Happy new year!
Looking good so far. Was eating lunch next to a table of independent mortgage brokers last week. It seemed like things are going well for them. If there’s enough froth for them to make good money again then we are looking at a good year economically.
Also, we managed to make it through the election, fiscal cliff and debt ceiling without blowing up the country to make the olds happy.
I’m feeling a solid updraft through 2013 and a big 2014. Cheers.
I don’t do this lightly but it is something that I strongly believe in. This group thinks that they can make the world a better place through teaching people to solve their own problems by designing and building things. They are trying to raise enough cash to buy some micro controller dev kits and plane tickets. I agree with them that such small things are enough to make a difference. Take a look. Pass the link on.
ps. “sudo make hope” might be the absolute best philanthropic slogan ever.
I just realized that it has been almost two years since I gave you all the last VC pitch. I bet you’ve worn out the previous four by now and need to put a new elevator pitch into rotation to squeeze lunches and drinks from VC dudes. So here it is.
Jacuzzi toilets. Maybe toilet tub is a better name. I’ll just leave it to you to come up with a name.
Take your standard Jacuzzi tub. Add a large, fast filling hot water heater and a toilet sized drain at one end. Now the relaxed bather can drop a deuce in the tub and flush the entire tub, get a full body hot water rinse and then have the tub refill. All in a matter of seconds.
No McMansion will be complete without one. I’m confident my friend Aaron would buy two. Get on it.
Happy Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act day! I have many thoughts on this, but I will just share my glee at reading the tweets of those who intend to move to Canada to escape the tyranny of America’s baby steps towards socialized medicine. They are in for a surprise. Tee Hee!
I can’t believe I let the 4th anniversary of Bear Sterns being rolled up go by without mentioning it. Obviously Jamie Dimon didn’t forget and celebrated in an appropriate style by lighting two billion dollars on fire. I feel like I should drive out to the reservation and buy some fireworks so I can throw an explosion in honor of the occasion.
So I’m kind of thinking back to mid to late ’09 when reputable economists were starting to say that a Japanesque lost decade was the best outcome we could hope for if the folks at the stick could managed to crash us just right. By that metric today’s state of things is a success. You might even say that we are over-performing since the Fed has managed to keep deflation at bay so far. Go team.
The local Circuit City has finally been replaced by a Ross. Progress of a sort.
The biggest question mark hanging over everything is how much obligation the Republican candidate for President will feel towards the wing of the party that wants to follow economic policies that will provide an extra kick in the junk to the economy. The obvious assumption is that Wall Street will be able to counterbalance that force if it manages to enter into a power sharing government of a Tea Party Congress and a Romney administration. I worry that re-election would prompt them to light at least a few fires.
As for an Obama re-election, we know what we’d be getting so the only question is whether or not it is attainable. If the economy muddles along as is with no catastrophe and Romney manages not to screw up too badly we will be in for a squeaker in November. Right now my entire political feeling is “Please God don’t let Rand Paul be Vice President.”
Any way, happy Bear Stearns Day. Couldn’t you have gotten me something nice like some token climate change legislation or bank regulation?
“And just cause they call themselves experts it doesn’t mean sweet fuck all.”
If you are even slightly interested in digital content distribution you should go read these two posts by Charles Stross which cover Amazon’s ebook strategy and why publishers should go DRM free. These pieces cover where Amazon is trying to take the market and how publishers can push back against it.
I’m not sure how big of an impact the de-siloing of ebook content will have on Amazon and whether or not they can leverage their cloud reader platform to keep users locked in in spite of DRM restrictions, but I am firmly in favor of anything that will increase competition and nudge Amazon towards improving their content discovery.
To continue the East meets West mixing of iconic visual themes I’d like to share a scene.
I’m walking through the break room at work and there is a ping pong game going on. The Indian software guys at my work have an interesting game developed that revolves around delivering a crushing blow to the ball as soon as possible. Missing the other side of the table more often than not, but hitting the ball very hard. Serve, volley, volley, crush. Serve, volley, crush. etc.
One of the players is an Indian dude that is fairly muscular and he is wearing a Captain America shirt. Not an ostentatious one. It is kind of green-grey and has the circular red white and blue shield on the front. It really caught my eye. Super Indian dude wearing Captain America shirt.
Is he being Ironic? “I’m not American but see, Captain America!” Like the Australian guys on vacation that I once saw in Hong Kong wearing Chinese Red Army uniforms while out drinking.
Is he asserting his belonging? A statement of identity? Does he just like Captain America? Did he get the shirt on sale without knowing who Captain America is?
Endless possibilities and all of them have something uniquely interesting to say about global culture. But I really want to know. Is the shirt a statement?
I want to know, because I want it to be. Because it is just so awesome and so subtle and yet so big.
A month later I walk into the break room for coffee to see five Indian guys standing around the coffee pots. As I’m pouring my coffee one guy says to another, “Is that a Captain America shirt?” I look up and see that the ping pong Captain America dude is wearing the shirt again.
The wearer replies that it is a Captain America shirt with a big smile. The questioner gives a chuckle. Another of the five laughs and one guy says “What is Captain America?” The other four get louder as they all talk over each other explaining who Captain America is. He still has no idea what they are talking about. I restrain myself from chiming in about the Red Skull and Hydra. Finally the guy who first noticed the shirt asks him accusingly, “How are you in America and you don’t know Captain America?” Everyone busts up laughing.
It was awesome. I have no commentary other than it was one of those perfect scenes that directors long to craft for a movie but so seldom achieve.
Bruce Sterling posts an excerpt from a poem published by Wolcott Balestier and Rudyard Kipling in 1892 titled The Naulahka. I’m just going to straight up copy it from Sterling’s blog and paste it here because I really liked it and know that some of you are too lazy to follow links.
“Tarvin gazed about him dispiritedly for the blue
and white sign of the Western Union, or its
analogue in this queer land. He saw that the
telegraph-wires disappeared through a hole in the
dome of the mosque.
“There were two or three
low wooden doors under the archway. He opened
one at random, and stepped upon a warm, hairy-
body, which sprang up with a grunt. Tarvin had
hardly time to draw back before a young buffalo
calf rushed out.
“Undisturbed, he opened another
door, disclosing a flight of steps eighteen inches
wide. Up these he travelled with difficulty, hoping
to catch the sound of the ticker. But the building
was as silent as the tomb it had once been.
“He opened another door, and stumbled into a room,
the domed ceiling of which was inlaid with fretted
tracery in barbaric colors, picked out with myriads
of tiny fragments of mirrors. The flood of color
and the glare of the snow-white floor made him
blink after the pitchy darkness of the staircase.
Still, the place was undoubtedly a telegraph-office,
for an antiquated instrument was clamped upon
a cheap dressing-table. The sunlight streamed
through the gash in the dome which had been made
to admit the telegraph-wires, and which had not
“Tarvin stood in the sunlight and stared about
him. He took off the soft, wide-brimmed Western
hat, which he was finding too warm for this climate,
and mopped his forehead. As he stood in the
sunlight, straight, clean-limbed, and strong, one
who lurked in this mysterious spot with designs
upon him would have decided that he did not look
a wholesome person to attack. He pulled at the
long thin mustache which drooped at the corners
of his mouth in a curve shaped by the habit of
tugging at it in thought, and muttered picturesque
remarks in a tongue to which these walls had never
echoed. What chance was there of communicating
with the United States of America from this abyss
of oblivion ? Even the “damn” that came back to
him from the depths of the dome sounded foreign
“A sheeted figure lay on the floor. “It takes a
dead man to run this place,” exclaimed Tarvin,
discovering the body. “Hallo, you! Get up
“The figure rose to its feet with grunts, cast away
its covering, and disclosed a very sleepy native in
a complete suit of dove-colored satin.
“Ho!” cried he.
“Yes,” returned Tarvin, imperturbably.
“You want to see me?”
“No; I want to send a telegram, if there’s any
electric fluid in this old tomb.”
“Sir,” said the native, affably, “you have come
to right shop. I am telegraph-operator and post-
master-general of this state.”
“He seated himself in the decayed chair, opened
a drawer of the table, and began to search for
“What you looking for, young man? Lost
your connection with Calcutta?”
“Most gentlemen bring their own forms,” he
said with a distant note of reproach in his bland
manner. “But here is form. Have you got
“Oh, see here, don’t let me strain this office.
Hadn’t you better go and lie down again? I’ll
tap the message off myself. What’s your signal
“You, sir, not understanding this instrument.”
“Don’t I? You ought to see me milk the wires
“This instrument require most judeecious hand-
ling, sir. You write message. I send. That is
proper division of labor. Ha, ha! ”
“Tarvin wrote his message, which ran thus:
“Getting there. Remember Three O.’s. Tarvin.”
“It was addressed to Mrs. Mutrie at the address
she had given him in Denver.
“Rush it,” he said, as he handed it back over
the table to the smiling image.
“All right; no fear. I am here for that,”
returned the native, understanding in general
terms from the cabalistic word that his, customer
was in haste.
“Will the thing ever get there?” drawled Tarvin,
as he leaned over the table and met the gaze of
the satin-clothed being with an air of good com-
radeship, which invited him to let him into the
fraud, if there was one.
“Oh, yes; to-morrow. Denver is in the United
States America,” said the native, looking up at
Tarvin with childish glee in the sense of knowl-
“Shake!” exclaimed Tarvin, offering him a
hairy fist. “You’ve been well brought up.”
“He stayed half an hour fraternizing with the
man on the foundation of this common ground of
knowledge, and saw him work the message off on
his instrument, his heart going out on that first
click all the way home. In the midst of the con-
versation the native suddenly dived into the
cluttered drawer of the dressing-table, and drew
forth a telegram covered with dust, which he
offered to Tarvin’s scrutiny.
“You knowing any new Englishman coming to
Rhatore name Turpin?” he asked.
“Tarvin stared at the address a moment, and then
tore open the envelope to find, as he expected, that
it was for him. It was from Mrs. Mutrie, con-
gratulating him on his election to the Colorado
legislature by a majority of 1,618 over Sheriff.
“Tarvin uttered an abandoned howl of joy, exe-
cuted a war-dance on the white floor of the mosque,
snatched the astounded operator from behind his
table, and whirled him away into a mad waltz.
“Then, making a low salaam to the now wholly
bewildered native, he rushed from the building,
waving his cable in the air, and went capering up
You don’t have to be evil. You don’t have to demonize education just because people who graduated college voted against you in 2008. Convincing your base that contraception is bad and that you should not send the resultant kids to college is not really a sane way to combat unfavorable demographic trends. You should spend some time re-establishing your pragmatic bona fides rather than complaining about lady parts.
Stop acting like a party of permanent opposition rather than a party that hopes to govern some day. Get out there and steal issues from the Democrats instead of letting them steal issues from you. Pissing and moaning about obamacare being the greatest threat to American freedom wince WWII is just sad, and an insult to the Soviet Union which wanted to actually destroy us rather than just give us preventative care.
Our national politics were ready over a decade ago for one of those big realignments of party planks that happens every few generations. I wonder if we would have gotten a gradual ideological reshuffle if the 9-11 attacks hadn’t provided cover for the GOP to remain electorally viable longer than you should have. This has backed you into a corner where the ideological realignment can’t be managed gradually any more. It can’t be achieved without completely alienating the current base.
I think that the only way out is to go big. Go so big that no one can get up off the floor before the election in November. Once Romney locks up the nomination and can pivot to the general have him ferociously tear into President Obama for not doing enough to expand health care and access to education, rather than too much. Fire your own base up with some hopey changey stuff. Go with a pragmatic cost-benefit analysis approach that relies on your core fiscal stewardship message.
Upon further reflection I don’t even know who to send this to. The concept that there is some actual leadership somewhere that is intentionally steering the current course is too mind boggling to countenance. Where is a shadowy cabal when you need one.