Archive for October, 2001


Dust storm on Mars. Gotta

Dust storm on Mars. Gotta get me a telescope! Not that I’d be able to see the storm, but it’s been a lifelong dream to have a telescope. About time I acted on it.

The BBC has an article, too, with some useful links.

I guess that I’m particularly interested in this story because I’ve been reading Ben Bova’s Mars and Return to Mars. Good science fiction, that.


PGP for sale

Network Associates is selling PGP. I don’t know yet if this is a good or a bad thing.


Minnesota Public Radio’s web site

Minnesota Public Radio’s web site has pretty good strike coverage, especially over the last couple days. For the first time, I’m seeing real information about the state services that are being affected by the strike. It’s about time; both the state and the unions have failed to highlight those on their own. Note, too, the comments in their little “Soapbox” section. Interesting perspectives.

Bummer, though. Since I first wrote that paragraph, MPR’s taken down a couple articles. Can’t find ’em yet.

Picketers where I work have posted a “rats list.” I’m not on it. Tomorrow morning I plan to make sure I’m added (ever a stickler for details :) and take the opportunity to talk with the picketers to see why they’re striking. I’d very much prefer to hear it from them rather than union leaders.


Edd Dumbill: XML You Can

Edd Dumbill: XML You Can Touch. Hey, GNOME‘s doing some neat stuff with XML.


Still not striking

Although I did watch Almanac the other day, I have very little to add to my nutshell explanation of why I’m not on strike. I’d like to hear from striking MAPE members who aren’t union leadership about why they’re striking. I’m tired of the rhetoric on both sides and want to hear some genuine thoughts on the matter from people on the line. Seriously. I’m aiming this request in particular to friends of mine who are offended and maybe hurt by my not crossing the picket line.

I will say this: I’m upset about AFSCME’s director’s comments on Almanac about those crossing the line: “They have a perfect right to cross the picket line, but our members we think have a perfect right to not talk to them when this is all over, not to associate with them. The decision to cross the picket line is a very serious one. [If] workers want to ostracize themselves from their coworkers, they have a right to do that.” (My emphasis)

I realize that that wasn’t MAPE’s response, but it is exactly what bothers me about this strike. It’s not about union solidarity. The strike isn’t just against the state, it’s against other union members as well. It can do permanent damage to people’s relationships, to their ability to work together as professionals. It frustrates me to no end to hear talk about unity at the same time that garbage like this is being put forth. The decision to cause that sort of rift doesn’t lie just with the scab — it’s also squarely in the lap of the strikers who decide to ostracize their peers.

I knew the risks when I crossed the line. I’m fortunate to work in an office where I don’t think I’ll be facing much enmity for doing so. Hard feelings, yes, but nothing that we can’t work on and move beyond. Together. I fear for some of my friendships with colleagues on MnSCU campuses, though.

I wonder why this issue is so much more personal than others, why it can bring such pain.

If the strike were about more than just money (and you’ll have to do some fast talking to convince me otherwise), I might be able to support it. But I don’t. I go over it every day, consider all the angles I can, and I still think that this is worth something as divisive and destructive as a strike.

I truly do feel for employees at the low end of the pay scale, for whom a $10 or $15 copay will be tough. I’ve been there. All too recently. Maybe the unions should be negotiating for a break for those members, or (as I believe just happened at the University of Minnesota) a minimum wage that makes up for it. Maybe the rest of the union members’ pay scale wouldn’t go up so much to make up the difference, and it could still fall within the limits the state’s working with. How’s that for unity? That’s something I could get behind.

Lest you think me nothing more than a State crony, let me hasten to add that the Governor has been acting like an ass through this whole debacle (though he, like the unions, has made some points with which I agree). And the State Legislature, despite their attempts to come out looking sweet through the strike by pitching in on the Jesse-bashing and glossing over their part in this mess, really set us up for the whole thing. Don’t forget it come election time.

The State and both unions return to the bargaining table tomorrow. May they reach some sort of agreement. Soon.



I’ve been testing Sun’s StarOffice 6.0 beta and have to say it’s excellent. Truly. It’s everything that I’d hope to find in an office suite. Superb interoperability with Microsoft Office, even Word’s revision marks. I’m pleased, too, with their use of an XML file format. See Matt Sergeant’s Adventures with OpenOffice and XML for more discussion of that. If you’re looking at office software, even just a word processor, I happily encourage you to check it out. It’s even a free (albeit hefty) download.

My only complaint is that there is no version for the Mac. I’ll have to wait for an OS X port of OpenOffice (the open source version of StarOffice, sorta what Mozilla is to Netscape). Pity, too, since AppleWorks pretty much sucks. I’d happily drop MS Office in favor of StarOffice, especially considering the $500 price tag on Office2002 for the Mac.


Electronic Records Management

Minnesota Historical Society: Electronic Records Management Guidelines. Good information, probably really important for anyone involved in maintaining a Minnesota government web site. Useful even for those who aren’t, because it offers some useful information about strategies that the government is (or should be) using to ensure citizen access to government records. Aside from some rather ironic accessibility concerns, quite good.


And now Damian Conway’s Exegesis

And now Damian Conway’s Exegesis 3 has been released. See Apocalypse 3 in action. Who knew Perl operators could be so much fun? ;-)


Cool: no sooner do I

Cool: no sooner do I start working on a Netscape/Mozilla sidebar to get a Meerkat news feed than a new project starts up on Mozdev: RSSZilla, an RSS syndication reader for Mozilla that will include a sidebar.


Why I am not on strike.

I plan to post an explanation of why I’m not honoring MAPE’s strike, but first I want to watch tonight’s Almanac to see what the State and the unions have to say.

Oh, heck. Here it is in a nutshell: I believe that going on strike was the wrong decision, and I’m not enough of a union guy to go along with it even though I disagree. I believe that when a union makes the decision to strike, it should be for a helluva lot more than just money. Fundamental things like job security and worker safety need to be at stake. True, health care costs and wages in the State’s proposal will be painful, and they ought to be negotiated. But union leadership made the wrong decision when it voted to strike. The cost is far too great.

Okay, more later. After Almanac. I’ll probably be taping it if you miss it and want to watch.

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