Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I was wondering how does one say...

pyromania in Greek?

originally uploaded by Darriuss Royce.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Relief President

In the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, it was customary for baseball pitchers to finish all the games they started. Relief pitching was very rare, signalling at the time a mark of failure. In the modern game, teams have moved all the way to a model where a good starting pitcher is expected to put in a good set of innings, perhaps six or seven, but when the pitch count climbs upward of 100 or so to hand the ball over to a lineup of relief pitchers to close out most games.

I propose something similar for the office of the Presidency of the United States.

Now that we have seen that the resignation of the chief executive does not automatically bring with it the downfall of the Republic as a whole, the long-standing reluctance to leave office may be lessened, and calm, rational political thinkers may well want to consider the benefits of ceding power in an orderly way. Maybe the concept of the Vice-President as primarily the one "a heartbeat away" from the highest job in the land could be tweaked to one of a person with the skills to pick up that job in the waning months and weeks of the term and inject a new energy at the time it is most needed. The change at the top would make a generalized turnover of the other key Executive Branch positions at this time a natural thing to do. In situations when the Administration is embroiled with tense negotiations (whether foreign or domestic in nature) could be spiced up with the prospect of having a Presidential switch in order to achieve some kind of strategic advantage, much as when baseball managers switch pitchers to get the kind of matchup they want with the upcoming batters in the lineup. Also, the impact of the handover in power could be parlayed into a partisan advantage if it could be timed for the optimum time in the campaign season for the next term.

The new President would be expected to name a replacement Vice-President who would make sense as the next President in line, in the event that circumstances call for a second change at the top - or a third or fourth, as the case may be. Although the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution makes it impossible for a person to be elected to the Presidency more than twice, it does not appear to forbid a person from ascending to the Presidency more than this through vacancy. Thus, one could imagine a deal whereby the person who was originally President is confirmed as the new Vice-President, ready to step back into power when the time is right for the relief President to stop down, and so on, ad infinitum. (Note that here the baseball analogy breaks down; the rules do not allow a starting pitcher to re-enter a game after having left.)

This kind of scheme would raise the profile of the Vice-Presidency from it traditional low assessment. Perhaps if the expectation that an elected President will ordinarily cede power over to their running mate becomes sufficiently ingrained, one who delays doing so will someday be regarded as distrusting or snubbing their Vice-President, and may well take some damage in the public opinion polls as a result.

As I think of this idea, it seems to me that the trickiest aspect of this scheme would have to do with the lack of anyone fulfilling the role of a baseball team manager when it comes to politics. There really isn't any one person who by Constitutional law has the authority to tell the President that enough is enough and that it is time to withdraw. On the other hand, the nation as a whole might be inspired to take on that function, maybe by expressing their opinion through the press, maybe more formally (by voting?), somehow.

I am not proposing this kind of process at the current moment, since the electorate did not really have this setup in mind as of the time of the last Presidential contest and could not have considered the Vice-President very seriously as likely Presidential material. But I think it is not already too late for this to become part of the deal for the next four years in office.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Spinning screens

By now everyone has seen the Apple ads showing off the iPhone's ability to sense its own orientation and display either in "landscape" or "portrait" mode, right? Well, why couldn't they make regular TV screens do the same thing? They could attach a remotely controlled motor to allow the user to twist the screen 90 degrees, and adjust the picture to suit. Some scenes, after all, work better in that vertical format (see the example), or if one is using the monitor to browse the web, one could accommodate webpages with vertical layouts comfortably as well.

Also, you could watch movies in a super-letterboxed format, with lots of empty space above and below to put lengthy captions.

According to All My Accusers, or A Tawdry Jaunt through the Multiverse: a rap sheet in ten criminal acts.

According to this search on Google, I may have been found guilty of the following:

  1. Contempt of Court and sent to jail for refusing to evict the elderly

  2. Three counts of assault and one count of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse

  3. 7 counts and each involv[ing] one hundred 5 milligram Percocets

  4. breaches of the Publicans Act on 16 August 1839, 27 September 1839, 11 December 1839, 11 February 1840 and 27 March 1840, and of murder and tried at Monmouth Summer Assizes on Wednesday, 18 August 1819

  5. GBH (Gross Bodily Harm?) while staying at a North London hostel for the mentally ill.

  6. not paying taxes on his Survivor winnings and earnings from a Radio show [I] was part of.

  7. a misdemeanor assault charge in the spring

  8. rape in April 1561, a crime that had probably motivated [my] flight to the continent the year before.

  9. killing children [although there seems to be some doubt]

  10. disorderly conduct and possession of drug paraphernalia.

I reflected on my past yesterday while sitting in traffic court, and have repented of all my misdeeds, vowing to make a fresh start.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The wrath of the thunderer

Friday evening we were heading home from the mall and noticed the atmospheric light show going on to the north. In the less than fifteen minutes it took to reach our place, the flashes of light gave way to torrential rain and hail that flooded some of the low-lying streets around our vehicle. At one point we saw a twin lightning bolt show up starkly against the dark sky, perhaps the one which knocked out the water treatment plant one town over from us in Dumont. The next morning, Pam noticed that the water in the upstairs toilet was silty-looking, and we found a notice up at the gym advising against drinking from the fountains there. Today we, along with over 700000 other people in the region, are under a second day now of a boiled water advisory here. This has us thus contending with cases of bottled water from the store, steaming pots of water on the stove, and stripped-down procedures in the kitchen and bathroom. At the same time, I find that I am having some hearing trouble on the right side which I am attributing to a possible touch of swimmer's ear.

Boiling Water
Boiling Water,
originally uploaded by thirtyframes.

I remember visiting home from college one summer and having to follow special conservation measures because of California's laws during a drought emergency that was in effect. The boiled water advisories feel a little bit like that - nothing very difficult or specially time-consuming, but things that bring one's infrastructure dependence to mind fairly often. Inevitably, thoughts about the vulnerability of infrastructure are also linked in with the recent bridge failure in Minneapolis. I do not believe it is possible to avoid having to trust that other people have taken care of the hazards out there, short of becoming an off-the-grid wilderness survivalist, which I would rather not do at this time.

We have some purification tablets in our emergency kit, but I don't think it will come to raiding them for this rainy day. Actually, when I look out the window right now everything is sunny, though I just noticed a large limb from the neighbor's tree which has come down on the roof of the garage, serving as another memento.