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I Know, I Know….

Been too long since I updated and invested time in this site.

Currently I’m still going to school, doing some house renovating, and working on one of my books. I have blogs started on the Win 8 preview (summary – it sucks), my Titanic 100th anniversary supper, (was terrific and fun), and a few other things. Right now I am SUPER EXCITED about an announcement on Tuesday that will be taking place locally at the Air & Space Museum. It is sold out (grr!), but we’ll watch it streaming.

Peter Diamandis, along with Charles Simonyi and others will be making a presentation related to Space Resources. (Link here.) Hope you’ll join me in watching what I think will be an historic announcement!

Greed

Great article by the brilliant Walter Williams on why greed is good. 

I completely agree with him on this. Unfortunately, people like to lump anyone who makes money as a capitalist, regardless of whether or not they exhibit the prinicples of capitalism in their business dealings. Just because you participate in a company doesn’t make you a capitalist. Are the Solyndra lot capitalists? They were given taxpayer money and squandered it, were propped up by their political connections and kept afloat by money they didn’t earn. That’s crony capitalism, it’s not the same thing. Getting an idea and starting your own company and succeeding through your efforts; working hard at your profession and getting promoted or recognized, driven on by the thought of what success means to you and your family.

Capitalism isn’t about stealing or cheating; its about providing goods or services for a reasonable price to a public that needs them. It’s a win-win; you make a good product, you have monetary success and the public gets something that they want. It’s a neat, simple system and anyone can participate. That is, until the government gets too involved…

 

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A Letter

I’m currently working on an ‘open letter’ to the GOP House Leadership, and hope to have it completed soon, mailed and posted on this blog. I know they are probably inundated with ideas, calls and suggestions and my voice will have no impact, but one must try. How sad a testament to our republican government is that? My own House member, a Republican, doesn’t even have real town meetings, but virtual ones.
I remember when I read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in grammar school, hearing the story of what Abraham Lincoln ostensibly said to Harriet Beecher Stowe: “So this is the little lady who started the big war.” I don’t know if that particular anecdote is true, but there’s no doubt that Stowe’s writings were influential to many during the period leading up to the Civil War. That comment stuck with me, because it reinforces the notion that the pen is mighty. The well-known adage is that it is mightier than the sword, but I don’t think that’s necessarily always the case. You need to use the right tool for the job. Some situations can only be resolved by raising a sword; Hitler could not have been defeated by words alone, since his word meant so little to him.
In other situations however, letters and books can be an incredible tool. It’s a pity that more people don’t write nowadays. There’s email, sure, but the cathartic and purposeful act of putting pen to paper, getting ideas down, scratching and re-writing, corresponding with friends and relatives, appears to be a dying art, and, I fear, reading a book is becoming quaint, passe, as well.

Live Blogging

Live blogging the election results tonight. Making lamb tagine for dinner, drinking wine and watching Fox.
SO excited about Rubio being projected as winner in Florida. I remember an NRO article about a year ago asking, ‘could he be the GOP nominee?’. He was a long shot, a first generation Cuban American, a good, direct guy.
7:13 PM
A little behind on Fox News show because of prep for dinner and a shower. =) Bummed about O’Donnell and Fox calling it for Blumenthal in CT, but they were a bit of a long shot. House, which is more local, looks really good still, possibly biggest gain in past 50+ years.
Wahoo — Rubio!!!! [Mr. Man here ..]
8:12 PM
Marco Rubio’s talk brought tears to my eyes. He is exactly what we need, a reminder of how great we can be, and I can’t wait to vote for him for President.
10:15 PM
Brought tears to my eyes when Boehner spoke about chasing the American dream and putting himself through school. Didn’t seem forced or fabricated, but like he was struggling with his emotions to keep them in check. I want someone who really appreciates how miraculous a story America is.

Saving the Planet…

A nutter named Lee was shot at the Discovery Channel headquarters after he became enraged at Discovery Channel’s rejection of his suggestion for a show that encouraged people to ‘stop having disgusting babies’. Apparently he was partly inspired by Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth“.
Personally I prefer George Carlin’s take on saving the planet (language warning):

Update: Lee’s manifesto.

And the Beat Goes On…

Lots of news the past few months, and I won’t try to catch up with all of it here, just quickly talk about one of the most current and inflammatory topics to-day: the proposed mosque near Ground Zero.
I haven’t heard one pundit declare that the developers who own the property don’t have a legal right to build the mosque. The problem isn’t with the legality but with the insensitivity. As many have pointed out, one would hardly suggest that a Japanese culture centre near Pearl Harbour is a good idea. Whatever our relations with Japan now, in 1941 we weren’t at war with Imperial Japan yet they launched an early morning attack that killed many and nearly destroyed our naval capabilities. Even today you can see oil slowly leaking from the USS Arizona, which still lies on the bottom. After 69 years, it is still an open wound.
September 11th was an even worse loss of life, and we’re only 9 years out from it. The construction of new buildings on the site has been the cause of arguments and scrapped plansm and the design of monument has been at the centre of much heated debate, and comparatively, those are more innocuous things than a mosque 2 blocks away from the site, that would inhabit the foodprint of a building that was damaged when one of the the plane’s landing gear smashed into it on that terrible day.
Trying to say it is a lesson in tolerance is absurd. America is very tolerant; we don’t need to be lectured to about it. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf can hardly be characterised as a moderate Muslim. He has failed to denounce Hamas as a terror organisation, and has intimated that bin Laden was ‘grown in America’. It beggars belief that someone with a CV like that thinks he can lecture us about tolerance. It is radical Islam that has no tolerance and he supports one if its militant arms, Hamas.
As far as I am concerned this effort is just a stick in the eye. bin Laden felt he could use our trusting an open nature against us and he did; this is just another manifestation of that. Of course the NY Times and other dhimmis decry the opposition to the mosque, and paint it as a a gesture of tolerance and peace and any response other than open arms ‘rekindle(d) worries that life in the United States may continue to be clouded with mistrust’.
What is even sicker is the obsequiousness that people like Bloomberg are displaying; he has been at the helm while some of the most draconian measures concerning salt, fat and food in general have been enacted, yet then tries to hide behind the mantle of ‘we shouldn’t tell people what to do (with their property)’. The Mayor has no clothes.

Who Is Iron Man, Really?

What is it that I love so much about the Iron Man movies? Robert Downey Jr. Is a brilliant actor, it’s true, and the concept of Iron Man is fairly unique and well executed, but it goes beyond that. The “Iron Man” series feels more personal than that.
It’s not that he has an extensive laboratory underneath his house – although I have always dreamed of that myself. He is spectacularly handsome, confident and whip-smart, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find those features attractive; many women do. I am particularly attracted to his brilliance, which is a major component to the Iron Man story. Intelligence keeps things interesting.
Still, that’s not the whole story. What makes Iron Man really powerful and appealing is that he is the embodiment of the American dream, and unapologetically so. Tony Stark is the quintessential capitalist, when you get right down to it. He enjoys the fruits of his labours and doesn’t ask for forgiveness; he’s cocksure and the embodiment of American exceptionalism, doing things that no one can do anywhere else, yet he can be generous, just as Americans are generous. He’s fiercely protective of his intellectual capital and in the perfect David and Goliath moment for the rest of us taxpayers, stands up to the demands and arrogance of the government and tells them to go soak their heads.
Yet in all this, he still remains an obviously flawed character, and not in a goody-two shoes kind of way that cheapens the story. Tony Stark is sensual, yet a womanizer; a brilliant inventor yet reckless and sometimes a drunk; touched by the tragic and untimely death of his parents in an accident, he appears to have made peace with that, yet he is still haunted by thoughts of it, particularly of his father – this also explains to some degree his difficulty in cultivating anything but the most superficial relationships with women. He tries to develop a closer relationship with his personal assistant Pepper Potts, and it becomes glaringly obvious he is fumbling around. I can’t say that I like the movie’s portrayal of Pepper Potts – I think Stark would need an equal and Potts isn’t one (and Paltrow’s Potts seems a bit cold) – but she serves to effectively make the point of Stark’s inability to be personally concerned with anyone but himself.
Yet for all this, Tony Stark is an eminently likable character. You can’t doubt his brilliance, nor ignore his ideas of right and wrong, which are crystal clear to him. He is comfortable in his own skin, an enviable position. In short, Tony Stark makes you feel good about being an American and you want him on your side, you want him to succeed. In an era of movies and politics that can find nothing better to do than bash America,” Iron Man” stands out. You know Tony Stark’s success could only happen in America and he is proud of his country; the foes he battles are the foes of liberty, of America and her ideals and you’re quite happy to see them crushed and even happier that it’s red-white-and blue, quintessentially American Tony Stark delivering the coup de grâce. In his own selfish way, Tony Stark is the ultimate giver in a way unique to his character – he risks his life to save others as if it was second nature, like crossing a street, using hi-tech weapons to even the playing field. He’s the hero you really want next door, not some whiny Peter Parker or any of the other myriad superheroes that comics are populated with because when it comes down to it, Tony Stark knows how to be alive, to live and be grateful for it, and it’s infectious.
So if you haven’t seen the original “Iron Man”, rent it, stay with it, and partake of Stark’s journey. If you’ve already seen it, catch “Iron Man 2″ when it comes out on video, stick through the painful stuff, grimace when things seem to be out of control, then cheer and let yourself feel good at the end. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll get an additional rare bonus; top of his craft actor Robert Downey Jr. schooling the rest of Hollywood on how it’s done. Getting your money’s worth from Hollywood these days is rare; catch it while you can.
BONUS:
Bill Whittle from PJTV discusses, “We Are Iron Men” and even includes some great footage of Milton Friedman.

So the Tories Won. Sort of…

So the Tories won the most seats outright in the British elections, but not a majority, resulting in a ‘hung’ parliament. If you were cynical you might say that the British people had been hung out to dry by the result, but that would be a bit dark… or just true?
Cameron (the new PM), wasn’t even as Conservative as I would like. First off, he’s a believer in AGW, (anthropogenic global warming), which is just rubbish. He had an opportunity during the campaign to distinguish the Tories from Labour and the LibDems, put forward a vision for a revitalised Britain, but he wasn’t firm or clear on any of his policies and it resulted in a Tory victory that was shy of a pure majority.
Of course there are always the lemmings who believe the tripe that the LibDems/Labour peddle; that successful people are unilaterally greedy, their raison d’etre is to cheat you, and the Tories are their cheerleaders. (Some) people are willing to believe that any fantastic success they haven’t yet achieved is due to the scheming machinations of the wealthy elite, who can’t countenance competition. Comments on the election results were sprinkled with comments of this ilk.
The truth of the matter is (as I’ve said in various forms before), is that there is unlimited wealth. Of course, unlimited wealth doesn’t mean that every person will achieve it. I would love to be as wealthy as Bill Gates for instance, but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. I don’t therefore hate him for his success, but see it as the height that a human can rise to with talent, hard work, ingenuity and luck and I certainly won’t stop trying to be successful.
But I digress, if only sort of. Cameron’s vision as he laid it out in its tatters of cloth wasn’t sufficient and here we are. Cameron then compounded his errors by organising a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who can only be described as to the left of Labour. He had several options; try to patch together a majority government with the smaller factions, form a government with the LibDems, head a minority government and try to attract enough support to maintain it, or let the LibDems and Labour slip in bed together and form a majority government, thereby shutting the Tories out.
I would have preferred the latter myself. The LibDem plans put forth during the campaign would have resulted in the highest taxes of all three party’s plans, and they have no desire to cut the welfare programmes that are strangling Britain and result in nearly 1 out of every 5 Britons being employed by the government. Cameron, to secure his Prime Minister post, backed away from his pledge to reduce the inheritance tax and repeal Brown’s loathed tax rise. If Britain’s debt is to be brought to heel, spending must be curbed which is the antithesis of the LibDem platform. My fear is that Cameron’s compromises will mean that there will be no improvement and the population will blame the Tories, which will result in the coalition falling apart and a new election being called. In that instance, it is doubtful that the Tories will get a larger representation than they already have and will more than likely lose seats.
Compare that to a coalition between the LibDems and Labour. It’s obvious the majority of the population want a change – after all, Labour lost 90 seats – and Nick Clegg, the LibDem leader is considered charismatic but not particularly talented; Britain’s own Barack Obama. Interestingly, in the waning days of the campaign, Clegg’s numbers started to fall as people became more familiar with his plans. I suspect that a LibDem/Labour coalition would result in the coalition failing within a year, a new election being called, and then, I think, an outright Tory majority would be guaranteed.
We shall see. With America plunging headlong into the type of deficit spending that has brought other economies to its knees (like Greece), it will be an uncomfortable few years, to say the least. Interestingly, EU member nations are recommending Greece privatise things like (*gasp*) their healthcare system in order to stabilise the economy. Funny that, in a fit of greed and selfishness, the Liberals in America are doing the opposite and trying to nationalise the healthcare system. Forget that Rome is burning – deficit spending is music to their ears.

I’ve Got a Crush on Some 1′s and 0′s

I’ve never been one to get carried away by fairy tales. Yet here I am, playing Bioware’s Dragon Age: Origins and I’ve been swept off my feet by some 1’s & 0’s named Alistair.
Screenshot20100330002142720.jpg
Alistair
First let me clarify; I’m sentimental and a romantic, lest you get the wrong idea. It’s not that ‘love’ stories don’t move me. I’ve just never subscribed to the generally accepted formula of helpless me with few prospects being rescued from a rather brutal family life by a (one dimensional) prince, whose main selling points always seem to revolve around being wealthy and part of a royal family. Not particularly compelling.
When I found my own ‘prince’, (thankfully) he ended up being quite different from the formulaic prince of fairy tales. The elusive Mr. Man my blog readers are familiar with is wonderful; honourable, affectionate, intelligent, a little shy with a soft spot for animals and like me, very sentimental. He’s a man of principle who stands up for what he believes is right, and does things like rescue a squirrel that was hit by a car so we could take it to our vet (unfortunately the squirrel didn’t make it).
Despite being shy, Mr. Man can also be quite funny. While shopping for a diamond, we looked at one that was particularly pretty, and he decided we would take it. I was surprised and flushed, and the shopkeepers in the store began to congratulate me on what a beautiful stone it was (it’s gorgeous). Mr. Man deadpanned that the diamond wasn’t for me but for him, for his belly button. Needless to say we were all in stitches.
So I have a wonderful long term relationship with a good man. Why do I have a crush then on a non-existent character from a video game, no less? It’s not as if grown-ups don’t have crushes, either; if Mr. Man didn’t think Number Six from Battlestar Galactica was sexy I’d think there was something wrong with him. I guess I just thought I was immune to these tendencies.
I’ve spent some time considering this. Why is it that the Alistair character appeals to me? I know part of it is the accent. I’m a sucker for British accents and have dated many a wrong (and charming), man partly because of the way he speaks, and I’m particularly prone to accents that are refined but not stuffy or altogether proper, like an educated man with a hint of a Scottish inflection or something similar. My interest developed to the point that for well over a decade I have used British spellings for many words because I like it better.
Steve Valentine, who voices Alistair, has such an accent. Alistair isn’t real however, and as good a job as Steve did (especially since it must be difficult to provide voice ONLY yet convey such depth… top notch job really), there’s more to it than that. (I will however shamefully admit that if there was a recording of Steve Valentine reciting the phone book, I’d probably listen to it completely at least once.)
So what is it that makes Alistair not just your typical set of binary digits?
Alistair is the first character I have ever met in a computer game that has real depth. He is charming, even painfully so (a pox on whoever wrote his script!). Naïve and a bit shy, he uses humour to protect himself because like most people, he is afraid of being hurt. Despite being taught at an abbey and a novice in the relationship department he’s not a zealot or too uptight and furthermore, he is intellectually curious. Although trained to fight dark magic he is fascinated by magic in general, and intrigued by artefacts and items related to magic and magical creatures. He’s handsome but rugged, hardly the Adonis type.
Although a tyro when it comes to love, his sense of chivalry and duty means he desires a monogamous situation with a woman who takes relationships as seriously as he does (and he’s a virgin, natch). Despite being the bastard son of the king, he is reluctant to acknowledge the tie, cognizant of the burden that such responsibility entails. Perhaps most notably, he is not threatened by a strong willed female; he doesn’t see one as a challenge to his masculinity.
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My avatar, Lily.
In short, he is the prince that fairy tales SHOULD be written about; not the saviour of the beautiful yet trapped maiden but the complement to her. One who admires strength and independence in a woman yet cultivates and embraces her sensitive side because he recognises the ideal in that duality. A hero who doesn’t seek out glory in and of itself but considers the principled thing to do; who adheres to a code of conduct and recognizes there are such things as good and evil, who believes in honour and keeping promises. A man who is willing to be a little vulnerable and doesn’t see that as a gaping character flaw; who deep down inside knows who he is and what is important and is true to that.
Is it any surprise that when his hope is dashed and a family member lets him down I feel for him? Who of us hasn’t felt empathy for a friend who has felt disappointment? It is a tribute to Bioware that they have woven such depth into Alistair’s character and spent so much time developing him. I tend to feel a kinship with the characters I create in a game, making them idealised (perfected) avatars of myself, so the long ‘journey’ my character Lily has taken with Alistair doesn’t just feel like an ordinary computer game, because he is so detailed and fleshed out. I know I’m not alone; a careful look on the web will uncover many women who are taken by Alistair and surprisingly, a few men who see him as a friend or kindred spirit. Real life relationships (and romances) are formed through a combination of common bond, interest, attraction and circumstances and Bioware has managed this dynamic beautifully.
Movies are considered ‘art’ because they are meant to be evocative. Love, hate, revenge, empathy, sorrow; they are constructed so we feel kinship with the main character(s), identify with them on some level. Dragon Age: Origins has shown that computer games can be art, too. I have felt more of a connection with Alistair (in particular), and by extension with Leliana, Morrigan and the rest of my group than I have with characters in many movies.
Alistair may be a ‘digital’ character but he serves the purpose that all good art (and literature) does. I’m moved by the experience I’ve had as I’ve trundled through Ferelden with him, and that’s made DA:O powerful. It’s remarkable that a computer game has had the same effect on me as a well written book; that I truly feel as if I’m sharing in an adventure.
To be fair, Alistair, ‘the ideal’, has it easy. The dialogue choices have numbers next to them, and the trauma and disappointment that lends character to Alistair derives from contrived circumstances. There are no real feelings to hurt, no real good and evil, no world full of genuine, palpable disappointment to manoeuvre through.
A satisfying entertainment experience is one that transcends the media it inhabits and creates a lasting impact. DA:O is interactive and as a result is more engrossing than something watched on a screen with a bunch of other people. I choose who to send in to battle, I decide what tack we’re going to take on the main story line, who I get involved with and heck, I can go back and choose differently if I’m not comfortable with the result (anyone who was disappointed in the ending of the Matrix trilogy can probably empathise with this sentiment).
You can take your mediocre movies, complete with preachy messages and unappealing protagonists, all for $15 per person, for soda and ticket. I’m fine sitting comfortably at home interacting with characters that seem real, in situations that feel as if they are of import, engrossed in staving off the darkspawn and ending the Blight, with sixty (?!) plus hours of content to work through. A bargain at almost any price.
As for Alistair, he’ll remain my binary crush, the 1’s and 0’s that I can do things with that aren’t possible in real life. Together we’ll wield our longswords and hew darkspawn, travel to other lands to enlist aid, deal with Teyrn Loghain’s treachery and avenge Duncan, and return to camp at night and catch up with Wynne, Zevran or anyone else who didn’t accompany us that day. We’ll battle dark magic and unscrupulous characters, and do jobs to earn coin to keep us in supplies and even celebrate when a battle goes well and he observes that “We work well together”. Perhaps it’s just feeding the fantasies that were generated in me from reading too much of Robert Howard’s “Conan” as a kid; regardless it fills an entertainment niche for me, and there’s worse people to have along for the ride than a character who is a charming Englishman who gets flustered every time you ask for a kiss.