January, 2005

Jan 05

The American President

I thought that George W. Bush’s 2nd Inaugural was a very good speech. I haven’t historically thought much of his policies, and I’ve thought even less of his grammar, vocabulary, speaking skills and such, but thought that this speech was quite good both from the point of view of his oratory (better than it’s been in a long time) and his policy. The devil is in the details, but I think there’s much to be proud of in policy, which is basically committed to democracy throughout the world. I’ve been so focused on what a crappy administration it’s been (deceitful, naive, and mean-spirited all seem to fit the bill) that I haven’t thought as much about democracy worldwide on the merits.

I’ve been thinking about it some lately, as you see the interviews with Iraqis that are planning to vote (or to stay home). And while there’s a lot to criticize, many of these people are getting to vote on how they’re governed for the first time in their lives — the first time in generations. And I keep coming to the conclusion that whatever the outcome, that’s a wholly good thing to enable. It won’t be perfect, and it will have tragic costs in countless ways, but it’s a start.

Here’s a bit of what he said: “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” More to the point: the best hope for peace is both political and economic freedom in all the world.

This is not my own idea, take a look here for Thomas Friedman’s full essay. Here’s the bit that I think is exactly right: “So I don’t want young Muslims to like us. I want them to like and respect themselves, their own countries and their own governments. I want them to have the same luxury to ignore America as young Taiwanese have – because they are too busy focusing on improving their own lives and governance, running for office, studying anything they want or finding good jobs in their own countries.”

When you net out W’s speech, he said that democracy is an undeniable good, and one that we should spend time & money & other types of capital to foster. Thinking about it historically, this is pretty much the opposite of conservative policy (which are traditionally isolationist) — it’s practically a left-wing, improve the world philosophy. The differences, I suppose, are two: (1) we’re pursuing this policy not because it’s the right thing in the world, but because it protects our liberty at home, and (2) the means of getting their may not be something to be very proud of.

In any event, I was encouraged by his words and tone and posture — he is, at the end of the day, our American President, and I’m happy to be at least a little hopeful.

Jan 05

New Patent!

Just got a note today that a patent that Mike Hanson, Brian Roddy, and I submitted a couple of years ago came through! That Mike guy gloms onto all my good work. ­čśë

It’s basically for using external facing proxies to secure internal servers, which happens to be what Reactivity does. You can take a look here.

Jan 05

The Places I’ve Been

For the last 30 days or so, I’ve traveled exactly nowhere. San Francisco is about as far afield as I’ve been — and I’m really happy for the travel respite. In a funny way, I sort of miss airports — there’s a certain anonymity and autonomy that comes from running around an airport by yourself with all your stuff — but I don’t really miss them all that much.

Having said that, I took stock of the places that I’ve spent time over the last couple of years. Big list:

– Vancouver
– Seattle
– Los Angeles
– San Diego
– Las Vegas
– Great Falls
– Phoenix
– Denver
– San Antonio
– Austin
– Dallas
– Houston
– Kansas City
– Minneapolis/St. Paul
– Chicago
– Saint Louis
– Memphis
– Nashville
– Indianapolis
– Atlanta
– Jacksonville
– Charlotte
– Detroit
– Pittsburgh
– Philadelphia
– Newark
– Princeton
– Manhattan
– Long Island
– Rochester
– Ottawa
– Montreal
– Toronto
– Hartford (Connecticut)
– Boston
– Dublin
– Belfast
– Glasgow
– Inverness
– Edinburgh
– London

and if I extend back a bit further, I get to include Tai Pei, Bangkok, Chang Mai, Chang Rai, parts of Burma, and recently ravaged Phuket.

I’ll complain a lot to anyone that will listen about how tough the travel has been on my body and my psyche this year, but I want to be explicit: I feel extremely lucky to have done the traveling that I’ve done, both internationally (I’ve liked every place that I’ve gone very much) and domestically. I like traveling in the US quite a lot – and am super-happy to have gotten to see as many different parts of the country as I have.

Jan 05

Eleanor Rigby, by Douglas Coupland

I’ve mentioned before that 2 of my very favorite authors, Douglas Coupland & Haruki Murakami, have both come out with novels this month — I’m now finished with the first book and in the middle of the second, and one of the things that I’ve been thinking about is that it’s pretty tough to explain why I like these two guys and their writing so much. It’s not content — except for Coupland’s Microserfs and Murakami’s Underground, not all that much really happens in their books. They’re mostly books that pick up in the middle of relatively normal lives, have a bit of the fantastic in them, and that’s sort of it. (Murakami deals with some interesting historical issues as of late that I’ll talk about later.) I guess that with both of them, I just like how I feel when I read them, what I think about (almost always things in my own life), and really who I think I am and can be when I read them. It’s strange and difficult to describe.

This book, Eleanor Rigby, is pretty obviously about loneliness. (You might take a look at the Beatle’s lyrics for the eponymous song here.) It’s about a forty-ish woman who lives in Vancouver but has managed to live her entire life pretty much alone — and about what happens and how she changes when she suddenly has someone to be with (not romantic; different).

I think, though, that the bigger theme is one that Coupland has explored in all of his books that I know of: the search for meaning. Here’s what he wrote in one of his early (1994) books Life After God: “You are the first generation raised without religion.” Widely known as a chronicler of Generation X (and having coined the term), he makes the point that those of us who grew up in the late 60s, 70s and 80s really grew up in a much less grounded world than the North Americans of earlier eras. And he’s right, it seems to me: my generation does seem to believe in less than other generations (or even as I was brought up to believe). And it goes deeper than just the “religious” type of religion, but also extends to what I’ll call “secular religions: belief in country, family, neighborhood, work, etc. So most of Coupland’s books follow characters that have always been approximately my age as they try to connect what happened yesterday with what’s happening today with what they hope might happen tomorrow. Meaning.

His books are generally optimistic, I think, and have been getting more so over the years. While earlier they were more sardonic and flip about our “GenX” situation, now they really focus on family and friendships as central to meaning for most any life.

Anyway, I sure like his writing, and thinking these types of thoughts.

Jan 05

Connectors for Connectors?

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell wrote that there are basically 3 types of folks you need to have a robust, spreading idea: mavens (experts), evangelists, and connectors. Anyone that knows me knows that I’m the third type: a connector. I really enjoy connecting people that didn’t previously connect and seeing what they can do together — and think that I do it pretty frequently in my life.

As I’m starting my job search, it seems to me that being a connector for other people doesn’t always help you when you’re trying to connect yourself. That seems to be a different skill. It’s one that I’m working on, obviously, but it’s an interesting difference. I also find that I’m able to do different things, introduction-wise, when I’m introduced to someone, as opposed to contacting them directly. I need to think more about it, but wanted to jot it down.