Installing Snow Leopard, a Scary Halloween Story

Yesterday I finally got around to upgrading my main system to the new OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" release. This release was reputed to be relatively insignificant and unimportant and blissfully easy to install so I figured I'd take advantage of a Friday night in which I had social obligations to run the upgrade on auto-pilot. Maybe it was because it was Halloween eve or something, but what a freaking scary experience it turned out to be.

First, I got a message from the installer that said the DVD was dirty and that I should clean it and try again. I had just taken the DVD out of its protective sleeve, handled it carefully, and put it into the player. I ejected it and examined it and I didn't see anything defective but I carefully wiped it anyway. After restarting the process, I didn't encounter that issue again.

Second, I went away and left the installer running. When I came back, I was greeted by a blank gray screen with the chasing arrow circle. No idea how long it had been that way though it seemed like it was probably a long time. I waited another 20 minutes or so thinking I might have come back mid-reboot but when nothing changed, I powered off the iMac and restarted it. That got me to my Finder desktop so I figured the install was done. I tried then to install an HP printer driver that required Snow Leopard but it told me that I was still running 10.5! WTF?

Third, I re-inserted the upgraded DVD and restarted the installation. Sure enough, it came up and started to run exactly as if no upgrade had happened in the first place. Wow. Very strange.

Fourth, after this incarnation of the upgrade seemed to finish running, the system shut down, came back very slowly (not so unusual after an upgrade) and then I saw a dialog on the screen that said that in order to run something called NotificationExec, I'd have to install Rosetta! Huh? Rosetta is the OS9-compatibility box, right? And Apple stopped supporting Rosetta and OS9 quite some time ago. So what was this about? Well, I had one of those infinite dialog box experiences. I must have clicked the Cancel button on 30 or 40 of those dialogs, which kept reappearing. I tried terminating the process to no avail. I was finally left with no choice but to power the unit down and back up again.

Fifth, when the system came back up, it went into that same dialog process again. Unbelievable! I noticed that as it did so, it was at least launching my startup software between dialogs. So I stayed with it and eventually the dialogs stopped appearing and I had what appeared to be a full install. I ran the HP printer  update and that ran fine, so my system apparently at least thinks it's running Snow Leopard.

Sixth, I then launched GraphicConverter, one of my 10 most frequently accessed applications. I got the dialog box warning me this was the first time I'd launched this program. WTF? Now I'm concerned that some system settings got blasted by the install disruption and I'm looking forward to a weekend of painful attempts to get my system stable again. But once I OK'd that warning dialog, the app ran fine.

Seventh, somehow this system seems to have lost its recollection of local network nodes. The one that serves as my file sharing server from which I run NoteShare, shows up in Finder but NoteShare won't see it and won't let me share from it. The server is fine because I can run my Air's version of NoteShare and access its files just fine. As I write this, I'm still stuck on this problem and I have no idea how many more I'm going to encounter.

I wonder what is unusual about my setup that would cause this much confusion around this experience. I'm not finding any other reports of such major glitches trying to upgrade to a version of the system that I clearly didn't need to upgrade to to begin with.

Scary indeed.

Stop Joe Lieberman? Fat Chance.

I got about 10 emails this morning from various political groups to which I belong, all with the same theme: send us money to help us stop Joe Lieberman from killing health insurance reform.

Right.

Lieberman is a monumental ego and a jackass of the first rank. The Democrats made a colossal mistake when he ran as an independent after being defeated in his own party's primary in the last election. They welcomed him into the party fold despite his despicably disloyal behavior in backing McCain-Palin and several down-ticket GOP candidates. They let him caucus with them. They even gave him a plum chairmanship, that of the Homeland Security Committee.

He repaid them by "mavericky" behavior and now by threatening to blow up his (supposedly) party's leader's primary domestic agenda item.

There's no way to stop him but the Democrats should punish him to the maximum extent. Strip him of his chairmanship.  Bar him from the caucus. Rip away the Groton Submarine depot funding in his home state of Connecticut and any other earmarked funds he's wangled. He wants to be an independent? Make him function like one. The man's a disgrace to his party and, in this case at least, to his country and his constituents (68% of whom favor the public option he opposes). He is so deeply in the insurance companies' pockets, he'll be there after the lint has been vacuumed out.

Time to go, Joe!

Cap-and-Trade a Net Negative on Jobs? Is That Important?

I am still fairly open-minded on the issue of cap-and-trade, leaning toward favoring it. From an environmental perspective, it seems like a good approach, though the results of early EU experiments seem mixed at best.

But I've never considered the question of what, if any, effect of a cap-and-trade policy would have on employment. This piece on one of my favorite sites, FactCheck.org, concludes that it could have a slightly negative effect on employment figures over the course of a decade. While that seems like a fairly negligible consideration, I recognize how easy it is to draw my conclusion if you don't have to worry about having or keeping a job.

Is this really another case of the old false trade-off between environmental protection and job loss? Or is there something deeper, perhaps more interesting going on here?

Yahoo! No Longer a Search Player, Now a Content Site, Says Merc

For the past several years, technology news commentators have talked often about the "Yahoo! vs. Google" search wars. Yahoo! started life as the first major Internet search engine company and then along came Google and blew them out of the water.

This weekend, the San Jose Mercury-News carried a short news byte on Yahoo! that was routine and dull but for one thing I noticed. The reporter characterized Yahoo! not as a "major search engine company" as it always has in the past, but as a "content powerhouse." This would appear to be a re-positioning of Yahoo! in which the Merc has become a participant. Not that I have a problem with that, but I find it interesting that Yahoo! could decide it can't compete with Google in the search space (it can't) even with a Microsoft partnership, and announce itself as a content play and the media just appears to go blithely along.

As it happens, i agree with the re-characterization. I've long seen Yahoo! as a better content site than many others who positioned themselves in that space explicitly. Yahoo! has a ton of exclusive content and directly competes with national news and even entertainment outlets in its efforts to be an information source. For me, the power of that hits home when I realize that when I want to check up on the standings in the NFL or in Major League Baseball, I often just go to my browser and type the URL yahoo.sports.com/nfl/standings. From there, though, there is a great deal of content by Yahoo! writers and editors on the league, the games, the teams, insights, predictions, and a lot more.

Yahoo! has a dozen or more beat writers in baseball alone. Their main sports page rivals that of many of its more established rivals in print and broadcast journalism. Plus they have a wider and better variety of blogs than the other guys as well, in large part, I suspect, because Y! gets the Web in ways that its competitors with roots in the traditional media still don't.

Start thinking of Yahoo! as a content site. Explore it a bit. You may be surprised at what you find and at its ultimate greater value than raw search.

War, Peace and Spirituality

I've wondered on and off for years about the frequent combination of words like "spiritual" with words like "warrior." Aren't those two distinctly incompatible ideas? This question came back up again last week after the now-infamous sweat lodge incident involving James Ray and a group of spiritual warriors-in-training in which three people died and several others were injured. Rhonda McFarland-Schultz of Phoenix questioned the use of the idea that these people were being trained to be spiritual warriors.

At the conclusion of her column, she said, "I feel strongly that a Spiritual Warrior has no place in spirituality. Spirituality and war are not a reasonable combination." I absolutely agree.

I was talking this morning with two of my colleagues in the peace-through-spirituality movement and the subject came up there as well. How can you be "fighting for peace?" we wondered together. I was reminded that when Mother Theresa was alive, she is reported to have turned down any attempt to engage her in anti-war activities. "If you have a pro-peace event, I'll be there," she is reported to have said, "but anti-war just perpetuates war." Indeed it does. Words are things. They contain and convey emotion. They perpetuate ideas. Someone who is a "peaceful warrior" is nonethless a warrior, is he not?

I don't know. The whole thing just seems wrong-headed to me. Let's find better ways to describe ourselves. Advocate? Fan? Spirit? Other ideas?

Unbelievable ANYONE Can Think Bush Was Better Than Obama

I don't care if you're a Republican, Democrat or independent. I don't care if you're rich or poor. I don't care where you stand on health care reform. I don't care if you have a Ph.D. in history or are a high school dropout. How could *anyone* vote for Bush in the current FaceBook poll asking whether Obama is a better President than W? Sorry, but for my money anyone who honestly feels that way is woefully ill-informed or deliberately not paying attention.

One person I read said, "Bush wasn't perfect but at least we had less debt." Yeah, and an economy in the toilet, the correction of which generated the debt! In eight years, W's "accomplishments" (according to him and his apologists) comes down to one item: keeping America safe for 6+ years. Of course, that conveniently overlooks the fact that it was on *his watch* that the first major terrorist attack on our soil happened. But even if I give him credit for that — which I don't — what else can he point to?

He started two wars, neither of which could he win or even describe victory in.
He destroyed our environment with horrible pro-business, anti-people rules, regulations and legislation.
He widened the gap between the haves and the have nots more than it had been in the preceding two generations with a horrific tax policy.
He brought America to shame in the world community by proudly and loudly endorsing the war crime of torture.
He staffed his Administration with the worst array of criminals and greed-mongers since the Teapot Dome scandal.
He took away more Americans' rights in his years in office than all the gains of the civil rights movement in the previous 40 years and bragged about it.

There was a reason — these and dozens more, actually — his support among the American people was at a record low when he left office all but disgraced. And now, 10 months into the first year of his first term, you're going to try to convince me that Bush was better than Obama has been already?

Gimme a break. Pay attention. If W doesn't go down in history as the worst president we ever had, I'll be stunned.

Dems Move to Yank Insurers’ Antitrust Exemption But is it a Tactic?

Congressional Democrats are moving toward including a provision in the upcoming health care reform bill that would eliminate a horrible public policy that allows insurance companies to escape federal regulation. But I predict it's a clever tactic that will not succeed on its own yet.

Since 1946, life insurance companies in the U.S. have been regulated not at the federal level where they ought to be but at the state level where they play divide-and-conquer and divvy-up-the-spoils with one another. As a result, a huge proportion of the states are dominated by one or two insurance carriers who can use their often laughable state regulations to effectively squash competition. Health insurance has fallen under this antitrust exemption umbrella and that has inured primarily to the benefit of the mega-insurers.

Now Democrats, who have tried to have this rule changed before, are in a good position to make it happen. But I think they see the public option on health care as being far more important. So here's my prediction. During negotiations, Dems will agree to take the antitrust exemption off the table in return for GOP promises not to filibuster the public option or something stronger. The insurance companies will almost certainly lobby harder to prevent the antitrust exemption's disappearance than about any provision of the current bills and may provide Republicans cover for switching their vocal opposition to the public option.

Or maybe that's too subtle a strategy. But it seems like it would be an interesting and potentially viable approach.

Is Limbaugh Victim of a Smear Campaign or a Racist?

The WEEK's story on the dustup brewing around Rush Limbaugh's interest in buying part of the St. Louis Rams NFL franchise is, as is nearly always the case with the magazine and its Web site, a nice bit of balanced reporting and worth reading if you're following this story.

Having read each of the commentators to which the WEEK refers and the few comments posted there (I added my own as well), I conclude that Limbaugh has definitely uttered strongly racist comments on the air from time to time over the years. Whether this is a reflection of his true feelings or whether it's a carefully calculated part of his entertainer persona, I don't know. The guy's good at what he does even though i seldom agree with his stated views.

Should his racism — real or feigned but often publicly stated — bar him from being part of an NFL ownership group? Hardly. The NFL is a business. And as a business it is far from beyond reproach on race topics in its own right. I do agree with one comment at the WEEK's site that though the league has the right to sell Rush a piece of its action, the public and players have a right to vote against that decision with their ticket-buying and game-playing dollars and efforts.

I See Airlines Are Still Screwing Their Best Customrs

I don't travel much any more. I've fortunately reached a place in life where the need is near zero and the desire is below zero. I chalk it up to fortuitous timing given the intense hassle of air travel these days.

But I had to consider the idea of traveling to LA later this month for a one-day conference. So I checked into airfare from my cozy little airport in Monterey to LAX. Prices were higher than I expected but I do know that flying from a smaller airport is often more expensive. And that's fine.

I was, however, more than a bit surprised to find that the airlines, who have been in financial trouble longer than almost any other industry that hasn't yet totally collapsed, are still trying to balance their books on the backs of their best customers: business travelers. In this case, I had to get to LA before 9 a.m. on a Friday and wanted to return that evening to avoid an overnight stay. Typical business travel plan for such a nearby trip.

Here's what I found.

If I wanted to do that one-day trip, I would have to fork over $500+. (For comparison purposes, a round-trip from Monterey to NYC was just over $300.)

If I were willing to fly down on Thursday evening, stay overnight, and fly back Friday evening, I could get the price down to $330.

But if I were to fly down Friday morning and stay overnight, flying back Saturday, I could get the price down to about $225.

So if a business traveler is ok with being away from family and office for an extra day — and even better if that day is a weekend — then he can get a relatively decent price. But if he wants to minimize time spent on business and maximize time spent with family, he pays a severe penalty.

This crap has never made sense to me and it still doesn't. I guess the airlines figure that you have to get there and you have to fly to get there, so they have you by the short-and-curlies. And they wonder why they keep losing money. Yeesh.

Afghan War is Not Justified and Must End

A reader asked me recently what I thought about the Afghan War and what I thought ought to be done about it. I spent considerable time thinking about and writing my response and felt it might be of broader interest, so here it is.

As a pacifist. I do not believe war is ever the answer. I do not believe war is ever justified. War in strict self-defense is the only possible exception my philosophy allows and that only if it's clearly the only solution. War should always be a last resort. I am a fan of Dennis Kuchinch's views in this regard.

So that obviously colors my views of the Afghanistan War.

On the other hand, the emergence of the stateless aggressor such as al-Qaida poses a special problem for pacifism. If a country attacks us, we can defend ourselves in a way that limits our response to actions that restrain or punish the aggressor. With a terrorist organization that is obviously not as obviously or readily feasible. Are we then at all justified in carrying out a war against recognized nations that sponsor or support the activities of the aggressor group? I tend to think we are, so that the same principle that applies to an attack by a nation applies to an attack by a sponsored terrorist group. That means that war, as a last resort, might be acceptable and palatable though never preferable.

Against that backdrop, to the extent that the U.S. had proof that al-Qaida was operating from Afghan territory with the official knowledge, consent, sponsorship and support of that country when it planned and/or launched the 9/11 attacks against the United States, we had a moral right to pursue Afghanistan as an enemy state. I'm not sure that proof was all that solid, but let's leave that question aside for the moment.

The bigger question, for me, is whether an offensive war was the only avenue open to us. And I think it is clear that it was not. In fact, we didn't even try any peaceful alternatives and, unlike the case with Iraq, we had never tried them before, either.

So I judge the mission of the Afghan war — the disruption and elimination of al-Qaida as a terrorist organization threatening the United States — as legitimate but I don't view the war as ultimately justified.

I would like to see a timely, orderly, safe withdrawal of our forces from that part of the world. The larger picture of a seriously global nuclear or conventional war is much more threatening to our safety and security and to world peace than anything the tiny splinter group known as al-Qaida could carry out. We are, in a sense, cutting off our noses to spite our faces.