Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Carol V. Granger's "Intimacy of a Place" Photography Exhibit

For Kansas City dwellers or visitors over the next few weeks who may peruse this blog, I want to invite you to view an intriguing gallery exhibit (I'm biased, certainly) by my dad's wife, Carol V. (Vanderwal) Granger. Carol is a former Hallmark photographer who has spent much of her time since retiring nearly ten years ago developing expansive landscape photographic images and creating a substantial collection. Her work is currently on display at the Greenlease Gallery at Rockhurst College until December 16th. I had the privilege of stepping through the exhibit last week and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But don't take my word for it - here's the Pitch review. The review, by Ray Barker, calls the exhibit "mesmerizing", "peculiar", and states "the focal point is a weird shape of nature". I would say that is the case, but Carol's work over time has been more about the intersection of nature and human development. He also notes, "Granger’s adoration of nature practically subsumes her." Carol describes her work as "...about visualizing the contemporary man-made landscape in its constant evolution of expansion and retreat."

The show is called "Intimacy of a Place" and the black-and-white digital photographs portray a number of locations primarily in Minnesota and Florida. Gallery hours are Thursday-Saturday, noon-5pm. It's at 1100 Rockhurst Road in Kansas City. For an appointment outside regular gallery hours, call 816-501-4407. To view some of Carol's previous work online, goto the PhotoEye Gallery, click on the "Galleries" link and type "Granger" into the search.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

e-Commerce Coming of Age

Holiday sales have been commonplace for many years, but I think this year the online sales have hit an all-time high. Stores like Neiman Marcus and Restoration Hardware are sending out e-mail about their big holiday sales, and it seems like everybody in the world is offering free shipping to entice people to buy online.

I remember back in the day (1995), attending a USENIX symposium on e-commerce in New York City. I was a student scribe at the conference and was able to sit in on meetings about this amorphous 'e-commerce' concept, now ubiquitous it seems. Back then, we were mostly concerned about aspects like databases and security which are commonplace now (although certainly still not quite as good as they should be).

What I think is interesting is not where we are today - sales and free shipping galore - but the question of where we will be tomorrow, next year, and especially 11 more years from now. I saw demos at the World Summit on Information Society (in 2003) of handheld gizmos used between tribal communities, bearing symbols, to communicate remotely with each other about buying, selling and trading goods. That's pure e-commerce.

As we read more about globalization every day and see communities like Lagos Island where raw economics rule every aspect of life, I wonder when globalization and e-commerce will merge into one. It seems like e-commerce is coming of age now, but with all of the possibilities still out there, particularly for marketplaces like eBay and there is still a long way it can go.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

All-Star Event in SF for Eco-Conscious December 12

Global Green is having a party in San Francisco in a few weeks that will raise money for their programs. It's a great organization, founded by Mikhail Gorbechev. Gary Hart was on the board for a long time, and current board members include Edward Norton and Leonardo DiCaprio, among others.

The invitation shows a long list of hosts, some of whom I know well. I highly recommend the event if you have the time and money and are inclined to give to environmental causes.

Highlights include... "Celebrity Hosts, William McDonough on Cradle To Cradle, Eco-Couture Fashion Show, Ecofabulous Green Design Showcase, Organic Cocktail Party, VIP Rooms, Organic Spa Treatments, Best of Green Silent Auction, Eco-Chic VIP Gift Bags, Event design by Sillapere, Clean Car Showcase, Carbon neutral by MMA Renewable Ventures, Target zero trash, Vintage furniture & reincarnated materials."

"Global Green's mission is to create a global value shift toward a more sustainable future by working to solve global warming, eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and ensure access to clean water. Global Green is the U.S. affiliate of Green Cross International, Mikhail Gorbachev's environmental organization. Global Green hosts the Red Carpet, Green Cars Campaign at the Oscars, and they just led the Sustainable Design Competition to help green-rebuild New Orleans with Brad Pitt."

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sports Metaphors

Most people who read this blog probably don't give a hoot about hoops and I'm not a big sports fan in the way most Americans (especially men) who watch baseball, football and basketball (or hockey) are. But most of my family watches Jayhawk basketball like a religion, so I watch when I spend time with my family (like this past week) and I usually get sucked-in, particularly when there's a good game. Jayhawk basketball is like a cult on top of the sport and it includes a great deal of ritual as well as thrills.

Last night, the Kansas Jayhawks upset the #1 team in NCAA basketball, Florida. Most of the game, Kansas was ahead of Florida except at the very beginning and the very end. Then the teams tied and the game went into overtime during which the Jayhawks squeaked by and barely won. It was nail-biting and suspenseful, like a really good film.

I didn't watch the whole game because I was back home unpacking from our Thanksgiving trip to Kansas, but I found myself glued to the TV for the last part of the game and it reminded me why sports metaphors are useful - it's a universal subject most people understand and can associate with on some level, even if they're not sports fans. We've all been to a game once upon a time and we've seen that the underdog always has a chance, hard work and teamwork pays off, perseverance is important, and it's never until the bitter end. These are good lessons for everyone to see in action now and then.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

H-1B Visas & Skill Bill Abhored by Programmers

There's been some talk in computer programmer circles (blogs and Dave Farber's Interesting People list) about the possible passage of the SKIL Bill (Securing Knowledge Innovation and Leadership - S.2611, along with its companion, HR5744) and what it will do to the high-tech industry. And what amazes me is that it seems like there aren't any programmers in favor of this bill. Essentially the idea behind the bill is to gradually increase the number of available H-1b visas and continue with current loopholes that allow these workers to be paid below market wages.

The problems that have been recorded are: a) low pay means companies will seek out h-1b staff rather than pay local citizens fair market value, b) companies don't go to the trouble to get these people green cards because then they'll leave and go somewhere they can get higher wages, c) this is reducing the incentive for employers and legal residents to go out and become more skilled themselves so they can get jobs here, and d) the people who work here on the visas then return to their home countries and open up competitive enterprises.

Rather than coming across anti-globalization, suggestions have been positive in favor of more green cards to get skilled workers to come here and stay here rather than go back. I'm not sure how that affects people already here, but it does seem to me from what I've heard about companies in Silicon Valley and the immigration process that anyone who has a visa who wants to go through the citizenship process to actually become a citizen is having a more difficult time with it than necessary.

Aren't these the people we want to come here rather than the unskilled workers who sneak across the border and then work illegally without paying taxes, use medical services that we pay for, etc? This is not a rhetorical question - immigration is one of those sticky issues that I'm not well versed in, so I would like to hear other peoples' thoughts on this subject.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ballet San Jose - Giselle, the Nutcracker & Blue Suede Shoes

The Ballet San Jose, revamped in 2000, is beginning its new season tonight with "Giselle", a well-known ballet. I can't make it, unfortunately, but wanted to pass along the info to performing arts lovers in the Bay Area.

They are also hosting a Nutcracker Black Tie Ball on December 14 at the San Jose Museum of Art, with a performance to follow at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. I plan to be there. It should be a lot of fun.

In the spring, their major annual fundraiser, this year the Blue Suede Shoes Gala, based on their "Blue Suede Shoes" ballet, a "classic rock in a one-act ballet danced to 36 master recordings of Elvis Presley's greatest hits", will be held at the Fairmont.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Preview of New Congress's Tech Policy Agenda

Here is what Cameron Wilson, the USACM Public Policy Director says about what the new Democratic-led Congress will be doing with respect to technology policy. He focuses on six big areas that have been in focus by recent administrations: innovation, offshoring, privacy, copyright, e-voting, and Internet regulation.

Here's what's not on that list. First, biometrics and national IDs. Even with conservatives in the minority, this probably won't go away. It's scary because those things don't actually give us greater security although we might think they will. But my guess is this will continue to be something that's discussed in the name of security. As to Homeland security, I think Democrats will step it up a notch as they're able. (I think a Democratic president or Guiliani or McCain would also do this after '08 though.) I also think that the Dems will put a stop to all of this wiretapping and over-the-top surveillance that's borderline unconstitutional.

As to the six main categories, I can only hope the VVPAT bill goes national so we can make sure that when (not if) e-voting machines fail we have some way of verifying the votes cast. In the globalization arena, yes - we must deal with these visa issues. All of the talk about immigration problems is always about illegals but what about the workers who are skilled who come to this country to take jobs and then can't get them because of visa problems on our end? That's just silly. And yes, education's a factor here - we need to be training more skilled tech workers here, but that's another issue. As to IP, I can only hope the DMCA is reduced to rubble but that may be a pipe dream since so many Hollywood are tied to the Democratic party.

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New Word of the Week: 'Ecosexual'

So just as I was getting used to 'metrosexual' rolling off my tongue in cocktail hour conversation, there's a new term in town: 'ecosexual'. I doubt it's unique to our city, but this month's San Francisco magazine uses the word to describe people who consider ecological and environmental factors when looking for romance.

They make it sound like this is new. I guess that's what happens when you live in the city - you never go to Berkeley or Santa Cruz where this has been prevalent since the 60's. Do you know any vegans who would be happy with their partner putting a big slab of pork on their plate for dinner? Of course not, that's ridiculous. But in the day and age of x+sexual=exciting reading, they had to come up with something, I guess.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Twyla Tharp & Bob Dylan On the Stage

I read in the New Yorker that Twyla Tharp recently choreographed a new compilation of dance programs to Bob Dylan's music in a similar fashion to what she did for Billy Joel's music with "Movin' Out," called a musical but IMHO false advertising.

I'm a Billy Joel fan and a performing arts lover, and I went to see "Movin' Out" expecting something closer to "Mamma Mia", the musical made up of Abba songs. I was disappointed to find the complete lack of dialogue and even greater lack of plot. "Movin' Out" would've been fine performed as a modern dance program but I reject that it could be called a musical. With my expectations set improperly, I kept waiting for dialogue and story. Had I known it was all dance, I would've come into it with a much different attitude (and I probably wouldn't have paid as much for seats.) I enjoyed it, but not in the way I would've enjoyed a real musical.

Now, Tharp is doing the same thing - supposedly Dylan approached her for this - called "The Times They Are A-Changin" and it's reportedly more like Cirque du Soleil than anything else. I'd go see it, but I'm not paying Broadway prices again for something that should be performed on a dance stage.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Killer Vodka

Here's a sad, somewhat scary story - in Russia, fake vodka (made from stuff like brake fluid and lighter fuel) is killing tens of thousands of people a year, and is becoming a worse problem. Here's the story.

If you've never been to Russia or you don't know much about the Russian culture, it might be difficult to understand why this is such a big problem, but drinking vodka in Russia is like drinking wine in France, or drinking beer at a baseball game. That's just the way it's done. Add to that the bleak existence many of the people have been living for so long and alcoholism is rampant.

So these people really need their vodka. They'll stand in line for hours to get it (or at least they did back in the days of the Soviet Union - I remember seeing the lines when visiting Leningrad (now St. Petersburg again). Vodka, bread and toilet paper were the 3 major products everyone would wait for. Although there wasn't much vodka available, at least it was the real thing.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Voting Angst in Allentown

Some guy in Allentown, PA went ballistic and started smashing an electronic voting machine Tuesday... here's my take on it:

Voting Angst
(to the tune of "Allentown", by Billy Joel)

Well we're voting here in Allentown
And we had to take a crazy man down
Cause he came up to a new machine,
Went kind of nuts, bashed in the screen.

Guess the man was really ready to snap,
Thought the voting booth was booby-trapped,
Took a paperweight and rammed it in,
Broke the machine. Forgot his PIN.

(But the craziness is going round...)
(And it's getting very weird today...)
(But we're voting here in Allentown.)

We're just voting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania governor's crown,
For the promise of some better days
If we work hard, if we behave.

Every voter had a pretty good shot
But this one machine just wasn't so hot
When the man wigged out and broke the piece,
Poll workers freaked, called the police.
We were voting here in Allentown.


Now we're waiting here in Allentown
And they're closing all the voting booths down.
Out in Washington they're doing fine,
Filling out forms, standing in line.

Well our poll workers are really fried,
Spent their day crossing off voters who'd died,
But something happened on the way there that day
To the man who held the paperweight.


...see article, "Balloting Breakdown: Pa. voter attacks machine"

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Review of 2006 Online Campaigns

I'm almost done with the political blogging for the week, but I had to examine how candidates online this year. Here are some examples of tight races where I took a look at their online campaigns and projected winners based on their online campaigns (web, blog, & email when relevant). In most cases, the candidate with the better site won but not all.

CA Governor:
Better online campaign - neither (both were bad)
Winner - Arnold Schwarzenegger,
(opposing candidate - Phil Angelides,

CA Lieutenant Governor:
Better online campaign - John Garamendi,
Winner - John Garamendi,
(opposing candidate - Tom McClintock,

CA Secretary of State:
Better online campaign - Bruce McPherson,
Winner - Debra Bowen,

MI Governor:
Better online campaign - TIE (both were good) between Dick DeVos, & Jennifer Granholm,
Winner - Jennifer Granholm,

MO Senator:
Better online campaign - Claire McCaskill,
Winner - Claire McCaskill,
(opposing candidate - Jim Talent,

CT Senator:
Better online campaign - Ned Lamont,
Winner - Joe Lieberman,

RI Senator:
Better online campaign - Sheldon Whitehouse, (by a hair)
Winner - Sheldon Whitehouse,
(opposing candidate - Lincoln Chafee,

Overall comments --
One thing I noticed was that in general, more Democrats' sites had blogs. Of course, most of them hadn't been updated in a few days, but at least they had them. I was amazed at how the Michigan governor's race had two sites that looked incredibly similar - but I was impressed that Granholm's site included a Farsi (I'm assuming) translation for the huge Middle Eastern population in the Detroit area, along with Spanish. And I was a bit shocked that a couple of the Republican candidates' sites were so sparse they could've been local city council web sites.

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Women Won Big Last Night

Everybody's heard now that Nancy Pelosi will most likely become the first woman Speaker of the House. This is very exciting news. On top of that, we will now have 16 women serving in the U.S. Senate (the most ever) and over 70 women serving in the U.S. House! We also have a woman as Secretary of State here in California, Debra Bowen, which makes me very happy. And I don't know how many women governors we will have but I do know of at least three good ones were re-elected in Washington, Kansas (rock, chalk Jayhawk) and Michigan (Go Blue).

The Center for Women in Politics has all of the results. Check out if you want to learn more about how to keep these numbers increasing. See my post on svmoms about how women are doing historically speaking. We still have a long way to go before we are equally represented in the U.S.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Blog Party Online

CNN's got a blog party going - see it at - for election results.

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Paper Ballot Majority

When we arrived at our polling place today in Atherton, after worrying about these handheld e-voting machines the county has, we were surprised to discover there was only one per city. The default was to hand out paper ballots. Of course the paper ballots are counted by an electronic machine, but that's another issue. Anyway, voting went smoothly here as far as I can tell so far.

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Angelides Site Gone - Error Messages Look Fishy

Hmm. Goto See what you find.

As I type this, it's not there. (Although it may be back up again by the time most people read this post.) Went bye-bye at least 2 hours ago when I checked it last.

Three reasons it could go poof:
1) They ran out of money and the ISP pulled the plug (doubtful)
2) They got hacked (possible)
3) The site crashed because of more traffic than expected (most likely)

What's really strange is that the page gives an error with a misspelling, so it's an error that was individually crafted for use on the site, not a generic server error. It says: "Sorry, the requested page was not found. Please try again. Original URI: /" It's not written like a typical error message and they misspelled URL. I don't get it.

I'm not an expert in web programming, but I have to say it looks like from the HTML that this page was deliberately put there and I have to say based on that, I'm leaning toward thinking it was hacked (DOS - Denial Of Service - attack). It just doesn't feel to me like an authentic error page unless someone in the campaign mocked it up on a different machine when the site crashed as a temporary measure.

A few months back, the same thing happened to Lieberman's site and I didn't witness it, but I know he threatened legal action thinking it was a hacker although I assumed at the time it was more likely the server couldn't handle the load. (I also didn't see the site during the outage). In this case, I'm not so sure.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

More Politics on the Brain...

The Silicon Valley Moms Blog has been having a "politics week" this past week and I've written several posts. Here are links to them --

"J & K - Not Just Letters of the Alphabet in Menlo Park"
"For Riverbend"
"E-Voting Dilemma? We Have Two Options Left"
"Blogging 101 For Politicians - Tiptoeing Through The Mine Field"
"51% is A Minority"
"Why Politicians Love Kissing Babies"

I may continue posting tomorrow and Wednesday following polls and results. Check my column if you're curious for more...

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Errors Reported in E-Voting Machines Across the Country

It's started. The reports are coming in - errors in many kinds of electronic voting machines around the country are occurring and they're major. has a great Election Problem Log page where they report any problem noted in the media.

Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Texas, California, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Washington, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia and Nevada have all reported errors so far.

Do what you can - request a paper ballot.

And check out HBO's documentary, "Hacking Democracy" airing Tuesday.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Novel Concept: Interviewing Politicians for Their Next Job

My husband, named Charles Pletcher II, was doing a vanity search last night during a rare geeky discussion we were having about search technology, and he came upon this letter to the editor of Salon from the 2000 election, written by his father, who has the same name (minus one I) and an expert in employment recruiting. The letter pertains to elections in general and more specifically to executive roles, so I thought it would be nice to share. It was in response to a political compilation piece, "Dems debate while Republicans take late night."

Essentially the article my father-in-law responded to was a collection of notes from the campaign trail the week before March 2nd of 2000 in the heat of the primary race. It was McCain vs. Bush and Bradley vs. Gore. Ah, the good ol' days. Before the dark side. Before the Empire. This article really was more social commentary on what was happening in the campaigns and it showcased some of the tap dancing politicians have to do these days to get media attention.

Charlie (Charles Pletcher I), my father-in-law, was obviously perturbed by the lack of seriousness put toward the selection process (for good reason). He wrote in response: "we are collectively conducting an employment search for a senior executive... Somebody, sometime has got to ask each one of the candidates the following question: 'What is your understanding of the word 'govern'? Please give two or three specific and concrete examples of past experiences that demonstrate your ability to do so.'" I agree with that. Doesn't matter what party you're in, that seems like a sensible place to start with the questioning.

"It would seem that in spite of our lack of acumen, over the last couple of centuries we've often gotten lucky and hired the right guy. But, as casino operators know, luck eventually expends itself." I don't know if he was referring to anyone in particular in 2000 (and Charlie, if you read this, feel free to comment) but it sure seems to most people now that he was right.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Ethical Political Campaigns - Any Such Thing?

I discovered today when looking around that is available. Go figure.

It is possible to run an ethical political campaign. Whether it's possible to run an ethical campaign and win, however, is another story. I'm not so sure. It depends on the aspect of campaigning because there are some candidates who are more ethical about the fund raising issues and there are others who are more ethical about their spin. And of course there is also a fine line between negative campaigning and unethical campaigning.

I was taught by Emerge that negative campaigning is actually necessary when it is appropriate to point out inconsistencies in an opponent's voting record or any risks about his/her experience and/or character that could be a problem if the person were to be elected. So in that case, supposedly it's okay but we all know that can be taken to extremes.

This is the point in the campaigns where whatever's left of the really sticky mud starts flying, so I guess we'll see how bad it gets this year. Both parties are trying their best to hold onto and gain seats in Congress so I'm assuming the most mud will be seen there. In any case, it'll be amusing to see how long stays available.


A Monopoly On Nerdiness?

So now another AARP aged Microsoft billionaire, Charles Simonyi, supposedly claims he "might be the first nerd in space". Hah. So now Microsoft is claiming a monopoly on nerdiness? Please.

First of all, if he were really that nerdy, he would've figured out a way to make Excel and Word more efficiently coded. Secondly, NASA really stands for "Nerds And Scientific Astronauts", i.e. they have sent nerds in space from the get go. Every shuttle mission has engineers and scientists. And those aren't nerds?

But since it sounds good, BBC covered it as did Slashdot and they're willing to let a few little facts slide I guess, and assume this guy will be the first official "nerd".

I remember learning at Space Camp that the shuttle main computers had a total of 64k between them back in the day. (They've since been upgraded - maybe they're up to 256 now.) That's pretty nerdy. I doubt those people ever left the computer buildings they worked in (back in the days of huge rooms being needed for one computer) but still, they should've at least gotten an honorary astronaut commendation.

I'll only say one thing - if I had billions, I'd spend the $90k or whatever it costs to buy a spot in a rocket from the Russians or on a Virgin Galactic flight in a heartbeat, so more power to him. I hope he has a blast. (Pun intended... it's late as I write this.)

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No More Rocking The Vote, Just FIX It!

Gene Spafford, computer security expert and co-chair of the U.S. Association for Computing Machinery Public Policy Committee forwarded this article to USACM members (of which I'm one). It pinpoints a company,, that supposedly offers "election outcome solutions". If you look closely at the site, it is really tough to tell if it's serious or a joke. Take a look - you'll see what I mean.

Avi Rubin and Ed Felten, two other USACM members known for their research on the security of electronic voting machines (see my post, Fixing E-Voting, from a few weeks ago) were interviewed for the Computer World article. Zogby recapped TechDirt's post on the site as well. For those knowledgeable about the issue and the security behind it, it was fairly clear it was a hoax, but it was done so deadpan that a little doubt was left.

Bruce Schneier, another computer security (crypto, for those of you who don't know) expert, a few days ago, confirmed on his site that it is a hoax but everyone I've seen writing about it agrees that it was very well done. It's one of those sites with boring corporate model photo clips (people just a little bit too beautiful, so that tipped me off that the site wasn't for real) and generic consultantspeak that makes you really confused about what they can actually do for you, but the best part is where they name the specific electronic voting machine makers, like Diebold, who they supposedly work with. Great joke.

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