Sunday, November 30, 2003

If you're reading this posting past March 11, 2004, we've beaten the odds. It seems that the average lifespan of a web page is only 100 days. For "information" such as this useless blog that may well be fine, but what about pages which contain important research or scientific information? As a reference tool, 100 days doesn't hold up very well.

That's the problem uncovered in this Washington Post article on the ephemeral nature of web research. The authors were working on a two-year research project (on another subject) when they realized that their footnotes (referring to online sources) were becoming outdated almost as quick as they could type them. They then decided to do another research project to find out just how serious this problem was.

It turns out old-fashioned footnotes referring to print sources aren't all that much more reliable than web links. A high percentage have typos or other issues that make finding the original source impossible, not to mention books going out of print. (Or, the ever-popular just making the reference up to look smart - but we won't go there).

Maybe the temporary nature of information in the web age is a fitting footnote to our lack of regard for history or depth in our public and political discourse. Troubled by facts that show you're on the wrong course? Just wait 100 days and those facts will disappear, as will any public interest in finding those facts.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

And so, today is Thanksgiving. A month ago, even a few weeks ago, I was not particularly looking forward to the holiday, as I was obsessed with worrying about my employment situation - Not to mention that family occasions, such as this, always carry a certain amount of baggage with them that I just didn't feel like dealing with.

Let's recap the last month or two. Towards the end of September I learned that my job of two years would shortly run out of funding and that there was little chance of my continued employment. I left the job on a full-time basis at the end of last month (Halloween being my last happy day), although I still have a few part-time hours left through the end of the year.

The last month I've had to suddenly figure out that which I thought had already been settled: What am I going to do when I grow up? I obviously started looking for full-time work, but wasn't getting excited about any of the opportunities I was coming across, so I floated the possibility of my becoming an independent consultant to a few people even though I wasn't sure if I could find enough work to survive.

Since November 1, when I was supposed to be a semi-employed person of leisure, I've actually been remarkably busy; going from worried about losing my job, to being under-employed, to be being self-employed in an incredibly short time. By the end of next week I should have two signed contracts for consulting work, and I have meetings with three other organizations that may result in work as well - So, I guess I'm a consultant (and no longer looking for a "real job").

So, today I do have much to be thankful for after all - - - and I was so hoping for a depressing Thanksgiving! This is a hopeful new start on a new phase in my career, and I'm looking forward to a great year of learning and trying new things. Happy T-Day, everybody. It may not suck after all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Dust off the old converted school bus, paint it up in some wild colors, and let's hit the road once more!

Yep, it's all the rage these days. Here are just two recent examples:

* Ken Kesey's merry pranksters fire up their magic bus for a Bay Area book tour, and,

* VH1 puts the Partridge Family's bus on the road in search of America's next great Pop 'n' Roll family.

Me, I'm just looking forward to Thanksgiving later this week, when we'll load up the old VW micro-bus with garbage and set out to find a place to dump it in our annual recreation of the Alice's Restaurant Massacree.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The humble toilet gets its due

"The toilet, though a humble instrument, is a microcosm of society at large," or so begins an essay called "Toilet as a Social Space" on the World Toilet Organization Web site. Did you know that toilets "are not merely dung holes and are considered as a place for powdering, resting, conversations and even diaper changing for dainty, civilized, enlightened women"? Well, I know that now!

Also on site is "A Study of Japanese Toilets" and other fine toilet articles and studies. Some more tidbits... "Did You Know?"

1. "An average person visits the toilet 2500 times a year. About 6-8 times a day. You spend about 3 years of your life in the toilet.

2. "Poor toilet condition is a worldwide problem. More than half of the world population have no proper sanitation.

3. "Suppression of urination due to dirty toilets can lead to kidney and bladder diseases. In order to avoid visiting public toilets, Some people refrain from drinking and suffer dehydration.

4. "Most toilets are designed incorrectly.

5. "Female takes 3 times longer than male, yet both toilet sizes are often same.

6. "Toilet remains as a 'taboo' as people are shy to discuss the subject.

7. "There are toilet associations worldwide promoting toilet education and culture."

You too can be a toilet expert and laugh at all the wonderful toilet art cartoons. Just head on over to the World Toilet Organization and celebrate World Toilet Day today!

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in yesterday as California's new Governor. His speech was beautiful, hitting all the right notes. The guest speakers were well chosen, and representative of this great state. It was almost enough to give one hope. It was almost enough to make one say, "Hey, let's give this guy a chance. Maybe he can work a Sacramento Miracle after all."

And then he went to his new office and added another $4 billion to the state's deficit problem. I won't lie: I'll be happy to pay less on my car registration. I won't insist on paying the higher fee, just on principle. But when I have to pay out ten times that amount over the coming years to pay off the debt, I might regret it.

In a day filled with symbolism, repealing the repeal of the VLF cut was right up there. (Yes, "repealing the repeal." The "increase" in the Vehicle license Fee was actually a restoration to its previous level. When it was cut - during good economic times - the mechanism was put in place to return the VLF to the original higher rates in times of economic emergency).

The recall campaign, and the Governor's agenda yesterday, showed how out of touch Californians (Americans?) are with the consequences of their actions. They were simultaneously angry at the politicians for A) putting the state into debt, and B) actually trying to pay off the debt.

Again, I'm not wild about paying the higher VLF. But I'd rather do that than incur more debt that I'll be paying on my income taxes for the next generation.

There's a third element to yesterday's symbolism, and the disconnect between reality and our new prime-time series based in Sacramento. Arnold's third stop yesterday - after announcing that he was "beholden to no one except the people" - was to speak to a business lobbying group... and let them know that he'd require their financial support. It's not all special interests that we're against, after all; it's just other people's "special" interests.

Welcome to Arnold's California. "It's a whole new hideous age."

Monday, November 10, 2003

Who wants to be First Lady? That's the question being asked by after Democratic Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich mused about his desires for a mate. This musing was not a private statement, or something that came out in an interview, but rather an answer to a question at a formal debate.

Was Kucinich just trying to prove that nobody was paying attention to the debates, or was he serious? Either way, here's what he said:

"As a bachelor, I get a chance to fantasize about my first lady. And you know maybe Fox will want to sponsor it as a national contest or something. But in any event I would want definitely want someone who would not just be there by my side, but be a working partner because I think we're in a day in age when partnerships are imperative to making anything happening in the world. And I certainly want a dynamic, out-spoken woman who was fearless in her desire for peace in the world and for universal single-payer health care and a full employment economy. If you are out there call me."

So - If you're a single lady, and geeky wonks are your type, head on over to the Who wants to be First Lady? page at and send in your profile. The winner will be flown out to have dinner with Kucinich (if the candidate agrees).

But why stop there? Is America really ready to trust a local political web site to pick the woman who just might be our next First Lady? Hardly seems democratic to me. I say we need an eight week prime-time television series! Just where is NBC when you really need them?

That would get enough people involved in the voting to make it a legitimate choice, and it would have one of two effects (either one of which would improve our nation). It would either finally interest people in the Democratic primary and learning about the candidates, or, it would finally put an end to shows that attempt to set people up with their mate. Either way, America wins.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Wesley Clark entered the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination as an anti-war general; the one person who had the credentials to say he knew what he was talking about, but still get away with opposing our unilateral action in Iraq and not look like an idiot. This was to be the Democrats savior, enabling them to re-capture the White House and end the war without looking weak.

And then there was this: Clark Says U.S. Must Resist Early Iraq Exit. Our hero is now counseling that "Early exit means retreat or defeat. There can be neither... Failure in Iraq will not only be a tragedy for Iraq, it will be a disaster for America and the world... It will give the terrorists of al Qaeda a new base of operations."

What happened to our anti-Hawk? Has he gone over to the other side? Has it all been a huge deception? Is he giving up on getting the progressive-pragmatist vote? Is he just plain crazy? He just completely blew his cover and given up on the nomination. There's only one problem with all this analysis. He's right.

I do not believe for one second the whopper that George W.'s been telling about Saddam having been a supporter of bin Laden. But... now that Saddam is out, if we pull out without first getting Iraq on the road to recovery and democracy, there will be a power vacuum. And nature abhors a vacuum. Who do we (the peaceniks) think will fill that vacuum? Radical right-wing groups - that's who. And they're not going to be an improvement for anybody.

Clark is talking about re-building a true international coalition for the future of Iraq, not the sham "Coalition of the Willing" that W's been offering. "First we must end the American monopoly on the occupation and reconstruction. Then we must develop the right force mix to fight and win guerrilla war," according to Clark. "Finally, we must give Iraqis a rising stake in our success."

This is not a change of policy that can be accomplished from Republican "leadership." And it's not likely to come from either a "pull out at any cost" liberal or a "follow-the-president" typical Democratic milquetoast. As much as this article initially turned me against Clark, on further thought I realize he's not only right, but he's the only one who can do it.

It's been a long day, I'm tired, and I'm typing this as I'm drinking a Bourbon and Coke. Ask me again when I'm awake and fully sober. But, I think I'm beginning to really like this Wesley Clark dude. The truth is not always easy to accept, but it's the truth never-the-less, and the man's got a point.

Will that win the election? My cynicism level is such that I'd say he just lost it. It's too hawk-ish to get the vote of the left, and too dove-ish to get the vote of the right. But I've never been one to vote with the crowd.

On another [lighter] topic: On the first day of any Introduction to Journalism class they teach you that "Dog Bites Man" is not news, but "Man Bites Dog" is. Well, how about this: "Dog Shoots Man? It has a nice 21st century twist to it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

When is a lobbyist not a lobbyist? When is somebody who by definition represents a special interest not representing that special interest? When they're giving their money to hang out with somebody who "can't be bought" - that's when.

An invitation has gone out to Sacramento's lobbyists asking them to pay up to $21,200 to hob-nob with the new Governor at his first big fund-raiser as a professional politician, just two weeks after he's scheduled to take the oath of office. Yep; gotta get the cash while he's still popular. Can't let the PR go cold when there's money to be raised.

Californians, who thought they elected a political outsider who didn't need anybody else's money, reacted with a resounding, "Hey, did you see 'Eight Simple Rules' last night?"

(Outrage is nice and okay for some people, but the recall election is so, I don't know, it's like -- it's so October).

Schwarzenegger plans fund-raising event (

Monday, November 03, 2003

Day one of unemployment has been survived. I chose to not do any serious work, but rather fill the day with meaningless errands; an opportunity to fill up my to-do list with easily earned check marks. Leslie's principal is giving her a hard time, so she's not having the best of career days either. Still, I keep reminding her that we have no problems.

Read the news and find out what true suffering is. Parents burying their children. People being tortured and beaten. People living in filth.

We have a few economic concerns and annoyances, but these are passing troubles. Please, someone, in a few months, if I'm still looking for work and I start feeling sorry for myself, remind me of this posting.

"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression, and violence and enjoy it to the full."
- Leon Trotsky, Mexico, February 27th 1940, waiting for Stalin's assassins.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Halloween was pretty slow around here; only a handful of kids made it out in the rain, light as it was. The last group to come by lucked out, as rather than just giving them two or three chocolate bars each I just let them reach into the bowl and pull out handfuls of goodies.

Now it's a beautiful morning, with the sun cutting through the early morning fog and drying the leaves. I know I'm supposed to be feeling different or sad today -- feeling "unemployed" -- but I'm fine. It's a fresh day and I'm looking forward to getting out in it.

My staff took me to a nice long expensive lunch yesterday in downtown San Jose, and we said our goodbyes. It was sad, but I'll be seeing them all again soon. It's a new chapter, and although I'm nervous about how it will turn out, I'm sure it will be for the better.

Yesterday I was another worker being laid off. Today I'm an independent author and consultant. It feels good.

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