Monthly Archives: December 2008

Interesting NYTimes article about hotel internet connectivity..

I think that this article caught my eye, as I was (this past November) the planning committee chair of a statewide university technology conference. The expectations of conference attendees are high, and rapidly growing higher in terms of connectivity expectations. Pervasive wireless (for hundreds or thousands of devices) is expected, as is a much greater need for specialized connectivity (high bandwidth and/or low latency). For the recent UNC CAUSE, we brought in a parallel network, including ‘net connection, routers, switches and wireless access points. It worked flawlessly. Back in 2004, though, we tried to leverage the hotel network (different location, same conference) and the network failed miserably under the load. Even non-techie conferences have a high “carry rate” of wifi enabled devices these days. We want our connectivity!

Back yard clay birds…

The great thing about living in the country, like my family does, is that you can go out behind the house and shoot clay birds and not bother anyone. December 28th of this year was an unseasonable, shirt-sleeve day…my son Jason and my dad went to the store and picked up a box of 90 clay birds and 100 shot shells. We got the trap out of the barn, and mounted it on the post where we usually shoot, right behind my mom & dad’s house. We shot well, though the day was windy, with some “junk” on the birds, and despite the fact that Jason nor I had fired a shotgun in about a year. Here are a couple of pictures, first of Jason, then of me. Finally, a short video of Jason (with my dad pulling the trap). Sorry about the wind noise on the audio, it was really gusting a couple of times there.

Tying a few more flies

Finished up the batch of #18 Abigail Adams I was working on and then tied a few #16 Olive Bodied Adams (OBA). I tied these with a a black tail, olive gray dubbing, and a parachute-style wing with a cree hackle. There is more variation in the OBA than the traditional “gray” adams. The OBA has a long history on the Flyfish Listserver, and this tie might stretch the boundaries, but I like it. I thought that this looked good and and I hope a fish will too! I noticed when I looked at the zoomed picture, though, that I didn’t trim around the eye 🙁

Book Review, “The Conscience of a Liberal” by Paul Krugman

One of the best things about the holiday season is having time to catch up on reading…

This is a book that I both thoroughly enjoyed and one which I found made me think. We all are products of our upbringing and the arc of our lives. I grew up in the South in eastern North Carolina with parents who were public school educators, not manufacturing workers. My childhood was a solidly middle-class one, and like Krugman, I benefited from the “Great Compression” and its positive effect on my family. I entered the work force in 1979 (right as things were tilting toward the greater inequality Krugman writes of) after earning a business degree at UNCCH — the late 1970’s and early 1980’s were a challenging economic time, but I found a niche in information technology that has served me very well. My success in this field has shaped my views on work. Race in politics is a subject that Krugman mines in this book; I’m of an age (51) that while I don’t have vivid memories of the racial upheavals of the 1960’s, I remember snippets of conversations and TV news, and growing up in the south meant that it was obvious that there was extensive prejudice. This is an area that Krugman states has a powerful effect on the candidates for whom people vote.

I’ve always considered myself a liberal, believing in social freedom, and at least to some degree the welfare state and its inherent redistribution of income. However, a business degree (followed by a computer science degree) and a change-oriented technological mindset has focused me toward an economic worldview of embracing change and riding the wave of progress. As my wife and I have often said, we don’t have many blacksmiths now; they’ve had to retool and find other jobs. Generally, I believe in free trade, and (here’s where my roots living in a “right to work” state come in) have had a relatively dim view of unions, though my wife’s family were union members, primarily in the tobacco industry.

Reading Krugman’s book was interesting and challenging to my worldview. His thesis is that organized and intentional politics have driven economic changes over much of the last 100 years, rather than technological change and globalization. Starting with the progressive movement of the early 20th century and the imposition of the income tax and the beginning of wealth redistribution, powerful forces have been pushing and pulling America. Absent the ability of interest groups to rule by fiat, this has played out through the “democratic” process in ways that make me put that word in quotes. A major effort through time has been to convince the public to vote against their own economic advantage through disenfranchisement, deceit, trickery and occasionally outright fraud. Krugman writes of the period from the late 1940’s through the late 1970’s as a period of unprecedented equality as several things came together:

  • The institutionalization of New Deal social policies and the positive impacts they had on society
  • The social “norming” of compensation expectations coming out of wartime wage/price controls
  • The growth of labor unions and their effect on wages and benefits
  • The “right place/right time” to be expanding manufacturing

This created an environment where America birthed a burgeoning middle class and a political balance that reflected this “middle of the road” balance. We weren’t as polarized politically as we had been before, nor nearly as polarized as we’ve recently been. Krugman believes that it is important for long term stability to have more income equality than we have we have today; the differential between CEO and worker is much more skewed today than in the post-war boom, and is even more skewed than in the Gilded Age of unrestrained capitalism.

Krugman’s best material in this book is his argument for universal health care. Other reviewers have highlighted this as well. He sees this both as the “right thing to do” (echoing Lyndon Johnson’s statements about the rightness of passage of civil rights legislation, even though it handed power to the Republican party for a generation) and a template for showing that government can be a positive force, thus diminishing the efficacy of the message of Regan and his successors and setting the stage for other government actions.

Krugman spends a lot of time talking about race in politics and the way that race has been used to co-opt people into voting against their economic interests. I think that he’s right that this has been a powerful force. Reading this book after the election of 2008 is interesting. I know that I personally worked harder for Obama’s election that I’ve ever done in a political campaign; I felt that strongly that it was right. I am optimistic about Obama’s ability to bring forward real change in the way we approach our problems.

Clearly, things have been moving in directions that reinforce income inequality and put unprecedented challenges on the middle class. Are the demographic changes that our society is going through enough to sustain policies that will help us to reinfranchise this part of society and help to defuse political polarization? Maybe we can look at what our neighbors around the world are doing — we don’t have a corner on good ideas.

I recommend this book…it’s a real call to action and participation in our democracy, to make a difference in the way things work.

Tying some flies…

I’m taking advantage of some extra time and catching up on some flytying. Seems that I have not managed to tie much over the last couple of years, but I’m trying to get caught up, especially on some smaller dries. Last season, I didn’t have enough size 16’s and 18’s. Tied a few #18 “American Express” yesterday (don’t leave home without it) and am working on some #18 “Abigail Adams” today, all tied parachute style as that’s what I like. Here’s a picture of one of the Abigail Adams. The lighting was too harsh from my tying lamp, and I was trying to get soft focus on the background while crisp on the fly. Sorta worked. Will try again and see if I can get the magic camera settings.

Slowing down for the holidays…

I’m off work now until Jan. 2nd (yep, that will be a one day week, but I need to cover for my colleagues in the office that day). The last couple of weeks have been very hectic, and I’m looking forward to sleeping late, reading, catching up on odd jobs (digital & physical), and a bit of general sloth. Today is a gray, cloudy day, and that’s a good way to say, hey, slow down, stay inside, listen to some tunes (, Wallflowers right now…), have some tea…you get the general idea.

Went running with the dogs this morning before it started raining, glad I did that. Did some weights afterwards; have to try to ward off the holiday goodies. Will head out to do a bit of Christmas shopping in a few minutes. (Pandora just queued up Cold Play) Need to take inventory of what we’ve bought and what we still need to procure. I can just feel the stress oozing out and mellowness seeping in 😉

Happy Holidays all!

At NCREN Community Day

I’m at NCREN Community Day today. This annual event brings together the NCREN stakeholders and network users, which now includes the entire K20 community in North Carolina. It’s encouraging to see participation from the K12 community and the emphasis on bringing value to K12, leveraging the information resources of the traditional University community community to holistically improve education in the state.

One of the biggest values is the human networking, and the opportunity to talk with colleagues across the state. While we have a similar event for the University of NC system (UNC CAUSE), Community Day brings in representation from the K12, Community College and state government sectors. National research networks such as Internet2 are also represented. The opportunity to talk and synchronize with this extended community is a key to the importance of this event. Already I’ve had several productive conversations and have another scheduled for lunch.

Of course I did have a chance to also talk with my colleagues about boating and fishing 😉

Now, back to the meeting…