Monday, November 17, 2008


Well it's been awhile since I blogged. I switched it my "Bedtime List" which essentially meant that I was setting myself up to blog at 11:00 every night. Needless to say I often found that I didn't really have the energy to write at that point. So I was successful in that I wasted less time in the morning, but unsuccessful in that there were a lot of days when I didn't blog. So I'm still experimenting. Since I rarely actually take a lunch I'm thinking moving it to around then. Anyway enough excuses on to the main subject.

I have spoken of my fondness for "30 Rock" in past blogs. But apparently I'm the only one who likes it. It's my understanding that the ratings are not great. I'm hopeful that the recent popularity of Tina Fey and her Sarah Palin impersonation will help the show out. Anyway that's not the point of this post. I wondered if the critics felt the same way so I did a search on "The best show you're not watching", (something of a TV critic meme) expecting that a lot of critics would be talking about "30 Rock". But the most common result was for "Chuck". I'd already heard good things about it from a friend of mine so I decided to check it out.

I was not misled. It's quite good. For those unfamiliar with the premise, basically the series stars Chuck, a hapless member of the Nerd Herd at his local Buy More (a parody of Best Buy's Geek Squad). He's sent an e-mail from a friend of his which contains the only remaining copy of the combined secrets of the NSA and CIA. Through some kind of magic (i.e. don't look too deeply at this part) Chuck absorbs all the information and becomes a human computer. For reasons that are largely glossed over he continues to live a largely normal life but he ends up with one handler from the CIA (an attractive blonde) and one handler from the NSA (Adam Baldwin who played Jayne on Firefly).

So the show works on a number of levels:

First, there's the juxtaposition of the normal drudgery of being in the Nerd Herd at the Buy More, with the high danger of hanging out with spies. It's sort of the same feel that Buffy had, pretending to care about what everyone else thinks is important, when it's actually meaningless when contrasted with the truly important stuff going on behind the scenes.

Second, there's this who back story involving Chuck getting kicked out of Stanford by the very friend who sent him all the information. So you get another layer of Chuck wondering what might have been if he'd been able to stay at Stanford. He obviously (for good reason) thinks that he would be better than working at the Buy More as "Chief Nerd".

Third, with an attractive blonde as one of the handlers, whose cover is playing his girlfriend there's also considerable romantic tension. And of course exploring what part of their relationship is real and which is pretend.

Fourth, the Buy More plotlines get in some of the same workplace humor you find in "The Office" or even "Office Space".

Fifth, Chuck desperately wants to be able to trust his two handlers, but of course their undercover operatives who pretend for a living, kill when necessary and who's final loyalty is to the government.

There's even more to it than that, but I think five levels should be enough to make my point. In any case check it out. I'm pretty sure I'll be buying all the DVDs myself.

Maybe this will be the one show I love that won't be prematurely canceled, but probably not

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Darjeeling Limited

Last night the wife and I watched the the latest Wes Anderson movie The Darjeeling Limited. I enjoyed it, but then I've enjoyed all of his films. I would put this ahead of Life Aquatic but behind Rushmore, which in turn is behind Royal Tenenbaums. One thing that I think Anderson does very well is character interaction. I don't think all of his characters are exactly believable, they're basically caricatures, but the relationships between them are always rich and compelling. This was once again the case with Darjeeling.

I think another thing Anderson does very well is create atmosphere. His soundtracks are always awesome, and the little world he creates for his movies are always full of vitality. We watched the featurette which came with the movie and they talked about how everything in the train was hand crafted, or hand painted. The attention to detail definitely showed. As I mentioned Tenebaums is my favorite, possibly just because of the sheer volume of great interactions. In Darjeeling you have basically three characters, which I think is also true of Rushmore, but in Tenebaums I can think of ten right off the top of my head.

In other related news I'm working through my Netflix movies with impressive rapidity. In addition to Darjeeling last night I watched Get Smart on Sunday, and Wonder Boys the week before that. My goal is to do one movie a week, at that rate I don't feel bad about the money the subscription costs. Of course even at a rate of one movie a week it will take me over four years to work through the movies in my queue assuming that nothing gets added in that time... Maybe I need to watch two a week...

How can a train be lost? It's on rails.

Monday, November 10, 2008


I was going to make a post about how Bush wasn't as bad as everyone thought, but I'm basically out of time, so I thought I'd talk about this new energy drink I'm trying. If you've been on the internet recently you've probably seen the ads. It's called FRS and it's endorsed by Lance Armstrong. This did make a difference in my buying decision, so I guess they're getting their money's worth.

So anyway I ordered five cans and a package of 30 chews. I had two chews yesterday afternoon, a drink first thing this morning, and then 2 more chews after my nap. So far I'm impressed. I don't necessarily feel hyper, but I've haven't really experienced any fatigue and I've felt well-rested and basically in the "zone" all day. Which is different than normal energy drinks which keep me from sleeping, and combine fatigue with hyperactivity. It's obviously pretty early in the experiment to make any definitive statements, but I've got a good feeling about it.

Of course the big question a lot of people are going to have is how much caffeine does it have. Well a 12 ounce can has about the same caffeine as the same 12 ounce can of Diet Coke, so less than a Mountain Dew, but more than regular Coke, in other words a lot less than some of your more typical energy drinks. Yet another point in it's favor.

Okay, it's 11:30 and yes there is some fatigue...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama the day after

There's a big name VC I follow who's based out of New York who's a pretty big Obama fan. He made the point (as countless have) that expectations are so high for Obama that he'll never be able to meet them (how this will affect his popularity is an interesting, albeit seperate discussion), He said that, despite this, he thinks there are six things we will get from Obama:

1) A world class management team. I remember the first debate I ever watched Obama participate in. He was asked whether he was a "strong operatating executive." He replied that he was not "the COO", that he was more like "the CEO". And then he went on to talk about surrounding yourself with the best people you can find and then letting them do their job. He did that with his campaign which was a masterful thing to watch, he did that with his VP pick (in stark contrast to the Palin fiasco), and I expect he'll build a killer cabinet and a killer administration (look for some picks from across the aisle).

I kind of agree with this, and it's one of the reasons I warmed up to Obama. I would disagree with the point that his VP pick was a great example of this "mastery", and the early word on his cabinet picks has not been particularly inspiring. Kerry as Secretary of State? I guess I'm just not a big fan of long-serving senators in general, but even then. And as you can imagine I wait with breathless anticipation his, long-rumored, pick from "across the aisle" and I don't think Colin Powell counts... My guess is that it's going to be non-existant or underwhelming.

2) Honesty. He said this last night and I am sure he will live up to it: "But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree."

This is where we start to diverge. Call me cynical, but I don't think any politician can be considered honest by any objective standard. And even if we use a more relative standard I really don't think Obama should be at the top of the heap. If we consider nothing other than filling supporters heads with visions of a utopian future that anybody paying attention know will never come to pass, he's got to score pretty low on that count. I'm not criticizing him for that, it worked, and that's what politicians do, but it's not honest.

3) A steady hand. I have never seen a cooler customer in a position of such responsibility. Obama has an incredibly calm demeanor. He will be a steady hand, he will make well vetted decisions, and I expect more of them will be right than wrong.

Another area where there's some convergence between us. He does seem reasonably calm and collected, it was one of his secret weapons during the campaign. Being calm doesn't necessary lead to right decisions, but I'm willing to wait and see.

4) Diplomacy. Thank god we've slayed the ridiculous notion that you can't talk to bad people who do bad things. I expect that Obama will spend a lot of time meeting and working with our friends overseas and at least talking to our enemies. I expect to see a lot of diplomatic progress under his leadership.

Another divergence. I do think we need more diplomacy and a better diplomat as president. One of my big regrets in the period from 9/11 to Iraq was how we seemed unable to preserve all the goodwill we had accumulated. That being said I think there are certain countries and leaders that are willing to talk as much as we want, all while continuing to do exactly what we're hoping they won't. I'm very interested to see what happens with Iran. Certainly it's possible that Obama will be able to get the support of Russia and China and we'll be able to hit them with some really painful sanctions which will weaken the fundamentalists enough to bring the reformist to power, but I would bet against that scenerio. More likely Iran will continue to play the security members against one another while continuing to enrich Uranium, secure in the knowledge that there's no way we would invade yet another country, particularly with Obama in command. Now this is not to say that invading Iran wouldn't end up being a horrible idea, but if they think we might just do it anyway as bad as a US invasion of Iran is for us, it's even worse for Iran... In any case I don't claim to have the answer for Iran, the point is more that a president needs more than one tool in his foreign policy kit.

5) Fairness. The republicans call it "redistributing wealth" and I can totally understand why people go nuts over Obama's tax policy. But we are going to get fairness in tax policy where the people who make most of the money like my family will pay the highest taxes. My bet is we'll go back to where we were under Clinton and that's fine with me and should be fine with everyone, but it won't be.

The idea of "Fairness" imposed at a federal level is a profoundly scary thought (Harrison Bergeron anyone?). And this is another area where I think the value is incompatible with being a politician in the first place. As far as the specific example of taxes. Last I checked the people who make the most money already pay the highest taxes. Whatever. Considering the budget deficit I'm not going to whine about raising taxes, but what about cutting spending? I know, neither party is going to come up with a budget that's lower than the one from the year before (even adjusting for inflation) That's why I'm a libertarian.

6) Leadership. Our country is in a mess, much of it self inflicted. More than anything else, we need a charismatic leader who can inspire us to face the facts, make the sacrifices, take the losses, pull up our boots, and get on with it. I believe Barack Obama can and will do that.

I'm not getting a real "make sacrifices" vibe from Obama. Now admittedly I haven't listened to every speech or read every one of his policy papers, but I don't think that's what his supporters are taking away from his candidacy either.

My point would be that even pretty clear-eyed people who admit up front that Obama can't do everything he said, still buy into an awful lot of the hype.

So in the near term I'll be watching his appointments (and waiting with barely concealed excitement for his move "across the aisle") -- My prediction here: His appointments are more partisan and less "best person" than people expected and he makes some token RINO appointment.

Come February of next year I'll be REALLY interested in his first budget, and the projected deficit -- My prediction here: Significant military cuts. Significant tax increases. But despite that a budget that's higher than the last Bush budget adjusted for inflation with a deficit approaching a trillion dollars.

And in the longer term I'm interested in seeing how he handles Iran -- My prediction here: Iran will have a nuclear weapon before the end of his first term.

Anyway I've put off work long enough. So I'll end here.

His Majesty's Loyal Opposition

Thursday, November 06, 2008


So Grandma died yesterday. She had lived to 96, which is a pretty good run by any account I would think. She had 10 kids, 44 grandkids and (according to my best estimate) 78 great-grandkids at the time of her death. Which, unless you're Paul Ehrlich is really impressive. As you can imagine with a life that long there are a ridiculous amount of stories, so many that I honestly don't know where to start. So I'll just say that I'm going to miss her.

Too somber for cleverness

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


The election has just been called for Obama, and I never did get around to doing that political post I wanted to do. The last few weeks have just exploded. The end of last week I was about as stressed and overloaded as I'd ever been. It's a little bit better now. My grandma is in her final hours and I've been taking some "death watch" (for lack of a better term) shifts. Given my weird schedule I felt particularly suited to the 3 am to 6 am shift, and I felt guilty about not doing more over the last few years as her health declined. So I did one shift sunday night/monday morning. And I'm doing another one tonight. As I said things are better, and I don't mind doing it, but it does mean that my time for venting my political views is limited. In any case I am going to repost this bit from Jonah Goldberg:

Look, I expect to be one of the most severe critics of the Obama administration and the Democrats generally in the years ahead (though I sincerely hope I won't find that necessary). But Obama ran a brilliant race and he should be congratulated for it. Moreover, during the debate over the financial crisis, Obama said that a president should be able to do more than one thing at a time. Well, I think we members of the loyal opposition should be able to make distinctions simultaneously. It is a wonderful thing to have the first African-American president. It is a wonderful thing that in a country where feelings are so intense that power can be transferred so peacefully. Let us hope that the Obama his most dedicated — and most sensible! — fans see turns out to be the real Obama. Let us hope that Obama succeeds and becomes a great president, for all the right reasons.

As for John McCain, he is an American hero and arguably the best candidate we could have fielded. I will in the days to come offer no small amount of criticism about his campaign. But where his campaign may have lacked qualities that would have helped it win, the candidate never lacked for honor and integrity. Thank you John McCain for your sacrifice, commitment, and honor.

God bless America, and may He guide Obama to be the best president possible.

Further Karl Rove, that arch-enemy of the left, just said of Obama's victory, that, "Every American should celebrate tonight". My contention would be that had McCain won, you would not have heard these sorts of things from the left, obviously there's no way to prove this, but if anyone can dig up anything from a liberal pundit where they talk about being gracious winners I would love to see it. In any case I digress.

I had not yet decided who to vote for this morning, though I had narrowed it down to Bob Barr or Chuck Baldwin. As I was falling asleep last night I realized that I should look into who was the stronger proponent of Nuclear power. As it turns out they both are very strong proponents. I managed to find another article on a libertarian web-site that compared the two, and mentioned the fact that Baldwin is not as strong on free trade as Barr and had in fact some rather protectionist impulses (placing tariffs on foreign goods until their price equals the price to produce them locally). So I voted for Barr.

Anyway back to Obama. I like Obama. I have some good feelings about him. I think we disagree on a LOT of things, maybe even most things, but I agree that he is now the president and there's no sense considering what might have been. I'll close with some quotes from "The Economist"'s endorsement of Obama:

There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama’s résumé is thin for the world’s biggest job. But the exceptionally assured way in which he has run his campaign is a considerable comfort. It is not just that he has more than held his own against Mr McCain in the debates. A man who started with no money and few supporters has out-thought, out-organised and outfought the two mightiest machines in American politics—the Clintons and the conservative right.

Of course, Mr Obama will make mistakes; but this is a man who listens, learns and manages well.

So Mr Obama in that respect is a gamble...[but] he has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.

Ron Paul in 2012!!!