Monthly Archives: August 2008

Palin in comparison

Some days, not being able to post to the blog from work can be frustrating. Now that I’m home, let’s talk politics.
I was not one of the 38 million people watching Obama’s speech last night: I watched the speech on PBS, whose viewers weren’t counted in that number. As almost everyone has said today, it was a great speech. Indeed, it so unnerved John McCain that he pulled up the wrong name on his cell phone and accidentally offered the VP slot to Sarah Palin instead of Tim Pawlenty. (To be fair, newfangled gadgets like cell phones give McCain trouble in the best of times.)
As Michael Bluth would say, “Her?” I was hoping for a more obviously and hilariously bad choice like Mitt Romney or even the ridiculously unpopular Joe Lieberman, but figured the McCain campaign was too smart to think either one was really a good idea. Palin was an option I wasn’t even aware of, and I kept going back and forth on whether it was a politically shrewd move or a bizarre, impulsive mistake.
I’ve decided on the latter. One of the biggest themes of McCain’s campaign is experience, and by picking Palin they’ve given up any ability to claim that experience matters. Her political resume consists of being mayor of a small town, followed by two years as governor of a small state; compared to this, Barack Obama is a senior political veteran.
The whole thing is obviously a cynical ploy to win over disaffected Hillary voters, in the apparent belief that they will vote for any candidate with ovaries regardless of whether or not they happen to oppose everything Hillary stands for (as the pro-life, ultraconservative Palin does). And yet, if the campaign really wanted to reach out to Clinton supporters with a pioneering female nominee, McCain advisor Carly Fiorina was the obvious choice. Kay Bailey Hutchison was another possibility that has been mentioned today, although she’s pro-choice, and the social conservative wing of the GOP has made it clear that a pro-choice VP was not an option.
The vice-presidential debate should be interesting; all Joe Biden has to do is demonstrate that Palin is out of her league, something that should be an easy task for him given his extensive policy knowledge and skill as a debater. I would have much preferred to see him debate Lieberman or Romney, either of whom he would have utterly demolished, but this matchup will probably be worth sitting down with some popcorn.
However, Biden does have a bad habit of making offhand comments that come back to bite him (remember when he referred to Obama as “articulate”?) and it’s quite likely that, at some point in the campaign, he’ll get in trouble for some unfortunately-worded attack on Palin. Hopefully he’ll be careful about this.
(This could be part of McCain’s plan to attract Hillary voters: rather than nominating one of the experienced and qualified women in the GOP, pick a total lightweight and then accuse the Obama campaign of sexism when they point out that she’s a lightweight. This plan does have its downsides, though.)

Critical fumble


Forget archery, here’s something to really get outraged about: the total ineptitude of the U.S. 4x100m relay teams. Now admittedly, Olympic sprinters must perform a much faster handoff than I did when I ran on my high school’s 4x800m team. Even so, passing the baton just isn’t that hard. For one of our Olympic teams to fumble it is astonishing; for two of them to do it is just embarrassing.
How did this happen? Are they taking some form of steroids that makes their hands slippery as a side effect? Was the baton sabotaged with grease by a rival team? Did they just not practice the handoff, ever?
I bet they’ll be practicing it for 2012. In the meantime, maybe they can get a sponsorship deal with Butterfinger bars.

Historical precedents

Perhaps the silliest part of this article about aggressive Christian proselytizing by the U.S. Olympic archery coach is this near the end:

To be an effective archer, Lee said, athletes must learn to clear their heads and focus. “If you are Christian,” he said, “then people can have that kind of empty mind.”
Asked if people of other faiths could learn to focus in the same way, Lee said he was not sure.

He’s not sure? Is he really unaware that Zen Buddhists used this very technique for centuries in Japan? It seems like an Olympic archery coach should know this.
Anyway, it’s hard to get too worked up about archery, but clearly this guy should be fired—his faith-based coaching described in the article is completely inappropriate and unquestionably could drive away talented athletes who aren’t Christian. And even if those archers don’t leave the team, I can’t imagine that it helps them focus.

Riverside Park South



derelict, originally uploaded by arcanegazebo.

There’s a new section of Riverside Park South that officially opened today. It’s on my usual running route, but has been fenced off, so I was pleased to see on Saturday that the fences had been taken down. In fact, it was open to pedestrians over the weekend even though it wasn’t quite finished (they were doing some final landscaping yesterday morning). I was inspired to walk up the Hudson and take a few pictures, finishing up at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. I didn’t actually take any pictures of the new park section itself, and concentrated more on the river.

(As an aside: I promise this blog will get less NYC-centric in the future! Most of my attention lately has been divided between exploring the city and starting my new job–and I can’t blog about the latter, hence the focus on the city. But as I get more settled in I will have other topics to write about.)

Windows crashing in Times Square

So now New York pedestrians have to worry not only about falling cranes, but plates of glass descending from the sky. To be honest that possibility had occurred to me while admiring some of the skyscrapers under construction, but it’s still disconcerting to know that it happens. Luckily the New York Times has an article on strategies people are using to avoid the deadly objects raining from the sky in this city. Which mostly boils down to “don’t walk under sketchy-looking scaffolding,” a point which might have seemed obvious. On the other hand, it’s difficult not to walk under sketchy-looking scaffolding around here.
Still, it’s a little silly. Of all the ways New York can kill you, falling windowpanes are in the same category as giant monster attacks: sure, they seem scary, but the chances of actually being killed by one are low. In the latest instance (of falling glass, not monsters), no one was hurt despite the window falling in Times Square, on Sunday afternoon. Really, walking under construction sites is much less dangerous than, say, crossing the street, where the cabs will speed up to encourage you to move out of their way. (This is one of the more realistic aspects of Grand Theft Auto IV.)

Squam Lake, New Hampshire



1231 ft., originally uploaded by arcanegazebo.

No pictures of New York City this week since I spent the weekend in New Hampshire… but I do have a few pictures of New Hampshire, here.