Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fifth and Final Year of Disapointment

Today the ASUW Student Senate adopted the Legislative Agenda for the ASUW. The document must still be reviewed by the Board of Directors, but I doubt such review is going to be substantive. This marks the fifth time I've seen a Legislative Agenda go through the process, and like every year before, I am disappointed.

It's not that the agenda says anything I disagree with... most clauses are progressive in nature and deal with issues I believe are important. What is disappointing is that the document fails to realize the larger picture. Student Senators get caught up in the grandeur of setting the guidelines for a real-life lobbyist, which switches the debate from "how to do I best represent my constituents" to "how do I best serve the lobbyist." The Senate seemed to almost trip over itself in efforts to appease the whims of our unelected, unaccountable, student lobbyist.

When there was disagreement about what a term might mean Senators asked the lobbyist if the distinction would have any impact on how he lobbied. What kind of a question is that?! It has distinction if the Senate says it has distinction! Ambiguity in the text of such a document is not left to the lobbyist to interpret, it is up to the elected bodies to define. But this year the Senate drank the kool-aid... this year ambiguity was seen as the holy grail to effective lobbying.

The agenda as adopted is a plain and pedantic thing that covers too many topics and fails to bring any particular issue into sharp relief. There is no reflection of what issues are priorities and what issues are simply items of interest. The very question of weighing and balancing competing interests and limited resources is abdicated. Which means the ASUW will once again hold positions as delineated by the wholly unaccountable Office of Government Relations.

But that's not the worst part. The worst part is when those few people who understand the larger picture become so wrapped up in the argument that they lose sight, and in losing sight they say things which undermine the limited effort to show the whole picture. So much of politics is keeping your eye on the ball... this year we let it slip right by us.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Day in the Life of the Internet

There is a post today on Slashdot about an open source project going closed source. The claim, which may very well be true, is that too many people were taking the code and too few were giving back. Personally, I'm not sure how that's a bad thing in the context of open source, but the developers are free to persue their own goals as they see fit.

That being said, not everything is amiss with the world of collective intellectual property creation. I give you Epic Legends Of The Hierarchs: The Elemenstor Saga. What is the Elemenstor Saga, you ask? It is the umbrella title of a 13 book, two movie, 17 video game, 4 cartoon series fantasy franchise. Contained within that webpage is the collection of the world's memory about this amazing franchise, complete with Fan Art, a collectable card game, and a themesong.

What's so special about all of this, you might be asking. It is 100%, completely and totally, fictitious. It all started with this innocent comic strip from Penny-Arcade. From that single inspirational spark of creativity, in the span of 19 days, the internet has filled in the entire backstory of this epic universe. No compensation, no glory, no reward... just a creative outlet and the opportunity to work with other creative folks. (Actually, I'm just discovering it now... but Wired found it just four days after inception and were reasonable impressed. )

It's an important lesson for those of us who often look for incentives to drive the world. Incentives simply fail to explain the whole picture. There is something else going on here beyond what's in it for me. My friend Tom, an amazing guy in his own right, has contributed. Why? Lord only knows... but he did. And if I had to guess, he'll do so again. And so it will go until it stops. Why will it stop? Maybe for the same reasons Nessus stopped. But in the mean time the world is treated to the full force of the internet's brilliance.

Drink deep friends, for the river will never run dry.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I Have a Car

But not in the sense that I once had a car. I haven't purchased a car, or anything crazy like that. No, today I received my official Flexcar pass! This enables me to reserve a car for a measly $7.50 an hour which covers gas, insurance, maintenance, everything. I figure it costs about $150 or so a month to keep a car insured and in good condition. That doesn't even include gas. So, I can use the car for 20 hours a month and have paid less than someone who hasn't used their car at all!

Obviously if I used the car with any frequency it wouldn't be a deal. But I need to use a car all of two times a month. I figure this is going to be a good investment and an excellent test run to see if this is a workable solution to avoiding buying an actual car.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Course Correction

Today was a day to correct my course in life. To be honest, I wasn't really expected all that much of it... but the end result was somewhat spectacular. First, I finished Freakonomics (on which I will post later). Always good to finish books. With that behind me, I finalized my schedule for next quarter by meeting with a couple of professors to establish research jobs in an effort to avoid taking Real Estate Transactions. The positions afford me cool opportunity to research the Circuit splitting efforts of the Congressional Republicans. I also will continue to work with Prof. Covington of the Technology Law & Public Policy Clinic on their website.

Beyond academics, I spoke with Prof. Wilkerson about the future of LegSim... things seem to be moving up in the world. Good movement on the high school sales front, finally finished up some outstanding contract work, and the Professor is excited about features that I'm just finishing up. After that meeting I visited the Congress class where Congressman Adam Smith was discussing his time in Congress. That was weird, for reasons related to Lindsay and all that... but it was also positive because he said, in no uncertain terms, that he wouldn't care if one of his staff came with a JD but had not passed the Bar. Yet another data point for my continued investigation into whether I'm taking the Bar.

Then, in the magical land of student government, I had a meeting with a budgeting administrator on the issue of the S&A Fee Fund Balance (currently $6.7 million). The conversation quickly turned to other issues and the eventual validation of a long standing point of contention between myself and the administration. It was good to be right, but for reasons that are both complicated and best kept private, the fallout from being right may be bad for the long term health of the services funded by the S&A Fee.

After all of that, I got my hair cut at my fancy hair salon, Derby. This is my second time going there, and I continue to like the service and believe it to be worth the added cost. I don't have any pictures to share with you this time, but feel free to browse the archives for previous jungle shots.

Lastly, I had a big old conversation with Lindsay. Details are not really worth going into... but it was certainly a helpful conversation in terms of closure. Which is, in itself, strange. Why am I still looking for closure five months after we broke up?! I have theories, but I'm going to let this play itself out and see where it all ends up.

Suffice to say, when all was said it done, my courses has been substantially corrected.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Corruption in the Online Dating World

Several of my friends (and even a family member) have recently engaged in online dating experiments. Some more serious than others, to be sure. From what I've observed so far the system seems more reliable than not. Two of four I know who recently employed the service have found people. They may not be perfect matches, but they are just as good as someone you might pickup in a bar.

But not all is well in the online dating world. First, there is an entire section in the book Freakonomics (a must read for anyone who believes the world doesn't always appear as it seems) regarding how honest people are about their personal preferences. There are a whole slue of interesting statistics about which profiles get the most hits. For those who don't want to bother to read the book: men who are tall and make more money, women who are blond and slim. Perhaps most startling, however, is a racial issue.

In a survey of racial preference, 50% of white women and 80% of the white men indicated their preference as "doesn't matter" (as opposed to "the same as mine"). This information is public. What is not public is that 90% of emails from white men who said race didn't matter were directed towards white women, an 97% of emails from white women declaring no racial preference were directed towards white men. This information is not public.

Enough about the members on these sites... let's talk about their proprietors. Two suits (whose plaintiffs hope to achieve class action status) have been filed against online dating sites. The suits allege that Match.com and Yahoo! Personals have been sending out false emails and setting up sham dates with clients who have a high chance of cancelling their service (i.e. no one responded to their profile). There is even an alleged RICO claim... I don't know a whole lot about RICO, but I do know that it's heavy stuff, and people go to jail.

So, as with all internet things... be on the lookout for bad data and scams.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Elected Youth

My friends in student government have their eyes on the prize. Ten to twenty years from now they fully intend to run for office, hold high powered political positions, or run national issue organizations. It's a long term strategy that has worked for political youth since the birth of the Republic.

But that doesn't mean it's the only way to skin a cat. Meet Michael Sessions, an 18 year old still attending High School who is the new Mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan. He won as a write in candidate, securing 670 votes... two more than the 51 year old incumbent.

I talk a lot about "credible candidates" to people interested about why so many positions remain unchanged from election to election. The theory being that a race needs a credible candidate, not just a challenger, if it's going to be competitive. Turns out this is not always the case... at least not in the Hillsdale Mayoral race. But credibility impacts more than just the race for office. Now that he is in he'll have to work with the nine person city council, who probably have little-to-no respect for their newly elected leader.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Politics of Science

Interesting post over at Slashdot that is worthy of actually reading (shocker, to be certain). The story itself is by the BBC and has a very anti-American bent to it, which is interesting in of itself. But what is really interesting is the subject matter itself: the infamous leap second.

We add a leap second in January ever now and then to keep us aligned with the Sun. Apparently American scientists are proposing to eliminate the leap second and replace it with a far less frequent leap hour or even less frequent leap day. There is yet no stated justification for the proposed change except that American's don't like resetting their high precision clocks. Between you and me, there is nothing I hate more than resetting my high precision clock... so the folks over at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology must really hate it.

What I found most delightful about the article was this particular quote: "It really doesn't appeal does it - the idea that we're gradually slipping out of synchronisation with the Earth? And the idea that maybe one day a leap hour could be added is surely a joke." I know that there is no more humorous day on the calendar than February 29, but it would seem to be quite a big deal for those working on the Prime Meridian.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Where Did I Go, Seriously?

It's been nine days since I last posted. I can only imagine the shock this has been to my faithful readership. Let me say that I am alive and well. I survived the October 5th with flying colors (although the 6th was a tad painful) and am ready to take the world by storm.

There are many interesting things going on in my life and the world at large; lots to comment on to be sure. Hopefully I'll find some time to do just that, and maybe back fill a few events that happened since I last posted.

I hope all of you remembered to vote, today being the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. From the looks of it, I'm going to be about 50/50 on my initiative votes and pretty much a sweep on the candidates... but that's not really saying much as it's Seattle and you all you have to do is vote Left and you're pretty assured to vote with the majority.

I'm going to miss such reliability when I move.