Sunday, November 27, 2011

Long, slow weekend

My zealous colleagues kept sending me emails but I've done my best to ignore them. It has, after all, been a holiday weekend, and I've been in need of a holiday. Natalie, Graham and I hit the Muppet Movie today at the Lumina, where some very geeky kids gave us very good service. One guy even opened the door for me when I had nothing in my hands but a bottle of lemonade and some peanuts. One thing a long recession does is make suburban kids appreciate whatever freaking job their scrawny selves can get. No more "I'm gonna be an entrepreneur" or "I'm gonna day trade" for the pre-diploma set, just slingin sodas like we used to back in the day. At Tyler's on Saturday night I was trying to talk to a guy I hadn't seen in like 20 years when these graduate student or early 30s women were trying to flirt with us. On the one hand, it's nice, but on the other hand, I hadn't seen the guy in 20 years, and I'm freaking married. Can they not see the ring on my finger? If they wanted to get my attention, they need to be thinking about buying me a plate of nachos grande or a Cheerwine or something, things I can actually get involved with.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

If you haven't seen this....

Police pepper spray UC Davis protesters. This is absurd. This is not how we handle protest in America.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Geeks love studs

I was at a customer conference for a big Indian offshoring firm earlier this week, and Malcolm Gladwell was one of the speakers.  First, I must say that Gladwell is to be commended for taking his talk from his next book, rather than his last one, for generally putting a lot of energy into his talk, and for not using the phrase "10,000 hours of practice" once.  I'd contrast this with the spectacle of Michael Lewis, a better writer, totally dialling in his onstage talks and pulling from recent books.

However, there was an interesting moment where Gladwell started talking about reading Keith Richards's autobiography.  I don't really remember what his point about Richards was, but somewhere in there he made some point about Richards getting laid a lot and what the key was.  At the time, it didn't seem that significant.

A little bit later, Vivek Tanadive, CEO of TIBCO and a pretty good speaker himself, was holding forth on the same stage, pulling mostly from his most recent book, The Two-Second Advantage. Tanadive was talking about how complex event processing like the stuff TIBCO makes uses predictive technology in rapid iterations to model the fluid decision-making of top-performing humans. One of the examples he pulled out was some guy who's an amazing pick-up artist at bars, because he's able to anticipate how women will react to what he says.  No doubt Tanadive is trying to build an algorithm to model this.

But here's my point: here are two pretty geeky, truly brilliant guys totally gawking at the accomplishments of modern-day Lotharios on a stage in front of a thousand people.

Lets turn this around and think about if they were praising the incredible accomplishments of women who got lots of men to do the nasty with them. What would we call them? Hmmm, let me think.  Not geniuses.

The thing is, just like the Zuckerberg character in The Social Network, we're talking about geeks who just want to get some action and approval from the ladies. The real question for men who are driven to sleep with lots of women is not the how of it, but the why.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Child puking into bag at Orlando airport

8 years old, bespectacled, geeky.  As the somewhat anxious, still geeky father of a skinny, anxious geeky child, my heart goes right out.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The 80% and the 20%

After Graham's Tae Kwon Do, we met Mary at Crate and Barrel to look at some bar stools to go at the counter at our house, once it's done. There were lots of plenty affluent people there, looking to buy this that or the other. Most of them, it must be owned, belong to the 99%.

The fact of the matter is that, even if my real income has declined over the course of the crisis, even if I lost a job and moved from one region to another for somewhat if not entirely economic reasons, I am incredibly fortunate.  If I am not in the 1% by US standards, I probably am in global terms.  Not that I'm gonna go run down the numbers. I was born to the dominant ethnicity in a place that values education amongst all else, and grew up with great people.

A key problem with OWS as well as the Tea Party is that they frame the plight of the middle class as one of victimization. Ever since Rick Santelli started ranting on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade about how he didn't want to be paying other people's mortgages, the white middle class -- no doubt sick of being guilt-tripped by every other sub-segment of the population -- has been trying to make itself out to be getting screwed. Santelli didn't want to be paying other people's mortgages although, in fact, owing to the Chinese government's reluctance to let the yuan float, his own labor was in fact being subsidized by some Chinese people working at, say, Foxconn, who themselves were getting hosed, and who later found another way to express their own discontent, a la Werther.

So, though my real wages have declined over the course of the crisis and have not appreciated dramatically since over the last decade, I'm really in no position to whine since I've benefited so incredibly from where I was born and raised, from the fact that I am white, male, a WASP, and even from the course that the economy has taken over the last couple of decades (technology and finance). And ever since I started working in the private sector and earning a real wage (April, 2000), I've been astounded by how low taxes have been.

I even worked at Goldman Sachs for a little while and, though I didn't think the people there were evil, I thought that the way they lived their lives verged on it.* They work too hard, take themselves too seriously, and focus too much on money. And all across Wall Street, Manhattan, and the upper echelons of the corporate world I see much of the same.  It's not that it's necessarily evil, it's just a little repulsive.

But at the end of the day more than 1% benefit, and taxes should be higher on more than just the very rich. Not that it's all about more tax revenue. It's good to have Republicans staying vigilant on government expenditures.  "Should the government be in that business?" is an evergreen question.

*As an aside, I must say that the technology groups within Goldman that I saw are very meritocratic and ethnically diverse, with particularly strong female leadership.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Life in the Rental

Met with our general contractor about our renovation today....

Oh yeah, the renovation. Many people pepper their blogs with pictures of their renovations in progress and, truth be told, I had intended to do the same thing, but I keep forgetting. Renovating your house is, shall we say, a process, and a torturous one at that.  At the end, alluring, is the promise of moving back in to the finished process.

But I, in zen-like fashion, am firmly rooted in the moment. At times the renovation is itself a horribly distended moment, but mostly I must say I kind of like being in our little rental house. It's cozy, much smaller than the main abode.

On weekends, when we try to watch movies, with the kids' bedrooms right off the living room, Natalie sometimes complains that the TV is too loud, which is a bummer. And Mary with her interior design magazines and various and sundry house parts, and Graham with all his millions of toys and Star Wars books spread out all over the place, all that gets a little old. Not that I anticipate it will automatically fix itself in a bigger house.

But mostly it's just kind of nice to come home and be a few steps from any given family member.  Once back in the manse, we will undoubtedly disperse to our respective corners from the overwhelmingly huge open space that was once four rooms and an attic but now can only be called "the Nave."

And the rental sits up on top of a hill on a cleared lot, so when I step out the back door to grill or go get the mail or juggle the soccer ball or carry out garbage, I look up and there are the stars and the moon, which ain't bad.