Monday, January 30, 2006

Liars R Us

Natalie Collins has a interesting rant about some guy name Frey who just walked off with a boat load of cash having published an autobiography that was (apparently) largely fabricated. This autobiography apparently got a spot on the Oprah book club ... which guaranteed it would be a bestseller. The controversy (selling fiction as fact) means even more sales.

The puzzle is, why do we heap so many rewards on people who lie and manipulate us?

Sorry, I really don't even have a way to begin answering such a question. One can't help but feel that the modern way of thinking is simply creating a culture of lies.


I am getting an uptick in clicks to the Winter Games page that I made for the 2002 games. The page had neglible traffic during the Utah games. It would be amusing if it got traffic during Torino.

The really bizarre thing about the Internet is that you rarely get traffic for the item you designed the page for. Perhaps the best way to design a page is to build it. Analyze the inbound traffic, then change the content of page to be something worthwhile for that inbound traffic. I will spend a little bit of time trying to make sure I have a good set of links on that page.

You know, I was hoping to be beyond just creating links and transform into the business of creating compelling content by now. Tant pis.

Actually, the primary reason I created a Salt Lake Directory was because I thought the world might be interested in Salt Lake due to the Winter Games. I would have been better off financially if I had stayed up in Missoula before I was lured down to Salt Lake for the games.

Devils Garden Trail

I took this set of images on the Devils Garden Trail in Arches National Park during October. I think this is best trail to take first time visitors to the mountain west. The trail winds through stunning fins of Entrada Sandstone with an arch around every corner. The trail has a good combination of easy walking with enough ups and downs to test the desert new comer.

I took this set of pictures with my new camera. The orinals of each of these shots is in 1 megapixel mode. These end images are about tenth the oringal size.

Sadly, it takes more time to process the friggin' pictures than it does to take the pictures. My new camera is much better than my old camera.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

They Know More????

Apparently part of the justification for the Utah Senate's desire for a "soft repeal" of the 17th Amendment is simply a belief in the Utah Senate of "we know more."

Yes, it is kind amusing that a group that just past legislation to teach intelligent design is claiming some type of higher knowledge. Looking behind the humor, SB156 shows that the Senators themselves lack basick knowledge of the American experiment with democracy.

Anyway, with SB156, the Utah Senate hopes to gain the power to appoint candidates for the US Senate. The Utah Senate would choose two candidates and the Utah Voters would select the most Republican of the two.

Certainly, the Utah Senate is in a much better position to scrutinize a candidate. However, the point of Democracy is not simply about one's knowledge. It is all about one's perspective. The people living in Utah are in a better position to reflect the perspective of Utah than the state legislature.

Regardless of how much the Utah State Senators know, their vote reflects the perspective of politicians who have power. This perspective is less representative of the state of Utah than a direct primary from the people.

The "we know more argument" is even weaker when we remember that the group that elects a politician is the politician's constituency. SB156 effectively transfers the selection of Utah's Senators from the people to the legislature. When this happens Utahns stop being the constituency of their US Senator. The individual State Legislators become the Senator's constituency.

Even if the Utah Legislators really did "know more", SB156 would still be a bad deal for Utahs, because the bill changes the consituency of or US Senators.

Once again, SB156 really shows low quality thinking and I go to bed feeling sad to live in such an intellectual abyss as Utah.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Utah Olympic Park

I've been in the process of trying to put labels on my Colorado pictures. On that trip, something went wrong with the photo element of my old camera, and I am simply not happy with the pictures. So I decided to run out and take new pictures.

On Thursday, I ran up and took shots of the Utah Olympic Park. I left in the afternoon. So, I was in a rush. I visited the museum, then took the self guided tour along the Bobsled run. I highly recommend the walk. I it is a little surreal walking along a concrete slide. Occasionally people would luge past at 70 miles an hour. They have quite a few interactive exhibits and a "Zipline Ride." So, you would be able to keep kids and teens occupied. They might even learn something at the museum.

I was also able to get in a few shots of The Canyons Resort.

I used to ski at The Canyons when it was Park West. Man! That place has changed. Where once there was a struggling ski area, there is now this massive resort with towering condos and hotels. The really cool thing is the Cabriolet Gondola used for transporting from Highway 224 to the resort.

I used to be angry at the development. They took the only place I could afford to ski, hit it several thousand times with a D9 Cat, and transformed it into a monster resort.

I was seeing the resort through the same lens I see all of the sprawl that is wiping out the west.

Seeing this particular project near completion, I must admit I am happier with it than most developments. Basically, the resort has high density housing adjacent to an large open area for recreation. They have a central masstransit system. This is much closer to the way I wish the world was growing than say Grand Junction where the town has spawled in ways that fill out the open areas.

Come to think of it. The mass transit in the Park City area is well enough established that you can easily do your ski vacation without renting a car! Their's several ritzy buses that leave the Salt Lake Airport. Once in Summit County, you really are better off taking the free bus than trying to find parking. Imagine taking a vacation from the the car.


I decided to play one of these personality profile games. Apparently, I see myself a bit more like superman than catwomen.

Your results:
You are Superman
Iron Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Friday, January 27, 2006

SB 156

One of the strange habits I've developed while working for Mormon dominated firms is that I often intentionally say the opposite of what I mean. Mormons love to correct the errant gentiles in their midst. Giving the faithful a clear opportunity to refute the gentile is often the only way to build support for a project. In a culture where people are taught to "read between the lines" of every argument, coming out with a clearly stated plan rarely works. A clear plan with clear objectives almost always results in people perceiving convoluted intentions between the clearly stated goals and objectives.

The fact that I find myself continually engaged in nonsensical argumentative styles makes me far more cynical than I care to be.

Here is a is a post called Good Old Fashioned Federalism by the Utah majority caucus. The Utah Senate wants to pull off a "soft repeal" of the 17th Amendment. The 17th Amendment is the one that made Senators directly elected by the people. The idea is that Utah would forego the Senate Primary. Essentially the Utah Legislature would pick the Democratic and Republican candidates for US Senate. Utahns would still vote between the two. Having control over the nomination process, however, would make Utah's US Senators beholden to the state legislature.

There are arguments for and against this "soft repeal" of the 17th Amendment.

What is really bizarre is that the Majority caucus puts a return to "Good Old Fashioned Federalism" as a primary justification for the move. They even link to Federalists No. 51 as the intellectual justification for SB156.

It is like something out of Kafka. For those who forgot US history: Originally, the United States operated under the Articles of Confederation. Under these articles, the United States Government was 100% beholden to the whims of the state legislatures.

The Federalist movement came about because many people saw the Confederacy as too weak. They saw the dependency between the state legislatures and the US Government as a source of corruption. The primary goal of the Federalists was to strengthen the central government and reduce dependency on the State Legislature. The Federalists 51 clearly states their belief in the article referenced by the Utah Majority Caucus. Here is the Federalist opinion:

"In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the
different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all
hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each
department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so
constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in
the appointment of the members of the others. Were this principle rigorously
adhered to, it would require that all the appointments for the supreme
executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the same
fountain of authority, the people, through channels having no communication
whatever with one another."
The Federalist objective was to reduce dependencies between branches of government. It was the Anti-Federalists favoring "states rights" who wanted to preserve the central government's dependency on the states who argued the position that US Senators should be appointed by state legislatures. The great compromise that gave the US one house elected by the people and a second house elected by the state legislature was a compromise between the Federalist position and the Anti-federalist position. The 17th Amendment was a win for the Federalist ideal.

There is a good argument for the Great Compromise. The Great Compromise gave us a legislature with two clearly different perspectives. The Senate (elected by the State Governments represented the states and the House represented the people.) The Great Compromise is a compromise between Federalist and Anti-Federalist beliefs. Personally, I think Amendment 17 was an improvement, as direct election of senators provides a better view of the whole state.

Arguments for and against the 17th Amendment aside. I am stuck wondering why the Utah Majority Caucus got the Federalist /Anti-Federalist debate backwards.

I really fear that the wanks in charge simply selectively choose whatever justifications they can for broadening their power without even thinking the arguments through. I am left hear imagining a LDS seminary teacher in a political science class droning: "When you read the Constitution, don't think about what the founders were saying. Open your mind to the spirit and feel what the Heavenly Father intended when HE REVEALED the Constitution."

I guess what I hate most about the dialectical styles that came out of the 1800s (Mormonism, Communism, Modern Liberalism, etc.) is that you can't say what you mean. You are always forced to word things as their opposite with a vain hope that people will "feel" your intentions. It is enough to make one want to simply crawl in a hole and hide.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Power Grab

The Utah Senate is becoming outright scary. SB156 is a new power grab that the Republican Caucus of the Utah Senate put on the table. The basic idea is to try and find ways to make Utah's US Senators answerable to the State Legislature. The basic idea is that candidates for the US Senates would be appointed by the Utah Legislature. Senators would then be required to report to the State Legislature.

I guess that if one of our Senators doesn't cowtow to the Utah legislature, the Senator in question won't be included in the next primary.

The Utah Senate is putting the idea forward as " a soft repeal of the 17th amendment" which made the Senate directly elected by the population.

The reasons for the bill include the following:
  • Federal land policy would respect the needs of the states; and
  • # The National Environmental Protection Act would look entirely different today if the 50 states had more influence over the United States Senate.
Utah, of course, has a large amount of public lands, and the Utah Senate wants to get their hands on that land.

Of course, looking at the long history of Bennett and Hatch, I really can't remember them ever being that friendly to Utah Public lands.

Speaking of the EPA .... has anyone noticed that we haven't been getting the life threatening inversions that typified Utah Winters of the 70s. There have been excesses in the EPA, the cleaner air has dramatically improved the quality of life on the Wasatch Front ... not only is it healthier ... the clean air helps attract more lucrative hitech and biotech businesses to the state.

I doubt this bill will catch on. I doubt either of the parties would be that eagar to forego their primary. The primary election is where the best debate takes place.

    And God said, Let there be evolution...:

    Apparently the Utah Intelligent Design Bill passed the Senate; so it is on to the House. I lost that bet. I was certain it would be tossed out in committee.

    Here is a reprint of a letter to an editor giving a common LDS viewpoint of the Intelligent Design debate. Essentially, Gordon B. Hinckley is the divine seer, relevator and prophet making him the ultimate authority on the creation of life. Good Mormons should defer to the prophet on important matters of educational policy.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

    Linking Venues

    One of the areas I want to concentrate on in the upcoming year is on cataloging, photographing and linking venues in town.

    There is a nice symbiotic relation between my photo gallery and community calendars. Events generally take place in a venue. It is natural to link photographs of a venue with a calendar. For example, here I've created a link page between the events taking place at the Denver Civic Center and photos of the area.

    Most of the pictures I have came from my old DC240 Zoom Camera. All of the pictures I have are of the outside of buildings. Now that I have a professional quality camera, I hope that I can get invited to venues to take pictures of their facilities.

    I have to admit, I would also love to have groups in town use my community calendar ... rather than their own calendar for events.

    My current thought for monetizing the calendars is with the store of the day feature. Everyday of the year highlights a different store. So far, the store of a day hasn't caught on.

    Sunday, January 22, 2006

    Denver Civic Center Park

    I added a page for the Denver Civic Center Park in downtown Denver. I took the pictures on 12/14/2004. It only took slightly more than a year to get them up. Of course, I can't find my notes; So I had a tough time with the titles.

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    Ferguson Canyon

    I wanted to use my new camera; So I decided to take a quick hike up Ferguson Canyon.

    This is actually a first for me. I've managed to label the pictures with 24 hourse of taking them. I usually end up letting several years lag between taking and labeling.

    The pictures were taken in megabyte resolution. I compressed them down to 100k for display on the web.

    I have a set of photos taken during the summer of the same canyon that I will upload shortly.

    Hiking through Ferguson canyon made me distraught. Like the south Fork of Neff Canyon, Ferguson Canyon was filled with rich loamy soil that is getting trampled. Coco tends to run off trail. Watching her run, I could see the soil being broken up. (NOTE, the upper part of the canyon is 45 plus degree slope with loose soil. A dog running back and forth through that soil does damage.)

    Much as I love dogs, I've found that I really hate taking them on mountain walks. Dogs stress the wildlife. They get in the water. Running off trail in riparian zones can affect the fauna in an area. Most areas, of course, can withstand a dog or two.

    Anyway, I've decided against taking regular walks in this canyon. Coco is best suited for grass covered parks where she can run and catch frisbees.

    Thursday, January 19, 2006

    Denver City Park

    Here are a few pictures of Denver City Park that I took a few years back. I lost my notes; so I skimped on the descriptions.

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

    Building Community

    I guess the main reason I was upset with Kathleen Gage's presentation was that the message was diametrically opposed to my belief that the best way of small businesses to approach the internet is to learn to become a good netizen. I reject the notion that the individual is in opposition to the community. What we really should be doing is learning to build community.

    I think that this ideal of the individual working within a context of a society to improve himself was central to the classical thinking that had defined the American middle class up to the present era.

    The guru world, on the other hand, tends to fall into a more Machiavellian view where everything is based on secret little power relations. The idea of having a group that manipulates sales statistics to make a book look popular is a power relation creating an illusion of success.

    IMHO Such illusions simply transfer power to the puppetmasters behind the illusion. They do not actually create wealth.

    Conversely, I believe that authetentic actions to build a community really do create wealth. Of course, when you look at the books. Kathleen Gage's gurism has apparently made her quite wealthy. My Community Directories might be benefitting the community at large, but have definitely not put pennies in my pocket.

    Street Smarts

    Yesterday I attended a meeting hosted by "Street Smarts" guru Kathleen Gage. The meeting was titled "Making Money on the Internet." The meeting was hosted by a Salt Lake County economic counsel at the Salt Lake County Complex. A primary reason I attended the meeting was that the County Building houses a superb collection of art from local artists and I wanted to meet the people from the County.

    Anyway, Ms. Gage is an engaging speaker. It would be great to hear her talk about something that she actually understood.

    The talk she gave was painful to witness.

    As far as I could tell the gist of the program was that she knew the secret for making money on the net. If I were to buy her $120 package, I would be in on the secret.

    There is, of course, no formula for success on the internet. Any replicable formula will end up quickly diluting itself. For example, if there was a given topology of spammy web sites that snagged a lucrative key word combination, that topology would end up being replicated to the point that it would either fail or the search engines would find it necessary to find a way to counter the manipulation.

    Kathleen Gage did a great deal of talking about using autoresponders and building opt-in email lists. She bragged and bragged and bragged about the success she is having with her list. The problem is that only a small number of businesses do well with such marketing schemes. The business guru world might be one of those small markets. It is not a good path for most businesses.

    I say a company should only undertake the cost of developing a newsletter when there is a direct and important benefit to the newsletter. A mortuary problem shouldn't have a newsletter. An association of morticians might have a newsletter. This thing of standing in a crowd saying authoratatively that everyone should have a newsletter, autoresponders and spam list is bogus. These email marketers invariably end up saturating their market. They either fail, or in desparation, become spammers.

    She spoke a little bit about Google. Her demonstration of SEO knowledge was quite amusing: She had a big demonstration where she showed that if you typed the string "Kathleen Gage" (using the quotes), you would see 29,000 results. She then asked a member from the audience for their name. The person had an unusual name. She typed in the name. There were only 500 results. The speaker then very proudly announced. If you follow my program there will be more results!

    So friggin' what? The number of results simply shows that a name is common or that it is attached to a famous person. Even worse. It might simply shows that someone created a large number of pages bearing their name.

    The speaker clearly did not know what she was talking about. My guess is that she was trying to repeat a demonstration someone else gave, but didn't catch on that it was not the number of results that mattered, but one's ability to score well with a lucrative key word combo. Kathleen Gage's scoring the top entry for the term "Kathleen Gage" is not that surprising since she is developing her name as a brand.

    The primary subject in her presentation was that she was recently a part of a scheme to propel a book into a top position in the Amazon sales rank. She and some hundred other business gurus had made an agreement that they would all send newsletters and put a particular book on the front page of their site on a given day.

    On the targetted day, the spam flew. The web pages tauted the book. The result was that the book shot toward the top of the Amazon sales chart for the day. I think many of the people in the ploy bought a copy of the book that day.

    Getting a high sales rank in Amazon on a given day is very impressive, but it is really not new knowledge. The book industry has long been under sway of "best seller" thinking. This whole game where publishers fill shop windows with a particular book on a release date is simply to manipulate the bestseller list.

    The idea of groups scheming to manipulate statistics has been around as long as statistics. A few people have became extemely wealthy by forming groups that manipulate stock information. There is a good argument that much of the Kennedy fortune came from such efforts.

    As I think back on the presentation, I fear that a major portion of Ms. Gage's speach was aimed at pulling people into her circle so that she would have more power to manipulate the system.

    Such circles can manipulate data. I would not categorize this as a way to make money on the Internet. In most cases, only the people in the inner circle ever really prosper. It is not really a formula for creating wealth. It is a formula for concentrating power into the hands of the few people in the inner circle.

    I was upset after the presentation. Here was a person who was very good at speaking. Following her arguments through, most of what she promoted led to mediocrity.

    I chose not to buy her $120 marketing scheme. I fear, however, that several people from the audience did.

    NOTS: This is a comment on only one extemporaneous talk from a speaker. I suspect that her talks on other issues are better.

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Fort Collins

    I restarted the process of adding pictures of Fort Collins. I took these pictures with my old camera, but had a lot of problems adding them to my site. One big problem is that my web host keeps changing the IP of the database. The site was taking 5 seconds to access the database. I found a different IP to use in the connection, and now the site is behaving well again.

    Anyway, this is the second go at labeling this set of photos. It takes longer to label photos than to take the pictures. One big problem. I can't find my notes ... so a lot of the photos just get the label some "building at CSU". The other problem. This is the trip when my camera broke. The photo element is loose and crooked. The pictures are all kind of slanted. There is also a little bit of a fish eyed lens effects with each of the photos.

    Sunday, January 15, 2006

    Slashdotting for Fun and Political Influence

    Pete Ashdown (The xmission guy) has an interesting article on using community sites like slashdot in political campaigns. His organization had a concerted effort to get a story slashdotted. The effort resulted in people making contributions to his wiki and a rather impressive chunk of free advertising.

    BTW: Mr. Ashdown is running for the U.S. Senate.

    I guess we should expect to see savvy politicos staging different efforts to manipulate the world's supposedly unbiased community web sites.

    I do like Mr. Ashdown. I appreciate that he is honest and open about his web campaign efforts. His blog entry shows the thinking going on in the great public opinion manipulation game.

    Every web site, of course, is open to manipulation. Personally, I like to promote small independent web sites ((plug for Community Color) as the amount of manipulation gets offset and diluted.

    Friday, January 13, 2006

    South Temple

    I haven't been taking advantage of my new camera. So I decide to take a few photos along South Temple. This area has a unique collection of architecture including the Cathedral, the Governor's Mansion. I already had pictures of Abravanel Hall, Temple and places west.


    Here's a picture of one of the sugar beets sculptures in Sugarhouse. I think I will concentrate on working on the photo site. For some Protophoto has been extremely sluggish of late. I am wondering if I have code that's overloading the server or if it is one of the other sites on the shared domain.

    Thursday, January 12, 2006

    Parental Consent

    I've decided to use the MSN system for posts on controversial topics. So, I moved this post.

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    First Post of the Year

    I haven't posted a blog item for awhile.

    Let's see, for Christmas, I got a cold. Rather than the "Happy Holiday" v. "Christmas" debate, I think the pundits should discuss this whole Santa Claus thing. Here is a guy who travels to all the houses of the world (regardless of whether people are sick or healthy.) He slobbers all over a glass of milk and cookies, and then puts his germs on all sorts of presents that he puts under a tree.

    The guy is a health menace. He does worse than an international airport at spreading disease.

    Think of it. All those presents being packaged by dirty little elves who probably haven't been trained in proper handwashing techiques ... it's freightening.

    Rather than this "Christmas" v. "Happy Holidays" debate, the health department should be condeming Santa as a disease vector.

    Speaking of germs everywhere ...

    ... I download several episodes of the show Monk from iTunes (click here for download). Monk is an obsessive-compulsive detective (the defective detective). His problem is that he sees and remembers everything and has a knack of piecing together mysteries in rather interesting ways.

    The show is on USA network ... so you only get to see it if you subscribe to the rest of the garbage on cable. I am happy that both iTunes and Google are starting to make past episodes of TV shows available online.

    The price at iTunes is a $1.99 a show (sitting on the upper side of what I would consider reasonable.) MovieLink came has a few programs to download. The shows they had were in the $5 range.

    I am happy that the movie and TV Show downloading industry is growing. I hope that more players than just MovieLink, iTunes and Google join this market and that we some day see real price competition in the download industry.