s double the county’s share of tax-slacker CPAs, lawyers, contractors and medical professionals.

The Mercury News
July 9, 2004

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Talking Heads

8 July 2004

While it should come as no surprise, the vigor with which the talking heads are trying to compare John Edwards and Dick Cheney is nearing hilarity. There are people sitting in front of cameras with straight faces who are trying to compare the two records of public service to the United States.

Nevermind any other factor. They are simply trying to have a serious debate over which man has done more for the USA. There is no limit to what the media will do to get a group of people yelling at each other on TV – all at the same time.

Whatever they believe, you might want to take a glance at James Lileks’s site today. You’ll find some quotes worth keeping!

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Firefox And Opera

8 July 2004

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve avoided launching IE6 at all. I’ve forced myself to work with Firefox, then I configured (tried to configure) Opera. Here are my findings:

  • I like both browsers a lot. Either would suit my needs as replacements for IE6.
  • Firefox locks my system up an average of once a day. It’s guaranteed to do it more than that if pdf files are opened. Firefox also opens any link in an email twice. It also opens new windows for email links rather than new tabs.
  • Opera cannot display the IE ”links” toolbar. They call it a ”personal” toolbar, and no amount of trial-and-error with the customization of that toolbar gets me more than three Opera-related links on it. This is a big drawback. I start my day by clicking from left to right on the string of favorites I have set up on my ”links” toolbar. It works fine in Firefox and IE.
  • Opera also cannot display the formatting buttons on the Movable Type text entry screen. I found a fix for Firefox that even allowed me to change the tags from B to strong and i to em. I haven’t found such a fix for Opera.
  • In fairness, Opera feels like the more finished package. Firefox really reminds me of the old Netscape browsers that seemed to have a feature, but you couldn’t get it to work.
  • I use technology a lot. It has to work reliably. While I get a small amount of enjoyment out of toying with it, I do not like to spend hours trying to make something work only to have an intermittent or flakey result. Both of these products have important areas where they fall into this category.
  • While I believe SP2 is going to make IE a bigger target for a while, there is at least some hope that SP2 might bring some security to the browser and add some much needed features.

Just a note for passers-by. Browser choices are not religious events for me. I don’t care which browser I use so long as 1) it worx reliably 2) enough other people use it to have a support foundation 3) it can be configured using set-and-forget work habits.

Comments [2]

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You Want To Know What's Still Difficult?

7 July 2004

For the first time today, I had the need for a concise list of postal or email addresses. I wanted to send a simple, business-oriented press release to sixteen media outlets in Memphis, TN.

Do you have any idea how time-consuming and difficult it is to identify the right sixteen contacts? I’ve got a couple of hours in the task already, and it is nowhere near complete. Sixteen names and addresses for people who might want to receive a press release about a business matter are hard to find.

Google or not, we’ve got a ways to go. One piece of good news in all this. I stumbled into another Memphis web site with an RSS feed. Feed subscribed!

[Note: This is not a cry for a solicitation from every advertising and public relations agency in Memphis. It’s sixteen pieces of mail for crying out loud.]

Comments [1]

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Investor Or Speculator?

7 July 2004

Warren Buffett has written an outstanding piece for the Washington Post today. [free subscription may be required] James Glassman has critiqued it. You be the judge. My mind is made up.

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The Forty Footer

7 July 2004

I wish I could point to James Lileks’s entry for today with sympathy. I cannot. The reason has nothing to do with ”esoteric toys.” It has nothing to do with privilege. The reason I can not muster sympathy is that he simply recounts the story that every one of us faces countless times each year.

Change the sewn-on name tags on the shirts. Change the logos painted on the service vans. Change from esoteric toys to pest control, plumbing or roof repair, and you’ll get identically the same story. America is dreadfully unprepared to do business.

The only difference in James Lileks’s case is he writes so well about the fiascos.

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The Quiz

6 July 2004

On this day when we have two complete tickets to the Presidential sprint to November, it seems worthwhile to bring back the Political Allegiance Quiz. It’s a year old, but you might discover something about your beliefs. You might also determine whether you feel or assess.

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Quality And Quantity

5 July 2004

Matthew Mullenweg reports that two more rather prominent names in weblogging have switched to WorldPress. They are:

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The Search Continues

5 July 2004

The Journey of DesireThere is a secret set within each of our hearts. It often goes unnoticed, we rarely can put words to it, and yet it guides us throughout the days of our lives. This secret remains hidden for the most part in our deepest selves. It is the desire for life as it was meant to be. Isn’t there a life you have been searching for all your days? You may not always be ware of your search, and there are times when you seem to have abandoned looking altogether. But again and again it returns to us, this yearning that cries out for the life we prize. It is elusive, to be sure. It seems to come and go at will. Seasons may pass until it surfaces again. And though it seems to taunt us, and may at times cause us great pain, we know when it returns that it is priceless. For if we could recover this desire, unearth it from beneath all other distractions, and embrace it as our deepest treasure, we would discover the secret of our existence.

John Eldridge
The Journey of Desire
Searching for the Life We’ve Only Dreamed Of

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On The Fourth In 2003

4 July 2004

Take a look at last year’s logo from Google.

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Independence Day

4 July 2004

Independence Day

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Bye-Bye Bottom Line

3 July 2004

What if your current product sold for $0.039 per unit? What if you learned that a competitor was offering something superior to your product for $0.012 per unit?

That’s the essence of the situation reported by BuzzMachine in mentioning Skype.

Comments [1]

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Time To Raise The Flags

3 July 2004

World Magazine Blog reports that the President has ordered flags raised from half-staff two days earlier than might be customary after the death of a former President.

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Link Styles

3 July 2004

Quite an illustrious group of web designers discuss the notion of colors for visited and unvisited links at CollyLogic. Who knew there could be so many possibilities and so many opinions?

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Learning Vs. Stealing

3 July 2004

One of the reasons I don’t experiment more with web design is the concern I have for appearing to steal techniques or features from others. While learning CSS and XHTML, I find myself drawn to a variety of techniques. I’m never quite certain what should be considered a technique available to everyone and what should be considered a design that is proprietary to a specific designer.

Andy Budd points us to Pirated Sites. I had no idea that the stealing could be so blatant.

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I Love Capitalism

3 July 2004

There’s an entry at Signal vs. Noise that discusses TreoCentral’s efforts to raise funds to have Bluetooth features developed for the Treo 600.

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Preventing Problems

3 July 2004

Given any choice at all I prefer to prevent problems rather than fix them. That goes for just about any area of life – technology in particular. The past month’s security issues with IE and things from Microsoft found me giving alternative browsers a try. Opera and Mozilla/Firefox are the tools I’ve been looking at. I use a laptop computer (all the time), and the speed-scroll section of the touchpad doesn’t work with these other browsers. That’s a relatively small habit to change given the reduced security risks.

I’ve noticed that some shortcut buttons at the top of my MT text entry screen are missing in Firefox. I have to type out the full syntax of an a href tag.

Meryl is facing similar changes for the same reasons. She has posted three entries that may be of use to others: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

  • * * UPDATE * * * No sooner had this entry been out there a few minutes, than I had a suggestion or two from Meryl regarding those missing icons on the text entry screen. One ”hack” she suggested is at kurcula.com. The other is at FCKeditor. A quick glance makes me believe that this latter option simply replaces your text entry box with a full-featured text entry box.

It raises the following questions:

  • Does FCKeditor include spell checking? I was told to use IESpell, but I’ve never added it. How does this compare to enabling your text entry box with Textile?
  • Are these tools going to conflict with one another?
  • Will the B and <em>i</em> icons ever plug in tags that validate in XHTML? I believe we’re supposed to use strong and em, but I’m not sure whether those are the only tags that will provide valid bold and italicized text.
Overall this is great stuff. It simply seems that a couple of answered questions open up entirely new veins to be mined.

  • * * UPDATE 2 * * * After a second comment from Meryl, I got my courage up and edited my edit_entry template. Sure enough, it worked. I’ve got the buttons showing in Firefox, and I’ve also been able to edit the tags so that the icons insert strong and em tags!

Comments [3]

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Another Annoyance

3 July 2004

The dilemma with junk like this is whether to stick with a tool that has Jay Allen fighting the good fight, or are you better off moving to a different CMS tool that is considered a less ”target-rich-environment.”

Comments [2]

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Getting Validation Errors Another Way

3 July 2004

I’ve just subscribed to an RSS feed that results from a tool produced by Ben Hammersley. By using this tool, you get an RSS feed of all the validation errors in whatever site/URL you choose. Many of the validation errors are just as cryptic as they would be when reported by the validator. The fact is they are coming from the same place. However, this might be an easy way to get a site to validate and then prevent errors from creeping in on a post-by-post basis.

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Gore Makes The List

3 July 2004

Between now and November a whole lot will be said and written that brings on more saying and writing. For an excellent compendium of recent political events, the AlphaPatriot has served us all incredibly well. Take a look!

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City Envy

3 July 2004

The Memphis Manifesto continues to list all the places that are to be preferred over Memphis for one reason or another. Most of the time this is measured based upon the number of creative people or businesses that exist in a given metro area. Here’s a copy of the Manifesto.

I’m sure I’m not enlightened enough to understand all of this, but it seems that when your mayor is under investigation by the FBI, your city may have bigger problems than its artistic headcount.

One of the biggest challenges I have faced trying to do business in Memphis is its apparent lack of sophistication. I don’t mean the kind of snobbery that masquerades as sophistication. I’m talking about tools, techniques and approaches that involve something more than good ’ol boy methods. Were I attempting to illustrate this with an example, I’d compare the old shop-keeper who simply reorders what he sells each day as a means of inventory control. Contrast this with automated techniques for running linear algebra problems that can lead to truly optimized inventory and profit management results.

Memphis businesses lean on the older methods in many, many cases. To the extent that ”creative people” can bring with them the sophistication, I’m all for the effort to build that talent base. Remember, this absence of sophistication is why I travel.

Here’s one more example. Ephraim Schwartz has written An Automated Audit for Infoworld’s June 28, 2004 issue. The contents of that article are probably important to no more than one hundred individuals in Memphis. Of that group, we’ll find they are concentrated at one or two big banks, a hospital and FedEx.

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Are There Really Special Places In Heaven?

3 July 2004

We’ve got links from Michael Wright to several great writers. One that shouldn’t be missed is the link to Charles Krauthammer’s Washington Post article about Vice President Cheney’s recent choice of words. Good stuff in all the links!

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I Like Lists

2 July 2004

Lists are useful. It’s interesting to see a list of everyone’s favorite. People are weighing in on web hosting at SuperfluousBanter.

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Wisdom

2 July 2004

Bill Cosby continues to find his voice. He has amplified comments made earlier this year. His advice is clear and strong. It’s sound for any American.

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Name Your Proceeding, Judge

1 July 2004

In the feeding frenzy that is the national media I’ve heard today’s legal proceedings in Iraq called many things. I’ve heard tribunal, preliminary hearing, arraignment, trial, court hearing, judicial hearing, a court appearance, an appearance before an Iraqi judge and Saddam’s day in court.

One network spent an unusual amount of time speculating about why Hussein was allowed to dye his hair before appearing in court.

With a new constitution and government that is only days old, the questions will swirl endlessly around every piece of legal maneuvering that lawyers would be doing were these events happening in the USA.

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Will Justice Prevail? Will The President Be Re-Elected?

1 July 2004

Jeff Jarvis had an ah-ha moment and links to several people who share the view. Here’s the nub of the argument:

”I’ve just realized, in a duh moment, that the Democrats are not running their campaign for John Kerry. They are running only against George Bush.”

Jeff Jarvis
BuzzMachine
July 1, 2004

An additional key point, which is a quote by Jarvis of a Dick Morris opinion:

”The man who had won his party’s nomination by stepping aside and letting Dean destroy himself, now sought to repeat the act as President Bush wrestled with al Qaeda and the Baathists in Iraq and with Richard Clarke closer to home….”

As I write this, I’m watching and listening to CNN try to cover the court proceeding involving Hussein this morning. CNN is spinning furiously – in favor of Hussein and against the USA. Every point of law is getting questioned. Cameras with microphones weren’t allowed. Yes, they were. It’s as if the network truly wants the USA or the DOD to look bad.

Clearly, this is going to be yet another (new) issue for President Bush to deal with. With the media on Saddam’s side, we’re faced with the following consequences:

  • The Iraqi people are likely to be worried yet again that the tyrant might return to power.
  • The legal wrangling opens the possibility that some court, somewhere might exonerate Hussein.
  • Contrary to beliefs that the Iraqi people would treat him harshly, Hussein is making an appearance and is posturing as the incumbent leader of Iraq.
  • This might be the most difficult issue for President Bush to deal with as a candidate. Kerry can stand by and watch this unfold without spending a single dollar.

While I’m not forecasting it, this looks frighteningly like the political meltdown of George Herbert Walker Bush. Few predicted he could be defeated immediately after the Gulf War. Now we’ve got a former dictator – appearing without blood on his hands – getting the ”benefit of the doubt” from CNN. All of their questions are now on the table:

  1. Which court has jurisdiction?
  2. Was the ”invasion” of Iraq by the coalition legal or illegal?
  3. What is the real public opinion of all this in Iraq?
  4. Can defiance by the accused coupled with the media’s support unhinge the legal process?
  5. Should this have been done in an international court?
  6. Will an Iraqi judge really hold his own against Hussein?
  7. Will the American populace see through all of the media spin? We already know the answer to this one. With a collective attention span equal to the length of a sound bite, we’re witnessing the media’s attempt to tie today’s court proceedings to the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice. We are not likely to be able to say and do enough to show that this truly is an Iraqi prosecution.

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Make My Month

1 July 2004

Because our company does e-commerce projects, we frequently get involved in advising and assisting clients with their bandwidth needs. If you get into the bandwidth needs for a small business, you often wind up in the local, long distance, hosting and ISP decisions to complete the picture. There was a period of time when it made sense to represent some of the telecom companies as an agent/dealer just to grease the skids of the telecom provisioning, billing and procurement mazes.

Once we were in that loop, the phone calls began…

”Wednesday is the end of the month, do you have any deals that will close?” Once a quarter the call would be, ”I need a list of the ten prospects you’re going to close next quarter.” Both of these requests come with a breathlessness and a panic that says, ”there is no greater priority on the Earth than that you comply with what we are requesting from you.”

Not once has an employee of a telecom acknowledged that a dealer is not an employee. Resellers of their services are not viewed as customers. Resellers are viewed one level below the rookie sales rep that was hired yesterday. Resellers are to be told – not asked. Guess what, Big Teleco – some of us went into business for ourselves years ago just to prevent the kind of treatment you’re dishing out.

Through Worldcom and Enron scandals, most telecoms have done nothing to alter the way they do business. As a group they continue to hire and train the most offensive, aggressive, deceptive sales forces we’ve ever been associated with. They have no regard for existing customers, preferring instead the ”new subscriber.” Let a three year agreement near expiration and they don’t care. They certainly won’t pay their dealer or agent to renew the agreement. Rather, they hope the customer stays with them, but they also have no intention of paying any further commissions after the initial agreement.

Now comes word from the Wall Street Journal [subscription may be required] that the SEC has sent an inquiry to 20 telecoms. They are asking for specific definitions of what a customer is, what a subscriber is, how far past due the accounts receivable can get before the telecom stops calling them a subscriber, etc. The SEC wants to know what processes are used in counting ”access lines.” When a customer moves on to another telecom, does the former telecom stop counting the access line(s) that run to that customer? How are ”cut-offs” counted? When do they occur?

Answers are due on July 19, 2004. This might get interesting.

Oh, and no, I won’t help you make your month by Wednesday!

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Defining Venal

30 June 2004

AlphaPatriot points us to an entry at BuzzMachine which does a pretty good job of explaining how one viewer saw Michael Moore’s movie.

Here’s the refresher on venal.

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War Driving

30 June 2004

If you haven’t read a good article about the security of wireless networks lately, this one is worthwhile. Wireless security continues to be a weakness. Wardriving remains easy to do.

Unfortunately, the security problems go far beyond wireless. In spite of years of discussion of products like Zone Alarm, there are plenty of networks connected to DSL lines and cable modems that don’t include enough security and continuity protection. From segments in large corporate networks to small businesses to home office and small office users, networks are exposed. Here are some typical risks:

  • backups aren’t done or are done in a haphazard manner
  • browser popups continue to infiltrate computers
  • virus definition files are not updated daily
  • Operating system patches and updates are ignored or postponed
  • Knowledge about how to configure security software,routers and firewalls is weak
  • Admin logins and passwords remain unchanged from the out-of-the-box condition
  • Firewalls are not tested
  • bandwidth isn’t tested
  • Equipment is not physically secured from those who might tamper or steal

...the list goes on!

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Cantoni Impervious To Electricity

30 June 2004

Republican blue jays and their education entitlement
By Craig J. Cantoni
June 30, 2004

It is said that Social Security and Medicare are the third-rail of politics. If you dare mess with the entitlements, AARP will electrocute you on the third rail and then tell grandma and grandpa to drive the train back and forth over your body for fun.

But there is another entitlement that is even more entrenched than Social Security and Medicare. If you have the temerity to even suggest that it is an entitlement, its beneficiaries will torture you before throwing you on the third rail.

What entitlement am I referring to? Public education.

And who are the people most likely to become hysterical when their government-granted ”right” is questioned? Republican women. I know, because I have been on the receiving end of their temper tantrums.

For example, in a recent Arizona Republic column, I said that local parents in a predominately Republican, upper-income part of town were like greedy pigs at the public teat for squealing about the local school district denying their request to build an unnecessary high school in their housing development at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

Given my history of being a leader in equal rights for women and being married to a professional woman who is a rational thinker, I don’t like to say this, but the sorry fact is that women responded to my article with emotional outbursts, while men responded with reasoned arguments. Sadly, this has been the case whenever I’ve written about public education.

For example, one mom sent a nastygram and said, ”My children deserve a high school in their neighborhood, and I think you’re a jerk for trying to stop it.” Another said, ”We are not loaded and want our child to attend public school, not as a privilege but as a right.” She went on to say that she ”won’t walk away from making sure that all of our kids have a right to a free and appropriate education!!!”

Neither women offered a logical argument for spending taxpayer money on an unnecessary high school. They simply squawked as mindlessly as mother blue jays looking for more bugs for baby blue jay.

Dads, on the other hand, were open to having an intelligent debate about the facts of the matter, about whether public education is still providing a public good and about different funding mechanisms. One wrote, ”Vouchers would allow rich and poor students to attend the school of their choice instead of being told by the school board what school they can attend.”

If he knows what’s good for him, the dad won’t say that in front of mother blue jay. Squawk! Peck, peck!

In previous articles, I have raised a fairness issue of parochial parents having to pay double for education, once in public school taxes and once in private tuition, in order to exercise their right of religious freedom. I suggested that a fairer system would be for them to receive a tax credit equal to what they pay in public school taxes for each of the 12 years that their children are in private school. Since the average household in my home state of Arizona pays approximately $190,000 in public ed taxes over the adult lives of the heads of the household, the credit would be about $45,000, thus leaving a balance of $145,000 for public schools.

Squawk, squawk, squawk. For suggesting that private school parents keep $45,000 of their own money while letting public school parents take $145,000 of it, I was attacked by flocks of screeching blue jays, as if I were a cat trying to get into their nest and eat their offspring for lunch. One squawked, ”You’re mean-spirited and selfish!” Another peeped sorrowfully about her lot in life: ”You don’t care that I have bills to pay and have to drive a minivan instead of a nice SUV.” Still another made a birdbrained remark that no one forces parochial school parents to send their kids to private school, apparently not realizing that they are forced to pay public school taxes, although their kids don’t attend public school.

Over the years, I have learned how to stop the mommy blue jays from pecking at me. I say, ”Okay, your arguments are so compelling and intelligent, that I’ll drop the tax credit idea if you send a thank-you card to me or another private school parent for giving you tens of thousands of dollars.” It’s like asking Medicare recipients to please send a thank-you card to my son or other another kid for picking up the multi-trillion-dollar tab for their medicine and medical care that will be imposed on future generations by our benevolent and munificent government.

I never hear from the blue jays again. My request doesn’t change their entitlement mentality, but at least it stops their mindless squawking.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

Comments [2]

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Bookmark It

30 June 2004

If you don’t have Matthew Mullenweg’s site bookmarked or firmly implanted in your RSS feed reader, change that immediately. His site is a great daily read for anyone interested in web design, the future of the Internet and the concepts behind personal publishing.

Comments [1]

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Like The Man Said

30 June 2004

”We’ve got a great thread over at Engadget right now where everyone is talking about what their next cellphone/smartphone/PDA phone purchase is gonna be.”

Peter Rojas

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Clinton Shows Her Colors

30 June 2004

”Many of you are well enough off that … the tax cuts may have helped you,” Sen. Clinton said. ”We’re saying that for America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

from San Francisco rolls out the red carpet for the Clintons
by Beth Fouhy, AP Political Writer
Monday, June 28, 2004

Hmm. Take things away from me? Common good? Where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah.

Just let me know how much is enough? 60%? 80%? How much of what we earn do you believe you should take?

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The Phone Decision

29 June 2004

Having broken the cover on the Treo 300, the morning was spent searching for the right course of action. It turns out that I can get it repaired. This will buy me the time I need before the Treo 610/660 ships.

When I posted my dilemma last night, I had no idea I’d find an entry about the Treo 610 in yesterday’s posts at Engadget. Today there is an entry about a new device from Motorola called the MPx. At Gizmodo, I only had to go back as far as last Friday to find something on the Treo Ace (610/660?).

Bottom line: I’m hedging my time until the new device is available. I came close to buying a Treo 600 this morning, but backed off when there was a hint that my 300 could be repaired. Buying a little time, I’ll be able to make a late summer or fall decision about one of the next generation of all-in-one PDA/phones. A happy camper at this point! To those who sent emails and comments, many, many thanks!

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Pda Phone Or Not?

28 June 2004

The cover of my Treo 300 broke off tonight. I’ve been lucky. In two years of heavy use, I had avoided this common problem. It’s particularly frustrating because there is apparently no repair procedure for it – warranty or otherwise.

In today’s technology life cycle, it’s unlikely an economical repair service could be offered. Now, the question facing me tomorrow:

  • Do I buy another Treo 300 since they appear to be really inexpensive now?
  • Do I move up to the Treo 600?
  • Do I go back to a separate cell phone and PDA?
  • Do I change from Sprint to another service?
  • If I get a separate PDA, do I stick with palmOne or move to PocketPC?
  • Is something right around the corner that I should wait for?

I’m off to Engadget and Gizmodo for answers… H E L P! Thanks in advance!!

Comments [3]

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Massaging The Data

28 June 2004

Glenn Reynolds has provided a link to an excellent essay about polling – scientific and otherwise. Beyond merely gathering data and reporting it, the science of polling involves not only sampling data from the right places, but also weighting that data during the analysis. Weight it one way and the sample appears to provide support for a given conclusion. Another way provides totally different support.

Don’t be misled by what your favorite polling or media service is saying! If the odds paid off every time, there’d be no dark horses.

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News From The Iraqi Information Minister

28 June 2004

I might be mistaken, but this article makes me believe that the Iraqi Information Minister is still talking. The funny side of all of this is that reporters are continuing to listen to those of his bent. Who looks silly now?

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Deny, Deny, Deny...Oops

28 June 2004

”Routine testing of notebook computers” dating back to March of 2002, has uncovered a design flaw in some HP computers. HP is ”moving swiftly” to solve the problems. My last experience with HP gave a new definition to the word ”swift.”

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Kottke Redesign

27 June 2004

Jason Kottke has redesigned his site. It really is elegant in its simplicity. Yet, there are so many features that I don’t know where to start. From the blogroll, to the archives, to the remaindered links and on and on, it’s great.

Comments [1]

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Pulpit Joke

27 June 2004

Word comes that Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series, and Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, have decided to collaborate on a book. It will be about Calvinist theology. Title?

Left Behind On Purpose

Comments [1]

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Leonardo Da Vinci

27 June 2004

Notebooks have long been the tool for original thoughts and building on knowledge. The Moleskine notebooks come with a history of their use included with each copy.

You can now subscribe to an RSS feed that will provide Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook a page at a time. There are 1,565 pages, but you’ll enjoy the way they are written and organized.

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Remember

27 June 2004

Mark Bernstein provides some thoughts about discovering and explaining important ideas. The blogosphere may have slipped quietly from this lofty goal. Mark points to ”Ten Tips.” He adds a few thoughts to that list. Civility is one thing that’s been lacking. I discovered as much yesterday!

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Defining Terms

26 June 2004

Since the fate of the country does NOT hinge on my ability to debate any of you, I’m not going to. I’ve stated that I consider myself a ”classical liberal.” You can learn what a classical liberal believes by visiting the links. The fate of the country does depend upon the ideas that the majority of its citizens hold.

Some pick people they don’t like and declare themselves for the other side. Some find people who support a given position or cause and align with them. Others have a vision for what this country was intended to be. They weigh most issues in light of whether the issue carries us closer to or further from the vision.

Still others align with those who wrote our founding documents (e.g. the Federalist Papers, The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, etc.). Using the positions of the Founders and the founding documents, they form positions about each and every issue.

Then, there are those who vote with their pocket books. Each issue either helps them or hurts them in the bank account. They vote or hold positions accordingly. Some people base everything on emotion. How does an issue or the people speaking about it make them feel? Once they know and understand their emotions they take a stand. Take a test if you need to!

While I believe sincerely that we divide ourselves into groups or categories, it’s wrong for me to go public with how I have people and positions classifed in my news aggregator. Fortunately, many who have written me are not even in my list of regular reads. Others are people I read routinely, but they weren’t classified.

Anyhow, I’m going to continue to write about my beliefs and positions on matters given my worldview. I will refrain from impuning others in groups. You take a position, you can defend it. You shouldn’t have to defend others holding a similar position. I stand by my belief that those who agree with the positions Michael Moore espouses in his latest movie are of the liberal ilk. Perhaps not, but I haven’t spoken to anyone who has said, ”I agree with what Michael Moore said, but I’m a conservative.”

Comments [1]

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Getting The Liberals Together

26 June 2004

Keep going to Michael Moore’s movie and praising it in your weblogs. You will instantly be moved from the channel group which originally fit my interest in your site to the one called ”Flaming Liberals.” Friday night movie goers have created a lot of moves this morning.

Comments [3]

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World Advances

25 June 2004

Worldmag.com has been redesigned. It doesn’t validate, but it’s an improvement in appearance and usability compared to the last design.

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Join The Club

25 June 2004

There is still plenty of time to get yourself added to the ”Flaming Liberals” channel group in my copy of FeedDemon. Unfortunately, I’m having to move a fair number of web designers into that bunch. It seems that some of the sites I’ve been reading to learn web design often dip into the political realm. I do, too.

Yet, if they are whiney, they get moved. If they lack decent judgment and logic, they get moved. If they say treasonous things, they get moved. If they support Michael Moore, they get moved (fast). If they extrapolate and assume to ridiculous extremes, they get moved.

For those among the flaming liberals who are also outstanding web designers, you have my respect for your talent and knowledge. It’s the direction you’d like to see this country go that bothers me. Please understand, you don’t get deleted. Your site still gets read, particularly if you write about something interesting other than politics.

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Fetch The Dueling Pistols

25 June 2004

Apparently, our VP let off some steam on the floor of the Senate after the session ended. It seems the steam was directed at none other than Senator Patrick (we’ll call him Leaky) Leahy.

While I’m no fan of the profanity, Michelle Malkin’s commenters provide some excellent, alternative insults. I guess the whole thing simply reminds me of David Feherty’s outstanding book, Somewhere In Ireland, A Village Is Missing An Idiot.

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Read Lileks Today

25 June 2004

This is one of those not-to-be-missed days for James Lileks, particularly if you have raised or are raising a family.

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On This Day Last Year

25 June 2004

Classical liberals.

There was some other good stuff there as well.

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Collapsing Slowly

25 June 2004

Gary Petersen may (I’m not yet sure) have set off the final collapse of my efforts to learn and use Textpattern this morning. His narrative on Product Blogging actually covers a lot of additional ground.

First, about Textpattern. I’ve really been struggling to understand the relationship between tags, templates, XHTML and CSS with all of the weblogging tools. I understand XHTML tags. I understand a portion of what can be done to style those tags with CSS. I still don’t understand the placement of a weblogging tag in and around an XHTML tag within a template and styled by CSS. Furthermore, Textpattern is a product that is far behind Movable Type and WordPress. If those products represent a teenager and an adolescent respectively, Textpattern is in the second trimester of pregnancy!

Help for Textpattern comes from a discussion forum. There isn’t any documentation. Dealing with the product assumes you’ve already learned and dealt with the relationships between tags and templates and such. Installing and setting up a test weblog is fairly easy, but learning how to style that weblog or to transfer an existing weblog from another tool is unbelievably challenging.

This morning finds me reconsidering WordPress and Movable Type. I realize that I’ve learned a lot more about Movable Type than any other tool. I also like the communities that have grown up around MT and WP.

Gary’s entry makes it obvious that WordPress was easy to set up and easy to start. He also mentions a product called ActiveWords.

Finally, Gary’s entry brings to mind some new ideas for making weblog technology work for a business and its products. We’re going to start applying that advice right away.

Comments [2]

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Gmail Fanfare

24 June 2004

For those looking for GMAIL accounts, I’ve got a couple of unused invitations. Dane Carlson sent me an invitation. I signed up. I share the notions you’ll read at *Asterisk.

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Shoot The Haranguers

24 June 2004

Shooting liberals and loons
By Craig J. Cantoni
June 24, 2004

I recently shot a liberal who had been haranguing me for the last two years over my weekly opinion column in the Arizona Republic. I’ll never hear from him again. If you want to know how to shoot liberals and other loons without getting arrested, read on.

I’ll start with how I shot the haranguer.

I shot him with a rhetorical bullet by asking him the following: ”Since you dislike my libertarian views, could you please describe your political philosophy? To make it easy for you, pick a point on a 10-point scale, in which ’0’ represents totalitarianism, ’5’ represents contemporary liberalism, ’6’ represents neoconservatism and ’10’ represents the full array of liberty, including civil liberties, economic freedom, property rights, and the rights of self-defense and free association.”

The haranguer wrote back and said that he was too busy to answer my question. Yeah, right. He is not too busy to send me long, haranguing e-mails, but he’s too busy to pick a point on a 10-point scale. In reality, the question flummoxed him, because like most people, he had spent his adult life thinking in terms of the traditional left-right scale, or liberal-conservative scale, and not a liberty scale. Like a shot in the forehead, the question undoubtedly made him realize that his political philosophy was not about complete freedom, and he was not about to admit it.

Here are six other bullets that I have found effective in shooting liberals and loons:

Bullet One:

When a liberal or loon says that taxes should be increased in general or for some utopian purpose, shoot back with this loaded question: ”Given that government spending has increased 300% in inflation-adjusted dollars over the last 100 years, given that the cost of government is $24,000 per household, given that a clerk earning $64 a day at a convenience store has almost $10 taken for the Social Security and Medicare of well-off retirees, and given that I pay more than 40% of my income in taxes, what do you think is a fair percentage of income for people to pay in taxes?”

I have asked at least 50 liberals and loons this question. None has ever answered the question with a specific percentage. Most answer with platitudes and generalities about fairness and justice. A few have actually said that no one should pay more than 25% of income in taxes.

Bullet Two:

When a liberal or loon says that schools are underfunded and need more money, fire the following question: ”How much do you pay per year and over a lifetime in school taxes?” If the person doesn’t know (and few people do), fire a follow-up question: ”Then how do you know that schools deserve more of your money and whether you are getting your money’s worth?”

Bullet Three:

When a liberal or loon says that health care should be provided by the government, squeeze off this round: ”Do you also believe that everyone should get free food, shelter, clothing and transportation from the government, and wasn’t that tried by the Soviet Union?”

Bullet Four:

When a liberal or loon says that health care is right, pop ’em with this: ”Aren’t you really saying that people have a right to take other people’s money for their health care? If so, where is that right written?” If he responds with claptrap about the profit motive not working in health care, ask him the following: ”Are you aware that the government critically wounded a consumer market in health care 60 years ago, when misguided policies resulted in employees getting their medical insurance from their employers instead of buying it on their own, and that the government delivered the coup de grace with Medicare in 1965? Why do you blame the market when there is no consumer market in medical insurance?”

Bullet Five:

When a liberal or loon says that higher gas prices are due to price-fixing by Big Oil, blast back with this bullet: ”Then why does Big Oil allow prices to fall?”

Bullet Six:

When the first five bullets mortally wound a liberal or loon, and in his dying breath he calls you mean-spirited and selfish, finish him off as follows: ”Gee, if you care so much about other people, why don’t you give them your money instead of mine?”

Lock and load. Happy shooting—rhetorically speaking.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Lead, Follow Or Get Out Of The Way

24 June 2004

Tech Republic is a site I visit from time to time. Today I got an email from them that carried this headline, ”Should an AS/400 refugee go MCAD or MCSE?” I have no idea why I clicked on the link. Having done so, I realized that I was in a discussion forum concerning a guy’s search for a new career path.

What was interesting was how other techies were advising a techie. Clearly, there were all forms of geekdom represented in the tips this guy received. There were also pieces of advice about opening a retail store, becoming a carpenter or seeking the rewards of mortgage brokerage.

In its own way this thread of discussion provides clear insight into why the I.T. function is in such desperate need of leadership at most companies. Some incredibly bright people simply must be channeled to those projects and tasks that are of highest value and highest return to the organization.

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How To Do An Interview

24 June 2004

The proper style and methods for interviews have been lost in the hiring of ”pretty faces” and ”radio voices” in today’s 24×7 cable news people. One of the worst – and there are so many – is Jon Scott. Couple poor technique and bad manners with ”ninety seconds to tell two decades of history” and we’ll just talk over each other until…I’m sorry, we’ve got to pause for this commercial break.

Conjunctions are the worst enemies of today’s television interviewer. An interviewee who uses these words sends fear and trembling through the pretty faces who spend more time getting wardrobe and makeup correct than conducting serious interviews. ”I’ll give you a little of my airtime, but never lose sight of the fact that this news broadcast is about me and my airtime!

Oh, and everything isn’t ”breaking news.” They think all of us are dolts.

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Trust

23 June 2004

Mr. Charles Munger is Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and is called Warren Buffett’s partner. He has often mentioned Costco as one of the companies that does things the way a shareholder would expect them to be done. Rebecca Blood has linked to an article about Costco, its CEO and the way employees are treated. This one is worth your time.

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Updated Facts

23 June 2004

About a week ago the CIA’s 2004 World Fact Book was released. The online version is available here. It’s a worthwhile reference.

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How To Receive The Public Good

23 June 2004

K-12 Group-think
By Craig J. Cantoni
June 22, 2004

Does group-think result from the government, unionized teachers and a few textbook publishers having a near-monopoly over K-12 classroom thought? And if so, is this a good thing in a free society?

Judging from reader responses to my articles in the mainstream media over the years, the answer to the first question is yes, at least in terms of group-think about public education, government and economics. The answer to the second question is no, as group-think certainly is not good in a free society, especially group-think about the subjects of public education, government and economics.

Millions of readers have read my articles over the years, and hundreds have responded with letters and e-mails. Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, college-educated or not, the vast majority of them think alike about public education, government and economics. For example:

– Most believe that public schools are underfunded, in spite of a doubling of per-pupil spending in real terms over the last 40 years, and in spite of overwhelming evidence that increased spending has not translated into improved academic results. One soccer mom, in a disagreement with me about education spending, forwarded a newspaper article to prove her point that Arizona and Utah rank at the bottom in education spending. But a sidebar to the article clearly showed that the two states rank near the middle when education spending is calculated as a percentage of personal income, which is the most accurate way of comparing spending between states. She didn’t see the facts staring her in the face, because she had been brainwashed for years by the education establishment to believe the canard about the states ranking at the bottom. – Most want an increase in public ed spending, although they have no idea what they pay in public ed taxes over their adult lives. They have no idea because the education establishment does not want them to know the number. Of course, it is impossible to know whether you are getting good value for your money if you don’t know how much you are paying. – Most believe that public school teachers are underpaid, although the facts show that when teacher pay and benefits are calculated on an hourly basis, they are paid more than many professions that require a more rigorous degree. Naturally, unionized teachers are not about to cite such facts. – Most do not know that government spending has increased in real terms by 300 percent over the last century, that transfer payments have increased 20-fold from 2 percent of government spending 100 years ago to 40 percent today, that the cost of government is $24,000 per household, that the cost of regulations is $8,000 per household, that there are about 10 million more wealth-consuming government employees than wealth-producing manufacturing employees, or that future generations will be left with Social Security and Medicare deficits of over $40 trillion. These are not the kind of facts that government schools and unionized teachers are going to stress. – Most are illiterate in economics, because economics is not taught in government schools. Thus, most fall for claptrap spread by such socialist politicians as Ted Kennedy, who claims that nationalized health care will make health care affordable. Of course, costs don’t decrease because something is socialized. The costs simply become hidden and are transferred from one person to the next in a gigantic government-run shell game, with politicians receiving campaign payoffs to referee the game. – Most don’t know that health insurance is unaffordable for millions of Americans because the government killed a consumer market in health insurance 60 years ago. Government schools, which are used by the government to enroll people in various socialized health care programs, are not about to teach this fact. – When I question why it is fair for private school parents to subsidize well-off public school parents through public education taxes, most readers respond with the same platitudes about public education being for the benefit of the poor. It would be a valid point if not for the fact that the vast majority of public ed parents are not poor and can afford to educate their kids without taking other people’s money, just as they can afford to feed, shelter and clothe their kids without taking other people’s money. If they really wanted to help the poor, parents of public-schoolers would pay the cost of their kid’s education out of their own pockets in direct tuition, so that public school taxes would only go to the poor. Again, this is not a perspective that unionized teachers and government schools would bring to the classroom. – Most readers say that I’m mean-spirited and selfish when I write that private school parents and homeschoolers should get a tax credit equal to what they pay in public school taxes for the 12 years that their kids attend private school or are homeschooled. They even say this when presented with the fact that my wife and I will pay $190,000 in public school taxes over our adult lives, although we get no direct benefit in return, because our son attends parochial school. In our case, the tax credit would be about $45,000, thus leaving $145,000 for public school parents. Only someone who has been indoctrinated in socialism can believe that the giver of $145,000 is mean-spirited and selfish but the recipient is not. – Most readers claim that public schools are a public good like highways and parks. Of course, highways and parks are not in the business of teaching impressionable children. Also, in my home state of Arizona, most highway costs are paid by users through gas taxes, sales taxes on cars and various fees—unlike public schools, which are funded by users and nonusers alike. And those who spout platitudes about the public good rarely offer any coherent theory about what is a public good and what isn’t. The extent of their narcissistic thinking is that public schools are a public good, because they and their kids have attended them and received more ”public good” than those who haven’t attended them. Government schools are not about to disabuse them of the notion.

A closing question: Is it just a coincidence that most Americans have attended government schools and that most Americans think alike about public education, government and economics? I think not.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Why I Travel

23 June 2004

I live in a city known for its image issues. To say there is an inferiority complex is to dramatically understate the case. As a distribution center, Memphis is a lot like a city with a huge Air Force base. With FedEx headquartered here, we have some pilots in the area. However, relative to the work done by FedEx, pilots are far outnumbered by other ”classes” of workers. Wages in Memphis are low. It’s a poor city relative to cities of comparable population.

If you doubt what I say, take a look at this chart from the June 14, 2004 InfoWorld. Notice just how ridiculously low the I.T. salaries are in Memphis. This has been true for many years. During the height of the personal computer ”franchise wars,” Memphis led the nation in product discounting. [Remember, Entre, Computerland, Inacom and MicroAge?]

For that reason, I’ve spent the majority of the last fifteen years working for clients outside of the Memphis area. Memphis is also a place that has no respect for knowledge. Who-you-know is far more important than what-you-know. Consultants are held in lower esteem than they are nationally, which is bad enough. Anyone, other than doctors or lawyers, who attempts to earn a living from what-they-know is quickly identified and categorized. Advisory work that commands $1500 to $2500 or more per day in other places might be valued at $500 in Memphis. That price assumes you’re in the good ’ol boy network, you’ll invoice the work well after the work is done and then happily wait sixty days for payment.

Keep these things in mind as you read InfoWorld’s 2004 Compensation Survey and you’ll understand more about why we travel. Traveling gets old, but it certainly has provided a different standard of living than the I.T. industry in Memphis can provide.

Comments [1]

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That Sense Of Style

23 June 2004

I’ve come to admire people who can crank out skins for their web sites at will. You Can’t Get There From Here has a new skin. Shelley Powers has been really busy creating new styles for her site. She’s even got two groups – static and dynamic. I haven’t a clue what the distinction is.

I’m still fighting a mental block with things like the width of text areas and sidebars. Is it the CSS that’s setting these widths or is it something in the XHTML? Until I understand simple things like this, I suspect style-changing is way over my head. There’s even some possibility that the choice of switchers is dependent upon which weblog tool you’re using. My interests are Textpattern, Movable Type and WordPress. Do they require different switchers?

The style switchers that are used are also puzzling. My first exposure to ”skinning” or style switching was based upon this tutorial. I believe lots of the Movable Type sites were using this technique. Then, there is the CSS Zen Garden and the customized style switcher that is used there. It seems to me that this site uses a PHP style switcher which means it is ”server-side.” The code that makes the switch of styles is actually run at the server (I think).

At Jeffrey Zeldman’s site there are three links – here’s #1, here’s #2 and here’s #3 – to information about understanding client-side style switching. I may be wrong again, but I perceive that these techniques involve javascript, which makes the change a client-side switch.

I haven’t the slightest clue which is better or why. I couldn’t begin to tell anyone why CSS Zen Garden uses one technique for switching while Zeldman.com uses another. [If someone knows and can explain it in nongeekspeak, I’m all ears.]

Comments [1]

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Whitespace Awards

22 June 2004

Paul Scrivens has published a list of awards. The comments aren’t bad either!

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Instant Links Page

22 June 2004

Dan Cederholm was running a book giveaway. Comments yielded links to sites or articles about web standards. Now there’s a list of all the links. You can also get to them at Orderedlist.com.

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Another Ten Questions

22 June 2004

[7] Russ: How do you deal with the ’IE factor’ when building layouts in CSS?

Molly: I start drinking earlier and earlier in the day!

Seriously, my preferred method is to design to the ideal. I develop in Mozilla first, and then determine how to re-fit for IE 6.0 and other browsers. This might not be the best solution for everyone, but I find that it helps me because I can create really solid CSS and then study which workarounds and hacks I have to employ to achieve results for IE. Then, using strategies such as placing hacks in individual CSS files and then importing the hacks into my primary CSS document allows me to remove the hack the moment it’s no longer needed. I simply remove one line of CSS from the main CSS document and delete the CSS document containing the hack, moving ever closer to the original clean, idealistic CSS.

from Ten Questions for Molly Holzschlag

No matter how much I read about web standards, web design and what processes people use to do their work, I learn something new nearly every day. As many times as I’ve heard about the problems of IE6, I think Molly’s interview explains the issues as well as any. If you’re not a regular visitor to her site, take a look. Oh yeah, more books are on the way!

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Where Is Truth?

22 June 2004

Democrats have fumed over our presence in Iraq. Some believe we should be there, but we got there under false pretenses. Clearly, some in the Bush administration feel as though some of the intelligence reports they received were flawed.

Clinton’s book is out. In interviews, he’s still oblivious to the fact that he was impeached for lying to a grand jury. Liberal media members call it spin. I call it lying.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about the launching of the liberal radio network called Air America [Note: Subscription may be required] From beginning to end this is a story about the many deceptions that were exchanged between founders, employees, suppliers and investors in the new venture.

In the same edition of the paper is a story about Lou Dobbs who has been whining endlessly about American businesses that have sought offshoring opportunities to countries where employees earn less. (It’s a classic case of lowering costs.) Yet, a newsletter that Dobb’s mails to investors has included these offshoring companies in a list of companies he endorses while also placing them on the ”offenders’ list” at his offshoring web page.

Now we’re about to endure political conventions and the final stages of the campaign for the White House. Truth is going to continue to be pretty hard to find.

We have become so focused on power, prestige and position relative to others that truth is lost in the shuffle. We believe we are more important than others. Truth gets lost. Are you more important than others? Why? Is it the car? Is it the clothes? Is it the position you hold? Is it your net worth that makes you more important? Do you understand the relationship between truth and leadership?

”Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place {these} over them {as} leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. Exodus 18:21 New American Standard Bible

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Been There, Done That

21 June 2004

Kim du Toit isn’t leaving. Neither am I.

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Donations To Mississippi State Are Suspended

21 June 2004

Take a look at this essay, and you’ll understand that Mike Adams’s tenth myth is right on target:

Myth # 10. The decision to join the gay rights movement will secure enough donations from gay activists to offset the ensuing donor boycott from the once proud alums of Mississippi State University.

Mike Adams
Dispelling Myths About Gay Activism
June 21, 2004

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Would You Like Taxes With Those Fries?

21 June 2004

Big Butts, Small Brains
by Craig J. Cantoni
June 17, 2004

There is an inverse relationship between the size of American butts and the size of their brains. The bigger the butt, the smaller the brain.

A case in point was the lead story on big butts, er, obesity, in the June 7 issue of Time Magazine. The story included the results of an opinion survey on obesity.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that individuals have a great deal or a good amount of responsibility for being obese. About the same percentage said that obese people are not getting enough exercise. At the same time, 58 percent said that the federal government is doing too little about the problem, and 41 percent said that there should be a tax on unhealthy foods, with the revenue being used for programs to fight obesity.

This illogical small-brained thinking can be summarized with the following syllogism: Individuals are responsible for being obese. Individuals can reduce obesity by eating less and exercising more. Therefore, the federal government should do something, including taxing people who are not obese and giving their money to those who are.

Naturally, since it was published by a propaganda arm of the nanny state, the lengthy article did not question the fairness, morality or constitutionality of the federal government taking money from people who control their urges and spending it on butt reduction programs for those who don’t.

To the establishment media, the Constitution is a quaint document under glass at the National Archives, and fairness and morality are always covered from the perspective of irresponsible people instead of responsible ones. This results in irresponsible people being portrayed as victims. And that, in turn, results in more irresponsible small-brained people who believe what they read in Time.

Following the mainstream media formula, the Time piece portrayed the obese as victims of biology, advertising, fast food, poverty, the price of healthy food, the auto, suburban sprawl and global warming. I’m kidding about global warming but not the others.

Before reading the piece, I knew for certain that it would not cover certain issues. It did not disappoint me. For example, it did not mention the following:

– That children in single-parent families are 40 percent more likely to be obese than children in two-parent families. – That much of the rise in single-parent families is due to misguided government policies and programs—the very same government that 58 percent of Americans believe can solve the problem of obesity. – That there is a connection between obesity and welfare, because welfare strips people of personal responsibility, initiative and self-esteem. – That it is a myth that healthy foods are expensive and not affordable for lower-income Americans.

On the last point, Time said that wealthy people can afford to buy an expensive lean steak, but poor people can only afford fatty food. What poppycock! Healthy food is not expensive. I know, because I don’t eat much meat but do eat a lot of salads made with beans, other canned vegetables and fresh produce. Granted, my wife wears a gas mask to bed, but that is beside the point.

Locally, a can of kidney beans costs 50 cents; a can of peas, 60 cents; and a pound of fresh broccoli, $1.64. Two high-protein, low-fat meals can be made out of these ingredients at a cost of $1.37 per meal, excluding the nominal cost of olive oil and vinegar.

The Time piece even had advice to parents for talking to their kids about being overweight. The advice was to be sensitive to their feelings and not be judgmental. I’m a bad parent. I tell my kid that if he eats one more potato chip, I’m going to rip his tongue out of his mouth. He is not overweight but is undergoing psychoanalysis. Just kidding about the psychoanalysis.

A recent PBS NewsHour segment on obesity in Arkansas covered the issue the same way that Time Magazine did. Of course it did. PBS is another propaganda arm of the nanny state.

The segment described the anti-obesity program started in public schools by the Arkansas governor, a former big butt, who, like reformed smokers, wants the state to stick its butt in other people’s business. He believes that the state has a right to stick its butt where it doesn’t belong. Why? Because socialism breeds socialism. PBS didn’t characterize the governor’s initiative that way, but that is how it should have been characterized.

If PBS were not a propaganda arm of the nanny state, it would have explained that socialism is achieved in incremental steps. First, the state socializes health care. Next, the state says it has the right to control obesity because obesity increases the state’s health care costs. Then, the state says it has the right to take money from people who eat responsibly and give it to people who don’t.

Featured in the PBS segment was a dumpster-sized honor student, whose command of English makes NBA players seem articulate by comparison. If she is an honor student, average students in Arkansas must have the brains of hamsters and the butts of elephants.

The student was shown at home having dinner with her mom, who is the size of two dumpsters. Dinner included a fried chicken leg the size of a mastodon leg, creamed corn and corn bread. Dad was missing from the scene. I’m sure that he was working overtime and was going to be home later. Wink, wink.

The scene then shifted to an interview with a school administrator. Hold on to your chair. You’re going to be shocked by what she said. She said that the schools can’t fight obesity without more money. Shocking! She did not explain why it is the role of schools to fight obesity or why parents can’t simply stop serving fried mastodon legs to their kids. And of course, PBS did not ask her such questions, because PBS and government schools are different arms of the same propaganda ministry.

As butts have gotten bigger, brains have gotten smaller, the nanny state has gotten bigger and the propaganda ministry has become more effective in shaping public opinion. It’s enough to make me want to kick some butt.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Amazing Animation

20 June 2004

Shrek 2Whatever you have planned for this week, make some time to see Shrek 2, if you haven’t already.

I saw it for the first time tonight. There must be close to a thousand inside jokes and references in the movie. There’s a great soundtrack.

Julie Andrews’s voice is a perfect fit.

You’ll be entertained!

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Keep Them Straight

20 June 2004

Moleskine NotebooksAt any given time, I may have four or five Moleskine notebooks in use. One tracks changes I want to make to this web site. A second tracks notes for my company and its site. I keep a spiritual journal in a third. The fourth one that I’m using right now tracks new ideas and opportunities. Other people may have as many as seven or eight notebooks going at once.

Glance at a stack of these on a desk or in a brief case and you won’t be able to tell them apart. How do you keep them straight? Here are some ideas:

  • Avery’s adhesive dots on the front or back cover; ok, but again difficult or impossible to see if the notebooks are stacked.
  • Title page indicator; ok, but requires that you unfasten the elastic closure and open the book.
  • Best Idea? Use colored markers to make page-edge indicators. Preferably, use a fine point marker, squeeze the closed notebook tightly shut and make geometric, numeric or alphabetic codes on the top, bottom or side edges of the pages. Cleverly done, the colors and/or a series of letters or numbers will provide an easy-to-see indentifier for as many notebooks as you might have active at once.

Comments [1]

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Happy Father's Day!

20 June 2004

Happy Father's Day - 2004!

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How Many For You?

19 June 2004

Tough times test people. Someone once said that we are all…

  • ... 3 meals away from borrowing
  • ... 6 meals away from begging
  • ... 9 meals away from stealing
  • ... 12 meals away from murder
What do you know about yourself? What do you know and believe about being tested? What pushes your buttons? Is it a rude driver? Is it a coworker? Is it an indifferent clerk? Is it money? Is it something mundane?

For most people reading this, it isn’t missed meals. It’s some other routine or intrusion into our comfortable little lives. Think about what you value above all else. Most of us spend way too much time trying to be comfortable. It’s time for all of us to take a stand, value something above our stuff and the lengths we go to trying to protect it. Otherwise, our values will unravel.

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Add This To Your Reading List

19 June 2004

First, read this guy’s bio. Then, read some of his articles. In the face of liberal media and incessant blathering about diversity and rights, this guy offers some alternative perspectives that are worthwhile.

He’s a vigorous opponent of the ”speech codes” in universities that limit truly free speech. The message has been, ”your speech is free, so long as it agrees with our worldview.” Then, when they allow a single faculty member to remain in their midst, they claim dramatic leaps in diversity. Does one Republican among a department faculty of fifty like-thinkers represent diversity?

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To All The World's Idiots

18 June 2004

Oh Yeah. If you come here hoping to read pseudo-intellectual political correctness, you will be disappointed. Political correctness has done more harm to this nation than many other social and cultural phenomena that we’ve allowed in the last fifty years.

Here’s the message I want to send. If these reports that the Saudi’s have killed the leader of Al Qaeda in Riyadh are true, then fine. No cost for jail time. No cost for lawyers. No cost for media coverage. No cost for a lengthy trial. One more driver of evil is removed. That’s fine.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Qaeda leader, Abdulaziz al-Moqrin, killed.

Hey, Iran, make sure you’re really ready to do this!

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Here's The Question

18 June 2004

The Middle East has a rather high concentration of terrorists, hate-mongers, extremists, Jihadists, etc. Either we agree on that point or we don’t. They understand nothing about shame, remorse, decency or civilization. This may be a small minority of the so-called peaceful Muslim community, but they must be routed.

They talk to a different God from the one I worship. Dr. Albert Mohler wrote this today:

What we believe about God determines everything really important in life. As A. W. Tozer reminded us, what we believe about God is the most important thing about us. The ultimate test we will ever face is the test of truth—do we really know God?

Dr. Albert Mohler
June 18, 2004

These words are from his series called No Ordinary God.

Please read and think about the series. Parts | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |

I’m seriously angry and ready to DO something. I’m sick of the rhetoric. I’m sick of debate about whether the Koran says this or that. I’m sick of the liberals blaming America. I’m sick of watching our towers collapse. I’m sick of seeing holes in the side of our ships. I don’t want to hear of another Marine barricks blown up by Middle Eastern zealots. I’m sick of watching kidnapped civilians murdered abroad. My anger causes me to lose sight of my own God. It turns me to the Old Testament.

There comes a time when the shrimpy little spokespeople for these foreign governments need to just shut up. I’m ready for leadership that says, ”this globe is simply too small to tolerate these so-called cells of terrorists.” Then, let’s take the political handcuffs off the military and rid this world of these thugs. I’m too agitated to think clearly, but reason doesn’t seem to be one of the options for dealing with Middle Eastern stupidity and tolerance for extremists.

The question? Will anyone do anything, or will we merely talk some more?

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How Much Are You Willing To Tolerate?

18 June 2004

Help us or face consequences!I’m entirely prepared, willing and able to become the ”ugly American” once more. This stuff must stop. It must stop. It must be stopped now. I don’t care if some nation(s) sees the seventh century again. They should stop or be bombed into submission. Lawlessness, barbarism and extremism must be eliminated – period.

Either you believe this or you are willing for these things to start happening in the city or town or area where you live. There isn’t any middle ground. Ask yourself what you are prepared to accept. Ask yourself just how vigorously you’re willing to resist. It’s sick. It must end – now.

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Toys

17 June 2004

On this day last year I was curious about ”the cable clock” and some other toys. Still rather intriguing stuff.

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Ask, And Ye Shall...

17 June 2004

No sooner had I made the request than a loyal reader and helper came through with a GMAIL invitation. In January of 2002 I was struggling to learn Radio, weblogs, sidebars, blogrolls and things even more fundamental to the web. There were a lot of new users of Radio at that time. Dane Carlson ”adopted me” during the height of that explosion in user counts at the urging of the experienced users. Adopted meant getting help and a ready source of answers.

Dane and I have stayed in touch and he continues to offer some great help along the way. If you haven’t read his weblog or the Business Opportunities site, which he also writes, you should add them to your regular reads. Thanks also to Steven Vore for the pointer.

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Gmail

17 June 2004

I want a GMAIL account. If any readers here have unused invitations…well, I’d be grateful.

Comments [1]

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God In A Manageable Size

17 June 2004

Too many Americans hold to a view of God that is both sub-biblical and disastrous. Rather than believing in the God of the Bible, they believe in a God of their own imaginations, cut down to manageable size. The Bible reveals God to possess certain definite attributes that define His nature. On these, there must be no compromise.

Dr. Albert Mohler
June 17, 2004

>From a series of essays called No Ordinary God.
Here’s the series to date: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

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Got To Hand It To Them

16 June 2004

The folks at Six Apart have changed their licensing arrangements. The new prices certainly seem to align well with the ways that people use the product.

Though I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d be in this mode, I’m rethinking some choices I’ve made recently. WordPress seems to be thriving, but documentation is scattered making it tough for a rookie user to pick the product up and produce a really attractive, fully functional web site.

Textpattern, while providing some sensational features and a future that looks very bright, is several steps behind WordPress. Textpattern is still ”gamma” software. There is virtually no documentation.

All things equal, I’d have a list of specs for moving this weblog to Textpattern with some alterations or updates to the look of the site. All things are not equal.

How will I handle this? Not sure. Perhaps I’ll update MT and continue my work with Textpattern. It’s bound to move out of gamma and into a newbie-friendly mode soon.

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Rain Prevented Reading

16 June 2004

Rain on a day when the Wall Street Journal had already been soaked prevented my discovery of Peggy Noonan’s reflections on the Reagan funeral and life as a speechwriter. Thanks to Russ Lipton, I got a link to the piece that ran yesterday. [Note: subscription may be required.] Read every word of it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Preparation - Not Panic

16 June 2004

The things that get us are the things we never expect. The things we never expect are things we believe can’t happen.

Do you have a plan for your family if the price of oil goes to $100 or more per barrel? Do you understand the kind of impact such a price might have on you?

I’m not one to predict doom. I am one to understand the ”downside.” Let the sovereign rule of Iraq faulter slightly. Let a pipeline or two remain disrupted a bit longer than expected. Let terrorism linger in Saudi Arabia. Let Israel remain under attack. Let inflation creep upward at the same time interest rates rise.

It doesn’t take all of these things to see some upward pressure on gasoline prices, heating oil prices, natural gas prices and the cost of living. Do you have a plan?

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Bloomsday

16 June 2004

James Joyce

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Speaking Above The Sixth-Grade Level

15 June 2004

PBS Rips Candidate Thomas Jefferson
by Craig J. Cantoni
June 15, 2004

In the event you missed it, last week’s PBS show ”Washington Week in Review” discussed the presidential campaign between John Kerry, George Bush, Ralph Nader and Thomas Jefferson. Here is a transcript of the segment:

Gwen Ifill (Host): It’s not surprising that John Kerry and George Bush are still running neck and neck, but the big news of the week is the huge drop in the polls for Libertarian candidate Thomas Jefferson. CBS is now projecting that he will get fewer votes than Ralph Nader.

Michael Duffy (Time Magazine): I have never seen a candidate with such radical ideas and such a tin ear for politics. The dumbest thing he did this week was poke his finger in the eye of the American Association of Retired People while on the stump in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In speaking about the trillions of dollars in Medicare bills that will be passed to future generations, he actually said the following: ”I sincerely believe… that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

David Sanger (NY Times): Yeah, it’s unbelievable that he would equate Medicare to swindling. But then he kept digging his political grave by adding this: ”Then I say, the earth belongs to each of these generations during its course, fully and in its own right. The second generation receives it clear of the debts and incumbrances of the first, the third of the second, and so on. For if the first could charge it [the next generation] with a debt, then the earth would belong to the dead and not to the living generation. Then, no generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its own existence.”

Tom Gjelten (National Public Radio): And what is it with his funny way of talking? He’ll never get the votes of the MTV generation by speaking above the sixth-grade level.

Gwen Ifill: Good point, Tom. And what do you think of him slamming Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan for not telling the truth about paper money that is not backed by gold?

Tom Gjelten: Jefferson’s ears aren’t tin. They’re hardened steel. Greenspan is an icon, but Jefferson preached to him about the danger of paper money. Let me quote what he said: ”The trifling economy of paper, as a cheaper medium, or its convenience for transmission, weighs nothing in opposition to the advantages of the precious metals… it is liable to be abused, has been, is, and forever will be abused, in every country in which it is permitted.”

Michael Duffy: I don’t think that was his biggest gaffe, considereing that other than Wall Street, no one understands the banking system. His biggest gaffe was alienating Hispanics with his stand on immigration.

Gwen Ifill: I thought he was in favor of immigration.

Michael Duffy: He is, but his mistake was warning about too much immigration from one country at one time. It’s hard to believe, but he actually made the following statement in San Antonio, Texas: ”[Is] rapid population [growth] by as great importations of foreigners as possible… founded in good policy?... They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their number, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass… If they come of themselves, they are entitled to all the rights of citizenship: but I doubt the expediency of inviting them by extraordinary encouragements.”

David Sanger: That was certainly a huge gaffe, but the biggest gaffe was his stand on the Iraq War, Israel and the Middle East. Rush Limbaugh was taken to the hospital with a heart attack when he heard about it. In speaking before the Anti-Defamation League in Manhattan, Jefferson gave a history of European meddling in the Middle East in the early 20th century and beyond, including the Balfour Declaration, the creation of the Zionist State of Israel in what had been a peaceful region, and Britain’s creation of Iraq out of three distinct cultures and warring tribes. He made the point that because European colonialsim is the root-cause of many of the problems in the Middle East, Europeans should solve the problems. Then he sent shock waves through the audience and the State Department by saying: ”I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people.”

Tom Gjelten: Let’s don’t forget that he also alienated the Religious Right and the Unreligious Left. He alienated the Religious Right by saying, ”Whenever… preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science.” Then he alienated the Unreligious Left by speaking about morals: ”Peace, prosperity, liberty and morals have an intimate connection.”

David Sanger: He even lambasted Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when he was asked at the University of Michigan what he thought about her affirmative-action decision. He responded that ”Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure.”

Gwen Ifill: I also understand, David, that he has upset the Democratic wing of the Republican Party by attacking Senator John McCain for his campaign finance reforms.

David Sanger: He sure did, Gwen. He did it by expressing his weird view of the First Amendment. It’s hard to believe, but he actually said this about free speech: ”There are rights which it is useless to surrender to the government and which governments have yet always been found to invade. These are the rights of thinking and publishing our thoughts by speaking or writing; the right of free commerce; the right of personal freedom. There are instruments for administering the government so peculiarly trustworthy that we should never leave the legislature at liberty to change them.”

Tom Gjelten: Speaking of weird views, he has Congress and every lobbyist and federal employee up in arms over his warning about the centralization of power in Washington. To quote: ”When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”

Gwen Ifill: Thanks for your summaries, gentlemen. I’ll wrap up this segment with quotes from the other candidates about Jefferson. John Kerry said that ”Jefferson is a right-wing extremist who has obviously never read the Constitution.” Bush said that ”Jefferson is no compassionate conservative or patriot … uh, terrorism … uh, weapons of mass destruction … uh, a sovereign Iraq.” And Nader said, ”This man is an enemy of the proletariat and the environment.”

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author and columnist. He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com. Credit is given to the following University of Virginia website for some of the Jefferson quotations: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/

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Popular American Spirituality

15 June 2004

Dr. Mohler continues to amplify his thoughts on the Christian worldview. The latest entry is a logical follow-up to what he had to say on Monday.

The fact that so many modern people believe in ”just an ordinary God” indicates the true nature of our challenge. This ”god” of popular American spirituality is nothing like the God of the Bible—not even close.

Dr. Albert Mohler
June 15, 2004

Note: Just because I may not agree with some things a person says, does or teaches, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have some other worthwhile things to say!

  • * * UPDATE * * * As of June 16, 2004, here are the three parts thus far: | 1 | 2 | 3 |

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Another Site Improvement

15 June 2004

Westciv has a new site design. It’s a huge improvement. It would seem that the headstart that Topstyle has might get a little tighter if Westciv stays the course.

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Thanks, Textdrive; Thanks, Hosting Matters!

15 June 2004

I’ve got two web hosts. I like them both. TextDrive is new and I have less experience doing things there. It’s the home of some future work I have planned. Hosting Matters has been rock solid for me for almost two years. Judging from what can happen when you have hosted information, I’ve dodged quite a bullet by having relationships with these two providers.

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When Denial Equals Deletion

15 June 2004

We live in a world where allegations are more important than evidence. We live in a world where denying an event means it didn’t really happen. We live in a world where perception is valued over reality. In short, we live in a world that distorts truth.

The ultimate example comes from Howard Dean, who is now denying that his ”scream speech” didn’t happen.

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Reform In Mississippi

15 June 2004

Having allowed Overlawyered to slip into a lesser read channel group in FeedDemon, I’ve been missing out on what Walter Olson’s been writing. That situation has been rectified.

Here’s a link to Walter’s coverage of the tort reform in Mississippi. There’s linkage to past coverage of the situation in Mississippi at the end of the entry.

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Microsoft Or Other?

15 June 2004

When I sit down to my computer, I use IE6. It’s habit. It’s laziness. I simply haven’t taken the time to switch to new tools. I also use Outlook for email. With version 0.9 of Firefox, there’s a new call to make the change. Here’s the list of tasks that comes to mind:

  • favorites must be moved
  • I use the google toolbar many times each day. How does Firefox provide similar functionality?
  • In the ”Links” toolbar in IE I have several vital bookmarks and favlets. How do I replace these in Firefox?

Comments [3]

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$35,000 For 10 Users

15 June 2004

Oracle wants to pursue businesses with fewer than 500 employees. That’s what they call ”small business.” Small business means lots of different things depending upon which company or research group you might be reading. In my world, a 300-employee company is a large customer. A small customer is one with six to ten employees. For many research organizations those don’t make the radar screen. Here’s a quote that caught my eye:

Though pricing information has not been made public, Oracle will model the U.S. program after a similar one it introduced in Europe and Asia, where packages start at $35,000 for 10 users, an Oracle spokesman said. By contrast, Oracle’s large customers usually sign multimillion-dollar contracts.

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When You Arrive

15 June 2004

I’ve traveled nearly all of my working life. It’s enjoyable, but tiring. The last ten years of air travel have had more uncertainty than the ten before. Deregulation brought cheaper tickets, but it introduced rapid change. There was a time when a ticket in hand was as good as cash in hand. Any airline; any time; day or night, if they were going your way you could go with them. Not any more.

That’s not my point.

I mentioned that daughter #3 caught a flight at dark thirty yesterday morning. By midday she was on the ground and oriented. She had read about the Big Apple almost continuously since learning of the outcome of her audition back in February. So, what did she do?

Rather than move into her apartment and ”collapse.” She went to class. ”Class” in the dance world means something a little different from what I once thought. In a lot of classes, there isn’t a huge amount of new instruction. Rather, it’s a supervised time for working out. If you’ve never been around a professional dancer, they are athletes. They go to class (multiple times) every day.

At a class a teacher or an artisitic director puts the class through a series of required movements. There’s time at the bar. There’s time dancing specific movements to music. It’s not a rehearsal for a performance. It’s a time to perfect, condition and improve.

Drive me to the airport at 3:30a.m. Change planes once. Arrive in a different time zone seven hours later and I’m going to take it easy. Have a nice dinner. See a show. Get to bed early. Youth with a dream is different. She found a way to catch a subway and change trains twice. She found a class. She danced on Broadway! Did I mention I’m proud?

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If You Were Evicted...

15 June 2004

If your hosting service has suddenly dropped you, let me suggest TextDrive as an alternative. As weblogging and CMS make further inroads on the Internet, we’ve seen the migration of some users away from Movable Type. We’ve seen the move of some/all of the hosting for Userland from one coast to another, but it is still unclear what that company is all about, who owns it and what its future might be. Textpattern and WordPress have stepped in with a future for anyone who might be disillusioned with the past.

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What's Your Worldview?

14 June 2004

What frames your view of the world? Is it secular humanism? Is it live-and-let-live? Is it political? Is it freedom or dependence? Here’s one person’s description of a Christian worldview:

The foundation of the Christian worldview is the knowledge of the one true God. The fact of God’s existence sets this worldview apart from all others—and our knowledge of God is entirely dependent upon the gift of divine revelation. All Christians need a regular ”reset” of our worldview perspective. The times demand that we address the pressing issues and controversies of the day with Christian truth. Eternity demands that we take every thought back to the reality of God’s existence and the revelation of His character and will.

Dr. Al Mohler
June 14, 2004

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Where Apple's Headed

14 June 2004

Apple AirPort ExpressI like what Walter Mossberg writes for the Wall Street Journal. He’s good at translating geekspeak into executivespeak. There is a difference and it has nothing to do with executives being indifferent or uneducated in technical matters. Some people don’t like his dismissiveness of weblogs as a journalistic medium.

Today’s Wall Street Journal carries an interview of Steve Jobs by Mossberg. You’ll probably need a subscription to get to this, but if you can pick up a copy of the paper today, you’ll enjoy this view of the industry by Jobs.

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Yes, There Are Still Rules

14 June 2004

Though I just mentioned that daughter number three is headed for NYC, Dads have radar, sonar, satellite imaging and all manner of profiling, remote monitoring and ESP built into their instincts. For that reason, the Ten Rules for Dating My Daughter hold, even at this distance. [thanks to Kim du Toit for the link]

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Daughter Number Three

14 June 2004

Daughter #3 has never liked being ”the baby.” She was convinced when she went into the seventh grade that she should have her own apartment. ”Independent” doesn’t begin to describe her.

This morning I put her on a flight for New York. She’s a professional ballet dancer and will be dancing for the next couple of months at American Ballet Theatre. She graduated from high school a year early by going to college to get enough credits. She turned professional immediately out of high school.

She’s now completed her fourth year as a professional ballerina. She danced with ABT a couple of years ago. She’s been invited back.

Yes, I’m a proud dad. She’s hit the big time. There are few places that rival ABT in the ballet world. It’s been an unbelievable experience to see someone discover their dream at age four and never once question their calling. She’s never needed coaxing or coercion to get to lessons, classes, rehearsals or performances. Few people love what they do more than she does.

Virginia Clark, you are in our prayers. We miss you already!

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When Oil Costs $100 Per Barrel

14 June 2004

With some rounding error and allowance for 87, 89 or 93 octane ratings, gasoline costs approximately $2.10 per gallon with oil currently priced at about $38.50 per barrel. Is it reasonable to assume that $100 oil will lead to gasoline at $5.45 a gallon?

If those numbers are even close, the two-car family driving each vehicle 15,000 miles per year and getting 18 miles per gallon will see their gasoline budget change from $3500 to $9083 each year.

Let this escalate at the same time that interest rates on adjustable mortgages are ramping up, and you’ll begin to see an impact on the economy unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

This isn’t a forecast, but it’s clearly a set of conditions that could unfold rather easily. An individual’s best solution to these kinds of challenges will be to work at something you enjoy with the potential for increasing your income at a pace that is comparable to rapid jumps in the cost of living.

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Counting Weblogs

14 June 2004

Good morning. Metrics are hard to come by in the weblogging world. It’s not clear how many sites have been built with each tool. Somebody knows, but to my knowledge, that isn’t generally public information.

Matthew Mullenweg is tracking the use of WordPress and says that there are now 10,000 sites built with WordPress. How does this compare to Radio, Textpattern and Movable Type?

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Something Fun To Do

13 June 2004

Slashdot pointed to an article in the Austin Chronicle about Richard Mackinnon and the Wireless City Project he’s got going in Austin.

It would be a fun business and engineering endeavor to organize and build the teams, resources and ultimately the network to serve a city. We’ll put some more brain power on this one this week!

Comments [1]

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We Are So Entitled

13 June 2004

A portion of my latest (email) discussion with Craig Cantoni has been posted at the new Memphis Redblogs site. It’s about the virtual impossibility that we will ever reduce the size of the government and it’s impact on our lives.

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The Ruling Class

13 June 2004

Having observed the dignity and tradition of the Reagan funeral, someone remarked that they felt as if they were watching ”the ruling class.” They were.

This nation is rapidly dividing into a nation of people who are codependent on government care. If it’s not stadium subsidies for their favorite sport, it’s a belief that socialized medicine would be preferred. If not that, it’s a belief that government schools are somehow superior (or could be made superior) to any private or parochial school.

The list of programs, subsidies and entitlements from our government have grown so lengthy that we have lost any chance of truly shrinking the size of government and the tax burden it places on us. Too many people have a depency on one or more ”programs” or ”entitlements” offered by ”big government.”

The Ruling Class is necessary because those who are riding in the wagon don’t produce anything close to enough to keep the wagon moving forward. It’s the Ruling Class that’s doing all of the pulling. Sure, we may have periods where we somehow constrain the growth of government, but make no mistake, we are rapidly becoming a nation of two classes.

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Color Experiment

13 June 2004

Slayeroffice.com has a new color shift experiment that follows on the logic of the color palette creator (1.3).

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Earning A Living

13 June 2004

Here’s a guy who spent the last four days toiling over fourteen custom-made golf clubs, only to walk away with $945,000. What will you earn during your next four working days?

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List Of Free Software

13 June 2004

At Zen, and the Art of Blogging, there’s a list of free software categorized and annotated. Worthwhile.

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Won't Cure Everything

13 June 2004

During the week of mourning former President Reagan’s death, a lot of people got to a point of having little else to say. Some others decided to vent their dislike of the former President with anything they could come up with. One example of this was found in the accusation that Reagan’s Alzheimer’s Disease might have been cured by stem cell research and the resulting therapies.

As it turns out, stem cell research is apparently not likely to have the major impact in the area of Alzheimer’s that it might have in other areas. The next 24 months will be a period when we debate and researchers find alternatives to embryonic stem cells.

Some others lamented the great expense and time devoted to the funeral. A couple of people even went so far as to imply that the family and the Republicans conspired to dominate the news. Actually, the state funeral is available by law to any former commander-in-chief. Here’s a simple list of some of the traditions and the meaning of the things you saw this past week. Some more of the background is available here.

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Deep Focus

12 June 2004

Posting here may be pretty light for the next couple of days, except during breaks. I’m deep into some coursework on XHMTL, CSS and tools for web design.

I only wish tutorials were available for Textpattern. I’m impressed with the software, but learning it in its present state is pretty challenging. Documentation is slim. Tutorials are non-existent.

For those who’d like to dig into standards-based design, try these:

I’m interested in developing an XML syndication feed for an ERP application. Properly done, RSS could become the next executive information system. Thanks to Richard Caetano for the idea.

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Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004)

11 June 2004

Thank you, Mr. PresidentToday is the day of Ronald Reagan’s funeral. It’s been declared a federal holiday. This morning there was a funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington. Following that service will be a burial service in California.

The scenes on television show dignity. There is dignity throughout the military’s traditions within a state funeral. There is a reminder of the political era of Reagan. That was a time when political opponents could fight like cats and dogs until 6:00 p.m. Then, it was time for the lifelong friendships to prevail over all else. Many have said it was about being able to disagree without being disagreeable.

Here are some selected phrases from the service at the National Cathedral:

With the lever of American patriotism he lifted up the world.

Margaret Thatcher
June 11, 2004

Seek big, expansive dreams and causes…

He sought grand visions…

Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.

William Butler Yeats

We learned kindness and courage…

Psalm 37

Only one person could make him lonely by just leaving the room…

The gentleman always does the kindest thing.

He believed in the Golden Rule and the Power of Prayer.

He always showed the optimist’s temperament…

You are the light of the world…

from the Sermon on the Mount

He was a light shining in darkness…Our mission is to walk as children of Light…Darkness cannot prevail…

Rev. John Danforth

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Lessons On Leadership

11 June 2004

Dr. Al Mohler has a list of ten lessons on leadership that can be taken from the example set by Ronald Reagan. I heard Edwin Meese identify three things that made Reagan and his Presidency so effective. Paraphrasing his remarks, they were:

  • get the economy moving again
  • rebuild the American military capabilities
  • restore the American spirit

These two people show the leader’s clear vision with solid methods for reaching that vision.

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Weblogs In Business

11 June 2004

Paul Scrivens announces the launch of Business Logs. We’re about to move into an era of weblog design and development that focuses the medium on organizational needs and uses.

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Titans Of Design Change The Subject

10 June 2004

D. Keith Robinson doesn’t want to focus so much of the discussion on web standards any more. Simon Willison obliges by listing a lot of new topics that will make for many hours of debate.

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Lessons In Design

10 June 2004

One of my favorite sites on the entire web is called *Asterisk. It features the work and advice of D. Keith Robinson. We’re about to be led through his process for developing a web site for a new band. The Prologue and Chapter One are now available.

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Catching The Standards Bug

10 June 2004

Lately, a lot of my time has been spent at a test weblog I’ve set up to learn some new tools and techniques. I’m becoming more convinced of the value of standards-based design. I’m not able to do it, yet, but then, I can’t do a table-based design either.

If there’s uncertainty in your mind about the value of having your company’s web site redone in validating CSS and XHTML, you might enjoy reading this.

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Who's The Frog Now?

10 June 2004

Are Americans Wimps and Socialists?
by Craig J. Cantoni

Why aren’t Americans storming the castle and overthrowing the overlords who have consigned them and their offspring to lives of tax servitude? Are they wimps and socialists?

They are neither. They are frogs.

You may know that if a frog is put in hot water, it will jump out. But if it is put in a pot of cold water on a stove and the heat is slowly turned up, the frog will stay put and boil to death. The same is true for taxpayers.

If government expenditures suddenly increased by 300%, taxpayers would grab their pitchforks, overthrow the House of Lords in Washington and put the heads of the tyrants on pikes on the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac. But because expenditures have grown over 104 years instead of overnight, taxpayers have sat like boiling frogs as government spending has increased threefold since 1900 as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

Imagine the revolution that would have occurred had the government increased spending by 300% in 1900 in one fell swoop. It would have made the Boston Tea Party look like tea and crumpets at Buckingham Palace.

Americans also have sat still as transfer payments, which are a euphemism for neighbors stealing from neighbors, have ballooned like a bullfrog’s throat over the last century from 2% of government spending to 40%, or 20-fold. Imagine Americans being told in 1900 that 40% of their taxes would be stolen by their neighbors and special-interest groups. The nation would have seen its second civil war.

And imagine taxpayers being told in 1914, which was the year following the ratification of the income tax amendment, the 16th Amendment, that the federal income tax per capita would be where it is today, at $2,500. That is 352% more than per-capita income taxes in 1914, in inflation-adjusted dollars. Or imagine taxpayers finding out on April 15, 1914, that they had to pay an accountant to file their taxes because there were suddenly 4,000 pages of tax forms, as is the case today.

It would have been unimaginable 100 years ago for Americans to think that federal spending would ever reach today’s astonishing level of $21,671 per household.

If President William McKinley had said in his inaugural speech in 1900 that he was going to increase government expenditures by 300% and taxes by 352%, his assassination would have occurred on the spot instead of in 1901. And his assassin would have been lionized instead of vilified. There would be a statue of him in the Capitol Rotunda next to other revolutionary heroes.

There are other reasons why Americans are behaving like boiled frogs instead of people who love liberty. First, most taxes are hidden and not paid directly by taxpayers. For example, for homeowners with mortgages, property taxes are paid by the mortgage company and not directly by the homeowner. Likewise, sales taxes are tacked on bills and not paid separately. The same is true for income taxes and FICA taxes, which are withheld from paychecks and never seen by workers. And corporate taxes are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.

It’s not surprising that the self-employed and small-business owners tend to be fiscal conservatives. They know what they pay in income and FICA taxes, because they write quarterly checks to the government for the taxes.

It’s also not surprising that per-pupil spending has skyrocketed over the last 25 years. That’s because Americans have no idea what they pay in public education taxes over their lifetime. (They pay over $150,000 per household.)

The government demands accurate financial statements from corporations but doesn’t practice what it preaches. Have you ever received a statement from your state, county or city government showing what you’ve paid in taxes from year to year and the percentage that the taxes have increased? Naturally, the government’s coconspirators, the leftist media and government K-12 schools, are not about to tell the public.

Another reason why Americans are behaving like boiled frogs is that they are considerably more wealthy than 100 years ago, in spite of the growth of government. Thanks to the free market—or I should say the 50% of the market that is still free and not socialized or regulated to death—the average income in inflation-adjusted dollars has grown from $8,360 in 1900 to over $40,000 today. During the same period, the portion of income spent on food has dropped from 43% in 1900 to 15% today, and the number of autos has increased from 8,000 to over 132 million. Lower-income Americans have conveniences and a quality of life that only the upper-crust of society had 100 years ago.

I have been writing about taxes for years and have usually been met by yawns from readers, especially from Republican soccer moms in open-toed shoes with their webbed feet showing. Politicians only have to mention the magic words ”children” and ”per-pupil spending” for female frogs to agree to the stove being turned to a higher temperature. Male frogs are just as agreeable, but the magic words for them are ”subsidized sports stadiums.” And older frogs are even more agreeable. The magic words for them are ”send the bills for our medicine to future generations.”

Americans consider the French to be wimps and socialists, and the British call them frogs. Ironically, Americans are not wimps and socialists, but they are frogs.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

Comments [1]

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Fiber-To-The-Curb

10 June 2004

The front page of Network World highlighted a fiber-to-the-home project in Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s expected that the local utility will connect 4,000 homes this year to a 100Mbps connection that provides eight ethernet ports to each home.

Remember when there was a lot of noise about the shared equipment specification from BellSouth, Verizon and SBC? There’s still the possibility that some form of wireless technology might prevail, but eight ports of 100Mbps ethernet in every home doesn’t seem likely. (It’s the physics!)

South Korea, already known as the bandwidth capital of the world, announced in November of 2003 that they were going to build a nationwide 100Mbps network. This is happening in a place that already has more DSL-class speed per capita than any other country in the world. While broadband at one to three megabits per second is certainly faster than dialup service, I’ve come to think of broadband as 10Mbps or better. As the standard ethernet LAN in the USA moved to 100Mbps, that became the new broadband standard.

With GigE in wide deployment, it can’t be very long before someone will start labeling anything greater than 100Mbps ”broadband.” The great debate involved whether or not fiber-to-the-curb would prevail over wi-fi technologies. Digging up the streets was listed as the great cost and infrastructure inhibiter for fiber. The physics of wide-area wireless has always been its inhibiter.

At this point I’d like to see the top 100 cities in the USA wired with (continuously-upgradeable) 100Mbps fiber and eight ethernet ports per termination point. Eight ports provide:

  1. voice communications (VoIP)
  2. Internet access
  3. movies on demand
  4. television programming
  5. gaming networks
  6. available
  7. available
  8. available

Properly designed, these city-wide networks should be connected to Level 3’s (continuously upgradeable) long-haul fiber. None of this should be done with taxes. The project should be privately funded and the price target should be (in 2004 dollars) $100 per month or less per installation point. It’s ambitious, but it’s achievable.

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Sco Vs. Ibm

10 June 2004

This most recent request by SCO makes it clear to me that the company has no viable future and should not be allowed to continue with such ridiculous legal wrangling. They serve no one.

SCO should simply go quietly. The business should fail and somebody else should take over the ownership and licensing of Unix. For those of us who are users of the technology, a ”real” unification of the Unix/Linux standards would be best. There is little value in the fragmentation of so many of the open source distributions.

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Know What Time It Is

9 June 2004

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. Ecclesiastes 3:1-10 New American Standard Bible

In the language of today, here’s how the same thing might be said:

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: A right time for birth and another for death, A right time to plant and another to reap, A right time to kill and another to heal, A right time to destroy and another to construct, A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer, A right time to make love and another to abstain, A right time to embrace and another to part, A right time to search and another to count your losses, A right time to hold on and another to let go, A right time to rip out and another to mend, A right time to shut up and another to speak up, A right time to love and another to hate, A right time to wage war and another to make peace. But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do – busywork, mostly. Ecclesiastes 3:1-10 The Message

Comments [1]

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Blogging As A Business

9 June 2004

Consulting with many businesses through the years, I’ve learned that many companies are merely expensive hobbies. Always on the brink of folding, these businesses are often run by people who could earn a much nicer income doing something else. Instead, they toil – in some cases under great pressure – at businesses that are simply feeding their interests.

Dane Carlson links us to another examination of whether or not writing a weblog can be (significantly) lucrative. The numbers mentioned say loudly, ”No!” It’s a nice hobby, but it’s not likely to pay its own bills, much less any of the others!

Comments [3]

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What They Did For Love

9 June 2004

For the love of design, web designers have endured some rather humiliating treatment. As a customer always fearful of appearing stingy, I now realize that all the fees I’ve paid for help amount to a rather handsome sum. [Thanks to Paul Scrivens for another interesting non-scientific survey!]

By the same token, I’ve been ignored by some rather talented people. I could only assume that assistance with a weblog design was perceived to be ”beneath them.” I’ve also been snubbed by a designer or two who behaved as if they held the keys to Fort Knox. After each contact with these people I was left feeling as if I wasn’t important enough to pay them my money.

Talented designers should be paid promptly and fairly. Their work has value. Customers of designers should be served promptly and respectfully. It’s the way of the free market.

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Don Your Helmets

9 June 2004

Economics Lessons for Reporters
by Craig J. Cantoni
June 9, 2004

The June 8 edition of the Arizona Republic had a front-page story with this opening line: ”More than 45,000 seniors and disabled Arizonans have saved $3.2 million on prescription drugs in the year since Gov. Janet Napolitano launched her program to help deal with expensive but necessary medication.”

In keeping with the standard journalism formula, the story had the obligatory quotes from someone with AIDS and from a single mom of three kids. It also printed quotes from leftists who think the program isn’t rich enough, from a Retard (Republican embracing taxes and rampant dependency) and from a representative of AARP, which should change its name to Bunch of Avaricious Robbers and Fleecers, or BARF, in view of the fact that it engages in nauseating lobbying for the richest socioeconomic group in the nation.

The 108 column-inch story did not say anything about the economics of the program, but if we accept the story at face value, as most readers of the Republic will, then why should the state restrict itself to buying medicine?

If buying medicine results in lower prices at no cost to anyone else, as the story implied, then the state should buy all necessities of life, including food, shelter and clothing, for all citizens. It should become a gigantic buying cooperative and issue discount cards for food, shelter and clothing.

Note to staffers Karina and Jon: stop salivating over the prospect of your socialist utopia being realized. It’s been tried before and doesn’t work. The reality of economics doesn’t go away just because economic reality is ignored.

Here are some lessons on the economic reality of drugs and health care in general:

Lesson 1: The government fatally wounded a consumer market in health care 60 years ago when misguided government policies resulted in most Americans becoming dependent on their employers for health insurance, unlike the situation for food, shelter and clothing. The coup de grace was delivered 39 years ago with the enactment of Medicare, which now has over 100,000 pages of regulations and price controls. Those who say that the consumer market has failed in health care do not realize that there is not a consumer market in health care.

Lesson 2: A couple of predictable outcomes have resulted from the death of a consumer market: First, utilization and costs have increased, due to the users of medical services not paying directly for the services. It would be akin to grocery shoppers sending their supermarket bills to their employers or the government. Hamburger sales would decline and steak sales would increase. Then, to stop people from buying steak, a huge corporate and governmental bureaucracy would issue diktats and price controls. The second outcome is immoral cost-shifting. The self-employed, the unemployed and others pay more for health care than the members of corporate and government health plans, because of cost shifting to the least powerful consumers. Cost shifting also occurs through the tax code, due to the self-employed, unemployed and others not getting the same tax breaks for medical expenses as members of corporate and government health plans, due to those with the least political power getting the shaft from those with the most political power.

Lesson 3: If pharmaceutical companies don’t get a high enough return on investment, they can’t attract capital to invest in new drugs and production capacity. This lesson plays out in Europe, where the pharmaceutical industry has been in decline due to a low return on investment, due to government meddling in the market.

Lesson 4: If pharmaceutical companies give discounts to states, they have to make up the lower profit margins somewhere else or lose investment capital. See Lesson 2 about cost shifting.

So what is the answer for the poor? Private charity is one answer. But if the state is going to be involved in helping the poor buy medicine, a system should be developed that causes the least distortion in the market and doesn’t put the state between consumers and health care providers. Food stamps are an example of a system that causes the least market distortion.

It’s become a cliche to say that there is no free lunch in economics, although the mainstream media doesn’t seem to have heard the cliche. The newspaper coverage of health care and other economic issues has too much barf and too many retards.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He has been active in health care reform for years and can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Two Years Ago Today...

9 June 2004

...Lily Tomlin defines the Rodent Regatta.

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Interest Groups

9 June 2004

During the weekend I read tributes to former President Ronald Reagan. By Monday the venom was beginning to flow from the liberals. People with diseases were grousing. Gay people were grousing. People who like to be contrary had something to say. The elite liberal media saw an opportunity to whine. Then, Democratic conspiracy theorists began to weigh in.

Though not profound, original or new, I realized that every one of these complaints against Reagan was based on emotion. That’s long been the style of the Democrats. Find (even one) example of some highly emotional tragedy and use it to shape government policy. Find 3% of the population with the same problem, and they make a Federal disaster out of it.

The vision the Founders had for this country never enters the liberal mind. It simply finds some special interest and turns it into a national cause. The more heart-wrenching the story, the greater the plea for government involvement. Not once is there a concern for how much of each paycheck must go to Washington, D.C. to fuel their interest. It is the time-tested mode of operation, and they are very consistent with their approach.

Fight for freedom anywhere and they’ll complain, protest, whine and lament the terrible and senseless loss. Diminish their special interest in any way and you get labeled a warmonger, mean-spirited conservative or worse. Often, it gets much, much worse. If your interest isn’t their’s, they go into an emotional tirade laced with all forms of insults. It is their style.

To these people I once again ask a question they have never answered. What percentage of our personal incomes should be paid in taxes of all kinds to be certain that all the causes are addressed?

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Back To My Senses

8 June 2004

I continue to study web design rather intently. To facilitate this study, I’ve got a detailed categorization or grouping scheme set up in FeedDemon for the stuff I’ve been reading. Most of it is arranged by product. Then, there are some other groups about writing or technology or faith, etc.

In the last couple of days, some RSS feeds have been moving to a new group. The name of this group is ”The Flaming Liberals.” On Friday such a group didn’t exist in my aggregator. Now, it’s nearly full! Let a famous spokesperson for ”the other side” pass away, and these folks cannot wait to disparage their memory.

They’ll remain in ”flaming liberals” until I decide to delete that group from FeedDemon.

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Mod_logo_google

8 June 2004

The Transit of Venus

Comments [1]

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What I Learned Yesterday

8 June 2004

Yesterday and last night were spent working with web servers, domain names, MySql databases, user names, passwords and lots and lots of subdirectories. At midnight last night, none of it worked.

Beginning again very early this morning, I got some help. Now it works and I’m too weary to do what I set out to do in the first place. After all the trial-and-error work, I’ve now got to go back and document everything so that the next time I try to get into this, I’m not faced with similar setbacks from the outset. I have no idea what changes ultimately made the stuff work together.

Were I to have to start from scratch right now, I’d probably go through the whole thing again. What did I learn yesterday? Absolutely nothing.

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Wee Little Men

7 June 2004

For these kinds of men, I hope the remarks made within a few days of their deaths resemble what they’ve written in the last forty eight hours:

These are little creatures who simply live among us. They have no idea the damage they do. They have no idea what they are doing. They are the little snotty smart alecs you hoped the teacher would deal with. They haven’t changed, grown or matured since then. They are among the most pitiful in our world today.

Ted Rall exists in the same excremental layer that sustains Michael Moore. Here’s one more tiny example. There are many more.

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If You're A Liberal Democrat Of This Ilk...

7 June 2004

...there is no level so low that you won’t go there. Oh, you’ll try to mask it and cover your tracks, but you simply won’t pass up the opportunity. It would have been great had this country been able to avoid politicizing the death of a President. We cannot. Remember, if you followed that link, you read what a leader in the Democratic Party believes needed to be said this morning.

How much time will pass before some Democrat implies something conspiratorial in the weekend’s D-Day anniversary, a Republican President’s death, the war on terrorism and the election? Not long, I’m sure. It may have already happened.

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Moronic Software

6 June 2004

What the idiots are trying to do!

The bots I talked about last week are still at it. You can see a (tiny) segment of the activity log which continues to fill up with their attempts to get to me.

Comments [1]

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Presidential Zingers

6 June 2004

The Reagan FoundationHENRY TREWHITT: Mr. President, I want to raise an issue that I think has been lurking out there for two or three weeks, and cast it specifically in national security terms. You already are the oldest President in history, and some of your staff say you were tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mondale. I recall, yes, that President Kennedy, who had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuba missile crisis. Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?

REAGAN: Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt and I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience. If I still have time, I might add, Mr. Trewhitt, I might add that it was Seneca or it was Cicero, I don’t know which, that said if it was not for the elders correcting the mistakes of the young, there would be no state.

TREWHITT: Mr. President, I’d like to head for the fence and try to catch that one before it goes over but – without going to another question…

Reagan-Mondale Debate
October 28, 1984

[Note: Ronald Reagan was 73 and Walter Mondale was 56 at the time.]

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Some Sunday Morning Thoughts

6 June 2004

Ronald Reagan's Legacy Lives On

  • I wish it was easy for a layperson to find the archives of mainstream media commentary about Ronald Reagan dating to the early 1980’s. Were such things available, we’d find an amazing contradiction between what the liberals have been saying this past twelve hours and what they said then.
  • It occurs to me that we’re very likely seeing a new floor in the price of oil around $35 to $40 a barrel. Days of $25 a barrel are probably gone. How fast will we ramp our distribution network for diesel fuel? How fast will we jump from SUV’s to hybrid luxury cars?
  • For those who want to know what a ”classical liberal” is, read the links in this entry. As my good friend Craig Cantoni says, think of us as small ”L” libertarians. Think of the total elimination of certain cabinet-level departments in our federal government. You’ll begin to see the ”revolutionary” reshaping of a government bloated beyond any current Republican resizing proposals!
  • Interest rates are likely to rise for the balance of 2004 and into 2005. Who will the nation look to for the optimism that Ronald Reagan returned to this nation in 1981?

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He's Found The Shining City

5 June 2004

T H A N K    Y O U

...a shining city on a hill

Ronald Reagan
February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004

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What The Founders Intended

5 June 2004

It takes some reading of history to understand what was intended by the Founders of this nation. What had influenced those men? What had they read? What events in history were on their minds as the Constitution was drafted?

This past week I got a few questions about the labels people like to put on themselves and others. There’s a real danger there. Some simply won’t have it any other way. They’re like the armies of yesteryear. They want to insure they have on their uniform, and they identify enemies by the color of their uniforms.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where enemies don’t raise their hands and say, identify me this way. There are no blue and gray uniforms. There aren’t any red or blue uniforms. In the arena of ideas, enemies and allies are identified by other means. In the war on terrorism we face an enemy that raises cowardice to a new height.

The mass media likes the labels of conservative and liberal. They like to pinpoint Democrats and Republicans. What’s missing is any kind of deliberate study of what our Founders were attempting to put together during the formative stages of this nation.

So, what is a small ”L” libertarian? What is a ”classical liberal?” Most people who fall into either of these classifications are also ”critical thinkers,” a skill that has almost been lost. Instead of carefully thinking through each and every issue or idea using a mental latticework of disciplines, people simply determine which side is espousing something and align or oppose accordingly. In other words, if you’re a Republican and Al Gore says something, then it can’t possibly be right. If you’re a Democrat and Dick Cheney says something, there’s no way you could agree with him.

Our mental models must start allowing for the ”law of unintended consequences.” An example might be found in welfare. If welfare is a product of too many years of paternalistic views of government, and we now have far too many people living off the wealth of a few, then something must be done. However, false starts at dismantling or wrong approaches might lead to a set of consequences unforeseen by the staunch opponents of welfare.

A critical thinker’s mental latticework brings an understanding of multiple disciplines into play. You can learn a lot more about how to build your own mental latticework by reading here.

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Enhanced Text Entry

4 June 2004

If you haven’t experimented with Textile, you should. Here’s what I know. You can go to the Textile site and use it to create well-formed markup. You may have to scroll down the page if you’re using IE6, but you’ll find it.

If you use Movable Type, you can use Brad Choate’s plugin which ”equips” your text entry box in Movable Type with Textile’s features. It’s my understanding that Textile or a Textile plugin is standard with WordPress.

It’s also designed into Textpattern in such a way that it can be enabled or disabled. Textpattern is apparently nearing a 1.19 gamma release followed shortly by a Release Candidate 1.0. Somewhere in all of that programming, someone is going to add more features and bug fixes to Textile.

It’s my belief that this software goes further than just about any I’ve seen to insure that a weblog – made up of lots of entries on lots of days from a writer in lots of moods – will validate.

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Three (Unrelated) Technical Events

4 June 2004

All the talk of politics and web design has prevented mention of three technical matters of some importance:

  • Wi-Fi Disruptions – I assumed it was something in my work area, but now I learn that Wired is running a story about unexplained interruptions of wi-fi signals that actually appear to be active. Lots of fingers are pointing toward Microsoft, but, naturally, they blame other things.
  • Clearwire – Craig McCaw is getting a lot of press about an ambitious new venture. For the past eighteen months or so, I’ve wanted to live in a city or town underneath a wi-fi cloud. The fact is that I’d like to see the entire nation under such a cloud, but without government subsidies. I don’t want to pay more in taxes to fund the cloud! Clearwire is apparently aiming for solid wi-fi/WiMax coverage across the country.
  • A $499 Color Laser Printer – I’m old enough to remember the introduction of the very first laser printers for personal computers. Apple and HP led the way. This week, HP announced a broad new initiative promoting digital color imaging. One piece of this announcement is a $499 printer called the Color LaserJet 2550.

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The Island Of Joe

4 June 2004

A friend named Joe mutters, ”when we start the Island of Joe, things are going to be different.” Normally, the muttering begins after listening to a radio or TV news broadcast. The ”liberals” get him down, and he thinks of setting sail for the ”new world.”

I’ve often wondered (too seriously for some) where we would go if we began to have the urges that caused the original colonists to abandon Europe for America. Where is the New World? Joe knows we would simply head for the Island of Joe. We haven’t found it on a map.

On the first boat leaving for the island there’s one person in particular that I’d want on board. No one is better at finding the gaps between what the Founders intended for this nation and where we are today. Better still, he can (and is unafraid to) communicate those gaps better than anyone I know. Here’s the latest from Craig Cantoni:

What Is a Moderate Republican?
by Craig J. Cantoni
June 4, 2004

After publishing a four-page article yesterday saying that Republicans are either in denial or power-hungry liars for claiming that they are for limited government and that they have actually limited government, an Arizona Republic editorialist was on the local PBS affiliate last night speaking favorably about ”moderate Republicans.” Can someone please tell me what a ”moderate Republican” is?

I think it is someone who goes along with Democrats regarding increased taxes and spending on education and other social programs, but I’m not sure. If that is the right definition, then I have a follow-up question: Why is that considered moderation?

To me, the term smacks of some kind of Orwellian doublespeak or Politburo propaganda, especially considering the statistics on the growth of government that I cited in my article and which I’ll summarize below. It’s the opposite of moderation. It’s immoderation, or to use a synonym, excessive. It would be akin to calling someone who drinks a fifth of Jack Daniels each night a ”moderate drinker.” Given the facts about taxes and spending, the big spenders should be called ”excessive Republicans” or ”immoderate Republicans” or ”thieving Republicans.” Here are some of the facts:

– Federal spending comes to $20,000 per household. Is that moderation? – The cost of regulations adds about another $8,000. Is that moderation? – We are leaving our kids a horrible legacy of debt in the trillions of dollars for our entitlements and other selfish, greedy gorging. Some economists put the total bill for future generations at $40 trillion. If that’s moderation, then robbing piggy banks is moderation. – Transfer payments, which are a euphemism for citizens taking money from their neighbors, now account for 40% of federal spending, up 20-fold from 1900, when they accounted for 2% of federal spending. Moderation? – When my grandparents immigrated here in the early 20th century, total government expenditures were about 8% of Gross Domestic Product. Today, they are about 375% higher. Moderation? – In 1914, the year after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment and five years before my dad’s birth in the coal mining town where his dad worked in the mines and was able to keep almost all of his money from the tax man, the income tax per capita was $69 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Today, it is over $2,500. Moderation? – The tax rate on a median family was zero in 1914. Today, it is over 25%. Moderation? – In 1914, there were four pages of IRS forms. Today, there are over 4,000 pages. Moderation? – Discretionary non-defense spending will have increased by 30% in President Bush’s first term. Moderation? – There are now about 22 million federal, state and local public-sector employees, or about 83% more than manufacturing employees. The nation has ”outsourced” millions of wealth-producing jobs from the private sector to the wealth-taking public sector. Moderation? – Local county and city governments have spent about $1 billion on subsidies to private sports teams and another billion for an expanded convention center and a biotech research center in the face of excess convention capacity and excess biotech investment across the country. In addition, they are proposing $2.3 billion on a light-rail line that will actually increase pollution and have a negligible effect on traffic. That comes to $4.3 billion, which is equivalent to the annual income of about 108,000 families. Moderation?

Help me out here. In view of the foregoing facts, could someone please tell me what the term ”moderate Republican” means and why the mainstream media loves to use it? Thanks in advance for sending your response to the e-mail address below. I may summarize the responses without the names for a future article.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is a moderate author, moderate columnist, moderate small ”L” libertarian and moderate founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He lives with his moderate family in Scottsdale, Arizona, where the summer temperatures are not moderate. He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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I'm A "Slow" Study

4 June 2004

After about ten months of use, I made a switch from Radio Userland to Movable Type (MT) to write this weblog. Why? Radio was doing some strange things in my installation, and I wasn’t a coder who could prowl in the bowels of the product. I also wanted a style/design that I thought (at the time) was only available with MT.

By October of 2002, I began writing a new (Sekimori-designed) Rodent Regatta. With the May 2004 change in direction at Six Apart and the ”pay-by-the-weblog” approach to licensing, I began a search for other tools.

I thought it might be WordPress (WP). WP may yet win. Then, I began to look intently at Textpattern (Txp) and the hosting service provided by TextDrive. I like Dean Allen’s sense of style, and I like both WP and Txp for their open source PHP and MySQL approach. Why? In the weblog world, those technologies have lots of participants and avenues for enhancements, plugins, hacks, etc.

There’s another piece of this search as well. It’s important. I want a product with enough popular support to cause lots of talented designers (as well as developers) to use it, create templates for it, provide stylesheets for it and to generate a lively set of sites that converse about the product.

What I’m now realizing is that MT, WP and Txp are all at very different stages in their life cycles. WP is moving extremely fast and lots of developers are hacking the (open) source code to create their own content management systems (CMS). By the time these talented people finish with their version of WP, they have a unique tool suited to the way they write and what they want a CMS to do for them.

Work is needed on unifying the documentation and tips for WP. MT wins in that area. Textpattern is still in gamma mode. It appears the ”community” is much smaller, but that’s a completely subjective assessment. I like the direction that I believe it’s headed. The only conflict I have is trying to keep a couple of sites (this one) up and running while learning a new tool. I don’t want RR to be my test platform. I’m beginning to understand that there is some way to have a completely functional test platform/weblog with all of these tools, without making that ”lab” publicly visible. [Note:I’m anxious to accomplish this step!]

I’m also learning that designer assistance – for tags, templates, markup, css and migration help – is somewhat sparce in the Txp world – for now. However, I’m told that as the product moves toward ”release candidate 1.0” status, that will change. Good designers and developers are (likely) to create the equivalent of Blogstyles for Txp, a plugin directory, as well as other tools, hacks and tips.

All of this may have been completely obvious to others, but the stages of these various products along the maturity curve weren’t obvious to me until recently. Getting all of these resources to truly unified and easy-to-use sites for each product (as compared to MT) will take some time. I’m convinced it will happen and WP and Txp will have large enough user communities to insure that the products are functionally equal or superior to MT for the weblog writer.

Comments [1]

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The Full Story

4 June 2004

Insulting Your Intelligence Once Again
by Craig J. Cantoni
June 3, 2004

Is it possible to pick up the newspaper and not have your intelligence insulted? Not today.

The headline on the front page of the local section of today’s Arizona Republic reads: ”State ranks 45th in kids’ well-being.” The accompanying story quotes a study by the left-leaning Annie E. Casey Foundation and quotes the director of the left-leaning Children’s Action Alliance. It did not quote anyone with a different perspective and ideology.

The story cites a high dropout rate, a high teen birth rate, a high child death rate, the percentage of children in poverty and the percentage of children in single-family homes as the primary causes of the state’s low ranking. It also lists the five states with the best ranking (Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Iowa, Utah) and the six states with the worst ranking (Arizona, South Carolina, Alabama, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi). Surprisingly, unlike many previous stories on the subject, today’s story did not imply that the low ranking is due to cheapskate, heartless Republican legislators who don’t want to raise social spending and taxes.

So where was the insult to intelligence?

It was the fact that the story did not mention the role that race plays in the states with high rankings and in the states with low rankings. Because of political correctness, ignorance, laziness, a leftist bias or whatever, race wasn’t mentioned at all. Thus, readers did not get the full story.

Let me fill in the missing piece.

Putting New Jersey aside for a moment, four of the five states with the best rankings are overwhelmingly white, ranging from 89% white in Utah to 96% white in New Hampshire. Four of the six states with low rankings have large black populations, ranging from 25% black in Alabama to 36% black in Mississippi. Two of the states with low rankings, Arizona and New Mexico, have large Hispanic (really Mexican) populations, at 25% for Arizona and 40% for New Mexico, and large Native American populations, at 5% for Arizona and 9% for New Mexico.

At first, New Jersey seems like an anomaly. It ranks in the top five but has a white population of only 69%. But having lived in the Garden State and being honored as ”Community Service Volunteer of the Year” by a major Gannett newspaper there, I know the state very well and understand that it really isn’t an anomaly. First, 5% of the state is Asian, mostly from the subcontinent of India. Second, a significant percentage of its Hispanic population, unlike New Mexico and Arizona, is Puerto Rican and Cuban. Third, the white population consists of a lot of old money, a large professional class and relatively few lower-income transients, unlike New Mexico and Arizona. When people get divorced in other states and look for a place to start a new life, they tend to move to the Southwest and not to New Jersey, where housing is expensive. Such factors also explain why New Jersey ranks near the top in per-capita income.

In other words, both low and high rankings are mostly the products of racial demographics, immigration patterns and socioeconomic legacies. And that, as Paul Harvey says, is the rest of the story.

  • * * * *

You can reach the author at ccan2@aol.com

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Classical Liberals

3 June 2004

I simply could not join the Rocky Top Brigade because of loyalties that run very deep elsewhere. This places in me in direct contradiction with a key tenet of their constitution as well as their official religion.

Now there’s the new Memphis Redblogs, ”a collaborative website featuring conservative and libertarian-minded rightwing types in the Memphis area.”

As a classical liberal I’m not sure I fulfill all of their qualifications either. However, it’s good to finally identify some fellow weblog writers in the area.

Comments [3]

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The Metrics Don't Lie

3 June 2004

Are Republicans In Denial
or
Simply Power-hungry Liars?
by Craig J. Cantoni
June 3, 2004

Republicans continue to say that they are the party of limited government and that voting for them will reduce the size and reach of government. At the same time they claim to be winning against the Democrats and the Left.

Republican leaders who say that the Republican Party is winning and is the party of limited government are either in denial about the growth of govenment or are power-hungry liars.

Let’s start by looking at the growth of Leviathan over the last century and then follow with a look at more recent growth.

According to the Heartland Institute and verified by my own research, total government expenditures were 8.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 1900. Today, they hover around 30 percent.

Memo to Republicans: When the score is 30 to 8.2 in your opponent’s favor, you’re not winning.

Republicans say they have won if they succeed in reducing government expenditures by a percentage point or two. But even a reduction to 28 percent of GDP would mean that government expenditures would be 3.4 times higher than 100 years ago.

Memo to Republicans: Unless it’s a game of golf, if your opponent’s score is 3.4 times higher than your score, you are not winning.

More important, like a cancer, the nature of the expenditures has metastasized into something that is insidious and pernicious.

In 1900, almost all government expenditures were for the common good—for those government services like national defense and public infrastructure that benefited all people equally or as equally as practical. Back then, transfer payments were only 2 percent of government spending. Today, they are over 40 percent. Stated differently, there has been a 20-fold increase in transfer payments in 100 years.

Memo to Republicans: When the score is 20 to zero in your opponent’s favor, you’re not winning.

Of course, the words ”transfer payments” are a government and media euphemism for ”theft.” We can have endless debates about the merits of programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, KidsCare, AFDC, school lunches, school loans, farm subsidies, mass transit subsidies, subsidies for professional sports teams (e.g., Bush’s Texas Rangers), and thousands of other thefts, er, income transfers. But make no mistake about it, such programs benefit the recipients of the money much more than society at large and certainly more than non-recipients. For example, there is no doubt that a Medicare enrollee will get a direct, tangible benefit from the Republican prescription drug benefit. However, few if any benefits will accrue to future generations that have to pick up the $7 trillion tab for the Medicare deficit.

It is axiomatic that people on the receiving end of transfer payments tout the general welfare more than those on the paying end. Similarly, politicians who gain political power by redistributing money tout the general welfare more than politicians who don’t gain from redistribution. Some will even go as far as to call themselves ”compassionate conservatives” to win votes with other people’s money.

Compassionate conservatism is expensive. Discretionary non-defense spending has increased under President Bush more than under any president since Lyndon Johnson.

Unfortunately, he has been aided and abetted by the mainstream media, Hollywood and other shapers of the popular culture—all of whom favor the takers of other people’s money over the rightful owners of the money. And, naturally, government schools, which have a state monopoly on K-12 classroom thought, do not teach that transfer payments are synonymous with theft. To the contrary, the schools are used by the government to recruit parents to sign up for transfer payments. Maybe that is what President Bush means by his ”Leave No Child Behind” program. If there were truth in government labeling, the name of the program would be ”Put All Children on the Government Plantation.”

When my grandparents walked off the boat and onto Ellis Island at the beginning of the 20th century, about 60 percent of government spending was at the state and local levels. A century later, federal spending is twice as much as state and local spending combined, costing each household a whopping $20,000 per year. The Founders’ idea of a limited national government has been turned on its head, and with it, the belief of citizens that they can influence the government.

As anyone who has ever worked in a large corporation knows, the more centralized and bureaucratic an organization becomes, the less influence those at the bottom of the organization have and the more out of touch those at the top become. The same holds true for nations.

The other thing that happens is that power shifts to bureaucrats. Low-performing corporations are almost always centralized, hierarchal organizations in which accounting, human resources, legal, government affairs and other administrative departments have more power than sales, engineering and manufacturing. Over time, the culture changes from risk taking to risk aversion and from dynamism to bureaucracy. The same holds true for nations.

There are now almost twice as many public-sector employees at all levels of government as manufacturing employees. Tellingly, the mainstream media engages in hyperbole about 100,000 call center jobs being outsourced to India but is silent about the ”outsourcing” of millions of jobs from the wealth-producing private sector to the wealth-consuming public sector.

Before the income tax was authorized in 1913 with the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, Americans, including my grandparents, could save for retirement and not pay any taxes on the earnings on their savings. None. Zero. Today, it is very difficult to earn enough on one’s retirement savings to beat inflation and taxes.

Both Democrats and Republicans pretend to be munificent by letting taxpayers defer a small portion of their income taxes through such tax code provisions as 401(k) plans. And the government’s bed mate, the mainstream media, including the business press, joins in the pretense. In reality, such provisions are a bonanza to government bureaucrats and hundreds of thousands of tax accountants, tax lawyers, investment advisors, corporate benefits administrators, sellers of record-keeping software, and other professions that feed off the body politic, including trial lawyers who sue employers when they inadvertently violate some arcane regulation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

In 1914, the year after the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, the income tax per capita was $69 in inflation-adjusted dollars, versus over $2,500 today. In 1914, less than one percent of the population had to file a tax return. Today, 45 percent of the population has to file. The number of IRS employees was 4,000 in 1914, versus 110,000 today. In 1914, there were four pages of IRS forms. Today, there are over 4,000 pages. The tax rate on a median family was zero in 1914. Today, it is over 25 percent. (Source: Cato Institute)

Memo to Republicans: When the score is 25 to zero in your opponent’s favor, you’re not winning.

And then there are all of the hidden costs of regulations. To take just one example out of thousands of examples, a little-known federal agency is harassing—yes, harassing—the Swift Transportation Company of Phoenix for being successful. A $2.4 billion company with 16,500 trucks, Swift is the largest long-haul trucking company in the nation.

The harasser is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which was a Frankenstein monster created in 1999 by the creator of Frankenstein monsters, Congress, ostensibly to make roads safer. Which party controlled Congress in 1999? Hint: It wasn’t the Democrats.

It just so happens that large-truck accident rates have declined by more than half over the past three decades, and companies like Swift already had incentives to reduce accidents, including the prospect of fewer lawsuits and lower premiums for liability, medical and workers’ compensation insurance. Because of the incentives, Swift had only 1.6 fatalities per 100 million miles driven in 2002, but that didn’t stop the FMCSA from harassing the company.

What was Swift’s offense? It didn’t complete the required paperwork to the satisfaction of the bureaucrats at FMCSA.

All bureaucracies grow larger, and FMCSA is no exception. Two years ago its budget was $361 million. This year it requested a 24 percent increase to $447 million, which is equivalent to the annual income of approximately 11,000 families.

Memo to Republicans: Creating new monsters is not a way to achieve limited government and grow the economy.

At its current growth rate, FMCSA may eventually issue enough regulations to rival the current 100,000 pages of Medicare regulations, including the hundreds of pages for the new Republican prescription benefit that will grow to thousands of pages. Medicare regulations have little to do with patient care, just as FMCSA regulations have little to do with highway safety. But the regulations have turned doctor offices into paper factories and a source of income to consultants who help them stay out of trouble and to trial lawyers who want them to get into trouble.

The regulations also increase campaign donations (really protection money) to politicians. And then do-gooders, who can’t connect the dot of the growth of Leviathan with the dot of the growth of campaign contributions, want to solve the problem of money in politics by restricting free speech instead of reducing the size of the regulatory state.

Multiply the dead weight of the FMCSA by a thousand, and you’ll get an idea of how much of the nation’s resources are disappearing into a bureaucratic black hole instead of being invested in productivity improvements and new businesses. Some estimates put the annual cost of regulations at $7,000 per household

Just as sobering is the fact that many of the nation’s best and brightest people, including Republicans, make six-figure incomes from feeding off the regulatory state by being Gucci-clad regulatory experts, consultants and lobbyists. They will not let their regulatory rice bowl be taken without a fight.

So how can Leviathan be stopped? Since all political change begins with a change in mindsets, it can’t be stopped unless there is a change in the public’s mindset about transfer payments. As long as most Americans do not realize it is wrong to feed off of the regulatory state and to take their neighbor’s money for themselves under the guise of the common good, Leviathan will continue growing and politicians will continue finding creative ways of redistributing money, regardless of what the U.S. Constitution says about enumerated powers.

But Republicans can’t change mindsets as long as they tiptoe around this issue for fear of alienating voters, for fear of being called mean-spirited and for fear of becoming a minority party once again. If they are really for limited government and really care for this nation, they have to say over and over again, without equivocation, that transfer payments are a form of stealing and that stealing is not only wrong but will lead to our demise. Calling transfer payments ”compassionate conservatism” plays into the hands of liberals and leftists, who have their own euphemisms, such as ”social justice” and ”fairness.”

A party that speaks in euphemisms can’t be trusted. A party that wins elections but loses the war against Leviathan is a loser. A party that is the lesser of two evils is still evil. And a party that grows Leviathan while preaching limited government is either a liar, in denial or power hungry.

  • * * * *

Mr. Cantoni is an author of a book on bureaucracy, a columnist and the founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at ccan2@aol.com

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Rank Your Skills Here

3 June 2004

Design By Fire is providing Gurus vs. Bloggers, Round 2. This, taken with Round 1 and the Post Game Show, provides a glimpse into the skills and abilities of designers.

At what point do designers really concentrate on a specialty? Is developing and designing weblogs considered a lower-level activity? Do all designers aspire to be the one to redesign the New York Times site or some other high-profile site?

Is there a happy middle-ground where weblog projects, small business sites and some corporate identity work makes a nice living?

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Ink On Resignation Letter Not Dry

3 June 2004

Lobbying for Porter Goss to be the next CIA Director has already begun.

  • * * UPDATE * * * Now there’s been mention of Rudolph Giuliani for the post.

Comments [1]

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Six Apart, J &Amp; J, Coke &Amp; Union Carbide

3 June 2004

In the wee hours I received two comments to this weblog from Anil Dash who is Vice President of Business Development for Six Apart. Anil was interested in features that I’m looking for that might make me switch from Movable Type. He also responded to my public inquiry about how quiet the company seems to have become.

Here’s how I answered Anil this morning:

Anil:

Thanks very much for your comments. Certainly I would never encourage a business in extremis to act or react with undue haste. Having worked with a number of large corporate crises, I’d avoid suggesting any course of action that might make things worse. Your comment to me gives a much better indication of how you and your coworkers are viewing the situation, its magnitude, your customers and the urgency of the matter.

As for features that make me want to switch, I don’t think of a single competitor’s feature that would prompt a change. Similarly, I can’t think of a single software feature that, if added, would be sufficient to retain me as a customer.

Movable Type – now Six Apart – has had an enviable reputation as customer-oriented. I think it is the handling of changes and communication with customers that makes me look for alternatives. As an outsider to this ”event,” I see many others who have switched for similar reasons.

One lesson learned from years in business is that there are diplomatic ways to ”fire” certain customers or customer segments. Your developer edition, the pricing structure and your announcements concerning the commercial demand for your products and services may be signals that the real growth of Six Apart will be funded not by individuals, but by larger corporate clients. That’s fine; and absent the demands of a support-intensive set of individuals, you may well flourish under the alternative strategy. Clearly, the things you are measuring in your business are telling you what to do and which markets to pursue.

Again, I appreciate your comments and the insight you’ve provided into how you’re approaching the recent changes.

Regards,

Steve

Steve Pilgrim
www.rodentregatta.com

  • * * UPDATE * * * I’m not completely certain how the skillset differs between one who is considered a ”developer” vs. one who is considered a ”designer.” Someone once said, designers make things look pretty. I think it goes well beyond that. Whatever the case, Six Apart is clearly focusing its effort and energy on a class of customers it calls ”developers.” The market overlap between those who might use LiveJournal or Blogger and those who would use Movable Type or Expression Engine is getting removed.

TypePad is the (recurring revenue) service that Six Apart offers to those who might be considering Blogger or LiveJournal. Movable Type is a tool for developers. You’ll have to be the judge of what skills you must possess to be called a developer!

>From what I’ve seen, the skilled people who are using tools built around PHP and MySQL are clearly developers. Most of the time they know the other elements of L-A-M-P such as Linux and Apache. The hue-and-cry over 6A’s moves has energized WordPress and Textpattern along with others.

At some point, the skills people possess must be marketed. To do that developers must appeal to business people. Business people think in terms of cost, time and what’s-in-it-for-me. If you are capable of saying, ”I can take your two Movable Type sites, change the look slightly, move them to Textpattern (or Expression Engine, WordPress, etc.) and preserve the functionality you now have in those sites,” you have an incredible business proposition to make. If you can also say those things and put a time and cost estimate against it, you’ll stay just as busy as you want to stay!

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Put Reins On Those Who Reign Over Spending

2 June 2004

Craig Cantoni preceded this essay with the following:

The Arizona Republic had the largest circulation drop in the nation of 8.1%, although it serves the second-fastest growing state in the nation. At the same time, hardly a week goes by without someone writing me and saying that although they love the libertarian (really classical liberal) themes of my weekly column (for which I accept no money) and the conservative themes of Bob Robb’s column, they are cancelling their subscriptions in the face of the overwheming number of stories and editorials favoring increases in taxes and government spending. Is there a connection between the two facts? Selfishly, I want circulation to increase and have written articles for other publications and Internet sites detailing the lack of balance in news stories in the establishment press on social, economic and tax issues, in the hope that someone at the paper would notice and respond accordingly. My latest is below. As a consultant to a newspaper that has increased circulation and profits considerably, I understand the demographics facing newspapers, including the fact that young people are not reading newspapers as much as older people, but that makes it even more shortsighted to disenfranchise older readers, many of whom are conservative.

Then, about an hour later, I received the following:

About an hour ago I had sent an e-mail offering my take on the Arizona Republic’s 8% drop in circulation and attaching an article of mine on the formula used by the establishment media to cover taxes and government spending. (The e-mail and article are posted at the end of this.)

Since then, I have picked up the Arizona Republic and read the front-page story on cities renewing pay raises. The theme of the piece is that city workers have had to endure cuts in their cost-of-living (COLA) increases this fiscal year, the poor dears. The story proves my earlier point as follows:

First, the 40 column-inch story only quoted city employees, city managers and a union representative. It quoted no one with an opposing view, no taxpayers who are fed up with high taxes, and no local compensation consultants (The head of my compensation consulting affiliate and I have over 50 combined years of experience in setting pay rates and designing pay plans). I had said in my earlier e-mail and article that the formula followed by the establishment press, including the Republic, is to quote tax takers (government employees and other recipients of taxes) much more than taxpayers, who are often not quoted at all.

Second, the story implied that city employees have suffered without pay increases, yet the accompanying table says the opposite. For example, according to the table, Tempe employees received a 3.5% COLA increase and 5% ”other” increase in the 2002-2003 fiscal year. Then, when increases were cut back the next fiscal year, they received no COLA increases and 1 to 5% ”other” increases. I don’t have any clients that increased wages by 8% last year. Moreover, planned increases by my clients for this year range from 1 to 5% and none of the increases will be COLA increases. In fact, a new client, a bank president, wants a new pay plan and said that he doesn’t want cost-of-living increases and will not grant merit increases unless both the employee and the bank perform well. In other words, what is a standard pay practice in industry is seen as draconian by city employees and their cheerleaders in the press.

Third, the article did not mention that the budgets of most cities have increased faster than inflation and population growth over the last decade. Nor did it compare the pay and benefits of government employees with private-sector employees. Coincidentally, I published an article yesterday on this subject. It is pasted below. At the end of the article I’ve pasted the e-mail and article that I sent out about an hour ago.

What the hell are they teaching in journalism school?

Journey From Naivet and Apathy to Taxpayer Rage
by Craig J. Cantoni
May 31, 2004

My father-in-law recently assisted me in my lifelong journey from the naivete and apathy of my youth about government spending to my taxpayer rage of today.

Having once performed community service on the board of the housing authority in his small hometown in rural Pennsylvania, he recently sent me the pay scales of the full-time staff of the authority, knowing that I have 30 years of experience in evaluating the worth of jobs and establishing pay rates and benefit levels in the private sector. He also knows that I have written columns about how recipients of government housing assistance rip off the system, and he shares my concern over high taxes and unbridled government spending.

It is no surprise that housing authority employees gorge themselves at the public trough as much as government employees from other agencies. But there is nothing like seeing the disgusting feeding frenzy firsthand in one small corner of Leviathan to understand why the government is obese, likely to get even fatter and unlikely to ever go on a diet, regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in office.

It’s bad enough that the recipients of public housing often live in housing that is nicer than the housing of taxpayers, as I saw when my father-in-law gave me a tour of the new public housing in his hometown. But it is rubbing salt in the wound to see that housing authority executives and employees get better pay and benefits than taxpayers. And it is like sticking a blunt needle in the wound to see housing authority executives, both Democrats and Republicans, come to my hometown of Scottsdale from colder climes for taxpayer-paid junkets, er, housing conferences, during the winter.

Please excuse my screaming. It comes from the realization that there is so much vested interest on both sides of the political aisle in maintaining the status quo of so many rice bowls that there is no hope of reforming the system or reducing the per-household cost of government from the current $24,000—especially with the establishment media changing its role decades ago from government watchdog to government lapdog.

I could find no expose or critical news story of housing authority pay and benefits in the first 10 pages of a Google search on the subject. Clearly, the establishment media is sleeping soundly in its master’s lap as Pulitzer Prize-winning material about government waste goes unreported. Tellingly, the media wolf pack wakes up and howls and growls over corporate fraud and obscene CEO pay, which is a tiny morsel in a huge doggy dish in comparison to government fraud and obscenities, especially the Ponzi schemes of Social Security and Medicare and the nonexistent Social Security trust fund. The pathetic pooch-like press is like a dog that salivates over a dog biscuit while ignoring a two-pound porterhouse steak.

Other important distinctions between corporate and governmental theft escape canine-brained reporters. For example, shareholders were not coerced to buy Enron stock, but taxpayers are coerced to hand over 15% of their pay in FICA taxes. Worse, thanks to a form of child abuse at the hands of the government, today’s retirees are sending much of their entitlement bill to today’s children.

It doesn’t take much research to determine the depth of the housing trough. For example, the starting pay for a maintenance laborer in the Dayton Housing Authority is $13.32 an hour. Munch, munch.

What are the qualifications of a maintenance laborer? A high school degree or GED, and the ability ”to read and comprehend simple instructions,” as well as the ability