Thursday, October 28, 2004

What should I do with Or

Will Rogers famously remarked "I do not belong to an organized political party; I'm a Democrat." OK, in case it's not obvious; I lean towards Democratic candidates and causes. Our governor is Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat whom I respect almost as much as I admire Michigan's long-standing Republican governor, Bill Milliken.

When Granholm won the governorship, it became obvious that she would play on a national stage -- even though she is Canadian by birth, which means she can never run for President. Still, I registered some Internet domains:

Of all people, George Will became enamored of our governor. And why not? She's smart, she's politically savvy, and -- forgive me -- she's the best-looking governor in the nation. So George Will -- of all people!!! -- proposed the "Granholm Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution, whereby someone who is not a natural-born citizen could become President. The Constitution provides that you have to be born in the USA -- cue Bruce Springsteen -- if you want to be President -- understandable lingering distrust of the Brits and other foreign meddlers. (Understandable in the late 1700s, Messrs. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.)

Thus we have George Will arguing that Jennifer Granholm -- and by implication Arnold Schwarzennegger -- should be eligible to be President.

What do you think?

And should I renew one of these domains?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A glorious Fall day

Monday brought one of the most glorious Fall days ever. Clear, beautiful blue skies. Unusually warm -- definitely an Indian Summer day.

Summer was odd this year -- strangely cool and rainy. Fall has been a gift.

Here's a gallery of Fall colors.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Google searches your own computer: powerful, and perhaps scary

I've been playing with the new Google desktop search since it was announced last week. Already it's annoying me a bit. For instance, Michigan State clobbered Minnesota in football so thoroughly yesterday that I wanted to see how the Minnesota press was reacting. So I Googled to find the main Minneapolis newspaper, the Star-Tribune. The hit list surprised me:

Whoa! Wait a minute! Why do I see anything on my own computer about the Star-Tribune? I haven't said anything about the Star Tribune, or even read anything they published, for months.

The idea of Google Desktop is simple and powerful -- and not new, AltaVista released a desktop search years ago. One of the great ironies of the Google era is it's easier to find a document on the Web than on your own hard drive, given the poor tools Windows has built in. But when I search the Web for "star-tribune" (a newspaper I rarely read) coughing up hit list results cached from previous Google News searches (links I never followed) is just plain noise.

I'm not sure I want to search my own Web history on my own hard drive every time I search the Web. When you use Google to search the Web, what appears on the top of the hit list is largely determined by how popular the page is. What's in your browser cache is too random to give Google Desktop many hints as to what to put first -- or whether to show it to you at all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Gmail gains a timeout?

Tilting at windmills for months, I've tried to get the media to pick up on the inexcusable failure of Gmail to have a simple timeout: don't use the Webmail client for an hour or so, and you have to log back in. This is a basic and vital protection for security and privacy; they should've designed the feature into Gmail from day one. Privacy zealots and the media missed this one big time.

Twice today I've been suddenly signed out of Gmail, zapped back to a login screen. Hmmmmm, have they implemented a timeout -- finally?

Friday, October 08, 2004

Once again, CBS News doesn't know when a document was first produced

The major media is now reporting that Britney Spears finally filed her marriage certificate, so she's legally and officially married. (I know, I know, who cares about that story?) But Google News reports conflicting renditions:

Huh? The CBS story asks the question, and the story answers it. What's going on here? Here's the CBS lead:

Huh? CBS offers a date of October 8 above this leading news item, but the piece itself is dated September 23. (Adding confusion, CBS cites an October 4 issue of People; no doubt the issue came out September 23.) The Google News clustering tool doesn't know it's an old article, and, whatever algorithm it uses to pick the lead version of the story puts CBS' out-of-date coverage ahead of the breaking news coverage by other outlets who have the current scoop.

Now here's the fun part: CBS itself has the updated story, later on the very same Web page!

Memo to CBS and Google: you can't always trust the timestamps that content management systems assign to documents.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich visits Michigan State

Today Robert Reich, the first Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, spoke at Michigan State University. First he lectured at the College of Law, then spoke at a "rally" at Beaumont Tower. Unfortunately, the organizers of the second talk, MSU Democrats, did a poor job of rallying attendance; only a couple of dozen folks were at Beaumont Tower to meet this distinguished visitor.

I was the first to shake hands with Reich when he arrived. Reich puts people at their ease instantly. We chatted for a bit and then Lou Anna Simon, MSU's next president, dropped by to say hello to him. Her handler introduced her as "president designate" and Reich joked "Why would you want to be the president of a university?" I overheard their conversation as she invited him to return to East Lansing as part of MSU's esquicentennial. Reich said it'd be impossible not to return to such a beautiful campus. It was a beautiful fall day, but Dr. Simon replied she couldn't guarantee good weather in Michigan.

Dr. Reich spoke passionately to the small gathering: he said this year's election is the most important in living memory, and the George W. Bush is the worst president since Millard Fillmore -- and that that was unfair to Fillmore. I caught some of his words on video; the camera was my Sony DSC-F717, which is a great still camera, but a pretty weak video cam. His words come through, nonetheless; listen to some of Reich's remarks on the 2004 Presidential election.

One observation stood out:

The only thing constraining this Administration in the first four years -- the only thing limiting them at all -- has been the knowledge that they had to seek re-election. And if they get a second term, they are going to be unconstrained. And if you think things are bad now, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Before Reich arrived, I called my friend Mark Grebner from the scene, describing how small the crowd was. Mark said that maybe I should enter a Wiki entry under "Bad Advance." The funniest part was when a carilloneur arrived to play her scheduled evening concert on the bells of Beaumont Tower. She was kind enough not to play the carillon while Reich spoke.

More of my photos of Reich's visit are available at:

Registration is required, but it's free. Hmmm, sort of like registering to vote.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Librarian detects computer nerd, banishes to nearby cybercafe

Strolling around the picturesque and bucolic town of Harbor Springs, Michigan, I spy an interesting looking building.

It appears to be a familiar Northern Michigan tourist trap, a fudge shop. But I notice a side entrance with a different sign:

I like to check out small libraries (er, no pun intended). I'm curious: What kind of books and magazines do they carry? Do they they provide computers with Internet access? Do they offer Wi-Fi? So I climb the stairs and discover that the second floor of the building is a cute library. There's a desk across the room, with a thin older woman facing customers. She's chatting with someone who appears to be a friend of the library.

The older woman asks "Can I help you?" I reply, "No thanks, just looking." Her friend explains that this is not a public library; it's a private library that's open to the public. The staffer -- director? proprietor? -- explains that the library owns the building and therefore is supported by rent from the fudge shop.

I wander around a bit. Probably a few thousand volumes. Collection looks old. I don't see any magazines. Hmmm, looks like no computers at all, not even for a catalog. I head for the 20 drawer card catalog, and the woman fairly accuses me:

"You're looking for a computer, aren't you!?!"

"Well, yes, among other things."

Now she scolds me: "We don't have any computers. There's a cybercafe across the street." She turns to her friend and derisively proclaims "The ones that want computers never ask."

Back outside, I don't go to the cybercafe, but I do check out the building more carefully. A close look at the keystone reveals:

Hmmm, keystone indicates HSCA Library... 1908. Harbor Springs Community Association, perhaps? Now I'm curious how this private library that's open to the public came to be. Harbor Springs is a sleepy town in 2004; it must've been really sleepy in 1908.

Apropos of my treatment while inside, the only thing I can find on the Web about this library is its phone number and address. I can just hear the lady declare "We haven't needed a Web site since 1908. People know where we are. Go back to your cybercafe."