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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Passing of a Legend

There has been much talk lately about entering the post-PC era, and that seems even more prescient with the loss of Steve Jobs.
To paraphrase Churchill, though, this is not the end or even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Nearly everything we have called personal computers so far would be more accurately termed "computers usable by a normal person," but they have hardly been personal.
Desktops were shared communal devices -- in most households there was one for the family. Laptops are more personal -- still somewhat shared, but more likely than desktops to be owned and used by an individual. iPods, smart phones, and tablets are distinctly and undeniably personal and individual devices -- but so far they've lacked the full power of their predecessors.
Now, though, thanks to years of work from a generation of visionaries like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Jef Raskin, Alan Kay, and tens of thousands of others whose names and faces we may never know, we're standing at the dawn of the era of truly personal computers.
The next part of the revolution could be portable devices that combine communication, media, work, and play -- along with interfaces and displays -- portable personal computing systems that are fully capable of not only replacing, but surpassing, everything that has gone before.
The first generation is fading into the past, but the personal computer era has barely started. Whatever the next stage is, it will be up to the new generation to make sure it's incredible, beautiful, and magical. We're standing on the shoulders of giants; let's change the world.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Is this thing still on?

Man, I really need to start blogging again! Twitter alone just doesn't suffice if you've got more than 120 characters worth of ideas to expr

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Important Life Lesson

Today was the day I mowed the yard for the first time this year.

To all appearances, it didn't seem necessary: the grass is still dormant, the weather has just started warming up, and the lawn still looks neat and tidy from last year. Really, all I accomplished was breaking up and knocking off the thatch from last season.

In fact, the yard looked worse when I finished -- a lot worse! Where before I had thick, even tan sod, I now have thin, patchy-looking, scraggly grass.

But I know that because I did this seemingly unnecessary, apparently destructive thing today, a month from now my lawn is going to look awesome! The new growth will be lush, dense, and healthy.

Now go and meditate upon this...

...while I go to the gas station, because the second important life lesson is to make sure you have enough fuel to finish!

Monday, November 02, 2009

One More Year

Yes, it's been almost exactly one year since my last post.

Tomorrow is my birthday, though, which seems like a good time to start regularly blogging again. We'll see how it goes....

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Well done, and congratulations!

I didn't vote for him, and I didn't support him, but Obama won, fair and square. There will be plenty of time for analysis and commentary later, but for tonight Obama and his supporters deserve all the spotlights and celebrations.

And, in the months ahead, Obama will deserve the support of all the American people. Not our placid submission, which I will not give him or any politician, but our respect, which I will give. Our loyalty, after all, is to the Constitution and the people of the United States, not to any particular leader.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Election 2008

So, here we are, finally, on Election Eve. In less than 24 hours we'll likely know who won the election, and I think all of us -- black and white, left and right -- can all join together as Americans in one common, universal feeling:

Thank God it's over!

Seriously, think about it: Obama and McCain have been running for President non-stop for 21 and 19 months respectively. And that's just officially, and doesn't even account for the fact that they've both essentially been running since 2004. Good grief.

Before I go any further, in the interest of full disclosure, I'll say up front that I count myself as a conservative Republican (with strong libertarian leanings) and that I'll be voting for John McCain. I offer no arguments or justifications, it's too late in the game for that, but I feel like it's important to know from the beginning what direction someone is coming from.

Despite my preference, barring the biggest political upset since Dewey "defeated" Truman, Obama will win the election and become the next President in January. And, for the most part, I'm ok with that. Not happy, but ok.

Why? Primarily because, as soon as he's sworn in, I expect Obama to focus all his attention and abilities on the goal of all first term Presidents: becoming a second term President. Make no mistake, Obama is easily the most liberal candidate nominated in decades, and I disagree with him on nearly every issue and principle of substance, but I actually think that his natural impulse may very well be to work toward concensus and compromise. I also think that won't matter a whit, but I'll get to that later.

What really worries me is that my gut instinct (and some polling) says many of Obama's supporters aren't voting for him because they agree with (or even know?) his positions, but because they desperately want to vote for change, and, for all of our lifetimes, voting for change has meant voting for the other party. Since the current President is a Republican, that means voting for a Democrat.

The problem is that in this election, that would mean voting for McCain, because he's actually closer to what most people probably think of when they say Democrat.

In a process that started in 1994, and accelerated sharply in 2000, the Democratic Party has moved much further left than most people (who probably have lives that prevent them from following politics like a neverending spectator sport) are likely to realize. They think that Obama is a Democrat in the tradition of Clinton or Kennedy, when he's actually at least as far left as FDR, and likely with ideas that are as dangerous for the times.

If you're a liberal who really earnestly believes in those ideas, that's fine, but if you're a moderate don't fool yourself into thinking that a vote for Obama is a vote for someone who is ideologically moderate. The best you can hope for is that he'll be pragmatically centrist.

Pragmatic centrism wouldn't be bad, though, and I honestly believe he genuinely means to seek compromise, if only because he will want to be reelected in 2012. There are two reasons it won't matter, though: Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Even if he really wants to govern from the center, I have seen nothing in his temperment or experience to suggest that he will have the backbone or political chutzpah to go against his own party.

I hope he proves me wrong, but I'll be pleasantly surprised if he does.

My fear, though, is that Democrats will misread an Obama victory as a massive ideological shift to the left, just as the GOP misread the 1994 midterm election as a massive shift to the right, and will overreach accordingly. True, that would increase the likelihood of a 1994-style Republican swing in 2010, but likely at the cost of massive, possibly irreparable damage in the meantime.

This is still a slightly right-center country, though, and it's important for the Democrats to realize that probably 20% of their voters this year are likely voting against the Bush administration, and many of those voters are expecting Clintonesque centrism. I'm afraid the lesson they learned from Clintons first two years, though, isn't that they overestimated their mandate but that they didn't move hard enough left when they had the chance.

And that, ultimately, will be Obama's biggest challenge: he can't give everyone (or maybe anyone) what they expect from him. Once in office, he will have to govern to the center to have a shot at reelection, and that will alienate much of his liberal base. He will also find himself constrained by geopolitical realities. When Biden warned about decisions that may not be obviously correct, remember that he was speaking to supporters. What would be seemingly incorrect to supporters? Likely things like keeping troops in Iraq, threatening military strikes against Iran, not invading Pakistan -- basically many of the things they've hated Bush for.

Moderate, independent voters would wake up in February with a massive case of buyers' remorse when they realize they didn't elect a Clinton but a Carter.

And, of course, conservatives will disagree with him on most things on principle regardless.

That's a pretty dismal outlook for 2012, not to mention the intervening four years.

If there's one notion that we need to return to in America, I believe, it is the idea of the Loyal Opposition. Just because we disagree with the other side, that doesn't make them evil.

If Obama wins, he will be the duly-elected, fully-legitimate President of the United States, and despite our ideological differences, I intend to recognize, respect, and support him as such. I will advocate against policies and initiatives that I disagree with, but at the end of the day I will do my best to remember that we are all Americans and that we all want what's best for our nation, even if we disagree about how to achieve it. I hope my party will do the same.

I also hope that Democrats and liberals will do the same. I pray that they will finally let go of the animosity and anger that has poisoned and eaten away at them for the past 8 years. It's over, ok? Let it go, and let's all move forward. We've got too many pressing issues ahead to waste time and energy nursing old wounds.

Now, what if McCain wins?

Don't laugh, this election really does look too close to call in many respects. McCain has been moving up in the polls, and Obama obviously hasn't completely closed the deal. There is also some uncertainty about polling methodology, although I have more confidence in statistical analysis than many of my conservative brethren.

In the event that McCain wins, though, I hope that Democrats and liberals will show him the same respect I'm willing to show Obama. If you lose, it doesn't mean anything was stolen or that the winner is illegitimate.

In the final analysis, I don't expect either candidate to be as bad as his opponents expect or as good as his supporters hope. They will both be inextricably bound by external realities over which they have little control.

So let's cut them both some slack. And win or lose, starting November 4, let's all start acting like grown-up Americans again.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Goodbye, Opus

I heard today that Berke Breathed is ending Opus, the last of his Bloom County-related comics, on November 2, 2008, so that he can concentrate on children's books.

Even though I never closely followed Outland or Opus, it's still a sad day for me. I was a huge fan of Bloom County when I was a kid. Bloom County was probably the single biggest influence on my sense of humor, followed closely by Douglas Adams and The Far Side. My wife may often wonder if that was for good or ill, but I count it in the plus column. So the passing of another formative piece of my childhood will be sad.

I don't think I'll actually mourn much, though. You see, I've read Breathed's children's books, and they're good. Really, really good. Not in the limp, saccharine way that many such books are, but in the deep, fulfilling way that classic myths and fairy tales are. What's more, though, just like all his comics -- and I don't think it's intentional -- they are all set in Bloom County.

True, if you look at the pictures, the Breathed style is inescapable, but it goes deeper than than. At the risk of waxing philosophical, Bloom County (the place) was a state of mind, at least to me. It was a place where animals talked (the interesting ones anyway), the real and surreal frolicked happily together, and it was completely acceptable -- nay, expected! -- for one to spend an afternoon lounging in dandelions. Bloom County was sometimes dark, and often cynical, but at its core it was always hopeful and beguilingly innocent.

Maybe it's that every creator really only has one world living in his mind, and subconsciously sets everything in that universe. The last Far Side did imply that all the comics took place in the same warped universe, and even Isaac Asimov ended up eventually reconciling his Robot and Foundation universes. I don't think Breathed has intended that, and if asked would likely deny it, but that's how his other comics and books have all felt to me.

And I think that's enough: to know that the spirit of Bloom County lives on, it just got too big for the funny pages. It grew up, just like I did, becoming more complex and nuanced and ultimately richer, but still with the same spirit deep down.

So goodbye, Opus. I'll miss you, but we'll always have Bloom County!