Thursday, February 28

Since choice makes us unhappy...

My buddy, Kurt send me this great TED talk by Barry Schwartz:

My notes:

no, but can people be happy without knowing they have access to all available choices?

so, if i seek fewer choices in, say, an mp3 player, i might be happier, but i might end up getting a lesser value. or i might regret it later when i come across a better one.

on the other hand, learning to make decisions more quickly and live happily wih the consequences is a much more sane way to live, from organizational and professional effectiveness to personal choices (eg, home improvement, clutter).

crazy juxtaposition with Malcolm Gladwell's TED talk about more choices in Pepsi, Prego, etc...

right: we have more choices, and can do better if we run the traps, but we feel worse.

btw, his cartoon presentation is a very effective use of PowerPoint.

'the secret to happiness is low expectations'

so is the key learning to be satisfied with lesser results? expecting less-than-perfection without being disillusioned?

i had an unconscious philosophy for many years: 'hope for the best, expect the worst and you'll never be disappointed.' and you know what? given the rest of my belief system and psychology, that didn't work very well for me.

clinical depression has exploded in the industrial world, partially as a result.

yes. i am constantly evaluating myself, including as i am re-caulking the tub and not feeling very good at it, and it gets to be awfully damn tiring.

yes: i am often disappointed and usually think i have only myself to blame.

or, i get angry at other people, or the system, but bottle it up, and that's another great prescription for depression.

but then he goes for the major socialist dogma at the end (wealth redistribution), and we know socialism is one of the best ways to kill economies. voluntary wealth redistribution (through giving to actual development) is great, but rare and difficult. there are so many choices! ;-)

but seriously: hand outs and mandated redistribution are historically proven to not work.

dang: he ends up with a very Lutheran perspective of freedom! cf The Bondage of the Will

'everybody needs a fish bowl.'

Wednesday, February 27

Wil Meade, Fencer

Wil had his first fencing tournament on Sunday. My goals for him were 1. to be a good sport and 2. to try his best. And he did. It was great.

Technically he lost all 10 matches he fenced in, but he was the second youngest kid there. And he said 'As long as you try your best, you can't lose'. Absolutely right, and his coach quoted him in his tournament wrap-up email.

All of that to say, Christine put up five pictures from the tournament. In retrospect, she should have gotten a shot of me pacing and shouting encouragement and a shot of my hooking Wil up to the electronic scoring system. But I didn't think of that 'til just now.

On the fencing technique side, Wil had some good attacks and ripostes, which I really enjoyed.

Genius at work

No, I didn't watch the Oscars. Are you kidding? I barely watch movies anymore, and nothing that doesn't come via Netflix.

But I stumbled across Jon Stewart's monologue, and it's hilarious.

I bet that's the smartest thing some of those 'celebrities' have heard in some time...

Tuesday, February 26

Modest Mouse

Cool things about this video, Modest Mouse playing Dashboard on Letterman:

1. Just watching Johnny Marr play.

2. Two drummers/percussionists

3. Watching Johnny Marr sing backup vocals.

What can I say? Johnny Marr is a rock and roll god.

Monday, February 25

If I can make it there...

Christine's got the NYC pix up. She did a really nice job, as always. Check them out!

(Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of the street outside our hotel after the Spice Girls concert, but hopefully you got the jist of that from my previous post ;-)

Sunday, February 24

Politics as usual

My headline: Clinton Furious Over Losing

Adapted from: Clinton Furious Over Obama's Mailings

Saturday, February 23

Grand Central audio post test

If you have a Blogger account and you're interested in GrandCentral, you can skip the queue and get an account immediately.

Tuesday, February 19

You won't believe this...

In NYC again on business. Brought Christine and the twins this time. Yesterday, we did Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Really nice weather. More on that later.

What I really wanted to tell you is my office is in 2 Penn Plaza, adjacent to Madison Square Garden. It was really loud on the street last night, and we kept wondering what was going on. Christine couldn't believe how loud it was. Lots of girls screaming. Finally, we looked it up...

The Spice Girls.

Finally quieted down after 1030. We are curious if the Foo Fighters' fans tonight will be as loud...

Thursday, February 14


If you know me, you know I don't usually fall for a band or a song right away.

But I heard a band today when I took Christine to Barnes and Noble for Valentine's Day that inspired me to walk over to the music section and find out who they were playing.

It was MGMT. Check them out on The Hype Machine. Anybody know more about them (you know, beyond Googling, which I've already done ;-)? Already listening?

I described them to Christine as a cross between Smashing Pumpkins and Fischerspooner.

Their most popular song right now seems to be Time to Pretend, but I'm pretty partial to Kids.

Tuesday, February 12

Crazy trip

Well, I did something crazy this weekend. I drove with Shane to Dan's wedding reception near Sioux Falls, SD. It was about 2700 miles for me, round trip. I left Thursday night after work to drive to Shane's place in Oak Ridge, TN. That was about 5 hours. Then we left before 5:30 am to head for Dan's.

I would have never had this idea on my own. That's a long way to drive in one weekend. But Shane suggested it, and I'm crazy enough to say yes.

To further add to the insanity, I hadn't ever met Shane or Dan in person before. This sounds like an article in Wired about someone who gets murdered, doesn't it? But I trusted them ;-)

Meeting Shane in person was great. We had plenty to talk about; no awkwardness at all.

Something else about Shane: he drives really fast. Further, he regaled me with stories of all the times that he has fought speeding tickets and won. I don't drive that fast, but I don't mind if he does.

Since the ancestral family farm was right along our path, we stopped for dinner Friday evening. Here's the picture my sister took:

They had just had a blizzard a couple days earlier (missed three days of school) and the interstate was littered with cars and trucks on the side of the road.

Shane's first post

For my part, I was glad to visit some real winter weather.

Something else about Shane: he doesn't really know much about how big Iowa is. We made really good time to the Iowa City area and he thought we'd make it to the Sioux Falls area in no time at all. Well, it took a little longer than that. But we made it to Dan's place right around midnight (Central).

Shane's second post

It was really cold in South Dakota, in case you weren't watching the weather report. 11 degrees F at noon on Saturday with a RealFeel of -10.

Shane's third post

The reception was at noon on Saturday. Met lots of great people, including Brendan of I Hate Linux fame. Took a number of pictures outside in the -10 RealFeel. The people trying to stay warm were not amused when we kept going outside to take pictures. Fei's stepmom popped up to go sit by the fire.
Yes, it is sad to be so short. But I was glad to be with Shane and Dan.

Shane's fourth post (wherein I supplied the snarky comment to Mark, who we had hoped could go with us, but, alas, he could not get free).

Dan's first post

Technically it was not -35 when we were apparently locked out in this picture:

Here's a picture that shows a little more of my current facial hair configuration: beard, no mustache:

Shane introduced me to Guitar Hero. And Dan's sister had it, too. This is a shot of her playing, generally destroying Shane.

I've got cashews and a glass of shiraz on the window sill. That's Brendan bottom right with a Pomegranate liquor.

Guitar Hero is seriously fun! And I thought I did pretty well for a noob.

Dan playing:

We went to bed about midnight, alarms set for 5:10. But Shane woke up at 4 and we lighted out. It was bitterly cold, -10 with wind chill in the -30 to -40 range.

Shane took a number of pictures of the snow blowing over the road. There's one in his last post.

Refilling the van with gas was the coldest part, all the way up until after lunch in East Peoria, IL.

I offered to drive, but Shane was trying to keep his average high, and I don't normally drive faster than 75. Including stops, Shane was able to keep his average above 71 mph!

We arrived in Oak Ridge Sunday night about 9 pm (Eastern). Unwound, had a little dinner, sat in the hot tub, played some Guitar Hero, went to bed.

I woke up around 10 am the yesterday and drove home to SC.

Great trip. Much fun was had by all.

Wednesday, February 6

Super Bowl aftermath

Okay, I can do this. It might not even take that long.

I was, obviously, severely disappointed by the Super Bowl. I mean, I joined the Patriots' bandwagon to pull for a winner, right?

A big thanks to Macon who chatted with me in Gmail throughout the game. I think I might have been more distraught had I not had him to 'talk' with.

Let's go back to my disastrous post: Final Super Bowl Prediction:

I couldn't have been more wrong about the Giants' pass rush. It was the deciding factor. They harried Brady the whole game. I don't know why the Giant's had so much more success with their pass rush than the last time they met. Did the (good) field conditions contribute? Maybe they'd just seen enough of the Pats and had a great game plan.

In Brady's defense, he did not throw interceptions as the game crumbled around him. He did miss some passes he would normally make. It certainly looked like he was rattled.

He drove the ball at the end of the game when he needed to.

In general, the Pats defense did pretty well. They needed one more stop than they got.

The Giants thought they had an edge in special teams. I did not notice a major one, aside from field position, which was often against the Pats. There were no returns for touchdowns, blocks, major fumbles - that kind of thing.

I definitely had the sense that Eli could have given it away. Towards the end there were a lot of near interceptions and a couple of dropped-ball fumbles the Giants recovered themselves. Any change in these could certainly have changed the game.

I certainly don't mean to take anything away from Eli. He did great. I kept picking against him and I was wrong. Good for him.

(Minor complaint: does this Super Bowl win justify the Manning family's machinations to keep Eli out of San Diego? I hate to thing that... )

Well, that's about all I've got for analysis. I didn't read much of the postgame reporting. Too painful.

For completeness, a few links for you:

+ Thanks to Brad for linking my prediction post, though it proved so, so wrong.

+ Benet was pulling against the Pats (and makes an impassioned plea for Ray Guy (punter) to be entered into the Pro Football Hall of Fame).

+ Dean Barnett (never read anything by him that lacked a strong opinion), Patriots fan, writes about what he calls Belichick Derangement Syndrome.

Tuesday, February 5

My book review for the latest DTI

This is going to be a little bit of overkill, but I think I'll use this post to point to all of the instances of my review, for future reference.

Here's the review as it appeared on Ares:

Here's my book review from the next issue of DTI:

Halsey's Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue
By Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007
322 pp., $25.00

When Jack Ryan and Captain Marko Ramius first meet in The Hunt for Red October, they stumble into a discussion about Ryan's books. Ramius says, “You were wrong, Ryan. Halsey acted stupidly.”

This is the question that looms large in the background of the book Halsey's Typhoon: When confronted with a Pacific storm that would ultimately be named Typhoon Cobra, did Admiral William Halsey, Jr. act stupidly? When all was said and done, his fleet was ravaged: 150 mph winds blew planes off decks. 90 foot seas turned planes below decks into skittering bombs. Waves towered over destroyers, threatening to capsize them at every moment, or pour down their funnels. Three destroyers sank. Worst of all, almost 800 men died. The authors describe the aftermath as twice as bad as that of the Battle of Midway. Did Halsey act stupidly? Was he negligent, given what he knew?

Looking back, thinking about those fragile destroyers, it's hard to imagine what Halsey was thinking. Yes, he was committed to supporting MacArthur's return to the Philippines, specifically the invasion of Mindoro. And he had been so roundly criticized for leaving MacArthur exposed at the Battle of Leyte Gulf that we can sympathize with his hope that the weather would clear up, that he would be able to complete massive refueling operations and return to the fight. Further, though subjected to a Court of Inquiry, he was never officially sanctioned. Even his captains who barely survived excused him.

It's difficult, though, to let Halsey off the hook while reading scores of pages about men fighting for their lives in the hearts of dying 'tin cans' or on their sea-washed decks. Why didn't Halsey fold at the first sign of trouble? Why didn't he give up refueling as he unwittingly rescheduled rendezvous in the path of the storm? In the last half of the book, page after page recounts the deaths of sailors, killed in their ships, washed into the Pacific, succumbing to one of the many deadly effects of being lost in the ocean.

The hero of the book is Lt. Comdr. Henry Lee Plage, captain of the Destroyer Escort USS Tabberrer, who repeatedly leaves off obeying rendezvous orders to search for and rescue 55 sailors floating without hope.

Drury and Clavin write a gripping story of survival at sea during time of war when weather can become your worst enemy.

Official Halsey's Typhoon website

Here's the link to the review in DTI on Nxtbook.

And here's a copy of the pdf I got to proof. (This is the best looking one, obviously.)

Sunday, February 3

I was wrong

More later.


V-day prep

Macon schooled me to something new they've got going:

Make one of your own:

Friday, February 1

Final Super Bowl prediction

Ok, I've read and thought about this a lot. Peter King had the cover story in SI on the matchup between the Patriots offense and the Giants defense. Though it was not his intent, he convinced me that will not be the key matchup.

I think the result when those two sides face off will be about the same as the last time they met. If anything, the Patriots will have the advantage: they're getting some O-line and blocking types back and the Giants secondary was very beat up at the end of the season.

Brady will get his yards. The Giants will do what everyone else has done in the last I-don't-know-how-many-weeks: take away the long pass and make them be patient with short passes and runs, and the Patriots will take them (in general).

No, the key matchup will be the Giants offense against the Patriots defense. It was the key matchup last time. The Giants scored on their first possession with the key play being a 52 yard pass from Manning to Burress.

(Watch the NFL Network's highlights of the game. Click on the 'Play-By-Play' tab for specifics.)

The next Giants score came off of a returned kickoff for a touchdown.

With another touchdown off of more measured plays, that put the Giants up 21-16 at the half. Contain those two big plays and you're talking about, maybe, 7-16 (not to mention more time of possession by the Pats).

Finally, the Patriots allowed too many rushing yards in the Giant's first drive of the second half, and they scored.

After that, they settled down and didn't allow the Giants to score again until the game was out of reach.

There is no doubt in my mind that this will be the Patriots' game plan in the three phases:

1. The offensive approach will be the same as if has been back at least to the last time they played the Giants: Assume the Giants will double- and triple-cover Moss to prevent the big play. So the Pats will probably have to take the short passes and runs in the face of a great Giants pass rush that didn't get to Brady last time and won't this time. The Pats will look for the long ball to Randy. Playing in great weather on ideal turf (at least before the halftime show) will prompt them to watch for the long play, and even try it, but not force it. Paging Wes Welker ... We will also need a good game from Maroney, Faulk, and Watson, especially (the normal hot read/outlet receivers).

2. Defense: Focus on the running game, the Giants' strongest asset with two good, young, strong runners. Second, stop the big play to Burress.

3. Special teams: Do not allow a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown on pain of death! Belichick hates that stuff and prides himself on having good special teams. Of course, beyond that, they'll want to play error-free on special teams, with no long returns.

That game plan adds up to a Patriots' victory. I don't claim to be astute (or dumb) enough to predict a score. Even if the Giants score as well as they have been since the last Patriots' game, they will not be able to outscore the historic Pats' offense. And I'm sure Belichick will pull out all the stops to ensure the Giants don't score as much as they have been.

What do you think?

Burress guaranteed a victory and even predicted a score. I don't think this will have a huge effect as bulletin board material, being that this is the Super Bowl.

Macon suggested I live-blog the game, which I don't think I will. However, he and I are talking about doing some chatting during during the game. Feel free to join in the fun (in Gmail or Google Talk. And if you don't know how, email me, of course).