Archive for August, 2008

palin puzzle

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Last week John McCain nominated Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential choice, and lots of people are quite perplexed about why he did so. On one hand she seems to appeal to the Republican base – she seems to be very definite on issues like gun control (or lack thereof), abortion (or complete ban thereof), a son about to serve in Iraq (although the same is true of the son of Democratic VP nominee Joe Biden) and general evangelicalness (she supported Pat Buchanan in 1996, although that won’t help their campaign with Jewish voters).

However, she’s very inexperienced – less than two years of a geographically enormous state with a population of only 600,000, and that after a few years as mayor of a town of 7,000 people. She doesn’t seem to have much recorded opinion on international affairs (although a Fox News pundit and now Cindy McCain says that with Alaska being right next to Russia she does have some exposure to international matters – as the Daily Show retorted, Alaska is near the North Pole so she must also know Santa) and there seem to be some questions around the firing of some of her senior officials. It’s worth reading this short article from Newsweek on her biography for details.

But the biggest thing is that it just seems like such an odd choice. There are so many other good potential candidates, and pulling a barely-tested, barely-vetted running mate who by all accounts McCain had only met once or twice in person just seems like such a strange thing to do. Perhaps he thinks that it will win him the election by appealing to women voters, but it seems just, frankly, flippant.

last day

Friday, August 29th, 2008

This morning is our last time dropping Toby off at his daycare (apart from a few hours next Wednesday) – the last full day of daycare for him. Yesterday afternoon we went to check out his new kindergarten, met his teacher, prospective friends and our fellow parents, saw the lunchroom etc, and felt really good about the place. However it’s really strange to be sending him in for his last day. I remember very clearly his first day when he was about 8 months old (maybe I don’t remember his exact age at the time…) and how emotional it was, for me at least. Emma seemed to get it out of her system the night before, and Toby was happy to sit with the other kids and steal toys from them. I, on the other hand, blubbed like a big girl. And this morning I’ve got that strange feeling where things are changing and he’s growing up really fast and is he going to be OK in his new school. Of course he is – he’s very competent and self-aware, but you’d be a different parent than me if you didn’t feel something at this kind of thing.

who is this guy?

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Last night I watched Joe Biden in his acceptance speech for the Vice Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Exciting times, and seeing Obama come on stage at the end was a thrill.

One of the points Biden hit was his friendship of, and respect for, John McCain. However he said that he fundamentally disagrees with what McCain is proposing for the country. I think also that McCain has been changing and losing his focus in his bid for the Presidency. For example he was for a long time known as being straight up and open, but today a very strange interview was published by Time magazine where McCain is “prickly” and refuses even to define what “honor” means to him, or that he is in anyway uncomfortable with how negative his campaign has gone.

That negative campaign reached a new low a couple of days ago when they released an ad pulling specific words from a statement by Obama to twist what he said. Here’s the backstory – worth reading for context. One of the points is them having Obama say that Iran is a “tiny country”. The actual statement is about how the US should engage with our adversaries – how we did that with the Soviet Union, and “Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union.” A very different meaning from what McCain’s campaign implies, you could even suggest that it’s a desperate lie.

the moth

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

I recently discovered the Moth podcasts -they are a collection of stories told live on stage, a bit like the This American Life concept, but less reported and produced. The couple I have listened to so far are funny, personal and really moving. Maybe it’s because I’ve been a bit sleep deprived, but I was just listening to one and noticed that I was choking up a bit.

Anyway, highly recommended. If you have the iTunes (or another RSS tool) you can subscribe here.

quick update

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Sorry, not ignoring you – just busy busy and busy and I keep forgetting to post updates.

So here, very quickly, is how things are standing. Busy at work – all excellent, but just a lot to do. Really enjoying it though.

Toby and Dara are doing great. Dara is now 11 months, and doing loads. She loves playing with her big brother and he’s great with her. She’s doing a lot of standing, not quite ready for walking yet although she’s taken a couple of steps a few times. She seems to be pretty happy zooming around crawling, so who knows how long it’ll take. She’s still very chatty – all sounding very meaningful and important but mostly incomprehensible, in a very charming way. She’s starting to be able to do a few words though – ball and bear are quite definite, and last night she said her name very clearly a few times when she saw herself in the mirror. Toby is still “babaa”.

Toby himself is doing very well too. He’s just started his last week of daycare, in preparation for starting kindergarten next week. He’s extremely excited, we’ll see how he handles the anticipation and a bit of nervousness. He’s still zooming around – swimming really well and also a master of Wii tennis. He has lots of plans and schemes floating around in his head, and now that he’s getting older he doesn’t have so many amusing verbal mistakes, although yesterday he was telling us how to get somewhere and he said “first you need to find a case of stairs”.

that’s all right then

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

Interesting point from the US Representative from near where I live (one Michelle Bachmann) – we don’t need to worry about saving the planet because that was all taken care of 2,000 years ago. Ideal.

I think I need a “What is wrong with people?” category in my blog.

not manly, parts 1 and 2

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Part 1: While I was driving Toby home from daycare a couple of days ago, a cyclist went past us, causing the following conversation:

Toby: That man on the bike looks like one of your brothers
Me: Which one?
Toby: One of the London brothers
Me: You mean Uncle Richard?
Toby: Yes. But a little bit different. That man’s bag isn’t like Uncle Richard’s. His was brown and big, Uncle Richard’s is more like a green manbag.

Part 2: We got a Nintendo Wii last weekend, and it’s a ton of fun. Because the controllers work by motion you end up moving a lot – pitching in the baseball game, for example, you do a faster pitch if you swipe the controller faster. On Wednesday night I was playing for a while and doing really hard pitches, and as a result my shoulder, sides and leg muscles are still hurting two days later.

night out

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Yesterday was the annual National Night Out, and for the third year running our neighbors organized a street party for our block. We closed off the street and set up tables and barbecues, and a whole load of us basically hung out, got to meet new neighbors and ate good food. The weather was perfect, and we got to meet some really nice folks. One of the guys who I hadn’t met before is Brazilian, and he somewhat lived up to national stereotype (in the best way) by having the biggest barbecue, and grilling huge hunks of meat which he had skewered on swords. He also did some little things – smoked sausages and marinated chicken hearts, which were surprisingly delicious. But the rib-eye was completely phenomenal. There were quite a few kids there too, as well as friendly dogs, so Toby and Dara had plenty to do and see.

how to lose a sale

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

We’ve had a fantastic Denon home theater box for a few years now – the sound quality and everything else is just great, and it has a nice interface to the iPod. The problem with an all-in-one system is that if/when one component breaks down, the whole thing could be rendered useless. So last week the DVD drive seemed to stop working – it wouldn’t read anything, and even the cleaning disc wouldn’t work. Fortunately new DVD players are really cheap these days, and because the Denon has so many spare inputs I shopped around for a cheap but good player. The bonus is that newer DVD models are upconverting, meaning that while standard DVD quality is not high-definition, the player alters the signal to make it appear to be almost high-def.

I got a good deal on a Phillips player from Circuit City – bought online and went to the store to pickup. A nice service so far. At the store they said that I would get 10% off accessories, and seeing as I need an extra HDMI cable I thought I’d take a look. Unfortunately that’s where their customer service started to fall down.

I asked a sales guy where their cables were, and he immediately started to say “So is your TV 720 or 1080?” – basically trying to get me with somewhat technical jargon. If you follow the link above you’ll see the whole picture about HDMI – it’s a standard to carry a digital signal from one device to another – and because it’s digital the signal is all or nothing. If you’re buying analog cables, the cable quality is important – interference can cause distortion of signal – but for digital it makes no difference whatsoever. Circuit City had a variety of HDMI cables, including the Monster brand, whose cables were well over $100. The cable I got to hook up our HD TiVo to the TV was about $7 online, and it works fine – as I said a digital signal is either going to work or it is not.

I told the sales guy I just wanted the cheapest cable they had. He said “they’re over there, but they are only $5 less, so these ones here, it’s going to be better quality”. Not so, I said – it’s a digital signal, so I just need cheap. He kept on about signal quality – he either had no idea himself or he thought he could patronize me into paying loads more than I need to, so end result: poor customer service, and no sale.