Now that I own a driveway, I've become one of those people who backs into it to park. I'm interested to see if this habit will last long beyond the loading-and-unloading phase of moving.
Fortunately, I had my laptop with me yesterday to write this:
Of all the things I need to deal with this week, environmental regulations are what I'm least happy about.
In order to renew my license plates this month, I had to have the state inspection and federally mandated emissions test performed. So two weeks ago, I brought the car in to a shop, and among other things, asked for the inspection.
When Dineen tried to renew the plates online (we also got our new drivers' licenses in the mail with our new addresses - go Virginia! ) she discovered that the emissions portion of the test had not, in fact, been performed.
A phone call to the service department revealed why: I had only asked for the inspection, not the emissions test. Even though it was plainly obvious that I needed the emissions done as well, there is apparently a law forbidding them from telling me that I needed the emissions test done unless I asked about it. WTF?
So now, instead of having accomplished this weeks ago and by convenient online form, I sit here on a Saturday putting off the bajillion other things I need to do which are far more important to me, waiting in line to get the emissions test done. As we, the waiting car owners, sit in our cars, we have two choices. We can either leave our engines on as we sit and idle, spewing more emissions into the atmosphere, or we can turn them off and re-start them every time the line advances, spewing more crap into the atmosphere. I had a third option, of course - I could have left my car at home, not made this trip, and contributed zero emissions to the atmosphere today. But the law prevented me from choosing that option.
Do these test actually improve air quality in any way? I seriously doubt it. Look at California, which has the most draconian air-emission standards in the country. Has California's air quality improved relative to other states without inspections? I only have one data item, but that strongly points to NO: last year, Los Angeles overtook Houston as the city with the nation's worst air quality. Hey, hey, way to go, CAFE! If that's progress, let's keep it out of my state. Thanks.
Eeep. Apparently, my mention below of "our little one" sent readers scurrying to the archives. Sorry, that was meant to be a link to our four-legged child, Tucker.
It's not really that I haven't cared enough to post something. I've actually tried, several times, but Blogger was down again like the cheap whore that it is.
Now, see, isn't that much better than the slient treatment? I thought so.
Let's try this again. There were two things I actually tried to post recently, and I'll just slap them up here:
Item one: Jane paid me the ultimate compliment:
I remember I liked him, but can't remember why.
I think she liked me because my self-esteem is completely unshakable.
Item two: If I seem a little quiet this week, it's because I'm in transition and my net access may be a little unreliable. The reason: HOUSE FEVER!
Dineen and I went to contract on a lovely house back in January; we closed on Monday and now we've joined the landed aristocracy. I think, in Virginia, that means we're now allowed to vote.
So I'm spending a lot of time at the house this week and next, meeting plumbers and so forth. Our net access won't be up for a while, so I'll be dialing in. None of that detracts from the joy of being in hock up to... well, far past my eyeballs.
Despite our heavily leveraged position, we're thrilled. We now own a great home, which needs only minor work to make it perfect for us and our little one. We timed the market just right - not only did we get a great deal on the purchase price, we got a loan that I simply didn't think was possible - they're almost paying us to borrow. And in the intervening two months, the real estate market has turned to a seller's market: lots of buyers, and few sellers.
So we couldn't be happier. We're going to have a housewarming party sometime in April. If you're in the area, and want to come share our joy, let us know.
This year's SXSW festival has been the best of times and the worst of times. On the down side, the "new media" industry is noticeably in a slump. The trade show, which would normally attract scores of vendors, is almost empty - the tumbleweeds roll down the aisles unimpeded by the vendor booths that were here last year, their sponsors bankrupt or deep in duck-and-cover mode. The list of parties has shrunken noticeably, as the industry nurses its hangover from the last two years. The year 2000 has long gone, leaving behind a lot of zero-balance bank accounts.
On the upside, I've gotten to see - and to some extent, assist - a lot of talented people who have escaped from the crappy enterprises with kamikaze business plans. Shaken awake by the rude state of the economy, they are forced to rely on their own creativity and ingenuity to build things that not only matter to them but can sustain themselves. Intellectual capital has been unleashed, even driven out, and forced to build a new way. I have to think something good will come out of that.
I've nurtured my personal and professional sides over the last few days as well. I've reconnected with most of the old friends I made last year, even if I haven't spent as much time with all of them as I may have liked. It seems like I've also added as many new friends this year as I did last year, some of those people coming to SXSW for the first time, many others old-timers I've not had the chance to meet earlier. I've been able to choose from a Chinese menu of social activity: pick from column A the brilliance, the creativity, the talent, the perception, the ideas; pick from column B the warmth, the comradery, the good feeling, and the love. Of course, there's plenty of drink to wash down every meal. Professionally, I've been sharpening my own skills and polishing my reputation as a lawyer who understands the web and the people who work it. I know something good will come out of that.
Thanks to James for being a great roommate. Thanks to Brad for breaking bread and breaking ice. Thanks to Anil, the Commissioner of SXSW Kickball. Thanks to Cory, Wes, and the rest of the guerrilla wireless commandos. Thanks to Molly for the etiquette lesson. Thanks to Derek for watching my stuff, and of course for the Fray. Thanks to Pableaux, Susan, Leia, Dave, Dee, Karen, and everyone else who came to pick my brain. Thanks to Meg and Randy for the gilt by association. Thanks to every panelist who contributed to the collective wisdom. Thanks to Dori for thinking of opportunity. Thanks to everyone who shared a story or a laugh.
See you again next year.
It's just after midnight and there are about 20 of us in the lobby of the Omni hotel, and we've discovered there's a free wireless access hub that reaches here. We've got Mark, Chelsea, Julie, Jesse, Rebecca, Christine, Tom, Nick, Justin, Dave, Tantek, Jessica, Billy, Michael, Anitra, and Jeff.
We're having a blast and everyone's whipping out cameras to record Tantek and I playing with our computers. Tantek just looked up a drink recipe for the bartender. I love the web.
Carin, who works the booth for Kinko's on the trade show floor, is a very nice person.
Here is a list of many of the people I have been seeing: SXSWbaby! :: We Are Going
Thanks to Austin Wireless, I'm able to get free wireless internet access availble from their booth on the trade show floor.
I write this from Austin, where I'm attending the SXSW Interactive conference. The social events have already begun full-bore, including Break Bread with Brad and a stupendous karaoke session where Ernie brought down the house with his rendition of Oops, I Did It Again, complete with dramtic vignette during the instrumental.
Austin also has wireless access all over the place. I'm in the lobby of a nearby hotel where I can pay $10 for a day's worth of unlimited high-speed wireless Internet access. The rumor is that there will be free wireless access from the trade show floor, but so far it's not there yet.
President Bush agreed to impose tariffs on imported steel. What a horrible idea!
In a time when our economy is just starting to recover from recession, this needless measure could spike the rebound and prolong our economic ills.
Yes, just like all the rest, the steel industry is suffering. But this recession isn't isolated - it's worldwide. If anything, American steel companies have a competitive advantage over their foreign counterparts, and the tariffs could torpedo that advantage and make the problem worse, not just for the steel industry, but for the entire American manufacturing sector.
As bad as we have it here - not all THAT bad unless you're an Internet professional - foreign economies have been hit harder. Japan is in a funk it may never get over. Europe is in the nascent stages of trying to digest its member states into a single coherent economy. No country on Earth is as strong as the U.S., even in times of recession. Big Steel's foreign competition has only one place to market - here in the States. If demand slumps here, domestic producers have the immense advantage of being on the same side of the ocean as their markets. Foreign competitors have to ship their steel - one of the heaviest commodities you can ship - across the ocean in large, costly boats. Then add a 30% tariff on top of that. Why canít American steel compete?
As many jobs that the steel industry provides here, steel consuming industries provide many times over that. A steel tariff would hurt those businesses, increasing costs, sparking layoffs, and dropping domestic demand for products made with steel - like cars. Thatís bound to have a serious ripple effect, since the steel consuming industry is a much larger portion of the American economy than the steel producing industry.
Iím surprised that George Bush is the one whoís pushing this, especially at a time when heís trying to cozy up to unions like the teamsters and, yes, the auto-workers too. Didnít the Reagan-Bush-Clinton free trade policies prove themselves over the last twenty-two years? But apparently Bush feels the need to appease a handful of special interests in likely swing electoral states rather than promote the greater good by protecting our economy from the disastrous effects tariffs will have. What a shame.
Stupid Tugboat Tricks: Partial proof of the amazing resilience of stupidity.
Krempasky the Guinness purist objects to so-called "instant pints." Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a series of desperate attempts to market the Irish nectar to those who can't appreciate and don't deserve it.
Last March 17th, I had the occasion to head over to the Emerald Isle, where I made a pilgrimage to Mecca itself. I was stunned to see, in almost every pub around, a softly glowing sign on the end of each Guiness tap handle that assured me it would be served "Extra Cold."
In horror, I consulted the pint-puller. "When did they start doing that?" I demanded. He told me, about two years ago (now three) since the local Irish youth have taken a fancy to - brace yourself - American beer, and Guiness saw that as a way of competing with such widespread swill as Budweiser.
So now, instead of a slow, relaxed, temperate stout standing on its own merits, we have an instant, icy-cold brew that competes for the fickle attention of underserving youths with the likes of Budweiser.
Why not just finish off the job entirely? Water it down. Brew it with rice. Hook up the distillery tanks right to the bladders of the Clydesdales. After all, taste and tradition don't matter at the Guiness brewery - we're just out to make a buck, right?