Friday, 25 January 2013

The State Department needs KM

1.4 million cables a day. You'd think there would be automated checks for for keywords like "Libya" and "security", especially appearing in the same cable.

Perhaps Linex can help.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Eppi berddei Mamma

Because apparently now all I do is talk about my mother.

But hey, it is her birthday today. And she is rather fabulous after all.

Auguri Mamma, and I want you to know I live daily by all your life lessons, including "It doesn't matter what they're saying, better that they talk about you than not notice you at all", and "Stop whining and have a drink".

Our new year's eves, compared:

Monday, 21 January 2013

Best cinema ever?

AMC Phipps Plaza. Huge red sofa chairs, more leg space than in my living room and yes: the chairs are reclaim able at the touch of a button.

My mother's past

We examined this yesterday: she has always said she was a lizard in a past life, and I agree. There are remnant clues: she loves to sit in the sun, whatever the temperature, and soak it in. She also loves lizards of all sorts, always has. We used to own a salamander when I was little. And she spent a recent holiday in the caribbean mainly chasing iguanas around the island.

However: according to Buddhist reincarnation philosophy (apparently), if you are reborn as a creature that slithers so close to the ground it means you did something terrible in a previous life. So she must have been some awful woman before that.

It's obvious isn't it? My mother was previously Marie-Antoinette.

The good news is she must have been an amazingly awesome lizard to be reborn a human woman again. Let's hope she doesn't mess it up (there's still time).

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Free speech: your responsibility

In the words of the brilliant Theodore Dalrymple:

"Everyone is in favour of free speech for himself: the problem begins only with others. ...It is so obvious that the right to free speech includes the right to say things that others might find offensive or irritating that it is surprising, and not altogether reassuring, that a columnist in what was once a liberal newspaper should deride it.
It is true, however, that few rights come without corresponding duties. The duty that corresponds to the right to free speech is the duty to control the degree to which what others say provokes you. "

That's right: it is your responsibility not to get offended. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Great texts

Great moment: receiving a text from a friend in your accountability (goal-reaching) group telling you she just passed a milestone. What a way to start your morning!

In other news: I am getting on this American Football (the one played in spandex and with your hands) bandwagon. The game yesterday (Seattle-Atlanta) was perfectly nestled between my brunch and movie night, and it was terrific. How good sports should be.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Who your children should be

Whomever they want to be.

By all means, if your daughter grows wanting to be a helpless damsel that is her right and her choice. But make sure it is a true choice, not a path you have set out for her.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What would George Costanza do

About buying local?

Jerry's gf (Rachel Nichols) sells locally sourced produce that George refuses to buy. "Why does it cost so much? You grow it RIGHT THERE!"

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

DumbAgent - Wishing you an Optimistic New Year

Wishing you an Optimistic New Year

Here’s to wishing everyone an optimistic new year.
We, as a society, have accomplished a lot over this past year, and in recent years as a whole. As Steven Pinker has shown us, we are living in the safest day and age ever known to human kind. And as Matt Ridley so aptly put it, we live better lives than any of our ancestors could have ever dreamed.
As an example, the average citizen living on welfare today has a better life than King Louis the 16th (prior to his head rolling) could have hoped for. Even Andrew Carnegie never had it so good. He did not have central heating, nor air conditioning, nor constant (hot and cold) running water. TVs, telephones, instant coffee, bottled water, microwave ovens, let alone the Internet and public transportation, were not available to anyone until very very recently. Next time you ride in a car, think about having to make that ride in a luxurious horse carriage. With the constant smell of horse droppings, no suspension on wooden wheels riding on cobblestone streets (it is no wonder people had to take several days’ rest after going on a journey during those days).
Of course, if our lives are better, the fact is lost on many of us. Why is that?
Let’s demonstrate with an example. Two events happen at the same time: a plane crashes in Fiji and twenty people (whom you do not know) die, while a nurse in the Democratic Republic of Congo successfully saves 20 people (whom you do not know) from a malaria outbreak thanks to a quick intervention. Technically, these events should have the same effect on you. Their only direct effect on your life will be emotional, with one making you sad (and in a melancholic mood), the other making you happy (and in a hopeful mood).
Yet, if those two events happened simultaneously, which would be covered by the local news? Chances are, the plane crash.*
You may now think “Ok, I know where you’re going with this. The news loves their ‘if it bleeds it leads’ mantra and it’s too pessimistic and bla bla. But so what?”
Well, it is this “so what” that matters. If you watch enough television showing enough shooting and killing, you are convinced we’re all going to the proverbial hell in a handbasket. This, in turn, will make you want to think less about our accomplishments and  how we can build upon them.
Because, despite our accomplishments, we have quite a bit more to do. Famine, disease,drought, cancer, alzheimer’s, energy, literacy, among others, are all problems we can solve, but we certainly will not do so when we’re in our melancholic/feeling sorry for the human race/being mad at all our leaders/complaining about everything and everyone on Facebook state of mind.
So this is a call for more optimism in the new year. Let us recognize how, despite the downturn, GFC, and myriad other problems, we have actually accomplished very much, and that only by remaining childishly optimistic can we continue to accomplish more.
* I am not really blaming the news agencies here. After all, they show what we want to watch. This instinct comes from our frontal lobe – fight or flight – side. 150,000 years ago good news was nice but could be skipped. But bad news (like an enemy headed your way to kill your tribe) needed your full attention. This has now become distorted so that we rubberneck a plane crash in Fiji.

America - Year 1 (remake)

America - Year 1

A remake of my first year in America video. I recommend a full screen view.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Jazz, human nature and the mistakes we repeat

Freddie Keppard was an early jazz king. Very early, before the term "jazz" had even been coined.

Well the recorded music industry was in its infancy in those same days. Jazz music had as yet never been recorded. Well, the Victor Talking Machine Company approached Freddie Keppard and wanted to record his music. Legend has it that Freddie Keppard turned them down as he was afraid people would steal his style of playing. He lost the chance to make history. First jazz recording ever made.

That's right: an early instance of the music business's paranoia.

Thus proving that while history might not repeat itself, human nature most certainly does.

(how do I add hyperlinks in e blogger app??)

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Wealth is not a river

Quoting this Theodore Dalrymple piece:

There is one group that is not protected from hate-speech: the rich. Of the rich it is permissible, and in some circles de rigueur, to speak disparagingly or hatefully. This, I imagine, is because it is widely supposed that if you hate the rich you must love the poor...

That the rich are not protected from hate-speech proves that the one thing that speech codes are not designed to reduce or prohibit is hatred: for it is a distinctly moot point whether race hatred, or hatred of the rich, has been responsible for the more mass murders in the past century or so. 
But who are the rich...? Even if one takes the 1 per cent figure that has recently become so popular, in the United States this amounts to 3 million people. In order to hate 3 million people you have somewhat to disregard their individual characteristics.

there is no recognition here, not the faintest glimmer of a recognition, that a man who creates a business by which he becomes rich might just be adding to the general wealth of the country in which he created it: that, for example, Henry Ford, in growing rich, impoverished no one and increased the wealth of his country. Wealth is not like a river that flows in one direction only.
Fran├žois Guizot wanted the peasants to enrich themselves; Fran├žois Hollande would like the rich to impoverish themselves

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The new year road trip

Surprisingly few people were at all impressed by our decision to drive west to see the Mississippi River.

People! It's the Nile of North America! It traverses the whole country, even dipping into Canada, and is present in all sorts of literature, music and history.

Oh well, impressive enough to us. So that's what we did on NYE weekend.

Day 1- drive straight through to Baton Rouge.
Lunch in Montgomery. Oddly quiet. No people, no cars, no shops or bars. But clean.
Coffee in Mobile. Very cute. Wrought iron balconies, city parks and cool shops. And people who looked like they took a wrong turn out of Portland.
Arrive in BatonRouge dinner time

Day 2- a wander along the Mississippi River, a look at Baton Rouge and 20 min in a decision to head on to New Orleans. Why are these capital cities such ghost towns??
New Orleans: no words. Beautiful and fun and I want MORE! Can't wait to go back. Dinner with friends who know the local ropes so great food (sazeracs, turtle soup, bayoubaisse - tee hee) and live jazz at the Carusel.

Day 3- a stroll through the French Market (in love!) and a drive to Jackson, MS. See above about capital cities.
Although a tip to the Fendron district, Que Sera Sera for dinner. Amazing food. And friendly service to boot.

Day 4- headed straight for Tuscaloosa. We wanted to see the university campus and the stadium . Which is BIg.
To Birmingham, hotel in Five Points south. This I enjoyed. An evening stroll down 20th, to five points, across11th and down Cobb Lane. BBQ dinner, drinks at the Highland hotel.

Day 5- a drive through Vulcan park. That statue is big.
And then home.

And now I have placed a flag in Mississippi. Who'da thunk it?