Friday, April 30, 2010

"Drill, baby, drill"

I sometimes stop by Fox News just to see how they are representing things, and how that side of the world is reacting to something.  Today I was interested in how they'd be presenting the oil spill in the Gulf, which I think is going to go down in history as a chapter we don't like.  While Fox wasn't extolling the spill's virtues, they did poll their visitors to get their reaction to it and its implications for future offshore drilling.  Here's what the poll looks like around now.

Note the "fair and balanced" construction of the poll "...reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Drill, baby, drill!" And the fact that 83% of the visitors would rather drill then figure out another way to reduce dependence, like smaller cars, smarter growth, etc.

As a contrast and an example of a more responsible conservative viewpoint, George Will had an opinion piece in Newsweek a week or so back where he exhorted Americans to think about nuclear power again, citing the example of France -- where most electricity comes from reactors and there haven't been any major incidents ever. One reactor could produce as much energy as some outlandish number of wind turbines. I don't know if I fully agree with Will on this, but he certainly has a point that we may need to be more open-minded about this and at least let it enter mainstream discourse.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Big, heavy, and slow

Tonight after dinner Graham reminded Mary that she should wrestle with him sometime (which was my idea originally).  It seems that he is tiring a little bit of wrestling with me because.... he always wins, so it's too easy.  "Dad is too big, heavy and slow, so I can always get around behind him and throw him on the ground."

White Eldorado and more

Just went out to pick up my afternoon coffee.  On the way back, saw the most pimped out white Eldorado convertible that I have seen in some time.  Probably a '76, with very dope shiny rims and very slim tires.  Fuzzy dice on the rearview, natch.

In other news, Glen Heights' own Niklaus Steiner will be speaking on his best-selling book.  See below. A "thought-provoking textbook", as if that weren't a contradiction in terms.Everyone should turn out and pelt him with soft fruit for trying to keep this on the DL.

Niklaus Steiner discusses International Migration and Citizenship Today

Thu, 04/29/2010 - 7:00pm
Thu, 04/29/2010 - 8:00pm
04/29/10  7:00pm-8:00pm
Niklaus Steiner discusses International Migration and Citizenship Today
 International migration has emerged in the last decade as one of the world’s most controversial and pressing issues. This thought-provoking textbook offers the reader a more nuanced and knowledgeable understanding of the complex economic, political, cultural, and moral concerns that arise when people move across borders seeking admission into other countries. 
Niklaus Steiner is director of the Center for Global Initiatives and Adjunct Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. His research and teaching interests are immigration, refugees, nationalism, and citizenship and his publications include The Problems of Protection: UNHCR, Refugees, and Human Rights (ed.)
Flyleaf Books
725 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

UNC NCAA Compliance

I was talking to someone who teaches at UNC, in a notoriously easy department historically favored by student-athletes, and he/she was telling me about how athletes would cut and paste from the internet, get dinged and get bad grades, and then some handler from the athletics department would call up and explain how the athlete really didn't know what he/she was doing was wrong and should be cut some slack. No shock there. Those of us who have lived in Chapel Hill on and off for our whole lives know that the school is not as lily white as it seems, compliance wise, though it may be less bad than many others.

Tellingly, UNC's NCAA Compliance officer is housed within the Athletics Department.  I have seen university org charts where the sports compliance person reports directly to the general counsel, to internal audit, or to the President.  This is more effective governance, in theory at least.

None of this would be bad if Roy Williams with his big mouth and bad manners hadn't been such an embarassment to the university this season.  The guy is 59 years old and he doesn't know the difference between a real natural tragedy and a mediocre season. If he doesn't calm down it would be appropriate for someone to do some real investigative/forensic journalism on UNC sports.  The university should be focused on its core mission of educating people, not on the secular religion of hoops.


Graham has decided that spinach should be incorporated into his dinner every day.  He eats the same thing everyday, but Mary was certainly happy to add the dark leafy one to his repertoire.  She showed him some Popeye videos on YouTube, and Graham was certainly pleased to see how Popeye's muscles grew when he tossed down a can of spinach.

So last night after dinner, I was trying to rush things along because I was making one of my forced annual pilgrimages to the mall to buy clothes. Graham resisted when I said it was story time. "Can't we wrestle a little?" He asked.  It seemed he had had spinach for dinner, and wanted to try out his newly enhanced muscles on me.  As usual, he pinned me to the mat every time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I dreamed I was John Kuester

Last night I dreamed I was John Kuester. That's right, UNC pretty slow white boy point guard from the 70s. For some reason, when the rest of the team headed off to the game, I told them I'd catch up. My friend Jimmy Braddock stuck around with me. We did something like clipped our toe nails, and then headed off to the game at in an old beat up van. There was traffic.  We were already almost late when we arrived at Carmichael Auditorium.  That's when I realized the game was actually at the Dean Dome. Whoops.  We headed off, but we lost our way, and the van broke down.  I stopped and asked for directions and also a ride from this nice lady.  She said she could help us out, but she sort of lollygagged.  As we were headed there, I realized how incredibly embarassing it was going to be, that we were going to be late, and that the game couldn't really be played without us, but it was on network television, and they couldn't hold up the network.  Boy was coach gonna be mad...

This is a pretty elaborate spin on a classic dream, eh?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Glen Heights' finest under fire

Some tea party half brain has taken it upon him/herself to attach Glen Heights's own Eric Stein, currently working insane hours in DC to get a viable Consumer Financial Protection Agency up and running.  Please visit the site here and join me in injecting a note of sense into these dimwits' heads.

By the way, I must say that I find shocking the level of utterly brainless uniformity in the commenting of nitwits outraged by the bailouts all across this great, so-called world wide web of ours.  I really wonder if some master spammer hasn't just gone out and written some little script-bots that troll the web looking for places to leave comments and write things like:  "Lets hang the whole lot of the thieving bankers with the bindings of our pocket constitutions" or "Food labeling is tyranny" or "I wear my pistol in this visible holster just in case that communist darkie president happens by."  Obviously it's not me who does this, because I don't have the verbal facility for reductive vitriol, but you know what I mean.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Owl City

Natalie has recently begun to slightly grow past the Beatles stage, and has been listening a lot to Owl City.  When I first listened to it, I thought it was insipid, but it has begun to grow on me a little, as it is, as the kids say "catchy."   The guy's got a way with hooks, and it is very sweet and escapist, and, most importantly, when she listens to it, she has that childlike glow of "isn't this cool, dad?"  Which is to say, she still kind of cares about my opinion.  We'll see how long that lasts.

Friday, April 23, 2010


The blog has been pretty much skimming the surface recently, so I guess it's time to dig a little deeper to reconnect with it.

I will confess that, given that I've paid the bills for the less decade or so thanks to the financial services industry, the continual revelations of miscreants and misdeeds of recent weeks, months, and years have been discomforting. It's not that I'm an idiot and I think that everyone in the industry is pure as the driven snow, but at the end of the day you don't want to think that you've spent your life in service of evil.

Today's headline in the Journal was particularly disturbing, as it chronicled accusations that Rajat Gupta, a Director at Goldman Sachs and Senior Partner Emeritus at McKinsey, had tipped off Raj Rajaratnam of hedge fund the Galleon Group about Warren Buffett's September 2008 investment in Goldman Sachs. Now, Gupta had already been implicated in the insider trading ring centered around Galleon, so what was the big deal, you may ask?

I don't know where you guys were in September 2008, but I was on Wall Street, physically there, on the beach at my consulting firm, and in many ways I've gotta say that the fall of 2008 was as stressful if not more so than the fall of 2001.  Standing on the street and watching the Twin Towers burn was surreal, living down the street from where the anthrax letters were mailed and working at Rockefeller Center where several were mailed to was bad, but the fall of 2008 was beyond that because cause and effect were so distant and it was so hard to isolate the bad guy. So when Buffett plugged $5 billion into Goldman and stanched the bleeding, it was a huge moment.  Someone -- and someone with a lot of credibility -- had stood up and said he didn't believe what was going on made sense and I actually slept better that night.

So when it turns out that this scumbag, who surely had no need of money or anything, was insider trading on that, at that particular moment, is just beyond the pale. And, while I've not been right at the center of it, as the various misdeeds here, there, and everywhere come to light, it's hard not to feel tarred by association.

Meanwhile, last night, I had done a little research on the big Shakori Hills festival down in Chapel Hill this weekend, and read up about the venue and what it's about, and it's hard not to sit here and think:  "what the fuck have I been doing the last 20 years?"  I could have been making music, doing something worthwhile. Well, at least somebody has.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Advising on Supreme Court

If there's one guy the Obama administration should be looking to for guidance on appointing a replacement for John Paul Stephens, its the guy who beat him to the exit door:  David Souter. Souter, a total nerd and mama's boy from New Hampshire, was a pretty exemplary guy and justice. More than anyone, he abided and lived by stare decisis, meaning that he insisted on compelling evidence to overturn precedent. Not some bullshit about "the intentions of the framers," not some convoluted argument about how something wasn't fair to someone.  He really lived and breathed the sanctity of the court. Even this nonsense about corporations being people thus eligible to give whatever they wanted to to campaigns that Alito and John Boy Roberts have foisted upon us. It's on the books now, he would argue we've got to respect it. And he voted on the correct but losing side when W ascended to office via a few hanging chads in 2000.

A judicial, if not political, conservative of this type would bring balance and stability to the court -- to some extent deligitimized by some of its recent decsions -- right now.

One other thing about Souter.  You've gotta give the guy props for retiring at a reasonable age and going home to enjoy the rest of his life, rather than clinging to the bench.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Up late

Back in the office till 11:30 last night, cranked out a piece of research. Then, this afternoon, payback time:  a nap.  I pulled the back cushion off of my armchair, lay down on the floor, covered myself with my raincoat, and was out for a good 15-20 minutes. There are virtues to having your own office, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, Graham got a new book on the revolutionary war for me to read to him.  He has informed me plentifully about the power of mighty revolutionary war cannons and even missile shooters.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mixed emotions

The Boston Marathon is underway, and it's hard to say who to pull for.  There's Ryan Hall, a white guy like me.  And, yes, it is nice to see people of your ethnicity do well in sports, there's no getting around it.  When I was young, with Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, Bill Rogers, Frank Shorter, Steve Scott, Alberto Salazar etc, there were lots of white American and British middle- and long-distance runners to make kids like me feel like we too could be great.

And then there's Meb Keflezighi, the immigrant who personifies the Horatio Alger story, the idea of America, the things Obama speaks about so movingly and which are most important in the end.  So, at the end of the day, I'd like to see Keflezighi and Hall pushing for the tape at the end, and for Keflezighi to win it.

Postscript:   Alas and alack, once more it is not America's year as Hall takes 4th, Keflezighi 5th.  Could have been a lot worse, though.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Julie and Julia

The best movie we've watched for some time.  I don't know how I have at times likened Cate Blanchett to Meryl in my mind at times.  Cate has range, yes, but not spirit like Meryl. Meryl is the Meryl of our generation, and she's not even of our generation.

I look forward to seeing how the film ends.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back from our nation's capital

I just spend a fun-filled two days in the basement of a hotel in our Nation's Capital, scurrying from one conference room to another, passing out my business card and taking other peoples'.  It was fun!

While people gave talks, I took notes!  In the evening, I went back to my hotel room and took notes about conversations I had had with middle managers, sales execs, and technology vendors!  I did, in fact, learn a lot.

In the evenings I got out on the town a little bit.  I wish that I could regale you with some dramatic stories about something wierd or interesting that I saw, but the Capital is not like that, alack. It is a place at once clean and corporate and poor and black.  Last night as I waited for my man Cubeddu to come and pick me up I noticed a shiny bar across the street from my hotel where a bunch of guys in suits and young ladies in little cocktail dresses standing in a line outside to get in!  They must have mixed a mean drink in there, or some wonk was having a reception!

The truly great thing was that, from paying the check for mediocre sushi in Chinatown (I know, I know, stupid) to being at my gate at Reagan National it was only 35 minutes via the Metro.  Gotta love that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pelada at the Full Frame Film Festival

Since I was out of town Durham has gone and grown itself a highly regarded documentary film festival. Lots of films, lots of people go there, everybody loves it.

Last night I went and saw Pelada, a film about two well-educated good looking white kids who play soccer in college and dream of making the big time, then don't.  So they decide to make a movie about pick-up soccer games around the world.  They apply for grant money and get some, and then fly around the world and play pick-up in Brazil, Argentina, Kenya, Iran, Japan, China, South Africa, and more.  They totally have a great time, and there is fine soccer footage.

Unfortunately, the soccer overwhelms the introspective voiceovers that constitute the film's other narrative. There was just insufficient nuance to it, they sort of hit the viewer over the head with it. And they felt a need to blast rock and roll when rolling footage of travelling from place to place, which was kind of overkill and made it feel like you were sitting at a multiplex ingesting tropical oils.  So it seems at times like a really and truly awesome episode of MTV's The Real World, with phenomenal soccer footage and some insight into other cultures.

The applicable sections of Stuff While People Like are #19 Traveling, #20 Being an Expert on Your Culture, #71 Being the Only White Person Around, and #120 Taking a Year Off.  One that does not apply to them is #80 The Idea of Soccer.  These kids know and love soccer like few people do.

Don't get me wrong.  If I could have spent my post-collegiate angstful years as productively as this, I would have been very fortunate indeed. I am, in fact, quite jealous of them, and I hope this comes through in my review.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Phantom memories of college

At times the Magnetic Fields remind me of college, or some idealized notion of what college would have been like, had they existed at the time.

Truth be told, they call to mind many different worlds at different times. Most of all, I think it's great that there is this whole generation of mixed gender nerd bands, including them as well as their progeny Beirut, the Decemberists, even the Arcade Fire, who have made it cool for wierdos everywhere to snap up oddball instruments and sing their little hearts out. Two examples. In particular love the guy on the visual bass in the first one:

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Lunch sighting

At lunch today with mom at Panzanella in Carrboro an older fellow and a younger woman were seated behind me. Upon inspection he proved to be none other that Dean Smith himself. I was, of course, star struck, having not seen the man in some 20 years, and at first I was afraid from the way his daughter/granddaughter was helping him that he may have been beset with some sort of degenerative neurological condition.

But my mom said hello to them, so I actually shook his hand, and he actually seemed fine, just reflected his non-trivial 78 years of age. I had always thought that he should challenge Jesse Helms for his senate seat, as he was one of the few if not the only person who could have hoped to have kicked the racist old fuck out of office and wiped his stench off of our fair state, but I also understood that he had done plenty for North Carolina and just wanted to retire at a normal age and be left alone.

The most striking thing, I must say, was how blue his eyes were. Paul Newman, movie star blue.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The other yellow snow

OK. So I've been away from the South for a long time, and I've forgotten what tons of trees produce at the onset of Spring: pollen. A thick, yellowy green carpet of the stuff which is just like yellow snow, only without the urination.

So I was sitting shivering in my freezing cold office today, wearing a fleece and long pants and man clogs despite the 90 degree heat, so I opened both my windows. But it still stayed chilly. I went out to get a coffee at around 3, and when I came back, I noticed that my laptop and my desk and everything had also gotten covered in pollen. Great.

Speaking of the heat. Everybody has been telling Mary that 90 degree heat is atypical for April. And, certainly, in the longer historical view it is. But how atypical is it for the period of accelerated global warming? That I don't know. I just got back here too, and historical median temperatures typically refer to data over as long a period as possible, not recent history.

The situation reminds me of Ivan Bunin's most famous short story, "The Man from San Francisco." In this story, a guy from San Francisco is traveling in Italy in March. He goes to Capri, has a heart attack, which eventually kills him. The narrator notes that, though it's always damp and foggy on Capri at this time of year, the locals tell tourists year after year that the grey weather is totally out of the ordinary.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Shed no tiers for Columbia

Was reading Columbia University alumni mag interview with former provost Jonathan Cole about status of the university as an institution. At first he said some smart and well considered things. Then the interviewer asked him some questions about the concentration of wealth in a few rich universities and whether that might have the effect of creating a two-tiered system of universities. Cole responded something like: "Well, there is a danger that the University of Chicagos, Penns, and Columbias devolve into something like a farm system for elite graduate universities."

Hmmmm. When I hear discussion of tiering within the higher education world, I'm not getting all weepy about the "lesser Ivies" and their analogs, which seem to be doing just fine thank you by almost any metric. I think about something like a North Carolina Central, or a SUNY Albany, or a Cal State San Luis Obispo, or a or Mississippi State or something. There are lots of institutions of higher learning in America, and lots of tiers, and all of them have educational missions. Some are better funded than others, and always will be. Some prosper and improve, others go out of business or get consolidated. As a society it's in our interest to see that more of them do better, not to worry about a couple of the better ones falling out of step with its peers.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Hot out

High of 87 today. Turned on the AC, watched a nature video ("The Open Ocean") with Graham, then went running at dusk. At the end, I swam in the lake, and, though it was refreshing, it was not freezing. This is April 2nd, folx.