Thursday, January 29, 2009

‘I’m not really a plates kind of guy’

Loved the last part of this story in The New York Times about the new climate in the White House.

The rug is still there, as are the presidential portraits Mr. Bush selected—one of Washington, one of Lincoln—and a collection of decorative green and white plates. During a meeting last week with retired military officials, before he signed an executive order shutting down the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Mr. Obama surveyed his new environs with a critical eye.

“He looked around,” said one of his guests, retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, “and said, ‘I’ve got to do something about these plates. I’m not really a plates kind of guy.’ ”

In an odd sort of way I think a lot of us feel the same way about the president that Sarah Palin supporters felt about her. We identify with his vibe. I know exactly what he meant by not being a plate person. I might have said it myself, and I’d hazard a guess he doesn’t care for pillows embroidered with homilies either.

Posted by amyloo on 01/29 at 07:13 AM


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Twitter search is a great tool for gauging persistence of interest

I do occasional maintenance on this widget because it has a couple hundred installs, so I should. Its value decreases when it doesn’t include enough timely searches.

(Click on “Search this” to refresh the widget and try another search.)

The rotating content leans heavily to Twitter Search because I think it’s such a fascinating way to get something of a handle on the pulse of opinion. To update it I add searches, and I also check the current searches to see if the results still show recent activity. (See the archive of currently rotating searches as well as retired searches. Note to Expression Engine heads: that archive page shows open entries for the active searches and closed entries for the retired ones—so easy.)

I’m getting to it now; thank you for your patience, just had to set it up. I’ve been surprised that interest in certain search terms has not waned as much as I would have expected. For example, “auto industry” and “iphone+storm” are not in the news as much as they were a few weeks ago when I added them, but they persist in racking up a lot of current results.

A slightly different sort of custom tool that tracks persistence of interest could be useful for research conducted by media outlets, and maybe other types of businesses, but I’m more tuned in to media and think of it first. Examples:

- Mainstream media, like monthly print magazines, having longer lead times, to see what people are still interested in.

- Even for more instant media, like TV or blogs, it could be handy for planning more-produced, better-researched features. If there’s no longevity to public interest in a given topic, it might not be worth the investment.

Of course this assumes there is a spot of value in the idea of enduring interest, and not just in the latest thing. Sometimes I despair of our “newest is all there is” way of looking at news and everything else.

If you wanted to go all radical, you might even say that sustained public interest in a topic maps to its importance and consequence. Nah…

Posted by amyloo on 01/28 at 06:52 AM

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mr. President, a simple idea: call up the investment bankers once in a while

Mr. President, I heard you didn’t care for the news about Merrill Lynch chief John Thain’s profligate decorating. Neither did millions of us.

What would be wrong with placing random unscheduled phone calls to some of the Wall Street bankers once in a while? Start off with “So, tell me a little about how you’re spending our tax money.” Use the silence. Let them spin, but follow up with specific questions. Depose them in a pleasant way. (Depose in the verbal examination sense—not remove them from office!)

Convention says you “can’t” do this, but we’ve come to expect that you’ll pull off some unconventional and unexpected feats. In fact we’re counting on it.

Update: Excellent! On Monday Citigroup was stonewalling on the planned purchase of a $47 million corporate jet using some of my money. Then a U.S. treasury official ”reached out” to the bank. Now Citgroup says it won’t take delivery. Nice one.

Posted by amyloo on 01/25 at 07:58 AM


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New day

Posted by amyloo on 01/20 at 06:37 AM


Monday, January 19, 2009

We defeated suspicion and narrowmindeness, for now

I was struck by a remark on Chris Matthews’s syndicated show yesterday. Katty Kay, a Brit reporting on U.S. politics for the BBC, talked about the positive world opinion of Barack Obama and how his background and understanding of other cultures is viewed as such a welcome break from recent history. It made me feel warm and proud of what we did in electing this guy.

Then I tried to put myself in the shoes and mindset of a typical Fox News watcher listening to the comment and realized that this big-picture way of operating and thinking breeds suspicion and fear among that set. I imagine they’ve been conditioned to reason that if foreigners think it’s a good thing, Americans need to be wary. Isn’t that a rotten shame? God forbid we should look at things from anybody else’s point of view.

The good news is that reason defeated the narrowminded crowd this time; about time. Can the factions get closer on this score? I’m not sure. I mean, it’s not a thing you can compromise about—either you operate in a spirit of being open to possibilities or you don’t. Would we wish for this smart cool new president to meet the closedminded halfway? Maybe the best we can wish for is that, in a new political climate, rigid neo-con views gradually will be viewed by moderates as out of touch and old-fashioned.

I think that’s already happening. When you hear GOP leadership hopefuls talk in generalities about the future, it’s all about opening up, not about closing ranks. What I hear between the lines is “Not what Sarah Palin represents—if your only solid base is the white south, that’s not enough to be a national party.” 

As you might know, I’ve been obsessed with widgetmaking. The inauguration countdown widget that I put in the wild back in December 2007—when the idea of tomorrow’s transfer of power to Obama was wishful thinking—has been converted to a countup widget celebrating a new day. I love seeing it displayed with pride on African-American social networks and on blogs like Sicily Scene written by a woman from Wales living in Sicily.

Hey world, we’ve returned to the international community. It feels good to be back. Want to grab a cup of coffee?

Posted by amyloo on 01/19 at 06:02 AM

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Don’t like what you hear? Make up your own truth.

I’m half watching Dick Cheney being interviewed by Wolf Blitzer, and you know, I find I can’t believe a word he says.

You should read Matt Taibbi‘s The Great Derangement. I thought the account of his infiltration of John Hagee’s church would be the part I’d relish most, but it’s all really good. How is it related to this blunt assessment of Cheney’s credibility? Taibbi, after meeting with 9/11 truthers, after ridiculing them in print, comes to a conclusion that it’s only natural after being spun so often and so violently that we’re falling-on-the-floor dizzy. We start making up our own truth.

Bonus link: Taibbi on Sarah Palin.

Posted by amyloo on 01/11 at 11:37 AM

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