Friday, May 30, 2003

we have met the fifth estate and it is us

Update below - please, please, please see end of post.

Much self examination of late on the part of the media, what with the exposure of plagiarist Jayson Blair and more recently his "dateline-toe-touching" colleague Rick Bragg.

A couple of quotes:
  • NY Times editor Raines: "Frankly, no newspaper in the world is set up to monitor for cheats and fabricators." (found here)
  • Perspective from the scene by a former NY Times stringer: (via Dave Winer?)
    The real problem with the Times' policy on stringers is that it's counter to what a newspaper is supposed to be all about: the truth. When the Times puts a national correspondent's byline on a story that includes string from others - whether staffers or freelancers - it's telling its readers that that story was reported only by that reporter. It's telling its readers a lie.

This trumpet-the-truth-except-re-self pattern is also found in the downside of Science as actually performed, namely that scientists - yes those dispassionate seekers of Truth - can be just as prone to attempt to conceal and distract from a weak argument as anyone else - they're advocating a view of reality based on necessarily incomplete data, and the norm is (or at least used to be) to make no effort to share with their audience just where and how the data were weak.

It's a fundamental problem with any institution whose job it is to find truth - human beings comprise it, and humans have their own social drives that are not necessarily congruent with the institution's ostensible goal. So there needs to be some fear of exposure, to help motivate people to toe the line.

In the case of science, the requirement that any discovery (in order to count as one) must be replicated by other researchers serves as a restraint, albeit an imperfect one (and it only enforces valid collection of data, not the subsequent interpretation).

In any other realm, the threat of exposure typically comes from the press. (although for the most part compared to the better weblogs they do a lazy job of it. the obvious: you are not currently reading one of "the better weblogs".)

And for the press - what forces act to keep it in line? self-policing does not come naturally, and I also suspect that "professional courtesy" may act to discourage one news team from reporting on another. This is natural - it's just not human to focus (in proper judgemental tell-all fashion) that closely - and as a consequence, even if they're doing their jobs everywhere else, if the media can get away with it, the standards will be different in-house. E.g. Joel Sax: "We must remember that journalism is a thing that lives not for the truth first, but for the bottom line..."

and Mark Twain -
Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal) & admires the thief... However, these same journals combat despicable crimes quite valiantly- when committed in other quarters.
Some newspapers address the need for oversight by having ombudsmen, although if they're not truly independent - for example, if the criticism would reflect ill on their boss - the position may tend to morph into that of Newspaper Apologist.

The NY Times needs an ombudsman ("it's impossible for a newspaper to police itself, and often unfair to expect it to even try"); smaller papers like ours may not be able to afford one (but a part-timer? maybe? on trial basis?).

If no ombudsman, that pretty much leaves us the readers, as Union editor Richard Somerville notes:
We [at the paper] are blessed (although we don't always think of it that way) that in a small community our shortcomings are apparent, and often commented upon. There are fewer hiding places for those who would bend or even break the rules...
So we have a job to do, and we gotta keep on it. Our tools are letters to the editor, which are transitory, and weblogs, which are not.

BTW here are NPR's Ethical guidelines on accuracy, fairness and balance, invoking the Sunshine Principle:
Could I go on the air and justify this decision to my listeners?
The ultimate test of your ethical decision is how you justify it to your listeners. As you are making the decision, consider how you would explain it during a broadcast. Would you be comfortable doing so? Why not also take calls on the air from listeners periodically to discuss particular situations, and journalism ethics in general? Your spirit of candor and openness will demonstrate that your station aspires to being ethical in its journalistic programming, as well as fair, accurate and balanced.


Feb 15 2008 Update, almost 5 years later - boy, was I naive. I'd said
"Scientists...can be just as prone to attempt to conceal and distract from a weak argument as anyone else"
...but I'd said it with, as it has transpired, very little understanding of just who else we science types share this planet with. It's been a fascinating and appalling half-decade blogospheric voyage of discovery, dropping into the Marianas Trenches of human nature. (and I really wish someone would flip the switch, to shed more light on what's out there...)

No, scientists aren't perfect - no human endeavor ever will be - but compared to what else is slithering around these is reusing an un-canceled postage stamp, while the other fellows are stealing Granny's social security check and tricking her into signing over her house.

So when they start in about the postage stamps...

remedial education

...for me at least.

Brad DeLong (May 16) on why representative democracy is superior to "participatory democracy"

His response to "Argentinians poured into the streets banging pots and pans... told... politicians... 'Everyone must go'... starting a democratic revolution..." -
But we all know what usually happens--and what has happened in Argentina over the past year and a half--to those who expect to find true democracy in the streets. We do, after all, have a lot of history to teach us...

Pickup assemblies that claim to represent "the people" are very vulnerable to takeover by disciplined vanguards with their own ideologies, hierarchical organizations, and ability to dispatch lots of people to outsit all others. This has been a common pattern since the days of the Jacobin Club. When legitimacy is conferred not by popular election but by the fact of spontaneous participation, those with the ideological and organizational tools [to] organize the largest number of "spontaneous" participants take over.
[final sentence removed as it is likely to give the wrong impression under current circumstances]

Thursday, May 29, 2003


for those who (like Ron O.) wonder what is the point of weblogs

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

changes to privacy policy

won't make any difference to you. New one is here.

second thoughts on civic journalism

...not that they lead to any conclusions either, but...
(previous post here)

Some very blurred? crossed? lines.
From Feb. 3 Sydney Morning Herald, How the [Wall St.] Journal recruited cheerleaders for war: ("Ethical issues arise when a paper gets too involved in the news it reports, Tim Rutten writes.")
The question arose: had the paper orchestrated a declaration of support for a Bush Administration policy its own editorial page has unstintingly supported, and reported the event as news?

"It reminds one of the old adage: if you don't like the news, go out and make some yourself[sic*]," said Orville Schell, dean of the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

(via Kathryn Cramer via amygdala)

* that's "...make some of your own". Mr. Schell must not have been a Nisker listener (or at least not a pedantic one)

more evidence of spring

good thing we have the visual evidence, since the thermal evidence points toward summer.
(click for full size)
Sidalceas at Hell's Half Acre, on western edge of the volcanic mudflow near the Sunset District on the old R&R Hwy.
(thanks to photographer)

next time, just buy the potting soil

mushroom compost has consequences

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

in the mainstream

For those who prefer to drink from mainstream outlets:
  • in Brad DeLong reports Krugman on Financial Times on how the "tax cut" upcoming fiscal train wreck is likely to be deliberate administration policy -
    • Financial Times:
      Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door.

    • Krugman (expanding on the above):
      It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues - that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut - was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.

  • Columbia Journalism Review article on The lies we bought (directed at U.S. media), detailing gullibility of media in face of the manufactured justifications for war, assembles all the pieces & puts them in context.
    Final paragraph not crux of argument, but activated the quote reflex nonetheless:
    Unfortunately, the politicians and their p.r. people know all too well the propaganda dictum related nearly twenty years ago by Peter Teeley, press secretary to then Vice President George H.W. Bush. Teeley was responding to complaints that the elder Bush, during a televised debate, had grossly distorted the words of his and Ronald Reagan's opponents, the Democratic candidates Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro. As Teeley explained it to The New York Times in October 1984, "You can say anything you want during a debate, and 80 million people hear it." If "anything" turns out to be false and journalists correct it, "So what. Maybe 200 people read it, or 2,000 or 20,000."

  • and of course the BBC on the Jessica Lynch story (U.S. denial reported here).
    [Days later - what amnesia? -
    When asked about his daughter's memory, Greg Lynch said it "is as good as it was when she was home. She can still remember everything." But, he said, the family has not pressed her for details.

Monday, May 26, 2003

memorial day

I have often asked myself why human beings have any rights at all. I always come to the conclusion that human rights, human freedoms, and human dignity have their deepest roots somewhere outside the perceptible world. These values are as powerful as they are because, under certain circumstances, people accept them without compulsion and are willing to die for them.

--Vaclav Havel

Bill Moyers (via Dan Gillmor):
...Every Memorial Day I think about what these men did and what we owe them. They didn't go through hell so Kenny Boy Lay could betray his investors and workers at Enron, or for a political system built on legal bribery. It wasn't for corporate tax havens in Bermuda, or an economic system driven by the law of the jungle, or so a handful of media buccaneers could turn the public airwaves into private sewers....

I was never called on to do what soldiers do; I'll never know if I might have had their courage...They thought democracy was worth fighting for, even dying for. The least we can do is to help make democracy worthy of them.

Sunday, May 25, 2003


Better than sunscreen - via blogging town square Dave Winer, commencement address by Jerry Zucker here. Samples:
"It's great to plan for your future. Just don't live there, because really nothing ever happens in the future. Whatever happens happens now, so live your life where the action is - now."
"If you have a dream, now is the time to pursue it, before you buy furniture."

and via Scott Rosenberg, William Gibson speaking to the Director's Guild of America putting the 'digital media' struggles into past-present-future context. As SR says, The whole speech is extraordinary. No sound bites, go read it.

well, one bite: "...the unthinking construction of a species-wide, time-defying, effectively immortal prosthetic memory..."

building bridges

Good, thoughtful writing about reaching out to your fellow man across the political divide, from Vantage Point, a new(?) weblog with wise author:
I was poking fun at the President...when the fellow standing...was offended and turned to go...I asked him for a word and apologized. I wasn’t apologizing for my beliefs, but for an unintended insult of his. Then he wanted to apologize, saying he was pretty edgy because his son is a marine, had fought on the front line in Iraq and was still there. He said he respected the President because of his integrity, and although we disagreed on that, I told him that I agreed with the values he found in the President and I cared about the country too. We shook hands over a divide that had seemed pretty bleak a few minutes before, but now was connecting us.

The right and left are trading volleys over the heads of a vast majority of good intentioned people, both in the US and abroad, who really want the United States to stand for freedom, for democracy, for compassion...The core beliefs of many in the U.S. populace are entwined in the President and tearing him down becomes a repudiation of the values he espouses. The challenge of this time for those who don’t see eye to eye with the present government is to elevate the discourse, to present an alternate view... [that] doesn’t devolve into a cynicism that alienates our friends and neighbors...

this just in - May not pious fraud of almanac after all

Penn Valley this morning.


The light blue flowering deerbrush is Ceanothus integerrimus, same as the white flowering one. From Storer & Usinger's Sierra Nevada Natural History: "panicles compound, large... white (occ. blue), fragrant..."
Thanks to past president of local CNPS for the ID.

why you should read Pure Land Mountain

Permalinks are broken so I'll just quote--

Recent mornings, just at the cusp of dawn, there is this insane bird--sounds like he (must be a he, a female bird wouldn't waste the time) is screaming "What the hell? What the hell? What the hell?" harshly loudly and exactly in that frantically familiar rhythm, as though a hard disc just crashed or two tires just blew out or something equivalently imminent-achievement shattering, over and over dozens of times, and at sunrise, what could be the point, but he's not in a tree he's in the brush, so can't be seen and I wonder what such a frantic call must be meant to convey on a regular dawnly basis, particularly in Spring, is he some kind of avian asset management CEO?...
Where the above described bird is a Type A personality, our counterpart is much more a laid back underachiever. "Hey baby" he calls, unenthusiastically, apparently not expecting much of a response. Also a morning bird but I don't think he's been around lately. Slacker.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

slippery slopes

(executive summary: no real (or local) point, just an interesting and well thought out article by someone whose politics are not mine, addressing a subject of mutual interest.)

Volokh & Newman's in defense of the slippery slope (via Arts & Letters Daily) - "the realities of the political and judicial processes can make the slippery slope - or, more precisely, several different kinds of mechanisms lurking behind the label "slippery slope" - a real concern..." -very clear, logical thinking, much appreciated. It's always bugged me to see the Slippery Slope metaphor derided/discounted as merely a logical fallacy - logical fallacies can still be empirical truths.

...Arguments such as "Oppose this law, because it starts us down the slippery slope" have earned a deservedly bad reputation, because they're too abstract to be helpful.
What is valuable is the ability to identify ways in which slippage might happen and to tell listeners a plausible story about how this first step might lead to specific other ones. Cataloging and analyzing the mechanisms of the slippery slope - mechanisms such as the cost-lowering slope, the attitude-altering slope, and others - can help us further develop this ability.
What I also liked about the article was its sensible tone, which was not at all the "sneering tone of certain libertarian publications" (Lee Felsenstein quote) (Volokh is a libertarian is he not?). Example: "It's quite rational for people to look to legal rules for pragmatic or moral guidance when they have neither the time nor expertise to investigate the matter on their own."

on local libertarianism and property rights

Yesterday's (local) Confessions of an Ideologue by Robert Chrisman, laying out the historical background/general philosophy of the author's libertarian worldview with respect to property rights - "I adhere to a systematic body of concepts about human life, and so do my political opponents. I am an individualist; my opponents are collectivists..."

Unlike some past writings from libertarians in this county, it was refreshingly accessible, level-headed in tone, not paranoid or hostile or ranting. You get the feeling that this is a person you could communicate with...or nearly so, as the stereotypical libertarian tone does sometimes seep through: "The moderate, accustomed to bailing on issues that require much thought, accepts this, and will countenance almost any restrictions that have the blessing of the majority...OK, fence-sitter, where do you come down, now that you can see the distinctions in stark contrast?"
- and he does make it clear that he's not talking to the likes of me: "I advocate personal liberty and self-government; my opponents advocate social and economic controls...It is [not to them] that I address my remarks..."

["stuff to skip" deleted]

stuff to skip if you have high standards

I am not particularly well qualified to address the substance of Mr. Chrisman's arguments, but this is a weblog.

some of article's points, and my responses thereto:
  1. C: it's bad to judge political candidates on character since the only thing that matters is whether they share our ideology.
    A: I don't think so. There are other issues that govt must deal with besides property rights. For example, corruption in govt is not good. And if you elect people without consideration of their personal character, corruption is what you are likely to get. A strong libertarian ideology is no guarantee of character: read Brad DeLong's Anarchy, State, and Rent Control on the not very libertarian money-making ploys of Robert Nozick, "the intellectual hero of libertarians": "Nozick mocked the economic interventionism of contemporary liberals who, he said, are 'willing to tolerate every kind of behavior except capitalistic acts between consenting adults.' Alas, it now appears that like so many other advocates of the free market, Nozick is willing to make one small exception --himself..."
    There's an interesting pro-and-con discussion at bottom of page.
  2. C: "without economic (read property-related ) freedom, no other freedoms are possible."
    A: If my property can be made valueless by what you choose to do with yours, ultimate freedom to do what you want with your property will deprive me of my economic freedom.
  3. C: Because without property we have no freedoms, property rights must be completely unrestricted
    A: How does this follow? Other freedoms are restricted (eg yelling Fire in theater, swinging my arm where your face begins, standing at the property line screaming at 2am)
  4. C: "The collectivist/authoritarians, however, have managed to move us to the point where the approval of building projects is subject to the whims of the planners and elected politicians.
    A: in-town Nevada City, probably yes (I am no expert, but I do not think you could be a happy libertarian in this town --although this (via mmg) might do it). In Lake Wildwood, perhaps yes (or at least my understanding is that there are onerous-to-some restrictions). Elsewhere in the county, my impression is that you can pretty much build whatever you want as long as the land is zoned for it.
  5. C: "OK, fence-sitter, where do you come down, now that you can see the distinctions in stark contrast?"
    A: Here's hoping "Fence-Sitter" understands that there are two sides to every story, and that F.S. should read a decent rebuttal (like this) before jumping to opinions.
One final question- in Mr. Chrisman's article there are tantalizing hints that he might like to do away with zoning altogether ("...a strict return to [only limiting property rights via zoning] would be a first step..."). Is this interpretation correct?

the nice thing about a weblog is there is no finality - so here's more:

A disadvantage of idealogueism:
You vote for an idealogue, you may find that democracy (as in decisions made by the people) is not high on his priorities, so if the easiest way he sees to get what he wants involves subterfuge and sleight of hand, well, that's what you'll get. See Financial Times on the purpose of the tax cuts, Joshua Marshall on the purpose of the war in Iraq...

The disadvantage of libertarianism:
The public interest suffers. Think billboards; am told big fight over them back in the 1930s(?) when they started popping up along freeways, to prevent roads from becoming horizon-to-horizon advertising. [Great (as in appalling) Ayn Rand quote to go here later if I find it]. What would driving be like now if the libertarians had won?

Friday, May 23, 2003


[post superseded by reality]

confidential to dead tree media (other reader please ignore)

(this is from memory, can't find on web)
If the headlines are slanted, but that's not the reporters' fault since the copy editors do the headlines, but it's not the copy editors' fault since they do it late at night and they're ensuring that the headlines are fair & accurate a part of anyone's job?

I'm not saying I could do it better. But one thing I would do, if I were running things, is write a regular "second thoughts" column, not about errors per se, but about what would have been done differently if there had been a little more time and more timely inspiration. Otherwise the readers are left completely in the dark as to whether or not you're at peace with what you published. (for bloggers it's easy, we just edit the post :-)

Equal opportunity media basconstructive criticism

- start personal opinion -
When I tune into our community radio station I do so hoping to get news about & music played by members of our community, stuff with a strong and distinctively local flavor. So how come instead there's all these Brits talking about world news in funny accents? And other programs too, that come from all over the country. It's not like we need to rely on the radio station as our only source of knowledge about the world, we have the web now for nonlocal news. And it's not like there aren't plenty of dedicated people up here who'd be delighted to seize the opportunity to be on air playing the music they love. Time to get back to the roots of community radio.
- end personal opinion -

Thursday, May 22, 2003

civic journalism

(executive summary: somewhat confused post raising questions to which I come up with many tentative answers. Your mileage may vary.)

Union article today reporting on Grass Valley's approval of an 'infill' development, which got me to thinking that in the past we wouldn't have seen articles like this, for two reasons: first, there wasn't the recognition of the need for this sort of development, & second, this article wasn't framed as a conflict, it was framed as "this development is consistent with commonly recognized good planning principles although not all the neighbors are happy about it" . This is civic journalism, and the community benefits from it.

So is civic (aka public) journalism the way we ought to be encouraging our community newspaper to go? The heart says yes, more, more, but this fascinating (and long) 1995 Columbia Journalism Review article brings up some downsides. Plethora of excerpts:

The civic journalists see themselves as part of an effort to try to get the wheel turning the other way, by providing those "handles" for a community to grapple with community problems in some kind of meaningful way. "In a word," writes Jay Rosen of New York University, one of the movement's founders, "public journalists want public life to work. In order to make it work they are willing to declare an end to their neutrality on certain questions -- for example: whether people participate, whether a genuine debate takes place when needed, whether a community comes to grips with its problems."
[con:] The best reason for rejecting public journalism, perhaps, is that its rhetoric makes such excellent cover for pandering, for the notion that in order to reverse our declining fortunes we have to steer clear of hard-hitting reporting on subjects that the reader is reluctant to hear about. A newsroom that would seek to market itself as the community's pal is the kind that could reflexively refrain from doing anything that might offend that community.
[pro:] "We've learned far more about our neighborhoods -- what people care about, how things actually work -- than we ever used to learn about our city by covering city commissioners and cops and the mayor's office. That's a terrible way to learn about a city. This is grass-roots reporting. It's old fashioned in that sense, old fashioned crusading. It's the newspaper saying we believe something needs to happen on this subject."
public journalism requires reporting the news "in a way that facilitates people thinking about solutions, not just problems and conflict. The most crucial thing is to figure out how you frame stories in a way that accomplishes that end."
[con:] "I'm not sure it's connected with public journalism," says one reporter, "but its almost like we're afraid to stir up as much controversy as we had in the past." "We had a zoo animal on the front page every week for six or eight weeks," says another. "It was fucking embarrassing."
Among Thomas's rejected story ideas is one that looks awfully good in retrospect -- the rise of right-wing militias -- since she proposed it months before the federal building exploded in Oklahoma City. Several such militias, she says, were forming at that time in Kansas, and she had developed good sources, partly by traveling to gun shows. "I was told our readers did not have the appetite for that kind of story," she says.

my opinion I: there's been enough divisiveness and conflict and death threats in this county to last a long time; it being a small-town paper it's not like we get hard-hitting reporting anyway, so we're not losing anything; bring on the civic journalism, we need help in encouraging civil and informed public discourse.

my opinion II: the causal relationship between "our goal is to help the community solve its problems" and "let's not bring up problems since that will anger some elements of the community" seems extremely tenuous.

my opinion III: the causal relationship involves possible primacy of self-interest (and desire not to have to report conflict) over accuracy. As the article points out - by having particular reasons to want to frame stories in a particular way, the 'whole truth' is more likely to become a secondary priority, and if the newspaper takes an active role in trying to achieve solutions, it has an even greater incentive to present its actions as having been successful. Thus "our goal is to help the community to solve its problems" could morph into "our goal is to make it look as though we're helping the community to solve its problems"...

my opinion IV: it's still worth trying.

your opinion?

on learning (correctly or otherwise) from fiction

Chris Mooney (the fellow Woody Woodpecker sighter) joins up with buddy Matt to explore how you could determine whether fictional movies affect moviegoers' perceptions of actual reality*, using X-Men and 'before' and 'after' moviegoing surveys. There's an easier way to get the data though - look at the frequency of mentions of holocaust revisionism before and after Schindler's List came out - I recall there seemed to be a considerable drop. You could probably do searches & counts of the relevant Usenet postings and get your results in an hour or two, which I hope someone else (Chris?) will do.

* I'm generalizing; they were focusing on 'knowledge and/or perceptions of science', not reality in general or history in particular.


YES!!!! An email has come flooding in! A big Thank You to Bill of prairie point, for letting me know that it's possible to avoid popups by switching browsers from M$IE to Mozilla.

Bill Gates Sr. on the estate tax

Andrew Tobias today featuring Warren Buffett on Dividend Voodoo - "If the receptionist and I had both been born in, say, Bangladesh, the story would have been far different" - brings to mind Papa Gates On Death And Taxes from Forbes :
Imagine, he [Gates] says, that God is in his office looking over his portfolio. God's stocks are down--he's too heavy in the dot-coms--and to reverse his fortunes, he summons the next two spirits to be born on earth. He proposes an auction. The winner will be born in the United States, the loser in Ethiopia. He asks the two spirits to bid by writing down what percentage of their net worth they are prepared to cede to God upon their death. Hearing the terms, God's adviser (his accountant?) pulls him aside and says it will never work. Both spirits will certainly write 100%.

"What is it worth to be an American?" William H. Gates Sr. asks. The estate tax, he says, is a small price to pay.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

new face on the blogroll

A warm welcome to Tom Nadeau, now appearing in the "Semi-local" section; ran across his weblog a day or two ago and was delighted to find he was author of an April SacBee article I'd saved, on Yuba City's upcoming first gated community: "Security, not exclusivity, is said [by interviewees] to be the chief factor for buyers choosing gated community living." - an amusing quote given conditions in one of our local gated communities, where the wildest creatures* to be found are certain of the resident subadults. When their chainlink perimeter fence is finally completed, the inhabitants may be in for a rude surprise as the full force of the mayhem is channeled back into their community.

*would include link, but The Union's Police Blotter section appears not to be searchable - or at least wildwood AND "golf cart" AND crash AND lake brought up no matches.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

pax redux

new post from Salam Pax yesterday, and Jeff Jarvis has put up an English translation of the interview with him.

Tips for surfing with M$IE

You don't have to put up with popups*, animations, etc. when you're on the web. Go to Tools - Internet Options - Security - Internet, make sure it's at least on Medium, click on "Custom Level", then Disable both "RunActiveX Controls and Plug-ins" and "Script ActiveX Controls marked safe for Scripting", OK, Apply. Then if you're a true luddite (with low connection speed/patience/desireforvisualstimulation), click on Advanced tab, and in the Multimedia section uncheck "Show pictures". Speeds up your surfing considerably, and if you need to see an image, right click on it and select "Show Picture".

You'll still be able to use 90% of websites just fine, & if you run across an ill-behaved one you can re-set your Security back to Medium and re-check "show pictures" and be back where you started.

The other thing you can do is put a shortcut to your Cookies folder on the desktop (find said folder, in Win98 it's at C:\Windows\Cookies, rightclick on it and drag it to desktop, select "create shortcut here"), and periodically open it up and delete all the cookies from sites you don't care about. In theory this will help to protect your privacy.

Note to any online advertiser who may someday run across this page - instead of fancy flash animations that we don't want to see, you'll do better with textads:
Being forced to express a message in a few words concentrates the advertiser's mind, and probably leads to more communicative ads that are better focused on explaining how users will benefit from the product or service.
The text-only format more clearly exposes content-free messages as useless,...and thus might save advertisers from the bad instincts they honed on old media.

...[Web users] are utterly selfish and live in the moment. Giving users exactly what they want, right now, is the road to Web success, and having to write small boxes of text encourages advertisers to travel it.

*actually you'll still get the popup window, but it'll be empty

Monday, May 19, 2003

privacy and etiquette in the internet age

The web is a wondrous thing, but the ability for all to have instant access to knowledge of all sorts is not always welcomed. Britt Blaser: "All the technical clues point to a transparent society that collectively knows as much about its participants as did the citizens of a 19th century village..."

It may seem counterintuitive, but being in that village with certain people you know feels more claustrophobic than being in it with strangers. And if you stumble across the writings of someone you know, it does - or can - feel like continuing to read is sneaky & shameful.

so ever the helpful moralist following in the gamboling footsteps of Bill Bennett i now offer you guidelines for when to stop reading, namely if any of the following apply:
  1. you find the material boring/offensive/irritating
  2. you know and frequently interact with the author and you have reason to believe that your readership would not be appreciated
  3. you know and frequently interact with author and somehow haven't gotten around to mentioning to author that you have become reader. (note: this may indicate subliminal awareness of belonging in category #2)

See, short list, not so bad, you're probably in #1 anyway so it's up to you...


leaving work this evening there was a lot of ha-ha-ha-ing going on in the woods beside the parking lot, then who should fly over but yet another pileated woodpecker. laughing all the way although it was a somewhat harsh and scornful laugh. Being scorned by one of these guys is still an honor though.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

unjustly accused

Update: copy editors write headlines, reporters don't. however in these examples the headlines do seem to accurately reflect content of articles.

April 19 Letter from Mike Pasner to Union making the claim that the reporting is biased (1 example among several given: "The headline March 25 should have read: "Supervisor Bedwell Breaks Law for 8 Years...")

but I shall leap to the paper's defense here, sort of, wielding Occam's razor and claiming that we need not invoke reporter's bias as an explanation.

The "somebody thinks Bedwell screwed up" article is here ("Foe's complaint bedevils Bedwell"); I recall the article as basically being "Bedwell's enemy is trying to get him in trouble".

The "somebody thinks Conklin screwed up" article is here ("Conklin's new job raises eyebrows"), the article primarily sticking to the issues involved and barely mentioning that the eyebrows reported as being raised are those of "foes".

When a journalist is deciding how to frame a story, it's easy to cue off of whatever the protagonist views as the story and issues. And the protagonist's view, aka mindset, (once again) is a function of projection. So the current supervisor sees his problem as "I'm being attacked by an enemy", and presents it as such and it's written up as such, where the former supervisor sees his problem as "there are concerns about ethics and here's how I address those concerns", and presents it as such and it's written up as such.

so by merely following of the path of least resistance, the unbiased reporter can write an article that appears slanted.

(For a fascinating account of projection and the professional media's acceptance of it in the last presidential campaign, see this article on the use of fuzzy math in the Bush-Gore debates.)

weather report, in brief

cranky this weekend. sorry.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

room for improvement

excerpt from email last fall: "we reserve the right not to publish those letters deemed vile or scurrilous"

Function: adjective
1 a : using or given to coarse language b : being vulgar and evil
2 : containing obscenities, abuse, or slander

In The Union last Thursday, Ms. McGuire's Americans Battling Eco-terrorists ("...the internal economic war against Americans is still raging in the courts and other places...")- with two sentences about what you and I would consider eco-terrorism, all the rest was on legal attempts to restrict logging. (Update: MMG likely somewhat innocent, copy editor likely somewhat guilty)

Actually in some ways it's a comfort & makes me feel at home, if I wasn't being told that lefties are terrorists (and, it can be inferred, not Americans) how would I know for sure that I was in Nevada County? but then there was last month's anti-guncontrolactivist letter which is a little too ugly to excerpt from.

Hey paper people, if there's been a change in policy, please be explicit about it.

Baghdad and blogdom

Ottawa Citizen article by David Warren opining that Salam Pax is "playing Americans for fools":
One of his constantly repeated warnings is that the U.S. occupiers are fools if they do not take all those talented former-Baathist officials in from the cold, and put them back in business; that "al-Chalabi's de-Baathification plans don't solve any problems."
I'm inferring that Warren had particular trouble with this section of SP's blog:
There are of course unforgivable atrocities committed by a number of Ba’athists but there is no need to get every single Iraqi who was one into house arrest. That would mean we would have no teachers in schools, no professors in universities and everybody who worked in a state company will be made to quit his job.
and this
A friend was telling me when the bus came to take him to his work place one of them turned around to one of the Ba’athists who worked there telling him that if he is coming in the bus he will have shoes thrown at him and kicked out of it, there were other Ba’ath party members on the bus but everybody knows who was the bad apple.

thinking it means S.P. is a Baathist apologist. It seems to me SP is making a reasonable argument. And it's not exactly powerful apologism either. (but read the article yourself)

Personally I find Salam Pax's perspective much more believable than Santa Claus or immaculate conception or statements from G.W. Bush.

of course, I was the one that thought SARS would be here forthwith, and that a little Baghdad looting is to be expected, nothing to get all excited adjust the weblog credibility meter accordingly.

What is sad is that regardless of the sincerity of S.P., [I predict] we're going to be inundated with fake weblogs when the next conflict rolls around. A large and growing community of people who have no ax to grind or product to shill for, and who tend to believe each other, is just too tempting a target for the spin- and product-mongerers. these are the glory days for blogging but they will not last, the immune system will prove sadly inadequate to deal with mass invasion - just as a large software company (sorry, can't find link) once paid people to pose as just-plain-folks (who happened to love the product) in Usenet newsgroups, so too the fake blogs will infiltrate and overwhelm. Popularity goeth before the fall.

to look at weblogs from a marketer's point of view, take Deborah Branscum out of context:
Oh those wacky advertisers! They just won't be happy until they've pissed in every pond and then wonder, in astonishment, why there's no clean water to drink. Or, as they'll most likely put it, "How can we rise above the clutter of competing messages?"

Salam Pax addendum - via Kausfiles, here's a much better defense.

great news from Baghdad

via Making Light via StoutDemBlog, Library's volumes safely hidden:
Contrary to widespread belief, the antique books of Iraq's National Library were not stolen by thieves last month but were removed for safe keeping by self-appointed guardians of Iraq's cultural heritage...

Thursday, May 15, 2003

A monologue about the forest

In Sac Bee letters to editor today, NC residents Barbara and Alan reacting to
Tom Knudson's account of Bill Libby's account of reception of Libby's talk at the Conversation about the Forest symposium we had up here last year. Personal connection of sorts - the first college class I ever took was from Dr. Libby, an excellent teacher then and now, challenges you, is provocative, makes you think.

His talk was based on a deliberate misprision of "sustainability" (as how we could manipulate supply to sustain the existing demand) - so he could point out that California's demand for lumber is so great that you'd pretty much have to turn the entire Sierra into tree farms to meet it (and in future even that wouldn't be enough), and that protecting trees here just shifts the cutting elsewhere, to potentially more fragile environments.

What's lousy about the situation, and I think is in large part what drove the audience up the wall, is that it's just plain not a problem that we as consumers can solve - I can go live in a rebar teepee clad with Hefty bags and preach until I'm blue in the face, but the hordes of Home Despot customers are just going to keep on buying, there's no way they're going to be converted to Living The Simple Life, or as was brought out at the symposium, no civilization in history has ever voluntarily reduced its standard of living. There are empirical laws that apply to group behavior, and no amount of individual effort is going to repeal them.

So - an analogy - we the audience were in effect being told "no matter what you do, somebody's kids are gonna be sacrificed, and if you protect yours, then you're causing the death of someone else's (who are cuter, smarter, make a more important contribution to society, host more endangered species etc). And the negative audience reaction was to being told that, whatever we do, we have child blood on our hands - we'd prefer that kids not be sacrificed, but the sad fact is that the sacrificing is a problem that we can only worsen (by using child labor to build our homes), not prevent (by getting everyone to reduce child labor).

And we have to face it, as individuals with too many square feet we are part of the problem. We just aren't enough of it that our actions can solve it.

The Matrix (review, semi-spoilers)

It's now showing at Sierra Cinemas. If you love interminable choreographed fight scenes set to disco-style music-by-the-pound you'll find it very much worth your while. And it is no mean feat, that they were able to simultaneously give it a contrived-as-all-hell conventional happy ending and an unsatisfying-as-all-hell no ending whatsoever.

My favorite character is Agent Smith, when he gets to talk.

Dark City was much better.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

the blogging neighborhood

I know of 3 other I-think-still-active Nevada County weblogs - 2 by high school students, 1 by a guy who's much more personable in person than on blog (based on very limited exposure to the latter)

Yubanet's weblogs page has a link to one; for the rest, if you search Google for "nevada county" and "weblog" you'll run across them.
(5/23: or used to - just tried it, and none of them come up...)

places to go and things to do

That Woody Woodpecker sure gets around. He was sighted in Wash. DC a week ago Tuesday, and by Sunday was out here on the Cascade Ditch trail, beating a snag into submission.

For shy birds they're awfully brazen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

apropos of many things

from Harley Sorenson in SF Chronicle -
Growing old, as I've managed to do in recent years, has its advantages and disadvantages. The big disadvantage is the obvious one: Your body starts to fall apart.

The big advantage is that years of observation and experience teaches you things you didn't know before, so when the carnival barker invites you to pay to see the two-headed woman, you wonder not if there's a two-headed woman inside the tent but rather how they plan to cheat you.

misc Indian gaming links

local and otherwise. Not terribly pointed, mainly wanted to collect them in one place to supplement yesterday's batch. I don't know any more than you do.

Time magazine Dec 2002 articles on Indian gaming:
  • Dec 16 2002 cover, with links to all
  • Wheel of Misfortune (sorry, $$ required)
    Casinos were supposed to make Indian tribes self-sufficient. So why are the white backers of Indian gambling raking in millions while many tribes continue to struggle in poverty?
  • Playing the Political Slots - How Indian casino interests have learned the art of buying influence in Washington (summary)

Local, in more or less chronological order:

Dec 2002, Don Herrman letter re Indian gaming:
...Recently a lawyer representing a tribe that had been most generous to a state politician floated the idea that this sovereign nation need not comply with the rules of disclosure of the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC)...Just as in illegal drug trafficking, the immensity of the cash generated by the gambling industry virtually assures the corruption of those who brush up against it, including, too often, our governing leaders...

Dec. 2002, Casino gaming gets mixed signals
The Nevada County supervisors backed off a resolution opposing Indian gaming casinos Tuesday. The Nevada City City Council flatly rejected it the night before.
All City Council members spoke and voted against the resolution, some calling it discriminatory.
...Don Ryberg, tribal chairman of the Tsi-Akim Maidu, Nevada County's native people, voiced his opposition.
"I'm opposing this resolution because it smacks of racism, prejudice and all the stuff that goes with it," Ryberg said.
...In January 2001, Nevada County supervisors passed a resolution to recognize the Tsi-Akim Maidu tribe and support its pursuit of federal recognition.
While Ryberg thanked the supervisors for their recognition and support, he stressed that the Maidu tribe doesn't want Indian gaming.
"I've said that repeatedly over and over and that's how this tribe believes," Ryberg said.
Once the Maidus' gain federal recognition, "no other tribe can come on our turf, so to speak, and build casinos," Ryberg added.
Maidu tribal member Louella Giordano said backers of the resolution were jumping the gun.
"We are not a federally recognized tribe," Giordano said. "These people are acting like a casino's going up across the street next week."
The Maidu tribal council is against Indian gaming, Giordano added.

Jan 2003, Supervisors oppose Nevada-style gaming:
The board unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday opposing Nevada-style gaming. The resolution also supports a renegotiation of the California Tribal-State Compact regarding casinos on Indian lands.
Eileen Moon, vice chair of the Tsi-Akim clan of the Maidu tribe, [said] the Maidu tribe is against gaming and is not considering any casinos here...

Feb 2003, Locals to meet with lawmakers about Indian casinos:
Nevada County Supervisor Peter Van Zant last month wrote the governor a letter expressing concern about the "rapid expansion" of Indian casinos and resorts. A local worry, he said, is how a casino would affect land-use planning.
While he knew of no plans for a casino in Nevada County, Van Zant noted the county is within jurisdiction of the United Auburn Indian Community.
"There's some hoops they'd have to jump and other legalities, but if they meet those legalities, they've got every right to go ahead (and build) a casino," he said.
The UAIC's lawyer, Howard Dickstein, couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Feb 2003, Rocklin casino to open this summer:
The U. S. Department of the Interior took the tribe's 49-acre site in trust last year and the tribe's Las Vegas-based management partner, Station Casinos, will run the operation that will include five restaurants and parking for 3,000 cars.

Mar 2003, Union editorial (executive summary: local casino would NOT be good for the community)

Monday, May 12, 2003

never underestimate the power of money

(nothing new has happened locally, but there's new nonlocal news for context...)

Account of a proposal by one tribe to build a casino on top of an Indian burial ground

Casino on clinic site:
Plans by an Indian tribe near San Diego to construct a casino on the site of a health care clinic would be blocked for two years, under terms of a bill passed Tuesday by the House of Representatives

Cayuga Indian Nation: (from NY Times May 10)
For years, the Cayugas wanted no part of gambling fever. As the Senecas, the Oneidas and the Mohawks began earning millions from casinos, the Cayugas held to the old rules of consensus and unanimity. If even one of the five clan mothers opposed it, it could not happen.
...[Cayuga] tribal leaders felt that gambling was contrary to the spiritual tradition of the nation.

But in a reversal that has angered some tribe members and puzzled others, the views of at least some members have changed. And [in April 2003], the Cayugas signed an agreement with a casino promoter, Empire Resorts (formerly Alpha Hospitality), to sponsor a $500 million casino in the Catskills...

Coast Miwoks of Northern Calif.:
  • CNN, July 2000:
    The Miwok Indians of coastal Northern California are fighting for official tribal recognition to regain federal benefits and to help restore cultural traditions.
    While the group is seeking federal recognition, unlike many other tribes, they have promised no casinos and no gambling.

    "I think the anti-gaming clause shows, 'Hey, these Indians aren't doing this for the money,'" said [tribal chairman] Sarris.

    The clause did get the attention of Congress, and the House approved restoration of the Miwok's tribal status.

  • April 2003:
    A Sonoma County Indian tribe announced plans Wednesday to build a casino near Sears Point, and local officials acknowledged they could be helpless to stop the project.
    The Graton Rancheria, a Coast Miwok group restored to federal tribal status in late 2000, had repeatedly said it had no plans for gaming.
    ...[Barbara] Boxer's help was crucial in pushing through the legislation that restored tribal status to the Coast Miwoks. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, sought to prohibit gambling when the tribe was restored, but the Bureau of Indian Affairs objected, saying it could set a precedent that would lead to restrictions on all tribes that go before Congress.

    At the time, Boxer said she had no worries that a casino might sprout on Coast Miwok land. "I just don't see it as an issue. I never did," she said then.

  • May 2003:
    Marin County Supervisors fired the opening volley Tuesday in an attempt to thwart plans to build a casino in Novato’s backyard.
    Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution opposing plans by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (ie Coast Miwoks) to build what 5th District Supervisor Cynthia Murray calls a "mega-casino" ...
    The gambling house would be the largest state gaming officials allow, Murray said.
    ..."We are not the first community confronting this," Kinsey said. "To date, no community has been able to prevent a casino once a tribe starts that course. El Dorado County has spent $300,000 and haven’t made a dent in the issue for their community."

Grass Valley:
  • Chapa-De Indian health clinic, on plans for the remaining 5 acres of the 12 acre site of proposed medical clinic:
    ...five acres [of the 12 acre clinic site] are shown vacant on the preliminary maps, and that alone has rattled Grass Valley Planning Commission Chairwoman Lisa Swarthout..
    ..."That leads me to believe that you have future (planned) developments," she said. The Planning Commission could require more details for the vacant land, she warned

    Chapa-De representatives claimed there are no distinct plans for the five acres. "We just don't know," said architect Elaine Lieske.
    Under federal law, Chapa-De cannot build a casino, in part because the land is not tribal land and was purchased after 1988, she said.

    "This cannot be a gaming facility," Ervin stressed. "It never will be. We're here to provide health care to the community."

    Under federal law, casinos can be only be built on land held in trust by the federal government on behalf of a federally recognized tribe. Lands acquired after 1988 are ineligible unless the tribe's federal status is new or has been restored, and the governor and U.S. Department of the Interior agree that gambling will not negatively impact the community.

  • Dr. Sara Richey, Feb 2003:
    I did not think there was any plan for a casino, however... Since the governing tribe of the clinic is a gaming tribe, their attorneys are gaming attorneys, and the clinic director is a gaming tribal leader, I don't think it is unwise to spell out in advance that a casino would not be welcome on that property...

Sunday, May 11, 2003

thinking (or at least linking) globally

I don't have anything useful to say about the big stuff - like
  • the media's curious near-silence on Katrina Leung (the longtime spy for China/paramour of investigator of Clinton Asian campaign finance scandal) also being a Republican fundraiser for (primarily) Calif. state candidates
  • the looting of the Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center in Iraq ("By the time U.S. troops arrived in early April, armed guards were holding off looters - but the Americans only disarmed the guards...'I saw empty uranium-oxide barrels lying around, and children playing with them,' says Fadil Mohsen Abed, head of the medical-isotopes department...")
  • Bill Bennett's gambling and media coverage thereof
- for these sorts of stories you should be reading Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall is way sharp.

In brief though - re top story in SF Chronicle today on Bush's plans to revitalize our nuclear weapons industry - this is unfortunately consistent with the analysis of his thought patterns as being characteristic of a former alcoholic, now "dry drunk" - who's now addicted to power and conquest, and the prediction (seen recently, forget where) that, for this reason, Iraq may be just the beginning.

(and see Dan Gillmor on media lack-of-coverage of Bush's AWOL military past here).

Saturday, May 10, 2003


coming into town this morning everything seemed somehow crisper, brighter, more appealing. then the cranial dim bulb went on: oh, yeah, now i remember, that's "sunlight"

it's been a long time.

Salam Pax made the Bee today. When he shows up in The Union we'll know he's really hit the big time.

a question - what is the difference between a political operative and a political activist? is the former a loaded term?

reporter appreciation day

Doug Mattson, we are inordinately lucky to have you here.

Two more growth articles today:
  • 4 project horse race on the large projects in the pipeline that could double the population of Grass Valley
  • On the proposed Loma Rica Ranch development, which is beyond cool, and the initial (equally enthusiastic) response thereto.
    My question: when do they start the waiting list?
Addendum - articles on the other big proposed projects:

going around in circles

Doug Mattson article back on May 7, covering proposal to put a roundabout aka rotary in at Idaho-Maryland and East Main St. intersection, also mentioning that CalTrans is thinking of putting one at Gold Flat / Hwy 20. I hope they'll do the same at Gold Flat/Ridge/Zion/Nevada City Highway intersection, where 11 9 cars could all be "next" to go although in that case my memory typically goes first.

The official distinction between roundabout and rotary is that rotary is big, roundabout is small, and that roundabout is empirically? better. But the ultimate in roundabouts, if you keep shrinking, is a blind intersection, and that is not so good, so size can't be the whole story. Rotary seems to me better, since the increased circumference gives you more space for merging in.

One surprising statement in the article was that signal lights were 'deemed' cheaper. How can that be - after all it's just a round road with dirt in middle - unless part of already-built-up neighboring property is needed for roundabout. Note to NC (county? city?) officials- not all of the GF/R/Z/NCH intersection is built up yet, act now please.

Friday, May 09, 2003

goodbye privacy, hello houseflies

via, robot houseflies:
The science fiction fantasy of flying robots the size of houseflies may become a reality within five years, if UC Berkeley researchers have their way.
...the flying robot could be used for military surveillance, data collection, and search and rescue, among several possible uses.
"The nice application is that it makes pretty good toys," Avadhanula said. "(The fly)'ll be pretty cheap."

and via metafilter, e-newspaper can't be folded yet but it's close:
The screen is less than 0.3 millimetres thick, flexible enough to be rolled into a tube just 4 mm across and can be viewed from almost any angle.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

binocular vision and premature complaint

Two ways of reporting the discussion of anomalous San Juan Ridge park survey results in the Board of Supes meeting:
  • The Union:
    ...consultant Josh Morris told the board...[that] the poll also found only marginal support for the formation of a district and assessment in the San Juan Ridge area...

    Rich Peltier, a member of the San Juan Ridge Recreation and Park district formation exploratory committee, said he did not believe survey results. For one, there might have been mail tampering, he said, and surveys might have been lost, he said. [end of subject]

  • Yubanet:
    ...Several members of the public expressed doubt about the survey. Rich Peltier, Chair of the San Juan Ridge Exploratory Committee, refered to possible mail tampering and previous studies and surveys that showed very strong support, contradicting the new survey...

to me, the discrepancy between results of previous surveys and the current one - and the direction of that discrepancy - would seem to be valuable information.

The complaint:

The Nevada County Public Law Center's upcoming easement class is filled up; I sure hope (but, being a cynic, doubt) that they'll be putting a transcript of the info covered, and Q&As, up on the web. Are they not publicly funded? do we not wish our famed taxpayer dollars to be spent in the most cost-effective fashion? will not county residents (other than the 70 who will be taking time out of their day to show up in person) get vastly more benefit for their tax dollars if they have full, rapid, easy access to what was covered in the class? public interest is not being served if public experts needlessly limit public access to their expertise.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

lazy post

quotes, found here:
May is a pious fraud of the almanac.
- James R. Lowell, 1819 - 1891

Every year, back comes Spring, with nasty little birds yapping
their fool heads off and the ground all mucked up with plants.
- Dorothy Parker

no sun though. and no heat.

Richard Bear (Stony Run) and Robert Brady (Pure Land Mountain) will turn out to be identical twins raised apart.

another awakening

Salam Pax is back. Thank goodness he came through ok.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

NC Free Press awakes

although like Rumplestiltskin Rip Van Winkle some parts are still mired in the past.

glad to see it up and running again.

a man, a plan...

Inspiring column today by Union publisher Jeff Ackerman on Nevada City's Steve Cottrell, who is always a city councilman, never a mayor:
the mayor of Nevada City is kind of a token position. ...The mayor gets to gavel the meetings, kiss babies, lead parades, sign proclamations and pretty much be the person everyone points to when an unhappy citizen storms into City Hall demanding to "see the mayor."
Cottrell has certainly done lots and lots for Nevada City and Nevada County. Certainly enough to merit a year as token mayor of a city legendary for its "unusual" characters.
Mr. Ackerman isn't the only one to see the position of mayor as more honor than duty; I've heard the "Steve's been a councilman for so many years that it's only fair to let him be mayor" sentiment from other quarters as well.

But duty matters too, and the mayor's position is not a token one: aiming for consensus rather than divisiveness (the former of which is part of "being a team player") is an important aspect of the job, and as we've seen in other quarters lately, it is not always found in our local public-servant leadership. And I'd hate to see that quality, where we do have it, potentially sacrificed in order to honor any citizen, even one as deserving as Mr. Cottrell.

Hence the inspiration: let us do as the English do, and separate the crass business of government from regal ceremony. I wholeheartedly support honoring Steve Cottrell, but we can do better than make him mayor: let us anoint him King of Nevada City.

There is precedent for this action: Ukiah has a King, albeit self-appointed and low profile, and Nevada County has an Empress (also self-appointed, somewhat higher profile). But to have an official King to lead parades and sign proclamations, instead of just a mayor or a self-proclaimed one, would set Nevada City far above any other tourist town in California.

He'll need a conveyance, and appropriate garb: crown, robes, sceptre, throne. For the conveyance, perhaps the carriage horses outside the National Hotel, or, depending on the desired tone to be struck, a truck like Mike's. As for crown and sceptre - this is an artistic community, and I (no artist) am sure others would have creative yet fitting ideas. Throne: wrought of local manzanita, it has been sighted at Nevada City Picture Framing. Robes: ermine is in short supply locally, so we could take the "Republican(correction) cloth coat" approach and just do velvet or satin, or (my humble preference) we could utilize the local ermine-equivalent, and make a far finer garment from the road-killed skunk which Nevada County traffic generates in abundance.

Deodorized first of course, we want the impact to be visual.

I expect to be overruled on the robes suggestion (he is a King, after all, that means he gets to overrule) - but i humbly submit that the general idea is utterly perfect and should be implemented forthwith. We could do with some royalty around here, and Mr. Cottrell would be a fine man for the job.

Long may he reign. (It looks better on a resume too.)

misc quotes

i do love the british language. From the BBC:
For when he is not climbing mountains, Mr Gariano has a much more mundane day job - tending the pot plants at the KMI's laboratories.

Peter Mayle via metafilter via Richard W Bruner in Budapest Sun, on the downside of using pigs to hunt truffles:
"The pig is not content to wag his tail and point when he has discovered a truffle," wrote Mayle. "He wants to eat it. In fact, he is desperate to eat it. And you cannot reason with a pig on the brink of gastronomic ecstasy. He is not easily distracted, nor is he of a size you can fend off with one hand while you rescue the truffle. There he is, as big as a small tractor, rigid with porcine determination and refusing to be budged."

From Howard Rheingold's article in Wired on Amish use of technology:
"We don't stop with asking what a tool does. We ask about what kind of people we become when we use it."

Rest in peace, Ilse Barnhart and Kevin Wiser.

Monday, May 05, 2003

future shock

Associated Press article in The Union today (from here, under "May 5", click on "New bills signal latest push for tough growth regulations") on (small) plethora of state bills in the pipeline aimed at curbing sprawl/ensuring sufficient water/increasing the % of affordable housing. The most interesting part for us foothillites was down toward end of article:
...a Senate Local Government Committee analysis of the bill (SB898) suggests it could trigger a "land rush" into [nonprime farmland and grazing land] in the state's Sierra and coastal foothills.

So it's another one of those moments, like reading about how all our jobs are moving to India; on the whole, it's probably a sensible/thoughtful/equitable shift and the world will be the better for it, but that doesn't mean it's not going to hurt at this end.

If only all the developments could be like the Loma Rica Ranch, the population increase would be a lot more bearable. (homepage, not yet active, will be here)

actually maybe the growth pressures on Calif. will be reduced since the commute from here to India takes so long. And then there's SARS. (BTW here's MedlinePlus on SARS and the future).

p.s. a big THANK YOU to Jean Brook(e?) Dunning for all her work in keeping Loma Rica Ranch from becoming a money-at-all-costs development. We owe you big time...

Sunday, May 04, 2003

consumer reports II

highly recommended, especially for the girl(s) in your life:
  • the film Spirited Away (english-dubbed japanese anime(?)). Words fail me so I give you Dr. Jen's: "Gorgeous hand-drawn animation, an imaginative story, lots of surprises, unlike most run-of-the-mill American productions, which usually have bosom-buddies-on-a-quest or save-the-princess themes. Don't miss it."

  • the book Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters. It's the first in her Egyptology mystery series, i'd read others and they'd seemed so-so, but this one is sheer delight. She's able to set it up so that you read the narrator-protagonist's account/perceptions and it's abundantly clear that the reality is entirely different, it's a riot, i love it when authors are able to do this. Like in the film The Election, also highly recommended but not for same audience.

six-legged houseguests update: many fewer, and they seem strangely subdued.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

consumer reports

One of the great satisfactions of blogging is having a voice when companies try to treat you like a roundworm. for example i can now tell you about this exchange with the salesperson at Long's several years back:
me: I need to return this funny looking cheap watch, I bought it a week ago and already it's stopped working.
Sales: oh, but don't you see on the display it says "Fashion watches"? we never claimed that they told the time.

and my [nonlocal] credit union's current newsletter...
Hank: "I read there was a computer hacked into somewhere back east and the thieves stole millions of names and credit card numbers. Were any of these XYZ Credit Union members?"
XYZ Credit Union: Hank, we have some good news. The media has reported that none of the information, which included credit card numbers, has been used in a fraudulent way. In addition, no XYZ Credit Union members have reported any fraudulent activity associated with this incident.
Me: gee, I wonder why they didn't answer Hank's question. considering that upon hearing of the security breach (from Dan Gillmor) I'd emailed them to ask "if something like this happened to your members, what's your policy about informing them?" and was told "we'll get back to you", and they never answered my question, I think it is possible to guess.

here's a happy consumer report: Terro, borax-based ant killer. It's great, it's fantastic, it's not poison in the normal insecticidal sense of the word. It gives you warm fuzzies, the ants come to your kitchen and you put out little drops of goodies for them and solicitously give them second and third helpings whenever they finish what's on your plate, it's like ant husbandry. Then they go away. It's all very civilized and friendly. B&C (HW store) has it. (obvious fyi: i don't know the Terroans or anyone related to them, i just really like their product)

p.s. i guess for a true consumer report on Terro you would have to ask the ants and they might feel differently.

Ethical shortcomings

in the interest(s) of full disclosure:

Rebecca Blood is author of The Weblog Handbook, which includes sections on ten tips for a better weblog and on weblog ethics.

I do not measure up on the weblog ethics. Thou shalt not edit thy post after making it (if at all possible), she says, and at the very least thou shalt mark the changed spots. Whereas I improve wording, attempt to remove libel and irritants, have second thoughts, edit copiously after the fact. It would be different if you really existed.

I also do have opinions on local politics.

What sitcom is this anyway?

[post removed until such day as there is actual evidence ]

Friday, May 02, 2003

the bright side of life

Arguing with someone who's smart and good hearted and enthusiastic and wrongheaded is really fun.


There must be a term for words/expressions that are coming/have come to imply their opposite. such as
  • sanitary
  • "I'll be right with you"
  • "Your call is important to us"
  • "Thank you for sharing"
  • files named ReadMe.txt
  • email marked 'urgent'
  • ?
but words sometimes (rarely?) migrate the other way, for ex. "nice" was once not something you would have wanted to be called. How does this (ie the "niceifying" of words) come about?

Added Thurs May 8: it's always nice (stupid?) to have your questions answered on the web-- niceification is called amelioration (and wall st journal tells you what you need to know)

Thursday, May 01, 2003

a keeper

every time I sign in to Blogger I check one or two of the "recently updated weblogs" in the up until now vain hope that there'll be something special. Today I found it, it's Pure Land Mountain. Sample:
With all this rain falling, and so protractedly, it seems as though tsuyu (rainy season) gets longer every year, making Japan very water-rich, in contrast to what's happening in the brokerage houses. And if there's one society around here that really appreciates those waterfalls of heavenly largesse, it's the myriad citizens of the ancient and honorable nation of Frogonia, fresh from the winter mud. Themselves consisting mostly of water plus a strong desire to talk all night, as the rain creates their perfectly designed home in the paddies the Frogonians have been putting on quite a show for we merely sapient neoresidents who have to build our own houses...

p.s. also the carp that looked like Che Guevara

it's a thought

The creek is looking good, with all the rain we've been having. Green bldg with balcony is Kirby's Creekside, which once or twice a decade becomes Kirby's Creek Inside. Of course Kirby could always give up and go with the flow as this undersea restaurant does. Then you could give the diners a kick by dropping by in your homemade submarine. (links via metafilter, sub thread here)

brain maintenance for dummies

This post is dedicated to Brad DeLong, but is applicable to all.

keep in mind, if you still have it, that correlation is not necessarily causation...

misc helpful hints, primarily nontoxic -
  • Eat blueberries: "Tufts/USDA scientists say rats that consumed an extract of blueberries, strawberries and spinach every day showed improvements in short-term memory. Only the blueberry extract improved balance and coordination, however."
  • Eat turmeric, which does all sorts of good things including keep India from getting Alzheimer's.
  • Take ibuprofen (this could also be good for preventing/delaying parkinson's and general aging ("antiinflammatory hormone high in centenarians"))
  • If you have insulin resistance, get it treated (eg with Metformin) - it has been linked to memory loss - "diabetics who get their condition under control often also see an improvement in their memory, Convit noted, a sign that reduced memory is also reversible in pre-diabetics."
  • avoid head injuries. this is generally good advice in any case.
  • avoid drinking water that's high in aluminum, as it's been linked with Alzheimer's disease
  • Keep your cholesterol low? ("Cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins also play an important role in reducing levels of a strong predictor of Alzheimer's disease")
  • sometime in the not too distant future, you'll be able to get vaccinated ("Toxic molecule may provide key for developing vaccine against degenerative diseases - Researchers find important similarity among Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Huntington's and other degenerative diseases...")

later additions:
  • GABA-increasing drugs now touted for old-age-memory-improvement, although this does seem very counterintuitive.
  • if you have self control, keep in mind that intermittent fasting is neuroprotective
  • B vitamins lower homocysteine levels, which have been linked with Alzheimer's
  • Avoid depression, for same reason

Liberals, conservatives, Patio Man and the environment

(previous "liberals & conservatives" posts here and here)

the pieces:
  • David Brooks in the Weekly Standard last August on [stereo]typical Republican-voting denizens of suburbia in the southwest, Patio Man and the Sprawl People (long but well written)
  • April 13 Sac Bee, Patio Man gets religion about about taming sprawl and is voting with the liberals on this issue
  • Thought-provoking letter in response in Bee yesterday by Hugh Bower of Sac:
    Let's be honest: The "environmentalists" in "sprinkler cities" -- Elk Grove, Folsom and El Dorado Hills -- are nothing more than NIMBYs.

    A true environmentalist is just as concerned about drilling for oil in Alaska (even if he or she never sees it) as he or she is about oak trees around Folsom Lake. Unfortunately, "sprawl people" are only concerned about protecting their immediate environment...

    which sounds pretty damning.

  • But now add Melanie Phillips as follows:
    Values dismissed as conservative are actually universal: attachment, commitment to individuals and institutions, ties of duty, trust and fidelity...

and we get two ways to view the Republican anti-sprawlers' motivations:
either they're selfish ("they were there first and don't want uninvited intruders crowding their roadways, schools and neighborhoods") or they're exemplifying conservative values, by being loyal and dutiful and true and committed to their communities. And if these are bad things, does that mean that conservatism is bad?

This also points out the differences in "boundaries" between liberals and conservatives. The "true environmentalist" aka liberal? has no boundaries, is concerned all over the planet, thus goes around engaged in pesky do-gooding. But conversely, because they don't have boundaries "everything is sacred" (or at theoretically equally important whether within view or not), and so there's no Loyalty (because loyalty is about treating those people/things you're close to differently from those that you're not)

(Aside: NIMBY definition from SARS watch recently: "the inevitable reluctance of anyone to accept a point source of social problems near them")