Sci-fi recommendations
Thursday, July 31, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
In my continuing quest to get everyone I know to like the same stuff as me, I present to you two recommendations of sci-fi authors that I really enjoy, plus an opportunity to get your own sci-fi published (sort of).

First, I've recently become acquainted with the Scottish sci-fi writer Iain M. Banks. He has a series of books set in The Culture - an ultra futuristic universe where humanity is so far advanced that people have the option to change sexes at will, remain alive as long as they like, and produce a variety of drugs (none of which suffer the side effects or contain addictive chemicals) directly from glands in their brain. People live on ships that are kilometers in size, which can contain up to a billion lifeforms. AI is a reality, as is interstellar travel. I just finished reading The Player of Games and boy was it a good read. It follows Jernau Gurgeh, a famed master game player, as he travels from The Culture to the far off Empire. In the Empire, the game of Azad is so huge, so complex, that who ever wins the tournament for that year is declared Emperor. It was a great introduction to The Culture, so I highly recommend you consider picking up a copy.

For Iain M. Banks's own thoughts on the world he has crafted, go to this article. I enjoyed exploring The Culture so much, I'm working on my second Banks novel, Look to Windward now. I'll let you know how that one turns out. I definitely recommend his work to anyone who enjoys "hard" sci-fi, game theory, etc. Click here to purchase your very own copy of The Player of Games.

Also highly recommended are the works of James Tiptree Jr. (a.k.a. Alice Sheldon). I don't even remember where I first heard about Tiptree, but I was intrigued enough to go pick up a copy of Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a collection of various short stories. I was completely blown away by some of the stories contained therein. One of my favorite tales from that collection, Love Is The Plan The Plan Is Death is free at right now. Check it out, and if you like it, click here to buy yourself a copy of the complete collection.

Lastly, Weird Tales magazine is holding a writing contest to see who can write the best flash fiction (less than 500 words) piece based on the subject line of a piece of spam email they have received. I'm totally going to enter - I love little challenges like this. My only dilemma is picking from the wealth of hilarious and inspiring spam emails currently lurking in my various inboxes. Should I finally address the mystery that is John Cummata, who continually offers me amazing deals? Should I play it safe and go after the Nigerian prince who wants me to help hide his fortune? Or should I go completely weird and pick something like "Unbelieveable secrets about Estelle Getty revealed after her death!"?
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Kiss Your Sundays Goodbye
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist

Well, it's almost August, which means the NFL preseason is upon us. Now, I don't really watch much preseason football, but I'm still excited, because preseason means the regular season is almost upon us. It also means it's time to start prepping for the fantasy season as well.

Now, I'm a huge football fan. Don't bother calling me on Sundays starting in September, because I'm not answering the phone between 12pm to 10pm. Don't bother coming over to my house, unless you're bringing 1) a six pack of beer, or 2) a pizza. I love watching the game as a fan of the sport. I also love the game, because I love playing fantasy football. It's something I've been doing since I started helping my father as league commissioner when I was 12-13 or so. There are a lot of people out there who might tell you that fantasy sports ruins the game, because people are more interested in the individual stats of players versus who actually wins a game.

I'd say they're wrong - at most, you probably only have 1-2 teams you feel strongly about. So, outside of those two teams, you have no particular stake in most of the games being played on a given Sunday. Fantasy football changes that, and for the better - having a vested interest in a player makes you involved in matches you might otherwise find boring (i.e. Ravens vs. Dolphins, last year). Fantasy football teaches you about the game and gives you a better feel for the sport - it makes you an expert on different offenses and defenses, and makes performance stats suddenly really interesting.

Anyway, pretty soon I'll be posting some opinion pieces on how I think the regular season is shaping up, as well as posting advice/commentary on fantasy football. I've already signed up for my first league - couldn't resist a league where all the teams are names after Battlestar Galactica characters (fyi - my team is named the Caprica Sixers).

If you're interested in playing fantasy football with me
, shoot me an email at mad_typist [at] hotmail [dot] com and we'll coordinate setting up a private league on one of the major sites (ESPN, Sporting News, etc). Newbies are welcome - I'd be happy to introduce you to the fantasy habit.

Here are the types of articles I'll be working on through the month of August. Let me know if any particular one strikes your fancy, so I can do that one first:
  1. Welcome to Fantasy Football - a primer for beginners
  2. Strategies for drafting your fantasy team
  3. Sleeper picks (a.k.a. players you can steal in the late rounds)
  4. Why the two-back/running back by committee offenses are completely changing the fantasy game
  5. Reasons for doing a live in-person draft
  6. Sleeper teams to watch
  7. Players I'm planning to avoid
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Irony Alert: Justice Department Not So Concerned With "Justice"
Monday, July 28, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
There's an article in the Washington Post talking about how Justice Department officials repeatedly broke the law on hiring. This is not really news, in a sense, since those of us who have been paying attention have long been aware of the insane politicization of our government at all levels.
Current and former department lawyers said they were appalled by the deep reach of the political hiring, which affected hundreds of rejected job seekers and as many as 40 immigration judges who were recruited under the political criteria. Those judges may remain on the bench because their career civil service jobs carry significant employment protections.
I have to wonder who can in good conscience call themselves a Republican these days. If you're out there, I'd love to hear from you. Can you justify this bullshit at all? Can you justify the weakening of our justice system, the appointment of people (some of whom, due to their status as federal employees, can probably NEVER be fired) who are not qualified for their position?

TPM Muckraker has more on the subject. Here's another article about how Goodling even went after other Republicans, if they weren't conservative enough for her taste.

What an asshole. I like how the Justice Department didn't hire people from law schools such as Harvard because they had "liberal" sounding resumes, but they had no problem with a jerk like Goodling, who is a graduate of Regent University, the evangelical school in Virginia founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. Hmmm...respected 200 year old institution? Or 20-some year old school founded by insane person?
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Origins of My Ink
Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
In the Washington Post, there is an insane op-ed from Richard Cohen, entitled Ink-Stained Wretchedness. It reads like an old man's "You kids git off my lawn!" diatribe against people who choose to sport tattoos. Here's the first two paragraphs (emphasis mine):
Tattoos are the emblems of our age. They bristle from the biceps of men in summer shirts, from the lower backs of women as they ascend stairs, from the shoulders of basketball players as they drive toward the basket, and from every inch of certain celebrities. The tattoo is the battle flag of today in its war with tomorrow. It is carried by sure losers.

About 40 percent of younger Americans (26 to 40) have tattoos. About 100 percent of these have clothes they once loved but now hate. How can anyone who knows how fickle fashion is, how times change, how their own tastes have "improved," decorate their body in a way that's nearly permanent? I don't get it.
He then in the middle section attempts to link a so-called myth of the permanence of the moment to the recent economic problems. Finally, he returns to his list of why tattoos are ugly, tacky and foolish.

As a person who currently has two tattoos and plans at least one more, allow me to offer my point of view here. First of all, let's get this point out of the way: yes, there are people who have frivilous tattoos, yes, there are people who regret their tattoos to the point where they pay a ton of money to have them removed. My problem is the way he lumps all people who have tattoos into that category.

Let me tell you the story of my tattoos, and then you judge whether I'm being foolish.

I grew up in Western NY, in a county where there are more cows than people. And when I was young, I thought that tattoos were horrible. My only exposure to tattoos were those found on the skin of the dregs hanging out at the corner store. A tattoo was something stupid people got when they drank too much at the county fair in the summer time. They were stupid little pictures of things like confederate flags, or Marvin the Martian. Dumb blonde girls got crap like butterflies or roses tattooed on their ankles. In short, I was very anti-tattoo.

Then, when I was 12, I was in Hawaii on vacation with my family. We went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, and while there we watched a traditional dance performance by a group of Tahitian women. All the women were sporting traditional tribal armbands, which had been painted on. Well, all the women save one - one woman had an actual armband tattoo. And at that moment (which I remember so vividly, even to this day), I was struck at how beautiful she was, and how the tattoo, rather than being tacky or silly, was something beautiful too. I saw how a tattoo, in the right circumstance, could be more than just a picture. It could be an expression of one's culture, a symbol that meant more than its surface interpretation. And I knew at that moment that I wanted a tattoo like that, an armband of my very own.

I spent the next 13 years of my life looking for that tattoo. I saw lots of different designs, but none felt right. In the meantime, when I was 22 I got my first tattoo, a Chinese character at the base of my neck (lest I be accused of co-opting another culture, let me disclose that I'm 50% Chinese). Translated, the character means "knowledge". Finally, when I was 25, I found the tattoo I had been searching for, at Electric Ladyland Tattoo in New Orleans. I ended up meshing together two different designs that I liked, so my tattoo is one of a kind.

I love both my tattoos and have never regretted getting them. In his op-ed, Mr. Cohen would have you believe that tattoos are to be lumped into the same category as hipster clothing or jewelry - fleeting fashion symbols that will fade from style eventually. But my tattoos are more than that. My armband symbolizes for me not only 2 specific times and places in my personal history, it symbolizes the day I realized that beauty comes in many forms, that art can be found in the most unexpected places. It symbolizes a day when the world got a little bigger for me, when I was able to see outside the narrow view of where I came from and got a taste of where I might someday go.

As Mr. Cohen says in his op-ed, tastes can be fickle and times do change. But I choose to look at my tattoos as a celebration of art and truth. And there's nothing more constant and permanent about who I am than that.
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Football Trades of Note
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
As reported in major news outlets, the Giants have traded Jeremy Shockey to the Saints. This is pretty big news. You've just made one of the deadlier offenses in the league that much better with this acquisition. Shockey, when motivated, can be a game-changing player. He'll add a dash of grit and oomph to the normally sleek and smooth offense of the Saints, which could be really interesting.

Michael Lombardi has a good analysis of how this trade will impact the Saints' offense. I particuarly like the point he makes about how this benefits Marques Colston (though you've got to believe that Shockey's run blocking ability will benefit Reggie Bush as well).
Tight ends are like knights in chess: They are versatile, they can strike from far away, and if used and deployed correctly they can make the other pieces fit well around them. Wideout Marques Colston, for one, will greatly benefit from having Shockey around. He'll see less rolled coverages and will have the freedom to beat some one-on-one matchups on the outside. And if the Saints were not already proficient in the red zone (No. 2 in the NFL last year in red-zone scoring), having Shockey will make them better as he can win in the middle of the field, which is where most red-zone defenses will force the ball to be thrown.
I believe the Saints have just become a more serious playoff contender in the NFC because of this move. And I think that the Giants are also better off as a team, because they won't have any potential fallout from Shockey moping around camp, and can focus on this season. Next season they have a nice, shiny new 2nd round draft pick to use (and believe me, a 2nd round pick is precious). Matt Mosley is less enthusiastic about how much Shockey will benefit the Saints.

All of this is not to cancel out the fact that I think Jeremy Shockey is a giant dickweed as a human being.

The other big trade of the week is of course Jason Taylor to the Washington Redskins, in exchange for a 2nd round pick in 2009 and a 6th round pick in 2010. Peter King (my favorite football writer) posted an interesting article about how the trade went down so fast. Check it out. I don't know how much this will help either team this season - will Taylor help the Redskins enough to overcome their other troubles and make them a serious Super Bowl contender? Unknown. The Dolphins will at least be able to move past the distraction this season, but frankly, they're playing for the future, and everyone knows it. If they win 5-6 games this season, chalk it up as a win for them.
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Why A Conservative Would Vote for Obama
Friday, July 18, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
There's a spectacular op-ed piece up at the NY Daily News by Larry Hunter, entitled, "I'm a lifelong conservative activist and I'm backing Barack Obama."

It really cuts to the heart of the matter here. John McCain and Barack Obama are such different candidates, that it really should be easy to pick which one you want to support. For all the teeth-gnashing about Obama's compromise on FISA, I just can't believe that that one issue would be enough to override all the other positives he brings to the table, compared to McCain.

My favorite passage from the op-ed:

When I first made this decision, many colleagues were shocked. How could I support a candidate with a domestic policy platform that's antithetical to almost everything I believe in?

The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies - this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.

Taxes, economic policy and health care reform matter, of course. But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats - these are of greater importance.

Well said. Having a stance on policy issues is all well and good (see the FISA thing above), but at the end of the day, there are issues I feel strongly about and there are issues that I believe are of paramount importance. Being able to compromise or live with defeat on certain issues because other issues are more pressing is the key to being a politically oriented person in today's world.

Here's what I think a lot of people don't realize: when you take the oath of office as the President, you don't swear to protect the homeland, you don't swear to protect the people. Here's the exact text: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." That's a key point. The Constitution, and the values enshrined within, have always supposed to have been the focus. The President is not allowed to bend the law and violate the Constitution based on some abstract notion of "protecting the homeland". It's about time we got a leader in office who remembered that. John McCain is not that man.
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Today's Point-Counterpoint is about which class in Team Fortress 2 is the most game-changing. Mr. Snuts*!, one of the best snipers in the business, will be arguing the Sniper's case. I, known as Ladykiller555 in the game, am... not one of the best medics in the business. But I play a decent game as medic, and I'll be advocating the Medic's claim to the title.

Point: The Sniper is the most game-changing class in TF2
by Mr. Snuts*!

Let me preface by saying I’m not saying the other classes are useless, I think all the other classes play a role, especially medic, I just think sniper is more of a detriment to the other team depending on skill than any other class. Let’s give this situation, let’s say you are blue on Gravel Pit going to fight at B. The best sniper in the game is out there waiting…What do you do? If either of you peek, you’re gone. A sniper good enough, can completely shut down an area. Blow an uber you say? That’s all well and good, but what happens when you need the uber to actually clear the point? A sniper who doesn’t miss on even a semi open map completely shuts it down for the defensive. You pray for an uber, but come up lacking when you need it for point clearing/opposing medic. To quote the words of the great Monkee, “The Medic is only as good as the person he is ubering.”

Counter-Point: The Medic is the most game-changing class in TF2
by Ladykiller555

No class is more significant to a team's success in Team Fortress 2 than the Medic class. A well-timed uber may be the only way to break through chokepoints guarded by 1 or more Level 3 sentries. An ubered Heavy-Medic combo can take down half the opponent's team with an invincible spray of bullets.

Even Valve's own admins admitted that the reason the Medic was the first to be updated was because gameplay stats showed that teams where players chose Medic performed better. A good medic makes the rest of his team better. He provides those critical extra HPs that can make all the difference when their teammate heads into battle. Unlike other classes, Medic provides benefit on all maps in the game, whether its a wide open map, or a map of nothing but twisty tight spaces.

The recent Pyro update, the Medic has only become more critical to a team, as a healing spray of a medigun is the only way (save for running to a medpack, if you're lucky enough to have one around) to counter the flames engulfing a teammate.

There are some very talented people over at the TF2F clan. For those of you who like the game, here's some wallpaper from the clan's very own Big Lou for you to download and impress your co-workers with:

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Point - Counterpoint
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist

Okay, so I've had some interesting back and forth with one of my fellow bloggers on the Rock Band drum set issue I posted a few days ago. And it got me thinking that it was sort of a neat discussion and I wanted to do some more of that.

So, rather than just spout my own opinion at you, here is your chance to hit back, regular readers. I'm looking for people to do some point/counterpoint debates via the blog. Topics are open to anything, though obviously the focus of this blog has always been on politics, football and video games (and LOLCatz). If you would like to do this, post in the comments and suggest a topic you'd like to debate with me (provide a way to get in touch with you too, if you don't mind). Topics can be completely trivial (i.e. "Batman versus Superman - who's the best?", "Starship Troopers - epic fail or secretly awesome?") or of a more cerebral nature ("Most important topic facing voters", "Music that changed my life", whatever).

A quick update to clarify: propose any "this point vs. that point" topic you want, but please let me know which side of the debate you wish to champion, so I can compose my counterpoint accordingly.
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Oh my God, my face! It has been officially rocked off!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Continuing on from yesterday's post, more Rock Band 2 news coming at you: has the official listing of all 84 songs that will be included on the disc for Rock Band 2. And boy, is it a doozy. Go to the link for the full list, but here are the tracks that I'm particularly excited about:

1. AC/DC "Let There Be Rock"
3. Alanis Morissette "You Oughta Know"
4. Alice in Chains "Man in the Box"
5. Allman Brothers "Ramblin' Man"
7. Bad Company "Shooting Star"
8. Beastie Boys "So Whatcha Want"
10. Bikini Kill "Rebel Girl"
11. Billy Idol "White Wedding Pt. I"
12. Blondie " One Way or Another"
13. Bob Dylan "Tangled Up in Blue"
14. Bon Jovi "Livin' on a Prayer"
17. Dinosaur Jr. "Feel the Pain"
20. Duran Duran "Hungry Like the Wolf"
22. Fleetwood Mac "Go Your Own Way"
28. Jimmy Eat World "The Middle"
29. Joan Jett "Bad Reputation"
30. Journey "Anyway You Want It"
32. Kansas "Carry On Wayward Son"
33. L7 "Pretend We're Dead"
35. Linkin Park "One Step Closer"
41. Mighty Mighty Bosstones "Where'd You Go"
43. Motorhead "Ace of Spades"
45. Norman Greenbaum "Spirit in the Sky"
46. Panic at the Disco "Nine in the Afternoon"
47. Paramore "That's What You Get"
48. Pearl Jam "Alive"
49. Presidents of the USA "Lump"
50. Rage Against the Machine "Testify"
52. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Give it Away"
56. Smashing Pumpkins "Today"
59. Soundgarden "Spoonman"
63. Survivor "Eye of the Tiger"
68. The Donnas "New Kid in School"
69. The Go-Go's "We Got the Beat"
71. The Guess Who "American Woman"
72. The Muffs "Kids in America"
73. The Offspring "Come Out & Play (Keep 'em Separated)"
75. The Who "Pinball Wizard"
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Rock Band 2 Uber-deluxe Kit
Monday, July 14, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Via a post from my friend, Mr. Snuts, over at his new blog, Rock Band 2 is going to have an improved drum kit. But what's really interesting is that players will have the option of buying an uber-deluxe version of the drum kit.

Via Joystiq:
While $300 may sound steep (soon, you could get a whole 'nother Xbox 360 for that price), Ion sounds like they've gone to great lengths to make sure serious virtual drummers get their money's worth. According to the site, the four high-durability, quiet, velocity-sensitive pads can be mounted and rearranged in any position and even outfitted with "professional drum brains" from Alesis. Add in a metal-reinforced kick pedal (with velcro and spikes to prevent slippage) and two packaged, mountable cymbals (with the option to add a third) and you've got what's unquestionably the Rolls Royce of drum controllers.
Interesting. I have a couple of problems with this whole thing, though.

First, I have always felt that the game is already "too real" when it comes to the drum set. For me, the joy of games like Rock Band is to allow non-musicians to enjoy the sensation of "rocking out", the illusion of rock stardom that normal folks don't get to enjoy. I'm never going to play like Jimi Hendrix in real life, so the chance to angle my guitar vertical and jam out to one of his solos on my little plastic guitar entertains me to no end. But as a real life drummer (I've played since 4th grade and have been in several bands), let me tell you: if you can play Expert on the drum kit, you can play the drums in real life. And to me, that's not the point of this game. It's not supposed to be a drum trainer. Making an even more realistic drum kit is just going to make it that much harder for non-musicians to enjoy the game.

I host regular Rock Band sessions at my house with my boyfriend. And let me tell you - the drum kit more than anything completely throws off our casual gamer friends. Even on "Easy" mode, it's a bit much, with all the drum heads and foot pedal being used right away. Contrast that to Easy on the guitar, which only utilizes 3 of the fret buttons (only occasionally incorporating the fourth blue button).

Second, as a real drummer, I don't want to play the exact drum part. The designers of the game were almost insanely compulsive about replicating every fill (even the little cymbal grace notes at the end of "Wanted Dead or Alive"), but that makes it un-fun for me. I like to add my own fills, etc, when I'm playing at a "pro" level. The way it is now, I feel like I'm practicing. And if I'm going to practice, I will do so with my real drum kit (for those interested, I currently rock a Roland TD-6SW set, pictured on the right, which I really like).

Third, at $299 without the brain, you're basically buying a real electronic kit, since the brain is where the bulk of the cost goes, so I'd imagine it's going to run you a total over over $500 by the time you add the brain. If they insist on replicating a real drum kit, why not focus on just adding a MIDI adapter so that people can buy the electronic kit they want and plug it in? Then I can have the benefit of using my own set, instead of adding a THIRD drum kit to the house. Note that the drum kit proposed above is still inferior to the real thing solely on the crappy bass drum pedal, which keeps me from being able to jam along as I desire.

All in all, I don't care for the direction of this game, hardware-wise. I resent dropping $180 on the first iteration, just for them to release a better version of the hardware (all instruments will now be wireless and actually WORK, and yes, I'm looking at YOU, version 1 of the guitar that I had to send back when it crapped out). What the hell am I supposed to do? Keep playing with the lousy set, or pay Harmonix another $150 of my hard earned cash to upgrade my peripherals? And what would I do with the version 1 instruments? Arrgh.
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Edwards May Want VP Slot
Wednesday, July 09, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Hot on the heels of yesterday's news that Jim Webb will not be accepting the VP slot if offered it, John Edwards has kinda sorta thrown his hat back in the ring, stating that he would "seriously consider" the position if it were offered to him.

Carpetbagger Report has some commentary on the matter. He seems open to the idea, stating:

But Edwards comes pretty close to making everyone happy. The old adage in this game is “Do no harm,” and Edwards would definitely do no harm to the Democratic ticket.

In many ways, I think Edwards would be a much better fit with Obama than he ever was with John Kerry. In fact, Edwards reinforces a lot of Obama’s selling points — he has experience without being a creature of DC; he’s young without appearing green; and his personal narrative (successful career after humble origins) is very much in line with Obama’s. In fact, Obama would probably put Edwards to much better use than the Kerry campaign did, putting him in states where he’d likely help make a difference.

Better yet, after two national campaigns, Edwards has been vetted pretty thoroughly, and appears to be a safe pick. He’s an eloquent, aggressive campaigner; Elizabeth Edwards is a tremendous progressive voice; and Edwards’ signature issues (poverty, for example) deserve a national platform.

Now to me, "Sucks the least of all the candidates" isn't really a great reason to support a particular person for VP. I'm looking for someone who, despite some inevitable downsides, will bring something positive to Obama's campaign. Frankly, Edwards left me very unimpressed the last time he ran for VP. I mean, does anyone remember that horrible Cleveland debate? How can you not completely crush the Lord of Evil (I mean, "Dick Cheney") in a televised debate?

The people who strongly supported Edwards (and I mean the ones who genuinely liked him, versus those who merely thought he'd play better in the general election, due to the fact that he wasn't black or a woman) are going to vote for Obama anyway, so you don't gain those votes. I just don't see him swinging any new voters that Obama wouldn't have gotten anyway. And while the "Breck girl" thing is a cheap shot, the fact is, there is something completely plastic about the man that is a real turn off. They've already started attacking Obama for being too "elite" and appearing too haughy, so Edwards isn't going to help with that.

What I'm looking for is someone who contrasts Obama, someone who can appeal to those on the fence about the man because he or she has a different perspective on key emotional issues (i.e. gun control, military background). Obviously, Webb was a perfect study in a complementary contrast of ideas working together, but he's out. I want someone who feels organically blue collar, someone who brings a rougher side to the polished Obama campaign.
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Webb Declines VP Slot
Tuesday, July 08, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
From over at The Hill:

Sen. Jim Webb (Va.), considered one of the favorites to be picked as Sen. Barack Obama’s (Ill.) running mate on the Democratic ticket, announced Monday that he would not be a candidate for the job.

“Last week I communicated to Sen. Obama and his presidential campaign my firm intention to remain in the United States Senate, where I believe I am best equipped to serve the people of Virginia and this country,” Webb said. “Under no circumstances will I be a candidate for vice president.”

The former Navy secretary said he “entered elective politics because of my commitment to strengthen America's national security posture, to promote economic fairness, and to increase government accountability.”

Webb added that he has “worked hard to deliver upon that commitment, and I am convinced that my efforts and talents toward those ends are best served in the Senate.”

The senator said the recent passage of his GI Bill has given him “renewed confidence that the Congress can indeed work effectively across party lines and address the concerns of our citizens.”

While this saddens me, in the end, I think it's the right call. Webb's success with the G.I. Bill and his willingness and ability to be a vocal representative of the Democratic platform regarding national security convinces me that he's in the right place to best help his country.

This will lead to another round of speculation on who the VP will be. I've seen several articles talking up Katheen Sebelius from Kansas. Based on her speech in response to the President's State of the Union address, I'm unimpressed with her ability to inspire (particularly when her speech is compared to the amazing one Webb gave the previous year). Evan Bayh is a possibility, I suppose, as is the fellow from Ohio.

While you may see both Chuck Hagel and Wesley Clark's names bandied about, I think both have some major problems (especially Clark, given the recent manufactured controversy about his McCain's comments) that will exclude them in the end.

I'm hoping for someone unexpected, in a way, to keep things interesting.
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Hell Would Like to Take a Moment To Recognize Its Newest Resident
Saturday, July 05, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Forgot to mention that Jesse Helms died yesterday. History will, of course, judge him accordingly, but I think it's fair to say that he won't be missed, at least by me. Farewell to one of the last great bigots to prowl the halls of Congress.

In honor of Helms' death, I bring you a recommendation to snatch up one of my favorite video games of recent memory: Jade Empire. It's on sale for the next 24 hours at the low low price of $4.90. It's one of the best video games I've ever played and is a must-play for any fan of those classic martial arts films from China. The storyline is epic and the combat system is a ton of fun. And, to spite Helms, I will point out that it features yellow people and lesbian content. Excellent.
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Happy 4th of July!
Friday, July 04, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Happy Independence Day, to all my fellow Americans. I don't have much to say today, as I will be enjoying the holiday with my family (as I expect many of you will be as well).

Consider this day a great opportunity to review the text of one of the greatest documents in our country's history: The Declaration of Independence. It's a document that we can all appreciate, regardless of our own political orientation. Next week, the political diatribes will continue in earnest, of course, but I hope that everyone out there has a great holiday weekend in the meantime.
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Road Rage!
Wednesday, July 02, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
I'm a serious sufferer of road rage. I'm just a frothing, screaming mess behind the wheel, due to the incompetence of my fellow drivers. I thought maybe I was just overreacting, but then I saw this article:

DC Drivers Most Accident-Prone

See? Proof positive that drivers in the DC Metro Area are just the worst. I blame the Maryland drivers the most, as they are the ones most often seen driving like bats out of hell on the Beltway.
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Obama on Patriotism
Tuesday, July 01, 2008 | Author: Mad Typist
Today's post is a link to Obama's recent speech about patriotism. As usual, it's outstanding stuff (say what you want, the man gives great speeches). It's a long one, but take a few minutes out of your day to read the whole text.

Note the subtle move he does here:

I believe those who attack America’s flaws without acknowledging the singular greatness of our ideals, and their proven capacity to inspire a better world, do not truly understand America.

Of course, precisely because America isn’t perfect, precisely because our ideals constantly demand more from us, patriotism can never be defined as loyalty to any particular leader or government or policy. As Mark Twain, that greatest of American satirists and proud son of Missouri, once wrote, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” We may hope that our leaders and our government stand up for our ideals, and there are many times in our history when that’s occurred. But when our laws, our leaders or our government are out of alignment with our ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expression of patriotism.

And this is great too:

And it is up to us to teach our children a lesson that those of us in politics too often forget: that patriotism involves not only defending this country against external threat, but also working constantly to make America a better place for future generations.

When we pile up mountains of debt for the next generation to absorb, or put off changes to our energy policies, knowing full well the potential consequences of inaction, we are placing our short-term interests ahead of the nation’s long-term well-being. When we fail to educate effectively millions of our children so that they might compete in a global economy, or we fail to invest in the basic scientific research that has driven innovation in this country, we risk leaving behind an America that has fallen in the ranks of the world. Just as patriotism involves each of us making a commitment to this nation that extends beyond our own immediate self-interest, so must that commitment extends beyond our own time here on earth.

I'm always really impressed with the level of thought he brings to his speeches. It's not just rhetoric about why he should be the president, it's also a social call to all Americans to do their part, instead of just relying on their leaders to act.

Also, not to be totally serious all the time, here a link to a story about the dog with no front legs:

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