Archive for August, 2008

Live-Blogging Obama Speech

August 29, 2008

Here are my observations on what is sure to be a real fun time (à la Matthew Baldwin):

7:13 PM: Shots of people crying at the sight of Obama. None of me rolling my eyes.

7:14 PM: Phew, he accepted the nomination. Now I can turn off the TV.

7:16 PM: Joe Biden: “Right back atcha, Barry!”

7:16 PM: Finest statesman of our time. Love of my life. Is he referring to himself in the third person already?!

7:19 PM: All of our woes are the result of George W. Bush. If only that were true, we could have impeached him. The problems go far deeper than that and Obama, McCain, and their ilk are symptoms of the underlying cause.

7:20 PM: “Enough. This moment, this election is our chance to keep in the 21st century to keep the American promise alive.” Oh brother.

7:21 PM: If I didn’t know better, I’d say that this was an assemblage of offramp beggars what with all of the “Change” signs.

7:22 PM: McCain has voted with Bush 90% of the time. What about a Senator who has voted liberal 100% of the time?

7:23 PM: Nation of whiners. Wasn’t that Cheney?!

7:24 PM: He doesn’t know any whiners? That’s a bald-faced lie.

7:25 PM: No tax relief to the poor. Uhh, the poor don’t pay taxes…

7:25 PM: “It’s not that John McCain doesn’t care; it’s that he doesn’t get it.”

7:26 PM: If only people were really “on their own” in America. *sigh*

7:27 PM: Uh oh, he’s going to trot out “commander in chief of the economy.” I just know it!

7:29 PM: WHY IS EVERYONE CRYING? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

7:30 PM: Sweet, I think he’s done.

7:31 PM: Damn. This is like The Dark Knight: I keep thinking it’s over, but then it starts right back up.

7:31 PM: “I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper.” Oh boy. This is the face of evil right there.

7:32 PM: He’s going to spell out exactly what change means. Yeah right!

7:32 PM: 10 years to ending dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East. Wait, is he going to start offshore drilling and tap ANWR? Sweet!

7:35 PM: $100 billion “investment” in renewable energy. Does he have that kind of money?

7:36 PM: He just described a program of indentured servitude. That’s just grand.

7:38 PM: Great, now I’m crying. I don’t think it’s for the same reason though.

7:38 PM: Stick it to business and the rich, who are going to bend over, take it, and shit out jobs. Sounds like a feasible plan.

7:40 PM: Now we get to hear about his program for the literal “nanny state.”

7:41 PM: He took a stand against Iraq and for Afghanistan … from the rarified air of the Illinois State Senate.

7:44 PM: I wouldn’t compare myself too closely to Roosevelt (Assistant Secretary of the Navy) or Kennedy (war hero) if I had no military experience whatsoever. They were Democrats and so are you but that doesn’t confer anything.

7:46 PM: “We can disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.” What’s he been doing for most of his campaign in general and this speech in particular?

7:49 PM: Gay partners aren’t allowed to visit each other in the hospital?

7:50 PM: Wow, that was approximately 3 minutes from imploring a change in political tactics to character assassination.

7:51 PM: “This election isn’t about me, it’s about you” electing me.

7:53 PM: One good thing about Obama’s speech is that it isn’t littered with homey anecdotes referring to specific people in the audience. That’s change I can believe in.

7:54 PM: Oh yeah, there’s the MLK reference. If he says, “I am his dream” I’m a-gonna puke.

7:54 PM: He’s excellent at reading from teleprompters, I’ll give him that.

7:56 PM: Yay for Obama. The sermon’s over.

Color me unimpressed. I’m no McCain fan, but Obama basically promised everything to everyone. I felt like he was going to channel Oprah any minute, “You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!”

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“This has nothing to do with what’s going on now”

August 28, 2008

“Because, once you’ve decided you’re ‘right,’ it only makes sense to employ the tactics you loathe in your adversary. That always works out.” — Merlin Mann, in a tweet

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

August 27, 2008

“If I catch Senator Obama’s drift, then, our failure to ‘lead by example’ was the liberation of Iraq. And if he really thinks that, by liberating Iraq from a dangerous tyrant, America somehow set a bad example that invited Russia to invade a small, peaceful, and democratic nation, then he should state it outright — because that is a debate I welcome.” — John McCain, “Speech to American Legion”

Not So Humble Pie

August 26, 2008

“Indeed, no one within a light year of humility wants the kind of power and gaudy glory that Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain so desperately seek.” — Don Boudreaux, “Humility, Schmulity”

A Little Longer Review of The Dark Knight

August 26, 2008

In my off-the-cuff quick review of The Dark Knight, I said that I would write up a lengthier one after I had seen it a second time and could focus on a couple of points that confused me originally. I saw it again a couple of weeks ago and it really didn’t hold up well the second time.

Most intriguing the second go round were The Joker’s villainous experiments in game theory. The one involving Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes tied up in warehouses full of explosives but on opposite sides of town didn’t originally strike me as anything special originally, but it was more obvious this time that Batman actually went to save Rachel and that The Joker had consciously switched the addresses. That meant that picking one over the other meant that the one chosen is the one that dies. Much more dastardly than I had originally thought and it also made it understandable why Batman “chose” to save Harvey Dent.

The ferry experiment, in which The Joker loaded two ferries with explosives and then gave the other boat’s detonator to each set of passengers, was much more disgusting the second time. Originally, I thought that the convict’s taking of the detonator and throwing it out the window was a moral statement that they should have refused to play The Joker’s twisted game. Further, I thought that the other ferry’s wavering and refusal to push the button at the last minute was a wrestling with a difficult decision and opting to not partake of it.

However, I’m now convinced that it was a sacrificial act and very repulsive. By waiting, they had effectively doomed both boats to destruction by The Joker—they did not know that Batman would save them. In the face of a serious emergency, they chose to forfeit the responsibility of a decision. It is possible that The Joker would have wired each detonator to blow up the ferry that it was on or blow them both up—it’s certainly feasible that there was a nihilistic trick up The Joker’s sleeve—but they had no way of knowing. Either way, both groups clearly did not value their own lives.

The biggest revelation with the second viewing was that it’s not nearly as good of a movie as I thought. The disjointed subplots first felt like the painful inhalation when you come up for air before being dragged down: one concluded and then another one immediately began. This time, though, I could see how they just extended the movie into discomfort. It’s as if there were a brainstorming meeting prior to the start of the script and they couldn’t decide on a single, coherent plot so they just took the top three ideas and went with them. This time, it was just tedious.

I still think it was a good movie, just not as great as I had thought.

Control Freaks

August 26, 2008

“When we hear about rent control or gun control, we may think about rent or guns but the word that really matters is ‘control.’ That is what the political left is all about, as you can see by the incessant creation of new restrictions in places where they are strongly entrenched in power, such as San Francisco or New York.” — Thomas Sowell, “Random Thoughts”

Goldwater Institute Challenges Clean Elections Law

August 22, 2008

The Goldwater Institute just filed a lawsuit calling into question Arizona’s Clean Elections system and I’m very excited to see how it turns out. It is but a drop in the bucket in dismantling the free-speech limitations inherent in campaign finance regulation. But a drop’s a drop and the current system has always struck me as absolutely disgusting in subsidizing individuals to run for public office.

I don’t support bums on street corners and I’d don’t want to be forced to pay for politicians to campaign.

I was further heartened to know that one of the plaintiffs in the case, Tony Bouie, is running for state representative in my district. His situation is indicative of how ugly the law really is: when he, a “nonparticipating” candidate, passed a threshold of spending, his “participating” opponent in the primary got nearly a dollar for dollar matching contribution from the state.

The lawsuit correctly notes that this will have a chilling effect on political speech by both the candidates and their contributors. The ostensive purpose of the law is to level the field so that well-connected or incumbent candidates don’t have a spending advantage when campaigning. But there are a host of reasons why one candidate may raise more money than another—popularity, more drive, efficient money collection—that don’t involve any sort of corruption.

The law rewards lackadaisical campaigning: one need only read the before and after finance reports of most campaigns to see the marked difference that the Clean Elections funds engender. In countless reports I’ve surveyed, the campaigns run very lean prior to disbursement and are suddenly paying for campaign dinners, computer hardware, and cell phones once the money rushes in. That’s a mundane objection that speaks to the corrupt incentives of the system, but the real problem is far more insidious.

When faced with the significant donations and expenditures modern campaigns require, politicians seize on regulating the behavior rather than examining and addressing the causes. And the cause is very simple: getting into the halls of government and wielding ever-increasing powers is lucrative. Companies and individuals will pay substantial sums to get their needs heard because the consequences of inaction are enormous: failing to support lobbyists or make the right donations can lead to onerous regulations on your industry or even its wholesale wipeout.

Campaign contributions have not subsided after decades of regulation and restriction—they’ve just morphed and transformed to skirt the reforms. The basic problem has never been addressed: taking the incentive out of the political equation by limiting the power of government. Sadly, that sort of reform is never considered and this lawsuit—noble though futile—doesn’t attack this angle.

Review of “What I’d Say to the Martians” by Jack Handey

August 17, 2008

Jack Handey’s What I’d Say to the Martians and Other Veiled Threats is easily the funniest book I’ve read in recent memory. If you’re familiar with Deep Thoughts or Fuzzy Memories from Saturday Night Live, you may be surprised to learn that Jack Handey is an actual guy who writes like that normally.

You’ll find this collection of essays, short stories, and sketches funny throughout if you like his particular style of humor, which I do. You’ll appreciate the helpful asides in “My Nature Documentary”:

Show monkey finding binoculars. Monkey learns how to use binoculars. (Have plenty of film, because this may take a long time.) Monkey climbs up tree and scans horizon. We see his point of view, which finally focuses on yes, the giraffe! He screams (BB pellet) with joy.

Or the view of self presented in “How I Want to Be Remembered”:

According to our scientists, with their electronic soul trackers, Jack is in Heaven now. And not just regular Heaven, which any jerk can get in to, but special secret Heaven that even some angels don’t know about.

There’s much to be learned about management from his essay on “The Respect of the Men”:

You don’t get the respect of the men right away. You can try, by getting down in the dirt and begging them for it, or by kissing their boots, or by doing your funny cowboy dance for them. But trust me, these are not going to work.

I especially liked the science-ish article on “The Animals Around Us”:

Or consider even smaller animals, which live unnoticed among the hairs of our private regions. They are called crabs. No, don’t worry, they aren’t actual crabs. And they certainly aren’t large enough to eat, unless you could somehow get thousands of them. But they are with us, year after year.

My favorite nugget is entitled “Attila the Hun’s Greatest Speech,” which is introduced as the source for many of the most famous orations in history and consists entirely of famous lines interspersed with motivational statements to the assembled Huns like “Caesar, tear down this wall! Or at least open the gates and we’ll tear it down for you.”

I could go on and on selecting bits from this short but hilarious work, but I’m pretty sure that I’d run afoul of copyright soon. I found myself guffawing on more than one occasion; if these quotes or his earlier work tickled your funny bone, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

The Fatigue of Ambition

August 15, 2008

Go Daddy‘s bringing Merlin Mann out to give a new talk tomorrow and I’m pretty jazzed. You may recall that he came out for an earlier event just this May for his Inbox Zero talk.

I’m excited for this presentation because its subject matter has been on my mind lately. I’ve been experiencing a debilitating sense of ennui and a lack of motivation. After much introspection and deliberation, I think I’ve located the source: too many great ideas and a fundamental uncertainty about which is the best course of action.

When I say too many great ideas, I mean it. At this moment, I’ve got some compelling ideas to contribute to an open-source project I’ve taken over—I still need to write up a blog entry about that fine mess I got myself into; a book idea that is unique, unprecedented, and possibly the start of an entire franchise—two actually, but the second one is going to require the first to be very successful; an iPhone application that could make me some decent side income; a historical project that could bring me enormous satisfaction; and a raft of business ideas that are all feasible to varying degrees.

In the face of all these nearly-equally viable choices, how do you pick one and set yourself to it? Normally, I’d consider a matrix of factors like which one has the most potential, which one lends itself well to maximizing time with my family, which one fits in with the life I envision for myself, and which one is best suited to my strengths. But there’s no clear winner in this regard.

So I stew and dawdle and get distracted easily. That lack of focus makes me upset because that’s not me! Any time I start to make some progress on one of these big-ticket ideas, some inner voice nags that another one is a better use of my time. Meanwhile, I’m caught up on my feed reading and on top of Twitter, which makes me even more unsettled because I know that these things are not the best uses of my time right now.

Merlin is not going to tell me anything I don’t already know. Heck, I am even familiar with all of the techniques he’s listed in his slide deck. But maybe his talk will be rousing enough to jar me from this rut, to just pick one from the many and get things done.

Then again, maybe writing this blog entry itself has provided sufficient impetus.

[The views expressed on this website/weblog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Go Daddy Software, Inc.]

A Gulag By Any Other Name

August 15, 2008

“Speaking of China, it has announced that during the Olympics, protesters will be allowed to assemble in designated protest areas. … Or, as they’re commonly called in China, ‘jails.'” — Conan O’Brien, monologue to his show