Monthly Archives: March 2009

The Quiet Coup – The Atlantic (May 2009)

Good article in the Atlantic on the financial crisis — worth a read.

The Quiet Coup – The Atlantic (May 2009).

As more and more of the rich made their money in finance, the cult of finance seeped into the culture at large. Works like Barbarians at the Gate, Wall Street, and Bonfire of the Vanities—all intended as cautionary tales—served only to increase Wall Street’s mystique. Michael Lewis noted in Portfolio last year that when he wrote Liar’s Poker, an insider’s account of the financial industry, in 1989, he had hoped the book might provoke outrage at Wall Street’s hubris and excess. Instead, he found himself “knee-deep in letters from students at Ohio State who wanted to know if I had any other secrets to share. … They’d read my book as a how-to manual.” Even Wall Street’s criminals, like Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky, became larger than life. In a society that celebrates the idea of making money, it was easy to infer that the interests of the financial sector were the same as the interests of the country—and that the winners in the financial sector knew better what was good for America than did the career civil servants in Washington. Faith in free financial markets grew into conventional wisdom—trumpeted on the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and on the floor of Congress.

From this confluence of campaign finance, personal connections, and ideology there flowed, in just the past decade, a river of deregulatory policies that is, in hindsight, astonishing:

• insistence on free movement of capital across borders;
• the repeal of Depression-era regulations separating commercial and investment banking;
• a congressional ban on the regulation of credit-default swaps;
• major increases in the amount of leverage allowed to investment banks;
• a light (dare I say invisible?) hand at the Securities and Exchange Commission in its regulatory enforcement;
• an international agreement to allow banks to measure their own riskiness;
• and an intentional failure to update regulations so as to keep up with the tremendous pace of financial innovation.

The mood that accompanied these measures in Washington seemed to swing between nonchalance and outright celebration: finance unleashed, it was thought, would continue to propel the economy to greater heights.

The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump “cannot be as bad as the Great Depression.” This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression—because the world is now so much more interconnected and because the banking sector is now so big. We face a synchronized downturn in almost all countries, a weakening of confidence among individuals and firms, and major problems for government finances. If our leadership wakes up to the potential consequences, we may yet see dramatic action on the banking system and a breaking of the old elite. Let us hope it is not then too late.

Tom Morello review

From the SF Weekly:

It was midway through the Tom Morello hootenanny when Rage’s shredding machine grinned at the crowd and said, “Let me remind you, you all paid $15 to get in tonight. That’s like a buck a superstar.”

Actually, if you were gonna do the math, by the end of the night, we’d been entertained by Morello and his Freedom Fighter Orchestra, Steve Earle, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, Sammy Freakin’ Hagar, Boots Riley of The Coup, Corey Taylor of Slipknot (sans mask of course), Joe Satriani, and Damian Kulash of OK Go, so technically it came out to something like $1.87 a superstar. But really, everyone at Slim’s was too busy pounding fists with fierce excitement to remember exactly how much they’d spent to get in. No matter the cost, they were getting their pennies’ worth–both in the energy the audience fed to the stage to the goodwill the headliners shot back at their fans. There was a lot of love in the room, man (and a lot of men in the room). Not to mention a lot of dollar bills that went to a righteous cause, thanks to the activist concept behind Morello’s Justice Tour, a singular concert that has you leaving feeling real good.
The political thrust behind these tours is, as Morello explained, to “bail out people, not banks.” An alternate version of this mantra, which he also espoused during the three-hour long show: “Feed the poor, fight the war, rock the fuck out.”

The Rage/Audioslave/Nightwatchman succeeded on pulling off all fronts last night. He gathered together a gaggle of rock gods during the day to personally wrap and hand out burritos with Project Open Hand, a San Francisco organization that feeds the needy, and one that received 100 percent of the ticket sales for last night’s show (plus all the $1, $5, and $10 bills people stuffed in its coffers by the end of the night at Morello’s repeated suggestions). But equally importantly, he also gathered those same ax slingers to get rowdy from the stage at night…

Snickerdoodles!

I am stuffing my face with a warm snickerdoodle from Specialty Bakery. OMG, so good, must I go home? Sigh…

I suppose it will be best for my waistline, at least. And I am eating this after devouring a delicious roast turkey sandwich, also from Specialty.

Perhaps I could learn to make these, but — it would probably be best I didn’t. They are way too good…

Tom Morello and the Axis of Justice at Slims

Got to see a very cool show at Slim’s last night for our last night in San Francisco — best concert ever for $15!
Well, actually we paid for the dinner show, and dinner was great, too — steak and teriyaki chicken, quite good. So many cool performers, and all for charity, too:

The Justice Tour w/ Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman
Steve Earle
Wayne Kramer
Boots Riley (from The Coup)
Corey Taylor (Slipknot / Stone Sour)
Joe Satriani

***The special guests for this evening include: Steve Earle, Wayne Kramer, Boots Riley (from the Coup) & Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour)*** (plus surprise guest Sammy Hagar!!!)

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine released the solo album, “The Fabled City,” on September 30th, 2008 via Epic Records. The 11-song set is the anticipated follow up to the 2007 The Nightwatchman debut “One Man Revolution.” Now being billed as Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman, the album is the first release to bear the political and social activist’s birth name. “The Fabled City” was produced by Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam) and features appearances by System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian and Shooter Jennings.

In addition to his career as a critically acclaimed solo artist, Tom Morello is a founding member and guitarist of the rock bands Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave. The two bands are responsible for multiple Grammy Awards and a combined 30 million albums sold worldwide. Widely known for his unique voice as a master electric guitarist, his compositions as Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman have been primarily based around the acoustic guitar. However, as his Myspace page firmly states, “You don’t have to be loud, son, to be heavy as shit,” and the stories and sounds presented throughout the album showcases a depth and intelligence rarely heard in the modern musical climate surrounding it. With more complex electric arrangements than displayed on “One Man Revolution,” “The Fabled City” is the synthesis of his groundbreaking work as an innovative rock guitarist and revolutionary acoustic troubadour.

This special evening benefits Axis of Justice, a non-profit organization formed by Tom and Serj Tankian. Its purpose is to bring together musicians, fans of music, and grassroots political organizations to fight for social justice. “We aim to build a bridge between fans of music around the world and local political organizations to effectively organize around issues of peace, human rights, and economic justice.”

We had a great time, and it was neat to finally get to go to Slim’s, which I’ve wanted to do forever, having been a Boz Scaggs fan from my teen years on. So I feel like my trip here has been simply awesome now.

Why I rarely watch TV

In David’s case, this feeling was brought on by being on a plane, but this is pretty much how I feel about TV most of the time…

Via Wondermark:

With my ear against the headrest, the entire airplane resonates. I bring work onto airplanes, my dear Internet, but it is impossible to think in here. Even watching television becomes a chore. Since when has watching television been a chore? Since we started to feel compelled to appreciate things. I do not like wasting time. I do not like watching things that I cannot appreciate. Everything is exhausting, now, even watching television. This time, I can’t manage it.

Off to the SF MOMA mueseum cafe for lunch, then more SF explorations!

Avoiding Perfectionism

I’ve struggled a lot with perfectionism in all kinds of things, even became an engineer and programmer in part because it was a place where my perfectionism actually paid off for me. But what I’ve learned in doing software and business process work is your process is never going to be perfect, so the way to get better is to do more of whatever it is that is working for you, and less of the things that don’t work for you and your business. It applies also to art and to all kinds of things you may do in your life.

Letting go of the need to be perfect, letting yourself make mistakes and giving yourself the space to make them, is what lets you develop and grow in your ability to do more and more. Roz’s points here aren’t just on journaling, but also on a creative approach to living your life in ways that encourage your creativity and abilities.

Via “Roz Wound Up”:

Here’s one way people get caught. They confuse art journals or art books or artists books with visual journals. An art journal over time, because of the word “art” in the naming, tends to take on a certain importance and preciousness. The maker begins to see it as art and as art the book has to be important, special…and all the related baggage those thoughts lead to.

The urge, need, and desire for profundity creeps in—only now it’s a need applied to technique. “If only I could sketch like [fill in the name of the artist whose work you admire],” “If only I had control of [fill in the medium you wish you had better skills with],” “If only I could [draw, understand color theory, grasp notan, etc.].”

If your skills are highly developed and you have a style or approach and each page you produce is a stunning work of art don’t change a thing. You’re producing and it’s working for you. Great. We all know artists like that.

For me, those books aren’t working journals in the way I need my journal to function. I don’t want the same things. If I want to do a finished piece I’ll do it outside my journal. Then it’s much easier for me to display it, reproduce it for print, etc.

I need to experiment in my journal, constantly, all the time. It’s the experimentation that moves me forward. It is this need to experiment that has moved me forward my whole journaling life, which started when I was a child.

The risk taking involved in this approach is play for me. And the results don’t matter because I’m the audience and what matters is the process, not the finished product. The process is happening now; I’m learning from the process and it’s all good, even if the pages aren’t “perfect.”

…You are starting where you are, right now. That’s a wonderful gift. It’s a gift you get to open everyday, each time you open your journal, and you begin that conversation between yourself and the page.

Each time you hold that conversation the dialog deepens, the vocabulary expands, the felicity increases, the dance becomes more effortless. Everything else falls away. That’s the perfection.

Reading in San Francisco

“The great thing about collecting words is they’re free; you can borrow them, trade them in, or toss them out. Words are lightweight, unbreakable, portable, and they’re everywhere.”

Poemcrazy, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Garden writing is often very tame, a real waste when you think how opinionated, inquisitive, irreverent and lascivious gardeners themselves tend to be. Nobody talks much about the muscular limbs, dark, swollen buds, strip-tease trees and unholy beauty that have made us all slaves of the Goddess Flora. ~Ketzel Levine

Off to the SF MOMA! I can see it from my hotel window right now. I also overlook the Yerba Buena Gardens, which are gorgeous. Pics later, maybe (forgot to bring the computer cable, duh.) Also very tired from shopping yesterday, and hardly bought a thing. But had a good time, anyway. I did get a cute litte tiny Japanese-made notebook with a neko (cat) on it, which will be handy for collecting words. Here’s my poem from yesterday afternoon while sitting at the Samovar Tea Lounge drinking Schizandra Berry Herbal Infusion Tea and eating cracked wheat rooibos shortbread, a lavender butter cookie, and an oat crumble
mini-cake:

Samovar Tea Lounge
In Yerba Buena Gardens
Berry Tea and Cookies!

Ada Lovelace Day

lovelace

I’ve written about Ada Lovelace in a book I wrote 12 years ago on the Internet for Girls. (never published, unfortunately, and sadly out of date now….). I also have a friend who named his daughter Ada after Ada Lovelace. We don’t often remember the women who were important to technological and scientific developments, and this is sad since so many young girls are still discouraged from entering scientific and technical fields. So, even if you don’t know about Ada Lovelace, consider finding out about her and posting a blog post today! Do it for a girl you know who just might want to consider a career in science, math, engineering or technology!

Pledge “AdaLovelaceDay”

“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”

— Suw Charman-Anderson (contact)

Deadline to sign up by: 24th March 2009

376 people have signed up, 624 more needed

More details

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited to take part. All you need to do is sign up to this pledge and then publish your blog post any time on Tuesday 24th March 2009. If you’re going to be away that day, feel free to write your post in advance and set your blogging system to publish it that day.

We will gather as many of the posts together on the day as we can, and we’ll let you know exactly how we’re going to do that nearer the time. For ongoing updates about Ada Lovelace day, please follow us on Twitter, join our mailing list or see our blog.

http://findingada.com/

http://twitter.com/FindingAda

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/findingada

Who was Ada?

Ada Lovelace was one of the world’s first computer programmers, and one of the first people to see computers as more than just a machine for doing sums. She wrote programmes for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a general-purpose computing machine, despite the fact that it was never built. She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.

via ‘I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire’ – PledgeBank.

Ada Lovelace Day at The Science Museum
As you may know, The Science Museum has a reconstruction of
Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine on display, which is worth
a visit on its own. But on 24th March the museum is putting on
a special treat: Ada herself will be will be walking the floors
throughout the museum, telling her story.

Visit http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/ for more information,
especially on the day as an article about Ada by Tilly Blyth,
the computing curator, will be featured on the front page.

Computer Weekly is  featuring Ada Lovelace Day in the magazine, and
will be blogging as well. So take a look if you see it on the
news stands, or visit their website and the WITsend blog:

http://www.computerweekly.com/

Ada Lovelace Day on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/groups/adalovelaceday/