So, keeping with what I started when I finished the previous book, I just looked up my "Kindle Ratio"... namely the percentage of the last 20 books I've read available on Kindle. I've said that as soon as this ratio reaches 50%, I want a Kindle. Well, it stays steady at 35%... 7 of the last 20 books. So we're still not quite there unfortunately.
Author: Umberto Eco
Started: 30 Nov 2008
Finished: 24 Jan 2009
623 p / 56 d
(As translated from the Italian to English by William Weaver that is.)
This is the kind of book that has a reputation as being the kind a lot of people start, but most don't finish, because it is difficult and inscrutable. So of course I wanted to try it out. Reading the first chapter, I firmly believe that it is intentionally constructed in such a way as to put off readers, and encourage all but the most dedicated to stop there. Not that there is anything particularly DIFFICULT about the reading, it is just a guy having very scattered seemingly random thoughts while wandering through a museum... with all sorts of references to all sorts of things that a reader may or may not get. It is rather annoying.
But the book does settle down a bit after that and starts to read (mostly) like a regular narrative, although it does use that very annoying method of regularly moving backward and forward in time, with the vast majority of the book being flashbacks from the guy in the museum remembering what has happened that led him to the museum at that time. Annoying. I hate that device when it is used in TV and Movies, and I don't really like it any more in writing.
Over the course of the novel, the main characters delve into the creation of a huge conspiracy theory involving many of the usual suspects in conspiracy theories. They are making it all up, but as often happens in such things, it takes on a life of its own and trouble ensues.
Some of the conspiracy and historical stuff is actually quite interesting. I found myself on more than a few occasions taking a detour to Wikipedia to look up people, places and organizations that were mentioned to investigate a bit about the real world versions as opposed to what was being depicted. And that was fun.
But a big part of this was a very transparent look at words versus reality, and questions relating to objective reality versus perceived reality, and if saying something and believing it enough makes it true... or close enough to true that it doesn't matter.... if there is even a such thing as "true" outside of the perceptions of those looking at and talking about things.
Blah, blah, blah, blah. Look, I like those sorts of philosophical conundrums. But it was a bit of a stretch to make it 623 pages long.
The value in this book is in the thinking about the concepts being raised and in the interesting historical bits. In those ways it is interesting. There is fun stuff there for those who are intellectually curious about various aspects of European history, or of philosophical questions about the interrelationships between knowledge, language, perception and reality. Or, to be specific, semiotics, which Eco is a professor of. If you like exploring those kinds of concepts, you will like this. But as a flat out novel with an interesting story for the purpose of entertainment... not as much.
So I guess it depends what you are into. I did like it for the intellectual stuff, but it would have been nice if the story part was a bit more compelling. Am I glad I finally got around to reading it? Yes. I'd wanted to read this for awhile, and now was the time I guess.
Many years ago I read The Name of the Rose, also by Eco, and I must say I liked it better. It has many of the same types of themes and intellectual side trips, but I think the Medieval setting just worked better and the actual story was better...
So if you want to read an Umberto Eco book, I'd go with The Name of the Rose first.
The podcast was recorded around 3 UTC on Monday, but I've had things going on during almost all of the time I wasn't at work or asleep since then, so I haven't gotten the podcast out the door yet. And it isn't going to get done before I leave to drop Amy off at school and then go to work in a few minutes. Sometimes if it is all edited and processing has started when I leave for work, and all that remains is hitting the "publish" button once it is done spitting out the mp3 file, then I'll hit that button and do the blog post announcing it during my lunch break. But alas, it is not even edited yet, so it will have to wait. I promise I'll have it out the door within the next 24 hours or so though.
Last weekend was time for another DVD. This time it was from my Netflix list. I'm not sure how or when it originally got on my list, since it is many years from bottom to top of my netflix list, but the next film was American Beauty. Despite it being an Oscar Winner and such, the only thing I really knew about it was the Lolita-esque part of it and the image of the girl with the rose petals. Amy expressed no interest. Brandy was busy watching movies she had to watch for class. So I was once again watching by myself.
I wasn't expecting much. Dunno why. The first 30 minutes or so did drag a bit. It was slow, and not super compelling. But then again, it was supposed to be laying the groundwork about how much the main character's life sucked. Then it got a bit creepy when he started lusting after the cheerleader.
But then it hit its groove. It seemingly cycled between hilariously funny, creepy, and just sad. In the end end it was a compelling combination. I liked it a lot. I guess I understand the five Oscars. :-)
And, despite the impression I had before hand, it was most definitely NOT primarily about the guy and him lusting after the teenager. This was a portion of it to be sure, and an important element, but it was just one element in a larger picture. It was more a mid-life-crisis movie than creepy old man in love with teenager movie, although of course that is one of the ways the mid-life-crisis manifested itself.
Anyway. Good movie. I liked it. Worth a rental if you didn't see it back in 1999 when it was in the theaters.
What I believe to be my last Christmas present (that of course was supposed to arrive on December 24th or earlier) just arrived! This means I can now start doing the whole Thank You note thing! By email of course. :-)
But the way to make a government responsible is not simply to enlist the services of responsible men and women, or to sign laws that ensure that they never stray. The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they're being made, and whether their interests are being well served.
The directives I am giving my administration today on how to interpret the Freedom of Information Act will do just that. For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over. Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known.
To be sure, issues like personal privacy and national security must be treated with the care they demand. But the mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. The Freedom of Information Act is perhaps the most powerful instrument we have for making our government honest and transparent, and of holding it accountable. And I expect members of my administration not simply to live up to the letter but also the spirit of this law.
I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness. Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution.
Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.
Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know. And that's why, as of today, I'm directing members of my administration to find new ways of tapping the knowledge and experience of ordinary Americans -- scientists and civic leaders, educators and entrepreneurs -- because the way to solve the problem of our time is -- the way to solve the problems of our time, as one nation, is by involving the American people in shaping the policies that affect their lives.
The executive orders and directives I'm issuing today will not by themselves make government as honest and transparent as it needs to be. And they do not go as far as we need to go towards restoring accountability and fiscal restraint in Washington. But these historic measures do mark the beginning of a new era of openness in our country. And I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people in the days and weeks, months and years to come. That's a pretty good place to start.
In addition in his first day, Obama also put a hold on new regulations the Bush administration was putting through at the last minute, suspended proceedings at Gitmo, and more. We're getting off to a quick and strong start. And while in many elections it seems that there really is not much difference before and after, this time the contrasts are immediate and striking.
After the flub heard around the world, President Barack Obama has taken the oath of office. Again. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the oath to Obama on Wednesday night at the White House _ a rare do-over. The surprise moment came in response to Tuesday's much-noticed stumble, when Roberts got the words of the oath a little off, which prompted Obama to do so, too.
Don't worry, the White House says: Obama has still been president since noon on Inauguration Day.
Nevertheless, Obama and Roberts went through the drill again out of what White House counsel Greg Craig called "an abundance of caution."
This time, the scene was the White House Map Room in front of a small group of reporters, not the Capitol platform before the whole watching world.
"We decided that because it was so much fun ...," Obama joked to reporters who followed press secretary Robert Gibbs into the room. No TV camera crews or news photographers were allowed in. A few of Obama's closest aides were there, along with a White House photographer.
Roberts put on his black robe.
"Are you ready to take the oath?" he said.
"Yes, I am," Obama said. "And we're going to do it very slowly."
Roberts then led Obama through the oath without any missteps.
I've been waiting for embeddable video (and in the meantime I took that nap). Anyway, here it is...
It was OK, but not one of his best at all. I was disappointed. I mean, it was fine, and there were some good moments, and it was a refreshing change from W, but... his 2004 convention speech remains the best one of his speeches so far.
Anyway, here is the video of the speech, followed by the full written speech as prepared.
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
The other mistake that lots of people are mentioning on TV and on the Internet is the bit in the inaugural address where Obama said "Forty four Americans have now taken the presidential oath." Of course, while Obama is the 44th President, only 43 people have taken the oath, because Grover Cleveland was both number 22 and number 24 due to serving non-consecutive terms.
And I thought Obama was going to be a stickler for details! Disappointed twice already!
Many looking closely at it say it was mainly Roberts who screwed up, but I say they both did, and I agree with the comment on Balloon Juice - "Clearly, this means that the inauguration is not valid according to a strict interpretation of Article 5 of the Constitution. I believe that, technically, this means that Ted Stevens is now acting president 'until such time as the oath is properly administered'." Ha. I'm sure they will get right on that. :-)
We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.
Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.
And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more. Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.
They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint. We are the keepers of this legacy.
I'm settled in downstairs. All the ex-presidents are now arriving. The last time you had a real transition was 8 years ago. They are always so exciting. No matter who is taking over from who. I'm all a-twitter.
I gave both Brandy and Amy a heads up that we were less than half an hour from the relevant bits of the ceremony starting to happen. I think Amy immediately went back to sleep. Brandy is up, but I'm not sure if she plans on coming down to watch.
But I wouldn't miss this for anything. And yeah, I have a better view from here than I ever would have had in person. But it still would have been nice to go.
I'm thinking with less than 40 minutes to go it might be too late for me to change my mind and go. :-)
We're just under the two hour mark now. At the moment I'm upstairs watching via Slingbox on the computer. In a little bit I'll head downstairs and switch to the projector for a wall sized view.
I'd considered live-blogging, but decided against it. When the time comes, I'll probably shut down the computer and just watch.
Everybody else is still asleep. Dunno if they will be up or awake before the actual inauguration. I'm the political junkie in this house, so I actually kind of doubt it. Neither seemed to have too much interest in watching.
This morning I woke up as usual and banged on Amy's door to let her know it was one hour until we had to leave for school. Moments later, she appeared, indignant, to let me know there was no school today and she was going back to sleep.
Having thus been reminded that it is Martin Luther King Jr day, as if the TV wasn't mentioning it enough, I went to watch the two most memorable speeches that, I at least, seem to watch or listen to at least once a year. I'm sure everybody is seeing them everywhere today, as every single outlet is taking the time to mention the historical threads connecting MLK with tomorrow's inauguration. Nevertheless, here they are:
I know I'm a sap, but both of these really get to me every time I listen to them.
When W gave his farewell speech a few days ago I was out and about doing other things, so I did not see it live. As I started catching up on my Google Reader backlog after my mom left, I figured I'd find it embedded on dozens of different feeds I read. In fact, now that I've caught up, I know there were a number that quoted the transcript, in part or in full, there were a few that commented on it (most in passing, noting how nobody cared or just a few stray thoughts about it), but nobody embedded the video, not even on the right wing blogs I read. I'm sure there are other places that did embed it, just not any of the places I monitor. And that surprised me a bit, although I guess it is an indication of just how much people are anxious to just get on with things and stop thinking about the past.
Of course, just a couple of seconds on Google found it, so here it is:
Hmmm. After watching it, it probably got just about the right amount of attention. It is pretty unmemorable.
Politico’s Ben Smith reports that Obama lawyers broke some bad news to the incoming White House staff at a briefing Friday morning: they will not be allowed to communicate with each other and the outside world through the use of instant messaging. “They just told us flat out we couldn’t IM in the White House,” complained one senior staffer. The reason? The Presidential Records Act would likely require the disclosure of “instant messages discussing government business.”
This is crap. There are plenty of ways to archive IMs. They could meet the requirements of the act. The problem here is not that the communication can't be archived, it is that they want these communications to be "off the record". Well too effin bad. You are in the executive branch, your actions SHOULD be recorded for posterity, and for prosecuting your asses if you get out of line.
If anything, I'd be in favor of strengthening the records act to go beyond the current requirements for retention of written documents (including email and IM) to also require full audio and video recording of *all* executive branch meetings, discussions, etc... at both high and low levels... with a variety of protections regarding when and how they could be released to take into account the sensitive nature of many of those conversations, but never-the-less preserving the events for later historians (and prosecutors if necessary).
Yes, people say that would make people less likely to speak their actual minds in such meetings. My view, if knowing your words would eventually be made public keeps you from recommending (or doing) stupid or illegal things, so much the better.
In any case, a President advocating transparency should not be telling his staff NOT to use IM. He should be telling them to please use IM, as it is efficient and a good way of communicating, but to keep in mind that everything they communicate that way will be permanently archived and eventually made public.
So, over the past few months I have been asked a few times if I will be going to the inauguration. Sadly, the answer is no. This is currently upsetting me. So I'll review the history.
For the first three inaugurations where I had been old enough to vote... 1993, 1997 and 2001 I made the trip to DC and stood in the cold to watch the swearing in and inaugural address on the big jumbo trons along with many thousands of other people, all shivering in the cold. Despite the crowds and bad weather, it was wonderful to be there as a personal witness to history. The peaceful transition of power. The democratic process at its best. I had not voted for either Clinton or Bush. In all three of those elections, I had voted for third parties, not being able to stomach either of the of the major candidates. But I could still appreciate the history being made, and what it represented as the triumph of the process.
My intention at that point was to be sure to attend every inauguration for the rest of my life, or as long as I could manage it. But that ended a lot sooner than I would have liked.
In 2005 the inauguration was mere weeks after we had closed on buying our new house in Florida. We'd expended most available savings on that transaction, and the remaining bits were being used to complete our move and to otherwise take care of getting set up in the new house. In previous cycles I'd lived within easy driving distance of DC. This time I would have to spring for a plane flight. I could probably have done so, it just was not really a responsible use of money at the time. Also, in each of the previous inaugurations I'd gone with a group of people. This time, prior to the election I had looked in vain for someone willing to say they would join me NO MATTER WHO WON THE ELECTION. Everybody was incredibly polarized. They would go if their candidate won, but not if the other guy won. And one person who might have gone with me was just a month from having a baby, so that wasn't going to work either. If I'd been able to find anybody to go, I might have said screw the financials, I'll go anyway. But I found no such person. So in the end, quite bitter about it, I did not go in 2005, and watched it on TV instead.
So now fast forward to this election cycle.
Well before the election, back in July, I got my first question from someone asking if I would be going. Still bitter over 2005, I replied this way:
Hmmm. I actually doubt it. You see, I missed last time. The whole thing for me was the completeness of it. That I could say that I had gone to EVERY inauguration since I was old enough to vote. I wanted to keep that going for as long as I could. It turned out it was only 3 inaugurations worth.
I was devastated last time. First nobody else was willing (most people) or able to go really, or people were conditional (I'll go if Kerry wins, but not if W wins mostly). And second the inauguration was just weeks after I purchased a house and after all the major expenses of moving, etc. We were quite tapped out at that moment. I would have gone alone regardless, but at that time it would have been financially irresponsible for me to have done it. I sat home and watched it on TV, and was just very sad. I wanted to be there, but was not there. And for me, that ended the whole inauguration thing.
Even if I lived across the street from the Capital Mall, at this point I'd probably leave town on inauguration day, because being there would just remind me of my failure. I wouldn't enjoy it, because all I'd think about would be the "hole" and the gap in my experience. That I'd have seen only 4 out of 5 inaugurations since I was old enough to vote, and not all 5. And that even if I went to every inauguration from now until I was elderly, that hole can never be erased. And that fact would gnaw away at me, and I'd end the day just bitter and upset.
Do I know the above is irrational and stupid? Yes. But I also know myself and know that is how I'd feel. I tried to do the inauguration thing. As of 2004 I failed. That is now over for me. Once I missed one, there just wasn't any point any more.
And yes, I know I could still potentially say "I've been to the first inauguration of every president since I was old enough to vote." But so far I'm just not feeling that one.
I say that knowing that an Obama inauguration, if it were to happen, is likely to be a huge event with a level of excitement and historical impact not seen in generations and it would be a shame to not be present for it if I could be.
So maybe ask me again in November. :-)
But right now I'm thinking probably not.
Well, the election actually happened, Obama won, and then a few days later someone else asked if I would be coming for the inauguration, offering me a place to stay if I did. This time I said:
I doubt I will be coming to the inauguration. As you know, for many years I had been very committed to ensuring I attended EVERY inauguration since I was old enough to vote. Unfortunately, and I get depressed thinking about it to this day, in 2005 I was unable to make it to Bush's second inaugural, primarily for financial reasons. It was extremely upsetting for me then, and continues to be now. So with the record broken, attending any further inaugurations would be sort of pointless. Several people have pointed out of course that if I go to this one, I could still say that I'd gone to the FIRST inaugural of every president since I was old enough to vote... plus some extras (namely the second Clinton inaugural). With that they have said that it isn't too late, and I can still salvage something of this tradition. But that "Extra" messes up the pattern for me and would still bother me, as that was not the original intention. I was supposed to go to ALL of them. Finally, if I was going to have decided to go, I would have needed to do so *BEFORE* the election, so as to ensure that who won the election would not be an influence on my decision. I would have needed to be equally committed to going no matter who won. Going only if the guy you like wins seems to me a corruption of the whole inaugural institution and why I might want to go. It is a historical event worthy of note and interest and attendance no matter who wins or loses. In the only communications I made prior to the election on this subject (which was several months ago, thus not tainted by the election results), I indicated, for the same reasons as I did above, that me going is unlikely. So I will need to stick with that I think. I would hate to decide to go now with an Obama victory, not completely and totally certain that I would also have gone if McCain won. Again, if I'd managed to go in 2005, then going now would be an absolute requirement, but me missing it in 2005 means that even thinking about going now, just makes me upset that I didn't go in 2005, so with all that... I probably will not come. However, thank you very much for the offer of a place to stay. :-) I will still be upset on inauguration day that I am here watching it on TV instead of there in person, but that damage was already done in 2005. Going now would be a hollow exercise that would probably make me more sad than happy. I think. Dunno.
Could you tell I was still bitter?
Even after that, in December Brandy talked to me about me going. And we thought about it. Yes, this year once again is one where because my company stock is way down from where it was six months ago, we have to really carefully think about money. But if I'd really wanted to do this, I certainly could have bought the plane ticket... especially if I'd done it months ago before the election... back in October, flights to DC for this time period were completely reasonable. Would it have been somewhat a waste of money that could be better spent on other things, yes. But it could have been done. And Brandy had told me that if it was that important she would be OK with it... I didn't believe it though.
And besides, I was still clinging to the same things I'd said in the two responses above.... plus a few more...
I had missed 2005, so going now would be pointless...
Just going to every president's FIRST inaugural just wouldn't be the same...
It was a waste of money...
If I was going to do it, I would have needed to decide to do so BEFORE the election to be sure I would have gone no matter who won.
It is going to be so crowded it will be a complete hell...
The weather is likely to be aweful...
You'll see it better on TV.
Etc. Every reason possible not to do it.
But now... with about 62 hours until the inauguration, my thought process has shifted entirely.
Seeing the first inauguration of every president since I was old enough to vote would still be pretty cool.
It is indeed still a historic event in many ways.
For the first time since I've been old enough to vote, the person being sworn in would actually be someone I'd voted for.
The crowds will suck, but current estimates aren't nearly as high as they were a month or so ago. They seem to have potentially scared off a lot of people with the reports of how many people were expected and how few porta-pottys there would be.
Yeah, weather will be cold and all, but it always is, and I've been in cold weather before.
Yeah, I would see it better on TV, but BEING THERE is different and better for other reasons.
Brandy told me that REALLY she was serious and had always been serious, she would not be upset if I "wasted" money on this because it was so important to me.
I just want to go damn it.
Of course... checking flights that would get me to DC Monday and back to Seattle Wednesday as of right now... less than 2 days before I'd have to be getting on the plane... those are crazy prices now, not the reasonable prices I would have gotten if I'd booked in October... or even November.
So now I'm just mad at myself for being stubborn and bitter earlier and not just booking myself a flight to DC for this week back in September or October.
Now... although theoretically if I was willing to pay the crazy last minute prices, and had already shifted money around to put it in the accounts I actually use rather than the ones I hide from myself to keep me from spending the money there... I could have still perhaps done it as late as a few days ago. But I didn't.
I'm pretty sure now it is too late.
So no, I will not be going to the inauguration. I will be getting up early Tuesday morning to watch all the festivities on my projector downstairs in my family room, while being bitter that I am not there in person.
Unless of course at that time the TV reports are talking about the massive chaos caused by the huge crowds and how miserable everybody there in person is. If the news concentrates a lot on that, rather than happy excited people, then maybe I'll feel better. :-)
Oh well. I'll live.
Although there may have been last minute changes, I know at least a handful of my readers ARE planning on going in person. Please let me know how it goes! Especially if it is a miserable disaster and you regret going! (But also if you have a wonderful time. :-)
And while I am at it, let me also grump about the experience I had at several stores this morning. I don’t know if this is because everyone is cutting back employees because of the economy, but every store I went to this morning, I had to stand for 15-20 minutes waiting for help. In every case, I stood by a register waiting for someone to show up, in two cases after paging the help, no one showed up, and I said “To hell with it, I will order it on Amazon.”
Nothing happens until just after 2 minutes in when you see the plane come in from the left, seemingly having just hit the water. It comes to a stop and then the video zooms in, mere seconds later, and there are already people climbing onto the wing. And very quickly after that the first ferry arrives. Just how fast people were out, and how quickly the ferries started getting there to pull people to safety is just stunning.
Given where that plane was heading right before the pilot changed course and headed for the river, this could have been so much amazingly worse than it was. Not just the people on the plane, but the people on the ground that would have been hit as well. Looks vaguely like he first was going to attempt to return to La Guardia, then decided he wasn't going to make it, so headed for the river instead. That could just be the way this guy interpolated the data points though. You could easily draw a curve through those points that headed directly to the river. Regardless though, point is that if the pilot hadn't been on the ball, there could have been quite a few ground deaths as well as those on the plane. The fact that this happened with no injuries more severe than broken bones is amazing.
I've always thought the tradition of having people in the gallery that you point out during the State of the Union address is stupid and should be retired, but if Obama continues that condition, I think you can be pretty sure that pilot is going to be one of the ones up there.
Although this episode was recorded Monday, it was not released until today, Friday. I think this is the latest in the week I've ever released an episode. My apologies to Ivan and all of our listeners. It has been a busy week, with family visits and other things taking up lots of time and energy. In any case, as late as it is, here comes the podcast!
For the past seven years, this German set-up has been looking for gravitational waves - ripples in space-time thrown off by super-dense astronomical objects such as neutron stars and black holes. GEO600 has not detected any gravitational waves so far, but it might inadvertently have made the most important discovery in physics for half a century.
For many months, the GEO600 team-members had been scratching their heads over inexplicable noise that is plaguing their giant detector. Then, out of the blue, a researcher approached them with an explanation. In fact, he had even predicted the noise before he knew they were detecting it. According to Craig Hogan, a physicist at the Fermilab particle physics lab in Batavia, Illinois, GEO600 has stumbled upon the fundamental limit of space-time - the point where space-time stops behaving like the smooth continuum Einstein described and instead dissolves into "grains", just as a newspaper photograph dissolves into dots as you zoom in. "It looks like GEO600 is being buffeted by the microscopic quantum convulsions of space-time," says Hogan.
If this doesn't blow your socks off, then Hogan, who has just been appointed director of Fermilab's Center for Particle Astrophysics, has an even bigger shock in store: "If the GEO600 result is what I suspect it is, then we are all living in a giant cosmic hologram."
Yes, I know, the podcast is very late, and I have posted almost nothing this week.
The podcast was recorded early on Monday (UTC), but my mom has been in town visiting, and while she was here she also decided to replace her five year old PowerBook with a new MacBook, so I spent a bunch of time getting that all set up. Normally that would be an easy Migration Assistant task, but there were a number of complications due to the fact that new MacBooks don't have Firewire, her old computer was still on Panther, and her old computer's hard drive was in bad shape with tons of disk errors... so it took a bit more work than it normally would.
Plus of course we've been going around seeing cousins who also live in the Seattle area and doing your normal sort of touristy stuff. Starting about 19 or 20 hours from now, I'll be switching from visiting relative mode to taking a few days off to catch up on stuff at home mode, so I'll get the podcast out shortly after that.
And then of course on the 20th I'll be in 100% watching live news mode.
So Saturday I got a comment on one of my recent blog posts. It seemed to be completely unconnected to the post itself. Since I'd had a comment spammer I had to clean up within the last few days, my immediate thought was, oh no, not again... It said:
For some time, we had toyed with the idea of randomly choosing a trip destination by throwing a dart at a dartboard. However, our lack of a dartboard (or darts) had stopped us from doing so, until recently. As we sat in our friends’ house in Florida over the Christmas break, I decided to google “random vacation generator”. That search led me to a forum where people were discussing precisely that idea. One person added that he had created a “Spot Tool”, and had in fact taken a number of trips using this method already. (See the link to the left)
Sam Minter’s tool seems to allow for setting parameters, but as we could not figure out how to do this, we just gave it a shot. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you’re aware, the world consists of a loooot of water. A few failed hits later, we hit a location. A tiny island in the middle of nowhere, that was apparently U.S. territory, but uninhabited by anyone but birds. Okay, obviously not a possibility!
This made us realize that we needed to set some limits for each trip, and then we should keep trying until we found a location that met our parameters. Since we were looking at a spring break trip, with only 9 days off, and of course limited resources, we decided on the following:
Perfect: The first three locations that met our criteria were all within range of each other, and allowed us to plan out a perfect trip for 9 days. This trip will go as follows:
We will leave in March of 2009, so check back for updates!
I remain saddened that various factors have continued to push my own next random vacation to Chacchoben, Quintana Roo, Mexico into the far future. But it seems someone else is taking up the mantle! So thank you to BrightViolet... and I'll be watching for your updates!
Just under 7 hours ago, at 10:56:18 UTC, it was exactly three years since the moment I walked into my current employer as an employee for the first time. Wow. The time does go by pretty quickly. It has been a good three years. I'm looking forward to the next three.
In less than 12 hours, my mom arrives for a visit of approximately 5 days and 18 hours. So I am now on vacation. Today is getting the house ready for a visitor, then there is the actual visit from my mom, then I'll take a few extra days off to catch up on random things around home, and to watch the festivities on the 20th. And then back to work after that.
In a just completed joint session of Congress, the electoral votes from the November 4th election have been tallied, and Obama has been formally declared the winner. As expected, Obama received 365 votes, while John McCain received 173 votes.
This is the right result. And while (as I said in the podcast) I've heard arguments on both sides, I was most convinced by the ones saying that if the senate didn't seat Burris, and Burris took it to court, Burris would probably win.
Whatever Blago did, he is still Governor. The legislature could have impeached or scheduled a special election, but they did not. He was within his full rights to appoint someone.
I still think though that he should have been a real dick about it and appointed either himself, Fitzgerald, or some random homeless guy.
Well, turns out our good Governor was just in Iraq and her staff did a really bad job managing the message while she was gone. But hey, as I'm sure most of you heard yesterday Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General!
Q: Is Governor Gregoire going to be Obama's nominee for Commerce Secretary?
A: “We’re not able to speak to that so we’ll do a release in the morning.”
Q: Where is she?
A: “She’s out of state.”
Q: Is she in the country?
A: "I’m not allowed to say.”
Q: Is she going to continue as Governor of Washington State?
A: "I’m not allowed to say.”
All I can say is that from what little exposure I've had to her (seeing her in person a couple times at the Democratic caucus events and watching one of the televised Gubernatorial debates) I really really REALLY don't like her. Yet I find myself torn between being happy she won't be in Washington State any more, and appalled that she will be in the Obama administration.
Assuming the rumors turn out to be true of course.
I'm catching up on Monday's news at the moment, and see a lot about Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller (important Dems on the intelligence committees) not "approving" of Obama's appointment of Leon Panetta for CIA. Because he doesn't have enough intelligence experience. I don't buy that at all.
I think what is going on here is that from the initial reports I have read Panetta doesn't buy into a lot of the stuff that's been going on in the Intelligence world the last few years. He's taken an absolutely unequivocal stand against torture and "enhanced interrogation" for instance.
Meanwhile, leading congressional Democrats on the relevant committees have been briefed on what the Bush administration was doing ALL ALONG. And for the most part, they went along with it and made no attempt to stop or slow what was going on, and in many cases actively supported it.
I think if you get people in charge on the executive side of the fence that are on record saying these things are not just the wrong thing to do, but in many cases completely immoral and perhaps even in some cases criminal, that the facts about who knew about things and who supported things will slowly come out, and a lot of people will not come out looking good. And it isn't just Republican's who will be tainted. A lot of congressional Democrats will be found to have been neck deep in it as well.
That is what Feinstein and Rockefeller and such don't like. Someone who does NOT have a heavy Intelligence background (like Panetta) and who therefore hasn't been indoctrinated into the groupthink, will come in there, see what was going on, and may very well do a "WTF??? You were doing WHAT?" and start actually making noise about some of the bad things that have happened. Some of it may be public. Chances are much more will be private and internal and not see the light of day for a long time, but feathers will still get ruffled.
Or maybe I'm full of it. But when I hear Congressional Dems complaining about something like this, I immediately wonder what their real agenda is, because I don't think it is the same as their public line.
Of course, all of the above doesn't mean Panetta would have been my pick or that I know enough to say I approve of him or disapprove of him... I haven't looked into it enough to really say... Maybe he really is a bad fit. I'm just saying I don't trust the folks that are criticizing on experience grounds alone right now at ALL, and that they probably have other motives that aren't really all that pure and are probably more about themselves than about Panetta.
Another thing I made a note to myself to blog a long long time ago (March 2007 actually)... At that time Google Maps satellite view had a nice view of our old house in Florida with both my car and Brandy's in front of it:
See, you can see them!
Cool enough. So today I checked out Google Maps again. Of course our cars aren't there any more on the satellite view. You can see they added something on the roof and such but that view isn't too interesting.
Then I checked out Street View:
Looks like they added a fence on one side, replacing a row of trees and bushes that were there before. They also ripped up most of the plants that were around the front of the house. There were a lot more bushes and things. I really liked those. They sort of surrounded an oval shaped area in front of those windows you see (which is where my home office was) so that there was a little private garden area there that you looked out onto rather than just a straight view of the street. The house looks much more barren and lacking in personality without them. Poor plants. Bastards.
Oh well, it still sucks to be them. According to Zillow, The house has lost over 30% in value since we sold it to them. HA HA. Should have left the plants where they were!
On Friday morning the sign said "Our New Hours! 8 AM to 7 PM!" That was a reduction in hours. My immediate thought "Oh no, they are in trouble".
By Friday afternoon the sign had been replaced with the above.
We stopped by there a few hours ago and picked up some things. The shelves were already half empty. It was somewhat sad.
This is the grocery store that is very easy walking distance from our house. We used to walk there all the time for small grocery trips. We'd walk there all the time with Roscoe as well, with one of us going inside and grabbing something small while the other (usually me) stays outside with Roscoe.
Brandy was already a little upset with them because during the snow they closed early a couple of times without notice (and without turning off their sign) and twice they locked the doors just as we were walking up, and then turned their backs and completely ignored people who came up to the doors. (Not even with a "Sorry, we had to close early due to the snow" from the employees or on a note taped to the door.) I thought that was understandable, but Brandy was annoyed.
Brandy says their prices were also generally higher than the multiple grocery stores a little further away from home. and they were smaller and with less selection. But this was a five minute walk from home and very convenient. I would frequently stop by there on the way home from work when Brandy made a last minute call saying she needed something. No more I guess.
Of course, it was not our primary source of groceries. It probably wasn't the primary place for most folks around here. It was the secondary place to go for something quick. Which, along with the economy in general, is assuredly part of why they are closing.
As for us, our primary place for groceries continues to be Amazon Fresh. Aside from last minute things you don't know you need until the very last second, it is just far more convenient. And Roscoe likes to bark at their truck when they drop the stuff off early in the morning.
This week was time for an Amy pick. She had picked American Virgin. This was a Year 2000 teen sex comedy sort of film. Of course, when I announced that this week's movie night would be a Amy movie night, and since this was her current Netflix movie this would be what we would be watching (and I subsequently intercepted it at the mailbox to be sure I had it first so we could watch it) Amy announced that this was NOT a movie she wanted to watch with her parents. Brandy also took one look at the Netflix description of the movie:
When your father is a pornographer, what can you do to shock him? If you're Katrina Bartalotti (Mena Suvari), you announce you're going to lose your virginity -- live on the Internet! Bob Hoskins co-stars as the mastermind behind the plan to broadcast Katrina's deflowering. This wicked satire of the information age proves there are more than a few kinks left in the Net.
At that point Brandy said she was also pretty sure she didn't want Amy watching this movie at all anyway. Yeah, I can understand that. Although I generally have the philosophy that if you are old enough that you WANT to see something, then you are old enough to actually see it... with appropriate context provided by parents as needed. But Brandy also said SHE didn't want to watch it.
But since was the movie of the week, I was going to watch it at 05:00 UTC on Saturday no matter what happened damn it! I want to do a movie every week, and this was this week's movie! And besides, it had Bob Hoskins in it. He was a real actor, it couldn't be too bad could it? After all, he did Roger Rabbit and that was a good movie, right?
With the single lone exception of Jackass: The Movie which literally almost made me vomit in the theater it was so bad, this was pretty much the worst movie I have ever seen in my life.
OK, first of all, if you are supposed to be a teen sex comedy, there should actually be some sex, or at least some nudity. In the whole movie there was perhaps a grand total of 4 seconds of partial nudity of secondary characters. And while there was implied sex at one point, and implied simulated sex at maybe a couple of other points, there wasn't even an actual real sex scene. Not even one. Not even a bad one, let alone a decent one.
What the movie actually had was 88 minutes of absolutely horrible acting, incredibly lame sex jokes that weren't remotely funny, random people chasing and acting mad at each other, an unfunny and also undramatic scene of Bob Hoskins being tied up and essentially tortured, and of course an absolutely predictable ending.
After 30 minutes I had to pause the DVD and leave for a bit because it was just so bad. After seeing the look on my face when I came up during this break, the look of abject horror and disgust, Amy decided that maybe she didn't want to see the movie at all after all. She asked me to PLEASE put it right back in the mail to Netflix when I was done.
Then I took a deep breath or two and headed back downstairs to finish the movie. It took a lot of will power to do so. It was just so bad. And the last 58 minutes of the movie were no better than the first 30. If anything, they were worse.
Having seen the whole movie, I don't think it would have been particularly bad if Amy had watched it. I mean, it of course has sex jokes and sex references. But she is a teenager about to enter high school. It isn't like she hasn't seen or heard more explicit things elsewhere, including in movies we have watched together as a family, let alone the things that teenagers discuss amongst themselves. It is 2008 after all, not 1988 or 1968. (Not like those years were really all THAT much different other than ease of access to things due to the internet.) And there was nothing particularly wrong or offensive about it... other than the fact that watching something so horribly stupid has to leave a mark of some sort, perhaps permanently stripping away a couple of IQ points from anybody who watches it.
It was just awful.
Please, if you are ever tempted to rent this movie... don't.
And if your teenager wants to watch it... I personally wouldn't tell them no. I would however continuously make fun of them because of how insanely stupid a movie they were wanting to watch, and tell them if they really want to watch something in the teenage-sex-comedy-romp genre (which are mostly horrible, based on the few I have ever seen all or parts of) there MUST be better ones to choose from. There really must be. Right?
Oh, and I'd insist on sitting there watching it with them (even though it is so bad it would be somewhat painful) just to better make fun of them for wanting to see something so horrible.
If Yellowstone volcano produced a major eruption plume — a very remote possibility, but one worth considering at the moment — where would it go? A really big eruption could drop ash thousands of miles from the source, but upper winds at the time of the eruption would determine which way the plume might track. Here is the GFS 16-day time-lapse model of winds at the 250 mb level — roughly the boundary between troposphere and stratosphere. It might prove useful. Even Florida will be downwind of Yellowstone at times during the next two weeks, as the jet stream flexes and pulses.
Chances of a major eruption are or course actually very remote, but Yellowstone is worth watching because it is one of those "supervolcanos" that have a habit of every few hundred thousand years erupting in a way that dwarfs "normal" volcanic eruptions and sometimes effect continent sized areas. The last time Yellowstone erupted was 640,000 years ago or so.
Anyway, Yellowstone is rumbling right now, with a "swarm" of Earthquakes indicating movement of the subterranean magma. Fun!
Few things are more soothing than sleeping with a warm puppy. I decided to use the dog as sort of a little pillow for my snout. It felt wonderful to snuggle my nose in between her ear and her neck area. She was totally unconscious so she took any position I assigned. It was great, but perhaps one more adjustment would make it perfect. I decided to put one arm around her and slip my hand under her head, just to get extra comfy. But there was just one problem.
HER HEAD WAS MISSING!
Click through to read the full thing and surprise ending. :-)
The above is a statement Amy had to write as part of the application process for her current school. This was quite awhile ago at this point, but I only recently got a copy of it back. At the time it was written, I remember thinking "Wow, that came out of Amy?" as this was written completely without prompting and without any interference or coaching from any adult.
As a historian who works on the 19th century, I have been reading my newspaper with a considerable sense of dread. While many commentators on the recent mortgage and banking crisis have drawn parallels to the Great Depression of 1929, that comparison is not particularly apt. Two years ago, I began research on the Panic of 1873, an event of some interest to my colleagues in American business and labor history but probably unknown to everyone else. But as I turn the crank on the microfilm reader, I have been hearing weird echoes of recent events.
When commentators invoke 1929, I am dubious. According to most historians and economists, that depression had more to do with overlarge factory inventories, a stock-market crash, and Germany's inability to pay back war debts, which then led to continuing strain on British gold reserves. None of those factors is really an issue now. Contemporary industries have very sensitive controls for trimming production as consumption declines; our current stock-market dip followed bank problems that emerged more than a year ago; and there are no serious international problems with gold reserves, simply because banks no longer peg their lending to them.
In fact, the current economic woes look a lot like what my 96-year-old grandmother still calls "the real Great Depression." She pinched pennies in the 1930s, but she says that times were not nearly so bad as the depression her grandparents went through. That crash came in 1873 and lasted more than four years. It looks much more like our current crisis.