a sketchy plan for REI

Whereas it is well known to me and painfully well known to my freinds that I have a grudge against REI practices

and whereas, REI is still fundamentally a democracy and therefore vulnerable to the will of it’s members

and whereas, I am not alone in my estrangement, the newsgroups show many examples of thoughtful rejection of REI corporate-monkey behaviour

and whereas, although they aren’t saying what this years numbers were (?!), in 1999 the vote return was 5% eligible

and whereas, this years “ballot” is 3 positions open for which there are 3 board nominated incumbents you can “vote” for

and whereas, MEC, with 1/6th the number of stores, has the same number of members and a relativley thriving democratic culture, which suggests that it can be done,

Be it resolved,

That there is the makings of a slow-growth movement here to make REI a truly cooperative coop, which would make it one of the largest in the world. What could contribute to this. First, perhaps, creating a crysallization catalyst kernel of some sort, get REI members who share opinions on this in touch with each other, start cataloguing thoughts regarding the purpose and product of co-ops generally, and REI specifically start librarying information about the voting history and executive structure of the cooperative, start soliciting planning ideas for how to grow into a voting bloc which could influence the direction of the coop. It’s not like that many people currently vote.

A moderated weblog? A forum? A mailing list? A theory archive? All tied together?

The Onion Isn’t Dead

My gratitude to The Onion for what it published after September 11th deserves a seperate entry, and it will get it. I was just a bit let-down by it’s recent editions. Turns out they haven’t been rethinking themselves into submission, they’ve just been saving it up.

A sampling of headlines from this week’s edition:

Bush Bravely Leads 3rd Infantry Into Battle

U.S. Forms Own U.N.

Local Mom Whips Up Some Of Her Famous War Pie

Dead Iraqi Would Have Loved Democracy

New Bomb Capable Of Creating 1,500 New Terrorists In Single Blast

U.S. Draws Up Plan For Post-War Transitional Dictatorship In Iraq

And the current Point-Counterpoint:

This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism


No It Won’t

Could this list be any longer. Ah, sweet Onion.

[fog of war] x [fog of media] = ?

I haven’t been trying very hard to find out what’s going on in Iraq. I don’t have TV and wouldn’t have the time to watch it anyway, the newspapers are heavy on unhelpful analysis and light on reliable facts, and unfortunateley Enemy Combatant Radio hasn’t set up a Basra satellite van.

(note to self: is ECR still casting these days?)

It’s also a questionable undertaking. Do I really want to try and find out the details of the war? What would it benefit me? Is half truth or even 3/4 truth better than no truth at all? Do any of the details have any particular bearing on my life?

If an average person did want to find out what was happening on the ground in Iraq, could it be done? This is, after all, the information age. The internet and an associated suite of communication technologies indisputably changed the process and quality of the antiwar movement in a way that has been alledged/predicted since the anti-globalization “battle of Seattle”. If you stay very quiet and listen to the academics muttering to themselves in their closets, you will learn that information distribution is now really, really pending a revolution courtesy of audio blogging, photo blogging, plain ‘old’ blogging, text messaging, wikis and CMSs (gracias Chiron), bluePods and their inevitable ilk, news.google.com-esque information filtering algorithms and other things I’m not quiet enough to be aware of.

But can it be done now? Can you or I, given a PC and an internet account, get a genuine sense of what’s happening? I certainly don’t know, mostly because I haven’t tried. A few possible resources for someone who was trying:

globalsecurity.org offers a truck stop breakfast sized serving of operational details. Or it did, I don’t know if they’ve been able to keep up with troop movements and whatnot since the combat proper began. Interestingly, they also offer a serious point-counterpoint on the strategical benefits of the invasion, and a decent library of anti-war graphics. If you’re really bored, you could just play “guess their personal opinion”.

Iraqwar.Ru offers daily executive summaries of the battles. I am told third-hand that the “This center was created recently by a group of journalists and military experts from Russia to provide accurate and up-to-date news and analysis of the war against Iraq. Daily english-language translations are being offered by Venik’s Aviation. A brief scan of the reports suggest that they are either markedly unfriendly to the US/British forces, or the battles are going much more poorly than we are being led to believe be CNN.

Several intercepted reports by the US field commanders stated that their troops are unable to advance due to their soldiers being demoralized by the enemy’s fierce resistance and high losses.

Kevin Site’s war blog used to provide a dramatic example of the power of direct publishing. As a CNN war correspondant on the ground in the middle east, Kevin was well set up to provide very interesting coverage. His own remarks that “This experience has really made me rethink my rather orthodox views of reaching folks via mass media…. Blogging is an incredible tool, with amazing potential. “ are indicative of at least the potential for real information flow from places from which information is a hotly contested material. Unfortunatley, CNN requested that he stop blogging. Much has been said of this, in chat-room discussion and publications.

Iraq Body Count goes the other way, offering contextless aggregate statistics filtered from the ceasless torrent of mass media, rather than independanly verified on-site details. The methodology is based on past work to document the citizen death toll in Afghanistan. It doesn’t count actual death tolls, only reported citizen fatalities. But it is information that otherwise isn’t being compiled. This is the site that powers the banner-counter on this blog.

news.google.com is a way to dip a net of one’s own into the river of mass-media reporting. Google uses a purely-automated algorithm, presumably related to their famous page-ranking system, to monitor many news sources in realtime and summarize the most “significant” stories in frequenly updated lists.

Then of course, there’s this.

Of these links, only the second two seem to be using technological changes to make more directly-sourced information available. There may well be other methods. There certainly will be in the future. The possible implications of these maybe-existing sources of fact-distribution would seem to include the ability for citizens to stay better informed of the distant actions of their governments, as well as providing a much larger heap of data for analysts and historians to process in after-the-fact attempts to dissect what really happened.

This Tax Season, Avoid Intuit

This was emailed to me by a guy I know. Thought I’d post this rather than spam people with it. The source is pretty capable and thoughtful person who can probably be relied on to comprehend the tech issues he comments on.

TurboTax Nightmares

Some of you are undoubtedly much further ahead than I am and have
already filed your taxes. I, unfortunately, have not filed yet; I will
not be able to file for at least a few more days.

The reason, as you may have already surmised, is Intuit’s TurboTax. I
have used this product in the past with ease and turned to again for
this year’s tax filings for that reason. Unfortunately, Intuit has
changed their product activation to include installation of SafeCast’s
C-Dilla. C-Dilla is essentially software which enables single machine
use of TurboTax. Most spyware programs include it in their hit lists.
Although some have described scenarios of it disabling CDR-W drives if
it determines that you are copying copyrighted material, a post on
extremetech.com negates this premise. There is much on the web about
the snafus associated with TurboTax, some right and some wrong, but I
must say that the product is getting a pounding on the Amazon review

If you were like me (and many others evidently) that had issues with
TurboTax’s “One-Click” updates, I had a much more difficult time with
both TurboTax and C-Dilla than was warned in License Agreement. I was
told by tech support that I needed to re-install TurboTax when the
“one-click” failed. Silly me, I tried to uninstall TurboTax first.
This then prevented me from not only installing it again, as per their
directions, but it also prevented me from booting in safe mode, as per
their directions. In the end, it has taken two days to uninstall
TurboTax and I am still not sure if C-Dilla is fully uninstalled.
According to some posts, C-Dilla hides several files in different
registry locations to make sure that only a full scrubbing of the hard
drive will remove it. Intuit, to its credit (I guess) is now posting
an uninstall utility for C-Dilla and they have refunded my money. I
wanted to pass on this personal testimony, as sometimes you read posts
that seem too far-fetched to be believed. My situation is not too
far-fetched, but I now strongly discourage use of this product.

Somebody said that H & R Block’s TaxCut worked well for them…

For any Canadians reading, no worries you got a couple more weeks.

photographing Schrodinger’s cat

How do you tell if the little light in your refridgerator really turns off?

Well, use a camera with a timer.

Turns out it doesn’t.


oh boy

“After 16 hours of fighting communists and anarchists, a Red Bull can help us go another 16 hours,” said Sgt. Rene Laprevotte as he bought two cans of the energy drink at a Fifth Street market. “We’re here as long as they are.”


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