Brought to you by...

SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens
August 1997

(formerly the _Rochester Rag_, formerly the _News from Detroit_)

Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for independance.

-- C.A. Beard


Steve Langer
anon ftp site
News Archives News Archives

Standard disclaimers apply. In addition, the author makes no guarantees concerning the grammatical accuracy of his writing. Submitted text files must be in raw or compressed (.Z, .gz or PK Zip) ASCII. Image files must be in raw or compressed (see above) GIF89 (or older).

On last month's Fix;

the answer to last month's Fix,

on what we know from Barb Chapman's logs of the past few issues, and
letter three above, would you readers advise a pre-trial settlment, 
or go for the courtroom drama?"


I can't add much to what Chuck wrote below, so I'll leave it at that. Meanwhile, another thin issue as its been an ass-deep-in-alligator month. More next time.

On the Economy;

Aug. 15, Wall Street: Today's 7% drop in the Dow Jones is just a harbinger of the precipice on which the "robust" economy is hanging. Despite the fact that unemployment is below 5%, and the inflation rate continues to remain below 4.5%, there is real cause to begin fearing the bottom is about to fall out. The fact that inflation is still low is due to two factors: 1) real wages have been faling since 1989 and 2) Fed Chair Alan Greenspan sees no inflation, so he's keeping interest rates down. Inflation and interest rates are linked, and if Greenspan sees a hike in the infaltion rate he'll hike interest, and Wall Street will fall - hard. "But Steve," you scream, "Clinton and the press keep touting the unimpeded growth of the economy." Yes, and that growth is being fueled at the expense of Joe Consumer racking up the highest debt load anyone has seen in years. In fact, the number of declared bankruptcys is the highest that has been seen in this century (something I'm sure the Nightly News has neglected to mention).

What does this all mean? Cheap interest has encouraged rampant spending, much of it on unsecured credit card debt. If something causes inflation to rise (and it won't be wages, since much of the low unemployment is due to part time jobs, more likely another energy or food shortage), interest will escalate, which will have a multiplying effect on debt. This is a good time to start buying gold.

On the People in my Van Pool;

Every morning I go to work with a van pool that consists of (nominally) 11 people, however, usually only two men aside from me show up. The remainder are women. All of them are in their mid forties plus, and most have kids ranging from 6'th through high school. As a study in obsessive-compulsive behavior, I offer these case studies.

Kim: Works at an insurance company, and every morning and evening the instant the van gets on the ferry, she practically bolts from the van to go upstairs to the passenger deck. I almost saw a pickup truck take our van door off, so keen was sure in her rush she did not notice the truck coming alongside. When I asked her about this bizarre compulsion, she explained that she simply had to have the same booth upstairs everyday, or it would ruin her day.

Rose: A seemingly mild mannered neonatal nurse, who for vacation goes to some monestary in the San Juan Islands to "rejuvenate her spirit." When she is a passenger in the Van, she performs seated Tai Chi exercises to ease into the day. Then she gets behind the wheel. New York cabbies have nothing on this woman. Slaloming through traffic at 70 mph across the Ship Canal Bridge (where an error would be fatal) seems normal to her. Then when we attempted to turn into the ferry terminal and the police advised us to go around, she said, "You idiot, can't you see we're a Metro Vehicle? We have priority." Calling for his fellows for backup, Rose tore down the street only to try a U turn across three lanes of traffic, then screamed at the poor helpless tourist in the oncoming lane to, "Get the F out of the way." I learned later that she was raised in Boston.

Julia: Another neonatal nurse, who is concerned that her 8'th grade son may be slightly autistic. As soon as the ferry begins moving, she crosses her legs Indian fashion and rocks back and forth, humming, while she writes furiously with a chewed up stub of a pencil. I have no idea what she writes, and I don't want to.

Deena: Perhaps the most normal in the crowd, this tall Alabama lab tech freely admits to being sexually abused in childhood, sees counselors to this day, and refers to the local organic grocery store as the only place where a good "Earth Mother" such as herself can obtain geoharmonic food. Thinks Clinton is sexy.

The men: Not much to say about them. They split for the passenger deck as soon as possible, and only return to the van at the last possible second.

Guest Editorial:

Microsoft's Stock Buy of Apple
by Steve Langer

The purchase of $150 Million of Apple stock by Microsoft has many in the computer industry scratching their heads. From Steve Jobs' (the once and again CEO of Apple) point of view, the purchase lends some long term credibility to the embattled company and has helped raise the stock. It's tough to assess what all the motivations are from Microsoft's point of view though. Bill Gates' has gone on record saying that the Mac software market is actually more profitable for MS than the PC market with higher margins for Microsoft Office. More cynical observers also point out that MS may be trying to stave off the demise of Apple to avoid the FTC allegations that MS is a monopoly subject to anti-trust laws.

However, there is another angle that many have overlooked. In Spring there was mumbling that Sun was going to completely buy out Apple, but Apple board members forbade the move and the deal fell apart. About six months prior, Sun and MS forged an alliance wherein MS would advance the development of Sun's Java language - MS would work on the Java software interpreter while Sun would develop Java chips which would power the so-called Network Computer.

Now Sun, as the inventor of Java (a computer language which is downloaded via a Web browser and can run on any chip or operating system), would like to see its brain child flourish. To that end, Sun has made agreements with Netscape (MS's main competitor in WWW applications) wherein Netscape products would ship with Java support built in. Apple Macintosh's were shipped with Netscape products on them.

Back to MS. Since the deal with Sun, MS has done virtually no development on Java, but has continued to pour research effort into their own similar product, called ActiveX, which runs only on MS-Windows Web Explorer. Bill Gates has basically one nightmare, that the Sun-Netscape alliance will result in software which can run on any computer, and not need his near monopolistic Windows products. All PC clones which are shipped with MS-Windows (about 99% of them) come with MS Web Explorer on them, but Macs come with Netscape - running Java.

Until now.

A dirty little secret that no one is mentioning is that as a condition to the stock buy, Gates demanded of Jobs that from now on new Macs will ship with Web Explorer. With virtually every computer which is sold in this country from now on containing an MS-browser running MS ActiveX, Gates is hoping that Java will die a quiet death, assuring MS dominance across the desktop and the internet.

Only one thing stands in Gates' way.

Those fools in the Free Software Foundation, who saw this coming, and produced a superior free operating system based on UNIX. Few people are more dangerous than those who value principal over money.


1. Matt has an open secret;

Date: Tue, 29 Jul 1997 13:48:30 -0700
From: Matt Birkholz 
Reply-To: Matt Birkholz 
To: Paul Birkholz , Julie Kummer 
Subject: pssst!: Lori is knocked up again!  Pass it on...
There is little doubt about it I'm afraid.  I am VERY afraid, because all
the recent vomiting suggests Mom is pregnant, AGAIN.  She did not learn the
first time, apparently.  The last three solid weeks of just-let-me-lay-
on-the-couch morning-noon-and-night-sickness has probably wised her up,
though just a little too late.
Poor Erica has no idea what is about to hit her, spit on her, pee on her,
hide her toys, chew on her books...  Dad, of course, knows all too well,
but it is the prospect of Erica's reaction that has him in the closet
gibbering in fear.  (Thank goodness there is a computer in here, eh? :-)
D-Day is Feb 21st, 1998.
Matt Birkholz   Send mail for PGP 2.6.2 public key.
Key Fingerprint = B3 34 FB 3E 3C FE E8 57  AA B4 B2 95 A7 C0 1E AF

2. Barb answers her own challange.

Date: Wed, 20 Aug 1997 17:05:24 -0400 (EDT)
From: Barb Chapman 
"For those who've been following the saga of Barb Chapman's hit and run knee
injury, would you advise her to settle out of court, or go for the jury trial?"
{And no, you can't charge a legal fee.)
Having a great deal of personal interest (no pun intended) in this case, I
must respond.  I would prefer to settle out of court, mainly because someone
who is 26 years old, living at home with mom and dad, and driving a 7 year
old car, is not the best turnip to get blood out of.  He simply doesn't have
any assets worth going after (even though my 15 year old daughter might like
the car once she gets her driver's license).  He _is_ carrying $100,000 in
liability insurance.  That I am going after.  His insurance company is now
willing to settle the case, so that is a real possibility.
Reality, however, has a funny way of changing things.  The guy asked for a
new pre-trial hearing, so it wasn't held on July 29th.  HE now indicates he
wants the case to go to trial.  This makes sense from the defendant's point
of view.  Why plead guilty to a charge now when he can put off doing so
until right before the trial date?  After all, he managed to postpone his
pretrial, he'll probably ask for real trial extensions too.
Now for the latest development: As you know, he claims that I faked the
whole incident, but in his story he admits he saw me and also that he left
the scene of the incident, alleged or real.  There's 6 points against his
license [for those not familiar with MI violations, each violation carries
points.  6 points = suspension of license, 12 points = revocation of
license], automatic suspension.  He was recently caught by HIS insurance
investigator in two more lies in the police report: 1) he was not alone; his
brother was in the passenger seat and two friends were in the back seat--one
of the friends developed a guilty conscience and has started talking, 2) he
says he didn't have to back up and drive around me (what did he do, drive
over me?) and--this part I love--the reason his backup lights went on was
because he was shifting gears on his car.  Think about it.  On a standard
transmission, reverse is located by itself on either one of the left part of
the "H," usually the upper one.  On an automatic transmission, reverse is
located on the other side of neutral, but  you don't downshift through
neutral, and if you're driving an automatic, you don't have to downshift
after stopping anyway.  What's wrong with this picture?  Is anyone else
astounded by this guy's stupidity?
As for the knee, I've been dismissed from physical therapy because they
can't do anything more for me, so next month the doctor is going to poke
holes in my knee and scope out the injuries.  He thinks from the symptoms
and sites of pain that there's at least a meniscal tear and maybe cartilage
damage.  If so, he hopes to fix it while in there.  Please keep me in your
thoughts and prayers on the 11th and 12th of September, the prospective
dates of surgery.
On the lighter side, Maja passed driver's ed two weeks ago and started
school last week.  Nate and Graeme go back to school next week.  On the 11th
of August, Kim and I celebrated 24 years of marriage.
P.S.  When are we going to see those wedding pix?

Ed: Well, as always Barb our thoughts go out to you. As for a date for pictures, I hate to make promises I can't keep, so you'll see them when you see them.

3. And Chuck writes;

Date: Tue, 26 Aug 1997 18:38:30 -0400 (EDT)
From: Charles Scripter 
Subject: Re: lastcall
Howdy Steve!
   As you can see, I have a new internet service provider. My address is still valid, and TGE John Johnson has
given me an address as (which forwards to al243).  All
3 are working, so write them down somewhere safe.  ;)
>   And please include your response to last month's survey.
> "For those who've been following the saga of Barb Chapman's
> hit and run knee injury, would you advise her to settle
> out of court, or go for the jury trial?"
   Ummm...  You never know what a Jury might do these days. While there
are surely many Juries who would give a huge settlement, there are also
Juries who swing just as far the opposite direction. It's a crap shoot, as
far as I can tell.
   Guess it depends on how much they're offering out of Court, how much
she's asking in Court and how "liberal" she thinks the Jury will be.

Quotes(s) of the month:

"Few people are more dangerous than those who value principal over money."

-- Steve Langer

Fix of the month:

"Is the US food supply safe? If not, how would you fix it?"



1. Aug 5, Kent: Mrs. Jan Lapallan, 6'th grade school teacher, has been found guilty of statutory rape and the daughter of her union with a 14 year old male student in her class will likely be raised by her husband who has filed for divorce and is already taking custody of the other 3 girls sired by himself.

2. Aug. 9, Lake Washington: Other states have county fairs and state fairs, here in Seattle, we have SeaFair. Forget your cows, tomatotoes, and tractor pulls. Here we have 1/4 of the U.S. Navy (including surface ships and Trident subs) tied up to the city docks, while the Navy's Blue Angels and hydroplane races occur on Lake Washington. About 120,000 people are lining the lake shore as I write this, and another 60-70,000 are floating in their boats and party barges along the hydroplane race course while piston powered boats go by at 160 mph and jet boats cruise at over 200 mph. However, it can be understood if some fans were confused if they were attending a boxing match, as after one heat the driver of the 2'nd place boat, claiming he was cut off by the winning driver, went after the winning driver, punching him repeatedly and was arrested for assault.

3. Aug. 16, Seattle: This Sat. found our humble editor on the East Side for business. When he turned to go back home to the blessed Island, he knew that the East side Freeway (I405) was completely shut down for paving. He then reasoned that the diverted traffic would clog the West side's I5. Cleverly, he used the waterfront drive. While proceeding south over the Ship Canal Bridge, he noted the North bound lanes we completely closed - and police were looking over the edge. As he later learned from the 11:00 news, seven GreenPeace members, having learned three fishing trawlers were about to set out for the salmon waters in the Bearing Sea, had rapelled down from the bridge and were hanging in midair. Their threat? If the trawlers attempted to go to sea, they would cut their ropes and plunge to their deaths on the decks of the passing ships. They were arrested on Monday.


1. Miami, 20 Aug: American Airlines apologised for "insensitivity" in court yesterday when it acknowledged that one of its training manuals for staff could be interpreted as racially biased. Among other things, the document posts a warning to pilots that South American customers don't mind delayed takeoffs. In fact, it says a typical strategy of South Americans is to call in a bomb threat if they think they will arrive late at the airport, in order to delay the flight until their arrival.

Washington D.C.;

1. Aug. 14: After the latest unemployment figures came out (4.9%) and it was announced that the numbers of people on Welfare were the lowest seen since the early 1980's, President Clinton credited the good news to his signing into law the last budget and the Welfare Reform Act. What he neglected to note is that he vetoed the WRA twice before finally signing it the third time, when it became clear the Rep. majority in both Houses had gained a veto proof majority.

2. Aug. 18: As the UPS strike enters its third week, one of the most contentious points in the negotiations is the Teamsters claim that workers cannot get full time positions, even after working for four years at 35 hours/week. The Teamsters argue that the practice of denying full time positions is simply to avoid paying for the resulting mandatory health and retirement benefits.

Ed: In case this sounds familiar, but you cannot place exactly where, I direct you to detnew97.feb

" Employers have a third option we have not mentioned. They can reduce the cost of labor by hiring at sub full time positions, thereby avoiding paying benefits and employee health care."

Net News;

1. From the listservers;

Dear Dr. Science,
I'm thinking of having my car serviced. Should I take it to a regular
mechanic or a quantum mechanic?
------------- Wendy Woollett, Helena, MT
It clearly depends on your driving habits.  If you often drive at faster
than light speeds, you'd do well to have it serviced by a certified quantum
mechanic.  That way you can rest assured that if you hit a pothole at Mach
4 million, the suspension won't disintegrate into fundamental particles.
Sure, they charge a bit more than your standard grease monkey, but they
stand behind their work.  I recall hearing about one case where a graduate
student took a research vehicle on a joyride and forgot to check the oil
first.  He's now stuck in the stone age.

Please note the Steve Langer "Sea Views" is available on the web at: