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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Tremendous Loss

If you live in Colorado, you’ve probably already seen this story as it’s been in the news for the past few days. Now that details about the soldier involved are being released, it’s becoming obvious to me that the U.S. Army lost a good man over the weekend in a tragic incident precipitated by a Jimmy Buffet song. If it weren’t for the loss of life, the entire confrontation might have been funny. As it is, it’s just a hideous waste of a good man.

[Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez, a] decorated Army Special Forces solider who was fatally injured in a New Year’s Day fight after playing one of his favorite Jimmy Buffett songs on a bar jukebox, died of severe head trauma, according to autopsy results released Tuesday.
[...]
Gloria Bovadilla, Lopez’s aunt, said Lopez was shot multiple times while serving in Afghanistan, suffering serious wounds to his bladder and leg. Lopez’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star with two oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, and the Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters. He is survived by his son, Nicholas James Lopez; father, Vincent Suarez; sister, Mary Ventura; and brother, Mark Suarez.

My sympathies go out to his family and friends.

Read the story. And more from the Rocky.

Thank You, Toto

Without you I might never have known that love isn’t always on time. Don’t you worry, though, I’ll hold the line.

This moment of eighties pop music clarity brought to you by the shuffle setting on an overstuffed iPod. Mock at will.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

MacBook Wheel

Following up on Dave’s post about his favorite things, I bring you the MacBook Wheel, a device sure to be one of my newest favorite things:

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things: A Nearly Late-Night List

  1. Outsourced. While it has moments that are remarkably predictable, Outsourced has a sweet charm in its affection for India and its main characters. It’s a small pleasure, but one that stands out for its gentle spirit and mildly sanitized view of India. While it wouldn’t do to expect anything life-changing, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a quiet romance, good humor, and a little flavor of India.
  2. FilesAnywhere.com When I had to start sharing large files with clients over the Internet, I looked for a service that gave me a great set of tools, a decent price, and generous storage. FilesAnywhere.com did that in a big way. It’s quick, reliable, and mature. I’ve only been using it for a few months, but it’s impressed a number of clients so much that they’ve become customers. That’s about as good a recommendation as I can imagine.
  3. Thunderer. I’m only about half way through Felix Gilman’s Thunderer, but I’m truly impressed by his first novel. It’s intriguing, compelling, and filled with well-realized characters to carry the reader through all of the wonders of the strange world that he has concocted (and all of its gods). Having read his blog, I can’t help but think that Mr. Gilman is a bit of a jerk when it comes to his political opinions (though no more so than John Scalzi). Luckily for me, I won’t let his politics come between me and the enjoyment of his novel. He wouldn’t be likely to miss me as a customer, but I would certainly miss the artistry of what he’s written. It took a little more than forty pages to get past the awkward introduction, but by then Mr. Gilman found a perfect pacing for the shifting views between the lead characters. I’m vaguely planning a full review of the book once I’ve finished it, but, in case that doesn’t happen, I wanted to make a quick note of this wonderful bit of epic fantasy.

What about you? What have you been enjoying lately that needs to be shared with the class?

Denver Post Gets it Wrong. Rocky Gets it Right. Just Sayin’.

As reported, confusingly, by the Denver Post:

A man going through the personal effects of his grandfather on Friday found a Korean War-era mortar that was later destroyed by the Northeast Regional Bomb Squad, the Weld County Sheriff’s Office said today.

I saw this first and wondered why anyone would get uptight over an empty metal tube. Seemed a bit paranoid.

Then I caught this over at the Rocky (Denver’s walking dead newspaper (in fact, kind of Zomby-esque in that respect)):

A Colorado man sorting through his late grandfather’s belongings found a bombshell, sort of: A live mortar round from the Korean War era.

A bomb squad detonated the shell at an undisclosed site. No one was hurt.

Given that the mortar round is the bit that goes boom, suddenly the story made a good bit more sense. Nice to see that at least one of the papers can report the facts correctly.

Heh. Heheheheh.

Zomby snark. Zombie commentary. Bob Hope. A joke about Democrats.

Damn. That’s almost flirting where I come from.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Where is the Leadership?

You’d have to imagine that voting “present” won’t really do for too much longer. The world doesn’t always like the U.S., but damned if they don’t look to us for leadership and guidance. No, Obama isn’t my president--not yet, anyway--but the Gaza conflict will have a powerful effect on U.S. strategy and diplomatic efforts in the region both for the short and long terms. While I appreciate the idea that he might not want to undercut the current president, it is also unthinkable that he wouldn’t make some comment on the situation.

As the clock ticks down to Barack Obama’s inauguration, the US president-elect has kept silent on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its latest deadly turn in the Gaza Strip.
Obama transition officials have ventured little more than saying their boss is “monitoring” the situation in Gaza, where at least 460 people have been killed in eight days of air raids before a ground offensive began Saturday.

In the same period, Gaza militant rockets have killed four Israelis and wounded several dozen people.

“The president-elect is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza,” his national security spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said in a statement after the ground assault got underway.

But she offered no further comment on the violence in Gaza and used a phrase repeated often by Obama and his aides: “There is one president at a time and we intend to respect that.”

That last bit is pretty funny to me. Obama had been, until the holiday break, a one-man press conference machine and more than happy to give his opinion on current events. Silence and the idea that there is only one president at a time is a new discovery with this crew.

Obama (and the “Office of the President Elect”, complete with nifty, presidential graphics) have elected to remain silent on this, leaving both enemies and friends wondering what he will do as this conflict moves deeper into this new year. Speeches and sound-bites aside, how will Obama’s White House show leadership in supporting Israel and in finding that elusive roadmap to peace? Will Obama’s White House support Israel? While he doesn’t currently have the power to actually act, it would be nice to have some idea of his intentions--and I’m sure our friends in Israel feel the same way.

Update: Even Arnold has weighed in on the crisis (and, happily and bluntly, on the side of the right of a nation to defend itself from unrelenting and utterly arbitrary rocket attacks from terrorists).

Friday, January 02, 2009

Really Need to Update My Freakin’ Blogroll…

Since blogrolling has been dead, I’ve been seriously deficient in the blogroll department. I liked the service, wish I could find one that worked as well and had the same kinds of features, and that was actively supported by its owners. That doesn’t seem to be happening, though, so if I were smart I would just create a static list as an include that would be easy to manage.

Anyway, whining about my laziness aside, one of the sites that needs (needs) to be on my new roll will be Founding Bloggers. Great stuff over there--check it out if you have a chance.

The Bailout Beat Goes On…

Perhaps the worst aspect of the recent government bailouts of some of America’s biggest industries/welfare recipients with fat stacks of America’s taxed income--and boy are there some ethical, practical, and political “worst aspects” to choose from--is that doling out that much money to bail out failed and failing businesses has given license to everyone with a bad business plan to come, hat in hand, to Uncle Sugar asking for their very own personalized bailout plan. We can argue over the merits of the plans (not that I want to; I’m growing a bit sick of the whole thing), but I did have to highlight what I can’t help but think is a particular bit of lunacy in Matt Rosoff’s letter to Obama: Hey Obama: Reboot the music industry!

But what about the music industry? Yes, the big labels have earned a lot of scorn for their technophobia and suing their customers--a practice which finally ended last week--but music is a multibillion-dollar industry, responsible for employing hundreds of thousands of people, and in the midst of several years of steep sales declines. If we can bail out the U.S. auto industry, and spend at least a trillion dollars saving the global financial system and reinvesting in infrastructure, surely we could spare a dime for the music biz.

Serious economic thinkers might scoff at the comparisons--finance touches everybody, and our entire infrastructure has been designed around the automobile--but music’s more than a lark or a luxury. It’s a core part of the entertainment industry, which is one of the few areas in which the United States is still an exporter and world leader rather than an importer. Even The Economist has acknowledged the deep biological importance of music, leading off its annual double Christmas issue with an investigation of why we love music.

As with Friedman’s proposal to save America, my proposal to save music would start at the bottom--it’s not enough to give the big labels and radio stations a few hundred million dollars to stem their losses and encourage re-investment. Instead, we need to create a culture of music appreciation and nurture the talent that will lead to the next generation of musicians.

It doesn’t take a big-L Libertarian to balk at the idea that the music industry is in need of saving. There is simply no way to begin to make the argument that we are in danger of running out of musicians, that the entire music industry is near collapse, or that it is in our government’s interest to help usher in the next wave of pop music abominations. While I do fear for the future of classical music and opera in America, our government’s involvement isn’t likely to be meaningful or particularly positive. More likely, it would be inept, fill half-empty music halls with less than half-baked talents, cost outrageous sums of money that could have been better used if left in tax-payers wallets, and benefit nearly no one.

His idea of stipends for non-classical musicians is simply dumb. No matter how much it sets wannabe rock stars salivating at the thought of Uncle Sugar paying for their ramen, pot, and cable bill for a few years while they noodle away at a soon-to-be-failed career, what precisely is the payoff for the taxpayer? Where is the benefit to the people footing the bill? That Canada has a similar plan for “self-trained” musicians is hardly a big selling point; I haven’t noticed an emerging army of latter-day Canadian Elvii swarming through the world and hoovering up entertainment bucks from the international buying public in a way that might offset the government expenditures or contribute so significantly in any cultural way as to be an undeniable argument for the nurturing of hundreds or thousands of no-talent hacks who think that being a rock star is the best way in the world to get laid.

So let’s just say “no” to this poorly considered bailout (or “reboot) of the American music industry. There’s no need for it and, even if there were, it would hardly be the responsibility of our ever-growing government to provide the solution.

Luckily, this was an idea from someone who isn’t able to reach directly into my pocket and pull out the cash he needs to fund his dreams. But it’s representative of the direction people will be looking whenever any American industry hits a difficult patch from now on--and that’s going to be a hard habit to break. Once we citizens hand over a responsibility to the government (like our retirements, for instance), it becomes nearly impossible to ever take that responsibility back. Most people prefer the security of a bad investment backed by an agency they trust over the scary monsters of having to find a way to provide for themselves. Government tends to be big, dumb, inflexible, slow, cumbersome, and inefficient--just the kind of organization that can revitalize big, dumb, inflexible, slow, cumbersome, and inefficient industries like those that are now in trouble in the US.

Whatever answers there are that can solve the problems of America’s industries (whether it’s financial institutions, car manufacturers, or the music industry), the answers aren’t likely to come from Uncle Sugar or from money foolishly and inefficiently spent by a government agency.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Zombies, Village Voices, and Damnation: Three Quick Notes

Firstly, a kind friend sent me a series of albums for Christmas. One of them in particular is grabbing my attention--although Sia’s Some People Have Real Problems deserves some notice, too--and it surprised me quite a bit. Not a surprise in the quality, but a surprise in the tenor of the album. Opeth’s Damnation is a hell of a good album, trading the heavier sounds that I was familiar with for much quieter and delicate tones. Sounding, to my ears, much like Porcupine Tree (a good thing), songs like “Closure” and “In My Time of Need” sound nothing like the Cookie-Monster vocals that I’ve heard from them before. Admittedly, since I’m no fan of that vocal style, it shouldn’t be surprising that I don’t own any of Opeth’s albums. I’m curious to see if Damnation has any stylistic brethren in their catalog.

Second, without Nat Hentoff is there really any reason to read the Village Voice? I can’t think of any…

Third, who knew that LibertyGirl was a damned, evil zomby-hater? Though, to be fair, Zomby bin Laden is a bit of a disgrace to the league, isn’t he?

And, yes, I remain firmly committed to the proper misspelling of “zomby.” So there.

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