Monday, October 31, 2005

Blog Spam - oh brother!

I've been writing to this blog for almost a year, and I mostly write for myself. Oh yes, I've had a few comments, mainly from relatives, but recently my heart rate has quickened because I've actually had comments posted from people I don't know. This is great - I've been discovered! And...these commentors tell me that I can now earn $10-$50 dollars per hour FROM HOME! Using my computer! This is great, and another benefit of the computer age. Thanks, anonymous commentors, you've made my day.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hurray for Open Source!

Oregon has become a home for development of open source software and hardware. The recent announcement by google of a $350,000 grant to Portland State and Oregon State Universities for open source development is one more indication that this movement is strong and growing in the Pacific Northwest.

As a computer user, I'm thrilled that the alternatives to Microsoft are growing and have become real options. A few years ago, during the anti-trust case against Microsoft, I was browsing around on the U.S. Justice Department web site, looking at developments in the Microsoft Anti-trust Case. I took the opportunity to send an email (you know, all of these sites have a "contact us" link) to the people working on the case about one of my main peeves about Microsoft, from my view as the owner of a small business. I related that many clients, particularly federal agencies, required reports from contractors to be submitted as Microsoft Word files, often specific versions of the software. This was one of the main reasons I migrated my company from WordPerfect to MS Word, at considerable expense. My question to the Anti-trust team concerned the role of the federal government in creating and supporting the Microsoft monopoly by requiring use of the software.

As you might imagine, I never received a reply from the Justice Department team (maybe it was because I was using Eudora instead of the Microsoft email software?).

So right on open-sourcers.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The 2,000th American military death in Iraq was marked by headlines yesterday, a milestone that nobody in this country is celebrating. The Associated Press also reported yesterday that most credible estimates of Iraqi deaths since the U.S. invasion is 30,000, and I think these are mostly civilians.

For me, the most difficult question is "are these deaths worth it?" I don't support the war in Iraq; I haven't since before the invasion. But I have always "supported the troops," as the mantra goes. These are not contradictory positions. The people serving in the military don't make the decisions about going to war, they carry out the orders passed down from above. Every person who chooses to serve in our military deserves our respect and gratitude. In times of real need, when our security and safety are threatened, these are the people who will be on the front lines. I also support the use of our military for international peace-keeping, or for ending genocide, if these kinds of decisions are logical and supportable.

The problem with the invasion and occupation of Iraq is that the decision to go there was not logical and supportable. There was no compelling reason for this war: Iraq was not involved in the September 11 terrorism, Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, Iraq did not pose a threat to our security and safety. This was a war of choice, not a war of necessity. So yes, our administration has wasted our most precious resource, the lives of our military personnel and the well-being of their families. And these deaths have not been worth it.

Would I tell a grieving military family that the death of their loved one wasn't worth it? This question haunts me, and I don't know the answer. Would I tell Iraqi's that the death and suffering they continue to experience is worth it? Again, I don't know. In the long-term, I hope the Iraqi people achieve some form of democracy and peace. I don't think the U.S. military can pull out now; we have to somehow figure out how to finish what we've started. This means that we have to accept the growing death toll on both sides - a difficult thing to accept.

I've thought a lot about the 2,000 U.S. deaths and the 30,000 Iraqi deaths, and I grieve for them and their families and friends. I only hope that we learn from this mistake, and that we never again allow a President to go to war without a logical and supportable reason.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Party D or Party R? More Choices Needed

I kept shaking my head in agreement this morning as I read David Brooks' column in the NY Times (Oct 9, 2005). Mr. Brooks' assertion is that the two political parties in this country are old, tired, and uninspiring. I couldn't agree more. As I watch the Bush administration crumble under the weight of it's own incompetence, arrogance and lies, I'm hard-pressed to think of someone on either side who inspires me with their ideas and competence. The fact is that both parties are out of ideas, too tied up in cronyism and money, and have nothing new to offer.

We live in a new world in many important ways. Globalization and terrorism are two new major factors driving world politics. We need real political leadership with different ways of thinking. It's telling that, in the midst of the exposure of Bush Republican decay, the Democrats don't have anything to say.

I agree with David Brooks: it's time for an insurrection right here at home (see my previous post: "Now is it Time for the Revolution?").

Thursday, October 06, 2005

City of Portland Stormwater Fee - a Homeowner's Opinion

The City of Portland, Oregon charges property owners a fee for stormwater. The City used to offer a discount on this fee for property owners who disconnected their downspouts or installed other runoff reducing measures. The discount program was discontinued several years ago, but the City Council voted to re-institute it. There is now a proposal by Commissioner Adams for a new stormwater discount program.

Following is a letter I recently sent to Commissioner Adams about this program:

Dear Commissioner Adams (Sam): Like many Portlanders, we have been patiently waiting for the stormwater fee discount program to begin. For us, the principle is more important than the actual money.

We moved into a new duplex townhouse in SE Portland (Hawthorne area) in 2002. According to the builder, he was required by the City to install a stormwater infiltration system that added $7,000 - $8,000 to the construction costs. With this system, virtually 100% of the stormwater that falls on this property stays on the property and infiltrates into the ground.

We consider the City stormwater system to be a utility. Consider this; if we installed solar panels and small wind turbines on our house and generated all of the electricity we use, we would not pay the electric utility anything for electricity. Similarly, if we captured rain water in a cistern and didn't use any City of Portland water, we would not be billed for water usage. The same would be true if we had composting toilets (no sewer hookup needed), produced our own methane for cooking from compost (no natural gas from Northwest Natural),and only wrote letters to communicate with people (no telephone bills). So why do we pay a stormwater fee if we generate no stormwater runoff from our property?

If the City wants to tax us in order to generate revenue needed to manage stormwater city-wide, fine - we have a small impact on stormwater runoff quality from city streets because we drive an automobile. But don't charge us a fee for stormwater based on our owning property, because our property does not contribute runoff to the City stormwater system. (In fact, I often sweep the gutter in front of our house, and occassionally do the entire block because the City street sweeping program is inadequate - so maybe the City should pay me for this service!) The idea that we should pay a discounted rate for a service we don't use is not logical.

Thanks Sam - that's our point of view.