Thursday, October 23, 2008

Big news

I kept hoping I'd somehow think of a cool way to introduce this news. But I never did. And now it's been, what, ...12 days since it happened, so it's not really news anymore. But I still feel like I should say something about it, even if everyone who reads this knows already.

In fact, I really want to shout it from the rooftops when I stop to think about it, only I don't want to be one of those guys who won't shut up about it. Maybe I should just shut up and say it before I take all of the magic out of it.

I'm engaged! At the risk of being mushy, I think she's the greatest woman ever! Beautiful, smart, patient (boy, do I need it!), kind, and loads of fun. But you already know her as 2nd of 5. (When she and I, a 4th of 5, become one, what happens? Addition? Averaging? :)

And yes, our Facebook statuses are changed already. Though, I'm thinking another status change won't be the highest priority once the knot has been tied. :)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Of parties and partisanship

I'll just recuse myself from this topic, and instead defer to one much wise than I — George Washington:
All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. [Parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
(Emphasis is my own.)

I guess I should have expected last night to turn into the pleasant-faced mudslinging I surprisingly observed. I attempted to persevere; "this is an important decision for our nation," I told myself. But there came a time when enough was enough. I've grown sick of the misrepresentation of opponents, of partisanship, of these candidates, of both parties, and of the omnipresent election coverage.

I suppose I'm lucky that I live in a state that is securely in one party's hands. I won't have to feel any remorse for having failed to elect the "best" (actually, the "better," as there's no use in pretending there are more than two options) candidate. I'm fairly certain I'm going to "waste" my vote on an independent. Someone who's read the Constitution and still believes that it was a good idea.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Economic distortion -- more popular than Social Distortion

I encourage you to read this post about a couple misleading things you may have heard about our recent economic down-turn. It's undeniably a bad for time for Americans, but the scientist in me always sheds a tear when he hears arguments from selectively-picked data. From the post:
It’s true that it’s bad and even historic.... For now, however, Apple is still on track to sell 10 million iPhone 3Gs this year, which says something.
Yesterday’s loss of 777 points was stunning as the largest single-day point loss in Dow history. But as a percentage loss that’s not even in the top 10 Bad Dow Days.
I could also rant and rave about all of the average people who suddenly think they're experts because they watched CNN this morning. Those sort of people that appear to know what they are talking about, but really just regurgitate the (potentially suspect) data they imbibe from their favorite flavor of news outlet -- and then use it to tell whomever they meet what must be done about it. And heaven forbid you disagree. But maybe it's best that I keep that to myself.

I could even pontificate on what, exactly, the strong sales of the new 3G iPhone, even in the face of a possible recession, says. (Hint: ...well, I don't actually think any hints are necessary.)

Anyway, be on guard, both for the market, and for the evening news. Trust no one, Mr. Mulder dear reader.