Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Carter Must Be Lovin’ It
Is it just me or has this entire administration seemed a little like one long malaise speech? It’s making the Carter years look positively upbeat.
More than a year on, the message remains just how bad the last administration was, how unlucky they were to have inherited such a mess, and, gosh, life is tough. Here are a few messages I really think President Obama and Vice President Gaff-o-Matic need to learn if they want to do something other than offering excuses for the next few years before being ushered out of office with nothing to show for their effort but a pair of “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts (which I’ll be happy to send on my own dime--assuming I have any dimes left after the program of threatened tax hikes, fee hikes, energy cost spikes, and new health care costs that have been leveled toward me like the barrel of a freakin’ 12-gauge).
Businesses are like consumers: when they understand the rules, when they know the costs and risks, they adjust, they expand, they take calculated risks in hopes of creating reward. The problem comes when the rules and risks aren’t understood, when folks believe that the rules are changing faster than they can keep up have no space from which to take those risks. They have no way to judge whether the potential reward is worth the cost.
None of which changes the fact that Youth in Revolt, (which, in the simplest terms might well be described as a quirky, humorous look at a boy suffering a psychotic break who obsesses dangerously over a pretty girl) is absolutely wonderful. Smart, beautifully shot, entertaining, and morally questionable, it’s still not for everyone. But if the sound of seeing Better Off Dead as written and directed by Wes Anderson sounds intriguing, then this might be the movie for you.
Update: Michael Steele hasn’t quite been the person that I expected when I supported him for his job as head of the RNC, but on this issue I find that I am echoing his words:
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
If by Any Weird Chance…
...You happen to be attending the Hillhead 2010 show, let me know. If you have any pictures, I’d love to see them.
Tough Choices for Obama
General McChrystal was wrong. Even if he and his aides were right about everything they said in the Rolling Stone piece (PDF warning), they were wrong. It was purely dumb to let the reporter from RS have that kind of access to the general’s inner circle. It was dumber still to treat the reporter like just another troop with an ear for the kind of rough commentary that comes from military man instead of like an enemy looking for an ugly story to break in a magazine not known for its friendliness to the military. And it was completely idiotic to break the rule that even a trainee in basic knows: you don’t get caught playing in national politics and that rule is more important the higher you get up the food chain.
If you can’t swallow your words, you resign your position. An officer in a time of war can’t expect to keep his job after displaying judgment that poor. To allow him to maintain his position, in fact, would be damaging to an already depleted presidency--a show of weakness that President Obama really doesn’t need right now. And yet firing McChrystal could be hugely damaging to the war effort--finding the replacement, confirming the appointment, and getting the new commander up and running could leave Afghanistan a mess during the transition. I somehow imagine that our enemies won’t be honoring any timeout requests.
What Obama needs to be asking himself right now is how he can visibly punish McChrystal, preferably involving a change of command in Afghanistan, without creating a huge setback in a war effort that is already in near-crisis. I have been unimpressed with our president’s executive capabilities thus far, but I hope that he and his advisors can find the right path on this. The BP spill is ugly, no doubt, but completely fumbling Afghanistan would be ruinous (and not just to a presidency). McChrystal needs to resign and he needs to offer up everything that he can do to help this president maintain authority and credibility.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Misplaced Praise, Eighth in a Series of 562 (Updated)
Congratulations to the teachers and administration of Tiogue School in Coventry, Rhode Island, a “Blue Ribbon School of Excellence where Everybody is Somebody for Some Reason or Another!” The way you protected children from the very real dangers of little, tiny, plastic simulations of weapons glued to a hat was just marvelous. Your death-grip embrace of zero tolerance rules regarding weapons is an example to us all; someday we can all make ridiculous, well-intentioned decisions without having to overtax our brains with things like common sense and context.
Which is awesome. Life is easier when you don’t have to think too much.
Superintendent, you, sir, are an idiot. In no sane mind do little army men even marginally qualify as weapons or as dangers to your school students. The teacher who turned the child in deserves just as much criticism, but I find myself running out of polite, family-friendly words for the thoughts in my heads.
If they ever wondered why some folks have worried at handing over their children to the care and mercy of our public schools, well, this helps illustrate the point. Until school administrators can fully engage their own brains, how can we possibly expect them to successfully educate our children?
While the individual school’s rules might differ (I couldn’t find a copy online), the district lists as an example of their school rules a zero-tolerance for weapons rule (link opens a pdf in a new window):
From the same document, we get the district-wide rules on drugs and weapons:
Could the little army men glued to the hat really be used as a weapon in any more of a useful sense than, say, your typical spork could be used as a weapon? Unless the school has drastically different language (and language that would be even more utterly stupid if it is so broad as to include army men in the range of things that could be used as a weapon or even manage to be meaningful simulations of real weapons), then the teacher and administrators somehow judged that, yes, those toys were a real hazard to other children or to their learning environment. Which is, in the most polite term I can imagine, just silly.
Update: Check out Jen’s post. Complete with graphics.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Idiocy in Edinburgh
If you’re a gun nut, this story will have you screaming. If you aren’t, then you might still find the five year jail sentence handed down to be ridiculous.
Me, I guess I’m more on the gun nut side of that scale.
Unjust and disproportionate, indeed. An 80 year old Czech pistol with no ammunition isn’t worth a five year sentence.
Of course, I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t believe that I need the government’s permission to be allowed to defend myself and to own the right tools for that defense.
Brand Obama Losing Luster
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
AT&T Data Plan Changes
Today’s announcement of AT&T’s data plan changes for users with smart phones didn’t leave me particularly happy. While it won’t have any effect on me immediately (my phone is under contract for the next year and a half, give or take a bit), it isn’t the direction I wanted to see AT&T go in policing their own 3G network.
I haven’t had the same exceptionally negative experience with AT&T that others have; I’ve used the voice network from Florida to Hawaii and a bunch of places in between and rarely found a place where I didn’t have coverage. I’ve been with AT&T since I bought my first cell phone (and through two service changes here in Colorado that had users shunted off into a different carrier and then brought back right before the initial iPhone launch), and I’ve been reasonably happy with the service. In fact, the move to 3G when I upgraded my phone made me even happier. The network coverage seems wider and stronger--even though it brought a small price bump over the original device.
The original iPhone was an interesting experience for me. Not only did it surprise me in its utility, but it surprised me because I was happy to see my monthly bill raise from about $40/month to a bit over $70 per month (my original bill plus a mandatory $30/month unlimited data plan). When I upgraded to the 3GS near the beginning of the year, my contract changed again and I now pay about $88/month. And I’m happy.
To recap: I have seen my cell phone bill double over the last few years and I am happy. Which is not something I would have expected.
Part of that happiness comes with not having to worry about data usage with the knowledge that I’m not going to be hit with any big fees if I go over my allotment, unlike, for instance, the charges I pay when I use my phone from, say, India. Now the rules are going to change and new users will need to worry about their data use. If I sign another AT&T contract, I know that it will force me to “upgrade” to their new service levels and watch my data allotment slashed. If AT&T doesn’t offer a reasonably priced, unlimited plan when that moment comes, I might jump ship for Verizon--and if the iPhone isn’t offered on other carriers, I’ll consider moving to something Android based.
That said, their new contract with 2 gigs of data for $25/month is more than I use in any given month. More than double what I’ve used in any given month, in fact. Below is my data usage going back a few months.
At no point did my usage even top the 1 gig mark. Note, by the way, the moment that the 3GS came into my world--I’m sure you’ll see it in an instance.
So, AT&T’s new policy wouldn’t likely curtail my network use--or, at least, if it did it wouldn’t be by much and it wouldn’t be often. Why am I suddenly unhappy, then?
My unhappiness started with when AT&T started pushing the 3G Microcell/Femtocell device. The device hangs on your local high speed network and acts as a sort of mini cell phone tower in your home--and then it pushes your voice and data traffic over the local network instead of reaching out to the nearest AT&T cell tower. Which sounded pretty interesting.
In fact, I considered buying one so that I could kill off our landline at home. But after buying the device from AT&T, I found that it wouldn’t give me what I needed because it would still ding me for minutes when I was using, in large part, my own high speed Internet service to transfer voice data. So the 3G Microcell helps AT&T offload traffic from their heavily taxed network, adds a (one time) $150 fee for the user, and still uses up minutes. Maybe it’s just me, but that equation doesn’t seem quite right. In fact, it seems a little insulting.
I don’t mind businesses making a profit from me when they provide good service; for the most part, AT&T has done that. But these new rules and regulations are starting to make me feel a little used. A little unhappy.
If the trend continues, I’ll be needing a new cell phone carrier.
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Al and Tipper
No cheap shots at Al Gore today--at least, not from me.
Separation is almost invariably the first step in a divorce. I’m not a particularly wise person and my ideals aren’t shared by everyone. That said, I recently told a friend, and I believe it to my core: divorce is very much like war. That is, it is the worst option until it is the only option.
The structures that a couple builds in 40 years of life together--the good and bad experiences together, the dreams still unfulfilled, the friends and the family that grows over those decades, and the mutual support that comes from knowing someone that intimately can all be burdens and blessings. It’s hard to lose all of that (sometimes even the bad bits).
Whatever it is that has brought them to this point, my best wishes to the couple that they can find a way to hold their marriage together. Failing that, I hope that their friends and family help them through what will be a rough time in their lives.
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