Like Hannibal Lecter, Economists Eat Brains

Shitloads of Money by Liz Phair on Grooveshark
I stopped by the Leander Public Library after dropping Misty off at work this morning. I actually went inside, got a library card (you only need photo ID now! not photo ID and mail), browsed, looked up some books and ended up checking out three.

I’ve had a library card for every city I’ve ever lived in — unless it was a base library card instead of the local town’s. Air Force bases tend to have really good libraries.

It was disappointing at how small this new, white stone building was. There are actually two wings, but one is dedicated to conference rooms, according to the librarian with whom I spoke. The kids’ area was huge. It could have passed for a daycare, without the unattended kids running everywhere (only a couple). The Austin Public Library often seemed to be a daytime homeless shelter. That wouldn’t fly long in Leander.

With most of my books in storage, and my new medications waking me up as early as 3:30 in the morning now, I’ve been desiring a non-e-book to satisfy my brain tickling. (Seriously, it sort of feels that way — as if my brain were tingling with desire to start reading or writing and a then a wash of pleasure — tickling — comes over it during the act.) I’d read all the printed literature (newspapers, books, magazines, journals, etc.) in the house. I needed something I could run my finger down the margin, follow the words with my finger, generally ensure I mess up all the doors in the house. I just love the feeling of books. And the smell. Misty makes fun of me for smelling books. I make fun of her for not. Continue reading

THE Mental Illness Song

Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger on Grooveshark
 

I can’t remember if I’ve written this before, but I think “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger is the mental illness song, if only for the following lyrics:

Put me in the hospital for nerves
And then they had to commit me
You told them all I was crazy
They cut off my legs, now I’m an amputee, God damn you

. . .

Paranoia, paranoia
Everybody’s coming to get me
Just say you never met me
I’m running underground with the moles (digging holes)
Hear the voices in my head
I swear to God it sounds like they’re snoring;
But if you’re bored, then you’re boring.
The agony and the irony: they’re killing me (whoa).

I’m not sick but I’m not well
And I’m so hot ’cause I’m in Hell
I’m not sick but I’m not well

People can’t see mental illness. It can’t be amputated. But it’s there.

The OCD Inside

Most people know when they call a friend “OCD” for keeping his or her files in order or intimate that they may be “a little OCD” because they’re never quite sure if they closed the hell is heregarage door, they’re not really talking about obsessive-compulsive disorder. They’re talking about a very superficial representation shown of it on TV. Hopefully, when we say such things, it’s with the awareness that in no way are those things representative of the whole of true OCD. There’s far more to it than just organizing one’s shoes in a specific way. I can tell you that from personal experience. Continue reading

Helping is Happiness (Even at the Border)

Over 10 million refugees find themselves in centers and camps all over the world (or worse, on their own). But not here. We demand other countries and the United Nations provide safe haven for those fleeing violence – as long as it isn’t to our country. At best, refugees fleeing to the U.S. can hope they’re granted asylum before they’re slaughtered in their home countries. I’m sure that’s a pretty anxious wait. Continue reading

Nin

I find this applies very well to me (and likely many others given its popularity):

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” – Anaïs Nin

Is SpaceX the SideCar of Space?

Hot on the heels of my last post, I’ve run across a great description of the problems facing tech companies when interacting with the government. Too often they are ready to resort to the courts rather than facing the regular rulemaking processes. An article in Defense News offers an example.

SpaceXIn it, Elon Musk, head of SpaceX, the private aerospace company, is looking to secure contracts for national security launches. Obviously, to do so, such rockets must be certified by the appropriate government agency before taxpayer money is spent on them. We don’t want to watch one of SpaceX’s rockets — and its expensive payload — falling into an ocean on the taxpayers’ dime. In this instance, it falls to the Air Force to certify the rockets. Continue reading

Austin & Ridesharing: Finally Coming Together

Finally. Finally. 

Finally, it looks like app-based ridesharing companies are coming to the table to work with the City of Austin on new regulations allowing them to legally operate in the city.

Continue reading

Don’t Write Stupid Stuff (Or, a Response to Eric Bearse)

I Ride by 4th25 on Grooveshark

I was quite surprised to see that Quorum Report, a Texas politico news source, published a piece on foreign policy by an Austin Republican consultant. I had to read the piece, titled, “Bearse: Stupid Stuff,” to see what this guy has to say about foreign policy.

Eric Bearse, described in the biography accompanying his op-ed in Quorum Report yesterday, is “a speechwriter, political consultant and public relations specialist.” On LinkedIn, one finds he owns a political communications consulting firm, and 20 years ago, was a constituent correspondence clerk in a Republican U.S. senator’s office, writing (or finding the correct form letter?) responses to constituents’ letters about military affairs.

What I’m not saying by pointing out the above is that he’s unqualified to offer his opinion on this matter because he’s never served in the military. Nor am I saying he shouldn’t express an opinion on the subject at all, as is his right. I think that’s a bullshit, last-ditch rhetorical move. It’s reflexive, but incorrect. It’s the foreign affairs/defense policy version of the Hitler move. There are definitely civilians with a greater understanding of foreign policy than your average sergeant, civilian, retiree, colonel and president even. What I am saying is that I can’t understand why Bearse would write about “stuff” so out of his depth – and so negate his own argument – and then have Harvey Kronberg publish it.

The op-ed is paywalled, so I’ll have to just quote very heavily:
Continue reading

Bergdahl and Lyft

5 JUN 2014 – bergdahl and lyft playlist by William Pate on Grooveshark

Facebook just isn’t the right venue for me to express my thoughts, ideas and opinions. It’s too restrictive — even in its seeming ease of publication and assurance of an audience. It’s probably because my writing tends to run long, and I honestly have never felt like composing a super-long Facebook post (though that would probably live longer in the hive-mind than anything I write on this site). Instead, I think to myself, I should write this down elsewhere in long form — like on my blog.

On Facebook, I end up throwing out one-liners. It’s easier. Thus, I oftentimes think, coming off as strident. Or I just share a news story or meme, leaving the impression that either could express my opinion for me given I haven’t done so myself. I haven’t mastered the art of the mini-narrative [my wording] as some friends. I’m thinking specifically of my friend Drew, who has the ability to compactly express a coherent opinion on a (sometimes dry to others) subject while also inviting comment. Two paragraphs and he’s done. A few minutes later there are 24 comments in response. I envy his ability to do that.

But this is me. This is how I do it.

I haven’t sufficiently expressed my thoughts on two controversies — one riling the nation; the other, the city of Austin. I’m talking of Bergdahl and Lyft.

My brevity on Facebook in response to these controversies may make it appear I haven’t thought through my positions or that I lean one way or another. In fact, in both cases, I’m rather in the middle. I’m hewing toward the law — and allowing the Department of Defense and justice system on the one hand and the political rulemaking and intelligence of the citizens on the other — to lead us toward solutions in both cases.

On Bergdahl, many likely see me as a liberal who thinks he’s a hero and who doesn’t care about any of the opportunity costs paid by his comrades and others. I don’t ignore those who died fighting for his release and the trading of the five Taliban leaders. I think it’s crucial to remember the Taliban are not al Qaeda — they did provide safe haven to them prior to 9/11, however — and were, in all respects, the government of Afghanistan until shortly after our invasion. Thus, they are legitimate negotiating parties. And, ultimately, something has to be done about Gitmo. P.O.W. trades have a long history. Getting a U.S. soldier back — and we leave no soldier behind, whether you think he should or not — is paramount. The human intelligence he can provide — and the knowledge he has that his captors can no longer access — is of damn-near as much importance.

My deepest response is that this isn’t Homeland and Bergdahl will be held up (as he already is) to a helluvalot of scrutiny. His story — and history — will come out sooner than we think. The U.S. military, Sen. John McCain and pretty much every other person connected to the military will prevent a fraud from receiving that medal or designation until the matter is clear. Let the investigations continue until we know what happened. It’s far too early to be calling for his blood or to be hailing him as a hero.

I’m similarly dancing in the middle of the controversy surrounding Lyft’s launch of service last week and the resulting citations and impoundment of drivers’ vehicles for offering rides via the company’s app. Many who judge from my previous posts on this subject probably think I’m knee-jerking in opposing Lyft’s actions. That’s not it.

My disagreement is merely with the companies’ approaches to the city and its citizens — from illegally starting the service (Lyft) to the CEO of SideCar ignoring offers to consult on a city ridesharing recommendations report on the subject (he decided to sue instead). There are regulations for reasons. We can undoubtedly find a way to allow ridesharing apps to coexist with cabbies and bus drivers and rail operators. But if my home-based design business required over a million dollars in liability insurance, I think it may be necessary to consider the full ramifications and needed regulation of these services’ drivers.

As for the law, Lyft’s executives, of course, knew that Austin is launching an app-based ridesharing pilot program and considering ways to integrate companies like their own and others (SideCar, Uber, etc.) into the city’s transportation options. The services are definitely needed given the city’s deficit in mass transit and taxis and excess of drunk driving. For now, however, such apps are not allowed. Nonetheless, Lyft chose to break the law. I disagree with that. They should engage in the process. Claiming “innovation” and “technology” and “sharing economy” does not exempt one from existing – but evolving – laws. Instead, such claims demand positive civic action by their speakers.

I’m not siding with the cabbies, the unions, the city or the companies. I’m also not siding with the hero-worshippers, chicken-hawks, conspiracy theorists or those quick to convict of treason. These things will work themselves out. We will find out what happened with Bergdahl (better to have him alive than dead for that) and we will find a compromise in the city’s transportation regulations that will legally bring ridesharing apps into compliance.

For once, I actually think the system may work if we let it.