June 29th, 2008

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A couple of Newsweek pointers

For a long time, I was pretty skeptical of Newsweek -- the occasional forays into long Christian specials mostly aren't my speed, and the articles look pretty shallow when set next to the Economist. But we have a household subscription, and I've gradually come to appreciate it, not so much for the articles as for the columnists. In particular, there are two good examples in this past week's issue, both well worth reading, both in the form of "what I'd like to see from Obama".

First up is Fareed Zakaria. While I don't by any means always agree with him, I've warmed to him as one of the more sensibly middle-ground political analysts in the mainstream media. His latest is a fine example: What Obama Should Say on Iraq. It's essentially the speech he wants to hear, and I must admit, I'd love to hear it too. It suggests some compromise between the dogmas of the left and right, recognizing that progress *is* being made, but that that doesn't make open-ended commitments appropriate. Obama has continued to largely duck the matter, focusing his attentions elsewhere, and that shows a certain political shrewdness -- he makes better impact on domestic issues. But Zakaria outlines the kind of policy I'd like to see: moderate, sensible, aimed at moving things along without being dumb.

The other is George Will. Yes, he's a conservative, but by and large he's the kind of conservative I don't mind -- thoughtful, more interested in ideas than party line, dedicated to the principles without (mostly) buying into the fascism. During Bush's heyday he fell into being a bit of an administration apologist and annoyed the hell out of me for about four years, but now he's mostly back to being his usual contrarian self. His column in the same issue, "Nudge Against the Fudge", is a good example, talking about (and lightly advocating) the notion of "libertarian paternalism", the idea that gentle encouragement is often more sensible than mandates. I commend reading the column, which steers between the "that which is good for you should be required" left and the "how dare the government make suggestions to me?" right. Ignoring the gratuitous liberal-baiting at the end of the article, it's the right point at the right time, a welcome advocacy of a middle ground that had, for a time, seemed forgotten...
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A busy Saturday

A few recollections from a party-centric day yesterday:

At jrising's going-away party first. (For those who didn't know, Myndroh is moving to Brazil; this was the "consume my stuff" farewell bash.)

Overcame my shyness about looking incompetent and played Rock Band for the first time -- this proves to be every bit as much fun as I've been told, and I'm not as terrible at it as I expected. I have enough sense of rhythm to at least vaguely manage (especially on songs that I know), and my reflexes from Frequency turn out to be mildly applicable to the drums and very much so to the guitar. I'm still only playing on Easy, of course, but I'm hitting most of the notes on that level.

Finished that party off with a strange mutant version of an American BBQ. From 20 feet away it looked much the same, but the food was mostly vegetarian, and the grill was one of these strange new Char-Broils that completely separates the food from the fire. Aaron and I agreed that it's not *really* grilling if you don't get some blackening from massive fat flareups.

Thence to the Buttery. Really neat keepsakes provided by Marion (little tins with a picture of the Buttery on them, filled with "Now we are 30" custom-made M&Ms). Played Settlers for the first time in a couple of years -- it does seem to be aging into "classic" status, and continues to be fun. As always with Buttery parties, got to chat with lots of folks who I don't see often enough.

And at both parties, talking about CommYou, and getting into discussions of conversation tech with folks through it. If nothing else, this project is proving to be fertile ground for provoking thought on the subject, and getting people talking about what's been done and what could be...
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Gas prices

It occurred to me yesterday, as I put half a tank of gas into my car, that it was just as well that I was filling it now even though it wasn't necessary -- after all, by the time I needed to completely fill the tank, prices might have risen again.

And then it occurred to me that, when a spendthrift like me is thinking like that, it's practically the textbook definition of runaway inflation. Scary stuff...