Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kalish Catch

I'm sorry, but Ryan Kalish is making some serious catches this season. This one in particular is tough to beat.

Gliese 581 g

A new planet has been discovered, one in the habitable zone or "Goldilocks" zone of the Gliese star, in constellation Libra. This "g" planet looks ripe for hosting life. A very exciting development.

So exciting in fact, it seems we've already made contact with one of its sister planets, "c."

This video is a little scary. You've been warned.

Watch Maddow point out the Democratic campaign ad that could be the national strategy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Pledge to Stupidity


America is more than a country.  (It’s actually not a country at all, it’s a continent)

America is an idea – an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America is the belief that any man or woman can – given economic, political, and religious liberty – advance themselves, their families, and the common good.   (Please don’t ask for any help while advancing yourselves, just rely on your nuclear perfect family)

America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny.  (Yes, we’re an inspiration but immigrants, we don’t want you to actually come here)

Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course. (Can’t we all just go back to the same course we were on when the economy destroyed itself)

These first principles were proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, enshrined in the Constitution, and have endured through hard sacrifice and commitment by generations of Americans. In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent.  (Huh?)

An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people. (You’re right, the overreaching judiciary that gave business unfettered political access through campaign donations should be checked … oh wait)

An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many. (Because the great leader Boehner is the champion of not being arrogant, being in-touch, and he’s definitely not elite or anything)

Rising joblessness, crushing debt, and a polarizing political environment are fraying the bonds among our people and blurring our sense of national purpose. Like free peoples of the past, our citizens refuse to accommodate a government that believes it can replace the will of the people with its own. (Good thing Republicans will bring an end to the polarizing political environment)

The American people are speaking out, demanding that we realign our country’s compass with its founding principles and apply those principles to solve our common problems for the common good. The need for urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated. With this document, we pledge to dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people. This is our Pledge to America. (San Demos High School Football rules!)

We pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored – particularly the Tenth Amendment, which grants that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. (but I was so captured by the need to do something against the rising joblessness, now you’re saying it’s the states role)

We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity. We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values. (Yeah, Islamic people and kids in non-traditional families go f$ck yourself) 

We pledge to make government more transparent in its actions, careful in its stewardship, and honest in its dealings. (Except on Fox News, where we’ll spin even our stinkiest poohs as nice and shiny)

We pledge to uphold the purpose and promise of a better America, knowing that to whom much is given, much is expected and that the blessings of our liberty buoy the hopes of mankind. (We love you mankind, but we hate the UN and giving money to other countries)

We make this pledge bearing true faith and allegiance to the people we represent, and we invite fellow citizens and patriots to join us in forming a new governing agenda for America. (And in conclusion, the Patriot, a fine male white warrior we can all  relate to)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

If it is Paul LePage


"If it is to be, it is up to us?" If it is to be why do we need to do anything?

I'm so confused.

i can’t wait to see this guy working the lobster boats.

College Humor has a great series on what Superheroes would look like as hipsters.  Can Aquaman be our town’s new mascot?

portland rocks

And yes, Keith, i realize he means the other Portland.

Threadless and Crowdsourcing

This is a little bit of an expansion on a some posts earlier about how online communities are beginning to form.  Earlier I mentioned how online communities could be used to graph weed or gas prices, and then later to truly define the extent of Red Sox Nation.  BusinessWeek magazine has an article this week on a new crowdsourcing company called Threadless.

Crowdsourcing is the act of letting a community choose which products to inventory (or source). Threadless allows its community to vote on t-shirt designs submitted.  The t-shirts (and hoodies) with the most votes get produced and sold.  Since nothing’s created until demand exists, these guys are raking in a fortune.  And now they’ve inked a deal with Dell to do the same with laptop designs.

Well, anyways, I really just wanted to show one of their kid hoodies here.  Can you totally picture Georgia or Amelie in this thing?  Crowd sourced or not, this hoodie is awesome.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bird on a Wire

When Twitter messes up, birds die in hordes.  Here’s a sampling:

The fail whale has long been associated with a Tweet breakdown.


But today on Mashable was the dead red bird.


And a slightly different adaption.

These guys from a computer hacking blog are kind of fun.


Twitter has a couple of interesting ones, reserved for major errors.

image image

This one is interesting in that the bird is ok, but his speech is affected.


More death.


I still don’t have any idea why I would want to use Twitter, but when they get hacked the bird carnage is amusing.

More Maps, Less Muppets

Continuing the weed and gas buddy post, here’s another example of plotting data inputted from real people.  This example shows NFL team loyalties as gleaned from Internet users voting (click here or on the images themselves to get a big version).


And MLB:


And the city you most associate with (people in Portland who voted for Boston, you should be ashamed):


The whole thing works when people enter their address and vote here.  Neat.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It’s not Easy being Green

It’s a tough slog in the meeting today and so I took the Which Muppet are You test.  I was shooting for Ralf the Dog but ended up being Kermit.  It figures since I’m surrounded by clucking chickens.



I'm no American history expert (probably since I wasn’t in Keith’s AP class) but isn’t this just another way of saying the worst economic time since the Great Depression?  Which is, well, not really news worth right now.



A few years ago I ran across the site and I remember being amazed at the combination of data and graphics, plus it was real-time, the data was being supplied by regular people.  It was truly one of the forerunners of community based infographics.

Well, fast forward 3 years and the infographic world is maturing in a fast and furious way.  And there’s no better example of this than which uses live data to show well, you guessed it. 


Any comments? 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Quest to have one Card in my Wallet is Over

From Mashable, a startup called Dynamics is aiming to replace the standard credit card with … a standard credit card that has a microchip in it.  It’s pretty cool stuff and in this video, the founder talks about what we’ll no doubt see in a year or two.  Imagine having one plastic card replace all your current cards and having a security code on your card so that if it’s stolen, it’s worthless.  Both shown here.  I have to imagine MasterCard and Visa are eating this up.  It’s definitely hot in the VC world, Dynamics won a $1 million prize based on their concept.

I’m not allowed to post this on Friday, so I’m setting it to autopost on Monday. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Libby's Environment

Libby Mitchell's new ad is ineffective for three reasons, and I won't even mention the red sweater.

1. It's amateur. I haven't seen a green screen that green since Return of the Jedi. Couldn't she just film a natural backdrop au-dehors? It looks like she was cut and pasted onto the TV.

2. Mainers don't want to hear about the environment this election cycle, at least not the Mainers that are on the fence and could still swing either way. I can understand the logic behind the ad: motivate the base while mentioning jobs. LePage wants to stifle environmental protection. The problem is that she portrays "Maine" as the quintessential "environment" and what her progressive base wants more of is the windmills at the end of the video. The two are not convincingly equated for either voter.

3. Which calls attention to the most glaring deficiency of the ad: it tries to accomplish too much and so accomplishes very little. The voters Libby needs to target want to know how jobs will be created. Why not focus on a progressive industry (tidal, wind, etc.) and spell it out? Environmental protection does not a job creator make. Smart energy policy making does. All while appealing to your base.

Got a M(o)ustache and a Low-Cut Vest

Thank you Michelle!

Keith Stop Posting


I beat Grant to a Paste Magazine post, my Life is Complete

And best of all, this post has muppets in it.  The main reason I’m posting this is so that I can go home and show it to Amelie and Georgia (and I suppose Mallory, but can she really appreciate music videos at 1 - maybe).  Anyways, meet Elmo.  And the source.

Also, did you know there was a muppet wiki?  Yeah, me neither but there is.

Another Shout Out to my AP US History Teacher

Who taught me that history is an ongoing process, and that ideas and “facts” are a matter of perception.  The authors of this dedicated-to-the-book site put together a really cool prototype of this concept, in their twelve volume chronicle of the changing history of the Iraq War, as captured in edits to the Wikipedia definition.

As long as we’re kicking around history, Shorpy has some cool pictures today of 1930s urbanity – Chicago, Savannah.  Here’s one that makes me miss trains.

Commuters: 1907

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Thousand Words

Corey Templeton is pretty diligent about consistently posting a picture of Portland every day.  I’d recommend this blog for the RSS reader especially when you want to appreciate the city we live in.  Not all the shots are glam ocean touristy photos either; some really get to the marrow of this fine burg.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hmmm … those Crazy Tea Partiers

I read a post today by James Kwak (what a horrible name for a serious economics author).  In it, he looks at a book called Winner-Take-All Politics and argues that the rich have been accumulating power in Washington since the 1970s to the detriment of the middle class and the historic Democratic party.  The post is worth a quick read but here’s a couple of highlights:

Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle ClassHacker and Pierson cite studies showing that public opinion on issues such as inequality has not shifted over the past thirty years; most people still think society is too unequal and that taxes should be used to reduce inequality. What has shifted is that Congressmen are now much more receptive to the opinions of the rich, and there is actually a negative correlation between their positions and the preferences of their poor constituents (p. 111). Citing Martin Gilens, they write, “When well-off people strongly supported a policy change, it had almost three times the chance of becoming law as when they strongly opposed it. When median-income people strongly supported a policy change, it had hardly any greater chance of becoming law than when they strongly opposed it” (p. 112). In other words, it isn’t public opinion, or the median voter, that matters; it’s what the rich want.

That shift occurred in the 1970s because businesses and the super-rich began a process of political organization in the early 1970s that enabled them to pool their wealth and contacts to achieve dominant political influence (described in Chapter 5). To take one of the many statistics they provide, the number of companies with registered lobbyists in Washington grew from 175 in 1971 to nearly 2,500 in 1982 (p. 118). Money pouring into lobbying firms, political campaigns, and ideological think tanks created the organizational muscle that gave the Republicans a formidable institutional advantage by the 1980s. The Democrats have only reduced that advantage in the past two decades by becoming more like Republicans–more business-friendly, more anti-tax, and more dependent on money from the super-rich. And that dependency has severely limited both their ability and their desire to fight back on behalf of the middle class (let alone the poor), which has few defenders in Washington.

The culmination of these years of moneyed influence is clearly the financial fallout and Great Recession.  

So what about the tea party?  Related to many of their core constituency, I have the ability to put a first person perspective on the group.  And what appears as a libertarian fringe group may actually be the lower middle class revolting against the culmination of this high-end power grab.  A quick scan of their crowds shows an older, more uneducated cohort clearly more disenfranchised by recent economic conditions than the rich.  In their ideals, we see the lower class protest.  They firmly can’t stand Washington, they want economic laissez faire policies (really just a return to prosperity of a time ago), and the roots of their discontent are sown in job losses from the Great Recession. 

If this is true, how did the Democrats lose this group?  How have Republicans, whose leader Boehner is a well known country club congressmen who openly loves lobbyists, come to represent the lower middle class struggling for better income equality?  Could it be that the rich have learned to completely manipulate this group united in its lack of education and conservative social values (think Fox News).  Any party who can openly support tax relief for the top 1% while openly not supporting policies that help the middle class deserves credit for a well oiled brain washing machine.  Its historical parallels are likely the yellow journalism machines of the late 19th century.  How funny is it that those times were marked by immigration issues and high rates of technology growth.

Anyways, here we sit at the election of 2010 and the lower middle class is about to topple the very government working in their favor.  Ironic.  When will the emperor's clothes come off?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don’t change your Oil every 3,000 Miles

Unless you like to pay money for things you don’t need.  Every 5,000 (for city driving) to 7,500 (for highway drivers) is plenty.  That sticker Jiffy Lube puts in your car is just to get overzealous planners to fear that their car will die if they don’t return it to their shop in 3 months.  Which is bubkis.


And if you really want to save money, ride a bike or walk to work. 

Al-Qaeda recruits Mr. Ed

Well, not really but Amelie would lose it if she watched this video of a bomb squad dealing with a rogue playground pony. 

In other news, watch this thing blow up (my prediction): 

And did you know that China spends 9% of GDP on infrastructure, Europe 5% and the US 2.5%.  Why?  Probably because we’re investing so much in techniques to blow up ponies.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trapped in Croatia - Part One

And who wouldn't want to be trapped in Croatia? Lots of sun and Italians, promontory promenades and 80s hair bands. Octopus salad and feral cats. Scooters. Our hotel was wonderful - peaceful and with an excellent breakfast. Plenty of pale UK horses slathering in suntan lotion poolside, most reserving early morning chaise lounges at a 2:1 chaise lounge to person clip. And a freckling of Germans, one in particular, an aging Herren that read a novel-size history of tractors while sipping cool Ozujskos under the hot Dalmatian sun. All is well on the Adriatic.

Except when it comes to TV movies. I know, a niche topic, especially when traveling in Croatia. Why was I even watching TV in the hotel? My wife and I have a penchant for obscure thrillers, and miraculously, obscure American thrillers was the name of the game the week we were in Dubrovnik.

What follows is a series of posts loosely based on a chronology of films shown late-night within the confines of our dear Hotel Lapad. These will not be reviews but impressions that in the best case will lead you down a path of personal nostalgia. Worst case? All roads lead to Nicolas Cage.

First: Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn. Movie? Bird On a Wire - probably the most well known of the bunch. Remember it? At one time Hawn had star attraction, playing older women behaving much younger then believability could ever allow. This is a great one, complete with boy wonder Gibson trying to really ride out the Lethal Weapon suite of art house classics. In fact, Lethal Weapon 2 was his last film before Bird On a Wire. Show me more, from the director of WarGames, Short Circuit and Stakeout (yes!):

Not enough of a taste? This guy liked the movie so much he made his own trailer, one extended out to a full 6 minutes to accommodate an unfortunate "world" remix of Leonard Cohen's otherwise iconic and wonderful song (don't watch more than 10 seconds):

Speaking of Cohen, here's a good video of the actual song:

In the end you really can't blame those that set favorite music to favorite movies, and then publish the final product on YouTube. It's no doubt a pleasing experience to plasticize music this way, immortalizing your own edited cut of a movie and then watching it interact aimlessly with a song only tangentially related to the movie at best. Finding moments of cohesion is easy. Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz is a good example of this:

And here's another good one, straight from Mel Gibson's own vault!

Back to the movie. One of the best-worst scenes in Bird On a Wire is when director John Badham (again, WarGames, Short Circuit, etc.) over-reachingly makes use of the venetian blinds convention from classic film noir cinema while lighting Mel and Goldie's post-sex scene. The horizontal arrangement of alternating light and shadow is traditionally meant to signal to viewers that the film's protagonists are caught up in events pre-determined and beyond their control. Something beyond escape, choice. Prison. Entrapment. In Bird On a Wire the blinds are used, well, to no great effect other than to emphasize Goldie's buggy eyes and Mel's timeless observation that "Mr. Wiggly's been on bread and water for five long years."

But where, the Croatian viewer must wonder, can I see more of this noir convention from the early 90s? Can I just watch tomorrow night's movie? The answer was and is yes! Because tomorrow night we get even more noir, in a film that is more David Lynch than David Lynch without being directed by David Lynch:

More to come in part 2...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Libby Mitchell, meet Will Bailey

Who is Libby Mitchell’s campaign manager?  Whoever it is, this person needs to go away.  If you haven’t followed the Maine gubernatorial race, here are the two headlines from this week. 

First on Wednesday, a PPP poll shows that Waterville mayor and conservative Republican Paul LePage is destroying Mitchell 43-29 with Cutler, an independent whose base is growing quickly at Mitchell’s expense, at 11 percent.  The last trend is evident from Nate Silver’s section on the Maine race in the NYTimes (and below).


To counter, what does Libby do?  She backs out of several Maine speaking events complaining that not all 6 candidates are represented.  Are you serious?  So today’s Portland Press Herald has a nice article about LePage and Cutler discussing Maine’s tourism economy notably mocking Libby’s absense.  Awesome move dipshit CM.

Well anyways, what a depressing Friday for Maine politics.  I wish Will Bailey was here to make things right.

Although, this just in. 538 has House rankings for the midterms … finally. Ughhh, looking to be a gloomy November.

Kids and Infographics

I was waiting for the right moment to teach Georgia and Amelie about Venn diagrams.  Now I have it. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Where is the Populist Angst?

We’re deep in a Great Recession.  The haves seem to be doing well though (Google profit up, MasterCard up, Mobil skyrocketing, Apple up, Microsoft up).  And the have nots not so much. (Unemployment, etc)  Yet the only credible populist uprising, namely the Tea Party, is squarely pointed against government, and not the elite.  In most historical cases, government has been the vehicle OF populism, not its enemy.  Unions, trust busting, regulation.  So what happened?  Here’s three thoughts.

1) The link between unemployment and Wall Street was never really connected.  I think there’s a couple reasons for this.  First is that today’s Wall Street business are not necessarily its employers.  Big banks may run the economy, but their tentacles are so far and wide it’s hard to connect a local bank or employer shutting down with the power plays in Manhattan.  In the past, if big businesses were profitable and shutting down factories towns felt it directly.   Now, faults are so spread out – maybe it was globalism, education, immigration – that the direct cause and effect is hard to establish.  And, small town Joe probably has money in some 401K tied to one of these companies or he’s impressed with its latest product so how can he be angry at these big businesses?

2) The Democrats are in power, so the zealots are on the right (and they’re the party of businesses).  If it were the other way around, Democrats could yell class war and point the finger at the cozy relationship between business and Republicans.  But it was Democrats who supported TARP in order to save the economy. And Democrats who worked with big businesses to craft Finance and Health Care legislation. It’s hard to yell at the fox in your coop when you’re working with him to build the fence.

3) We’re ever more a diverse fractious nation.  An educated middle manager who loses his/her job to outsourcing probably finds it pretty difficult to relate to a burger flipping minimum wage earner who also lost his/her job to outsourcing because all of the customers lost their jobs.  Maybe at one time we all watched the same television at 8pm, but now we’re flipping through a million forms of media.

So here we are.  Angry but not sure who to be angry at.  Leadership that can’t be angry.  And not sure if our neighbor is angry at the same thing.  Profits rolling in and people unemployed.

Ariana Huffington would like to kick off a populist movement, her book and blog community are trying to stir up the pot.

But who knows, maybe a lack of populism is a good thing?  At least we’re not rioting in the streets. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our House is a Very Very Fine House

I always wonder if the Great Depression felt black and white.  Did people realize they were in the Great Depression?  Were bread lines the norm for everyone? 

This morning’s labor report clearly lays out that the jobs recovery will be a long slog. But what is the norm for our generation.  25% of Americans will have been out of work for some period during the Great Recession.  And those remaining or back in the work force will have lower wages.  But on this Labor Day, I’m going to Georgia’s soccer game.  I’m having a BBQ.

Robert Reiche writes a brilliant piece in the Times today where he articulates the true cause of the Great Recession.  Yes it was precipitated by Wall Street, but the heart of our collective pain starts with computers and satellites and policies that concentrated wealth. 

There’s too many things to buy nowadays and too much competition abroad to have the salaries necessary to buy those things.  And government can’t encourage thriftiness because consumerism drives the economy which drives tax revenues.  So we’re left with this malaise.  Hungover, fat, and too poor to buy breakfast all at the same time.  What will be the picture of our generation 50 years from now.


The true promise of the Obama election was to turn around the clock on these bread and butter issues.  Healthcare, college grants, infrastructure, energy economy, bank reform are pieces of the new New Deal, but people just need a chicken in every pot and a fireside chat to tell them things are going to be great again.  Still waiting on it, for now I’m watching soccer and having a BBQ.