29 August 2009

William Shatner - Singer (sort of)

I love the album on which this song is featured. If Shatner is not some kind of performing genius, he's pulled a wonderful con. And given it's performance we're talking about, I'm not sure what the difference would be.

Here is William Shatner performing "It Hasn't Happened Yet."

28 August 2009

Bill Gates' Big Dilemma

I would like to think that when Bill Gates was deciding what to do with his fortune, in the end his two choices came down to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and adopting the lifestyle of Bruce Wayne, fighting crime at night with the best technology money could buy.

Perhaps if Steve Ballmer had been more like Alfred.

27 August 2009

Travel Request

First Michael Jackson and now Teddy Kennedy. Their bodies are on extended tour before interment. I'm not sure whether this is a new trend, something that will up the cost of funerals the way that wedding planners changed the cost of weddings.

But, uh, just for the record? If I'm going to travel after retirement, I'd rather do it before I've been enclosed in a small box. If I want to feel claustrophobic, I'll just fly coach.

Our Constantly Changing Political Orientation

I have an idea for a research grant. Send researchers off to find the one person who changed their political position as the result of an argument of any kind. You know, the conservative who suddenly said, "Oh. I get it. You are right. You can't just assume that government is always ineffective." Or the liberal who said, "You mean you can trust businesses? I guess you're right."

We don't stay away from the topics of politics and religion in conversation because they are unrevealing or because they are not fascinating. We stay away from these topics because no one ever changes their mind on these topics. Their opinions have been formed about 4 years before the discussion starts. I don't think that I've ever witnessed a person changing his opinion about a political topic during the course of an argument or discussion. And I've been in and witnessed plenty such conversations.

If the researchers can't find that person, perhaps we could just divert all the money spent on news analysis into video game development.

Just an idea.

25 August 2009

Profit is Not a Vision

I'm reading The Devil in the White City - a wonderful book about the 1893 Exposition in Chicago that reads like a murder mystery novel threaded into a business fiction book - and yet all of it is true. Along with Larson's incredible research and writing, what strikes me is the breadth of vision for the men behind this Exposition. They wanted a profit - but more than that, they wanted to create something amazing. Olmsted, the man who was the "landscape architect" for this Exposition, created New York's Central Park and determined not to worry about any results less than 40 years into the future when designing Central Park. At the Exhibition, "a single exhibit hall had enough interior volume to have housed the U.S. Capitol, the Great Pyramid, Winchester Cathedral, Madison Square Garden, and St. Paul's Cathedral, all at the same time." These guys were intent on creating something amazing.

Peter Drucker once wrote that profit to a firm was what oxygen is to a man. (And recovering from my wretched cold, I've come to appreciate anew the importance of oxygen.) Vital but by no means the purpose. The purpose of business is something grander than just profit. These guys understood that. They weren't focused on pushing the limits of profits - they were focused on pushing the limits of architecture, imagination, and the human experience.

Could you even imagine - in today's world of technology and information exchange and population what we could do with that kind of an approach? It boggles the mind.

23 August 2009

Hurtling Myself Belly First Onto the Bandwagon - Little League World Series Reporting

I live in Chula Vista, CA. Because of our local Little League All Star team, more people have now heard of it. (Second biggest city in San Diego County - located halfway between downtown San Diego and Tijuana, along the coast - or Bay, actually.)

Here are some stunning stats for the kids, only two games into the Little League World Series and just qualified for the quarterfinals today. Scrap all the "long way to go" talk and let's look at what they've done so far.

* They scored 113 runs and hit 45 home runs in the seven games before today's
* In tonight's game, they scored 12 runs with 11 hits (in just the sixth inning)
* Chula Vista now has a World Series-leading 10 home runs. The record for most home runs in a Little League World Series is 13, by Hawaii in 2005. Chula Vista, it is worth reminding you, is only 2 games into the opening round.
* The scores for their first two games in the World Series? 15-0 (a game stopped by the 10 run mercy rule) and 14-0.

They call these kids the Blue Bombers. I guess it helps to have a 6', 205 pound 13 year old who can pitch shut out ball and bat 1.000, but I'm pretty sure all this just reflects on who we are. While other communities debated the efficacy of putting fluoride in the water, we've been experimenting with the proper mix of steroids and human growth hormone. If we can repeat this for a couple more years, we might just have a formula worth marketing.

22 August 2009

The Pathology of Mythology

Maybe the difference between myth and science is that myth feels right, in spite of the evidence. It falls into the category of something we wish were true. If science depends on empirical proof, then myth depends on psychological proof – emotional resonance.

A myth that feels right can eventually obstruct movement towards what is right. The notion that the sun revolves around the earth gets in the way of a real understanding of the universe.

Which brings me to the modern myth we’ve yet to acknowledge has essentially replaced the religious myths: the myth of Hollywood.

The average American spends hours more per week in theaters or in front of the TV than he does in any house of worship. No one has a firmer grip on the formation of what constitutes emotional truth than does Hollywood. And it largely puts the psyche at odds with the reality of the modern world.

The reality is, we are the products of systems. Systems as personal and hard to define as the one produced by the interactions of a family or the interactions of a family with its community. Or systems as well documented and closely studied as the ecosystem or economy we depend on for our daily life. Anyone who does not believe that we’re product of systems has only to look at the probability of one becoming a millionaire in the US vs. Sierra Leone, or the probability of becoming a Muslim in Afghanistan (99% for those of you keeping score) vs. Sweden.

And yet Hollywood’s persistent myth is that the individual knows better than the system and is able to transcend it. Personally, I love this myth. It resonates with me. I love the notion of Jesus challenging the Jews and Romans – the religious and political elites of his day - and claiming that in the kingdom to come, compassion for the poor and weak would matter more than power and wealth. I love the idea of a band of thinkers enthused with passion for Enlightenment principles who would take on – and defeat – the largest Empire in history to create the United States. It is a myth worth keeping alive. It is also a myth that is bound to come true only rarely and, for purposes of narrative arc, overlooks so much of what actually changes a system.

Perhaps the mythos of Hollywood has infected me as well, because I really do believe that the real proof of progress throughout Western history is the fact that systems are increasingly adapted to the reality and goals of the individual.

But the reason that Socrates and Jesus were heroes is because they changed the system – in spite of their first and apparent defeat by it. They were not heroes because they lived outside the system. That would have just made them hermits. The reason we tend to deify past heroes is because they have changed the system that we now live in.

The point is not to live outside the system – although one can hardly blame people for trying. The point is to change the systems we live in. And the real heroes aren’t the Hollywood heroes who prove the system wrong and conquer the bad guy in spite of the system (it is hard to think a character who better epitomizes this than Bruce Willis’ character in the Die Hard movies). The real heroes don’t work outside the system – they find the leverage point for changing it. It was not enough that Socrates was a brilliant man – he helped to begin philosophical inquiry in the West. It was not enough that Jesus was spiritual – he helped to begin a new religion.
The good news is that we’ve figured out how to avoid the dangers of communism. The bad news is that we’ve yet to figure out how to avoid the dangers of capitalism. Our economic system needs changing. The same can be said of our industrial systems that are at odds with our ecosystem and our political systems that still tilt madly on the side of big money interests. Education and health care systems continue to defy changes. At the risk of mouthing cliches, our future depends on our ability to change the systems we depend on and live in.

Although their life stories are so much less exciting than that of renegades, it is also true that people who change systems are the ones our progress depends on. We somehow need to make that story our new modern myth. Because it is this story that really can translate into something other than escapism.

21 August 2009

The Universal Digital Port - the next killer app

Years back, I remember reading about a couple of sisters who were trying to get their older mother to use the Internet.

"It's great, mom. Here look," they said, pointing her to a search engine. "You can ask it anything you want."

"Oh, I don't know," their mother said hesitantly.

"Come on. Ask a question."

"Okay. Ask, How is Aunt Helen doing?"

Of course, in this stage of the Internet before social networking sites, this was quite funny. But now, given that Aunt Helen might well have a Facebook account, this is a perfectly valid question and one that could be answered in Aunt Helen's latest status comment.

Facebook made Mark Zuckerberg the world's youngest billionaire when it became the latest killer app. Social networking sites followed on the heels of search engines and online news and online stores and email as the Internet application that changed lifestyles and created billions in wealth.

The more an application personalizes the vast amount of information on the Internet, the more value it creates for users and the entrepreneur who creates it.

I think that the next killer app is the universal digital port - the one place you go for a prioritized look at everything you care about - from Aunt Helen's health to Albert Pujols' latest game stats to the email from your client to the YouTube video that is going to become your favorite movie for all time - or at least for this week.

Right now you have to toggle through a couple of email in boxes, look at a few news sites, check in on one (or two or three or ...) social networking sites. And as the digitization of all things is complete - from TV shows to your phone calls and everything in between - the real value will come from a personal google that filters and prioritizes everything that competes for your time.

People will have to train this - just as they would a pet. And they will train it mostly by the choices they make. And the universal digital port is trained, you could even set it up to filter things you would not choose in the moment. It might limit you to 15 minutes of YouTube or Facebook a day but give you unlimited access to your e-textbooks for your classes. It might even seize up and give you no new digital data until the heart monitor you wear lets it know that you have engaged in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.

It is well known that our long term aspirations are inevitably loftier than our short term choices. We want to be trim but we choose the ice cream over the evening jog. We want to learn French but we watch a rerun of Star Trek instead. A universal digital port might make it harder for us to putz around and easier to improve ourselves.

But ultimately, the game of life in a digital world is a zero sum game. If we watch the movie we don't call our mom. If we work on the presentation, we don't work on our back stroke in the pool. It might be that the next killer app doesn't just make it easier for us to access what matters to us but - by juxtaposing it against everything else that matters - makes us more aware of the opportunity costs involved in each action. And that might do as much to change lifestyles as anything the Internet has yet done.

18 August 2009

TNT for HUD Program

I recently read more about the new programs inspired by the Cash for Clunkers program, the federal program in which the government buys cars and then kills them in order to stimulate car sales. I'm not sure why this is not getting wider reporting and am doing what I can to pass along the news to readers of R World.

(OOPs) Officials of HUD announced that their new surprise stimulus package for driving up housing prices was getting mixed reviews. People in construction and the real estate industry seemed pleased by it, whereas many home owners expressed dismay.

"They just came over and blew up our house," exclaimed Willoughby Wimmers. "I don't get it."

"What Willoughby and people like him fail to see," explained HUD Secretary Donovan, "is the bigger picture. Sure, Willoughby lost his house. And all his furniture. But we're going to methodically blow up from 1% to 10% of the houses in different communities, depending on a host of variables like local unemployment levels, change in home values, and the community's penchant for explosives - what we call the 'cool!' factor. As we lower the supply of homes, the price of existing homes will go up. Construction will pick up. Willoughby is just upset because his home was one we blew up. When the economy picks up and he gets hired, though, he'll see things differently."

"But I already have a job!" Willoughby protested to the reporters who were already following HUD Secretary Donovan to watch the next house explode.

In other news, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is cutting budgets by releasing prisoners with a history of theft and robbery, predicting that the economy will be boosted by a surge in the sale of handguns, home security systems, and property insurance. "We will cut spending at the same time that we get more revenue from the taxes on increased sales and stuff," Schwarzenegger explained. "We might have finally reached a solution that leaves Democrats, Republicans AND California's economy pumped up." Or at least that is what we think he said. I can't be completely sure because someone stole his microphone. And my pen.

15 August 2009

The Trouble with Policy Analysis

I was at a restaurant the other day that was broadcasting a football game. (It's August. Has football really started already or were they showing a classics rerun?) As they are interviewing one of the players (my favorite scene in a restaurant that offers no sound to the picture), the thought again occurs to me, Why don't we cover politics and policy like this? Why not actual play analysis and scoring and then interviews after? Well, obviously for politics - for elections - we do. But for policy?

Policy is hard to cover in a style similar to sports because there we have no real agreement about the location of the goal line, the rules or even the sport we're playing. Policy is all guys arguing in a circle because nobody can agree on the score or even how one scores or where one might find the goal line.

If Obama gets some form of universal health care coverage through, some people will hail it as a touchdown, some as the loss of the game, and some as a score but not really a 6 point touchdown. Still others will stand there in hockey masks cussing and saying, "You morons don't get it. We're not even playing football."

I guess at some level that makes policy even more interesting. It also makes it more exasperating and less likely to ever become something are able to measure and to which we can hold officials accountable.

14 August 2009

Vick and the Humane Treatment of Animals

"Our beef was raised humanely," is the kind of line you're increasingly likely to read in the finer restaurants. I have to confess to feelings of ambivalence on this. One, they are animals so what does it mean to raise them humanely? Two, if you are going to slaughter the poor creature for food, is it really better to end a happy life than a miserable one?

Which brings me to Michael Vick, the talented quarterback who did time in prison for sponsoring dog fights. I know that the dog lovers are going to hate me for this, but in a country of carnivores, how egregious is it, really, to sponsor such fights? I'm sure of two things: the dog fights are beastly affairs and they are less repulsive than what goes on in a slaughterhouse, something some of us condone each time we eat meat.

Vick spent time in prison for his crime. And then, finally, a team has signed him - while people protest. I'm not sure why this is so controversial. He is supposed to have his life ended because of this crime that already took, what, two years of his life?

I am weary of protesters who essentially wish they were the judge who sentenced the criminal. Some folks wish the sentence had included more time (what? life for a dog fight? really? if not life, how many more years or months would have made you happy?) or prohibited him from making a living once he was released (another absurdly punitive sentence). Vick did time. Lost a lot of money. Lost the opportunity, likely, to set some career records. And now he's out, ready to work again. This issue is over. The point has been made. Let the man get on with his life.

13 August 2009

Top 10 signs that you’re in Santa Cruz

1. Walking downtown – in the heart of the city – you look around for the source of the pot smoke wafting towards you. Is it the indigents? No. The disenfranchised youth? No. Oh. It’s the two silver haired, respectable looking gentlemen on the corner.

2. Still downtown, about every 20 yards you pass by someone who makes you feel uneasy. (And I’m not easily made uneasy. For instance, I am merely amused and not the least discomfited by the fact that behind the angry looking guy with Mohawk, nose ring, and short (as in micro-mini length) kilt is a guy strolling with his girl in arm and his guy in hand).

3. In the Saturn Café, the vegetarian diner that offers 50s style cuisine like faux burgers and vegan shakes, the two restrooms are no longer labeled “us” and “them” but are, instead, labeled “robot” and “alien.” Out of chocolate fudge and thus unable to serve the “chocolate madness” dessert that features fudge, chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate brownies, whip cream, and chocolate chips, a debate ensues with the server about whether the fudge-less result is “chocolate mildly annoyed” or “chocolate aggravated.”

4. The city’s elite are gathered for an orchestral tribute to the Grateful Dead. The only thing that seems more widespread than tie dye is gray hair. The hippies are the establishment.

5. At the grocery store they don’t ask “paper or plastic.” Instead, they ask, “why didn’t you bring an eco-friendly bag of your own today?”

6. The most significant donation to the University of California’s local (USSC) library was made by the Grateful Dead, who donated 30 years of their archives.

7. One gets the sense that two concepts that remain rather elusive to many of the folks here are cash and causality. A local bookstore is having an event on (and I'm pretty sure I'm going to mangle this) how the Mode rising in Capricorn should influence one’s career goals for the next 18 months.

8. Mothers telling their girls to go ahead and take off their clothes at a (sort of) remote swimming hole along the river because “It’s Santa Cruz and nobody cares.”

9. At the local university (UC Santa Cruz) on the 20 minute walk from one class to the next, you disappear into redwoods, unable to see buildings or roads, about a half dozen times, pop out into a meadow that looks down on Monterrey Bay once, and walk past deer a couple of times. And this through the busy part of campus.

10. You find yourself repeatedly exclaiming over how gorgeous it is and how much you love the place.

As you might guess, I just got back from a trip back to the Bay Area. As always, I was delighted by how gorgeous and unique is Santa Cruz.

12 August 2009

The "Five Books You Have to Read" Store

On our recent trip, I slipped into a few bookstores. One in particular left me feeling like I could have purchased another 15 books if only I wasn't already behind in my reading by about 15 books. I love the mad diversity in a modern bookstore and - from experience - have come to believe that there are an abundance of amazing books waiting for my attention. And these wonderfully full, bursting at the seams bookstores have begun to make me weary for the very reason that they once made me so happy: they simply have too many enticing titles.

Which brings me to my idea for bookstore. Rather than have thousands and thousands of titles, just have a bookstore titled, "The 5 Books You Have to Read." And then carry only five titles. If people come in asking for a different title, you simply say, "Have you read all five of our books?" If not (and that's usually the case), just redirect them to the short list. If they have, tell them to be patient - the list changes. Eventually. "Live. Don't just read," the clerk would tell them. "There will be a new book you simply have to read soon enough. Get caught up on your chores. Visit your old aunt. Hike through a copse of trees. Volunteer. And then come back in about a month. We'll have at least one new book on the list by then."

Oh, and how do we choose the five books? Don't even get me started on that. Because as soon as you make this part explicit, you get dragged into the whole business of whose list and why not another list and what about people who need large print or children or business majors or beach reading or .... And that's just the kind of confusion that leads to bookstores that - on a single day - stock more titles than you could hope to read in a lifetime. And my bookstore would put an end to that.

11 August 2009

Town Hall Confusion

These town hall meetings in which loud crowds protest the encroachment of health care into the lives of all Americans leave me perplexed. When we invaded Iraq – a move certain to kill thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans (and, as it turns out, a move that has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans) – there were no loud protests, no town halls, no “this is not my America,” cries from an angry and disenfranchised polity.

Now that we’re moving towards health care that covers millions more Americans and promises to end the 8,000 annual deaths of those without coverage, we kick into free speech, full protest mode

06 August 2009

Sorry Sir, the Status Quo is No Longer on Our Menu

"What is the soup du jour?"
"That's the soup of the day."
"Oh, that sounds good. I'll have that."

On the plane today, I was talking with a delightful doctor who, in reference to health care, said, "The status quo is not an option."

This seems to me the argument, inevitably, against choosing not to do anything. The status quo is never an option for the future. Things will change. The only question is in which direction we want them to change.

For instance, we won't double our population in cities and keep the same roads and reliance on cars, we won't be able to use the same carbon-emitting technology, etc., etc. If we try, we'll feel grief. But if we get the changes right, we'll emerge with something much better.

I get excited about the future in no small part because I think that this is not generally believed. My own sense is that the future - and not just of health care - will be either much worse or much better than people believe. If we try to stumble through with some patched up version of the status quo - it'll be worse. If we pull off the right kinds of inventions - technological as well as (and even more importantly) social - our grandchildren could be living in an amazing time.

And for those of you wanting a great piece of commentary about the status quo, look at Jonathan Alter's piece in Newsweek.

24 Hour News Channel Now?

When I was a kid, the world was a busy place.

In 1968 ...

Nearly 17,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam – about 50% more than it had been the year before or would be in 1969 and 9X what it had been as recently as 1965.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed.

Jackie Kennedy - our former first lady - married Aristotle Onassis - a Greek shipping tycoon.

The Black Panthers engaged in shoot outs with Oakland police as one of many deadly racial conflicts across the country.

The ’68 Olympics was rocked when American gold and bronze medal winners raised their fist during the awards ceremony in the symbol of black power. (Did I mention that there was an Olympics?)

Intel was founded.

NASA launched Apollo 7, the first manned space craft and Apollo 8,the first time any humans saw the dark side of the moon or orbited around it.

Yale announced that it would admit women.

Nixon won the presidency.

Does anyone else think that 24 hour news channels were invented about 40 years too late? Given that TV news was one hour back then, the ratio of remarkable events to actual remarks must have been about 386X what it is today.

Technology - the Opposite of Romance

From Yahoo:
A hacker attack Thursday shut down the fast-growing messaging service Twitter for hours, while Facebook experienced intermittent access problems.

According to comScore, Twitter had 20.1 million unique visitors in the United States in June, some 34 times the 593,000 a year earlier.

For Twitter users, the outage meant no tweeting about lunch plans, the weather or the fact that Twitter is down.

"I had to Google search Twitter to find out what was going on, when normally my Twitter feed gives me all the breaking news I need," said Alison Koski, a New York public-relations manager. She added she felt "completely lost" without Twitter.

Now that is a rapid move from obscurity to "can't live without it." Technology adoption patterns may be moving in an opposite direction of romance over the course of a life: we are moving from long-term commitments to fleeting, intense relationships with our technology. Of course technology is not left heartbroken when we leave it behind - only the investors in it.

I'm No Expert, but ...

Bill Maher had a couple of guests this week who spoke about the Federal Reserve. Fortunately, one had a clue about the topic. Strangely, though, neither Maher himself (who confessed to ignorance on the topic) nor his guest (who merely demonstrated ignorance on the topic) was the least shy about offering an opinion about what the Fed should or should not do. The guest who did have a clue was Niall Ferguson, who is one of the world’s leading experts on finance and the Fed, and was able to rein in the nonsense that passed as commentary and likely would have gone far off the beam had it been left unchecked.

But what amazes me is the willingness of Maher and his one guest to offer opinions about what should be done with the Fed. We don’t do this in other domains. Imagine letting a group of citizens sit around and agree to the best means of performing heart surgery or constructing a nuclear power plant. We don’t let the average person define what engine design will get the best mileage but we let the average person decide whether the Federal Reserve should or should not have certain powers. This might just turn out to be one of the weaknesses of democracy.

One of my heroes, W. Edwards Deming, once said that you can trust a man who knows his limitations. The same could be said of voters. Fortunately, for now, we do have a Fed and it is run by experts. Sadly, the voters and politicians who are watching its performance still seem little aware of what a crisis it has averted with its policy.

The good news is that we Americans don’t just readily accept the opinion of so-called experts; the bad news is that we Americans don’t just easily accept the opinion of so-called experts. I sometimes wonder if Americans’ love for imposing their less than carefully arrived at opinions in this time of increasing complexity and resultant need for expertise might not create a spectacular collision or two before we decide to again trust experts.

04 August 2009

Julia Child's Secret Food Source

In her last years, Julia Child lived in Santa Barbara. A buddy of mine is a food lover and amazing cook who lives in Santa Barbara and was intrigued when she volunteered in an interview that she had a favorite place in town for hot dogs. A special place.

He asked a mutual friend to inquire with Julia to learn what exotic place would win Julia over to the lowly hot dog. It would obviously be a dive with a story or a fine dining option that had gone retro in its menu. He was quite curious.

His friend came through with the inside scoop. Julia's special place for hot dogs? Costco.

03 August 2009

American President Can't be American

I’ve investigated claims that Obama was not born in the US and found them to hold water.

How did I conduct this investigation? Well, given I have no time machine with which to visit the hospital in which he was born to a woman now conveniently deceased, I saw no need to leave my chair. I surfed the Internet instead.

Obviously his mother was plotting his presidency from early on, not only having the foresight to fake his birth records 48 years in advance of his swearing in, but choosing the name Barack Hussein as an obvious ploy to win votes from Americans lulled by its comforting and familiar sound.

The preponderance of evidence for Obama being born outside the country lies in the south. By that I mean that whereas about 90% of Easterners, Midwesterners, and Westerners believe that Obama was born in the US, fewer than HALF of Southerners are convinced he was.

Of course, if Obama was not born in the US, he cannot be president.

What evidence would our southern neighbors give us to make their argument?

First is the issue of Obama’s claim to have been born in Hawaii. It is no wonder that southerners believe that Obama was born in a foreign country. If you lived in Alabama, would you believe that a person born in a place where spam is served as an entrée was actually American? Or believe that anyone could correctly pronounce kalanianaole, kalakaua and aiea could convincingly pretend to be American?

Obama claims that he was born in Hawaii, as if this helps to buttress his claim to be an American.
For the true southerner, California scarcely qualifies as the US, much less Hawaii. In fact, if it had been some presidents others than Reagan and Nixon who had come from California, they would have likely dismissed their claims of American citizenship as well.

Finally, there is the matter of what America stands for. You have to remember that the southern Americans thought that the true America was south of the Mason Dixon line and they have never really reneged on that position. They live in a particular kind of America, one only reluctantly linked to the rest of the country. Of course Obama was not born in America. Because the last bit of proof they need of Obama’s foreign citizenship is this: a black man would never be president in their America.

Love on the Radio

Marconi, who invented the radio, thought that love was the equivalent of someone finally finding your frequency and “getting” you, someone able to really hear you.
Howard Stearn thinks that love is a matter of holding someone's attention - even if one has to do shocking things to keep it.
Rush Limbaugh thinks that love is a matter of being right. All the time.
George Strait thinks that love is something you lose, like your youth, that gives you a reason to drink later in life.
Laura Schlessinger thinks that love is something you can have if only you would just grow up and take some responsibility rather than blaming everyone else all the time.

Towards a Sustainable Recovery?

The new numbers suggest that our recession is receding.

New home sales (June) +11%
Home prices (June) +0.5%
Durable goods sales (June) +1.1%
New jobless claims (four week avg) – 1.5%
GDP growth in 2nd Q -1% (down but not as much as many economists had expected)
Dow Jones (July) +8%

Yet the one measure that has some commentators worried is that "consumers are scared," to quote George Stephanopoulos. Households are spending at a lower rate than before the recession. This, to me, is the best news of all.

I'm not sure why we'd want to return to a household savings rate of zero. If we pull out of this recession by some means other than unsustainable consumption, we might just fix a problem much bigger than a few quarters of economic contraction.

01 August 2009

Not Every Post Has a Good Reason to Exist

A business idea: why not launch a web site that does movie reviews of movie previews for people who are too busy to watch even the full preview?


Yesterday, Sandi said to this little boy who was all decked out in plastic knight's armor and play sword, "Wow! You look so medieval."
"I'm not evil," he protested.
"I mean you look like a real knight," she tried to clarify.
"I'm not a real knight," he began to strip off his plastic armor to show her. "I'm a fake! See! I'm just a boy named Robert!"
True story.
I can't help but wonder if this degree of honesty will help or hurt him in a relationship later in life. "No! I didn't say those jeans made you look good. I said that they don't make you look as fat as the other pair."


I was at the Denver airport Thursday amazed at how large we've become as a nation. Fat is the new norm, I thought.
Yesterday I was at the beach and saw an abundance of beautiful, fit bodies.
And then I realized that we have no new norm. Or perhaps I should say that variety is the new norm. Or maybe it is just that all the people headed to the beach were connecting through a different airport.


I'm not saying that she was a control freak but as we walked past her on the beach I could not help but notice that the tattoo on her lower back was a set of instructions.


Overheard at the beach.
"How much did this beach vacation cost?"
"Including the breast job?"


Okay, I made up those last two reports. So sue me. I didn't say I'm a reporter. I'm a blogger.

Le Guin on Art and Madness

"Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.

"Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge), by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee, and are therefore more honored in their day than prophets), and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.

"They may use all kinds of facts to support their tissue of lies. They may describe the Marshalsea Prison, which was a real place, or the battle of Borodino, which really was fought, or the process of cloning, which really takes place in laboratories, or the deterioration of a personality, which is described in real textbooks of psychology, and so on. This weight of verifiable place-event-phenomenon-behavior makes the reader forget that he is reading a pure invention, a history that never took place anywhere but in that unlocalized region, the author’s mind. In fact, while we read a novel, we are insane – bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren’t there, we hear their voices, we watch the battle of Borodino with them, we may even become Napoleon. Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.

"Is it any wonder that no truly respectable society has ever trusted its artists?"

- Ursula K. Le Guin