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Blog Posts for August 2008

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Roads of Genius

I don't know what genius is. I've never really thought about it. But I like this description, by Willam Blake:

Improvement makes straight roads
But the crooked roads without improvement
Are roads of genius
It's from a poem entitled Proverbs of Hell. In the first stanza you'll read this delicious line:
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
Ain't that the truth. Conventional wisdom is often the myopic lean of the herd, too scared to deviate much. Don't want to make a mistake, you know.

(I think "oops" may be the most powerful word in our vocabulary in its potential for change.)

I also found this, and it makes sense to me.

The genius, disturbed as he is, makes errors and wrong turns that the ordinary person avoids. Still, these madmen, "despising and overcoming obstacles which would have dismayed the cool and deliberate mind - hasten by whole centuries the unfolding of truth."
Which says to me that anyone can be a genius - you just have to be inquisitive enough and impatient enough to travel unprepared where others won't.

The word "genius" comes from the Latin word "genere," which means "to produce."

"Generate" would also be a derivative word.

So I'll take the liberty to suggest something...

If we want to make a difference in life, the only way to get there is to seek out error and wrong turn, wherein we can unearth the "roads of genius." Incapacity? Not a chance. Action, man, action! Genius doesn't wait for others. It's too busy foraging, trampling the unknown underfoot in the excitement of fearless discovery.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/1/2008 12:03:30 AM
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Teh Neo

Pitter patter.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/1/2008 7:16:33 PM
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The Forgettable Mummy

Tamara really liked the first two Mummy movies. This one? Not so much.

I liked Maria Bello in Shattered (aka Butterfly on a Wheel - surprisingly good movie), but she has zero chemistry with Brendan Fraser. I missed Rachel Wiesz, who wisely passed this flick by. The dialogue is that bad, and while it has its moments of campy fun, it's forgettable.

Coming on the heels of my viewing of The Dark Knight, it felt like watching a late night TNT ripoff of Indiana Jones IV. The only person who comes out of the movie with any bona fides is Michelle Yeoh, who manages to convey real depth in an otherwise paper mache production.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/2/2008 12:24:22 PM
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Images of Late

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by Brett Rogers, 8/3/2008 11:37:38 AM
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Genius

I used to believe that genius was an intellectual attribute. After thinking about it, I'm now convinced that it is solely based in what we do. Our life is not the sum of our choices, but the sum of our actions.

Granted, what we do starts with a choice, but I think too often it remains in our heads and doesn't become real.

Jesus said in Matthew, "Out of the abudance of the heart, the mouth speaks."

I think we each need to fill our hearts with the desire - no, the need - to act.

Do the Do.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/3/2008 4:11:45 PM
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Obama-Car

Since drilling is not in our foreseeable future with The One, and since he prophesies that the end of oil is near, here's the newly unveiled Obama-Car, which runs on solar power and has a wind capture unit (WCU) in front of the vehicle. The WCU is used to harness wind energy, and immediately turns it into enhanced carbonless travel.

The wagon version of this baby - a vehicle for the whole family and a deeply-held secret within the campaign - comes out this fall, one week before the election, to maximize its political effect. Soccer moms will swoon...

That man Obama, he is cunning... cunning, indeed.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/4/2008 6:44:17 AM
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Life Somewhere Else

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by Brett Rogers, 8/4/2008 10:04:18 PM
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Some days are hard

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by Brett Rogers, 8/7/2008 7:52:37 PM
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New Phone

I hate Sprint. Seriously, they have the worst customer service ever.

On August 27, my contract with Sprint ends. Because I am within 30 days of the end of my contract, I can leave them without paying a fee. So I did. I got on board with Tamara's Verizon account and got myself a Dare.

I bought it for one reason. Well, two... but chiefly one reason.

The lesser reason: it has a 3.2 megapixel camera. Sweet!

But the other reason is that it has a drawing pad. How eight-years-old is that? Yep - I bought it for the drawing pad. The screen is touch-sensitive, and so I can use my sheathed Cross pen as a stylus and draw with it. The drawings aren't very accurate - but that's actually kinda cool about it for me.

Here's a car we were following on the way home:

And this is something I did while watching the opening of the Olympics with Tamara:

Jacob, my youngest, played with the drawing pad the whole time we were in the grocery store tonight. I love that.

So I'll goof around with this and post my child-like doodles once in a while.

Oh, and while I loathe the restrictions on freedom in China, culturally, they rock. The opening ceremony was a-ma-zing. Its breadth and depth were massive. It felt like standing in Manhattan for the first time or entering Yellowstone Park. Stunning and worth a repeat viewing - without commercials. Hopefully the DVD of it that we'll buy will have no announcers.

ETC: After playing around with the phone quite a bit, I find more likable features.

  • I'm able to insert a microSD card into the phone easily.
  • I can transfer my music to it (because I listen to non-DRM tunes only) and listen as I wish. It takes MP3 and WMA formats just fine.
  • It has a standard headphone jack, so my Bose headphones work great.
  • I can transfer my pictures to it, so I can have my artwork as wallpaper.
My only wish is that I could arrange songs in the playlist as I choose. As it is, they play in alphabetical order. But that's a minor contention that a software update might remedy later.

Good purchase.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/9/2008 12:51:44 AM
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Olympic Bike Race - Through China's Great Wall

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/9/2008 5:03:27 PM
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Home-Grown Tomatoes Still Life

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/10/2008 7:24:28 PM
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What's "News"

Jeff Jarvis rattles the cages of the Philly Inquirer and asks them bluntly why they're killing the paper by holding "all but breaking news for the paper and even [restricting] bloggers from using their blogs to work on stories in progress."

In a related story, New York Times columnist David Carr says this gem, "I was taught when I was a young reporter that it's news when we say it is. I think that's still true - it's news when 'we' say it is. It's just who 'we' is has changed."

I've argued for a while in the comments of other web sites that the first amendment has nothing to do with journalists or news. "Freedom of the press" is not a protection for a special class of citizen, no more than "freedom of speech" protects specially trained speechers. Neither is about a type of person.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The "press" is equivalent to "speech." The "press" is the written word. "Speech" is the spoken word. That's it.

Here's the crazy thing though: in both of these circumstances, we see that class of people commonly referred to as "the press" engaging in a restriction of speech and press. Journalists can't blog at the Philly Inquirer, and NYT's columnist admits that Edwards' affair, in the minds of journalists, wasn't reported or investigated for a while because "the press" didn't deem it news.

"Journalist," as a viable profession, is dead. What's happened, as Carr mentions, is that anyone can be a journalist, and as "amateur" bloggers show frequently, it can be done much better than the "professional."

"News" is no longer in the hands of a few folks. We each individually determine what makes news for us when we choose our reading and listening material for consumption. The redundant ABC, CBS, and NBC newscasts of decades past are now replaced by an ample variety of sources.

So what's "news?"

News doesn't have to be the person you've never met getting arrested, or the person you've never met getting killed or sick or injured. You've never met that person. Why is that "news" to you? It doesn't impact you in any direct way. Why is it worth the precious moments in your day? But someone somewhere who declared themselves as "the press" decided that it was worth your time and is therefore "news" you need to know.

Sometimes "news" is merely entertainment. It's the original reality TV, but without a plot or recurring characters or some end in sight. It's completely random, and usually has nothing to do with you.

People have started to figure that out and find myriad sources for what is truly "news" to them and started to walk away from the priestly "press" and so newspapers die a little every day.

From where I sit, most of the "news" being reported is deliberately skewed - usually by what's left out of the story. Bias by omission is a huge problem, and the Edwards story is just one example of late. Journalists aren't taught how to see and report in full they're taught to make a difference. To change the world. To give aid to the little guy.

Advocacy is not journalism. When journalism becomes advocacy - and it's that far more often than not - it only appeals to a niche.

People want to be informed. They flock to people who tell them the truth. Rush Limbaugh has made an empire of that - he highlights what's not reported by those in "the press" and people listen to him because they perceive that they're getting a fuller story. (If Democrats ever really figured that out, they could easily put him out of business. But it will never happen.)

Jeff Jarvis anguishes and tries to tell his fellow members of "the press" how to do it better, smarter, more profitably. He has great points, but they only prolong the inevitable death.

News, as defined by journalists today, is toast because it tries to officiate speech. Freedom of the press stopped being that when the press became "The Press." What we're seeing is a healthy correction and a return to freedom, and thankfully, it's costing some people their jobs.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/11/2008 9:23:39 AM
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Outdoors

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/11/2008 9:14:59 PM
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Our Kitchen Plant

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/12/2008 8:54:13 PM
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Eye

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/14/2008 7:58:59 AM
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My Favorite Cup

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/15/2008 12:37:20 AM
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Totally Impressed

I have to say, one week in to my purchase of the LG Dare, and I'm mightily impressed. Of course, I love the Drawing Pad application, but beyond that, it's really well done all around.

Here are a few pictures taken with my phone, and the quality of these shots - for a cell phone! - are just superb:

Even the indoor shot of me, taken by my daughter who took it without my knowledge, is quite good in its color quality.

By the way, those are our tomato plants, and two are taller than I am - who stands at 6'3". Pretty crazy...

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by Brett Rogers, 8/15/2008 1:41:02 AM
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Cubicle

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/16/2008 1:00:48 AM
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Drawing My Thumb in a Theater

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

This was while waiting for Tropic Thunder to begin, a movie that was okay and didn't live up to its hype.

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/16/2008 3:45:47 PM
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Tamara Reading on the Back Deck

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

You know, doing little art like this is both freeing and challenging. It's freeing because I always have my phone with me, and so I can strike up the opportunity to do art at any time. I don't need any tubes or water or brushes. I can just doodle at any moment, save it, and then come back to it later.

It's challenging because it's an imperfect medium with a limited palette.

Those are the colors available to me for this. No orange, strong purple, brown, gray... to mix colors, to achieve orange, for example, is to find a way to set the colors next to each other in such a way that it gives that impression.

I remember when I lived in Ames in my late teens that a friend who was an art student at Iowa State University told me that his favorite project thus far was to create two-tone icons for given ideas.

So in a 1/2" x 1/2" graphic, using only two colors, he was to depict "Work." Or "Relaxation." And so on. In a clear, uncliched way...

It's about communication and connection, and about aesthetic and attraction.

Similarly, how do I best portray what I see to those that view my art, with the limited palette available to me and a small, slightly awkward workspace?

Therein lies the fun. Because given anything I view or imagine in my head, I get to play with conveying that, which becomes a challenge that both stretches me and improves me incrementally.

Yesterday, I posted the "Drawing My Thumb" effort. Personally, I didn't like that one so much. In fact, I considered not posting it. But it feels to me that I need to be honest about my attempts with this. Some will succeed, and some will flop. And that's okay because it's part of the process, and the process is everything. The process is always more interesting than the finished piece to me.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/17/2008 1:15:43 PM
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Night Hut

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/19/2008 9:01:32 AM
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Rose

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/19/2008 7:42:20 PM
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Our Schnauzer, Dochas

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/20/2008 7:11:22 PM
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Superman

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/22/2008 12:12:02 AM
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Lilly

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/24/2008 1:21:48 PM
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Car

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/24/2008 6:39:52 PM
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Microsoft's Big Kludge

In my new gig, I'm working with ASP.NET for the first time. (I know, I'm late to the party...)

I get why they've done what they've done. They wanted to separate client- and server-side code. They wanted to make things easier on the programmer. But frankly, what they've created is a kludgy, archaic mess.

I dabbled in ASP.NET a few years back. I even bought and read a bunch of books on it. But what I found was that Microsoft created an environment that improved the programmer's life while it reduced the user's experience. Not that programmers care much about what users have to endure in interface, but it sure matters in the training/work-around costs later to the business.

So while I have a measure of respect for .NET, which I think would be an incredible tool for writing Windows software, it pretty much blows for writing web sites.

(And for what it's worth - it ain't me. I'm already 4 weeks ahead of my deadline for this first maintenance project, so this isn't me speaking out of the frustration of ineptitude or panic. Just telling it like it is...)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/25/2008 4:37:56 PM
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Alignment Woes

I think I've figured out why it is that so many Republicans wind up in the White House. Frustrated Democrats can blame the media.

Leading question: which way does the media lean, left or right?

Left, of course, and so naturally the media rallies behind the primary candidates of each party who lean to the left. They give fawning coverage for leftist Democrats (the leftist leftists), and ample coverage for the leftist Republicans (the leftist rightists - which is to say, the centrists).

Because America tends to vote for the centrist, the Republican nominee for president winds up in the White House more often than not.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/25/2008 4:42:41 PM
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Des Moines Farmers Market

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/25/2008 8:52:17 PM
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Buffoons

I've been a bit silent on matters political for a while. Mostly because it's all a bit ridiculous to watch or consider, frankly. Despite my better sensibilities, I find myself cheering John McCain. And it's all because of the inebriated outlandishness that is Barack Obama. The guy is so drunk on his own vibe that he can say or do anything - and does - and he shows himself painfully underqualified to lead the people of the United States.

He airs not to know it. Yet, he has to know at some level that he was wrong about Iraq, wrong about Russia, wrong about Iran. (Where was he right, at all?) He presses on, though. Hope and change...

Obama chooses a running mate who plagues us with his Tourette's (oh, moment of superior judgment that!), who explains the poor education system in Washington DC in comparison to Iowa by blaming it on black mothers. "Consider what you start with..." and then talks about the low minority population in Iowa. Gah! Who vetted this guy? I mean, you might as well put a white hood on Biden and stand him next to Obama for the comments that run diarrhetic from Joe's mouth.

But perhaps the biggest act of open-faced buffoonery is that of the media. Tom Brokaw stands there pointing out that MSNBC's commentators have gone too far in support of Obama, Time magazine glosses Obama 7 times this year to McCain's twice, it takes the Italian Vanity Fair to highlight Obama's half-brother, George, living in utter squallor on less than $1 a month, no one looks into Ayers and Annenberg... and what's more, the public at large knows little of what I write.

This election is a caricature. It's show, style, and slick packaging. It has little to do with the pursuit of a strong and vibrant America. No, watching Obama move forward toward November is something like awarding a first place trophy to a kid who redundantly competes alone in his age group. The media gleefully reports, night after night, how amazing this kid is. It's akin to praising a kindergartner's creative spelling, but at the level of presidential politics.

It's embarrassing.

It's unbelievable.

So I figure, why comment? Saturday Night Live never satired Laverne and Shirley because no matter how outrageous the skit became, it looked just like a routine episode.

Ditto this.

As the American people start paying attention now and as they become aware of alternative media as sources for news, Obama's numbers (shock!) slide. Obama disses Hillary and his numbers (shock!) slide. Obama fumbles the announcement of his awkward white guy VP choice and his numbers (shock!) slide.

The guy is a neophyte, built up to much higher expectations than he ever deserved, and everyone can see it. He's living the Peter Principle in front of us, and taking the Democrat party down with him by making America look at the spectacle.

At one time, the Democrats had a love for America. Not so much anymore. I talked with my mom, the lifelong Democrat, over the weekend, and she gets so animated about voting for McCain. "Obama's such a liar!" And that's that.

We get to see that scene played over and over again this week in Denver. McCain will run countless ads to attract disenchanted Democrat centrists. And he will. Not that it will be reported, but whether it's reported or not, it still happens. Much like our success in Iraq. And then everyone wakes up one day and has to admit the facts.

That's exactly what will happen to Obama's vaunted "judgment." Hope and change ring more hollow by the day. The post-mortems will wonder how anyone so empty of principle and experience got so near the White House.

Being president takes more than just being a US citizen, 35 years of age. Yes, those are the qualifications, but the very best and achieved among us are the ones who deserve consideration for the office, not the well-spoken and well-dressed.

Bring on the sunllight...

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by Brett Rogers, 8/26/2008 12:52:04 AM
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Face

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/26/2008 9:02:42 AM
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Sunlit Morning

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/27/2008 10:56:44 PM
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Palin

I could be wrong, but it's looking like it's Sarah Palin for McCain's VP. We find out later today.

I first wrote about a Romney-Palin ticket back in December 2007. I was wrong about Romney, who almost beat McCain, but at least Palin got there. McCain made the right pick, for so many reasons. She's a strong executive running on an anti-corruption platform in Alaska. She's smart, she's young. Brilliant choice :)

So yep, there's no competition: McCain-Palin in November.

ETC: What a speech!

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by Brett Rogers, 8/29/2008 10:39:01 AM
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Conversation at the Flying Mango

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/30/2008 12:34:12 PM
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High Heel Shoe

Drawn on my Verizon LG Dare Drawing Pad:

(You can sign up to have a new drawing sent to you daily by picture message.)

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by Brett Rogers, 8/31/2008 10:12:11 AM
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The Over-Promiser

There's an axiom I tell my kids about remaking songs: if a musician or group is going to remake a song, the original version should suck so that the remake is obviously better. An example of this is Rufus Wainwright's cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallejuah." Fabulous rendition, and while Leonard was a good songwriter, he's a bit tough on the ear. Rufus made the song soar.

On the other hand, there is Jeffrey Gaines' cover of Peter Gabriel's classic, "In Your Eyes." Utterly flat. That's like trying to cover "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers. If you can't do it better, or do it substantially different in a refreshing way, don't do it at all. The same advice that American Idol judges give contestants all the time. Don't over-promise by selecting a song where you can only pale in comparison to the original.

So when Barack Obama trotted out on his Greek stage to give his speech, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream," and tried to invoke King's backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial, it was a lesser cover. You just don't touch a classic.

One thing that Obama said during his speech:

In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you donít have boots. You're on your own."
Isn't being on your own called adulthood?

Germany is a classic example of what happens when an interventionist government policy stretches beyond its means and over-promises. Germany's democratic socialism sounded great... voters went for it, politicians legislated it, and then the inevitable happened: it collapsed.

Socialism is a like a sprint. When those who receive are substantially fewer than those who give to support it, it can work. But because population ebbs and flows, and because generations vary in size, it is unavoidable that those who line up to receive promised benefits will have to be supported by the fewer who give to the sytem in support of it. The United States is entering that period now, with its 79 million baby boomers starting to retire. Gen X has less people in it. The sprint of the baby boomers' wealth creation can't be sustained because the numbers are simply too low. Gen X can't give enough to support that. The numbers aren't there.

Looking again at Germany, in the conclusion of a paper from the Max Planck Institute that looked at this topic:

The middle classes will after another decade of fiscal crisis have learned to live without government-organized social solidarity, just as they learned in the past to rely on it. Thus as politicians keep talking about health care reform, more and more people will understand that the only health care reform they may benefit from in their lifetime is to eat more vegetables and stop smoking. Concerning pensions, already today nobody expects the state to deliver anything other than an unending series of benefit cuts, however dressed up. Those who can afford it have begun to save for their old age, those who cannot must wait and see. Similarly, the number of private schools is growing, and well-to-do parents send their brighter offspring to American or British universities. In the spirit of true liberalism, more and more people are helping themselves, which will make them even less willing to let the state take the rest of their money to help those who cannot. Even if the fiscal means might again become available to reconstitute the interventionist welfare state, the structure of a changed society may no longer generate the necessary level of political demand for it.
The Max Planck Institute is a think tank that "conducts advanced basic research on the governance of modern societies. It aims to develop an empirically based theory of the social and political foundations of modern economies by investigating the interrelation between economic, social and political action." The researchers warn that such a society which over-promises is abandoned by its citizens. The people realize that it is actually better to be on their own, because the government is not a parent, but a parasite. It doesn't create its own wealth, but rather pulls from the wealth of the people it portends to support.

The strongest society is one where it is expected that everyone is on their own. People used to say with pride that they pulled their own weight. No longer. When we have a popular presidential nominee who mocks such emphasis on independence, he's only begging us to go the road of Germany, to our own eventual collapse under the burden of too many recipients on too few contributors.

The ironic part about this is that the very people who most fervently support Obama are the ones who will strain under the weight of what he proposes. But they lack the education in history and math to see it.

Obama's rendition is not better than Germany's. Barack Obama is our time's Great Over-Promiser, who disdains a society of people equipped to make it on their own.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/31/2008 11:19:23 AM
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Beautiful Day

Tamara and I went out today on a 19-mile bike ride. Which was good for my tubby butt.

It's been a while since we rode that far. That's actually how we got to know each other better - bike riding. She used to be a bike-riding fool, clocking it in at around 100 - 150 miles per week. But married life took over, and where I'm more of a casual rider, and not the miler she was, I think she opted for time with me (a good thing) instead of bike-riding (also a good thing). We've made the unspoken decision to meet somewhere in between, I think. Maybe 70 miles a week.

Then we relax out on our back deck, which is an oasis of sorts for us. Check out the big ol' cottonwood (this picture was shot from our deck).

Ten feet off the deck, as I write this, is my beautiful bride, soaking up the late afternoon sun and reading a book.

What a great weekend this is.

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by Brett Rogers, 8/31/2008 4:29:04 PM
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