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John Edwards, May 30, 2007

John Edwards, May 30, 2007

(Project 365 Day 223)

I heard John Edwards speak today. I need to start by saying that I saw Hillary Clinton speak a few months ago, and the most exciting part was when she first walked in, not 20 feet away from me, and smilingly waved at us. I was all like, "Oo look! It's Hillary Clinton! She's right over there!" Once she started talking, it was boredom city. Everything she said sounded like it was precisely calculated to offend the minimum number of people. Her Q&A was entirely devoid of content.

Admittedly, I already had a somewhat negative impression of Sen. Clinton going in (because I felt that she'd been pandering to the center in the most cynical ways possible, through meaningless family values issues and such), but her talk cemented my impression and then some. I came out with a much worse impression of her than I had going in.

(For comparison: A friend of mine who had the same experience with Clinton also saw John McCain. We also both had negative feelings about modern day McCain, feeling that he's towing the party line a lot more than he used to, but my friend said that he had a better impression of McCain after seeing him talk.)

Anyway, back to John Edwards. I honestly didn't know much about him going in, but I really like him now. He was amazingly open and honest. He actually, well, SAID stuff and made POINTS.

He said that he'd close down Guantanamo as his first act in office. He talked about regretting his support of the war in Iraq. When someone asked him about the mercenaries we use there, he said they should never have been there, and we should pull them out. He said he wants fully publicly-funded campaigns, adding that he knows he's raised millions himself in campaign funds but doesn't like the system.

He talked a lot about foreign aid, specifically focusing on primary school education and clean water in third world countries. He admitted that it may not be a popular topic with some people, who'd rather see us spend all our money at home. He said he wants to create a cabinet-level position to oversee humanitarian aid. I think he said that he wants to spend about $5 billion a year on it.

That led him to segue into mentioning farm subsidy reform, which was what I applauded the most. (Everyone talks about Big Tobacco and Big Oil, but it's time we got Big Corn on everyone's radar!) He wants to get rid of subsidies for million-dollar farms, but he does want to keep them for "family farms". He said the trick would be drawing the line, and he figures around $250,000 a year in income would be a reasonable one.

Edwards spent a lot of time talking about the work that the people of the country need to do. He said that nothing will happen if we just vote and elect someone. For instance, he said that fighting climate change would require a lot of sacrifices on our part, admitting that changes would require conservation and hikes in energy prices. I kinda really liked this part. In a way, it's sort of obvious, but it made me feel respected. A lot of politicians want to pretend that gov't can do everything for you. That's the easier route, no? All of Bush's talk about "maintaining the American way of life" comes to mind. Or maybe since people complain about Edwards being too young, he's just trying to channel some JFK associations. :P

On that note, he said that he doesn't believe in a President who wants to move cautiously and avoid offending people, and that there are candidates in both parties who are like that (which I think might be a thinly veiled attack on Sen. Clinton). He thinks we live in a time that requires a President who's willing to make bold moves even where it's not politically expedient.

I even liked how he was very open about dodging questions. One questioner first lightened mood by complimenting Edwards on his new haircut and then asked if the US should send military support if China invaded Taiwan. Edwards laughed, said, "Why don't you just get right to the question?" and then started, with a smile, "First of all, I'm not going to answer your question." He followed that with the expected fluffy non-answer, but I think a lot of candidates would ONLY give the fluffy non-answer.

Similarly, he was talking about how when he's President, he'd want to surround himself with smart people who didn't always agree with him. When asked if he wanted to name some such people he might choose, he gave a jokingly curt, "No." I'm impressed with the way he so directly handles questions he doesn't want to answer and sort of makes them into a joke. I guess it just gives me a sense of respect for the audience, as if he were saying, "I'm not trying to pull a fast one on you, but you know how politics works."

When the host said that they were running long, and they'd only take a couple more questions, Edwards insisted he'd stay as long as he needed to. He even answered a few more questions after the next prompting. Eventually, they just had to end it. I know this is part of the politics, and his insistence on staying is a pre-considered part of the act, but I still liked it. :P I don't mind calculated actions if they're sending the right message.

John Edwards is one smooth operator. He needs to just do more of these. I think the more people he speaks to in person, the more votes he'll get. I couldn't say the same for Hillary Clinton. :P

A couple pictures of him after the speech below:

John Edwards Photo Op

He stuck around afterward to chat with fans and take a few pictures. Note that at the beginning of Sen. Clinton's talk, the host told us that she had asked us not to take any pictures.

John Edwards and Fans

I tried to get a picture with him too. At one point, his minders urged him to leave; he waved over at us and said, "But what about all THESE people?" Sadly, after he left after only a couple more photos, and I just barely missed the cut. :P Again, I know what he said was calculated and designed to sound charming, but it still worked. :)

Funny how I went in knowing nothing about him, and by the end I wanted to take a picture with him. With Sen. Clinton, I wanted to take a picture of her before she came in, but by the end of her talk I just wanted to leave. :P I wonder if I would've dug Edwards so much if I hadn't seen Clinton first? :)

What do I need?

Sometimes, you get spam that has no body text. I hear they're tests, to see where they can get their spam to go? I dunno. In any case, I find them really strange. My latest one had this subject line:

Subject: You need it now...

That's it. No body text.

Now I'm dying to know what it is that I need, so I can go get it! :P

I want multitouch now

The iPhone is only the first in a new wave of UI. Here's a demo of the prototype Microsoft Surface coffeetable computer. It also seems to use overhead cameras to sense devices on top of the table, much like the AudioPad that I blogged about a few years ago.

My first trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

I've been to Monterey several times, but somehow for one reason or another never actually went to the aquarium. I think it was hyped up a bit too much for me, so it wasn't AWESOME, but it was pretty cool. I particularly liked the jellyfish. So here's Project 365 Day 220.

Shark at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Too bad the kelp in the background gives away the fact that this shark isn't that big. :p

Octopus at Monterey Bay Aquarium

The octopus was all squished up against the side of the display. That couldn't have been comfortable! Or maybe it was?

And I managed to get this shot without flash by setting my Fujifilm F30 to ISO 1600, though sadly many other people were using their flashes despite the sign. :(

Tiny Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

These tiny jellyfish looked more like a slide under a microscope than something I could actually see!

Almost Invisible Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Light on and light off shots of a type of jellyfish that is almost invisible in the open ocean. These jellyfish remind me of those transparent LCD clocks, you know the ones that have the numbers on transparent glass. It's like, where's the circuitry?! Here, it's like, where's the organs? :P

I bet Sam Jackson was working customs yesterday

Saheli sent me this link: Cairo Customs Prevents Snakes on a Plane.

Guy tried to bring 700 snakes onto a plane in his carry-on bag. They were confiscated by customs.

It's All About the Pentiums

So my friend just ordered a new computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo, which is a name I've always found rather ridiculous. We longed for the days when you just got a "40 MHz 386" or something. It reminded me of this Ars Technica article from 2005, which has this great bit about the release of the Pentium D, a low-priced, non-hyperthreaded, dual-core chip:

Also, be sure not to get the Pentium D 820 confused with the Pentium Extreme Edition 670, which was also launched today and is a single-core, hyperthreaded part. And be sure to differentiate both of these from the Pentium Extreme Edition 840, which is a dual-core hyperthreaded part.

(See, the "D" stands for dual-core, but not all dual-core parts have a "D"—only the cheaper ones. For instance, the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 is dual-core and does not have a D, but is "extreme" because it has an extremely high clockspeed and an extremely high price.The 8xx in a product name also stands for dual-core, but that number does not tell you whether or not something is extreme or non-extreme. Finally, the 6xx stands for... well, I don't really remember what it stands for, and I'm tired of this already, so let's move on.)

In related old news, the Core 2 Duo was designed by Intel's office in Haifa, Israel. So back in 2003, Intel's Pentium 4 was suffering from way too much heat, and they just couldn't get them to work well in laptops. The newly created Haifa group came to the rescue with by redesigning the older Pentium III into the low-power, high-performance Pentium M. The Pentium M went on to become part of the highly successful Centrino line of laptop chips which crushed the competition. (It's also the predecessor to the Core series.) Thing is, not only did the Haifa team save Intel, they do it all under pretty crazy conditions...

Last summer, when Israel was fighting with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Haifa was under rocket fire, and some civilians got killed. Intel's Haifa office worked in a bomb shelter set up with wi-fi! And about a week after that article was published, they released the Core 2 Duo. !!! Talk about crunch time!

So despite the wacky name, I gotta have some respect for that chip. :P

Saturday Night Prerecorded

So I'm watching SNL right now, and they just showed the intro sequence where they announce the cast, showing each of them on the streets of New York or in bars, drinking and having a good time, out on the town on Saturday night. But it's all a LIE! They can't be partying on Saturday night! They're doing the show! :P

Buffalo vs Lions vs Crocodiles

The suspense! The multi-factional conflict! The twists and turns! The surprise ending!

Next on YouTube: Buffalo vs Lions vs Crocodiles!

Movie: 28 Weeks Later

[ IMDb Entry ] [ Rating Key ]

Toast Toast Toast

The very first movie review I posted on this blog was for 28 Days Later. Last night, I just watched the sequel, 28 Weeks Later. In the original, a virus createed "fast zombies" that overwhelm Britain, and a few survivors tried to, well, keep surviving. Now, all the zombies have starved to death, and "an American-led NATO force" starts to clear out areas for resettlement. I think we can all guess what happens next.

If there's one theme to the movie, it'd be the futility of overkill. Once the virus gets loose again, the military goes to drastic lengths to kill all the zombies again, and as many of the heroes get killed by them as by the zombies. What I liked about the way they handled that, though, was that the military brass weren't depicted with heartless, conniving gung-ho snears. Instead, even as they were killing tons of innocent civilians, they felt pretty bad about it. This is a military that is not evil, but incompetent. It reminded me of that quote, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately account for by stupidity." I personally found that depiction much scarier. Yes, there are evil rulers in this world, but far more are simply incompetent, and they can do just as much damage.

Speaking of realism, that's another thing I liked about the setup of the movie. I liked all the very down-to-earth scenes of the train stations, the customs areas, even the temporary hotel accommodations. I think of this movie in some ways as Children of Men "Lite". It was much less deep, but it went for that same aesthetic of modern day realism. I also liked that it just sort of brushed over some of the common political themes of our day, like calling the repatriation area the "Green Zone", and all the shots through CCTV cameras. They gave the film a political texture without ever crossing the line into unnecessary blunt commentary. The director () never takes us out of the movie by making overt statements. Instead, he provides just enough references to let us think about stuff only if we want to. :)

We never really have time to be taken out of the movie anyway. I skimmed various other reviews of the movie, and many of them mention its "pacing". Everything happens so quickly, without any time for quiet reflection. At the end, I was like, "Wait, that was it? It's over?" This is a movie that set out to do its job, do it pretty well, and not much more. I didn't really mind that.

It did its job by always keeping us in the eyes of the participants. When I reread my 28 Days Later review before writing this one, I realized I'd forgotten how much I hated that movie. I only gave it one and a half slices of toast! I do remember despising the ending. I didn't like all that corrupt soldier stuff at the end. (See, as I mentioned, that's where the sequel went right: Villains of incompetence are much scarier to me than villains of malice.) What I'd forgotten was my hatred of the shaky digital camera technique.

In the original, there were shots of sweeping vistas and pastures shot through grainy digital cameras, and I felt they were mismatches of technique. The sequel has no vistas. As far as I can remember, all the wide-angle shots are from the points of view of circling helicopters, rooftop snipers, and the like. It's a much more consistent look that keeps us grounded in the reality of the story. I apparently also hated the quick edit action shots of the original. I didn't mind that in the sequel, and I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm just more used to that sort of thing in the age of Battlestar Galactica? Or perhaps the art of "shakycam" has matured in the last few years. In either case, I feel like the sequel did right where the original went wrong. (Hm, looking at the trailer again, it seems that the sequel doesn't even do a grainy look all the time, but it still achieved a sense of realism better.)

I just noticed I haven't even touched on any of the characters. I suppose it's no surprise that veterans Robert Carlyle and Catherine McCormack were memorable, while all the various newcomers just did their jobs. Between this movie and Braveheart, McCormack has locked down the "vision of a cryptic haunting stare" thing. :)

Anyway, it's fun, it's scary, it's light, not too deep, and it's competently made. It's a pretty good modern day zombie flick.

P.S.: I was reading that Danny Boyle, who directed the original and produced the sequel, has hinted that they're planning a third one called "28 Months Later". So that's just an idea so far, but I'm already aching for 28 Days 4, the near-future sci-fi sequel: 28 Years Later, followed by the Alien-like outer space sequel: 28 Decades Later, and finally the trippy far-future fantasy sequel: 28 Centuries Later.

After that, they should make a prequel, set during the original outbreak, called 28 Hours Later, and then yet another prequel, filmed in "24"-style realtime, called 28 Minutes Later. Maybe they'll finish it off with a pre-pre-prequel, the first movie ever filmed entirely in slow motion, 28 Seconds Later.

Their generation

Best cover of My Generation ever.

Flying Pigs

[The Tech, April 2006] [The Tech, May 2007]

(Project 365 Day 196)

Way back in 1993, MIT's student paper, The Tech, created the world's first newspaper website. When I got to MIT in 1996, the running joke was that it hadn't been updated since. Haha. Very funny. But the sad thing is that it's hardly been updated since!

By 1999, even my high school's paper had a fancy website, but the Tech's was still ass ugly. Then they basically stopped updating it altogether! The April 2006 snaphot from the Internet Archive on the left is basically the same layout from 1999. It was just so sad that the first newspaper website on the web was so backwards.

So imagine my surprise when I learned that the Tech finally has a modern layout last month! An update like this is like a decade late! I thought it would never happen! It's nothing fancy, but it looks decent, and it's actually usable.

I also like how their article about the redesign is full of geeky technical details, but man... how did it take so long?! Crazy.

How come the wings on that tanker didn't leave any marks, eh?

This is awesome: 4/29Truth.com. Come on, we all know that fire can't melt steel. Are you going to just believe everything the Chronicle tells you, that this was an "accident"? The people demand the Truth!

About May 2007

This page contains all entries posted to the klog in May 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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