Saturday, October 09, 2010

If I Started Posting Again...

...would anybody be paying attention?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The New Hotness

I resisted for as long as I could, but I'm on Facebook now.

Facebook is the new MySpace, which was the new Blogspot, which was the new Friendster, which was the new LinkedIn...which was, I dunno, the new Honda Civic with a bag of Fritos in the back seat.

Social networking sites are pretty cool in that you can catch up with people that you remember from way back when and see what they look like now. You hope they look a little older than you, but not too old, and that your kids are cuter than theirs, but that in general they're within 10 smidgens of your own particular happiness level. Too happy, and you want to smack 'em. Too sad, and you just don't want to deal with the bummerdom.

I've reconnected with family, with folks from most of my old bands, from high school, college, my time in Boston and New York, and my new friends here. It's kinda cool, thinking about old connections restored and that sort of thing. Real time updates and pointless pics and videos and links to stupid stories. And I don't have to come up with 800 words, a unique point of view, and a catchy turn of phrase. I can just post something like "I tried out for a play at the Main Street Stage this weekend and they politely told me to go pee up a rope"...and that's it. No annoying anonymous comments, no worries that someone's going to give me a pile and a half of crap. No, I'm leaving the internet pissing contests to the Topix posters over at the Transcript web site--have fun eating each over there, y'all--and if I get the notion to share some brain motion I'll drop some commotion into the blogspot ocean.

Til then, see you elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rules, Money, Guns, and Issues

Each alternate November, the American public--most of which does not care about this sort of thing on a regular basis--is bombarded with information about a pack of candidates' records, characters, families, religions, and alcoholic beverages of choice. Every other autumn, candidates try to impress with their ability to debate, and look confident while giving a speech, and knowing some civics and history and a few foreign capital cities. Get enough name recognition together, get a few media people saying nice things about you, deflect the mean things the other media people are saying about you, and make your opponents seem vaguely worse, somehow, than you, and...congratulations! You now go off to your state's or country's capital city and represent your constituency with a mandate from the masses.

Once you're actually there, are you competing with other election winners on the things that got you elected? Is it like a tournament?

No, it's like government. And government is really about three things and three things only: rules, money, and guns. That's why government exists. There is nothing else for it to do but make up rules, hand out money, and shoot off the guns.

So how does a nice set of teeth, a fashionable but not ostentatious wardrobe, and experience smiling at pancake breakfasts qualify anyone to legislate, appropriate, and militarily gesticulate?

Is it just me, or is there a disconnect between the job of government and the way we give these jobs out?

Is it just that I'm paying too much attention to this particular question during the aerial bombardment of pointless information surrounding this November's cycle? Why do I even know what Jane Swift thinks about comments that Barack Obama made about Sarah Palin that weren't even about Sarah Palin (or...maybe they were...a's hard to say for sure)? Why do I know the names of Biden's kids? Obama's pastor? The brand of prescription drug Cindy McCain went into rehab for?

How on earth do the people who come out with the most votes via this ridiculous process get to go out and try to make up the rules, dole out the money, and aim the ordnance?

I want to get mad at the participants, but there's no point in blaming the winners. It's not like they're making up the rules. Oh wait--they ARE, aren't they? That seems like kind of a deviation from the ideal design, there.

No, still, though while the technical details may differ from year to year, the basic process hasn't changed since the mid nineteenth century. And every time we go through it, there are winners, and there are losers, and the procedural details are surveyed and dissected and discussed like each election was a game from the '86 World Series. The pundits and commentators huff and puff and the talk radio callers and bloggers urge us to blow the house down, but we never do. No, every time around we beg to be influenced by contrived outrage and gaffes and gotcha questions and non-denial denials.

And then we complain when our system doesn't work the way we want it to. Why? Because 35% of the country marches to one specific set of foolhardy platitudes, 35% trudges along to a set of attractively packaged yet fallacious principles, and the best part of the rest simply pay no attention. Basically most of us have made up our minds long before any of the candidates were selected, or we vote in a district where it's a foregone conclusion who's going to win anyway.

As for the few TRUE difference makers, how many of them are grandmas who vote on looks? One-issue voters whose only criteria for giving their vote is abortion or gun control? Racists or chauvinists who wouldn't ever vote for a black guy or a woman?

Do issues matter?

Have they ever mattered?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It Just Struck Me...

...Sarah Palin == Jane Swift with slightly better karma.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Notes From The First Month of Fatherhood

The first month is in the books. Piper was born four Tuesdays ago; we've been home from the hospital for a bit over two weeks now. The word that rings the most with me is "grueling", but grueling in a different way than, say, a business trip to Grand Rapids, or a good case of the runs.

I haven't slept more than five hours straight since Tara went into the hospital 31 days ago today.

I've got the debris of several dozen cardboard boxes worth of flat-pack furniture, strollers, playpens, and assorted baby ordnance in a big pile in the living room. My adorable little daughter does little apart from eat, sleep, and project various substances from inside her body onto whatever shirt I happen to be wearing.

I'm able to translate the eight or nine versions of the only word she's able to come out with to this point--"waaaaah"--and have cured the nastiest (that is to say, only) case of diaper rash I've ever seen (for those interested: corn starch, airing it out, and lots of those absorbent pads whose primary purpose is for housebreaking puppies). She stops crying when we hold her, feed her, burp her (I did not realize quite how long THAT process was going to end up taking), or swaddle her, and for the most part pretty much stays where we put her.

She, like her parents, is nocturnal. While she sleeps through most of the day like a diapered sausage in the sun, her 1:00 and 5:00am feedings turn into these marathon rock-a-bye-baby sessions before she finally accepts being put down without version #4 of "waaaah"--the one that means "you ain't done holding and rocking me, sucka. Oh no you ain't."

But the whole of it is just postscript when she opens those eyes and stares at you. I mean, look: I've seen a lot of ugly babies, you know? Hate to say it, but it's true. Not every baby is cute; that's all there is to it. And while I'm possibly biased, I really think, by all objective measures, that my daughter is truly in the top 5% of the overall baby cuteness rankings:

Would this face lie to you?

So yeah, I'd write more, including the story of Piper's high-level meetings with the mayor, our state representative, and junior US Senator/unelected Presidential candidate, but I think I hear good ol' waaaah #4 coming from the bassinet to my left. Time to spring, albeit slowly and wearily, into action.

Thanks to everyone, by the way, for their thoughts and best wishes. More as she--and we--continue to develop.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Early Bird Catches Your Heart

Whats My Name?
She was supposed to be here at the end of August.

She was supposed to have "North Adams" on her birth certificate, not "Springfield".

She was supposed to have followed a carefully deliberated "birth plan".

She did none of these things.

But the one major thing she was supposed to do--capture us completely and make us swear everlasting love and concern for her well-being--well, this, she has done. In spades.

Happy 0th birthday, Piper. Welcome aboard. Hold on tight.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Several Things That Would Seem To Be Obvious

  • A note on the election: Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination because she made some strategic decisions that just plain turned out to be wrong. In politics as in sports as in life, the team that made the fewer mistakes won. She was defeated by neither sexism nor her Senate record nor husband Bill. She couldn't make up for a bad first half, ran out of time, and lost a close one at the buzzer. In the end, too many kids and eggheads saw inspiration in the other guy, and they barely edged out her base of women, guys with lunchpails, and folks who would never, ever vote for a black guy.

    She almost won, but whiffing on a few basic tactics that I don't need to list out probably made the difference. And if you can't run a campaign, you're probably going to have a hard time running a country, so while I empathize with Senator Clinton and her supporters, I have to disagree with those who think the wrong person ended up winning.

  • The retail price of a gallon of gasoline is the result of a complex set of variables that no single political or economic tactic will affect more than temporarily. But any discussion of oil pricing that does not start with the devaluation of the US Dollar is flawed from the outset.

    Oil market price benchmarks are all in US Dollars, which means that if a dollar is worth less--20% this last 12 months alone--it's going to cost more of them to buy the same amount of anything. Basically, you start out having to pay $1.20 for your dollar draft beer--with all other market conditions remaining equal.

    Then during a currency devaulation, big investors buy commodities (oil, gold, or frozen concentrated orange juice...Winthorp), whose prices go up, and then you have irrational exuberance over a new market bubble. Of course there's a monstrous jump in wholesale prices. And again, this is even before you even start talking about fundamentals of supply and demand.

    Now, once the many hands downstream of this start sticking themselves into the river of fake money to pad resale prices, we end up where we are now. You can reduce oil company taxes, drill in ANWR, build refineries, give everyone an electric car, or have the Saudis turn the hose on full-blast. You'd just be diddling around with a market that just needs people to get real and start changing the way they think about their relationship with fossil fuel.

  • The Internet and the 24-hour news cycle are driving a new style of debate, and it's not one I'm digging particularly. Look: I'm quite aware that there was never some mythical, mist-enshrouded Golden Age where the Internet was devoid of douchebaggery. I'm quite aware that uninformed, factually incorrect, or prejudiced opinions have always existed. But at this point, the vast majority of comment-enabled websites are nothing more than digital repositories of half of any population yelling at the other half. It's all smug self-satisfaction versus shrill self-righteousness, mixed with obvious difficulty distinguishing fact and opinion, with a dash of overconfidence in one's ability to predict the future. Top it off with straw men, slippery slopes, and a healthy glop of outrage, then wrap it in a forum where you aren't held accountable for anything you say. No, I hope you understand if I just push that plate away and ask for a green salad instead.

  • To wrap up with a should-be-obvious culinary topic: guys and gals, a "slider" is not just a small cheeseburger. Nowadays every corner beanery puts a meatball on a finger roll with pepper jack and "chi-pol-tay" (urgh!) mayo and calls it a slider. Don't get me wrong: I love mini-cheeseburgers, but if I have to drive these people to the nearest White Castle (or Krystal, if you're south-facing) and slide a couple fifty-nine-cent steamers down their necks myself, then stop at Staples to get some white-out for their menus, dammit, I will.