Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins passes away

Molly Ivins has succumbed to cancer at the age of 62. From the AP via the P-I come one of her quotes that is receiving wide distribution this evening:
"Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair's-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?" she wrote in a 2002 column about a California political race.
America has lost a great voice.

Pacific NW Portal: Two Years

"I could spend hours there - if I had hours to spare!"

- Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, on Pacific Northwest Portal

One of the Northwest Progressive Institute's most important projects, we're proud to say, turns two years old today. Pacific Northwest Portal, launched in January of 2005, has grown in size and scope as the essential gateway to news, information, and the hundreds of progressive blogs within the region.

The above quote from Lisa Brown ran in a Spokesman-Review feature two days ago on January 29th ("Senator keeps in touch") which profiled the Majority Leader's favorite Internet destinations. Indeed, Pacific NW Portal is a top bookmark on the browser toolbar of many lawmakers' computers.

It's hard for us to believe it's been operating for two years, though it has. It's certainly a much more stable application than it was when it was first launched. Seven hundred and thirty days, or twenty four months if you like, have gone by since I posted this announcement of the Portal's debut on January 31st, 2005.

We've strived to continuously improve the Portal. Major improvements in the site's history after the initial luanch included Versions 2 (February 2005), 3 (True Blue - July 2005), and Seaside (May 2006). The full development history is listed on this page. We continue to work on improving the site - development is never finished.

To everyone who has visited Pacific Northwest Portal or recommended it to a friend or fellow activist, thank you. We especially appreciate those bloggers that link to the Portal or display a "Syndicated" link button. Your support is invaluable and sincerely appreciated by all of us at NPI.

We're excited to have reached this milestone and we hope you are, too.

Obama sticks it to Fox

We're pleased to see that Sen. Barack Obama is taking our advice to heart and dealing sternly with Fox Noise Channel.

(Well, actually we're confident that Obama is smart enough to think of it himself. But you know what they say about great minds.) Via MyDD comes this wonderful account from a Washington Post blog called The Sleuth:
These are chilly days on Capitol Hill ... and on the campaign trail for Fox News journalists -- at least when they're anywhere near Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Sources tell The Sleuth that the Obama camp has "frozen out" Fox News reporters and producers in the wake of the network's major screw-up in running with the erroneous Obama-the-jihadist story reported by Insight magazine.

---snip---

Since the madrassah incident, Obama has given interviews to ABC, CNN, CBS and NBC -- pretty much every other network except Fox. Sources close to Obama acknowledged that they're not thrilled to play ball with Fox journalists, but they stopped short of saying they are freezing the network out.

---snip---

No one is suggesting the icy conditions are permanent. In fact, a thawing of sorts may already have begun thanks to two telephone conversations Fox News Channel CEO Roger Ailes had with Obama.
This is how you deal with Fox Noise Channel and any other alleged news outlet that is part and parcel of the GOP. Let Nixonian scumbag Roger Ailes crawl on his belly some more.

As someone said in comments at MyDD, it's probably time for all Democrats to simply give Fox the cold shoulder. They don't report the news, they act as a propaganda channel for the White House and the GOP.

There's a lesson here for Democratic officials at all levels. While in the abstract it may be nice to talk about responding to reporters' questions as a responsible part of the job, there are limits. It's a judgment call, but when an outlet becomes not only hostile to Democrats but an active participant in smear-based politics, no Democrat is under any obligation to answer questions from employees of that outlet.

There have certainly been instances of Republicans at the state legislative level refusing to talk to certain outlets because those outlets published the truth.

When an outlet insists on promoting wingnut Swift Boating, Democrats need to react swiftly and punish that outlet. It's a dumb game, of course, but propagandists deserve contempt.

We didn't invent the current media landscape, and it's taken our side an awfully long time to come to grips with it, but that's the way it is. The rightist stink tanks and their propaganda mills aren't going away any time soon.

Toast

All the talk of Judy Miller in the news has me wistful for the good old days of 2002-2003. Downright hungry, in fact for some Freedom Toast.
The cafeteria menus in the three House office buildings changed the name of "french fries" to "freedom fries," in a culinary rebuke of France stemming from anger over the country's refusal to support the U.S. position on Iraq.

Ditto for "french toast," which will be known as "freedom toast."

The name changes were spearheaded by two Republican lawmakers who held a news conference Tuesday to make the name changes official on the menus.

Across the country, some private restaurants have done the same.

"This action today is a small, but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France," said Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on House Administration.
It's not like this is Napoleonic history or something. This didn't just happen in our lifetime, or our parents' lifetime, it happened about four years ago, while this administration was in power. While a Republican Congress ruled.

It seems like a long time ago. Yet, amazingly, the GOP and its bitter-ender supporters insist on defending the Freedom Toast War. The "party of life" in action.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reforming the initiative process

I returned to Olympia today to attend a Senate Government Operations & Elections Committee hearing (representing NPI) and testify in support of several bills that would reform and strengthen the integrity of the initiative process. Among the bills we are supporting:
  • SB 5356 - Prohibiting payment of petitioners on a per-signature basis.
  • SB 5392 - Increasing the initiative filing fee.
  • SB 5181 - Requiring signature gatherers to wear identification.
  • SB 5182 - Requiring signature gatherers to sign initiative and referendum petitions (not as an expression of support, but to certify they circulated the petition or petitions).
Reforming the process and strengthening direct democracy has been for years a core focus of NPI's nearly five year old Permanent Defense division, which fights right wing initiatives and promotes the value of public services in addition to working for a better initiative process.

My prepared remarks for SB 5356, which is almost identical to a bill proposed by Representative Sherry Appleton in the House (prohibiting the compensation of petitioners on a per signature basis) were based on my testimony for HB 1087, which Jonathan posted on the Official Blog the day after the hearing.

The other proposals, however, have not had public hearings in the House of Representatives. Here are some excerpts from my remarks prepared for the last three bills on the bulleted list above.

On SB 5392:

One of the current problems with the process is that the current filing fee is insufficient to cover the administrative costs involved with the people’s right to initiative.

Some sponsors have taken advantage of this situation to repeatedly file initiatives with slightly different texts in the hopes of getting a better ballot title. This abuse, which is extremely unfortunate, needs to end and this bill is a simple, practical solution to the problem.

Other states currently require a filing fee that is fair and reasonable....a fee that's much higher than five dollars. California, for instance, has a $200 fee.

This is not a severe burden for low and middle income citizens...if ten citizens put ten dollars together, or if twenty citizens put five dollars together, there's the filing fee. Anyone with a good idea should be able to piece together the funds to cover the cost. We Americans are known for our resourcefulness, are we not?


On SB 5181:

This bill is simple, straightforward, and reasonable. It requires signature gatherers to wear identification which includes an indication of whether they are volunteers or paid. This specific requirement is in fact important because many citizens wonder this very question when they are approached by a petitioner who wants to obtain their signature.

The initiative process has become a cottage industry and it is a business which has remained largely unregulated despite the increasing number of instances of abuse. Senator Kastama’s bill is a sensible law that helps citizens learn more about the people who are so eagerly soliciting their signature, and we are pleased to support it. This is not a severe burden on free speech, therefore it is not ridiculously unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its Buckley decision, (authored by Justice Ginsburg) noted that:
Colorado enacted the provision requiring initiative-petition circulators to wear identification badges in 1993, five years after our decision in Meyer. 1993 Colo. Sess. Laws, ch. 183, §1.18 The Tenth Circuit held the badge requirement invalid insofar as it requires circulators to display their names. See 120 F.3d, at 1104. The Court of Appeals did not rule on the constitutionality of other elements of the badge provision, namely the “requirements that the badge disclose whether the circulator is paid or a volunteer, and if paid, by whom.” Ibid. Nor do we.
SB 5181 does not require petitioners to wear nametags, so it is not unconstitutional.

On SB 5182:

More accountability and transparency are needed in the initiative process. Opponents of reform adamantly insist "you don't need to fix what isn't broken" - and they are pretending that nothing is broken, because they like the status quo - but there truly is a need for reform.

We expect our elected officials to be honest and open and we should expect the same of people who are engaged in citizen lawmaking.

Other states, such as Maine, require petitioners to appear before a notary and affirm that they witnessed the collection of every single signature on their petition. We've fallen behind other states when we should be taking the lead.

There have been serious cases of forgery in other states.

To say that there's no way that could happen in Washington is like saying your house could never be broken into.


The hearing was well attended. As expected, Tim Eyman and his friends showed up to act like victims of legislative overreach. Secretary of State Sam Reed sent his legislative liasion and an Assistant Director of Elections to provide background and testify in support of multiple bills, including the ban on paying by the signature, which Reed's representatives said the Sercretary believes preserves "the spirit" of the people's right to initiative.

Most of the room was filled with journalists, lobbyists, and observers who looked on and did not testify. Eyman tried his best to be a dominating force but was shut down by Chairwoman Darlene Fairley, who at one point had to warn Tim to use his "inside voice" and remind him that she wields the gavel.

Associated Press reporter David Ammons has a good writeup of the hearing (mostly focusing on SB 5653, the first bill on the list above). The article mentions our presence and also that of our allies:
The state Labor Council, Northwest Progressive Institute, initiative activist Steve Zemke, and others endorsed Kline's effort, calling it a friendly bill acceptable to those who cherish the process.
Ammons asked Fairley if she thought any bills would move forward out of committee, and she indicated several stood a chance of making it:
Similar bills have been introduced in the House. Fairley said that if the House passes the ban on per-signature payments, her committee likely will endorse it, with the full Senate vote still in question. The higher filing fee and requirement to sign each petitition page are likely to pass this session, she said.
It's good news that these bills are likely to move on. The people of Washington State expect their Legislature to act to preserve their liberties, including protecting the people's right to initiative, which is really what these bills are about. Direct democracy was instituted in our state during the Progressive Era - and progressive values include protection and fairness.

It should come as no surprise that the Democratic, progressive Washington State Legislature, which the voters elected in the last election, shares widespread citizen concerns about abuse of the initiative process.

If abuse is allowed to continue unchecked, the process is not being protected. Its integrity and spirit are compromised. That Secretary of State Sam Reed supports reform (he does not support all the bills, but he supports several of them) is a clear indication that this issue even transcends party lines.

A significant number of those opposed to change have an interest in maintaining the status quo and fighting against any improvements - the folks that work year after year to put right wing initiatives on the ballot, financed by a select group of wealthy individuals, lobbies, or even shadowy out of state special interests like the Howie Rich money machine (which helped the Farm Bureau make I-933 possible).

Their opposition must not be allowed to derail reform of the initiative process, which is critically important and immediately needed.

The Northwest Progressive Institute strongly urges lawmakers and the Governor to do everything they can to ensure the initiative process is used appropriately, ethically, and constitutionally - this legislative session.

Oh Judy

Joseph A. Palermo writes a great post about Judith Miller's role in the run-up to war. From Huffington Post:
In their infamous September 8, 2002, above the fold, front-page story in the New York Times, "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts" -- the same story that Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Dick Cheney cited in their appearances that Sunday morning on the political talk shows, the reporters Judith Miller and Michael Gordon offered the following tidbits:

"Senior administration officials insist that the dimensions, specifications, and numbers of the tubes Iraq sought to buy show that they were intended for the nuclear program."

"Although administration officials say they have no proof that Baghdad possesses the smallpox virus, intelligence sources say they cannot rule that out."

"Still, Mr. Hussein's dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq's push to improve and expand Baghdad's chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war."

And who could ever forget the coup de grace?

"The first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud."
This was journalistic malfeasance at its most dangerous. It's understandable that reporters bristle at criticism sometimes, but the stakes can be so high that when reporters (at The New York Times for crying out loud) basically endorse the position of the government in favor of a dubious war, no forgiveness is really possible.

The effect was amplified, of course, as the New York Times' bad reporting wound its way through the AP and other media outlets.

The maddening thing about a year or less after that was that bloggers on the national scene had explained the whole rotten mess, and the New York Times had issued an unusual "editors note" stating that things went wrong in the reporting. But that piece never really got picked up a lot around the country, so to this day you still have wingnuts walking around talking about how George W. Bush saved us from imminent destruction.

Too many conservatives make things up as it is. You can't have the media making things up, too. It was the most shameful period in American journalism in a hundred years, and people need to understand that. There's never been a real accounting for it. Judith Miller is just as culpable as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of them. So while we need to make our criticism of the press as precise as possible, they need to understand that, as an institution, they failed badly in 2002-2003, and are arguably still not doing a good job holding this administration accountable.

Look! Over there! A Democrat just sold a house and there was a burned out bulb in the garage! Oh, the humanity.

Inside the Columbia River Crossing project

Stepping off the elevator on the third floor of 700 Washington Street in Vancouver, one is immediately struck by the fact that this is no small time operation. A well-appointed reception area sits in the center of the office, which takes up the entire floor. Clearly, the Columbia River Crossing is a big project.

Dozens of cubicles reside in the center, and nearly every cubicle sports various bits of information in the form of maps, charts and drawings on the outside wall. Offices of project officials and conference rooms ring the floor.

A sign of how seriously Washington state views the issue is to be found in some basic funding numbers provided by CRC. While funds are not disbursed all at once, and in fact CRC may face some "cash flow issues" in 2007, Washington state's "Transportation Partnership Funds" show a total funding of $50 million through the end of the 2011 biennium.

A similar contribution from Oregon is a relatively modest $5 million. Combined with federal funds amounting to around $14.2 million and some prior allocations, the CRC says that in excess of $74 million could be spent.

That's for planning and engineering, to put it simply. (The bridge is extra. But you knew that, right?)

Cost estimates to build the project are preliminary and well, sometimes frightening. For a long time $2 billion was tossed around. Lately, when all the ancillary improvements to interchanges, transit and such are completed, you get something like $6 billion being quoted in the press. Not exactly chump change.

Lora Caine, President of Friends of Clark County and one of the members of the task force formed to advise CRC, arranged a "tour and discussion" with two staff members. Our hosts are Danielle Cogan, Communications and Outreach Director for CRC, and Kris Strickler, Deputy Project Director.

We visited them at the CRC offices last Friday.

We step into one of the conference rooms, where a stack of oversize technical drawings rest in a neat roll on the table.

A 3-D map that shows how the river has scoured pockets around the existing bridge piers adorns part of one wall, and Cogan leaves and quickly comes back with the requisite glasses. I make a dumb joke about Disney World and we sit down for an hour-long discussion about the project.

And what a project it is. The 39-member task force, co-chaired by WSU-Vancouver Chancellor Hal Dengerink and Henry Hewitt, past chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, is composed of officials and citizens representing a wide range of interests and government entities, from local cities and counties to neighborhood, business and environmental groups. They meet once a month and are scheduled to vote on a staff recommendation on Feb. 27.

The staff recommendation (PDF file) on what proposal to move forward to a "draft environmental impact statement," or DEIS, is a key decision. Past that point it's fairly unlikely any major changes could be made.

While there is a federally required "no-build" option that is intended to be used as a baseline comparison when construction funding is sought, the two other options are basically one bridge option, the difference between the two being what kind of mass transit to use.

The two transit choices are light rail or what is called bus rapid transit.

In CRC parlance, the proposed structure is a new "mid-level span," indicative of how constraints imposed by river and air traffic will impact the design. A new bridge can't be too tall nor so short that a drawbridge would be required, as is the case with the existing spans.

The current bridge, which is actually two bridges, features one span built in 1917 and one built in 1958. A host of safety, congestion and seismic concerns are cited by CRC as justifications for building a modern replacement.

Acccording to Caine, the task force is advisory in nature. The two state transportation departments from Oregon and Washington are lead agencies. But other key players include the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Coast Guard and the cities of Portland and Vancouver.

Definitive answers on what a new bridge will look like, where it will go and how much it will cost are not yet available. But you can talk about it.

Where would it go?

In the conference room, we dive into a discussion of where a replacement bridge could be built. Strickler, a friendly and self-effacing engineer, walks us through some of the obvious challenges to the alignment of a new bridge (or bridges.)

One easy to understand example involves what would happen if a replacement was situated immediately upstream of the current spans. The greater height of a new bridge would present design challenges in creating a ramp to SR-14 eastbound.

The design would be constrained by a pedestrian bridge under which it must go. "We're already pushing the envelope" said Strickler, referring to how steep such a ramp would need to be on an "upstream" bridge.

Downstream a design would create impacts on downtown Vancouver and its efforts at redevelopment. Caine, the Friends of Clark County president, asked Strickler about the idea floated by Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard to "cap" part of I-5, which would allow the joining of downtown Vancouver to Officer's Row and environs. Again, elevation changes present design issues as the bridge lands on the north shore. According to Strickler, caps might be most feasible in the vicinity of Evergreeen Blvd., as opposed to further south.

What about an earthquake?

The discussion turned to concerns about what would happen to the existing spans in an earthquake. I brought up how the pilings on both the 1917 and 1958 structures are wooden, and Strickler took to the white board and explained that this was a form of soil stabilization.

What I took away was not so much that people should be alarmed that the pilings are made of wood, because according to Strickler wood doesn't rot very quickly at all if it stays submerged under water. More to the point, current pilings don't reach to bedrock. Strickler noted that the length of the pilings in 1917 was limited by "the length of a tree, or 40 to 80 feet." Modern pilings would reach anywhere from 80 feet to bedrock near the Washington shore to over 200 feet near the Oregon side.

Strickler explained about liquefaction, which many people are familiar with. In layman's terms, in an earthquake certain types of soil become less solid and behave more like a liquid, which can lead to side-to-side shaking that can destroy structures.

Strickler said the current truss bridges are very good at resisting top-down force, i.e. the weight of the structures, cars, roadway and everything else pushing straight down, but not so much at "side-loading."

Another factor with the existing Interstate Bridge is the counter-weights used for bridge lifts. In a strong earthquake, they could swing wildly and cause tremendous damage. According to Strickler, we just don't know what could happen to the existing bridge in a strong earthquake, but the damage could render it inoperable for long periods of time.

Stormwater

Currently, there is no treatment of stormwater on the I-5 bridge nor some of the nearby interchanges, according to Strickler.

A new facility would comply with modern environmental laws to catch and treat stormwater before it goes in the Columbia River.

Mass Transit

The staff recommendation offers either light rail (LRT) or bus rapid transit (BRT) as the two mass transit options.

As Strickler noted, the staff recommendation finds that running BRT all the way to downtown Portland would result in those vehicles facing significant congestion. So CRC staff is suggesting BRT would connect to the existing MAX yellow line at the Expo Center in north Portland.

Strickler says both BRT and LRT would be difficult to design. The CRC's position is that LRT has a lower operating cost but costs more to build.

Another consideration is how favorably federal officials would view LRT; if the Feds view LRT more favorably and can provide a greater share of dollars, that could influence the decision.

Cogan provided, at my request, a summary regarding predicted mass transit ridership from Portland to Clark County during the afternoon commute. It's a prediction of the "transit market" in the year 2020, and it shows that a fairly significant number of people could be riding mass transit from areas adjacent to I-5, about 25,000 rides in all.

Given that current vehicle trips across I-5 are in the 130,000 range, transit could provide some portion of capacity to the I-5 corridor. These numbers are not exactly huge, but nonetheless represent a small portion of commuters riding mass transit instead of driving. Whether these numbers can be improved is a question worth answering.

Tolls

One question on my list that we didn't get to because of time constraints involves tolls. But I think it's fair to quote what the staff recommendation says about them:
Early review of funding and financing options for this project suggest that tolling will be required to fund any new Columbia River Crossing. As such, additional work is needed to refine and test various tolling structures and assess how tolling influences at least the following three issues: 1. revenue generation 2. congestion management, and 3. facility design
So not only are tolls an option, they are fairly integral to the project, and Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard has said as much.

The Process

One thing that tends to frustrate some folks is that the CRC staff proposal seems like a fait accompli. And in some ways it is.

The "I-5 trade Partnership" study by Oregon and Washington developed a plan in 2001-2002 and dealt with a lot of the same questions being raised by the public and others during the current CRC process.

The recommendations on page 29 of the "Final Strategic Plan" from the trade partnership study are fairly similar, if not identical, to what CRC is proposing. That may be irksome, as the eyes of regular citizens probably glazed over pretty quickly at the mere mention of a "trade partnership," but it's worth recognizing that it was a key part of the bureaucratic planning process for the replacement of the I-5 bridge. To the planners, a lot of this has already been decided.

Caine suggests that the partnership study did not preclude the use of the existing bridges, an option pretty much not on the table with CRC.

In an email a few days later, Caine said, "That old study did not eliminate the option for using the old bridges but recommended modifications if the bridges were to be left intact. The task force, at that time, recommended basic project results and expected the details to be honed with further study. The new data has brought the staff to the point of recommending a replacement bridge." said Caine.

Summary

In trying to follow the CRC, we hope to generate interest and participation by citizens in Southwest Washington and in affected areas of Oregon, especially Portland. There exists a dedicated group of citizens who diligently follow these kinds of projects, and there are a wide range of views to be found. One example is from a panel discussion held earlier this month in Portland. You can find the audio file here.

This project is too important to our region to ignore. A decision that does not enjoy broad support on both sides of the river could very well lead to significant political ramifications, as elected officials are quite aware. That being said, honest people can debate their differences in an honest fashion.

It's easy to to accuse people of having bad motives. It's ironic that the people who tend to hurl such charges are usually the ones acting in bad faith.

Simplistic and unrealistic demands for a third highway corridor do nothing but cloud the issue and sow discord. This project is about the I-5 corridor, and we can't do anything until we get a handle on it. Criticism is expected and a Constitutional right, but cynical, hysterical criticism for partisan gain is not helpful.

That being said, the CRC is spending public money and the public deserves to know what they are doing on the third floor of that nice office building in downtown Vancouver. Future posts will examine some of the critiques being issued by those involved in the process.

While we tend to present a Washington state viewpoint on this blog, we're cognizant of the fact that there are legitimate concerns on the Oregon side about a new bridge bringing even more traffic into Portland, with all the consequences that could entail, and wish to be open to presenting those views.

It's a complex challenge, and the CRC staff has been most welcoming and willing to answer questions. Communication can be tough even with lots of good will; Cogan, the communications and outreach person for CRC, joked at one point about being charged with translating things "from Engineer to English."

A significant number of citizens can find the array of jargon and acronyms downright puzzling, so we urge the CRC to keep up its worthy efforts at community outreach and education throughout the process.

There are many sound engineering reasons, from what I can tell as a layman, for what CRC proposes. That being said, there is a political and community component that is an equal challenge, and we encourage all citizens to learn more at the CRC web site. While to those involved in both this process and the trade partnership it must seem that eons have gone by, the larger public is still learning about the CRC and what form a new bridge could take. We applaud the patience and diligence of both CRC staff and task force members, and thank them for their work.

The CRC gladly accept comments and questions via email, so the effort required to get involved is fairly modest. We encourage you, our readers, to get involved.

UPDATE: There are two CRC open houses left. One of them is this evening in Portland, and the other is Feb. 5 in Vancouver. Details can be found here.

UPDATE TWO: Chris Smith of Portland Transport co-wrote a guest editorial for today's The Oregonian with economist Joe Cortright of Impresa Consulting which you can now read here.

The Columbian editorializes in favor of a "cap" on I-5, as suggested by Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard.

A semblance of a figment

I knew it! We're not real.
Here's an interesting tidbit. The Sacramento Bee reports that, according to MRI Research and CBS chief research officer David Poltrack, only 8 percent of Americans read blogs.

---snip---

"That does not leave a whole lot of real people who spend their time with blogs," he said.
Let's see: 8 percent of 300 million (carry the decimal, hmmmmm....um...ok, that works out to at least three dozen people.)

It's funny how certain people try to re-assure themselves that the media world they know will go on forever and ever.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The party's on - Vista is here

Windows Vista is officially being released tomorrow morning:
Microsoft Corp. released the new version of Windows to consumers this morning, ending one of the most challenging periods in its corporate history and trying to get the world's computer users to take notice.

In New York on Monday, acrobats hung from the side of a building to form the Windows Vista logo, and Microsoft billboards illuminated Times Square. In Paris, the Champs-Élysées was lit up in Windows colors. In India, dancers performed around the Taj Mahal. In Australia, Microsoft used skywriting to garner attention.

And in Redmond, employees held a massive party at the company's headquarters.
Congratulations to the team at Microsoft on this achievement. Windows Vista looks to be a very promising improvement on Windows XP. While there isn't likely to be an upgrade stampede, before long Vista will undoubtedly dominate the market as the operating system of choice.

This Wikipedia article has some good screenshots and an in-depth overview of what has changed with the latest version of Windows. Microsoft also has an official page for Windows Vista that's worth checking out.

Accessing the archives

Most of the maintenance is now complete. We didn't disturb 99% of the archives during our site construction work, so permalinks should continue to resolve without a problem. We've basically "reset" the index page of the blog, so you won't be able to see posts previously published before today on this page.

The monthly archives on this page have consequently been reset as well, so only January 2007 currently shows up on the sidebar. However, as mentioned previously, none of the archives have been deleted.

Old links from other sites and domains will continue to work, and you can access everything published up till today on the new permanent archive page. (We'll be adding a link to this page to our sidebar shortly). All preexisting pages retain the old archive structure and have not been reset.

This "reset", which is the best word I can think of to describe what we're doing - because the result is a new main page and a split in the archives - is for a temporary period of time only, while we work on stability issues.

Maintenance - Please Bear With Us

We've been working on the blog template and configuring new server settings for the Official Blog, and this has resulted in some odd changes to the blog - including the disappearance of recent posts from the main page (this is semi permanent) and some unavailability of the archives (temporary).

We should be done with the tinkering tonight.