Nov 10


Personal, Politics, Tech with tags: 2 Comments »


I was thinking about the job of managing expectations. On the technical side it is interesting to see how important that is. Once Google Maps came out, the expectations for a mapping project instantly changed. Being able to move the map around and interact with it directly was huge. Ben and I joke about changes in film and gaming (Pong to WoW) too.

One huge change that I am betting on is input devices. I have said this before, we are stuck in the stone ages right now. We can type, and we can point and poke. Ug. Ug.

Touch screens are giving us more dexterity but what about voice and motion sensing? They are getting there. As we get that technology finally working, it will mean radically changes APIs that we get to work with. This means new opportunities for developers to leapfrog competition.

With Barack Obama having such huge expectations of him, I worry about how it will all fare. On the one side, if he manages to pull us out of this depression (lower case d for now) he will be applauded, but realistically it is about more than him.

What are my expectations, if I can’t purely base on output? I expect him to deliver on his promises. I want more transparent government. I hope that is a sign of the future way in which he communicates. Is it in his interest too! He can come out Twittering and blogging about why he thinks a bill is weak and what should really be done. Talking directly to the people he can bypass the reporters and the slants to some extent. People don’t want “politics as usual” so lets see true change.

If we don’t see a difference then it will sour people. Obama is the first politician that I have been excited about. If he doesn’t do his best for the people, but gets conservative to protect himself, then I will be truly saddened and it will be hard to get behind someone in this way. Wow, what a tough gig this guy just got huh?

To lighten it up, check out 50 facts you might now know about Obama. It is interesting that he has experienced some serious drugs. Not only have we moved on to be able to vote for a black man, but we weren’t asking “did you inhale?” but rather more pressing issues.

Oct 26

How trickle down economics is bogus, and why it matters in this election

Personal, Politics 5 Comments »

I got a thoughtful response to my last post from a friend that always has some wise words (and has watched this stuff for a lot longer than myself). It was so clear, that I just have to post it:

I share the anxious, apprehensive mood. This country is dying for lack of everything Obama represents. He is hope. He is community and cooperation. He is logic and reasoning and compassion. I just hope the fix is not already in…

Some of what needs to be done is so obvious:

The current Republicans in power can’t stand a strong middle class because it leads to social demands (equalitly, human rights, consumer protection, etc.). But the economic reality is undeniable: if you own a business and somebody gives you money you are not going to use it to hire people, because there is no business case for it—what would those people do?

If, on the other hand, money in the hands of the middle class is increased, they will buy more, which drives up demand. As soon as your business has more sales than it can produce you WILL hire people, because it makes perfect business sense.

Bill Clinton knew this (because he was smart enough to listen to smart people) and he goosed the economy into vigorous growth. He also knew that low national debt leads to a strong dollar and a healthy environment for investing.

At the same time, the campaign people are folks in general are already bailing and starting to point fingers, highlighted in Palin’s ‘going rogue,’ McCain aide says.

This is happening already? Before the election? Most of it doesn’t seem to matter much though, as the election seems to have little to do with McCain and is basically a referendum on Obama.

The ballot may as well say:

Barack Obama? Yes, or No.

My favourite ads are the ones where Barack just talks to us. Like this one. It is all positive, not like the negative crap that I am watching on TV right now.

And then, the Wassup folks (remember those Bud ads? did an amazing video:

A few people have contacted me talking up Reagan and how trickle down worked great for him. Yet, Howard Zinn paints the picture in “A People’s History of the United States” (a book I think every American should read):

While he built up the military (allocations of over a trillion dollars in his first four years in office), Reagan tried to pay for this with cuts in benefits for the poor. There would be $140 billion of cuts in social programs through 1984 and an increase of $181 billion for “defense” in the same period. He also proposed tax cuts of $190 billion (most of this going to the wealthy).

Despite the tax cuts and the military appropriations, Reagan insisted he would still balance the budget because the tax cuts would so stimulate the economy as to generate new revenue. Nobel Prize-winning economist Wassily Leontied remarked dryly: “This is not likely to happen. In fact, I personally guarantee that it will not happen.”

Indeed, Department of Commerce figures showed that periods of lowered corporate taxes (1973-1975, 1979-1981) did not at all show higher capital investment, but a steep drop. The sharpest rise of capital investment (1975-1979) took place when corporate taxes were slightly higher than they had been the preceding five years.

He goes on to discuss the “human consequences” of Reagan’s budget cuts, and they are “deep.” Unemployment grew in his years. People lost health insurance. Oh, and he cut 90% of renewable energy funding. Can a President step up here?

Oct 25

The end is nigh; Trying to look at all angles and always concluding that Obama needs to win

Personal, Politics 2 Comments »

I apologize for another political post. My mind is very much on the election at the moment, and tech stuff will come back to the fore in a couple of weeks.

I am a schizophrenic at the moment. I am thinking a lot about the election and can’t wait to get this campaign over. I am cautiously optimistic, but wouldn’t be at all surprised at being disappointed.

The schizo part comes from me mentally jumping between “are you frigging kidding me? How isn’t this the biggest no-brainer in the world” and “Ok, let’s try to think about how other people could see this.”

I think about how people see things in the extreme.


  • Extreme For: The golden child Harvard genius who will solve all of our problems
  • Extreme Against: Not a US citizen baby killer who will change the country to a communist state


  • Extreme For: Hero that will bring in a bright new day for the Republicans and save us from communism
  • Extreme Against: George Bush the 3rd, with all of the same henchmen

What if you look at the middle ground though? I don’t think that Obama will be able to fix the country in six mouths. I don’t think he does either! Getting in will be a massive burden, beyond belief. This could be the end of the US empire as we know it, so getting power now will be a hard time indeed. On the other hand though, what if he did change things? If Obama is able to change the direction and bring back a 21st century prosperous country we will have to get the chisels out and make room for his bust on Mount Rushmore. What an opportunity! (that goes for whoever the next POTUS is.)

If Obama gets in, he will have massive expectations. Since he won’t be able to wave a magic wand and fix the economy, get out of Iraq, and change all that is bad in a week, he will have to look to other things.

There are many low hanging fruit that would get the message across to the people. In his 2004 speech he famously said that we aren’t a red America or a blue America, but rather the United States of America. He can do a lot of work on making good on that, and uniting the country. He can reach back to 9/11 and do some of what could have been done then. Taking the bad situation that we were in, and making good out of it.

He can be a new kind of leader. Government needs to be more transparent, so what if he makes good on his thoughts there? What if we see him on a weekly basis answering questions from the press and the people (prime minister question time baybee). Bush refuses to talk to anyone. What if he used Twitter and Facebook and the like to truly enhance political exchange, and talk to people about his thoughts. Imagine a world when a new bill was on the table, and we got to see truly what it was about, what the positions were (without CSPAN), and reasons why the president signed or veto’d.

Anyway, back to the median. What if Obama isn’t a liberal pinko, but rather slightly to the left and will actually work hard to do the right thing.

What is McCain doesn’t hire all of Bushes people, but rather does fight for change himself and manages to reach over the aisle a little.

Even in these worlds, Obama seems so much more compelling. With Obama winning the election, I believe the entire world will have a sigh of relieve, if not outright jubilation. Finally, those Americans we love are back. They get it. They realized they are on the wrong track, and they will have an amazingly smart candidate sworn in. Someone for the new generation. Someone to truly change the game. And, let’s say it, a black man. That will say SO much for this country.

On the contrary, if McCain wins, you will get “see, they still don’t get it.”

I was just forwarded something that focused on “What if there was no racism?” The race card can not be overlooked, and I wonder if it would be a landslide if a candidate as great as Obama was white. This is what it said (NOTE: obviously biased):

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to painkillers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain had graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Saving and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if McCain was a more charismatic, eloquent speaker than Obama?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama’s family had made their fortune from beer distribution?

What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected reality, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes positive qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative qualities in another when there is a color difference.

Even disregarding the colour issue. It flips me back too… how is this even close! McCain has been dealt an incredibly back deck of cards. 8 of the worst years in the history of the US (where he matched the president 90%+ of the time), and the guy is ancient.

And then the education:

Barack Obama:

  • Columbia University – B.A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations.
  • Harvard – Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joseph Biden:

  • University of Delaware – B.A. in History and B.A. in Political Science.
  • Syracuse University College of Law – Juris Doctor (J.D.)


John McCain: United States Naval Academy – Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin:

  • Hawaii Pacific University – 1 semester
  • North Idaho College – 2 semesters – general study
  • University of Idaho – 2 semesters – journalism
  • Matanuska-Susitna College – 1 semester
  • University of Idaho – 3 semesters – B.A. in Journalism

I mean, come on. We have just gone threw the pain of having a commander in chief who had a silver spoon that got him threw life with poor grades and the rest of it. How can people fall for that again? Intelligence does not equal “elitism”

If Obama pulls this off, I will be partying on the 5th, and then looking forward to seeing a very different America. One where we all get stuck in and stop arguing about silly things in a campaign, but we are elbow deep solving the problems and making the World a better place.

Oct 16

Education: Vouchers is throwing money? Early childhood education

Personal, Politics with tags: 3 Comments »

The last question in the debate yesterday was the one that I was very interested to hear about. My wife is a teacher by trade, and has a masters in education, so I get to hear a lot about it :)

What I heard from the candidates was this:


He talked about the importance of education, and how this pays it forward for everything, from economy to national security. He discussed early childhood education and how important it is. Emily say a lot of data on this and was jumping up and down :)


McCain on the other hand talked about vouchers (which is exactly throwing money at the problem even though he said that isn’t the solution!) which I am totally against.

And then he focused on gimics. Teach for America? Troops to Teach? The kicker here is that he talked how troops should NOT have to take any “exams” and should be able to start teaching when they come back. Are you freaking kidding me? “Oh, you were in the forces? You must be a fantastic teacher! Come and teach our kids!”

Of course, there will be some fantastic teachers that come through T4A and the armed forces, but with nothing in place to support them we are destined for a lot of failure. The idea that you can take someone “smart” and throw them into a class room after a few months of “training” is nuts. Educating is tough, and is a science. We need to go the other way and really support teachers and incent them in a variety of ways.

There is so much that can be done here. I know that the economy if on the forefront of the brain, but this is huge if you want to bet long on the US. The world is changing.

Sep 12

A commercial about nothing; How we are talking about Palin and Seinfeld/Gates

Personal, Politics, Tech 8 Comments »

Disclaimer: If you don’t like politics, Seinfeld, or Microsoft, please more on now!

The latest ad airs, and a larger version gets posted to the Web. The first one had people saying “huh?” and this has lit up the blogosphere again. “This has nothing about Microsoft in it!” That is the point. Seinfeld is going a commercial about nothing… at least to begin with. They are setting the stage. Letting people know that they may be a little out of touch, and how they will explain through each other how Microsoft actually gets it. That will be the tough sell. For now though, they have everyone talking (case in point!).

Remember the last campaign? The WOW factor?

Did people talk a lot about that? In fact, when was the last time anyone paid attention to Microsoft in this way? That is why the commercial is a success, right now.

It actually sounds very similar to the Sarah Palin story. She had the big bang onto the scene (rather than the ‘huh?’), but the more people get to actually interview and thus get to know her, I predict the ‘huh?’ will come to the American people too. I am sure she is a nice person and all, but Matt Damon hits out like we all have too:

I know what you are thinking? Matt Damon? “He is just an actor! I have just as much right to …” You do, and you can get out there and demand more from this election too. I am really hoping that the runway to the election is long enough that people get past the honeymoon phase, and think about the “oh right, that person doesn’t just sit and have fun BBQs, they run the free world.” America voted in the BBQ guy twice over the last 8 years, maybe it is time to go past someone who changed colleges 5 times, and get someone who was president of the Harvard Law Review. Let’s vote in someone who really will fight to make a difference, and will have the respect of the world.

I am writing this sitting at an airport, and I am about to fly to London, Paris, New York, Munich, Madrid, Boston, and in the European countries I know which way they want to go. Don’t take that as “well WE are the ones who get to vote, who cares what the Frenchies think!” Take a second to reason why.

It will be interesting to watch and see if Seinfeld and Gates can grow to show us something about Microsoft that is compelling, and if Sarah can get away with limiting her exposure since she has already probably done her best work.

Jul 10

Expectations, Higher Standards, Behavioral Economics, and Politics

Google, Politics, Tech 4 Comments »

I have seen a few people a little saddened by some of Obama’s recent moves, especially geeks on the FISA vote, which upset me too. It is wrong. We need new privacy policy.

As I thought about this, I started to think about expectations. By taking the higher ground, and telling us that he will do so, Obama has set himself a higher standard. This relates to me, as I have talked in the past about the higher standard that Google has to live up to thanks to “Don’t be evil” and other such things. As an employee, and a person, I actually like the somewhat constraining higher standards. It means that colleagues can’t take shortcuts, and things can’t sneak by… and if they do? Then we pay for it as a company. Our trust is tied to our business, which is tied to who we say we are.

The same is true for Obama. If McCain does something, sure we can use it as a talking point, but there is more leeway. Ah, he is an old school politician, that stuff just happens. Not with Obama. If he does anything that we don’t agree with, he can get jumped on by many sides. This can be hard as what one person thinks is moral, isn’t the same for another. He has a tough road ahead, but the benefits are that people believe in him and we will come to a new presidency with that Hope that we have been hearing about. With the entire RNC coming after him, the battle is just about to start.

What if he does get in? Those expectations get in too. The tone gets into the office. He could go to Iran and say “let’s put some history behind us and make a change that benefits all of us.” People will be more receptive to change, and boy do we need it. So, even if he isn’t as perfect as some make him out to be, he will have to live up to the image to survive, which means a better, stronger, president of the USA.

I also got to see a fantastic and entertaining talk at Google that is now on YouTube. The talk was by Dan Ariely, an MIT professor working on Behavioural Economics. Really though, it was one of those talks that reminds you that us humans…. we are animals man.

Professor Dan Ariely visits Google’s Mountain View, CA headquarters to discuss his book “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” This event took place on July 1, 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series.

In a series of illuminating, often surprising experiments, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. Blending everyday experience with groundbreaking research, Ariely explains how expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities. Not only do we make astonishingly simple mistakes every day, but we make the same types of mistakes, Ariely discovers. We consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. We fail to understand the profound effects of our emotions on what we want, and we overvalue what we already own. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.

In the talk Dan shows so many cases of how we trick ourselves such as:

  • Spouse: A group was given a questionnaire. Half of the group was asked to write down 10 things you love about your spouse. The other were asked to note just 3. When complete, the next question was about how long you think you will stay married. What is interesting is that the people who were asked to jot 10 things thought they would last a lot shorter than the group who only had to think of 3 because….. thinking of 10 things is hard!
  • Signing: Asking someone to sign “what I am about to do is true” versus “What you just signed is true?” made a huge difference. Dan worked with an insurance, who did A/B testing on a form asking how many miles you drive and there was a drastic difference. It turns out that the majority of people lie, but just a little.
  • Comparisons: Dan saw that The Economist had a purchase page that allowed you to choose between a Web version, print version, or both. The strange thing was that the both and print version were the same 129 pound price. With that comparison people were much more likely to choose ‘both’ than the cheaper Web only version. Take away the choice, and the game changes.

And this leads us to the tie in to politics. He showed that comparisons happen with people too. Showing three photos of “similarly attractive people”, where one of the photos was a slightly uglier version (via Photoshop) meant that people selected the good looking double way more frequently.

With this election we have a young up and coming chap, and an old geezer. If a third candidate came around who was a slightly worse old geezer it would help McCain…. maybe if Nader does well? Or what about running mates, how much of the look will matter there as well as policy?

Watch Dan’s talk. Great stuff.

Mar 03

It’s 3am…. can your Web framework handle a diggin?

Comic, Politics, Ruby, Tech, Web Frameworks with tags: , 2 Comments »

Rails at 3am

I hate the fear ads, and seeing the Clinton one was sad to see. Showing pictures of kids etc… are you kidding me?

I know Hilary is scrapping for her life, but still. I really don’t understand the experience line too, since she has only been a Senator for a few years. How she comes up with 32 years baffles me.

Anyway, it all reminded me of the fear-monging around Rails scaling.

Nov 05

Arrington and Romney on Talk Crunch

Personal, Politics, Tech with tags: , , , , , No Comments »

I actually got to listen to some podcasts as I flew back West to California (and my wife and son were in front of me!).

As I went through the list I came across the latest TalkCrunch: Interview With 2008 Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney.

I like Mike. Ajaxian started to take off right when TechCrunch did. I feel like Ajaxian is the developer version, and TechCrunch is the business version. Of course, TechCrunch is now huge and Ajaxian… well it is doing well, but it ‘aint no TechCrunch!

Ben and I setup a little dinner with a tech journalist form the Wall Street Journal a few years back (right after Ajax/Web 2.0 was taking off) and Mike graciously showed up and was a lot of fun. That was the first time I met him. Mr. Gomes was a liberal, a touch ashamed of the editorial page in his paper (god knows what he thinks of it now it is FOX!), and I quickly learned that Mike didn’t lean that way…. and that I should never talk politics with him.

Fast forward to today, and I see he has a 10 minute chat with Mitt Morman Romney. The questions are softballs and the transcript could read like this:

MA: Mitt, would you raise taxes?

MR: Mike, no. Americans have to pay too many taxes.

MA: Mitt, Do you think we should abolish the H1-B visa limits?

MR: I can’t exactly say what I would and wouldn’t do buy I believe in the American people and we want smart people in the country paying taxes… but not too many taxes.

MA: What about capital gains taxes for VCs?

MR: Erm, erm.

MA: PC or Mac?

MR: PC, but 6 out of 12 of my kids use Mac’s and swear by them. The other 6 love PCs. I love all types.

My favourite question was about what Mitt has on his iPod:

Country (and Western?), 60s music (Beatles, Stones), and “inspiration music”.

Wow. cover the bases my friend. I wonder how Mitt and Mike got in touch? Does Mike contribute to the campaign? Is Mitt a fan of TechCrunch? Will Obama be on TalkCrunch next?

Nov 08

The Purple State

Personal, Politics 3 Comments »

I am in a mixed mood at the moment. It is fantastic that we will have checks and balances with the Democrats taking the house, and maybe even the senate (although I fear for the long drawn out process in Virginia).

Locally though I am quite dismayed at the referendum voting.

How people can vote discrimination into the constitution is mind boggling to me and is quite disgusting. I also feel the moral compass when it comes to the death penalty. Wisconsin was the first state to get rid of the death penalty, and that is something that impresses me, and now we can face having it back? This is the direction we want to take? Showing our children that killing is bad by killing people?

This all goes to show the purpleness of the state, or more correctly the blue pupils of Madison and Milwaukee compared to the red iris. Pull back and you see a purple that is telling.

I am heartened by the vote on bringing the troops home even though it was flabbergasting to read some of the verbiage in some of the communities.

One of the ballots basically read like: “Do you think that we should stay in Iraq until all organized terrorism is eliminated”. This basically means: forever.


Nov 02

Good night, and good luck

Politics, TV / Movie 53 Comments »

I was fortunate to go to a screening of “Good night, and good luck”, hosted by the Capital Times, a fantastic local paper in Madison.

The crowd was full of people who were around in the McCarthy era, and their faces were stern, and you heard “deja vu” a few times.

The fear of that time was quite palpable.

It is no mistake that this film is out at this time. The parallels to the current fear-mongering, and lies, are quite apparant.

John Nichols, who writes for the Cap Times as well as The Nation, started off the evening talking about why we were all there.

I hope we can turn things around. I am hopeful, especially as friends from the right are acknowledging that the current regime does not match them as republicans, and more and more lies come out.