McCain's Long Shot

At this point McCain seems to be pulling out of Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico and hoping that he can win the presidency by winning Pennsylvania. For this to work he'd have to win Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Nevada, all of which he is behind in, and also win Pennsylvania.

If he wins Pennsylvania then he could have a shot, but look at the latest numbers:

Does that look promising?

A Chance for Something Amazing

I caught this on Andrew Sullivan's site, and this is be most amazing thing I've seen today. Andrew's right. This election is a chance for something amazing to happen, and if feels like it's time. When the country is in such trouble, when we have so many challenges to face, can we possibly see past our racial differences? I think we can.

Seeing Richard Trumka (Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO) speak so eloquently about the race issue gives me hope for the future. We can make a change. We can get this country back. But we need to work together to do it.


Some thoughts on Palin

In August McCain was on track to lose the race, and to lose it rather badly. Obama was picking up steam and with the conventions on the horizon, McCain couldn't depend on gradually coming from behind. He had to do something to shake up the race and to grab every bit of press coverage over the upcoming news cycles, so he did what he always does when he gets himself into a corner; he did something rash.

By picking Palin he gave the press several stories to talk about. As the first woman on a Republican ticket she represents a change in attitude in the conservative base. They could always talk a lot about disaffected Hillary voters (a group which has been radically overrepresented) switching to McCain because they wanted to vote for a woman. They could also use her as a way of highlighting Obama's supposed inexperience. The press talked about all of these angles, at least for a couple of weeks.

They quickly became bored of these stories and started trying to set up interviews and press conferences with Palin, but they were denied until the campaign grudgingly allowed her to talk to Charlie Gibson. He's always been a friend of the McCain campaign and could be trusted to give her a softball interview. This was ensured because the campaign insisted on a two-day interview format, which is usually reserved for celebrities who fear direct questioning. If the first day doesn't go well then the campaign can always cancel the second day in retribution.

The lack of press access to Palin was initially assumed to be some sort of grand GOP tactic to keep the press talking, but it now looks like it was an immediate reaction to mock press conferences and debates the campaign started putting her through. According to Ed Rollins, these were "disastrous" and they're still saying this as of

The Couric interview was a real turning point in the press perception of Palin and was the entire reason that McCain flipped out the same day the footage was supposed to air, supposedly suspended his campaign (a blatant lie) and had to immediately fly to DC (he didn't leave until the next day) to "fix the economy". He granted an interview to Couric in the hopes that it would get more attention than the Palin interview, which didn't work at all. He also called for moving the first debate from last Friday to this coming Thursday, conveniently the same day as the VP debate, and wanted to move the VP debate to "a later date".

Everyone thought last week was about McCain trying to appear more "presidential", but it wasn't. It was all about the VP debate and the Couric interview.

I think there's still a possibility that they're overstating Palin's ineptitude to set expectations unbelievably low for the VP debate. At this point, if she's able to string two coherent sentences together then everyone's going to be talking about her "comeback".

The problem with this is that the press smells blood in the water and every interview between now and the election day is going to be an attempt to trip her up. Couric was amazingly fair with her questions but once she realized she wasn't getting answers to very straightforward questions she started pressing harder and Palin completely crumbled under the pressure. Other interviewers won't be so kind and I think that we're going to see more and more interviews like this, assuming that McCain ever lets her talk to the press again.

Also, her approval rating is now in freefall, along with, to a lesser extent, McCain's. Tracking polls show her approval rating dropping 15 points *in the past week*. That's going to become the story pretty quickly, and will cause further drops as more people hear about it.

There's a rumor this morning that CBS News is sitting on other segments of the interview that are even worse than the Russia and Bailout questions, and as these clips trickle out this week I expect we're going to see some interesting maneuvers by McCain.

So what's a McCain to do? Well at this point he needs to run a different kind of campaign, but with Schmidt in charge I don't see that happening. He's going to go more and more negative against Obama, which is a huge gamble, since his "angry white man" shtick in the debate went over so poorly. He's going to need to suppress overall
voter turnout, especially among Obama's young supporters, and negative campaigning might help, but he's really fighting an uphill battle.

I suppose he could also come out against the bailout, but the Senate and House leadership aren't going to let him get away with this.

He could also drop Palin, but Nate Silver has a good argument why this would be a bad choice.

Another interesting wrinkle in the story is that the Bush administration is trying it's damnedest to kill Osama bin Laden, and is on the brink of provoking a shooting war with Pakistan in the process. If Osama ends up dead before the election I could imagine that would shake up the race, but I only see the result as being a positive for Obama. It's going to look like Bush only cared about getting Osama when it meant his party wouldn't maintain control over the presidency. The Obama campaign's line would be if it took Bush 7 years to get bin Laden, why should we elect another incompetent Republican president.

We still have 30-something days until the election, and a lot of things could happen, but at this point it looks like Obama wins with 300-something electoral votes and a narrow win in the popular vote.

The election is Obama's to lose, and he's a smart campaigner who hasn't made any major mistakes yet, and who isn't likely to screw this up.

Debate Liveblog

09:03 -- McCain actually looks pretty good. He's much less tense than he's been over the last two weeks.

09:04 -- Financial bailout question with Obama going first. He's so good at talking directly to the camera. He looks concerned and serious, but eager to solve the problem. He could look upwards a bit more, though.

09:06 -- Ooh, good hit against Bush and McCain without seeming petty.

09:07 -- McCain is very blinky. He's trying to explain why everything is stabilized enough that he can debate without directly addressing his odd behavior over the last two days.

He needs to look in the camera, not at Jim Lehrer. He's starting to stumble over his words as he fails to really answer why the House Republicans are blocking the bailout.

09:09 -- Lehrer isn't letting this go. He wants specific stands on the plan.

09:10 -- I bet McCain is going to bail on the eventual vote for the bill.

09:11 -- McCain is rambling about Eisenhower, D Day, and his call for the head of Chris Cox. He should really drop it, since calling for his firing was just a mistake. Defending it makes him look ridiculous.

09:17 -- Back after putting Adrian down for bedtime.

09:20 -- A nice testy exchange. Obama really seized the moment there.

09:20 -- He's so good at putting complex issues into simple terms.

09:21 -- Lehrer keeps trying to get them to address each other. McCain's argument for cutting business taxes is terrible.

09:23 -- Obama keeps coming back on the point that deregulation got us to where we are.

09:25 -- I think McCain just said he wants to go to a flat tax.

09:26 -- I like this debating system. Lehrer's "leading" questions combined with the vigorous back and forth is great.

09:30 -- Hey, he mentioned the Littoral Combat Ship! Of course, he slammed the overspending and mispronounced "littoral", but still.

09:31 -- I want to hug Jim Lehrer.

09:32 -- McCain's health plan is absolutely terrible. He should punt, tell everyone he's rethinking it, and then do nothing in the long run. He'd be better off than trying to defend the idea of taxing health benefits.

09:33 -- McCain is proposing a government-wide spending freeze. WTF?

09:36 -- Obama is looking extremely presidential tonight. McCain is just looking like he's blinky and doddering.

09:37 -- McCain is talking about the veteran's thing again. His people must be hammering that into him.

09:38 -- Trying to recast yourself at this late date is a loser. Loser.

09:38 -- Blinking and grinning is not a good response to strong criticism. I can't wait to see what the next two debates are like.

09:39 -- McCain's response to the lessons of Iraq is much more halting and tentative than it needs to be. If this is his winning issue (supposedly), then he should have this answer down pat.

09:41 -- Ooh, seizing the "politically risky" label. Obama's got guts.

09:42 -- That was an excellent response that acknowledged the success of the surge while attacking McCain and Bush for getting us into the war in the first place.

09:48 -- Obama isn't letting McCain get away with anything.

09:49 -- I don't really understand this tendency to laud Petraus and to defer to him in all things regarding Iraq. If McCain is going to be president then is he always going to defer to his generals? Is he going to allow them to make policy?

09:51 -- Coming back to the strategic mistake of going into Iraq while fighting in Afghanistan is a great response.

09:54 -- Going sightseeing doesn't mean you automatically understand everything about a distant land. It doesn't fix bad judgement and it doesn't mean you're an expert.

10:04 -- McCain seems tired and a little dazed. I think his debate prep team needs to lay off the overuse of talking points.

10:15 -- John seems like a petty little guy.

10:17 -- A question about Russia. Finally! Bringing Georgia into NATO would be a terrible idea.

10:28 -- If McCain is good at one thing, it's droning on in a robot-like monotone.

10:31 -- Saying that someone is "out of touch" when they're making such effective coherent arguments just makes you look foolish.

10:35 -- Surge surge surge surge surge, surge surge surge (surge surge). Surge!

The Giving Tree

I try to read a lot of different types of books to Adrian, and since if I can't read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" again without sacrificing my sanity, I've decided to take some of the more advanced children's books down from the shelf for our nightly reading.

Last night, it was The Giving Tree that I chose. Now, I've read the classic Shel, but moved onto other things right about the time I started picking out my own underwear.

Somehow The Giving Tree never made it onto my reading list, and I was entirely unfamiliar with it up until last night. (SPOILERS) It's a story about a boy and a tree and their relationship over the years.

Hilary was curious about my reaction to it since lots and lots of people feel that their relationship is, shall we say, unbalanced. The book closes with the tree having given everything to the boy (who is by now a very very old man) to the point that it's just a stump. The old man sits down on the stump for a rest, and, we assume, to finally pass away.

I think the tree was just biding its time, since the old man will probably be excellent fertilizer.

Gimmie Something Better

So, as I blog this from my Treo, I just got done looking at the iPhone and the Nokia N810, and I'm thinking about what mobile computing needs these days.

The iPhone is nifty, and is exactly the right size for my hands, but the lack of a physical keyboard is frustrating, at least on the first impression. People I know that have one assure me that you get used to it, but I'm skeptical. I'd probably spend more time browsing sites from my mobile FarFetch, and less time writing emails (and blog entries) on the go.

The Nokia N810 is a sweet little device, and it has a keyboard that slides out, but the software is really bad. You really have to use the stylus to tap around because trying to use my fat little sausage fingers on that screen just doesn't work. If only Nokia and Apple would team up...

Really, though, I'm very happy with my Treo. It has an excellent keyboard, and if they would just increase the screen resolution, remove the antenna, add WiFi, and make it thinner, it'd be the perfect device.

At this point, though Palm is in such dire straights, with a dwindling marketshare, falling sales, and imminent layoffs, I'm doubting they'll be around long enough to release my ideal Treo. I'm hoping the HTC - Google partnership will pick up where Palm has been stagnating, and do something interesting with Android.

Stockhausen: R.I.P.

Karlheinz Stockhausen died today.

Stockhausen, who gained fame through his avant-garde works in the 1960s and '70s and later moved into composing works for huge theaters and other projects, died Wednesday, Germany's Music Academy said, citing members of his family. No cause of death was given.

He is known for his electronic compositions that are a radical departure from musical tradition and incorporate influences as varied as the visual arts, the acoustics of a particular concert hall, and psychology.

Here's an interview from what looks like the late 90's:


And a performance of one of his works:



Adrian has been turning over from back to front, and vice versa, for some time now, although once he gets up onto his hands and knees he seems stuck. He'll turn over, look pleased with himself, and then start wailing. It seems like he knows there's supposed to be something more, but he can't quite figure out the next step.

He's even gotten good at getting up on his hands and knees, rolling to one side, and then getting back up, resulting in a series of 90 degree turns. He can also make a bit of sideways progress, and he'll use that to get close to something he really really wants, like his blocks or the cats.

Well, last night everything changed. I was playing with him on the floor and put one of his blocks well out of his reach. Without really thinking about it he picked up one hand fully off the floor, (which he's never done before) and crawled two steps (crawls?) toward the blocks!

This doesn't mean he's zooming around the house yet. He's still pretty preoccupied with his ongoing constipation, and probably isn't able to process the fact that he has access to a brand new transportation method.

A Conversation

Me: I'm sorry I was running late but the subway was all screwed up today.

Dental Hygienist: Yeah, I think it's because that Iranian guy is there today.

Me: I heard that.

DH: They shouldn't even let that guy in the country.

Me: I'm pretty sure he's here for a meeting at the UN.

DH: Did you hear he wanted to go to the World Trade Center?

Me: Yeah.

DH: The nerve! He's going back to the scene of the crime!

Me: You know, Iran didn't have anything to do with 9/11...

DH: They didn't?

Me: No. It was Al Qaeda...

: Are you sure?

FrontRow and Codecs

I love FrontRow with a deep, abiding passion. It's the first 10-foot interface I've used that gives you access to all your media in an easy-to-use way, and in comparison to other applications like that that I've used, well... there's really no comparison.

The only thing that makes it frustrating is that a lot of video that you find out there is encoded using some oddball codec or other that Quicktime doesn't recognize, and if Quicktime can't play it, then FrontRow can't handle it.

In some cases, if you have a lot of videos that aren't encoded using an installed codec, then FrontRow will either slow down tremendously as it tries to build a preview, freeze when you try and play a video, or it just seizes up entirely when you access a folder that has an offending video in it.

But, there's a fix for this, as you might imagine. Install Perian and all your problems will melt away. As a bonus, Perian also has the easiest install process of any codec I've seen. Just double-click on the preference pane, it opens up System Preferences, and installs the relevant components. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Chipmunk Propaganda Module

We went up to Boston a couple of weeks ago to see friends and family, and were confronted with a ravening horde of nature's fiercest rodents: the chipmunks. We witnessed first-hand their cunning maneuvers intended to distract us from their true purpose, namely the devouring of babies, and kept them from their goal only through planning and ingenuity and a little bit of luck.

Now, it has become clear that their intention is not only to eat our young, but to corrupt our very being through the use of the Chipmunk Propaganda Module. As you can see from the picture, this one small box can deliver enough chipmunk-laced programming to convince the skeptical, red-blooded American that chipmunks are harmless beasts worthy of our admiration and the occasional treat.

Do not be fooled! Their hunger knows no bounds! Their swift, sure paws are instruments of deception!

Soon available at a Best Buy near you.