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Rambling, Ranting

Sunday, 2010/01/24

5:00pm: An open letter
To: Prince
Re: MPLSoUND

Dear Prince,

You don't need autotune. You're Prince.

Your fan,
Erik

Monday, 2009/08/17

9:50am: the public option isn't dead (but what if it is?)
For those who feel disappointed and disillusioned by the story this weekend that President Obama was abandoning the public option, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that he hasn't reversed his position. The bad news is that his position has never been what you thought it was.

At a town hall meeting on Saturday, Obama said something he's said before - that a public health plan is not the only important part of health care reform - and the AP and the media spun it into "Obama throws public option under bus". The AP article contrasts Obama's comment this weekend to an earlier statement that doesn't actually contrast with it. In July he said that "one of the best ways to bring down costs, provide more choices and assure quality is a public option". Notice how he didn't say that a public option is the only way to achieve the goal? How he didn't say that health care reform without a public option is meaningless?

Obama thinks that a public health insurance program offered alongside private insurance is the best way to ensure all Americans can get the health care they need. However, if if health care reform without a public option makes it through Congress, he's not going to throw a tantrum and kill the bill. This is Obama's position. It hasn't changed.

President Obama still supports a public option. I don't believe he's given up on it. But other people have! And one of the best of them is Nate Silver, who explained on fivethirtyeight.com yesterday why he considers the public option unlikely to pass, what he thinks about the prospects for reform without a public option, and what to do next.

Friday, 2009/08/14

11:10am: The Parakeet Caper
Kate drew a 24-page, 24-hour comic, and I liked it, so I posted it on Facebook, but I still like it, so I'm telling you about it here on LiveJournal too. It's called The Parakeet Caper.

(Actually it took her 29 hours. Still pretty fast.)

Monday, 2009/05/11

11:41am: the internet vs. real life
Some thoughts evoked by this rant, and dedicated, with decidedly mixed feelings, to my old colleagues at Liquid Audio:

Sometimes I read about how the major labels are just in the music business for the money, they don't really care about music, and they're oppressing the artists. Sometimes I also read that they're oppressing innovative music industry start-ups.

Okay, maybe they are, but let's be honest: Internet start-ups are in it for the money too. Not that everyone who works there is motivated purely by profit. (Label employees aren't either.) But it's the nature of business. Businesses exist to make money.

This kind of false opposition is especially bewildering when the innocent start-up is imeem or Lala (partly owned by Warner), InSound (owned wholly), or Last.fm (a CBS subsidiary). Who does anyone think anyone is fooling here? Let's not talk about Big Music vs. iTunes, either.

On the Internet we used to talk about what was happening "IRL", in real life. Then gradually we discovered that the Internet was becoming real life, and vice versa. To a great extent the Internet is no longer separate from our daily lives.

Similarly, it makes less and less sense to talk about "the music business" and "the internet music business" as separate things. It's all part of the same mess: a great swirling ocean of venality with little islands of grace.

Monday, 2009/04/20

2:42pm: a footnote
One final quote from The Gift, a footnote from the chapter on gender, p. 97:
In the modern world the rights that adults have in their children - male or female - normally pass away slowly from parent to child during adolescence and become fully vested in the child when he or she is ready to leave home.

If our lives are gifts to begin with, however, in some sense they are not "ours" even when we become adults. Or perhaps they are, but only until such time as we find a way to bestow them. The belief that life is a gift carries with it a corollary feeling that the gift should not be hoarded. As we mature, and particularly as we come into the isolation of being "on our own," we begin to feel the desire to give ourselves away - in love, in marriage, to our work, to the gods, to politics, to our children. And adolescence is marked by that restless, erotic, disturbing inquisition: Is this person, this nation, this work, worthy of the life I have to give?
1:41pm: Dr. Liar
Chapter 7 of The Gift traces a history of usury in the Judeo-Christian world (with brief visits to Islam, Aristotle, and others). In Deuteronomy, a distinction is drawn: You can charge interest to a foreigner, but not to your brother. A gift economy prevails within the tribe, and a market economy with the outside.Read more...Collapse )
1:20pm: equal pay for equal work
Chapter 6 of The Gift is about market economies and gift economies as "gendered". I'm mostly going to gloss over that, as it's a complex set of ideas that seems risky to summarize. But toward the end (p. 106) he talks about a continuum between market-based work - "banking, law, management, sales" - and gift labor - "social work, nursing, the creation and care of culture, the ministry".Read more...Collapse )
1:07pm: Returning The Gift
Before I return The Gift (mentioned previously), I'm going to post a few more passages I liked. Here's one, from page 82:
"Academic freedom," as the term is used in the debate over commercial science, refers to the freedom of ideas, not to the freedom of individuals.... The issue arises because when all ideas carry a price, then all discussion, the cognition of the group mind, must be conducted through the mechanisms of the market which - in this case, at least - is a very inefficient way to hold a discussion. Ideas do not circulate freely when they are treated as commodities. The magazine Science reported on a case in California in which one DNA research group sought to patent a technique that other local researchers had treated as common property, as "under discussion." An academic scientist who felt his contribution had been exploited commented, "There used to be a good, healthy exchange of ideas and information among [local] researchers.... Now we are locking our doors." In a free market the people are free, the ideas are locked up.

Thursday, 2009/04/16

9:27pm: tonight I'm gonna pirate like it's 1999
Over on the Tin Cat blog I wrote an open letter to a mother concerned about file sharing, one of many published today by blogging musicians around the web. Her son thinks he shouldn't pay for music because the money all goes to the label, and anyway bands make their money on touring. His mother thinks not paying for music is stealing, and anyway he's a musician and what's going to happen when he needs to make a living?

My favorite response is David J. Hahn's:
My perspective on file-sharing is probably different that you would expect. I think that your son should download every track he can find. I mean it. Download every song out there and sift through them one by one. And not just the genre’s he likes - but everything - Creole bandeon playing, French rap, hymns, metal, classical, South African jazz, samba - whatever he can find.
Go read his post to find out why.
8:39pm: I bought a house!
... or so I hear.

Today I got a notice from my bank that my credit line had been cut roughly in half. This is okay - I rarely buy on credit - but they said their "decision was based in part on information provided by" Equifax. That sounds like I got a bad credit rating, which sounds like something I don't want.

So I went to Equifax's web site, to see if I could get my credit report without writing a letter. I was delighted to find that they offer credit reports online, and they don't even make it hard to find! I filled out a form with some basic identifying information, and then I got this:
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Saturday, 2009/03/28

7:01pm: on enthusiasm
I'm reading Lewis Hyde's The Gift, and it's great - deeper and denser than most of what I read, which is why I can't really say much about it now, except to recommend it to anyone who's interested in the creative commons or the worth and/or value of art, and to quote this tidbit (one of many I've been marking to share), from the section on Walt Whitman:
To be "enthusiastic" originally meant to be possessed by a god or inspired by a divine afflatus. The bacchants and maenads were enthusiasts, as were the prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New, or, more recently, Shakers and Pentecostal Christians. Enthusiasts, having received a spirit into the body, have never been hesitant to describe their spiritual knowledge in terms of the flesh, to speak of "a sweet burning in the heart" or of a "ravished soul." Whitman is no exception....
And, a little further down:
Enthusiasm has recurrently fallen into disrepute because there have always been those who claim they are filled with the spirit when they are only full of hot air.

Wednesday, 2009/03/04

8:46am: Obama's tax plan will hit Silicon Valley hard, San Jose Mercury News, 2/28/2009:
President Barack Obama's tax plan, which would boost income taxes on those earning $250,000 or more a year, would affect about twice the share of taxpayers in Santa Clara County as in the state and nation.

... But high-earning valley taxpayers who have been paying the so-called alternative minimum tax may get a little break. People at the $250,000 to $400,000 income level are likely to be hit less hard by the Obama tax plan in high-tax, high property-cost states such as California, because their exposure to the AMT will be reduced as their regular tax bill rises, explained Clint Stretch, managing principal for tax policy at Deloitte in Washington, D.C.

The good news is, you are not going to get hit as hard by the taxes that the president has proposed, he said. The bad news is, they've already been hit by the AMT.
How about "The good news is, you make three hundred thousand dollars a year"? Except for one paragraph, this entire article is about how the tax plan will affect rich people.

Monday, 2009/02/23

2:35pm: new from U2 and MySpace Music
Screengrab from MySpace: 'Its one of the most anticipated albums of the year, now listen to Album Title exclusively on MySpace.'

I've heard Album Title is one of they're best albums to watch.

Tuesday, 2009/02/10

5:17pm: the best americans
We have five Best Americans in the house right now, and before I take The Best American Comics 2008 back to the library I wanted to write down my favorite comics from the book. And where better to write them down than in public?Collapse )

Friday, 2008/11/28

5:37pm: Thankedgiving
We made/ate vegetarian dinner at Wei's house, with Jason, Wei, and Wei's friend Steph.  Tofurky, roasted vegetables, steamed brussels sprouts and spinach, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, and apple pie.  Jokes were made, cards were played.  I didn't have high hopes for Thanksgiving this year, but it was really nice.

Today we went to Hijinx Comics and picked up 13 trade paperbacks for $5 apiece (well, one was $7).  Kate came home, said "I think I'll make some dinner," and immediately started reading.  I expect she's halfway through them by now.  Also we saw "Slumdog Millionaire."  I like movies a lot, especially good ones.  I liked this one.

Things are pretty good.

Sunday, 2008/11/09

11:01pm: Proposition 8
[This post began as a letter to my cousin, who is active and vocal in the movement to reject Prop 8. I'm proud of him for that. But I really don't know him well - we see each other now and again at family gatherings - and eventually it seemed wrong to be blasting all this concentrated thought in his direction, complete with unfounded assumptions about what he thinks or doesn't think. So instead I'm posting it here, as sort of an open letter to the person I imagine him to be.]

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Friday, 2008/11/07

1:05am: W.

Saw Oliver Stone's George Bush movie today. Something like a record by a really good tribute band. All the hits are there, but some of them truncated and worked into a medley. All the players are excellent, but some of them don't exactly mimic the nuances of the original. Oh, and although you know all of the songs from the radio, you really kind of hated this band.

Two notes:

  1. I really miss Donald Rumsfeld's presence in public life. I'm glad he's no longer in any part of government, but I enjoyed his press conference persona. I think he should host a reality show.
  2. The facts of the war in Iraq are still infuriating.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday, 2008/11/05

2:22pm: well, it's a start
I find I'm ambivalent about the election - maybe more than I should be.

Obviously Obama's victory is great news for the country. More about that in a future post, I hope.

I'm most disappointed that California's gay marriage ban passed, writing a new form of discrimination into the state constitution. I plan to write about that one separately too.

And everything in between.Collapse )

Tuesday, 2008/11/04

12:30pm: polling places
I've been volunteering lately for the Obama campaign and, briefly, for No On 8.  But today there's not much for shy people to do, and I voted yesterday at the registrar's office, so today I've kind of got the day off.  I dropped by a few of my neighborhood polling places.

At the library they said there were 50 people waiting in line at 7:00, and since then there's been no more than 5 people at a time.  (I don't remember if that was "5 in line" or "5 voters on the premises".)  At the unidentified church, um, they were just kind of confused by my presence.  And at my polling place, a guy told me he's been doing this for years and this is the highest turnout he's seen:  200 ballots mailed in, some 300 so far on site, and the lunch rush still ahead.

Everybody seemed to be having a good day.  I'm having a good day.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday, 2008/10/16

1:03pm: favorite debate moments
My top three:
  1. Obama explains that he supports a ban on late-term abortions, "as long as there's an exception for the mother's health and life".  McCain responds with an incoherent jumble of sentence fragments, highlighted by repetition of the word "health" with air quotes, because, you know, health is a made-up concept that only new-age tree-huggers believe in.
  2. Obama describes at length how his health insurance plan works for small businesses, and what's wrong with McCain's alternative.  The moderator turns to McCain for a response, which is:  "Joe.  You're rich.  Congratulations."  McCain was speaking into the camera, and in a close-up, it probably made sense, but on ABC (part 6), which had it in a wide shot, it's hilarious:  Instead of responding to Obama's points, McCain is suddenly talking to an invisible guy across the table from him.
  3. Speaking of health care... referring back to Obama's analogy that a spending freeze is "using a hatchet where you need a scalpel," McCain explains: "That's a hatchet... and then I would get out a scalpel."  The patient appreciates your consideration.
Overall, I thought it was a good debate, both in general and for my candidate.  Schieffer mostly didn't let people run on at length, and except for the tiresome Ayers/ACORN hash, kept them talking about matters of substance.  Obama, I thought, talked directly to voters about things that affect their lives.  McCain seemed lost in the weeds, speaking in inside-the-beltway code words, earmarks and litmus tests and pork barrels and "elections have consequences" and "health."  He did make an effort to connect with "Joe the Plumber" but of course that turned out to be mostly nonsense.

What'd I miss?

Thursday, 2008/09/25

9:50am: wall street
Someone on Forum said (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "You and your guests all advise remaining calm. My financial advisor says the same thing. So who are the people who are panicking?" They cited last week's Wall Street drop as an example. These are supposed to be financial professionals, and smarter than the rest of us. Why are they the ones flopping around like a fish on the dock?

As time goes by and I read more insider accounts, I increasingly believe that people in the financial industry are not any smarter or better with money than the rest of us. They are only more macho.

According to this theory, Wall Street pros act more aggressively than any sensible person would. When the economy is doing well - or seems to do well, all the while floating on an ever-growing ocean of debt - this aggression pays off at a higher ROI than sanity, and they look smart. It's just when reality rears its head that they freak out and demand thousands of dollars from everyone in America to support their testosterone habit.

I'm no expert. Prove me wrong.

Wednesday, 2008/09/17

7:59am: Mitt
I listened yesterday to Mitt Romney's address to the RNC, courtesy of C-SPAN's Podcast of the Week. The whole thing's sort of a spectacular mishmash of liberals-bad-conservatives-good cliches, brazen claims, and outright lies, but I especially liked this awkward metaphor in the context of the GOP's ongoing War on Science:
You know, for decades now, the Washington sun has been rising in the east - you see, Washington has been looking to the eastern elites, to the editorial pages of the Times and the Post, and to the broadcasters from the p - from the coast! (Boos.) Yeah.

If America really wants to change, it's time to look for the sun in the west, cause it's about to rise and shine from Arizona and Alaska!
Okay, well... if you guys want to look for a sunrise in the west, you keep on looking. I'll be over here.

Monday, 2008/09/15

12:59pm: volunteer army
About a week ago I did some volunteer work. I signed up through Democrats Work, an organization that aims to get people out doing good work for their communities, and doing it as Democrats, to show how Democrats are good hard-working members of the community. Mostly what I think we showed is that the Democrats aren't very good at getting organized - I think there were three of us.

But we had fun! And we did some useful stuff for RAFT, which is awesome. Basically they take stuff that people were going to throw away, and turn it into low-cost resources for teachers. Some of it's obvious stuff - I spent most of my time sorting hundreds of looseleaf binders by size and color so they can sell them in fairly uniform boxes. But I also disassembled 30-odd CD cases and put the CDs in a pile so another group could package them with balloons and instructions to make a hovercraft. You know, for hands-on scientific understanding. That kind of creative reuse is their forte. I hope to go back and help them out again.

Sunday, 2008/09/14

10:42pm: ambivalent evening
1. I really like biking, and in theory I like public transit, but I didn't like the bus driver being grumpy at me when I wanted to bring my bike on the bus. But I did like being able to anyway.

2. Saw Stealing America: Vote by Vote, a documentary about, you know. Election irregularities. I'm glad they made it, but it made me feel kind of sick. Mostly the sequences about the 2004 election - I remember what it was like, watching all those swing states with pro-Kerry exit polls fall to Bush as the night went on. And then watching the stories come out over the next few days about voters that weren't allowed to vote, machines that registered Kerry votes as Bush votes right on the screen, mysteriously missing and just uncounted votes... and watching as Kerry, Congress, and the media just did nothing. Reliving that wasn't so great.

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Saturday, 2008/08/30

11:16am: palin
Worried about putting a small-town mayor in the White House? Not to worry - she'll learn on the job!
“She’s going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he’ll be around at least that long,” said Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain’s top advisers, making light of concerns about Mr. McCain’s health, which Mr. McCain’s doctors reported as excellent in May.
Probably for a full four years!
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