Sunday, November 30, 2008

The death of the in-store paging system

A few months ago, I had the dubious pleasure of attending the Red Bull Flugtag here in Chicago.

That was about three different flavors of crazy, largely because of the armies of people who worship at the altar of Red Bull. Honestly, I had no idea these people existed.

While I went to see people crash gigantic pinatas into the lake, others came because they love Red Bull more than the family dog. Yeah, it was odd.

One of the things that struck me - more than the number of unfortunate tattoos and sleeveless shirts - was an announcement to make sure people knew where they'd meet each other if they got separated in the crowds.

I haven't heard this for roughly a decade.

It's so easy today to call back and forth if there's an issue that it's pretty strange to think of what a hassle events like this used to be. If I get cut off from the herd, I pull out my phone and call or text and the problem is solved.

The "will so and so please meet their party in the east end of the park..." message faded so quickly that I never had time to even miss it.

Today, I e-mailed a friend to try and get the username and password for something and didn't think twice about getting a response in a matter of moments. If he wasn't at a computer, his e-mail would buzz through on his phone and the problem would be solved.

I was getting election results from my dad this year faster than CNN could update me on live TV. I know about the weather by checking my phone on the bus by tapping three buttons and seeing the radar map in its postage stamp sized glory.

Just think about that for a second (readers younger than 20 can skip this step, because it's always been like this for you). A phone in your pocket now means instant data, maps, weather reports, sports scores and news. And that's just the tip of this digital iceberg, not taking into account the number of upgrades available on the newest phones.

Say what you will about 24-hour accountability - and I am a huge opponent of it - but damn if it doesn't make life easier in the big picture.

I don't think I'm going too far to say that the stupid bar bet - "He was not the MVP in 1996!"- is on the endangered species list. I'd write more, but I just got an e-mail reply sent to my phone faster than to my laptop and it's time to turn on a little background noise as I work.

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It's for your own good

Every few days, it dawns on me that I haven't posted in a long while. This is for your protection.

With an expectant wife, I've been trying to reign in the desire to assign meaning to every little thing because we're bringing a little person into the world in May.

Prices of peas rising because of fuel costs? Oh Lord, what kind of world are we bringing a child into?

See a worldwide tragedy? Oh my, this means so much more now that I'm going to be a dad.

I'm working through these issues, but in the meantime I'm doing my best to shelter everyone from endless posts about the changes in my little world.

All bets are off as of mid-May.

You've been warned and most web browsers make it very easy to delete bookmarks when I reach a point of total insufferability. Consider it my holiday gift to you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The benefit of the doubt

I get it, Republicans. I've been there.

There's no way the President-Elect was voted in fairly. There's no way this was the will of the people, much less a mandate.

Get over it. It'll be much better for your blood pressure over the next calendar year.

There is no liberal media conspiracy. There is no overwhelming order from some sinister place that determines what type of coverage is presented. There are problems with "the storyline" of any given campaign and a reluctance to break from that storyline. This is not something new.

Know what? Today's media consumer is too picky to listen to anything that deviates from their view of the storyline.

Sarah Palin isn't a folksy, charming woman? Liberal slander! Barack Obama is an ambitious man and not the aw shucks candidate swept up in the will of the people and their desire for change? Turn off Fox News!

I suppose it is impressive that the first stage of this odd sequence for both the Bush and Obama administrations begin with conspiracy theories - that we blame outside forces before we blame each other - but it's a little tiresome.

I'll skip to the spoiler and what I needed to get off my chest this evening:

I voted for Obama and I meant to do it.

I wasn't blinded by star power. I wasn't swayed by the media. I didn't see a fancy commercial on the Internet and decide to vote for him. I did my homework and I voted for Obama.

You may not agree with my reasons for doing so and I certainly don't expect you value the things I do, or to weight them the same ways I do. But don't think for a second that I made an uninformed decision because of the result of that final decision.

I mention this because I spent enough time on the other side of this equation to understand what these first few weeks are like. Not for nothing, but at least this election is recount-free, so keep that in mind as you whine and forward new polls to me.

At the end of that bitter path is the realization that while you might not agree, other people have valid opinions as well. While you might feel personally out of touch with the majority of your countrymen, it's pretty arrogant to assume that everyone who voted differently than you is an idiot or was duped into doing so.

Trust me - I spent far too much time assuming that all the idiots who voted Bush were duped. It didn't do much good in the long run. It certainly doesn't help in the event of a successful re-election run.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

For love or money?

I have said from the beginning here that I would shy away from politics more often than not because a.) I'm just not informed enough to speak on it in any sort of responsible manner and b.) it precipitates nasty flame wars, even on quiet little blogs such as this. If you need any evidence of just how hot this year's campaign season got, I suggest grabbing a Facebook account and trashing either Barack Obama or John McCain publicly.

Still, the politics that move this country have me thinking and so there may be minor flood of posts with the "politics" tag that thus far has been used sparingly.

More to the point are the ideas advanced by Frank the Tank in his call for change within the GOP. I was also moved by the lengthy and well-reasoned response in the first comment that runs nearly as long as the post itself.

Still, it's not a stretch to say that the Republican party is seen as less inclusive as the Democrats and that is a pretty strange point to arrive at when you begin with Abraham Lincoln as the first Republican president.

I tend to view the parties through a strange prism of what the average voter sees, and by that I tend to weigh the consensus more heavily than the actual nuts and bolts of of each party's political machine. For example, in discussing McCain taking the fall for GOP leaders and their place in the economic crisis with Frank, I can understand that the blame shouldn't fall directly on the Republicans, but unless they could effectively sway voter perceptions, it's a moot point.

Call me uninformed or blind to the fleecing at the hands of a liberal media - a major sore spot for me - but really, if you can't realistically take the pulse of the electorate, you're essentially arguing policy in a vacuum.

With that out of the way, I think it's safe to say that Democrats are seen as the warm, fuzzy candidates and while recent history bears out that people don't always want that quality in their candidate for office, it makes things difficult for GOP candidates courting votes in low-income areas or with the nation's various minority groups.

It also highlights one of the major trains of thought I've had since Tuesday and especially with regards to a few discussions with Frank. (It's worth noting that he is my main source of dissenting opinion because he can carefully formulate articulate arguments without using the words "liberal media," "idiot," "hippie" or "Fox News said." Also, he eats the same garbage food I do when our wives aren't watching, so we are able to plow through all sorts of strange political topics over breaded steak sandwiches at Ricobene's.)

In a few discussions this fall, Frank has repeatedly pointed out that he is fiscally conservative and socially progressive - in short, that he supports many pieces of the Democratic platform when it comes to social issues but can't get behind their economic policy.

To be totally honest, I don't think that I could accurately (much less gracefully) explain the Democratic plans for the economy if I was spotted an hour in the library and a cabinet of top-level advisors. I don't imagine that I'm alone with my donkey-loving brothers and sisters.

And therein lies a major question for me in the polling data - how many of those people who voted Democrat on Tuesday did so because of the party's social agenda and how many did so based on their economic policies. (It's worth noting that for the basis of what follows here, I'm effectively ignoring McCain specifically, who was polling better than "Republican Candidate X" and suffered from an odd campaign stricken by amnesia that presented the candidate in a different light than what got him to that point. Tuesday night is much more suspenseful if McCain runs his campaign with the same tone set in his concession speech.)

A major problem for the GOP, as outlined by the post that I've linked, boils down to the reality that the party needs to focus on both sides and loses voters if they push too far one way or another. I assume that the average Democrat would back an economic stimulus package based on buying a truckload of Powerball tickets if it meant supporting a candidate who would pack the Supreme Court with pro-choicers and proponents of gay marriage.

Personally, I'd have more difficult decisions to make if the GOP held the line with less government interference - because really, who wouldn't want lower taxes - when it came to those issues. Still, for the party that preaches a more hands off approach, they have the hardest lines on who you can marry and what decisions can and cannot be made by a pregnant woman.

I may not be listening well enough, but I rarely hear complaints about what something will cost from the Democratic voters, as long as they support the ideas driving it. They'll pay for universal health care, welfare and other programs as long as they think it will help (which I know is seen as a weakness by some) but I think it illustrates a major division between the voters for the two sides. It's not just what they vote for, but how they vote as well.

In short, the GOP must cater to socially conservative voters who want to ban abortion and gay marriage (and a host of other issues, but those two make for nice shorthand) as well as those who want to keep a sober eye on the bottom line, while the Democrats can focus all their attention on their social stance and not worry about losing too many voters because of the economic road map.

Personally, while I checked out Obama's tax and health care plans just to know what they entailed before I voted, there wasn't a significant chance I'd vote McCain because of the party platform. I doubt the GOP was afforded the same luxury.

And so, Frank's call for a party that loosens up a bit on the reigns and becomes a more welcoming place for a diverse block of voters isn't falling on deaf ears from either side of the aisle.

He wrote:

The Republicans have the opportunity to either perform a make-over to become a true majority party that invites intellectual debate or alternatively could choose to be a vocal minority that only cares about ideological purity. Is the party going to opt to grow and attempt to expand its base by adopting a libertarian platform in light of substantial demographic trends, even in the traditionally Republican strongholds in the South? Or is the party going to look to protect its evangelical core because they are the loudest and most activist group?

It's time for a makeover - someone has to keep the hippies in line. I saw that on Fox News.

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