January 31, 2004

Fisking Everything

Ever have one of those days when you feel like fisking the world? The trouble is it would take a long time and it would be hard to know where to begin. It's probably best to pick one or two examples as representative samples and let it go at that. I like to start with the stupidest item of the day and work from there.

According to a New York Times report State Assemblyman Leland Y. Lee has introduced a measure urging the state Building Standards Commission to adopt a measure that would "aid feng shui, the ancient Chinese practice of promoting health, harmony and prosperity through the environment."

Do you want to take a guess in which state assembly Mr. Yee serves. California. Bonus question: What is Mr. Yee's party affiliation and whom does he represent? If you guessed Democrat, San Francisco, give yourself a pat on the back.

Feng Shui means "wind and water" and is based on belief in the mystical powers that are continually around us and that the proper ordering of the elements surrounding us can harness these forces and bring good fortune. It is a pseudo science based on ancient Chinese religious beliefs and for many modern practitioners it still maintains a heavy spiritual component.

Feng Shui in 21st century America is a blend of New Age Mysticism, ancient Chinese religious traditions and interior decorating. And this moron wants to make part of California's building codes. The 9th Circuit Court, in California, recently ruled the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because the phrase "One nation, under God" represented legislative establishment of religion. Why do I have the feeling that if this measure passes the assembly and becomes law, the 9th Circus would find no establishment conflict. It's idiocy like this that really makes Northeastern winters bearable.

After dealing with overwhelming stupidity I have to move on to maddeningly frustrating. The anti-SUV crowd has apparently been paying attention to the successful tactics of the anti-smoking crowd. Actually, given the obnoxiously intrusive desire of each group to protect individuals from themselves and their zealous belief in their own righteousness, it's probably all just the same "crowd."

Newsday.com is reporting that New York Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette

wants to require heavy SUVs to travel along truck routes, saying their girth makes them subject to the same weight-based safety standards as their commercial cousins.
It's the automotive equivalent of banning smoking in bars.

Lafayette, who according to Newsday drives a Ford Taurus doesn't feel people who choose to buy a SUV shouldn't be allowed the same freedom as drivers of lame economy cars (like my VW Jetta for instance).

If Lafayette's idea becomes law, the SUVs would have to travel interstate highways or other truck routes -- some of them toll roads -- with wider lanes and long stretches between exits. Now, large SUVs routinely travel meandering commuter roads with free access to residential areas.
The approach is the same as the smoking bans. They can't outlaw SUV's outright but they can make them such a hassle to own that people will stop buying them. If you want a clue as where the anti-SUV crusade is heading next, here is the last paragraph of the Newsday story
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in July that death rates rose significantly for SUV occupants in rollovers as compared to passenger cars. SUVs account for about 25 percent of all the vehicles sold in the United States, according to analysts
Coming to a lawsuit friendly court near you, lawsuits to recover state costs from SUV related accidents.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:46 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


Joining the Club

Because I didn't want to get a rep as a complete sitck in the mud for being the on Munuvian not to do a map of the states I've been in see the extended entry. more...

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:38 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


January 30, 2004

Cyber Alert

I wrote a brief and sarcastic piece on The Homeland Security software virus initiative the other day. But the more I thought about it, the more the system bothers me and my flip response seems woefully inadequate. Thus I have no other choice but to do it again.

First, I am a MAC User. I have been for about 15 years. My conversion from PC user was swift and unquestioned. There are currently 4 MACS in my house, and one on my desk at work (actually it's under the desk but who's counting). At the company where I work there are about 500 PC and 15 MACS. My friend in the IT department estimates that they have spent about 2800 to 3000 man hours in the last year on virus relates issues. How much of the anti-virus time was spent on the MACS? About 15 minutes. Which is how long it took to explain to the head of the IT department that MACS running OS X are not affected by viruses.

The argument used to be that Apple's Market share was too small to be of interest to virus creators. That may have been and may still be true. But the technological truth is it would not be possible to write a virus for a MAC running OS X.

Why? Well for the PC folks here's the simple answer. To install any executable piece of code on a MAC running OSX you need to authenticate with and administrator name and password. Even if you are logged on as the administrator - heck even if you are logged on as the Root User with god like powers of every aspect of the system - you must authenticate to install. Since there is no way for a virus to know the admin username and password it can't install anythng.

This is one of the things I love about the MAC. It is one of the reasons why I fought fiercely when the IT department wanted to switch my group to PCs.

Another bit of accepted wisdom is that MACs are more expensive than PCs. I have paid that premium to own my MACs and to buy the upgrades to the operating system. I have paid that money in part to be free from worrying about viruses. Now I am being forced to pay for a Federal system created to cope with the problems created by the poor security of an operating system I chose not to buy.

I can hear the argument that this is a matter of Homeland Security and that we all must be willing to make sacrifices to ensure the safety of the nation. In my opinion I already have. Now I am forced to contribute tax dollars to help deal with problems caused by the multitudinous holes in Windows security functions that are readily exploited by sociopathic geeks with some minimal talent for writing code.

If this is truly a matter of Homeland Security worthy of a response on the scale of US-CERT then why doesn't Tom Ridge and company go to the source of the problem and pay a little visit to the folks in Redmond. These people, aka Microsoft, have flooded the marketplace with an operating system with security approaching the level of that on our borders. I want to see news coverage of Ridge and Ashcroft sitting down with Gates and Balmer and telling them "Look, the weak security of your operating system has created an area of national vulnerability. You need to do something about it. Now. Not only will we not protect you from the consequences this situation creates, we will be part of the consequences."

This will never happen of course. Instead, my tax dollars are being spent to bail Microsoft out of taking any responsibility. In the entire US-CERT website I did not find any mention of Microsoft or its Windows operating system as being a part of the problem or a part of the solution. So I am going to take the only action open to me. I am going to sign up for US-CERT Cyber Security Alerts. Now every time I get a notice of another Cyber Attack I can sit back and enjoy a a safe, secure OS X chuckle. I have many good friends who are PC users and I hate to be laughing at their expense but they chose their operating sytem as freely as I did.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:21 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


January 28, 2004

Homeland Windows Security

The Department of Homeland Security has announced the development of the National Cyber Alert System. The function of US-CERT is to send emails to Windows users to alert them to potential virus threats. Two points to ponder.

First, not only have users paid Microsoft truckloads of money for an operating system with security designed by the makers of Wonder Bread, now every taxpayer will be subsidizing Microsoft by helping them to deal with the damage. Note to Tom Ridge - If viruses exploiting the gaping holes in Windows security are a national security issue maybe instead of forcing everyone to pay for the problem, force Microsoft to clean up their code, or pay for the US-CERT warning system.

Second, I think someone needs to start a pool on how long it will take before someone uses a fake US-CERT email to deliver a virus or sell Viagra.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:54 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


The Truth About Al Franken?

I have read two vastly differing accounts of the incident involving Al Franken and supporters of Lyndon LaRouche at a Howard Dean campaign appearance. Here is the CNN account of the event:

Followers of perennial presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche interrupted a campaign event for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean on Monday before being drowned out by Dean supporters and removed from the room with the assistance of comedian Al Franken. [snip]

Franken, a comedian and self-described liberal well-known for his attacks on the Bush administration and conservative-leaning media, helped carry out one of the disrupters. In the process, Franken's glasses were knocked off his face and broke in two.

Here are several quotes from the New York Post account which tell a vastly different story, mostly in Franken's own words.
Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean.

The tussle left Franken's trademark thick-rim glasses broken, but he said he was not injured.[snip]

"I got down low and took his legs out," said Franken afterwards.[snip]

The trouble started when several supporters of fringe presidential candidate Lyndon Larouche began shouting accusations at Dean.

Franken emerged from the crowd and charged one male protester, grabbing him with a bear hug from behind and slamming him onto the floor.

"I was a wrestler so I used a wrestling move," Franken said.

A couple of questions spring to mind. First if the NY Post/Al Franken version of the story is true, what the hell is CNN reporting and why? Second, if the CNN story is accurate is the the sort of self-aggrandizing lying BS we can expect when Franken hits the radio waves? Third, if the NY Post story is closest to the truth, why isn't Franken in jail for assault?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:44 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment


January 25, 2004

Adding Links

There are few things I enjoy less than editing the templates for this site - even for the simple task of adding a new link to the Recommended Reading list. This has always been a part of my strategy. I have to really want to recommend a site to get me go into the template. However, since I moved to mu.nu there have been three new sites added to the Munivania list that have to be added to my site. While I was there I put two new sites on the reading list.

The sites in the Recommended Reading list are there because of all the weblos in my favorites, currently 29, they are the ones that I consistently look forward to reading every day. With the exception of Rocket Man who was largely responsible for me starting this project and whom I proudly call Blog Father, they are listed alphabeticaly. Rocket Jones has the distinction of being the only blog listed twice. A fellow Munuvian, he was on the list before I moved the site. He may not hold that honor much longer though. There are a lot of good sites in the Munuvian list.

Today's additions include three new Munuvians: Annika's Poetry & Journal, Trynig to Grok and
USURP. New to the Recommended Reading list are Brand Autopsy: a two author blog writing some very interesting things about marketing; and Daniel Drezner writing on politics and current events.

Unlike a certain former Vice President and presidential election loser I have no illusions as to the value of my endorsement. I will not be sending huge volumes of traffic their way. Yet. If there's a site on the list you don't know, go there now. You will not be disappointed.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:11 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


Howard Dean's Tank Ride

Howard Dean has gone from primal scream to pathetic whine in just a few short days. According to the Associated Press Dean still blames his Iowa defeat on his competition. He said recently he was surprised by the "under the table" tactics used against him.

Dean said his rivals "had their folks really beating up on the people who went in, trying to get them to change their minds in caucus."
Dean is complaining that his opponents in an election worked to change the opinions of voters before they voted. Note to Howard, the rest of the free world calls that campaigning.

Then Dean gets in touch with his inner child and threatens to take the ball away if people don't play by rules that let him win.

"I think Iowa is going to have to change the way it conducts its caucuses if it wants to continue to be first," he told reporters in an interview on his campaign bus in New Hampshire.
Dean is very fortunate that he has people standing behind him to clean up from his verbal incontinence.
After Dean's remarks, his spokesman, Doug Thornell, clarified that Dean would protect Iowa's right to have the nation's first caucus.

"Governor Dean loves Iowa and when elected president, he will ensure that Iowa retains its status as first in the nation," Thornell said.

Howard, I think it's time to climb aboard that tank and put on the funny hat. It probably can't damage what little is left of your chances at the nomination and at least you could have a fun ride.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:16 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


January 23, 2004

Farewell BlogSpot

As of today, the BlogSpot version of Hold the Mayo no longer exists beyond a one line post pointing here.

Pixie kindly loaded in the archives and I went through them and replaced ALLthe headlines that got lost. Then I went through and re-did every internal link so that ehy all pointed to the mu.nu archives. Finally I transfered all the comments. I don't remember getting that many comments. I am glad I have only beem doing this since August. If there had been much more to deal with I probably would have just left it where it sat. No doubt there was an easier way to do this than the tedious manual work I completed but one must work within the limits of one's skills.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:40 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


January 22, 2004

Keep on Truckin

I really can't stand it when some self-appointed Guardian of All That is Good, Right and Fair presumes that their opinion of other people's buying habits actually matters. Greg Easterbrook does that in his TNR Easterblog. Easterbrook has gone beyond the Anti-SUV crowd is taking on the favorite transportation of Howards Dean's favorite constituents. The Mega-Pickup Truck. Here's the core of the issue fro Greg:

Ford's F150 mega-pickup currently is the number-one selling vehicle in the United States: One popular version weighs 5,606 pounds, almost double that of a typical sedan, has a 300-horsepower engine, and gets 14 miles per gallon.
It bothers Greg that mega-truck buyers benefit from the fact that "mileage-standard and pollution-control waivers allow them to have monster engines at an affordable price." I guess monster engines should only be for the rich - to go along with their monster taxes.

There are other factors that lead Easterbrook to label these trucks as "Even Worse Than SUVs:"

Most of the mega-pickups sold today are being bought not by construction companies or hardware-store operators, but by suburbanites who drive them in lieu of regular cars.
So what? In the parking lot where I work there are regularly 8 - 10 high performance cars. Cars that can go from 0 to 60 in a few seconds and that have top speeds in the 150-180 mph range. These people aren't racing, they aren't rushing to emergencies to save the world. They are driving to work. Which around here means cruising down the highway at an average speed of about 10 mph on a good day.

Then Easterbrook reveals his true disdain for the average truck buying consumer.

Suburban buyers of mega-pickups may not care much about the cargo box, or use it much. What they're looking for is a vehicle that's huge, menacing, and exempt from mileage and pollution-control standards.
Yup that's it. Most Americans walk into a car dealership and say "Gimme the biggest, least efficient most polutinist vehicle in the place. I wanna scare the pants of those sissies in them hybrid Toyotas while I burn up as much gas as humanly possible. If'in I can pump out a ton a pollution in the process Yahoo."

Easterbrook does get one thing right

Another reason is that the trucks' size and aggressive styling visually raise the middle finger to the world.
Greg this one's for you.
Full Disclosure: I drive a Jetta. I would like some day to afford something better, but it will not be a truck.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:08 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


January 21, 2004

SOTU Highlights

I watched the SOTU last night. As SOTU's go I'd give it a 7. Still spending too much money, but I get the sense he may know that. My favorite moment had to be when Bush set up the Democrats with the Patriot Act.

Inside the United States, where the war began, we must continue to give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us.

And one of those essential tools is the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells and to seize their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists.

(APPLAUSE)

Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year.

(DERISIVE APPLAUSE FROM THE DEMS)

(Bush leaning toward the Dems) The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule.

The look on his face and the way he delivered that line, I believe the first paragraphs were a setup. The "Key provisions" sentence was the bait, and the Dems bit hard. That had to have felt good for Bush and his team.

Another bright spot was rhetorically flipping Hillary the bird

A government-run health care system is the wrong prescription.
It was also heartening to hear Bush at least use the word "Veto."

I don't have the stomach to review the Pelosi/Dashle response. Suffice to say that in the span of 24 hours we saw both ends of the spectrum in the Democrat party. The Howard Dean end - desperately in need of a sedative and perhaps lithium, and the Congressional minority leadership desperately in need of a pulse.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:21 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


January 20, 2004

Pick a Theory

Just because I don't want to be the ONLY weblog on the planet to not offer an opinion on the Iowa Caucus here's my two cents. Howard Dean lost.

This comes as no big surprise Howard Dean was not supposed to win Iowa. This had been the consensus opinion for a while. Where the consensus opinion was wrong was in predicting Dean to finish a close second to Dick Gephardt. The surprise is that Dean came in A distant third behind Kerry and Edwards. Dick Gephardt wound up in forth with numbers that just barely kept him from being listed as other.

There are so many theories that can be thrown at this to try to explain it away. First there is the Media Bias Theory. This theory holds that the media elevated Dean to a frontrunner status he did not have or deserve. They did this because he was the most virulently anti-bush candidate running. This allowed them the freedom to print and broadcast harsh anti-Bush rhetoric for months without anyone pointing a finger and saying look at how biased they are. Their defense is that they were just reporting what the leading candidate was saying. That they were just doing their jobs as journalists. Of course in order for this to work, for them not to have egg on their faces when Howard began to lose primaries, they would have to start letting some of the wind out of his sails a week or two before Iowa Caucuses. Nothing big, just a little less than positive coverage here, a little more focus on what his opponents were saying about him there. They'd probably start using some of the more psychotically angry looking photos as well.

The Media Bias Theory dovetails nicely with the Howard Dean Theory

Dean blamed the loss on attacks he suffered as the one-time front-runner. His rivals pummeled him with criticism, saying he didn't have the foreign policy experience or temperament to lead the country.

"We were pretty much the target of everybody for a long time," Dean said on CNN's Larry King Live. "And it's hard to sustain that." (From Fox news)

Dean's theory amounts to people said bad thing about me and it cost me votes. There had to have been a lot of mud being slung around Iowa, and a lot of it had to stick if it took Howard from clear frontrunner to third behind two campaigns that a month ago were considered DOA.

Then there is the Al Gore Kiss of Death Theory. Whatever you think about the 2000 election mess in Florida, the party faithful can't be too happy with Big Al. For them it comes down to either a. He was not good enough to beat a moron like Bush; b. He was not good enough to keep a moron like Bush from stealing the election; c He was not good enough to steal an election form a moron like Bush. No matter how they slice it Gore ran against Bush, Bush is the White House. This makes them unhappy to the point where a Gore endorsement is major negative. (I like this theory mostly because my loathing of Al Gore knows almost no bounds)

Of course there is the Voter Theory of the Dean defeat. This theory states that there are basically three types of voters who participate in the primary/caucus process. There are idea voters, party voters and their close cousins the pragmatic idealists. The idea voters are the candidate loyalists. They love their candidate and they live, breath, eat, sleep and drink his message. They are the true Deaniacs, Kerryites, and Edwardians. Their candidate could be seen on live television having sex with farm animals while smoking crack and beating their children and they would still vote for their guy. The party voters are those people who don't care so much what a candidate says as long as the nominee is someone they think can be elected. They are not measuring Democrat against Democrat they are measuring Democrat against Bush and voting for whomever they think either has a chance of winning or at least not embarrassing The Party in defeat. The segment that will probably have the most impact under this theory is the pragmatic idealist voters. These are the people who get excited by a charismatic energetic candidate like Howard Dean. These are the people who in polling before a primary are Dean supporters but when the time comes to make the commitment of voting, they can't follow through. They re-evaluate their opinion and vote for whomever they think either has a chance of winning or at least not embarrassing The Party in defeat. Trying to explain this discrepancy between the entrance poll and the exit poll results in the Media Bias Theory and the Howard Dean Theory.

Lastly, there is the big one. The Conspiracy Theory. This theory posits that anything that happens is the Democratic nomination process is being carefully orchestrated by Bill and Hillary Clinton for the purpose of positioning the party for her 2008 campaign. This theory suggests that all the other theories are wrong. No media bias, the polling numbers were accurate. It wasn't the negative coverage, and it wasn't voter switching. It was all the machinations of Bill and Hillary. It is possible that Bill and Hillary are behind the Al Gore Kiss of Death. Step one of the conspiracy was to take Dean down in Iowa and to do it in a way that throws some serious sand in the gears of the Dean machine. Knocking him from frontrunner to an also-ran third does that. Step two is to make sure their boy Clark wins in New Hampshire. According to The Conspiracy Theory, the Clintons are arranging to have Clark win the nomination so that the real reasons he was fired form his NATO post will sink his candidacy moments before the election (think October surprise). Bush wins an easy re-election and Hillary can look to 2008 without the specter of facing a Democrat incumbent.

One of these theories explains what just happened in Iowa and what is about to happen in New Hampshire. I'll theorize - you decide.

UPDATE:I forgot to include the WWE Smackdown Raw Theory Which... well just listen and you'll understand.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:18 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


January 19, 2004

My Favorite Lefties

Michele at A Small Victory has written an excellent post chastising some utter morons who have been bombarding Margaret Cho with the absolute worse kind of garbage imaginable.

Lovely. Just lovely. Most of the emails are filled with horrible grammar and more spelling errors than a first grade essay contest. Things like this is why the right is often considered to be hateful, racist, ignorant trolls.

I'm not defending Cho's politics. I'm not defending her behavior or her language. Hell, I'm not even defending her comedy because I never found her to be funny. However, she has a right to all that. She has a right to say what she wants, where she wants and when she wants. That's America. And you have just as much right to refute her or speak out against her. But for god's sake, people. Stop making idiots out of yourselves. And stop using "we" and "us" in your emails. You don't speak for the entire right, for all Republicans, for every conservative.

I certainly don't want to be associated with people who wish cancer on someone just because they have a different world view than you. You make me sick, just as much as the far left makes me sick.

If you want to out yourself as an illiterate cretin, go right ahead. Don't drag the rest of us down with you.

She also notes two things she has never done while "biting back" at outspoken celebrities.I particularly agree with this:
One, I don't boycott the actors or musicians who make what I consider to be idiotic statements regarding world affairs. If I did that, my DVD and CD collections would dwindle to nothing. You have to have the ability to separate the art from the artist sometimes, or you lose out on some good art.
I did see and enjoy Mystic River with Tim Robbins and Sean Penn. And I still like the Ocean's 11 remake with George Clooney.

It is in that spirit that I am ignoring the Iowa caucuses, and anything that really matters, opting instead for the product of two of my favorite lefties - Ben & Jerry.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:04 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment


January 18, 2004

The Has-Been Vote

In addition to the prestigious Madonna endorsement, Democrat nominee candidate Weasley Clark has received the much coveted endorsement of George McGovern. Clark has also received the endorsement noted documentary fictionalist Michael Moore.

Add to this the undeclared open secret of his Clinton Support and Clark can count on the lunatic left vote as well the has-been vote. The question remaining is, will this combination be enough to secure the nomination?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:27 PM | No Comments | Add Comment


January 16, 2004

Analysis Bingeing

I've read a great deal on a number of blogs the last couple of days about some blithering idiot named Dennis Perrin who wrote some very unkind words about James Lileks' blog The Bleat." One of the things Perrin criticized Lileks for was his frequent mentions of his daughter, Gnat. I like The Bleat. It is one of the blogs I look forward to reading and one I know I will enjoy reading every time I go there. That is what qualified it for the Recommended Reading list on the right side of this page. In fact that is what it takes to make the list. I am very slow in adding new names - because I insist on doing it manually and I hate editing the templates- and because I only ad a site if it has proven to be a consistently anticipated read. There are a number sites I'm getting very close to adding. I probably could have added one or two when I made over to mu.nu, but I was more interested in getting the template done and the new site running so it was just easier to copy the list from the old site.

The Bleat was an easy ad. I became a Lileks fan rather quickly, possibly because one of the first Bleats I read was the famous Salman Pax post. I am not in the least offended by his stories of Gnat, even though one of the first rules I made for myself when I started blogging was that I would not, beyond the most generic passing reference, blog about my family. I do however write about myself often enough. Not the day to day trials and tribulations of life in suburban Connecticut, but the more intricate and distorted workings of my own mind. What my friend Ted at Rocket Jones once called an analysis binge.

Today's binge springs from a moment that would break rule number one, as well as cross over into the insignificant details of daily living. So without telling you how I got there, I'll tell you that I spent a good deal of time today thinking about how I think.

Essentially, I have two modes of mental operation, with surprisingly little grey area between them. To elaborate lest you assume I mean grey matter, the distinction between the two modes is sharp. I am either in or the other with not much more than one small point of being in a little both. Being in two places at one time is difficult and it takes a strong effort of will to stay there long. But even at that, they are not mutually exclusive. Which ever mode I happen to be operating in on a conscious level, the other is always there as a background process.

The best way to explain the two modes is by starting with the old saying "Can't see the forest for the trees," and adding a corollary "Can't see the trees for the forest." A lot of this distinction in thought process comes from working for 12 years as a graphic designer and art director.

This is a pretty clear violation of my blog rule #2 - Don't blog about work. I love my work, but if my blog becomes about design, then it just becomes about work. I'm granting myself an exception because I am going nowhere near clause B of rule #2 Never blog about where you work.
With every design project, you have to be able to see the forest. You have to understand what the design needs to accomplish and see how to get that done within the limits of the medium. You need to see how to communicate concepts like quality and dependability in either a 12 page glossy brochure or on a business card. That is the forest. You also need to be able to see the trees. To focus on the details. Because no matter how magnificent your vision of the forest if the work is rife with errors and omissions it fails. Design also requires the ability to switch quickly and effortlessly from one mode to the other.

While most people probably share these two points of focus, I suspect that a majority of the population mentally inhabits some point on a sliding scale between the two extremes. And it is only in response to some event that they approach either end of the spectrum. I think a lot of the reason why politicians are so successful at buying votes with tax dollars via programs like the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is that when it comes to politics and policy most people tend to focus more on the details and less on the big picture. It takes something like 9/11 to shift our national focus into large scale.

Where I occasionally run into difficulty with the rest of the world is when the shifting of mental gears doesn't happen. (As opposed to the mixing of mental metaphors) When the world around me is calling for a narrow focus on the details of the moment but my mind is locked in big picture mode, I appear as absent minded and forgetful. And in truth things do get forgotten. My wife refers to this mental state as "Planet Steve." I go there a lot when I'm driving which is why I glad the detail half of my brain is always there in the background, otherwise I'd be a real danger on the highway. I have been known to drive by an exit now and then - even the exit I take to get to work every day. And there have been a number of disturbing instances in which I suddenly shift focus to the details of the moment and it takes me a moment to figure out where I am on a very familiar stretch of road.

Then there are the times, like this week, when I can get so locked in on the details that I resist any attempt to move my focus beyond what I am doing now. When this happens I can appear to be impatient and uncaring. This week a particularly nasty stomach virus wreaked havoc on my family as it traveled from individual to individual. This put me into mental survival mode - full detail of the moment focus. What had to happen tomorrow was virtually irrelevant. All that mattered was making it through the next hour. Any attempt to move beyond survival mode was dismissed. The result was to unintentionally offend. I am sure my wife has several names for this state of mind but in general I try to avoid profanity on this site.

So the question remaining is, why go through this exercise of public introspection. Because in part I think the blog made it possible or at the very least helped the process along. A good deal of the thought process was done in the form of mentally writing this post. Did I learn anything along the way - I think so. I think I learned that (to ad yet another metaphore) sometimes my mind cannot be left on autofocus. Will I know when those times are before it's too late? That remains to be seen.

Then again it could all just be an excuse to put up a bunch of links to Rocket Jones.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:10 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


UniGore

I found a fun little quiz via Neal Boortz. Which is also where I found the link for the post below. This quiz won't tell you what kind of mushroom you are or which Dr. Who you might be.

This quiz is the Al Gore or Unibomber Quiz. No, the result will not tell you which of the two you are most like. The site presents 12 statements taken from either the Unibomber's Manifesto or Al Gore's Earth in the Balance. You simply have to pick the author of each statement. I confess that I have read neither of these works but I do have some familiarity with the thinking of both individuals. I read each statement carefully and considered my answers thoroughly. Somehow I suspect that if I had just gone through and guessed without reading the statements I could have done better than three correct answers.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:43 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


January 15, 2004

Follow the Link

Nothing more need be said.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:05 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


January 14, 2004

Is this Bush's Plan?

Easterblog gets it wrong on the Bush immigration proposal.

Working conditions will almost surely improve for the millions of illegals who take the restaurant, lawn-service, cleaning, and other jobs that most Americans simply do not want. Benefits for those millions will improve, as will the odds of labor organizing.
Easterbrook seems to ignore the other side of the transaction completely. If the Bush proposal passes, in order for all the illegal immigrants to get all the wonderful benefits, labor cost will have to rise for all those people who currently hire illegal labor to do work at wages Americans will not, and by law can not accept. The previously employed illegal immigrants will find their jobs evaporating or being given to those willing to stay outside of the system.

Easterbrook also writes about

Millions of hardworking illegals who live in constant anxiety in the United States--the comfortable U.S. majority cannot imagine the endless personal apprehension and feeling of powerlessness that comes from illegal status--will be able to stop living in fear.
Leaving aside that the fear and anxiety they live with is a result of having chosen to enter this country illegally, given the level of immigration enforcement in the United States, what exactly do they have to fear?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:02 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


Call Me Al

If you want a flavor of how the media is likely going to treat the launch of the Al Franken Show on the soon to be launched liberal talk radio network, you need not look much further than this objective report from Al's hometown paper. You can give the reporter credit for nailing the theme in the lead. In fact nailing it in the first two words.

Satirical superstar and St. Louis Park native Al Franken has signed on as a prime player with Central Air, a new politically liberal radio network.
Even at the height of his popularity on SNL calling Franken a "satirical superstar" would be pushing the bounds of credibility. Now, all he needs is a video camera to be a slightly better groomed Michael Moore.

Franken's show is slotted for a head to head match-up with Rush Limbaugh. It's shaping up like a celebrity boxing match between Pee Wee Herman and Mike Tyson. It will be interesting to hear the spin when Al gets trampled in the ratings by the man he called in a book title "A Big Fat Idiot."

Am I being overly optimistic in predicting Al Franken's failure? I don't think so. The one thing missing from the liberal radio plan is a market. Liberals believe that there was some sort of conservative conspiracy to take over talk radio and silence liberal voices. The simple reason that talk radio is dominated by conservative voices, is because those are the voices talk radio listeners want to hear.

There is perhaps one other factor that will doom Al's show the dustbin of failed radio, and that is a concerted effort to make sure that his show is as little like Limbaugh's in format and content as possible. It makes sense that to be successful in talk radio you should start by deliberately distancing yourself from the most consistently successful format on the air. Doesn't it?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:10 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment


January 13, 2004

No Blogging

I wrote nothing yesterday. I will write nothing today. Stomach flu is savaging my small home.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:39 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment


January 11, 2004

Bill Is Back.

The emptyness of Bill Wittle's Eject! Eject! Eject! has been filled again. As usual it is very worth a visit.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:51 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


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