Thursday, September 8, 2011

President Obama's Speech

I made several notes during tonight's speech. Don't be surprised if I make mistakes. I won't even claim to be Superman. I even have a few quick reactions. Good grief, this is real time blogging. Don't be surprised if I have second, third, even fourth thoughts, especially if I must go out and fight Daleks....

Obama began his speech with some platitudes. Americans used to give their fair share of work and contributions (e.g., taxes, etc.) and get their fair share of rewards. Anybody could make it in America. For some decades now that has changed. That compact has been broken. (Note: Quite a few bright people on the left and right have said similar things. I can agree with those comments.)

Obama then went on to praise small business. He noted they are the ones who create the most jobs. There is, again, significant evidence to support that claim. He advocated cutting taxes on them.

My next note is about Obama's comments on infrastructure. He compares us -- unfavorably -- with China. I will note they are far behind us and have much catching up to do. Some people think they will not be able to, especially given population patterns. He praised private construction companies, saying they will be the ones to do the work rebuilding our infrastructure. He mentions schools as needing rehabilitation. I wonder what he thinks of the people who are starting to pursue "unschooling" as a better way of learning.

Obama condemned earmarks, boondoggles and bridges to nowhere.

Obama cited bipartisan support for measures such as he is proposing in the past. I will note at this time that Speaker Boehner is not smiling, but that VP Biden is.

Obama next addressed financials. He said that debt must be stabilized in the long run. He also noted that Medicare must be reformed to strengthen it. I wonder what analysis has been done on the concept that large amounts of medical spending is useless. Far to much is spent on a person's last few months of life. When Mom had some surgery back in the 1980s, she came home and lived quite healthily and independently for nearly two decades.

Obama then mentions the low taxes on the very rich -- and uses Warren Buffet's observation that his tax rate is lower than his secretary's. Increasing numbers of people are mentioning how the very rich are making out really well at the expense of the middle class. Even some conservatives are calling it a kind of class warfare. On a similar note, he said that the tax code should not favor the best connected but those who serve the country. Again, an interesting variety of people are saying similar things, albeit in different ways.

Obama then commented that we need to out build, out educate, and out innovate all other countries as we have done in the past..

He addressed the outdated patent process. He said it must be easier for individuals and companies to get patent protection for their work.

Obama used the phrase "Made in America" to point to what he and others want to be the future of our country. Even Boehner applauded that comment. Obama said the next generation of manufacturing must take root in America. He mentioned briefly the role that scientists and engineers will take in this work.

My last note has Obama saying it's time to "cut most government spending and cut most government growth." This is clearly reaching out to Republicans.

The talk ended at 7:41 by my watch. After the speech network news switched to reports of a new terror threat that could coincide with 9/11.

That's the end of my quick notes. If it isn't up to my usual writings, please understand. I haven't done this kind of thing much.

Metro Washington Mensa in the Summer

This is what I wrote for Metro Washington Mensa's newsletter for September. I am posting everything I now write for that publication here as well.

The column follows as it appeared.

I've had an interesting month in Metro Washington Mensa. Between Mensa events and events that I invited our members to, quite a bit has happened of note.

Possibly the most Mensa oriented weekend was the last weekend in July. There was quite a bit on our calendar. I began that weekend by attending, once again, Herb Guggenheim's Salon at La Madeleine. This was, as usual, an occasion for many fascinating conversations on a variety of topics. Herb's practice of having everyone write down a question for discussion helps not only attract thoughtful members, but also sparks a variety of discussions. Even before the “formal” discussion begins, we talk about all sorts of things ranging from culture to politics to management at companies where we have worked. Or, perhaps, I should say mismanagement. Those of us in tech fields are particularly well acquainted with poor management. I've even given talks on the subject at Regional Gatherings, focusing on the mess at NASA. Two, given at Snowball in 2003 and 2004, about the Columbia accident helped set my current course in life. That Friday I do remember, among other things, I remember seeing Stefan and hearing Herb's wife Leslie briefly mention Veterans Administration health care. Since I am a veteran, I took especial note of that. I'm trying to follow up her comments now.

On Saturday I awoke early enough – with the weather pleasant enough – to head out for a six mile run. How many of you are runners – or even get much physical exercise? While our minds are good, we also need to take of our bodies. I look forward to living as long as Mom – who passed on at 93 – and Uncle Don – who made it to 92. Keeping physically active also helps keep one's mind sharp. When I am running alone, I also think about the day ahead – and more. After the run, I had a good breakfast, read some e-mail and got ready to head out.

The big event on Saturday was Dave and Liz Remine's Corn Boil out in Virginia. I first got to know Liz and Dave when I joined Mensa up in New Jersey three decades ago. I remember enjoyable parties at their home. I can also remember the two of them coming to dinner parties I began organizing at local restaurants. My criteria for choosing those restaurants was fairly simple. They had to be good restaurants – and they could not be part of a major chain. Good Time Charlie's qualified. TGIF didn't. One very memorable evening started at a restaurant. We all then then proceeded to see the film Starman at a local theater. I won't discuss this evening more in this column. Just ask me about it the next time we see each other at an event. You will be amused. You will also learn a bit about one incident that pushed my politics in a libertarian direction.

I ran into quite a few interesting people at the Corn Boil. Besides Liz and Dave, there were local leaders such as much of the ExComm, Heather Poirier, her husband, and two people with whom I have another connection – the Hash House Harriers. Possibly the most interesting conversation I had at the Corn Boil, though, was with the people from Roanoke. We talked about photography a bit. They encouraged me to come down to Roanoke and do some serious photography there. I think I will in the not too distant future. I did some photography at the Corn Boil. You can see the results on Flickr at

That evening I returned to Maryland. I would have liked to attend Herb and Leslie's Saturday evening party, especially since they told us it would be going on into the wee hours of Sunday, but I do need my sleep – and Sunday morning I had another special event to attend.

Sunday morning into afternoon was the annual Fourth of July Crab Feast at St. Mark's. Fourth of July? You need a sense of humor. The service begins with members of the College of Crustaceans processing in, dressed in some Crab outfits and acting rather silly. You can see my photos of this event on Flickr at People at St. Mark's really enjoy my photography. They are now calling me the church photographer. Now you know why I had to be well rested for that event. People at St. Mark's are also quite intelligent. During one recent conversation, Louise said to me “My IQ is only 147. Charlie's (her husband) is over 160.” They are also warm, friendly people. I hope MWMers and my friends at St. Mark's get to know one another better. I think it will be better for all.

Sunday concluded with another fine party at Alex Belinfante's. I know I miss Keren – but not nearly as much as Alex does. Besides the usual attendees (Alex, Jared Levine, Bruce Ford, more), Alex invited friends from other circles, especially artistic ones. I did some photography of this event as well. You can find my photos on Flickr at .

The first weekend in August I tried to bring together friends from a variety of groups. On Friday evening I put the Dupont Circle galleries First Friday open houses into our calendar. I also got Beltway Bob – a Hash House Harriers local Friday night Happy Hour tradition – to meet at The Big Hunt on Connecticut just south of Dupont Circle. I mentioned the Beltway Bob Happy Hour on littlem. I also plugged both events at St. Mark's. A number of hashers came to The Big Hunt and had an enjoyable time. Alas, I got a poor response from both MWM and St. Mark's. One MWM member did try to reach me on my cell phone, but I didn't hear it ringing. It got loud some of the time at both The Big Hunt and the trip around the galleries. I think I will try this again in November. Perhaps the fall will be better for this kind of thing.

We also have a new SIG. Our newsletter editor Colby Hostetler – who is doing a fine job – has added a SIG she has named the Guest Events for M's. These events are designed to bring together Ms and speakers on the hot topics of the day. See her announcement for more information.

That's enough for now. I definitely plan on attending Dave Cahn's party this month as well as some other events. I look forward to seeing many of you soon.