Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Freedom of Speech

With the impending inauguration of a new President, one that appears to be cut from a different cloth than our current one, maybe a different cloth than any in the last couple decades, it appears that more than just myself are reflecting on Freedom, and the ongoing fight to maintain or regain it right here in the good old USA. Neil Gaiman put down his credo a few weeks back; I could only fail to try to agree more. It's here; and well worth the time.

I often quote from the Alan Shepard speech in the movie "The American President" written by Aaron Sorkin (the full speech is here) when trying to express my own thoughts on our freedom:

America isn't easy. America, is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center-stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest." Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.

I also hear Al Franken, reading from one his books today, talking about the home of the brave, and how it is a mature love that liberals have for our country, to want it to be better and to own up to its mistakes. It takes a brave people to do that -- and that'd be us.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Straight Talk from Al Franken

As the recount in Minnesota continues, I just started listening to Al Franken's audio book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (from 2003). Now I wish I had more directly supported Franken's Democratic Senatorial bid, we could use the plain talk and fact checking. Man, he rips Ann Coulter up, down, and sideways. I don't know anything about her, but now I know too much (not that I've checked Al Franken's facts, and I really should, but he cites enough examples and sources to be pretty credible). I'll give a rating and brief review whenever I get through the whole thing, if I ever do (I think it's 10 hours of audio tape. As Dave Winer would say, "Oy."

Over Hill, Over Lily Dale: Spiritualist Town Book Reviewed

It was some tough wading, but worth it to me since I once visited and like to see people think outside the main current. My review includes ... one keen observation by a handy man, "I'm sixty-one years old now, and the only thing I know is that ...."
Read the rest here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama's Initial "To Do" List

This piece was recently in The New York Times:
"(Obama) has begun an effort to tamp down what his aides fear are unusually high expectations among his supporters, and will remind Americans regularly throughout the transition that the nation’s challenges are substantial and will take time to address."

Sorry Mr. President-Elect, that boat has sailed. We expect miracles, or at least heroic efforts on the substantive and addressable problems that you are about to inherit. Not on the economy -- the economy is a long term issue and very difficult to control -- and it is likely to self correct, don't let it be an albatross around your neck -- get something else done.

Here's a nice place to start, a mini-rant by a well-informed friend of mine. Go ahead, pick any 3 to get done in your first 100 days; that'll be a good year's accomplishments and you'll have 265 days to work on less solvable issues, like the doling out $700 Billion dollars to someone that might do some good with it:

“…the Bush administration destroyed so much of what works in government that the Democrats should have a relatively easy time making corrections, like giving Bankruptcy judges the power to revise mortgages, giving Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices with the big drug companies, closing Guantanamo, not torturing captured terror suspects, not illegally spying on Americans, no (or less) snowmobiles in Yellowstone, no roads in roadless federal areas, not butchering the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act, ending don’t ask don’t tell in the military, not letting the navy torment whales, not giving health care providers a conscience opt out on abortion and other female health issues, not appointing right-wing Federalist Society judges, not wasting money on abstinence education, getting out of Iraq, capturing Bin Laden …”

While your advisors are busy lowering expectations, could they also discourage, just a little, the focus on your being the first African-American elected to the Presidency of the United States. I really don't care -- I mean it's great indication that maybe our nation is maturing, but I didn't vote for you because you are African-American or to prove that such a person can be elected. I voted for you, and I think so did a lot of others, because you are eloquent and visionary and persuasive and strong and you seem to be honest and moral and "in touch" and forthright but still clever; and those are the qualities we need in a leader right now, no matter what color his (or her) skin is.

Please find the issues that we can make quick progress on and make it. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Go Parker Griffith!

It's tough enough to be an informed voter without having candidates with similar names running for the same position. In this case its Parker Griffith(D) vs. Wayne Parker(R) in Alabama's 5th Congressional district. To compound the confusion the Democrat is using red signs and the Republican is using blue signs. Come on, guys, help us out a little here! We want to vote for the right guy -- the one who has the strong family values and the fiscal restraint and looks like he can keep the good jobs coming into the Tennessee Valley just like our retiring Congressman, Bud Cramer (D) did for years. We want Parker Griffith. He's a medical doctor, an M.D., so he's clearly smart enough for the job. He's got experience in elected office as a state Senator and he has the endorsement of our Blue Dog Conservative, Representative Bud Cramer. Maybe a little mnemonic device would help: "Go with Griffith"? "Griffith is Great"? "Gee, wouldn't going with Griffith be great, y'know, the one with the 'G' in his name"?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Harmon House Painted on Its Own Slate

There's a house I like to stay at, up the Hudson from New York, more for the denizens than the architecture, but both are grand and storied. I was pleased this week to deliver the fruit of last summer's (2007) family trip to there and other haunts in the vicinity of "The Big Apple" (I wrote about the trip here).

On that trip I collected a few slate tiles that had come off the roof as the result of a violent thunder storm a couple weeks earlier. I also collected a few photos. I gave these to my mother, who can paint, and asked if she could render a view of the house onto one of the slates. She did so and I've now gifted the results to the current owners of the Harmon House as a thank you for their hospitality. They've posted a terrific video of the painting on youtube; you can also see a scan of the painting here; and a corresponding photo here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Paul Newman Passing

I always liked Paul Newman films. We got to watch "Cool Hand Luke" in school in seventh grade after reading it as a play. He was indeed cool. Back in the seventies as a kid I rarely went to first run films, but we saw "The Sting" in the theatre. I didn't know what "running a con" meant and with the goofy clothes I thought I was in for some kind of mean Mary Poppins film. It was great.

I've seen "The Color of Money" recently and even though Tom Cruise grates on me, Newman is outstanding. I need to go back and re-watch "The Hustler". He aged well and was superb in "Nobody's Fool". If you see it again pay attention to when the snow blower is, and isn't, in the back of his pickup. I enjoy that continuity issue because I spotted it before being told about it. (I guess you can't do that now; sorry.)

I've also found buying his "Newman's Own" products satisfying; they're generally good quality and good tasting and you're doing good. But I also have felt a special connection to Paul Newman since the mid 80's because I had the chance to hang out with his daughter Melissa a couple of times. A friend met her when she was taking an art class, painting, at Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York one summer. I met her briefly then, but later in New York City she went out with us one evening when I was visiting that friend. He lived on Columbus Avenue, above 106th street in Spanish Harlem, in a 5th floor walk up apartment. That place was a tiny 3 bedroom for $1600 a month twenty some years ago. I guess if you wanted to be in Manhattan it was swell, with the 24 hour crap game on the curb next to a steel post with a few almost bald car tires and a sign that simply read "Flats Fixed". We walked a block and half to a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant and had a great evening hanging and chatting, basking in our youth. I'm sure Melissa Newman remembers me less than I remember her. She had long wavy hair and was friendly and unpretentious. And now I'm sorry for her loss; but still grateful for the connection.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bailout Bill Bunk

Why should we support the $700 Billion bailout of Wall Street? While I understand that their failures can impact the economy as a whole so it is a bit of a scorched earth strategy to let them go down. They did their jobs poorly; they ran their businesses badly and the result of that is that they failed. And the people who caused the failures should not be rewarded and they should have a lot of trouble finding another job in that field. I’m reminded of President Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers – they paid for it with their jobs, and we all suffered a bit. How is this so different? Wall Street screwed up. Throw them out and bring in fresh financiers.

I don’t pretend to understand all the vehicles of high finance. But I shouldn’t need to. I’ve earned two graduate degrees, in Mathematics and in Management; if I can’t make some sense out of this in short order then it is intrinsically too complex. I haven’t heard anyone say that it is not too complex. That brings me to a second point: Why do we think that the bailout will either, a) be enough; or b) really be needed in the long run, i.e. we may either need to pour in more money to actually prop these institutions up; or there may be flat failures of some institutions but won’t others just become stronger – we’ve still got the same world, with the same natural and human resources. The financing is just an organizational framework imposed on those resources – a system of catalysts and rewards. Other institutions will fill those voids; people will work, technology will evolve – with or without a bailout.

So there’s one more point to make: we need to consider the source of the panic. This is coming from an administration that has lied to us, deceived us and denied us access to information on a consistent basis over the past eight years. They’ve used the excuse of “security” to pretty much do as they saw fit, from hiding their dealings with big oil companies to lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to not disclosing discussions in the White House of torture as an option. Now it’s "financial security" and it firstly effects their ex-colleagues in the financial world and they want to hand them a lot of money and see if it helps. I’m sorry; they’ve cried wolf too many times. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Not this time, not now.

My own Congressman Bud Cramer makes a compassionate argument in his September 29 letter: "Without action, the store owner, the farmer, the homeowner and the senior have their hands tied and could lose their store, farm, home or pension." I haven't found the perfect analogy, let's try this one: paying "protection money" to a gang of thugs so that a store can stay open in a tough neighborhood and serve the locals isn't a proper solution -- clean out the thugs first and reestablish the store when you can.

David Corn posted the memo from Congressman Brad Sherman in his blog. Sherman is squarely against imposing this burden on the taxpayers: "...the Bailout Bill allows million-dollar-a-month salaries to executives of bailed-out firms, and it allows hundreds of billions to be used to buy toxic assets currently held by foreign investors."

That was a couple days ago. Now the Senate has loaded up the bailout with candy for everybody. If there was one good thing about the Paulson proposal it was that it was clean. Now we've got tax breaks and disaster relief melded into a banking bailout bill. No wonder we don't understand why things break. We let this crisis ferment for years and now we shouldn't panic to fix it with a barage of money and perks in just two weeks. No big bail out, just the FDIC insurance that was already in place -- oh, and let's make everybody play by the rules in the stock market, no naked short selling, for one; there's already a rule against that, the SEC just doesn't enforce it.

But no bailout, it's bunk.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Senator Shelby Says Paulson has been Staggering

I was heartened to hear my Senator, Richard Shelby (R - AL) this morning on National Public Radio urging caution on the financial bailout as proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. I appreciate Mr. Shelby saying: "We don't know the endgame in this, and I'll tell you, what bothers me about this is that I believe that the chairman of the Fed and the Treasury secretary, Paulson, with all due respect to them, they've been staggering from crisis to crisis, and they haven't even said today that this will end the crisis."

I hope he continues to work with Senator Chris Dodd (D- CT) to ensure:
1) Accountability and transparency through oversight provisions
2) That taxpayers are first in line for any monies recovered (including prevention of any large payouts to senior executives at the impacted financial institutions)
3) That the mortgage crisis itself is addressed, i.e. that homeowners and lenders submit to a judge and get a restructuring of terms rather than all the failures.

(Dodd was interviewed on NPR this morning.)

By the way, it was nice to hear Alabama on the national news in a positive light, rather than about the Don Siegelman/Richard Scrushy mess or a judge that won't keep church and government separate.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Best Songs and EPs per David Rawson, Vintage 1995

Two half dozens and one year ago, my friend, in an effort to improve my musical taste, mailed to me, a list containing 40 of the best albums, 100 of the best songs, and 5 of the best EPs, from nineteen-hundred-and-ninety-five. Years ago I posted the list of albums, today I finally finished scanning, OCR'ing and posting the songs and EPs, here, on my website.

Go on, get yourself some culture.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Troopergate Lives

Another Sarah Palin flip flop: NPR aired a story this morning noting that Todd Palin is refusing to testify in the “Troopergate” investigation in Alaska , despite a legal subpoena to do so. Governor Sarah Palin has already instructed her aides to disobey their subpoenas. This is not the transparency in government that she pledged in her campaign for Governor and that she has been speaking strongly about in her VP appearances (from her speech on Sept. 11): “the ethical standards that had led to closed doors and closed door dealings and self-interest: it's gone." I guess not.

NPR also kept attributing the “McCain Campaign” as saying that the investigation has now become political and that it is no longer legitimate. Firstly, I’m not sure why the McCain campaign has any standing to participate – this is a state matter that pre-dates Palin’s involvement with the Presidential campaign. She should deal with it as Governor of Alaska, just like ex-Governor Don Siegelman has had to deal with apparently politically motivated accusations here in Alabama .

But if this is the measure of how long Sarah Palin and the McCain Campaign will stick to their pledge of transparency and cooperation in government, that is, only until it inconveniences themselves, then we don’t need them. We don’t need eight more years of disobeyed subpoenas and constitutional overstepping.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reviews Catch-Up

I caught up, somewhat hastily, with some languishing reviews of audio books that I heard over the summer:

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring **** Richard Preston

A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures *** Ben Bradlee

How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions-and You Can Too ** Annie Duke

Upgraded My Memory

Well, the memory in my computers, anyway. I noticed my newer deskside computer seemed a bit sluggish running big progams like Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 under Windows XP Pro when I thought to check on how much RAM it had. When my son and I built it in 2002 we installed one stick of 512 MB DDR (PC2100). That just wasn't enough for the load I was putting on it, Task Manager showed I was trying to use about 600 MB. Oops, the OS was having to swap memory in and out.

So I checked the specs on my Giga-Byte GA-7VRXP motherboard and ordered two Kingston KVR333 (PC2700) 512 MB DDR DIMMs from newegg.com. Slightly faster memory and twice as much of it, whoo-hoo! Also kudos to Giga-Byte's support website: when the motherboard didn't recognize half the memory on the first try, they answered my e-mail question within a couple hours, providing some helpful hints -- turned out I just hadn't fully seated one of the DIMMs).

But that's not all; I took the 512 MB PC2100 DIMM that came out of the home built machine and put it into my slightly older Micron computer (it also has a Giga-Byte motherboard, a GA-7DX Rev 2.2). It previously had 384 MB and also runs XP Pro, so it could sure use a boost. It only has two memory slots, previously a 256 MB PC1600 and a 128 MB 200MHz PC1600. So I moved the 256 over and put in the 512 and voila, 768 MB -- I assume this all ends up running at the PC1600 speed, but still, I doubled the amount of memory in both my home computers, and the memory speed in one of them, for about $46, including shipping. (The home built machine still has an empty memory slot, I probably should have gotten another 512 MB stick. Hmmm. Also, if somebody needs that 128 MB DIMM, I'd part with it for a couple dollars, plus shipping) Now if I can resurrect the screen on the HP laptop that my son just handed down to me, we'll really be in business!

Much Better than Postal Chess

Way back in middle school, I once tried to play a game of chess with one of my mom’s students. She taught at a different school and provided extra help to kids that were struggling with one subject. This kid, whose name I’ve long since forgotten and it isn’t germane in any case, not that this whole story isn’t just one long sidebar – but I really digress, so: my mother began carrying moves back and forth to this unevenly smart boy, y’know, King’s Knight to Rook 3 and such (I never learned the proper notation). We drew the board, too, for clarity. It was agonizingly slow and petered out after maybe a dozen moves. Maybe it helped my mom establish a rapport with the boy, I don’t know, but it soured me on using couriers for activities that more typically garnered instant gratification. Flash forward thirty years and I was still hesitating to try DVD rental by mail. My local shop had great hours and a decent selection and a subscription service where I could rent as often as I wanted as long as I didn’t rent the newest releases (had to wait for them to “go on 'blue'” -- movies were retagged 3-6 months after their DVD release. But as my appetite for more esoteric films increased and the clerks’ ability to alphabetize older releases seemed to diminish, I became less satisfied and the ubiquity of the Blockbuster and Netflix ads caught up with me.

Blockbuster’s combination of a nearby store coupled with the vast selection available by mail made a compelling argument, but in the end the cheaper price, presumed better efficiency from a category leader and a UPromise rebate tipped the scale: I signed up for two-at-a-time Netflix and have been quite pleased. Turn-around time is about 3 days: I drop a disk in the drive-by mailbox at the post office on my way to work on Monday and have a fresh one waiting in my mailbox at home on Wednesday. And the variety is great. My daughter and I watched “La Belle et la Bete” from 1946 (Beauty and the Beast) – definitely not Walt Disney, and yet a lot of that fantasy magic and some great special effects, like live arm candle wall sconces. I’m also going through the “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” TV series – it wasn’t quite good enough not to miss it on regular TV, but with the convenience of 4 episodes on a disk, watched on my schedule, it’s pretty high quality television – it has the appropriate political views for a show set in Los Angeles and full of youthful entertainment types.

I’ve also discovered watching with the English (hearing impaired) subtitles turned on. Not only does it help my now-less-than-perfect hearing to catch the dialog, especially when there isn’t perfectly calm ambience in my viewing area, but they sometimes add interesting non-spoken bits, like I just re-viewed “August Rush” and whenever a song is being played the subtitles give you the title and author, in case you can’t quite finger which Mozart piece is lighting up your ears. It’s a lift.

I’ve only cycled through about a dozen DVD’s via the mail, but it’s also only been about 6 weeks. I haven’t seen too much else out of the main stream, although I did just ship off “A Scanner Darkly”, a rather bizarre and imperfectly updated adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel. It was a trip. I plan to have quite a few more before I get bored with postal films.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A President Who Can Think on his Feet

In a speech that reminded me of some of the strongest moments from the film The American President (full script here, I’ll add a sample below), Barack Obama demonstrated that he can inspire, that he can be tough, that he has an open mind, that he values fairness and American values in all their diversity and, most encouragingly, that he can articulate these points without fumbling; that he can give a 45 minute speech without veering off into incoherent sentence structures and without inadvertently flipping what he means to say into its own opposite. George W. Bush can’t do it and I have yet to see John McCain get passionate and stay coherent on any topic.

Some quick quotes (full speech text is online here too):

“This, too, is part of America 's promise -- the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.”

"That's why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women - students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors - found the courage to keep it alive."

“You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq .”

"I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it."

“ -- that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington . Change comes to Washington ”

Sure, the speech was pre-written and well-rehearsed and not so different from the one I saw months ago in Birmingham (Alabama), but he delivered it with interest, on tempo, with vitality and with sincerity. A President we can believe in.

Here’s a bit of Michael Douglas as Alan Shepherd in The American President:

“Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it. Nobody has ever won an election by talking about what I was just talking about. This is a country made up of people with hard jobs that they're terrified of losing. The roots of freedom are of little or no interest to them at the moment. We are a nation afraid to go out at night. We're a society that has assigned low priority to education and has looked the other way while our public schools have been decimated. We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious men to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, friend, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: Making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”

I hope we all stay in touch with this inspirational vision and that we elect Obama and reject the continuity offered by John McCain as he has moved closer to George W’s policies of war for oil’s sake and gotten tighter with the closed minds of ultra-conservative religious minorities.

Let’s bring a fresh quick mind with a powerful vision to the Presidency – we should never settle for anything less.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain’s Desperate Gambit

Sarah who? Governor of which state? For how long? John McCain’s running mate is in her second year as Governor of one of the least populous states in the country, Alaska . It’s not lost on me that Alaska is an oil state, too; although apparently she’s been a critic of big oil to some extent, still her state receives a big pile of oil money every year. So McCain wanted a woman, one with “maverick credentials”, to me that’s because he’s lost his own set. He began losing his independent voice sometime before 2006 when he visited Alabama and cozied up to some very right-wing religious groups, some with ties to white-supremacy and other hate groups; and shredded the rest as he has backed George W. Bush’s plays in Iraq and the former Soviet Union. But I can see why he picked a woman, and why he didn’t want her name out in the media on his short list. He wanted to let Obama pick a non-woman, i.e. someone other than Hillary Clinton, and then he’s hoping to swoop in and pick up the disenfranchised Hillary supporters, particularly in the large swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania , where Hillary did better than Obama. I’m sure most of the Clinton-ites will see right through this. Sarah Palin is not Hillary Clinton. She is not a statesman the way Hillary grew to be as First Lady and has carried on now as a 10 year veteran of the U.S. Senate. We know Hillary’s passions and foibles. Sarah Palin is an unknown and there is not enough time now for the American public to ensure that she is qualified to be one heart beat away from the Presidency. She is younger than Obama, but we know that he can handle pressure, we’ve seen him on the campaign trail for 18 months; we saw him at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. What was Sarah Palin doing in 2004? Can she stand up to the pressure of the office that she now seeks, or the one that might be bequeathed to her suddenly? We can’t find out in the next 68 days, but we would need to in order to be swayed to their ticket. It’s a desperate gambit by a man seeking an office where desperate gambits can put us all in harm’s way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Preamble Rambling

My daughter just started seventh grade. They’re studying US history, presently The U.S. Constitution. It’s heady stuff. She’s had to memorize the Preamble, and while there is some uncommon language it’s all pretty straight-forward – and powerful. I was going to just point to a copy on the web at, say, http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html, but it’s worth duplicating it here (and copyright should not be an issue, :-) ):

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

That’s about as strong an opening on as serious of a topic as there is in our civil life, yet our general citizenry in this day and age only really pays attention to it when they’re in secondary school. “… secure the Blessings of Liberty”, not just for the framers (who were largely regular citizens) and their contemporaries, but for their posterity (that’d be us, now). And they were sure to include tantamount precepts like separation and balance of powers and the Bill of Rights for individuals.

Just to take one example from that Bill, the first amendment, again is strong stuff:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In the face of that founding right, how do we have stories like the one coming out of Minneapolis today where 3 videographers had their cameras, equipment and notes confiscated by police (Minneapolis cops confiscate cameras)? Prima facie it flies against the most basic tenets of our government and I don’t understand why it’s not the top news story of the day. Maybe someday my daughter will explain it to me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An honor to know the Honorable…

I’ve gotten more familiar with our hometown mayor, Sandy Kirkendall, over the past four years – he’s up for re-election today. I voted for him, and I’ve had his sign in my yard and his magnet on my car for a couple months now as his campaign heated up. We’re invited to his victory party this evening, although I don’t think his victory is assured. As near as I can tell he’s a fine small-and-growing town mayor – we’ve certainly had worse in the past 15 years. He’s down-to-earth yet very sharp and not a hint of impropriety in his administration; he’s a frequent customer at Bruegger’s Bagels where my wife works and he awarded my son the Madison Mayor’s Scholarship a couple years ago. My daughter recently doodled his campaign logo . He stopped by our house during his canvassing and he planted our yard sign himself. This morning he was out in front of city hall, in the drizzling rain, greeting all who came to vote, for him or not. He’s a model politician – if only his style would catch on for higher office holders.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

We Can Solve It and Warm as the New Status Quo

I haven't checked out either what T. Boone Pickens is proposing on energy (I've just seen his TV commercial suggesting we can do a lot with renewables like wind power) nor have I checked out WeCanSolveIt.org, the new effort from Al Gore (but I caught part of his speech to the NetRoots Nation conference on CSPAN), but I like that these things are popping up and gaining some traction. Would it be catastrophic if half of Florida ended up slowly submerging under water, or if upstate New York had milder winters? Probably not, the Earth has changed climates and surface area over the millenia a bunch of times, and we'll adapt. But we risk a collapse of our society and a slip into pestilence and feudalism; into disease and subsistence living rather than the society of opportunity that we have now, where many people can live long, safe, healthy lives in the pursuit of their own fulfillment, if we don't handle the energy situation and its fallout into food production and climate change.

I saw this article on the tenuousness of ice at the north pole. I already know that my children are growing up when there was always an Internet, when everyone has a phone, and most people have one on their belt or in their purse; when there is air-conditioning if it's hot out and heat if it's cold and cars and planes take us everywhere. I knew that technology was ubiquitous. But I also thought that they would grow up with basically the same planet as I did. But it seems that now it may be the easiest way for my kids to get to the North Pole is to just take a boat -- no dog sleds or snowmobiles needed, just sail up there and watch the sun circle around you. And that there will be no snow in Africa, not even on Kilimanjaro. I've lived half as long at this point as my maternal grandmother lived, and she saw the growth of the automobile and the birth of the airplane and television and, toward the end, the Internet. I didn't think I would be, but I may be in for a span just as wide.

Avoiding Lloyd Bentsen's quote.

I understand the pressure on Obama to move to the center during the general election cycle and I'm sure his advisors are telling him to appear strong on foreign affairs and terrorism, but Hillary Clinton managed to vote against the new FISA and it's retroactive-and-prima-facie-unconstitutional retroactive telecom companies immunity. But that's not the leader that had me excited about public service in America again. That's not the leader that voted against the Iraq war (Hillary Clinton didn't manage to vote against that, when Barack Obama did.)

It's a disappointment when I find that an inspiring leader is on the opposite side of an issue from the ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against this new FISA; from their complaint: "...supplies none of the safeguards that the Constitution demands. It permits the government to monitor the communications of U.S. Citizens and residents without identifying the people to be surveilled; without specifying the facilities, places, premises, or property to be monitored; ...; without obtaining individualized warrants based on ... probable cause".

I find myself largely agreeing again with Dave Winer here and here and I will similarly be redirecting my donations henceforth (but not my vote). I'm also disappointed in Obama's non-acceptance of public campaign funds and a couple other reversals; I think the other party can make more hay out of his flip-flops than his progressive positions; "Change You Can Believe In" -- do You believe in it, Mr. Obama? I would hate to think that we could apply Llyod Bentsen's most famous quote. I hope Obama gets back on point, and stays there.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Marigolds and I do, too

"...the 'p' stands for 'pigeon'...." I've posted my brief review of the book, Once Upon a Marigold.

Rawson Reviews Music for 2007

As in recent years, I recognize some of the artists but not many of the songs or albums, but my friend David performs a painstaking process to distill down the 40 best albums and 100 most worthy songs for 2007. See his fresh lists here.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Just because you have the right...

Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito. It's a pretty odd day when I find myself in agreement with this crowd of U.S. Supreme Court Justices and disaligned, at least in underlying principle, with this list: Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens and Breyer. I had briefly thought to say "I applaud the Court's recent Second Amendment ruling" but I quickly thought better of it; it's not something to cheer about the way the NRA is cheering. I do think it is correct; I think free adults should have the right to own weapons.

It's a right that carries an awesome responsibility that many people just can't live up to, and that creates real problems and real tragedies. Guns (and other weapons) are meant for situations where justice, law and order have broken down or are unavailable at that moment. They can really level a playing field when a couple of thugs invade a home.

I wish we didn't live in a society where that, and other more insideous threats, still exist, but we do, and now our right to arm ourselves, should we feel the need, is more clear. To be sure it's not crystal clear; the Second Amendment is probably the most obtusely worded of any of them. It's worth looking at some of the contemporaneous provisions from the English Bill of Rights and from some of the early states -- there are more radical notions there, like the fact that standing armies are dangerous to Liberty in times of peace and that it is up to "the people" to provide for the common defense. And it is up to the people to exercise their rights responsibly -- or not to: you also have the right to not own a hand gun, and to push for a society where others don't feel a need to own one either. That's the homeland I want to protect.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bunko Part Deux

I've resurrected my iPod after it languished for several months in my top bureau drawer. It's because the iTunes podcast interface is finally usable; that, and the "digital rights media" calamity seems to be abating somewhat, i.e. you can download and play mp3's from disparate sources like Amazon and Apple and use the same player.

Anyway, I had the good fortune to catch a Dan Pink / Cory Doctorow conversation coming off BookExpoCast wherein Dan plugs his new book "The Adventures of Johnny Bunko (the last career guide you'll ever need)". It's a good talk where Dan describes the difference between making career decisions for "instrumental" reasons versus "fundamental" ones. Instrumental reasons are practical reasons, fundamental reasons are more what you just want to do and then try to make it work out. I've never thought it responsible enough for me to just let go and follow some whim into the weeds. I've tried to strike something of a balance -- I enjoy computers and programming so I make my career with them -- I'm not that crazy about corporate America, but that's where the steady work is, benefits, etc.

Dan "I'm not self-actualizing fast enough so I'm quitting my job" Pink is working on convincing me otherwise (maybe by the time I'm 65; LOL). He says to look at anyone who is making a difference, doing something that matters, and ask them how they got to doing what they are doing. The answer is invariably, "Well, it's a long story." He says instrumental reasons don't work. Life and careers are too complex these days. I don't not believe him.

I still haven't read "Bunko", but the talk was fun enough to inspire me to buy my second copy, this one also sent directly to one of my nephews in another state. Maybe someday I'll get to read a copy.

Monday, June 02, 2008

New Coke with a Bizarre Bit

We visited the new "World of Coca-Cola" in Atlanta this weekend. It's now next to Centenial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium (which we also visited). We'd been to the old Coke World a few times since it opened and it was getting a bit dated, with the history only coming up into the 1990's. The exhibits have been updated but it's pretty similar and the free tasting is always a treat -- there's great international and cross-cultural comaraderie in trying 60+ flavors of soft drink. More fun than any wine tasting I've ever attended.

There is a new video that they show before you enter the exhibits and I found it more than a little bit bizarre. It's called "The Happiness Factory", and it's happy in some kind of a zen serial killer kind of way. It's animated with upbeat music but there are some disturbing images. For example: a number of animated snowmen are pushed into a meat grinder; a cheerleader with long eyelashes but no eyes sits down in a chair to be interviewed and then in a scene reminiscent of Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct", low camera angle and such, she crosses and uncrosses her legs; also interviewed, but while hovering, is a chubby tandem rotor helicopter that looks a bit piggish with what are ostensibly six sling load tie points on its belly but that appear more like teats with nipple rings. Those are just a few that I remembered -- it's a montage of fringe characters and odd behaviors, all to produce a joyously frigid bottle of coke.

Okay, Montana, You're Up.

You know I'm talking to you there with the cowboy spirit, big open sky over yer head, and to the few open-minded folks from the right coast that have been imported . Let's get 'er done and let Hillary get some rest....

You, too, South Dakota, with your monuments to great presidents past. I know Obama said his ears are too big to be carved in big stone but I still think he can fit the qualifications: "...that certain Presidents transcend partisanship into monumental granite... Father of our country. Author of our Constitution. Creator of our National Park System. (Leader through) our Civil War."

Let's see if we can put this long march into the win column and get Barack Obama home to the nomination.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Unwelcome Candidate

For the past couple of months I've been writing to the Hillary Clinton Campaign for President (via their Contact Us page) about once a week to suggest that it is time for her to give up the fight. I have no illusion that she will listen to my plebian voice, nor even that she will personally ever read my messages. Nonetheless, I endeavor to present compelling and concise arguments detailing why she should cease and desist from her crusade. I do hope, however, that whatever zealous staffer reads my missives is, at least a little bit, demoralized by it -- by hearing from those of us with kindred values that we decry her distracting efforts. It's time, Ms. Clinton, to let the spotlight illuminate your distinguished colleague from Illinois.

I have given time, my voice and cash money to the Barack Obama campaign and I regret it not, but in recent days I've also begun to wonder if there might be a more efficient use of that cash portion of my support, paltry as it is. My meager funds are a mere tumbler-full in the tide and, particularly at this ebb in the process, that is, between locking up the nomination and beginning his deconstruction of the candidate from the other major party, I am inclined to think that small donations might make more difference to a fledgling campaign. The newly announced national candidate of whom I'm thinking, is likely, in my estimation, to take votes away from the Republican candidate, particularly in the South. While votes that swing from Republican to Libertarian are only half as good as those that swing from there to Democratic in this year, they may be considerably more than twice as easy to move. I'm referring to Bob Barr, former U.S. Congressman from Georgia and freshly minted nominee from the Libertarian Party. Give it some thought, won't you?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Of Radishes and Presidents

Our row of radishes grew from dirt to food, from seed to leafy leftovers, and still Barack and Hillary raced on. Three weeks from first watering to first nibbling, a double row about 5 feet long flourished while there wasn't so much as a primary, until Pennsylvania broke the drought. They were the usual mixed success (the radishes, not the candidates, I find Obama unusual, in a good way), about half went to all green with barely a bulge below ground, most of the others were small, from dime sized to about quarter sized, with only a couple growing any bigger and not much even then. But I ate any that rounded, 3 or more dozens. My family cares for them not. In any case they are gone now, and the peas are starting. Not enough for a pot, or even soup, but enough to crack a pod or two and share the sweet contents with the kids. By the time the first tomato turns red our candidate from Illinois will be ripened on to his own competition with the Republican presumptive nominee. I'm looking forward to both.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sweet Home Scotland

Tonight I saw a new movie in a rather sparsely attended theater. The film is a Patrick Dempsey vehicle, a bit of a chick flick, Made of Honor. He gets to be the MOH, i.e. the Maid of Honor, to his (so far) platonic girl friend. The gender reversal unexpectedly provides some decent laughs. And some of the Scottish scenery is gorgeous, I'm thinking it might be worth a visit. But what I kept thinking through the film is that this storyline isn't really closest to My Best Friend's Wedding, the Julia Roberts romp where she tries to spoil her long time friend's wedding, but more like another Dempsey film, Sweet Home Alabama, but in that one he's the hapless newcomer in a long term boy-girl friendship with Reese Witherspoon as the leading lady. Pleasant enough if you have someone to share it with, as I did. (BTW, beware of Kevin Sussman in MOH, he steals at least a corner of the show as "Tiny Shorts Guy".)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Best Ex-VP and Obama for your Stocks

I've said that Jimmy Carter is the best ex-President of my lifetime, now I'm thinking that Al Gore is our best ex-Vice President. Not that he has a whole heckuvalot of competition.

I was never a big Al Gore fan while Bill Clinton was in office, nor while he was running for President, but I finally watched his movie this weekend, An Inconvenient Truth. I tend to steer away from this type of films, like I haven't seen any of Michael Moore's films since Roger and Me. (I know someone with an editting credit on that one, though he doesn't show up on IMDB.) They tend to make my blood boil or make me feel like I'm wasting my career, or both. But I watched and it was compelling, and somniferous at the same time. Al Gore himself is the dull part, although there are spotty bits of true humor. His presentation though is strong. Like comparing the current denials and "balanced reporting" on global warming to the counter-propaganda of 40 years ago from the cigarette companies. He debunks the "balance" with facts like that in a survey of 968 peer reviewed scientific papers on global warming, exactly zero of them found that humans were not a cause. That, yes, there have been historic "warm" periods as recently as the middle ages, but there has never been carbon dioxide at its current level in the atmosphere, never above 300 parts per million, it's currently above 370 ppm. Ouch. And he squeezes the current administration on twisting the arms of scientists and editting their reports. That's something I hope the next White House reverses.

Which leads me to point at an interesting editorial from Ken Fisher, a self made billionaire and fiscal conservative who sees an Obama Presidency as not necessarily bad for Wall Street in his latest article (since these tend to disappear after a few weeks, here's the salient quote: "First, years in which Democrats capture the White House are usually bullish years for the stock market. Second, inaugural years following a Democratic win in November are better than Republican inaugural years.")

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

To Kill a Butterfly

The other day, mid-morning, I was walking between buildings on the campus where I work and I chanced to observe a mockingbird in very erratic flight. It caught my eye and I stopped walking to watch. It was chasing a smallish yellow butterfly, trying to mimic the halting, bouncy pattern of the insect. The bird was not graceful, but it was skillful, and they lowered toward the ground as the tumbling bird closed the distance. It managed to knock the butterfly to the ground, I think with its wing, not so much on purpose as that that just happened to be the appendage that made contact. It quickly snapped the butterfly out of the grass. I didn't think that birds often ate butterflies (I'd heard they taste bad), much less that they pursue them in flight. This one sure did. It flew off more normally, consuming its lunch on the way.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Post It!

Last month my wife and I participated in the River City Run, she won the Women's Masters division of the 10K race and was awarded the nice platter in this picture along with a box full of the other stuff in the picture -- all from 3M who was a major sponsor. I managed second place in my age division, winning the "invisible man" trophy seen here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

BOb', the President

As you likely know, "W" is the cutesy, ultra-short nickname for our current President. On the eve of the next primaries to end this quadrennial's primary season I'm getting worn out with the long names and the false formalities; I'm wondering if we could just call Barack Obama BOb'. It's sort of like HyperActive Bob -- a generic American name for a complex individual. HyperActive Bob is the flagship product from my old company, HyperActive Technologies (foolishly they have an anti-linking policy so you'll have to do your own search to see what they sell at HaT (see, they have one of those oddly capitalized ultra-short nicknames and it serves me well when I reference them)).

Here's hoping that Obama rolls through Indiana and North Carolina and we can move on to the next phase of this biathlon, defeating the incumbent party.

Monday, April 21, 2008

May Pennsylvania Have Mercy on Us All

On the eve of Primary, after a six week hiatus, "I see a lot of parallels between Wallis's crusade in favor of what is right and just and Christian -- like working to alleviate poverty, and Obama's push for fundamental change in the orientation of our government...."
-- from my latest review of God's Politics by Reverend Jim Wallis

Friday, April 11, 2008

Water World Tomato Plants

I bought some beautiful tomato plants yesterday. They're much better than, but remind me still, of the one Kevin Costner toted around in his Water World film. Tomorrow I will plant them in the ground, after today's thunderstorms and some fresh lime that I'll put down in the a.m. Goodnight.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Meaning of Older

Today I came across these concept lines in a poem by Li-Young Lee:

"Between two unknowns, I live my life.
Between my mother's hopes, older than I am
by coming before me. And my child's wishes, older than
I am
by outliving me. And what's it like?"
(from The Hammock, in Book of My Nights)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bethpage Black Open

"This book almost makes you want to watch golf." Here's my review of John Feinstein's soon-to-be-relevant-again audio book on the US Open.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Red Herrings Don't Nest in Trees...

I didn't think that wild turkeys built nests in trees, but something that looks like them does; and they do so right in the very middle of Tennessee. The trees were along a large creek at this spot, where the new TN route 840 crosses it, a few miles east of I-65. It's a tad south of Nashville.

We were driving up from Huntsville, AL on our way to the Cedars of Lebanon State Park. My wife had signed herself up to run a half marathon there and it turned out to be a good choice. I don't generally think of cedar trees as making a good woodland -- they're a bit small and ragged, but with a bunch of old and younger ones mixed with a few hardwoods they can make a remarkably lovely woods. My daughter and I discovered this for ourselves, and we learned that Dixon Lanier Merritt already knew it. (I didn't know about him, either, or didn't know I knew, he was a poet, a journalist and a naturalist and you know his work, too. He taught us all that a pelican's beak can hold more than its bellican.) We saw split cedar rail fences made with nothing but the rails and a bit of wire and we found some fresh and some not so fresh woodpecker holes in living cedars. It was just cool enough that we appreciated the burning fireplace and the hot chocolate in the lodge while we waited for the runners. We didn't have all that long after our short walk. My wife finished first in her age group and I think was the second Master female overall.

After the race we checked into the Sleep Inn and took a dip in the indoor pool, ate a pleasant dinner at Painturo's Pizza and Italian restaurant and did a little shopping before heading back toward Alabama, and back past those mysterious nests.

When we drove up on Saturday it was mid morning, 9-ish. The large hardwood trees are along the creek bed and beside a cleared field, probably a crop field in the growing season. 4 or 5 trees contain 15 or 20 total nests: big, messy nests. I'd guess a couple feet in diameter. Some of the nests had large dark birds sitting or standing on them. I tried to make them look white -- snowy egrets would be about the right size and I know they are somewhat communal, although this would be a bit far north for them. Great blue herons were another possibility but I almost always see them alone and think of them as solitary birds. Whatever these were on their nests Saturday morning were just far enough away and just dark enough not to be identified as we drove by at 65 mph.

I was determined to get a better look on Sunday afternoon. When at last we approached the spot, we saw the nests in the trees clear enough -- the light was better somehow and we were ready. But now they were clearly empty. No roosting birds. We were disappointed, but then we spotted something on the ground in the adjacent field. Pretty definitely a flock of wild turkeys, a dozen or more. Too big and fat for vultures, they were black with a bit of metallic bronze reflecting the hazy sunshine. They were only a couple hundred yards from the nest trees. So they were turkey nests? I thought it must be so until I checked the internet -- of course turkeys nest on the ground. Turkey vultures mostly do, too, and even black vultures prefer rocky outcroppings or cliffs but will settle for trees in a pinch. But I did find a photo online that looks much like what we saw: a great blue heron rookery.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some Days Are Like Others

Some days just feel like other times and places. Like today feels like yesterday, which was raining and cool toward cold, not quite freezing, but with a premature promise of Spring lurking somewhere ahead of us on our journey toward tomorrow. And today's yesterday feels like hanging outdoors in hooded sweatshirts around the picnic table between Johnson Hall and O'Connor Hall dormitories in Dickinson at Binghamton University in 1982. We were cold, enough to be uncomfortable, but it was warmer than the prior week, a bunch warmer, and nobody wanted to go in, to our own rooms, lest we might miss a happening moment, there with our fellow students, with people we were closer to than we would become conscious of until years later; but our unconscious knew, and we stayed, and chilled.

And it feels, in a connected yet completely different way, like considering taking a lunch break from work in 2000, in twenty double naught, from the pressure of the Internet start-up business, out to one of the fast food places down McKnight Road, in the North Hills, north of Pittsburgh; maybe the McDonald's, before they tore it down, razed it all the way to the asphalt, and rebuilt it with white brick that looked all wrong for a McDonald's. But on that day it was still the traditional McD's I had mostly grown up with, those with the integrated arches, not the big out front arches from the 60's, and the red brick. Was it red? It certainly wasn't white. And the food on such a day was fresh but somehow damp, like the air, but not in an oppressive way, just in a suspending way. A way that makes you wait; the green is under there, and the moisture will hasten the departure of the dormancy and the green will be arriving, in all it's vibrancy, but not now, not today. Wait. Go back to work. The sap will flow again, have patience.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

John Sayles into Alabama, Honeydripping

Friday night I attended, along with about 300 of the more eclectic denizens of Huntsville and its surrounds, the Huntsville Premiere and Party for John Sayles' new film, Honeydripper. Filmed in small towns in Alabama like Greenville, Georgiana and Midway they didn't need to do a lot to make these towns fit into the 1950's movie: clear some modern cars off the streets and swap out some of the merchandise in the store front windows. Standing around in the theater lobby with some of us before the showing, Maggie Renzi, the producer, told us that they are organizing a number of these film co-op parties around the country because they just don't have the 20 million dollars to mount a commercial marketing campaign.

John Sayles was also mingling before the show and at the party afterwards at the new location of the Flying Monkey Arts Center. He is very personable and loves to talk about his craft. I was introduced to Sayles' filmmaking in the early 80's at college by my housemates who were taking film classes. We saw The Brother from Another Planet (1984) and Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980). Maggie Renzi is in both these earlier films. Sayles has Writer and song writing credits to go with his directing credit on Honeydripper.

And this film is really about the music, although we have to build to it through some great dialog and a bit of slow moving slice-of-tough-life drama. None of the big star actors came to our premiere (not Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Vondie Curtis-Hall, etc.). But a couple of the musicians came to the party and sat in with Microwave Dave and the Nukes. Henderson Huggins only plays Danny Glovers' hands at the piano in the film, but he can sing and go to town on the keyboard. Eddie Shaw is the other cast member who sat in. I'm not a sax nut but this transported you to the best of another era and culture. After an hour or so I started to feel bad for Microwave Dave's regular saxist who was standing around the edges of the audience with his instrument dangling at his side, just in case Shaw got tired. That wasn't happening.

It was a powerful evening and a worthy film. Mr. Sayles asked us to ask our friends to see it. Simple enough. Go. Enjoy.

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Caralynetry Critique

First you should read the poem, (if you click the title it should come up in a new browser window for easy reference): " (Twelve Lines Minimum)".

At first blush this poem with its parenthetical title and the varying line lengths seems a bit ragged. And is there a rhyming scheme here or not? But with an opener mind (or "a more open mind", if you want to be grammatically correct, but you may re-think that in just a moment here...) the more freeform rhyme and meter scheme better reflects the uncongealed mind of a blossoming child. Or put more simply: in the end, it works.

What I really like about this piece, though, is the pacing. The way it really accelerates in the last two lines, up until you have to put the brakes on at "plead" since the "p - p" alliteration ("power plead") is tough even on a mental tongue. But the pacing magic starts earlier, right from the first couplet. It feels like it's going to be nursery rhyme sing song-y:

"Patience is an important skill.
La-dee-da, jack and jill."

Instead we get the commanding word "attention," with a pausing comma, before the first rhyme ever kicks in. (I can't help but hit the syllables of "attention" hard, like Chrissie Hynde sang it for The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket" back in 1979.) And, by the way, it's not a first couplet, but an (unexpected) triplet!

Then here comes "torture". What kind of child's poem is this? Well, I already know that it's a punishment poem, an extra assignment that must be a minimum of twelve lines long; and is in fact exactly twelve lines long, the shortest of which is just the one 3 letter word "you". But it needed to be its own line -- it wasn't put by itself only as an "Up yours!" to the assigner, but the dig is delivered all the same.

It's a line by itself because the forced rhyme using the made-up-but-fitting word "scorcher" precedes it. ("Don't let it scorcher you;" as in don't let them burn your butt -- another sentiment along the lines of "Question Authority" or "Illegitimi non Carborundum"). That one word line, "you." forms a bridge to the second half of the poem, like the instrumental interlude of a 1960's pop song. One more quick verse, again with the twist away from the nursery rhyme couplet, to a strong rhyme of "very rude" and "altitude" with a nice metaphor rising ("Lower your altitude"), rather than the would've-been-trite "Adjust your attitude." Then we build steam like the little-engine-that-could: "I can try, I can succeed. Just let your will power plead" That is, it's gonna take some fortitude, but it's in you, if you'll only listen to yourself.

(Okay so I'm a little biased as the father and privy to extra insights, but hey.)
(Also, in writing this I learned that "Illegitimi non Carborundum" is not really Latin, but an example of what has been termed a "mock-Latin aphorism". And me with two semesters of Latin at University. Oh well. Carpe diem!)

Monday, February 04, 2008


In the spirit of Dave Winer's I'm a California Voter for Obama, I'm an Alabama Voter for Obama.
I stopped by the Huntsville Obama Headquarters at lunch and picked up a couple bumper stickers. There was a lot of buzz a-happening there this afternoon. Tomorrow should be a banner day.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

D'You Know Juno? And the Sound of August Rush?

I don't remember buying a "soundtrack album" since Pretty in Pink, until recently that is, and I've bought two in the last couple months. The music opens up Juno and I caught myself thinking thinking that it's going to be a loooonnng movie if we have to listen to this low rent folk for 2 hours, but even that first tune (All I Want Is You by Barry Louis Polisar) quickly grows on you as you realize that it gloves the movie.

Back to the first soundtrack, which was August Rush, I got it for my wife for Christmas. (I wrote about the film here.) Van Morrison's "Moondance" is the classic here but it's the interplay of the music and the world and the world of the film that makes this one special. It's rich and symphonic and Irish rock and experimental; ethereal then cathartic.

Juno's got The Kinks, Mott the Hoople and The Velvet Underground providing classics (and Sonic Youth's cover of The Carpenters' "Superstar" which I hadn't heard before and it's pretty devo). But it's The Moldy Peaches and Kimya Dawson that rule the film and set the tone. The simple arrangements and acoustics sucked me in to the characters. Not that I identify with Juno herself much, at least not with her predicament (Uh, teen, pregnant). I didn't feel any parallels with Bleeker either (Hmm. What'd'ya think, Cindy?). Maybe high school was just too long ago. I did empathize with Juno's dad (J.K. Simmons); and with the Would-Be-Adoptive-Father-Wishes-He-Still-Rock-n-Rolled (Jason Bateman).

And the Juno soundtrack has Liner Notes! They're written by the Director, Jason Reitman and provide nice insights, just like Liner Notes of old!

Come to think of it, my son did buy the soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou? when it was fresh (2000) and these are in that same vein.

(I only see one soundtrack album on David Rawson's top album lists (1996's Trainspotting came it at #72 and he usually only takes the top 40), but there are more individual songs scattered among his top 100 songs lists so maybe there's something here to his liking....)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Dem's L.A. Love Fest

I caught a few minutes of the Democratic “debate” last night, and some of the analysis on NPR this morning on my drive to work. I was glad to see that the candidates refused to take any serious snipes at each other. I suspect that what precipitated that is that McCain is now the presumptive nominee for the Republicans. He is the strongest opponent, precisely because I’m not alone in thinking that among the Republican candidates, he is the one I would prefer if we had to have another Republican President next. That is, a lot of moderate Republicans and Independents won’t cross away from him the way they would from Romney, Giuliani, or Huckabee. (We don’t, by the way. Have to have another Republican next in the White House, that is.)

So Obama and Clinton cooled the hostilities, and even didn’t dismiss a ticket pairing the two of them as P and VP.

McCain won’t energize the evangelical Christians, so that will cost the Rep’s some votes, unless Hillary is at the top of the Dem ticket, then they’ll come out just to vote against her. I suppose it’s also possible that a third party far right Christian could appear and split some vote off from McCain, but they may be too savvy at this point for that (unlike the liberals, where Nader would still like to jump in).

If Obama is on the Dem. ticket at all I think he will energize a lot of young people and a lot of African Americans – both groups with a lot of folks who might not vote at all otherwise, so it is just a net gain, not a double gain where the votes are actually pulled away from the other party. To do that he needs to be at the top of the ticket, then the Religious Right may stay home on Election Day. That combination could swing some of the southern “red” states to the Dems, enough to counter the loss of a big swing state like Ohio or Florida should that happen, and it could if McCain picks up a bunch of independent middle-aged and older white male votes.

Hopefully Edwards will continue to pull energy into the Democratic electorate. He still needs a job, and while he isn’t exactly Bobby Kennedy, I’ve already heard speculation of his being appointed Attorney General.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Software Career Timeline Posted

It's not a resume, just a few highlights, and it needs some fleshing out, but I wanted to provide something of a roadmap for anyone digging into the professional "me".

You can find it here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama in 'Bama

Today I drove down to Birmingham to see and hear U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate Barack Obama in the Bartow Arena on the UAB campus. It was a capacity crowd with a lot of young people; I guess that should be expected in a university setting, but it still took me a little off guard. He is erudite and personable; a realistic idealistic pragmatist. And I believe I feel the same way that Caroline Kennedy, JFK's daughter, said she felt in her endorsement yesterday of Obama. She said that he is the first candidate to ever make her feel the way people tell her that her father made them feel about a Presidential candidate.

(Click on the links to see the snapshots that I took.) He was introduced by the local congressman, Artur Davis. Davis, representing Alabama's seventh district which includes Birmingham, is currently the only African American Congressman (or Senator) from Alabama. The historic relevance of this Congressman and this Candidate sharing the spotlight in this city did not go unremarked. All the same, it was a diverse crowd that cheered plans for ending the war in Iraq, increasing the national focus on education and healthcare, for open honesty in Washington D.C. and for an end to the era of George W. Bush and his cronies.

Obama spoke for almost an hour. And I listened to half of his audio book on the drive to and from Birmingham, "The Audacity of Hope". I enjoy listening to him talk; he has a Rod Serling-esque cadence and has an excellent command of the English language. He does not do the bumbling good ole boy that our current President does, yet he's still friendly and he can joke and tell a story: "...and everybody loves my wife Michelle. Yes, everybody loves Michelle! Hey, friend, don't be grinning THAT much...." And he riffed on "Hope": he hopes to have an Enviromental Protection Agency that protects the environment; and he hopes to have a Federal Emergency Management Agency that knows something about managing federal emergencies. And right now I hope he gets the chance.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My View of "Watchmen"

From my freshly minted review: "...an epic story, original in its juxtapositions..."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cheaters Review

I've just posted a Current Reading List page and linked it off my Reviews page. I'm sure I'm not diligent enough to keep it up to date, rather it's just a sneaky way of being able to flog some books that I may well never get all the way through. Not that I wouldn't like to, it's just that one thing drives out another and my day job drains a certain amount of my mental and eyeball energies. And some of this stuff is relevant, with the elections upcoming and all.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pink McFactoid

Author Dan Pink posted a McFactoid yesterday, about which I have to say:

That’s generally true across the Quick Serve Restaurant spectrum (that most of their business is via the drive-thru), from Arby’s to Zaxby’s, which is one thing that makes HyperActive Technologies’ “Bob” product so interesting. From the gohyper.com web site:

During busy meal times, no task is more difficult than anticipating your food production needs. Our flagship product, HyperActive Bob, actually sees the flow of customers coming into your lot and takes over the task of making real-time cooking decisions…

Similar real time “Impending Demand” systems are being employed for such things as managing elevator usage in office towers.

(Disclosure: I was a founding employee at HaT, but have moved on.)

Pollsters? Pooey

Having recently become more of a fan of Barack Obama and his run for the Presidency (I was impressed by his Google interview), I wasn't thrilled to see his second place finish in the New Hampshire primary this week. But I was thrilled to see the pollsters get it wrong.

One pundit tried to explain away the unrealized Obama victory prediction by saying that New Hampshire voters don't like to follow suit to the Iowa voters. I think it is just as likely that the New Hampshire folks don't like their outcomes to be predicted and treated as a fait d'accompli before the fact -- that is, they just liked messing with the polls. More power to them.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Constitutional Convention in Iowa!

I watched just a few minutes of the Iowa Caucuses on TV last night. While I was interested to some extent in which candidates came out on top, what was more heartening was the process, at least in the one Democratic party precinct that I caught. They were seriously, and with decent debate, considering whether to send proposed amendments to the U. S. Constitution to become part of the Democratic Party platform. These were good, average Americans from our heartland and here they were having a serious discussion about amending the Constitution, and now with emotionally charged things like flag burning, but with practical and serious matters. The one I watched mostly was a proposal to strip corporations of the rights of actual citizens, i.e. those things guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Apparently case law has built up to where corporations have protection like free speech that make it difficult to limit things like billboard placements. I don't remember the exact wording of the amendment but it included something to the effect that corporations needed to be doing a preponderance of societal good in order to maintain the liability protection that they enjoy. The debate got down to where the liability should land, e.g. should the board of directors become personally liable? Should the common shareholders? the corporate officers? I think the idea has merit as a way to hold corporations, including multi-national corporations operating in the U.S., more responsible for their actions. But the big point is that typical Americans are still capable and interested in addressing issues at this fundamental level. It was good to see.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Elf Power Follow-up

Apparently Elf Power is an old Favorite for some folks .
It's actually not too surprising that my good friend and former WHRW DJ David Rawson was already well aware of the band. The embarassing part is that my own web site has had an Elf Power song listed on it for years. I host David's top music lists for each year, and you have to go all the way back to 1999 to find Elf Power's, "Will My Feet Still Carry Me Home", as his number six song in his Top 100 Songs of 1999.