Friday, December 23, 2005

Last Minute Gifts

I usually don't start Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. My shopping habits don't fit well with Internet Christmas shopping cycle as it takes several days for items to ship. Fortunately, since my family limits the number of presents to a secret santa, I have only one gift left to buy. Since the person on my list is an avid outdoorsman, I was thinking of a subscription to Trails.com.

I also really like the idea of giving iTunes gift certificates.

Anyway, my final stab for profit this Christmas shopping season is a Last Minute Gifts page. The page lists gift certificates and subscription services that you can order online.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Phallocentrism

BTW, I larned me a new word today. The system where women stay at home with the kids and do things like charity work or start little crafty businesses like scrapbooking, tarot card reading or other such silliness is called "phallocentricism.

This little system where women sit at home and working on little cookie baking businesses, run little restaurants, or do outright foolish things like create knitting patterns is not freedom. It is infact a system of violence against women.

Women should be working in salt mines, labor camps, toiling in the field. Women should be playing the position of line guard in the NFL ... positions that can bring out their manhood ... and not doing all of the things that they keep chosing to do when they are allowed freedom.

Yes, when I was thinking of creating a calendar updater person. I was really imagining the position filled by a female. In other words, I was imagining myself engaged in the practice of "superexploitation" of a subordinate gender class in the prevailing "gender regime." I was imagining myself dipping into that "archipeligo" of homeworking labor that is easily hirable and firable.

While my calendar updater person would be thinking that she was helping people learn about the different events taking place in the community, what is really happening at the metaphysical layer is that I would be using capitalism to articulate male domination and female suburdination.

Two great examples of how capitalism subordinates women are Martha Stewart and Oprah. Martha Stewart spends her days making doilies, and Oprah ekes out a living with her televised social hour.

My calendar updater person wouldn't just be a poor young thing caught in a web of a patriarchy. Creating a homeworking position that updates calendars would infact be forcing someone into a subproletarianized dominated female.

The large number of women who are flocking to work at home options like the Jet Blue Call Center (which is in reality a bunch of housewives working from home) are not people chosing to order their lives in the way that they desire. They are in fact victims of phallocentrism who've been subdued to "male sexual predation." Yep, Jet Blue is not a company that is using communication technology to provide work at home positions. They are a corruption of the world spirit that uses violence inherent in the capitalism system to do institutionalized violence to women in the form of phallocentrism. Have you ever noticed how jet airplanes are long and cyllindrical? See, it is all about sexual power politics.

Anyway, the primary reason I would hire a calendar updater person is that I think having a calendar updated with all the charitable events in town would improve the overall appeal of the directories. Translation is that I am trying to establish a neopatriarchy based on capitalistic violence to women.

Anyway, I need to wait and find out what happens with the minimum wage before creating the position. I am not part of the neopatriarchy yet, but I might get there someday.

BTW, if you are reading this, and haven't finished in the bourgeoisie task of holiday shopping. Might I suggest stopping in at Ten Thousand Villages. I love these stores. Ten Thousand Villages is a shop by the Mennonites. Ten Thousand Villages is a multinational capitalistic venture that helps perpetuate the phallocentric society by exploiting the cheap labor of indigenous groups to create traditional craft artifacts.

I've found that buying traditional craft items from native cultures is an ideal way to help tribal societies maintain a patrimony of male domination and female subordination. The artisans page on Ten Thousands Villiages show a few of the faces who are being exploited by this of work at home craft jobs that are created by the system of multinational capitalistic exploitation.

Minimum Wage

I was thinking of creating a minimum wage job. I was thinking about hiring someone to maintain the calendar on my community sites. My plan was to create the position early next year (after upgrading the server). The job would really be more of community service type job than a career. The calendar updater would interface with all of the charitable organizations in town to make sure all of the non-profit, fundraiser events, etc., were listed.

I think the job would be ideal for a mom with toddlers, a senior who wants to stay active or a student who is intensely interested in the community. This soft job would take just a few hours a month and would have zero pretense about being a career.

This job really is only tenable at a low wage.

Anyway, the paper says that a Utah politician, Ed Maynes, wants to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.00. I am upset, my hope for creating this soft job is now untenable. There goes another hope.

BTW, I wish contemptable little snits like Ed Maynes would look at economic data before making their little iconoclastic stands. According to the BLS, wages have been increasing at a nice steady pace (chart). Raising the minimum wage would be a non-issue for most because they are above $7.00. There might be a burst of wage inflation. The main thing the legislation does is eliminate all of the soft-jobs ... like calendar updater. Historically, raising the minimum wage has done little except increase unemployment.

What a low minimum wage does is creates the opening for soft jobs ... like the calendar updating position. Raising the minimum wage will wipe out a large number of those silly little marginal scrapbooking jobs and other little initiatives that Utah seems to produce in abundance.

The calendar updating position is barely workable at 5.15 an hour. It is impossible at $7. I know, I could outsource the job to India. However, my sites are about the local community. Companies like call centers will have better luck outsourcing jobs ... that is until our politicians have successfully marginalized our nation to the point where our per capita income is on par with India.

BTW, We have a horrible problem in the United States. The price of rent and items based on scarce resources (such as food) has been going up.

For example, in places like Salt Lake City -- where the zoning regulations are so tight that the number of new rental units has not kept pace with the growth in population, rent is out of reach of many families.

This problem is 100% the result of the tight zoning regulations. Salt Lake City proper has regulated people out of the city. Most houses in Salt Lake are zoned single family residentional. Only a few politically connected people are able to convert their property into duplexes, or fourplexes. If it were not for the aggressive zoning, we would see city streets lined with housing units stack four stories high (as was the common pattern in cities before the tight zoning regulations of the 60s and 70s.) Instead, the city is filled with aging single family housing on land that is too expensive for people to afford.

The population of Salt Lake City proper has shrunk in the last several decades ... Our politicians have created a climate that is so hostile to landowners that the amount of housing in the city has shrunk. The result is rents that are beyond the means of large segments of our population. If it were legal for property owners to develop their land, we wouldn't have this absurd rental market.

There has been substantial tax inflation. The amount of money that each Utah must pay in property taxes has well outstripped increases in wages.

It is possible that a spat of wage inflation might help counter some of the problems with the rent inflation caused by zoning. Though I doubt. Politician created inflation generally just creates a stagnant economy where wages chase their tail.

What I think we should do is get the government out of setting wages. Instead we should have a published indexed called a livable wage based on prices in a region. The livable wage would end up serving as a stigma. Companies might have jobs paying under the livable wage ... however, it would not stop the creation of margin jobs like calendar updater, or old person visitor, or street picker upper and all of the non-jobs that do not exist because of a high minimum wage.

Despite the fact that minimum wage has not been adjusted by the government, there has been a steady rise in wages and income reported by the BLS. The main result of raising the minimum is either inflation or a reduced number of jobs. My fear is that, with technology and outsourcing, Ed Mayne's minimum wage increase will result in a loss of jobs.

Friday, December 02, 2005

November Totals

The November totals are in ... and they are dismal. In November I sent 7080 hits to my advertisers and received 652.15 in commissions (details). This is compared to 8286 hits for $777.51 commissions in 2004. The sites are going backwards. I receive about 90% of the commissions reported.

Actual hits on the site seem to be up...I think that is because the Inktomi search bot has been going beserk.

I suspect that this drop in revenue is systemic. I need to be prepared for the revenue in 2006 to be around $500 a month. Grumble, grumble.

I think a big part of the problem is that I waste too much time on the ecommerce portion of life and I waste too much time on time wasting activities like reading blogs.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cyber Monday Sales

The preliminary count of Cyber Monday sales shows a take of $13.87. Yeehaw!

One of the sales came from REI Boulder another from Overstock. A third from Bass Pro Shops. The final came from a company called Green Batteries. There really isn't such a thing as a "green battery." Batteries by their nature are highly toxic, resource intensive things. If you think through your battery usage and use batteries well, you can reduce the amount of damage that you do to the world.

There was also a book sale on the weekend. If you add that to the dime from Black Friday, then I am up to a grand total of $15.51. Hmmm, I don't think I am in line for a new server in 2006.

Marble Slab Shift

This just in ... A basketball size chunk of the facade on the Supreme Court fell onto the Supreme Court steps. Prior to the event, eyewitnesses noted the Supreme Court shifted to the right ...

Monday, November 28, 2005

msn spaces

I started playing with MSN Spaces. Anyway, I think I will use a MSN Blog for comments on current events, and use this blog primarily for discussions about philosophy, programming, community and math.

The one advantage of the MSN program is that it allows categories ... which prevents blogs from diverging on a large number of subjects...like this blog does.

Back to important matters. My premilary look at stats shows that I had no sales on Saturday or Sunday (which is typical). My big hope is today. One problem of course, is that an open directory structure doesn't do any preselling. For example, Denver Clothing store page simply shows links to stores in the area. It makes no attempt to explain why a store might be compelling.

When I shop, I just want to know about what options exist.

Of course, the mixed message of a community directory that lists web sites with franchises fails here as well. The community directory only shows a the subset of shopping options that have both a web site and local store. Many of the most compelling apparel stores don't have physical outlets.

So far, I show one sale today. Not enough to pay for a server, but at least it is a start.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving Day Sales

The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest sales day of the year. A quick analysis of sales shows that the Community Color collection of sites sent 160 links to affiliated merchants ... these hits resulted in a single sale that paid one shiny dime in commissions.

NOTE: I am actually not sure if the dime is shiny. a tenth of a dollar will be transferred electronically into my savings account. When I go to withdraw the dime, I will have a choice of whatever dimes are the teller's box.

The totals for the month are a little better. I've sent 3328 hits to affiliated merchants scoring $238.50. Unfortunately, the bulk of that revenue vanished.

I was getting ready to sign the dotted line on a new server. Instead, I am left sitting here wondering why I am building a community directories when I do not "Share Utah values." Yes, I have actually been told a number of times that I do not "share Utah Values." You can tell if a person shares Utah values by the cut of their underwear.

I do kind of "share Park City values." I just don't share in the massive amounts of cash that it takes to live there.

BTW, my Black Friday sale was from the Fandango Link on the Salt Lake Movies page. Fandango is a cool service. You can buy movie tickets online. Buying online means you don't have to get to the theatre early, stand in line and risk missing the movie you want to see. The problem with Fandango is that you have to pay a processing fee. I would only use the service on a crowded day like today. In the last two years, I've sent Fandango 533 hits resulting in 26 sales for $2.60 ... not quite enough to pay for a server and colocation fees.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Black Friday

Happy Black Friday!

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. It is the day when merchants around the US are thankful for consumer credit.

This is the biggest shopping day of the year for physical stores. Oddly the biggest shopping day for online stores is the Monday Morning after Thanksgiving. This is when people get back in the office, punch the time clock, log on to the computer computer and finish their weekend shopping. Some online merchants have started calling Monday after Thanksgiving Black Monday.

IMHO, the real driving force for Black Monday was that companies had broadband and few homes had broadband. I think the Black Monday phenomena descreases with time.

My goal for Black Monday is to get enough cash to buy a server for Community Color. The goal of these sites was to make an open community directory. The idea has yet to catch on.

For all those joining the throngs ... happy shopping!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy harvest festival.

One of the really positive trends I've seen in communities throughout the U.S. is a growing awareness of food. More and more communities are hosting farmers market. Vegetable gardening is in again. More and more people are shopping at organic markets.

Liberty Heights is an excellent store for folks in Salt Lake.

The quality of foods in certain Utah restaurants has skyrocketed. Some of the bad restaurants have gone to the great grease bin the sky. We have more and better choices of food today. I am thankful for that.

The selection of beer and wines are substantially better today than when I was a teen. It seems to me that Americans are rediscovering food. It is a trend I hope continues. One of the benefits of the increase in productivity and quality control is that we are able to spend more time thinking about what we put in ourselves.

I've had some great conversations in the last several years with restaurant owners, organic farmers and others who are part of this trend.

Anyway, I was thinking of pithy, counter cultural statements to spout this Thanksgiving. The truth is, I see a lot of good things still. I have far more reasons to give thanks than to spew verbal toxin. So, I am thankful for the great harvest and wish happiness to all in the holidays on the horizon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One World Cafe

After the ViaWest tour. I decided to jump to the other spectrum of live in America and dined at the One World Cafe. This is a new age concept that features organic cooking.

This cafe does so many things right. The restaurant has a different menu each day based on what's in the fridge and what just came off the farm. To reduce food waste, they serve buffet style. I wanted just a little snack; so I had a half plate with samples of the store's cuisine.

One interesting feature of the restaurant is that you, the diner, set the price. You look at the quality and quantity of the food you ate and pay what you believe to be a fair price for the food. This is a great twist on the buffet. The problem with most buffets is that people take way too much food. The restaurant either ends up dropping the quality of the food or raising the price to fit the appetites of the biggest and fattest in our society. A fixed price buffet results in food waste.

I have attended some buffets that weigh one's plate. Weighing the plate reduces food waste...but then people tend to skip the veggies and over load the meat to get the better of the buffet.

I had a conversation with some new agers in my hood about the cafe. They loved the cafe because the owner was not trapped by the oppressive capitalistic system. They saw the food as free ... being generous new agers, they would give a donation at the end of the meal to further the cause.

Personally, I think the store is a delightful exercise in free market economics. With each meal we go through an internal negotiation to determine the price we will pay for the meal. I do wish the store provided more guidance on price. I had only a half plate. I erred on the cheap side.

It will be interesting to see how the restaurant fares in the most republican of all states. The One World Cafe essentially is giving the food away and asking for a big tip. I mentioned politics as Democrats tend to chintz on the price but love to leave big tips. Republicans tend to like to pay fair prices but chintz on the tip.

My view is that the fair value of the food is about $15 to $20 per plate. Being a buffet, I don't think the restaurant warrants a full 20% gratuity. Of course, if it makes you feel good. Think of the food as free ... followed by a $20 donation to the cause (tip).

Of course, you could just leave a sign that says "Thank you Lord for thinking of me, I am doing fine." Unfortunately, my hair is short; so I couldn't get away with that trick.

Anyhoo, for a brief moment I had transcended my oppressive corporal existance and transcended to the One World Cafe. I am now back to my bourgeoisie ways.

PS, I couldn't find a web site for them.

Viawest Tour

I toured the Salt Lake ViaWest data center yesterday. I had been thinking of either putting together a server for colocation or renting a dedicated server for Community Color. The truth is that I really need my own server if I am to expand the programs to the point that they are successful. As it stands, I am sitting here with absurdly tight constraints on bandwidth and disk space (the constraints are absurd for 2005).

Anyway, these data centers are getting better with each passing year. The amount of redundant power supplies, multiple communication links through the facility, seismic isolation of the data center and security at the center is quite admirable.

The primary attraction of the facility is that they have locations in both Salt Lake and Denver. Unfortunately, I suspect that the price of the service will be out of my reach. The sites have just lost one fourth of their income. I don't see the appearance of any possible replacement income sources for the site (at least not in Salt Lake).

There is still a chance that the bid will come within reason. The price of the equipment and software that I need is in the $2000 area. I doubt that the real cost associated with the rack space and bandwidth I use is that extraordinary. Xmission's bid for colocation came in around $80 a month (I would have to buy and set up the server.) I can't imagine the real cost of a dedicated server being over $200 a month. But we will see.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Google Gods Have Spoken

Dang.

My little piece of manna from heaven appears to have dried up.

My little experiment in the wild world of the Internet is a collection of open directories called Community Color. The web site is just a collection of links to web sites from the community. The sites really don't have any support from the community. I feel, that the do a positive service by helping people find local artists, community service programs, etc..

Some people consider my project to be spammy.

My little manna from heaven was that, for some strange reason, I scored position two for the key words "Sears Home Center" in Google and Yahoo. The indexed page provides almost no intrinsic value to Sears. It says that there is a Sears in Salt Lake City.

The fact that I had scored well on a lucrative keyword meant I was average $150 a month for a page that provided nothing of deep value to Sears.

Essentially Sears paid the web hosting fee for my site, despite the fact that I was providing very little in service to their firm. Since I provide free listings to local furniture makers. One could even argue that I was doing a disservice to sears.

Google and Yahoo finally dropped this page. Another lucky bastard will be getting this manna from heaven.

The whole web thing is really quite amusing. It is impossible to get from the people who directly benefit from the site. When I tell business what I could do for them, they usually toss me out the door. However the site makes accidental income from a company that was underserved by the program. Very odd.

Having just a few search engines dominate the Internet market means that the market is irrational.

One of the really strange things about the web is that you often make more money by underserving people, than by providing them what they want. For example, one of my sites scores well on the term dialectics. People who find an answer to their questions about this term are satisfied. It is only when someone is unsatisfied that they click on the ads.

The same thing happens in day to day business. I often find myself paying more for jobs that were done poorly than for those that were done well. A crappy programmer will generate more man hours and receive more money than a quality programmer. In my own career, I've made a lot more money for the mistakes I've made than the small number of programs I did well.

I can see why so many marketers turn negative.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Progressive Liberal

You know what this country needs. It needs progressive liberals who actually want to liberate people and see society to progress.

Sadly, both the terms "progressive" and "liberate" are brands owned and defined by the far left.

Judging from conversations with people pushing the "progressive liberal" brand in the Democratic Party. Progressive means any idea that progresses society on the path to socialism. Liberal means anything that liberates us from the onus burden of freedom.

I kind of wish the world "progressive" was an adjective indicating if a policy favored the common (the poor over the rich). I also wish liberal was an adjective that indicated policies that liberated people.

Unfortunately, we live is an age when words really don't have meanings. Words are brands that get redefined by the great paradigm shifters who spin definitions to suit their agendas.

I really want to use the adjectives "progressive" and "liberal" as words. The problem is that in doing so, simply creates market confusion with the brands. Unfortunately without the words, it is harder to discuss why certain policies widen the gap between rich and poor while others bridge the gap. Without a word "liberal" it is difficult to discuss how some policies increase the intrusion of the state while others lead to greater freedom.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

'Tellygent Design on the Horizon

Looks like the Utah Senate Majority is preparing a statement on teaching evolution.

Personally, I don't expect much. The modern push for Intelligent Design is primarily a Baptist cause. It is not an LDS cause. My guess is that the Senate Republicans will draft up an "enlightened" statement that basically approves of the Utah Departments of Education's decision to teach evolution, but with enough of a pro creationism twist to sound well rounded.

In Utah, there is a LDS Ward next to every single public school. LDS children leave the public school for religious education. There is zero need to modify the public school curriculum because this second school system can counter anything taught in the public schools.

Anyway back to ID.

Give the Creator Credit

My understanding is that the basic argument of the guy pushing intelligent design is that he sees the hand of the divine creator in gaps in the current data set used by biologists.

The ID argument is a little like Plato's cave. The author of the intelligent design theory is saying that he has exited the cave and now has a special knowledge and can see the hand of the creator in the gaps of the creation.

If I believed in intelligent design, my thoughts would be different. My thoughts would begin with a perfect creator. A perfect creator would not be so daft as to leave gaps in the fossil record. A perfect creator would have created a perfect fossil record that indicated a complete evolutionary history. As such, there would be no gaps in the fossil record that shows the hand of God.

Give the creator credit. Trying to point to unknowns in our current understanding of evolution to show divine intervention is an insult the creator. A divine creator would not leave such telling marks on the design.

The existence of non-existence of a divine creator would not affect evolutionary theory.

Personally, I doubt the Utah Senate will be silly enough to over turn the Utah Board of Education's commitment to teaching evolution. The Mormon view, after all, is that the God of earth really is not the ultimate creator. He is more a proprietor. Our God lives on the Planet Kolob (the central office of the Celestial Kingdom). The earth God acquired our planet some three thousand years ago. The earth is a staging ground for new Gods. Those who follow Joseph Smith are saints on earth and will be Gods themselves in the Celestial Kingdom. The rest of us get scrapped in some pit somewhere.

This polytheistic view of a celestial kingdom really leaves the creation of the planet itself as a minor event. The matter of real importance is one's position in the political hierarchy. One's position in the political hierarchy determines the size of the planet you get in the here after.

Evolution v. Intelligent Design would not be that big of a deal in the LDS theology. For that matter, the Mormons I've talked to on the issue pretty much agreed that God was given the earth pre-created. God's whole goal with the earth is the separate the righteous from the trash. (Me, I am part of the trash.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Night of 1000 Dinners

Last night, I attended the Salt Lake Night of A Thousand Dinners. This event raises funds for Adopt*A*Minefield ... a project by the UNA and UN to remove landmines from war torn regions of the world.

At the moment, Adopt-A-Minefield is one of the stellar lights in the UN's portfolio. The various efforts to remove landmines and to provide prosthetics for people who've been injured by mines is one of the most visible and notable efforts of the international community.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Museum of Western Colorado Tower

This picture is from the observation tower at the Museum of Western Colorado in Grand Junction. The tower is about 5 stories high. The clerk at the museum suggested taking the elevator ... taking the stairs was much nicer.

Unfortunately, it turns out that I am a dufus. I left the battery charger for my new Nikon camera in Salt Lake. I took these photos with my old DC240 camera.

I was surprised to learn that few Grand Junction locals visit the museum. I would thought locals would be walking up and down the stairs for a quick stretch of the legs. In Salt Lake, you will often find people walking up the steps of the library during their lunch breaks.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cisco, Utah

Cisco, UtahHere are some pictures of charming Cisco, Utah. Cisco is just south of I70 about 50 west of Grand Junction.

Winsock

Looks like Spyware companies have started doing their dirty work at the Winsock layer rather than at the application layer. The most notable company using this technique is ShopAtHome.com. I suspect other spyware companies will start doing the same. Thieves have the problem that other thieves are always stealing their ideas.

I've wondered how long it would take the thieves of the internet to make the leap from manipulating cookies to actually changing packets in transit.

I wish I knew which spyware removal program to recommend. The last time I recommended a program...it turned out that Spyware removal program was simply a host for more spyware. Spyware companies are always upset at the slimely tactics of the companies in the spyware business.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Neff Creek Canyon

Voici, des images de Neff Canyon.

Neff Creek is a canyon near my folk's house. I usually take the main trail up the canyon. For this photo session, I decided to take a quick walk up the south fork. If you are will to do some exposed scrabling (a rope and the company of an experienced mountain climber advised), you can get to the top of Mount Olympus from the south fork of Neffs.

I took these pictures in early October. I keep finding faults with the migration of Protophoto.com to its new server. This is delaying me from adding new pics.

Back to the canyon. I first visited Neff's Canyon when we moved into Salt Lake. In the 70s, I recall the south fork being filled with this beautiful loamy loose soil. There were abundant flowers in the soil. Unfortunately, just visiting the area was causing great harm to the fragile eco system. As much as I loved the south fork area, I stopped visiting it because I did not want to be part of the problem. Anyway, during the last several decades, most of the soil has been washed away. There still a magical forest in the rock soil, but few new trees. This, my friends, is called desertification. The little Alpine areas just outside Salt Lake Valley are systematically becoming part of the Great Salt Lake Desert. Ferguson Canyon is currently undergoing the last stages of degradation. When the last of the nature is gone, it will be a good place for a condo.

BTW, Neff houses the deepest cave in the US. I understand that the cave is shut off to spelunkers. While making the Neff Gallery, I was thinking that an effort should be made for a robotic exploration of the Cave. The old caving reports said the cave had crappy unstable sides, a robot attached to a long Cat 5 wire just might be able to do a charting of the cave with only a minimal disruption of the soil.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Progressive Halloween Thoughts

Every Halloween people from around the world put on masks and costumes to pretend they are something that they are not. There are a few of us who use Halloween as a chance to take off the masks we wear all year and be ourselves.

Anyway, my Halloween thoughts run back to listening to public radio while on my trip south a few weeks ago. I was listening to the Moab Radio stations. Apparently the public radio station has a program where a local witch (wiccan) comes on each week and does free tarot card readings and dousings.

During the show, the witch and the DJ had a big discussion about how being Wiccan is the most progressive thing a person could do in this modern age. Wiccans, pretty much by definition, are in tune with the universal oneness. They reject the patriarchy and the oppressive western culture. Witches have superior spirituality and are brimming over with wonderfulness. The primary message of the show was that being a witch is Progressive.

I listened as the self proclaimed progressive witch announcer did tarot readings and doused a few questions from the audience. I was impressed that all of the callers were female. I heard that most talk radio is dominated by obnoxious male callers. The witch talked about how any woman who feels spiritual has hidden witch powers and suggested to several callers that they join a coven.

Being an oppressive male, the thing that stuck in my mind was the sentence that being a "witch is progressive." In my education (education being a synonym for patriarchical condiditioning) I developed the fuddy duddy view that dousing, tarot card reading and witchcraft were the ultimate in superstition.

I find this idea that witches are the ultimate manifestation of the modern progessive movement fascinating. I believe that the Progressive movement of Teddy Roosevelt was based on a enduring respect for reason and logic. In my reactionary world, progressive means to me a society progressing with technology and a respect for reason.

The new modern progessive movement seems to simply be a feel good movement. Anything that feels good is progress ... even if it is unreasonable. Or, in the case of witchcraft, promotes superstition and what I consider to be ignorance.

Of course, the idea that reviving superstitions is progressive is one of those paradoxes adored in the modern age.

I do realize that different people have different ideas about the meaning of "progressive". Everyone works to define terms to meet the ends. There may be modern progressives who think witchcraft is regressive.

Back to the modern progressive movement:

I listened to the public radio station the on a different day. This time the talk was about gay rights. I agree with the need to protect gays. This especially true in a relatively backwards state like Utah. So, I was feeling warm and smuggly progressive listening to public talk radio while driving an economy car on jeep roads.

As the talk went on, I learned that respecting gay rights was just kind of progressive. You really aren't progressive until you've slept with a member of the same sex.

Dang, once again, I found myself tossed out of the progressive camp.

That idea was kind of icky so I pressed the scan station channel and ended up with a Christian talk show denouncing the homosexual society. The station was probably timing its programming to its adversary.

I remembered how much I hate talk radio and listened to music and went back to enjoying the beautiful scenery in Utah.

The third time I tried listening to public radio, there was a speaker who was livid because a multinational firm was trying to promote a product that had been touted by the progressive community. The speaker talked about how you have to judge people involved in a product and not just the product itself. A product that usually would be consider progressive that is sold by people who are not considered progressive loses its progressiveness.

A true modern progressive makes their decisions based on who a person is and not what they are doing. This descrimination based on the who and not on the substance of what they do is the only way that we can break the bonds of our opressive patriarchical society.

One of the things that keeps striking me about the modern progressive movement is horribly elitist and judgmental it is.

Since it is Halloween, I thought I would fill my blog with horrible politically incorrect thoughts about the progressive movement and will leave with the most terrifying statement ever made. In my opinion, the free market, free speach, freedom of association and religion are among the most progressive ideas ever conceived.

The modern claim that "regression is progress" that sits at the base of groups Democracy Now is paradoxical rhetoric.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dead Dry

Sarah Andrew's new work Dead Dry is a delightful read. This continuation of the Em Hansen murder mystery series finds our forensic geologist looking into the politics of suburban sprawl. A corpse at the Point of the Mountain in the Salt Lake Valley winds its way back to the suburban sprawl taking over Castle Rock, Colorado.

It is a well written mystery that explores the human side of the water crisis facing the west. The politics of sprawl is extremely ugly. Real Estate development is the primary industry in much of Utah and Colorado. What this economy is wanting to do is to expand until we exhaust our resources and the economy implodes. It is still the same boom and bust mantality that dotted the west with ghost towns a hundred years ago ... except the ruins from this generation will be a toxic wasteland ... and not the quaint tourist destinations of old ghost towns.

Anyhow, the new Em Hansen mystery is a great read.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Floral Shot

This is my first attempt at a floral shot. I can focus on the flowers. This is why you need SLR! I will have to spend more time playing with the f-stop and will have to start relearning the names of flowers. This, by the way, is a yellow flower. There is a bug in the picture. Ha, ha.

I can't wait 'til its Spring.

Nikon D70

I've fixed the site Protophoto enough that I feel comfortable enough to start adding pictures. I moved the account to a different server with a little bit more storage and bandwidth. The old account had only 200MB storage and 4GB a month transfer. The new account has 2GB storage and 60GB bandwidth. I will still have to compress the images. But I can start adding pictures again. Ultimately, I need to get my own server. That way I could start a stock photography selling program.

I bought a 512MB card with my camera and plan to take pictures at the 1MB resolution. This is a decent resolution for stock photography.

I've taken about 600 pictures so far with my ultra fancy new camera. So expect a large number of posts with pictures.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I'm Back

There is a reason why DBAs pull in the big bucks.

My experience to date is that writing the database connection string is the single most difficult job in programming. I've spent more hours agonizing over the simple task of connecting to the database than any other issue.

Anyway, I got back from my Southern Utah trip to find that my web sites were all hosed after the web host moved the servers ...thus changing the database connection string. The process of moving servers meant that some stuff was written to one database, and other stuff written to another.

If you are running a web site, you need to pay your DBA $120k a year to keep the connection string from changing. You can then hire programmers for $50k a year. If you want to save money, you can outsource the programmers. Regardless, you want to keep that DBA good and happy so that your backs ups stay retrievable and your database connection string does not start changing on you willy nilly.

When I get super rich, I will have my own servers. If I was really really super rich, I would hire a DBA; so that I could feel confident that the database connection string wouldn't change without my knowledge.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I Was Wrong

I was wrong. The US Debt to the Penny did not cross the $8 trillion mark before the end of the fiscal year as I had predicted. It is already October 13th and the debt is only $7.955 trillion dollars. This phenomena is due to the fiscal restraint of George Bush. Anyway, we now have the fun game of guessing which day it will cross the big $8T.

Speaking of being wrong. I decided I am wrong about other things as well. That's right, I finally decided to break down and join the yuppy crowd. I threw down thirty bucks yesterday to buy a tent. (gasp).

I want to spend some time photographing tourist traps. So, I figured I would be staying at developed campgrounds. Developed campground hosts always look askew at people who throw a bivvy sack on the ground. One campground host even kicked me out for not having a tent. I guess he feared the campground might start attracting the backpacking crowd. Staking up a thirty dollar tent does a better job of claiming a campground anyway.

I will probably get a good thirty dollars usage from the tent. Of course, tent space might be a bit hard to come by in the future. If China and Saudia Arabia were ever to demand that the US returns all the money they lent us, then we would all be reduced to living in tents.

Monday, October 10, 2005

GWB beats LBJ

The Cato Institute reports that Bush is ahead of LBJ in uncontrolled spending (PDF). Bush has completely failed to sell people on private accounts. So his only really big offering to the libertarian side of the republican party is pretty much a wash out. (The tax cuts don't count ... a tax cut is not a tax cut if you don't reduce spending. It is simply an intergenerational transfer of wealth.)

Clinton played the same game. Many have argued that Clinton sold out feminists and other central core elements of the Democratic Party to gain the center.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Lift Ogden

Perhaps the most interesting debate going on in Ogden is about the future of mass transit in the area. Ogden is a railroading town near the Golden Spike. The town loves its train station and there is a great deal of support for commuter trains. A commuter train to Salt Lake could pull some of the traffic off the bottleneck near Farmington.

While the city's history favors trains and light rail, there also an innovative idea of building a system of Gondolas in Ogden (Lift Ogden has a PDF on the Gondolas). Gondolas take advantage of the third dimension. Intercity Gondolas would be more convenient and faster for intercity transportation since a new Gondola would show up every

The Sierra Club opposes the Gondola as it would bring more people and the need for more services into the Wasatch. Since a gondola would lift people above the fray, it would increase overall appreciation of the beauty of Ogden.

Personally, I would favor mass transit devices leading into the Wasatch. A Gondola would help encourage people to leave their vehicles behind. As much as I love the train, I think the future of mass transit will be with smaller compartment sized people movers that allow for more customized transit.

Think about this for a moment: What is the most popular mass transit device in America? My guess is that elevators move substantially more people each day than trains. Our perception is that elevators conform to the needs of people while people have to conform to the needs of train.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ogden Web Sites

On the issue of community and the web, the Weber County Forum is an excellent example of what a community blog should be. The various members of the site are obviously very active and concerned with the direction of the community. There is a serious desire for Ogden to retain its status as Utah's second city. Posts have information on town meetings (that the blogger obviously attended). The site is even providing valuable public service by including election information on up coming local races.

While I see this as the prime example of what a local blog should be, both the main blog posts and comments seem to ride the same current of cynicysm that seems to pop up in my own thoughts and seems to happen is most conversations.

In response to the feeling that there was too much negative sentiment on WCForum, one of the regulars split off to start a new blog titled The Good in Ogden. The new site has some interesting post such as one on the speculation that the mountain in the Paramount logo was a cariacature of Ben Lommond Peak.

The Good in Ogden is definitely taking on a much more positive stance. It often has above par data and analysis. The writer still falls back to taking snipes at opponents. For example you will see things like "If that is the watchdog, then consider whatever was being protected already gone."

Revenue Tally

The community web sites revenue for September was a paltry $682.52. The sites delivered 6852 hits to advertisers. My guess is that they delivered about 80,000 hits to local sites. Once again, the moral of the story is: Building community web sites with no support from the community is a losing venture.

I manage to collect only about 90% of the take. Hosting costs and what not cost around $300 a month. The sites would be delivering a liveable income if I suceeded in getting people to link to it.

I've had great success in getting people to link to the sites in Colorado. In Colorado, Montana and most other states, people really love their community. In Utah, people tend to divide into camps. If I was way counter culture, I might get support or if I was part of the dominant group, I would get links.

I guess the second morale of the story is, if you want to a community web site, do so in a place where people really love their community.

I know, I keep dwelling on the revenue issue. If I had revenue, then I could hire people to help maintain and add content to the sites. Without a provable revenue stream, the sites will just languish in their current pathetic state.

Anyway, after tallying up the monthly stats, I decided to go the extra step to see where the money is coming from. Only a few of my advertisers let me track sales back to the originating web sites. The table below shows YTD income for those merchants.

TownHitsPct HitsIncomePercentCatsDir ImprsPct
Salt Lake City752838.0%$750.0527.6%28132217244.3%
Math14067.1%$340.5312.5%0%
Denver204310.3%$281.4310.4%157568177.8%
Missoula14457.3%$255.549.4%58425555.9%
Provo17108.6%$223.338.2%1087429510.2%
Grand Junction9324.7%$165.996.1%66450866.2%
Heber3111.6%$98.183.6%2289401.2%
Park City7243.7%$94.503.5%58286893.9%
Cheyenne5272.7%$93.743.5%44162162.2%
Ogden7663.9%$89.333.3%48167092.3%
Saint George5042.5%$65.172.4%49210292.9%
Vernal3301.7%$58.262.1%26158562.2%
Bend2081%$49.961.8%2880011.1%
Cedar City3371.7%$46.941.7%35117831.6%
Tooele1941%$27.661%2999301.4%
Springs3011.5%$23.400.9%44103031.4%
Moab1840.9%$19.280.7%40162232.2%
Boulder2431.2%$19.000.7%4197021.3%
Price840.4%$8.80.3%2172371.0%
Glenwood Springs330.2%$3.980.1%1753160.7%
19810...$2715.07...1172726859...


I've thrown the majority of my effort in building Salt Lake Sites. I've done a great deal of begging for inbound links, I have paid for local advertising, etc.. Not surprisingly, slsites.com delivers the most revenue. After Salt Lake, I threw a great deal of effort into Provo and Park City. Here's the odd thing, Denver is a new site and I've done nothing with Missoula for the last year. Both towns out produce Provo and Park City.

When I visit towns like Missoula and Denver, I've noticed that there's people who are just happy about being in the place they live.

I also show the stats from my math web site. My original intent was to put a great deal of effort in the math site. My initial tests showed it would do nothing but hemorrhage cash. Times have changed. The data seems to show that I should stop wasting time on Utah, where there is little potential and work on the math and move back to Colorado.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Operation Giving Hope

A few years back, the son of my next door neighbor ran off to the University of New to learn to play himself the guitar. A promising young musician ... unfortunately, it appears that he washed out during his senior year. Don't judge the kid harshly ... his whole class washed out. For that matter, the entire city washed out.

The U of U is letting him take classes this year.

Anyway, I just learned that Ryan Hiller will be playing at Kingsbury Hall tomorrow (Sunday, October 2, 2005 6:00PM) in a fund raising event for victims of Katrina. The show is called Operation Giving Hope.

Friday, September 30, 2005

HVAC

My folks will be spending $2500 this weekend on a new furnace. The high energy prices finally has them facing up to the fact that the expensive new furnace they bought a few years back was incompetently installed. It was sad. The last furnace was a top of the line energy efficient furnace as well. We knew something had to be wrong because the expensive new energy efficient furnace was less efficient than the old paleolithic furnace it replaced.

One of the most difficult aspects of living in Utah is the incompetent work force. Utahns tend to be so wrapped up in ward politics that they lapse on the things that they do for a living.

Anyway, I've been having flashbacks to the vast amount of potential I've seen wasted by shoddy Utah workmanship. Turns out that my car I owned had been in a major accident and has problems...lying to a gentile about such things is just fine. I worked for an aerospace firm that was able to trace planes falling out of the sky to records falsified by a local bishop in charge of quality control. I have a tooth that snapped in two recently from the incompetent work of a Utah Dentist.

In Way to Be Gordon B. Hinkley tells the world that the way you appear is far more important than the substance of what you do. Your first step in life is simply to appear righteous. Once you appear righteous, then the world is at your finger tips. Unfortunately, the counter culture plays much the same game ... the dominant theme being one's appearance over one's substance.

I am a substance type of guy myself. It seems to me that what you do is more important than simply the way you appear.

Getting quotes for yet another expensive new furnace, we find ourselves wondering how to separate appearance from substance. Unfortunately, when you get down to the brass tacks, the only way to deal with a low quality work force is to buy the top of the line material and hope the installer isn't pulling any typical Utah tricks like selling a refurbished model as new or doesn't break the thing during the installation process.

I worked with HVAC crew at the University of Santa Clara for several years. It was a scrubby crew that took great pride in their work. The things they did generally worked. They had tough questions like designing buildings so that you could cost effectively regulate the temperature of a tiny office next to a big classroom. And how to deal with the intense body heat of throngs of hormone laden students moving from classroom to classroom.

I know for a fact that there are substantive people in this world who very seriously study thermodynamics, air flow, material science and what not specifically to answer the question of how one can regulate the climate of human dwellings. Unfortunately, this community where I live seems to be dominated by those who focus on politics and appearance.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Airline Woes

It is strange. Just about all articles on Delta and other airline bankruptcy begin with deregulation. The Salt Lake Tribune blames the bankruptcy of Delta first and foremost on deregulation. The paper notes that the after degulation there was a brief time when Delta's fortunes soared and reached the valuation of six billion dollars a few months prior to 9/11.

The paper also makes minor notes about the 22% drop in traffic after 9/11 and massive new security costs. The paper even mentions the 66% increase in the cost of fuel that pushed the company over the brink.

But the blame, that ever delicious blame, falls squarely on deregulation.

The thing that stands out most in the Tribune's article is the massive number of mergers in the airline industry. The effect of mega-mergers is that they magnify economic effects. One of the least healthy trends we see in the economy is the mega merger of marginal companies. The basic idea is that the marginal companies must merge until they either gain economic dominance or they fail in a spectacular style.

The SEC almost always approves mergers of unhealthy companies. The problem is that this cycle can end up magnifying the harms that occur in a time of economic transition. This was seen quite clearly with Worldcom.

The final thing I noted about the collapse of Delta is that consumers really do prefer streamlined operations like JetBlue and Southwest. I've never flown Delta despite the fact that I live in a Delta hub city (SLC Air). I've always gotten better rates with other carries.
Businesses really do go through economic life cycles.

Anyway, the failure of Delta is laid squarely on deregulation. The post 9/11 drop in traffic, the massive new security costs, the rising cost of fuel and consumer preference are simply incidental.

I will continue to be a curmudgeon that reads papers skeptically. I will also continue to be an insensitive lout who thinks that businesses should fail and that our real problem is this game of marginal companies merging to the point that they create a crisis when they fail.

On the positive side of things, maybe Jetblue will expand in Utah ... that is until a better carrier replaces them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tooele

My new camera arrived in the mail yesterday. Wow! is it ever spiffy. I took the first pictures last night and will upload them shortly. Before I upload new pictures, I found I have a ton of work to do on my photo site.

I was halfway through the process of tranferserring protophoto.com to a new server when I got involved in another person's project. I discovered that portions of the site were lost in the translation; So, I need to do some major reprogramming.

Anyway, I just created a gallery for Tooele, Utah. The picture to the right was taken with the old Kodak camera.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Updates

The UPS system says that my new camera is in Salt Lake. It showed up last night, but will spend the weekend in the UPS store. The camera was smart. It took a route north of the storm. It visited Doraville, Ga; Nashville, Tn; Louisville, Ky; Indianapolis; Hodgkins, Il and finally Salt Lake City.

Watching the evacuation of Galveston, Houston, etc., I can't help but wonder what would be entailed in making structures that could withstand category V storms. As our population expands and the price of fuel rises, evacuations will become more difficult.

The standard wood frame structures most of us live in couldn't handle the storm. I think it would be possible to make some extremely beautiful storm proof structures from steel and concrete.

Another interesting area to explore would be the process of zoning for geologic change. New Orleans is in a distributary. As such it goes through rapid geological changes.

Math history books claim that one of the driving forces in the development of geometry in ancient Egypt was the annual flooding of the rich Nile delta. Each flood year, people would have to resurvey and redetermine what areas they owned. The floods in New Orleans moved things. It will be interesting to see how the city handles the resurveying of the city.

There are many interesting opportunities here. Let's say a whole neighborhood was devastated. We have an opportunity to elevate that neighborhood...the houses in the hood may not end up in the same place.

Some people have suggested turning NO into a land of canals like Venice.

There's lots of opportunity of innovating design...unfortunately, I suspect that the rebuilding effort will be dominated by politics and lawsuits and that innovation will be stifled.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rinse Cycle

Looks like New Orleans will be going through the rinse cycle.

That might actually be good for the city. A new flood would dilute the toxic sludge on the city streets. Mother nature likes cleaning up after herself.

Looking at all the satellite photos of storms: It is amazing how storms manage to fill the whole gulf. I guess it is actually the gulf that makes the storm. I am now wondering about the extent to which the whole geology of the United States was defined by a continuous stream of hurricanes. Just imagine millions of storms the size of Rita and Katrina battering the coast through geologic time. These storms could be a prime factor in the distintive shape of the Gulf of Mexico.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Halloween Links

For some odd reason, my community directories get a ton of Halloween traffic. I like web traffic. This year, I decided to throw a little bit of effort into collecting local Halloween Links. Many of the Haunted houses are between cities. So I've decided to have just two directories: Denver Halloween has the houses along the Front Range. Salt Lake Halloween has links along the Wasatch Front. I list Costume Stores on my ecommerce site.

Personally, I think the local thrift store is the best place to get the material for costumes.

Hmmm, perhaps I will dress up as Katrina this year. I would need a fan ... a bucket of water ... now what should I do for the toxic goo ???

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Shipping Notification

I just got the shipping notification, my camera started its cross country trek in Doraville, Ga and is now enjoying the music of Nashville, Tn. I hope it is taking pictures.

On to important national events: Apparently some of FEMA disaster relief credit cards have been used for things like designer handbags or at strip clubs. I can understand being upset about the handbags...but come on...these are folk from New Orleans where people are accostumed to exposed breasts. It is only natural that storm refugees would seek places that remind them of home.

I guess one of the effects of the world where we all get reduced to charity is this micromanagement spending. What people do with their disaster relief funds is really none of our business.

The other big national news is the Congressional investigations into the price spikes in oil. Guess what? The recent reconsolidation of the oil industry has revived the oil monopolies. Like, duh? It also turns out that many of the efforts to control gas formulations have led to single suppliers in markets. It is strange how regulation often leads to markets dominated by one supplier.

Galbraith tried to claim that government regulation was a countervailing force to big business. It seems to me that, more often than not, big government is a resonating force with big business. Regulatory efforts often have the effect of weeding out competition and replacement technologies ... making big business even bigger.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Insolvency, Here I Come

Ritz - Nikon - D70 Digital SLR Camera Body - 6.1MP
My 1999 breed Kodak D240 digital camera is showing its age. So, I decided to make the plunge and upgrade to a Digital SLR and purchased the Nikon D70 Digital SLR. I actually purchased a two lens package that includes a 28-80mm and 70-300mm lens.

I think it would be fun to do some wildflower photography, unfortunately all the super macro lenses get expensive. Likewise, the wideangle lenses and professional quality telephotos all seem to fall out of my price range.

I think I will have a super fun time with the camera. I snapped 10,227 pictures with the Kodak D240. The one big problem is that the capture element in my current camera is loose and crooked, making it hard to center the picture. The last set of picture I took tilted to the left. The pictures before that tilted to the right.

I ordered online through Ritz. The Ritz groups own Inkleys, Wolf Camera, Photo Alley, Camera World and a bunch of other sites. I expect it to take a week or two for the camera to show up in the mail.

Rather than babbling about international politics, I will start web posts on pictures.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

First Meal

Pundits are now ready to start the blame game with a vengeance.

One of the hardest parts of relief efforts is the large amount of waste that seems to occur with such efforts. Right after the disaster, relief supplies start moving around ... only a portion of the supplies get to the front lines of the efforts. Often supplies get stuck in limbo and the well meaning efforts of the people who put together the supplies appears lost.

I think the most exciting thing about donating to efforts or volunteering time is that satisfying feeling of being the one to provide the first warm meal after days of hardship. We all want to be part of the person who saves the puppy. We have horrors of being the person left on the loading dock.

Post disaster coordination can reduce the amount of waste, but the very nature of cataclysmic events is waste. That's what Katrina did. It wasted a whole bunch of stuff. The storm and flood wasted buildings, warehouses full of food, gas tanks, cars and even precious relief supplies.

One of the really strange things that starts happening in relief efforts is that different charitable groups start competing for victims. Charities want to show there donors high profile rescues. They want success. Politicians want to be the one seen kissing the baby or doling out the first meal. There are perceived political ramifications if the Red Cross relief supplies show up before the city supplies.

People do pay attention to the brand on the donated box. A great example of controversies on branding is the emblem of the International Red Cross Red Crescent. Some people view the cross in red cross to be a religious (in this case it is not). So, some nations have adopted the crescent. To some the crescent has religious symbology, to others it has socialistic undertones to other groups it is a national symbol, so the IRIC is having to adopt a third symbol.

Who gets which victims is also a matter of controversy. Just as we direct money to the charities we wish to support, we direct victims to those charities as well. Humans are very interesting creatures. There is political dynamics to the whole charity situation.

IMHO, the worst thing that can happen is political grandstanding in times of need. The most effective leaders are those that fade into the background and concentrate on coordination during the initial phase of relief.

As much as I hope that my donations went to providing first meals. I really suspect that the supplies purchased are sitting on a dock somewhere.

One charity that I want to support in the clean up effort is Volunteers of America. VoA is often the charity of last resort. They provide services to people with chemical dependencies, and development disorders that keep them from functioning in society. VoA helps the poorest of the poor. These are the people who were homeless in New Orleans, are homeless during the relief effort and are the ones that will be homeless after the rebuilding. I like this group as they often do the less glamourous drudge work.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

ACTA

One of the items brought up by Lewis Gordon was the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789. The law states: ""The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States."

The Cato Institute claims that the law was passed to clarify jurisdiction in cases involving piracy and diplomats. Recent hopes are that the law can be twisted into a foundation for international tort law. Although the law would not allow American courts to try foreign entities, they could seek tort action against any US entity that did business with the foreign entity.

ACTA was little used until the 1980s when it was revived in the case Filartiga v. Pena-Irala which sought civil action against a former Paraguayan officer who tortured the claimants brother.

NOTE: In 1991 the US passed the Torture Victim Protection Act to address issues of torture, genocide, etc..

ACTA is a tort law used in cases of crimes committed by non-US citizens against non-US citizens in foreign land. The catch is that the perpetrator of the crime must be in US territory when sued. The law does not apply to foreign officials or diplomats. In Filartiga v. Pena-Irala, Pena-Irala was in the US when served with the suit.


Since Filartiga v. Pena-Irala there had been a desire to use ACTA in a host of environmental and civil rights suits. In the case Doe I v. Unocal, ACTA was used to bring a civil suit against Unocal. UNOCAL was a partner in a construction project in Myramar (Burma) in which the Myanmar military used slave labor. Arguably Unocal knew about the abuses and benefitted from them. (NOTE: It is estimated that 8 million people in Burma are working in forced labor [See Burma Report]. If you do business in Burma, it is likely that somewhere, somehow forced labor is involved.

In Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Shell, Shell was accused of complacency in acts taken by the Nigerian Government. In this case a Dutch company being sued simply has a presence in the US.

Recently, law firms were lining up to sue every American firm that did business in South Africa in the days of Apartheid for the abuses of apartheid.

Unfortunately, for the legal community that is, the devil incarnate (George W. Bush) has been working to plug several of the loopholes created by the new interpretation of this old law. The US business community applauds restricting the law because they feared ACTA would place an excessive burden on US companies that did business in foreign lands. Many sovereign nations were upset with ACTA since it the law was basically setting up US district courts as an uber legal system.

Lewis Gordon made Bush's actions sound like a major take away from the world environmental community. If you believe in the inherent goodness of lawyers then you could call curbing a law that would be used to try human rights and environmental cases a crime against humanity.

One could even call limiting the law a crime against humanity since it curtailed a legal avenue used by human rights lawyers. Personally, I agree that ACTA was open for abuse. International law should be established by treatise and not activist courts.

With the ACTA style of jurisdiction, plaintifs would simply shop around for a court sympathetic to their cause. There are 94 US District Courts. The plaintiff needs simply find the court most sympathetic to their cause and sue in that jurisdiction and sue for all the defendent is worth.

Of course, if the US were making widespread use of ACTA, then other nations would follow with their own version of ACTA. I could imagine a Cayman Island group or perhaps a nation such as Venezuela or Libya setting itself up to be the tort capital of the universe.

It looks to me that the new interpretation of this law is rife for abuse. The idea that US courts have uber-jurisdiction on tort cases is as imperialistic as the multinational firms that we are taught to loath.

On the positive the recent contortions of ACTA might help nudge the world closer to developing a workable international law. The great danger that we see in ACTA is that lawyers will wish to contort any international court into an ├╝ber-court. We saw this with the ICC which unilaterally changed the wording of its charter between the passage of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998 and its ratification.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Defending the Defenders

On Sunday, Questioning Minds had a great program on a project called Defending the Defenders given by the founder and current project director Lewis Gordon. (I could not find a web site for the group).

Defending the Defenders seeks out high profile environmental cases in the third world then seeks pro bono legal representation from top US law firms. The program effectively gives representation to environmental causes while allowing law firms the ability to dabble in the revolutionary.

The multinational firms that are causing massive environmental and social degradation have troughs overflowing with legal talent. The firms are able to ride roughshod over indigenous tribes and small environmental firms. Modern multinationals seem to have a gift for removing the birth rights of third world tribes.

Defending the Defenders is a worthy project in that it provides a token amount of quality defense against these multinational firms. Hopefully they will be able to slow worsening environmental degradation in the third world.

Mr. Gordon gave a wonderful presentation that highlights interesting resources like the Goldman Prize. This prize recognizes six environmental heroes each year. I recommend reading the essays on the reward recipients.

As a lawyer, Mr. Gordon sees more lawsuits as the answer to environmental concerns. Personally, I wonder if our litigous society is not partially to blame for our present day woes. The system of confrontation used in the legal system seems to weed small businesses out of the picture and leave the worst politicians and multinational firms in control.

The underlying idea of revolutionary confrontation is that property ownership and industry are to blame for environmental degradation. Revolutionary intellectuals struggle to raise the people's conciousness. The peoples with raised conciousness then rally to support of a strong revolutionary leader. Together they struggle against property owners and industry. These efforts generally end up nationalizing the environmental resources.

After the revolution, we have the situation where the nationalized resources are in the hands of a strong leader. Absolute power works its magic of absolute corruption and the strong leader rapes the natural resources to maintain his absolute power.

It seems to me that the better path to follow would be to promote widespread property ownership. If there was widespread property ownership, then people would have much more direct control over the production of resources. Supporting widespread property ownership also solves the problem of the distribution of wealth.

In the 60s and 70s the environmentalists clearly had industry outgunned. Strategic lawsuits put a large number of small firms out of business. As I write, talking heads on the radio note that there has not been a construction of any new refineries in the US for over 30 years. Likewise efforts, such as the idea of putting flood gates on Lake Pontchartrain to damper hurricane storm surges, had been handedly beaten by environmentalists.

While I am supportive of all efforts to stave of development of wildlands in the western US. I can't help but worry that the environmental movement had gone overboard in preventing all development.

My personal experience has been that the strategic lawsuits employed by environmentalists have had the adverse affect of driving small businesses out of the market. They end up leaving the large businesses.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Grubbing for Cash

The grubbing for cash businessness isn't going all that well. August was worst than July. So far September looks like it will be worse than August. I pulled in $632 off 7535 clicks (data). The actual traffic to the sites increased. I just don't have any local support for the community directory concept.

So, the ugly reality is that I have to add even more grubbing for cash to the site. Since I have few local advertisers, I figure I would make fan stores with select products from national advertisers.


All of the stuff you see at the local University bookstore comes from the same national advertisers. The advertisers pay for the use of the brand. So I think the idea fits within the framework of a community directory. The branded sports gear market is actually good for small firms like Team on Top which is able to use team branding to sell their product to a national audience. Team on Top sells branded bicycle helmets and hard hats. Everybody need a hard hat. (Well, at least those with _real_ jobs.)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

It's Jim Crow All Over Again

Political events in Louisiana have people reading Robert Penn Warren's classic "All The Kings Men." My copy is hiding in one of boxes in storage. This book provides a great deal of insight in political machines.

I suspect that we will find political failures from start to finish in the New Orleans calamity. I can't help but wander to what extent the levees were used in games of political intrigue.

Last night, I watched a talking head on the news. One of the talking heads brought up the observation that New Orleans was 67% black, while many of the outlying towns hit by Katrina were majority white. George W. Bush got the water out of the these white towns, but let the water stay in New Orleans. Clearly, the US has not changed an iota since the days of Jim Crow.

Looking at the 2004 election map. New Oreans is the only island of blue in a sea of red. New Orleans voted 78% to 22% in favor of Kerry. Dagnabbit, these results make it clear why Bush filled New Orleans with water while Bush cleared waters out of other hurricane effect towns.

The gravity of it all is suspect.

There actually are many good complaints about the response to Katrina. Apparently groups like Fox News showed black looters and white rescuers. A "balanced" news agency would be going out of its way to show a more acceptable mix of white looters and black rescuers. News has many, many, many biases.

FEMA and rescuers did an okay job responding to a hurricane. They failed miserably responding to the flood.

Rescue efforts go well in small towns where the rescuers really dominate during the rescue. They fail in a climate of big city with big city political machines, big city press and big city politicians with big egos.

The one thing I really don't like is that the press applauded politicians who simply live on action and reaction, and belittled those who stepped back and took time to deliberate before action. Diliberation looks like inaction...however I think it is the most valuable of all action. VIPs that know when to step back are often more effective than those that immediately jump into the fray.

Anyway, I suspect that this interplay of different leadership styles, political motives and personalities that Katrina brought to light will generate a great deal of intriguing stories and music. While the human suffering is tragic, the colorful personalities of the area might add to the great literature of the south.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rebuilding New Orleans

Rebuilding New Orleans is going to one of the most interesting civil projects of our life time.

Because so much was destroyed, so thoroughly, there is hope that the city will be wide open on the issue of reconstruction and might avoid the NIMBY feelings that dampen progress in most big cities.

Often areas of disaster turn into hubs of free market activity.

Of course, there is some much relief aid and government money involved that the political machines that controls the state and city might use the suffering of the people to soak the recconstruction efforts for all that it is worth.

If honest people get involved in rebuilding New Orleans, they have a very interesting project ahead. (This really is a big if).

The city is below sea level. The water in the streets proves that. Even if rebuit, there is a better than average chance that the city would be flooded again.

In my opinion, the goal of reconstruction should be to create designs that could withstand hurricane winds and flooding, without requiring the evacuation of the city. One and two story wood frame ranch houses won't do. The ideal construction would be five stories with expendable lower floors. The lower floors would be build of foundational materials such as thick concrete columns and coated steel beams. The building foundation should reach above sea level.

These buildings might have human waste disposal systems and water supplies that hold several weeks supply of water.

One cool idea is the elevated swimming pool. If you had swimming pools that were higher than the expected flood level, then the pools could be used as emergency water supplies.

The buildings might have human waste disposal systems that were not dependent on the sewer system (ie septic tanks). A basic john involves two things: A round seat and gravity. It would be simple to build emergency holding tanks that sit on the third floor with a seat that drops into the tank on the fifth floor.

There is a belief that a $3 billion dollar levee system could have protected New Orleans. Personally, I have doubts that the US government could build a three billion dollar levee for under ten billion. Even if Congress gave New Orleans the $10 billion dollars to build a $3 billion levee, there is very little guarantee that the people who construct the levee would do a sufficient job. The mantra of all government funded projects is that the worse you do the more you get.

In the off chance that New Orleans can get beyond its political corruption to allow innovative design, I think there is a good chance that the reconstructed New Orleans could become a magnificent center of creative design.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Black Ooze

One of the really scary things about the New Orleans flood is the black ooze in the streets. The components of this black ooze is under all of our modern American cities, just waiting for its chance to surface. We have a strange habit of turning the places we love into toxic death traps.

As for the ooze, I am a bit surprised that New Orleans is able to pump the toxic waste from New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain without having to file an environmental impact statement. This is a major fishery with a diversity of species (USGS that will be ill affected for decades to come by the effluence.

George Bush no holds barred humanitarian relief efforts show an almost complete lack of environmental sensitivity.

Speaking of areas flooding, I was looking out toward the Great Salt Lake. It has been many years since it decided to act up. I can't help but wondering if Salt Lake will become haven for the fishes if global warming puts more water in Utah to make it bloom. I wonder if the people in this valley would abandon their Zion in times of flood or if they would demand super human efforts to drain the lake, or if we would build levees around the city that were doomed to fail.

So that people can get back into their homes, I think we should continue to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to continue their draining efforts. After which we should sue them and George Bush for the environmental mess.

Gilligan has left the island

Horrible news. The actor (Bob Denver) who played the icon of my generation passed away today.

This is a blow to my goals of achieving eternal youth. If everyone's favorite little buddy ages, then it will happen to all of us. You would think that the professor could have done something!

Speaking of aging, a friend Al Kessler will be on a KEUD Special on aging on Sept 8. I am not such what Mr. Kessler has to say about aging as he seems to have avoided doing it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Wetlands

One of the big culprits in the New Orleans floods was the degradation of wetlands south of New Orleans (story). The two big contibuting factors here are oil drilling in the swamp and the various levee projects that protect New Orleans from the Mississippi and keep shipping channels open.

The problem with the modern re-engineered delta is that the delta is a living system that requires replenishing silt from the Mississippi River to stay in tact. We can argue that the problem was man's interference with nature.

This argument falls apoart because, if left to its own devices, the Mississippi River would have changed course decades ago.

I contend that another big factor was the overall problems with the levee systems that came to light in the 1993 Mississippi floods. In this flood we found that the large number of levee projects in the Mississippi basin were increasing the magnitude of the floods. In the attempt to protect everyone from floods, the massive government funded levees were creating a situation where we were more at risk.

The 1993 flood really dampened the Federal Government's willingness to fund levee projects.

Added to this was the realization that federally funded levee projects had the strange tendency to encourage people to live in flood plains.

A wise nation would have doubled its efforts to protect major urban areas (St. Louis and New Orleans) and left the rest to major flooding. Sadly, we don't live in a world of wise government, we live in a world of politicians.

As for the political circus. Looks like we are starting the great finger pointing game. Fortunately, we see expresidents united in efforts to help in the clean up: This is the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund. Habitat for Humanity is gearing up for a major house building effort.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Floating Casinos

The massive floating casinos outside Biloxi show another major design flaw. It turns out that hotels that could withstand category III and IV hurricane winds, were not able to withstand the force of a floating casino thrown against shore by a storm surge.

There is also indication that the floating casino industry drew a large number of people into an area that was susceptible to major damage by storms. Many of the people drawn to Biloxi by the casino culture could not afford to evacuate. (NOTE, I suspect that some of the poor were simply people who gambled everything away).

The casinos managed to magnify the effects a predictable natural event.

Pundits are pointing to the casinos as free enterprise run amuck. I think the floating casinos were the result of regulations to control gamble run amuck.

The floating casino industry came from laws passed in the 1990s designed to help revive the Riverboat industry and river fronts districts in several central states. While some of the first Riverboats pushed off from shore before opening tables, most floating casinos were simply anchored to docks.

The river boats did revitalize some river front districts. However, the idea that floating casinos are somehow okay brought gambling into all sorts of low lying districts. The floating casino industry brought development to riparian zones and beautiful beaches that would have been best left undeveloped. The net effect of the regulated industry was to bring folk out of the hills and into low lying districts that were prone to flooding.

It seems to me that bad laws tend to lead to bad results, even when the intentions behind the law were good.

Katrina was really the first sign of this nasty design flaw. Since flooding along rivers, and storms at sea are recurring events, I think the industry will continue to be a source of unnecessary suffering.

There seems to be some merit into using casinos to revitalize different areas. Overall, I think the idea of floating casinos will prove a bad idea. Hopefully, Mississippi will revisit the law before wasting the beach front of Biloxi with a new generation of floating casinos.

Patching Levees

The flooding of New Orleans brings up the question of how one can quickly patch a flooded canal.

The primary material used for patching levees is the sand bag. This really is an ideal material. You fill the bags with dirt then toss them into the breach.

The only problem with sand bags is that they require a large amount of sand near the breach.

This alert shows a picture of a helicopter moving filled sand bags to a levee breach. To get fill material apparently engineers are grinding up roads. I imagine that this is an incredibly expensive process. I understand the early efforts to patch the levees with helicopters failed because they couldn’t get the material to the canal fast enough.

The challenge in creating patches is getting fill material into the bags.

During levee breaches, the one material you have in excess is water. It would be interesting to design a levee patch with plastic tubes. You would fill the tubes with water and sink them in the breach. The tubes would have to be made with a plastic of an enormous tensile strength. After the plastic patch is in place, you can then set in a real repair...deflating the bags as you go.

Of course, the ultimate levee patching might simply be a portable conveyor system and designated areas with fill material.

Using helicopters to ferry sand bags is expensive and would not be fast enough to patch a growing breach.

Apparently the breached levees with engineered with an expected life time of 300 years. We seem to have proven that even overengineered levees can and will fail. The New Orleans flood shows that we need better patching technologies in place.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Intelligent Design Follow Up

Oops.

I forgot to mention. The School Board rejected the request to teach Intelligent Design (Salt Lake Tribune). Yeah! there is some sanity in the world.

I guess the real fun will come when the Utah Legislature debates the request.

Punditry

I wanted to find out information on the levee rebuilding efforts. As a result I've stumbled into hornet nests of Katrina related punditry.

Most punditry takes the "not enough" form. Pundits generally have the feeling that more people should be like them. There are many pundits saying "we are not socialistic enough", others say "we aren't self reliant enough". Several Utah blogs have moral that the world is not Mormon enough.

The general argument given by pundits is that if more people were just more like them then the world would be better off.

Arrgghhhh!

I want to read about levees because the whole crisis is a result of a major enginerering failure. Our efforts to control nature led to the situation where a major city sank below sea level. The whole Mississippi Delta is dependent on the silt load from the Mississippi River. We've straightened the river and send the silt out to the sea.

The result of our engineering efforts are that the city sank and is below sea level.

(The Control of Nature by John McPhee is a an excellent collection of essays great engineering efforts to stop geological forces).

Sitting in my little mountain home, I see the plight of New Orleans as a chapter in our struggle to control nature. How do we absorb the shock of geological changes?

I think that people have been doing an admirable job working to handle the humanitarian crisis left in the wake of Katrina. The toll of death and disease is far below similar humanitarian crisises of the past.

Emergency response team were in place quickly after the crisis. The president released an immediate $10 billion in aid and is likely to release more after needs assessments. Americans, and people around the world, have opened their wallets, homes and other resources to relief efforts. I agree give generously to relief efforts.

As for the pontification. It seems to me that it should be about the future. The pundits should be addressing issues about rebuilding New Orleans. Maybe we should ask the question if we even should rebuild the city. If the area is still sinking then the next direct hit will be worse!

Can we design our city on the Delta so that it is more in harmony with nature?

If we build under sea level, how do we design a system to withstand category V hurricanes?

If we can't how can we build the levees so that we can rebuild them quickly?

Can we design levy patching techniques that would let us patch levees during storms?

These are the interesting questions.

People who have a bent to socialism will find confirmation for their beliefs. People who believe in the free market will find confirmations for their beliefs.

Pontificating on such issues does nothing but feed ideological divides. People want to talk about the Hurricane. The most interesting questions are about design and man against nature.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Relief

Amazon has a page for the Katrina relief effort by the Red Cross. It is a good way to donate to the Red Cross. I like the Amazon page as it shows totals collected.

The story of Katrina is overshadowing worsening conditions in Darfur. Right now the refuges are returning home, but there is no food waiting for them (farmers were not able to plant during the rainy season). Right now, the food shortage in Dafur is probably the largest international humanitarian crisis.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Question Will Be Decided Tomorrow at 8 AM

Looks like the Utah Board of Education will be deciding the issue of evolution tomorrow. The Board lists a statement on evolution on their (9/2 agenda).

Everyone is watching with bated breath.

The web site does not include the statement.

There is a good chance that the statement will simply say that biology classes should just teach science ... and will caution teachers to avoid philosophical or religious views on the subject.

After all, there are wards next to all of the public schools; so there is a chance for the general authority to monitor and correct all of the crazy ideas (like science) that kids might learn in school.

I really don't think there's a big crowd of Utahn's wanting the state to be a nexus of controversy on evolution. Salt Lake has several big biotech firms, and the new Intelligent Design ideas are coming from groups that are hostile to LDS teachings. There are, however, quite a few Mormons (eg) who've jumped on the Intelligent Design wagon...especially in light of DNA evidence that the Indians did not descend from a lost tribe of Isreal.

I consumed several hours reading through the different things being pushed as "Intelligent Design." It really makes me sad that people have to waste time on such idiocies. It seems to me that there should be no conflict between evolution and religion. Evolution is not antispiritual. In my opinions both religion and science share the search for the truth.

Unfortunately, reading different web sites make me fear that there are religions that throw truth aside in search of power and control. The danger of evolution isn't that it attacks spirituality, the danger is that it attacks claims from various religious groups that they see the hidden meaning and power structures behind existence.

Acutally many of the philosophical systems (like Evolutionary Psychology) can be as bad as religions in shorting an authentic search for truth to support their own political structures. Philosophies that claim knowledge of the hidden Platonic forms behind evolution are bad as any religion. This was one of the tricks of the Nazis, they created a fiction that the Aryans were evolving into a super race.

Atheistic Dictators have used evolution to justify their genocides (for the good of our nation's gene pool, we must make the race of my enemies extinct!)

Often dicators add the words "just as the Americans pushed the Indians to near extinction."

I hope the Board of Education makes a sane and sound statement about teaching science in science classes and the importantance of avoiding philosophy dressed up as science. We will see. I hope they publish the statement on their site.