miscellaneous commentary

Archive for December 2011

2012 GOP caucus preview

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The GOP caucus is less then one week away. I’m so excited that the political ads and robo-calls might finally (temporarily) come to an end!

Andrew Sullivan wrote this piece about the state of the GOP contest a few weeks ago, before Gingrich’s support began to collapse, but I think the gist of his message still holds true today:

But in many ways, this is all a simple result of the intellectual and ideological collapse of the Republican party. All they have, it seems, are some visceral reactions to social change – Latino immigrants, gay spouses, tolerant Millennials – and an argument that remains unchanged for thirty years, regardless of a hugely changed world.

So we have a Cold War mentality without the Soviet Union – and a crazy endorsement of pre-emptive war and torture as core elements of American exceptionalism! We have a myth of massive new regulations by the Obama administration. We have more tax cuts, as if Reagan’s supply side policies have been vindicated in the long term. And we have more tax cuts, while revenue is at 50 year lows. Or we have truly utopian ideas like abolishing the Fed, bringing back child labor, and fracking our way out of climate change. The whole caboose is a sign of a party that has long since unmoored itself from the country it exists in.


Written by camcarlson

December 29, 2011 at 5:33 PM

Posted in Politics

Tagged with , ,

Tis the season

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Written by camcarlson

December 25, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Posted in Cinema

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10,000 pages

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The reading bug has bitten me hard and deep; I’ve read more books in 2011 than in any previous year. According to the page numbers provided by Wikipedia or Amazon, I have read around 9,667 pages so far this year, not counting Roger Ebert’s memoirs, which is on deck for next week. Throw in all the magazines, newspapers and websites I’ve read and I could safely bump the page estimate up to a clean 10,000.

Is a page count an accurate method for weighing my reading habits? If I went by a book count, the number would be 26 (27 with Ebert’s memoirs) and the Eschaton chapter from Infinite Jest.

I have no idea what I should proffer for a word count – a million? Ten million? Tens of millions?

Anyway, there were many good reads this year. On the fiction side I enjoyed the third and fourth Harry Potter books, the third Narnia book (The Horse and His Boy), At the Mountains of Madness and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was underwhelmed by The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco (though I loved his In the Name of the Rose) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which I’m halfway through, is a confounding read. On the nonfiction side I liked Eat, Drink and Be Healthy, How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It (a survivalist guide) and the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.

Xmas 2011

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Xmas festivities came early for me this year. Wednesday and Thursday nights were spent dining and drinking with a number of different friends. Matt & Kelly came back to Iowa last Thursday and stayed until yesterday. Kerri and her family were in town from Friday night through Sunday dinner. I had lunch with Matt & Kelly on Friday and then drove them up to Denver to spend the rest of the day with friends. I had dinner that night with some co-workers at the Waterloo Carlos O’Kellys, which was celebrating its 30th anniversary with a variety of discounted menu items and margaritas. After dinner I hit up the small high school reunion at the Pruisner house, which moved downtown and continued at the Stuffed Olive over the midnight hour.

I spent pretty much all Saturday and Sunday with Matt & Kelly, Kerri & George and their kids, Mom & Denny, Dad & Gale, Grandpa and Heather, Grandma and Uncle Mike, Tim & Mindy, Scott & Heather, and Liz & James and their kids – the largest family gathering in years. My nieces schooled me in Mario Kart DS (my first time playing) as well as in Mario Kart for the Wii (also my first time). I helped Dayna and Alexis set up their new iPod shuffles on my MacBook and guided Collin around the basement with a flashlight during the requisite game of hide & seek on Saturday evening. After the kids went to bed on Saturday night the adult congregated in the dining room and played a few rounds of Sequence. Sunday was partially spent taking in the unusually warm and sunny weather out at the firing range at Black Hawk Park with Dad’s array of firearms, followed by dinner at the Olive Gardens. I’ve consumed more mouth-watering calories between Wednesday and Sunday than I normally would over an entire month.

Life has now calmed down and I’m trying my best to coast through this final workweek of 2011. Beginning Friday afternoon I’m off from work until the third of January. Ten straight days of sleeping in, watching movies, lot of quality reading time, tackling a few longstanding decluttering projects and hopefully visiting with other family and friends who weren’t back this past weekend.

Written by camcarlson

December 20, 2011 at 10:10 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

No-brainer bicycling info

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Written by camcarlson

December 19, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Posted in Bicycling

All These Things

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So I did a little creative thinking tonight… when I get ready to move out of this apartment, I don’t think I’ll be taking a lot of the things in here. This is especially true if I can get out of Iowa. I’d only be taking what I could fit into my car, and that would consign most of my belongings to the curb.

This living room isn’t coming with. This couch was a $30 find at St. Vinnie’s in Waterloo. It has served me well these past four years but I can live with the IKEA lounge chair across the room. The boxy TV with the flickering picture is going bye-bye. The DVD player, though it has served me well, will have to find a new home. My MacBook can play DVDs just fine. This blue footrest is nearly a half-century old but it’s so dingy I surprise myself I still put my feet up on it.

The A/C unit and the vacuum cleaner in the closet will have to find new homes. The snow shovel… if I move somewhere warm year-round, that’s also finding a new home.

I’d take a handful of books and my various Trivial Pursuit question boxes along with the board from Genus I. I’d like to pick up a few of those 100-count CD books and put my DVDs into them and pitch the plastic containers. That would allow me to pitch the two miniature shelves I use to sort them.

The bicycle will come with. I can take the wheels and the handlebars off and stuff it into the trunk of my car along with the various maintenance items (air pump, tools, helmet, etc).

If I can find room for the mini oven, I’ll take it. But I can get along fine with a small 3-qt slow cooker (“the pot”, as Ebert affectionately refers to it). Two bowls, two plates, my water bottles, two knives, forks and spoons and I should be set. The contents of my cabinets and fridge — consumed before I leave or donated to needy households.

The one big-ticket item I’d hate to see go would be the queen-size bed mattress I bought earlier this year. It’s comfy but there’s no way I can transport it without a truck or trailer. I think I could sell it for a little bit of money. I don’t own many clothes so folding what I do have into a couple boxes shouldn’t be a problem.

There’s very little else in my bedroom I’d move with me. A folder of important documents, a box of photos, a box of computer items and maybe a couple blankets in the bottom of the closet.

Bathroom items… I’d take what I’d need to survive a week’s vacation: shampoo, bar soap and supplies to satisfy a first-aid kit. The rest, like the kitchen items, will be used up or given away.

Owning as little as I do gives me the freedom to pack up and move at a moment’s notice. Having that kind of mobility and flexibility gives me warm fuzzies. Reminds me of how I moved to/from Oxford OH, with only the items I could cram into my car. Well, since then I’ve learned what I need to get by with and what I don’t. I’ve uncluttered and simplified my lifestyle. I believe this is entirely doable.

I have no intention of moving anytime soon. Still whittling down those student loans. Only six more months to go and then I’m debt-free. From there on out, as clichéd as it may sound, my options will be limited only by my imagination.

Written by camcarlson

December 12, 2011 at 11:07 PM

Posted in Simplicity

Personal computing for the rest of us

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I finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs in four days. Fascinating read. Jobs was a genius and highly intuitive but he was also an insufferable prick to a lot of people. If I ever had a boss like him, I would have walked out the first time he threw one of his famous temper tantrums. But that’s just me; I don’t put up with egomaniacs.

A nice coda to the bio is this article on Susan Kare, who designed icons for the original Macintosh’s graphical user interface. It’s too bad neither of her “jump” icons made the cut.

Once software was developed that enabled Kare to start brainstorming digitally, she mined ideas from everywhere: Asian art history, the geeky gadgets and toys that festooned her teammates’ cubicles, and the glyphs that Depression-era hobos chalked on walls to point the way to a sympathetic household. The symbol on every Apple command key to this day — a stylized castle seen from above — was commonly used in Swedish campgrounds to denote an interesting sightseeing destination.

Kare’s work gave the Mac a visual lexicon that was universally inviting and intuitive. Instead of thinking of each image as a tiny illustration of a real object, she aimed to design icons that were as instantly comprehensible as traffic signs.

To creative innovators in the ’80s who didn’t see themselves as computer geeks, Kare’s icons said: Stop stressing out about technology. Go ahead, dive in!

Written by camcarlson

December 3, 2011 at 11:26 PM