Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cool New (Other People's) Music

It's not all about politics and work and finishing my own album and worrying about Hurricane Sandy. Sometimes it's about discovering some cool new music. In recent weeks I've been listening a lot to the Ben Folds Five's latest album, The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind. I've admired Ben Folds' writing for many years, and I've enjoyed many of his more reflective songs, but I haven't loved a lot of his rock stuff. Something about his attitude. But I really like every song on this album. My favorite is the beautiful "Hold That Thought."

A very recent find is Mayer Hawthorne's 2011 How Do You Do. I happened to hear the super-catchy "The Walk" (cartoonishly violent video!) on the radio and ended up buying the album. It sounds a lot like 1970's soul music - or more accurately, blue-eyed soul since he happens to be a white guy. A bit like Hall & Oates perhaps (late 70's favorites of mine). The hooks and the harmonies are just great.

Another thing that's just great is the Rolling Stones new single "Doom and Gloom." Classic Stones rock with classic Jagger swagger and a funny but topical story line. The new album is yet another greatest hits collection (really?), but at least I could buy the single by itself on iTunes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Keeping Me Sane

Although I'm normally only moderately interested in politics, I've gotten a little obsessed with the election in these final few weeks, as I did in 2008. I look too much at polling sites. Between that and trying to finish my new album, my brain capacity is pretty much maxed out (I keep some in reserve for work). I thought the President did very well in the final debate tonight, and Romney didn't look crazy, which I guess was his goal,as he tried to portray Obama's foreign policy actions as weak, while saying that he agreed with most of them and would do the same things. But I'm still worried that something like half of the people in this country think that Mitt would be an OK president.

Two things keep me sane in this. One is Nate Silver's number-crunchingly satisfying FiveThirtyEight Blog which takes tons of different polls' data, runs them through an election simulation model, and predicts the odds (and many other things). This helps me avoid panic when some specific poll shows Romney with a 6 point lead. Nate did very well in 2008, calling 49 out of 50 states correctly. Tonight his forecast has the President with a 70% chance of winning the electoral college, with 290 electoral votes. I hope he's right!

The other thing that helps is The Borowitz Report. Andy's often zany fake news articles are most often about Mr. Romney these days, such as this one on his belief in a woman's right to choose... what to make for dinner. I hope Andy doesn't have Mitt to kick around much longer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Election 2012

In 2008, I became somewhat politically active for the first time since 1972, when I was in college and briefly campaigned for Senator George McGovern for president. I'm still a liberal, but it took eight disastrous years of George W. Bush and the frightening prospect of a McCain-Palin win to jolt me into action. Massachusetts was a safe bet for Obama, but New Hampshire wasn't, so I signed up to do phone calls as well as a couple of canvassing trips to the nearby Granite State. Obama ultimately took NH and of course the election.

This year I'm again worried about the possibility of a GOP win, and I have again made a lot of small donations to the Obama campaign, other Democrat-supporting organizations, and Planned Parenthood, though I haven't signed up for any phone banks or canvassing trips. I really don't like anything about Romney and Ryan, but I'm especially concerned about their positions on women's issues, and the effect that their likely Supreme Court appointments could have on the future of this country. I don't want my daughters and my new granddaughter to live in the kind of America that many in the GOP would like to see. It might not be as bad as the frightening Christian Theocracy that Octavia Butler imagined in The Parable of the Sower. But Romney-Ryan would certainly pave the way.

So I've been looking at polls and worrying about Romney's "bump" since the President's disappointing performance in the first debate. It's closer than I would like, and of course anything can happen in the next four weeks. But in the critical swing states, Obama is in better shape than Romney, and the Dems have quite a full war chest to counter the tidal wave of GOP attack adds. After handing the first one to Mitt, I'm thinking Biden and Obama will do much better in the remaining debates. So I am optimistic that Obama will pull it off.

I've been looking at Poll Headlines which is a quick way to look at a lot of polls in summary. They have a pretty cool electoral map where you can fill in the toss-up states to make your own prediction of the electoral college results. Today it is showing Obama with 225 strong and 32 leaning (it was 257 strong a week ago, ouch). Romney has 191 strong and 15 leaning, and there are 75 votes shown as a tossup. So it can still go either way, but here is my guess for how it will end up, based on recent swing state results:

I hope I'm right!

UPDATE (10/18/12): Obama won the second debate - not as important as losing the first, true, but it has energized his supporters, and the Obama campaign's fund raising and ground game in swing states look very strong. I think Romney's views on women were clearer in the second debate - and not favorable to him. Same with Romney's views on immigration - I'm guessing he will lose ground with Hispanic voters in swing states. It's far from over, and the nationwide popular vote will probably be very close. But this is my revised guess for the electoral outcome. Pretty much the same except for Colorado, now blue:

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Orbital Tour of the Earth at Night

This NASA video is amazing and beautiful. A narrated tour of various areas of Earth at night as seen from the orbiting International Space Station. The frame above shows the southeast United States, with Atlanta showing as the brightest area near the center. This narrated daytime tour is also quite spectacular, with a much slower pace since so many more surface details are visible in daylight. View these in HD!