Saturday, July 5, 2014

Political Blogs, Wikis, and Sites

Hi there.

What if politicians maintained wikis that reflect their internal state?

I've been reading about objective reporting, use of the Internet in campaigns, and political media in general recently for a class I'm taking. Here's what I'm aware of today:

  • Blogs written by staffers
  • YouTube spots made by pro and con groups
  • Candidate and party websites, again written by staff spinsters and media consultants
Blogs reflect conversations. Posts age and often become historical rather than salient over time. Comments are closely censored^Wmonitored. 

Politician-originated websites and YouTube videos/channels (including opposition items) suffer from similar problems. They hold carefully crafted messages that have been so carefully groomed that the politician underneath is indiscernible. This is what every politician wants: it's easy to say what your audience wants to hear when no one knows what you've already said or done.

I suggest an experiment. Were I ever capable and willing to enter politics, I would like to try this.

Each politician maintains a wiki encompassing their thoughts, intents, and history. It would probably be oriented around artifacts (speeches, votes), issues (abortion, House Bill #76598374918, drought handling), entities (lobbyists, coalitions, politicians), and events (lobbyist meetings (educational events, right?), position changes, 9/11?, deals made). This allows constituents to get an idea of what is currently happening in their own government, as well as allowing them to see what the politician's track record is. Issue pages may allow for individuals to submit materials for the staff to review and pass on to the politician with a history of such artifacts and their relevance to the page's content. Anyone, including opposing media consultants (!?) could subscribe to all changes made to any given page, essentially turning such changes into requests for comments visible to all interested. A candidate could lay out his or her background in order to explain why certain choices were made.

One issue entry might have these pieces (all with appropriate crosslinks, of course!):
[Issue description] To date, 452 of my constituents have made it clear that rising prescription costs are threatening their standard of living. Other politicians have heard similar problems, and House Bill #777 was introduced to constrain these cost increases against inflation. 
[9/9/2999: Meeting with Pfizer lobbyist] I learned today from a Pfizer representative that the methodology in the bill--price-capping of individual brand-name medications while leaving generics untouched was profoundly unfair, in that the generic companies have no research costs to recoup while extensive FDA regulations make start-to-market costs per drug exceed $4 billion. The rep specifically did not ask for reduction in drug safety criteria, and suggested that, instead, a government subsidy matched by discounts from the company targeted at low-income individuals [IRS definition, 309(c)(2)] would be the preferred route.
[Current Status on Bill, updated 9/13/2999] Planning to bring up matched-subsidy idea at next Healthcare Oversight Committee meeting [10/10/2999], which is currently debating HB777. I still prefer the inflation cap, as an estimated 35% of my constituency need something to happen and this measure will save them less money.
It would have to be driven to be honest, complete, and authentic--overall positive, but willing to admit and gracefully handle negatives without stage-makeup-level polish or blatant whitewashing. It would not be written without spin, but it would need to avoid the staff wheedling every last iota into something positive as well as the opposition driving even mundane statements into the ground as embarrassing gaffes. It will take significant resources (manpower) to do this for even one politician.

Done right, it would be the single most useful resource a voter could use. Standardized and popularized, it could lead to interesting big data and linguistic processing research. Done wrong, it would be less useful than current media sources. The incentives are all wonky in this version, but it would be so...awesome. Like pie in the sky.

I'm afraid I've described a raw contradiction in terms to you. I hope you like it. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Parenting and Filial Happiness

I recently watched a fascinating TED talk on parenting and some of its modern dysfunctions. It got me thinking.

One of the speaker's points, as I understood it, was that parents often directly seek to make their children happy and in so doing they stress out both themselves and their children. It kinda sucks all around. It's a great talk; I recommend you watch it. I'll most likely be a dad some day, so her points felt relevant.

The happiness point led me to critique this parenting style from a more theoretical standpoint: if I take for granted, as I do here in the USA, that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are elevated among each individual's inalienable rights, does parenting with the primary goal of a happy child abrogate the child's right to pursue happiness?

I guess I'll find out one day.

Friday, April 11, 2014

[rant] Searching Gmail

Dear Google's Gmail folks,

When I search for "", I expect to be able to access ALL emails from that person.

Limit the first page to 20 results? Make me page through to find what I need? Sure. Don't just cut it off in January because, you know, reasons, with no way to page back to 2009. It was working fine a month ago.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

On Proper Metaeducation, or Why Don't I Get Bloom's Taxonomy?

I am no educator. I'm a software engineer in testing with a hardware background.

I am also a student.

As such, I have had Bloom's taxonomy of learning and cognitive domains thrust upon me many times. My university classes' "learning outcomes" were full of Bloom's (oddly not Anderson's) terms and concepts from this set of tools for picking apart and understanding how humans in general learn. I think I got most of the concepts and even the skills (earliest kudos go to Mrs. Haufle and Ms. Hassenfritz), but I never absorbed the terms or the long lists of keywords or the definitions.

Now I'm staring at another Bloom's Taxonomy assignment:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Once upon a time there was a group of writers in Spain whose work became known as Red Fiction.

A prominent critic of their work, also a Tolkien fan, called them what?

The Writers of Roja.

(Could've been serials, in which case they were the Writers of Roja N. It just didn't sound as cool.)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Big Shiny

Just because you can see something doesn't mean that you can tell how big it is.

It took astronomers hundreds of years to develop equipment and theories that could handle the minute details of the sky, and even then it took some careful measurements of celestial coincidences to tell how far away the sun is.

That is now I feel sometimes. I used to be a tech in a small Merc much company. Sandstorms, bullets, Hell and high water didn't phase those guys. Build it small, build it tough, build it fast. They didn't have room, time, or money for the fancy stuff, but when they hit the field the job got done as quick and clean as you can imagine. We were a tight crew. Anybody could sit down with the boss and get coached on everything from Merc ops to manual combat to drinking, and when I had questions I just glanced over my shoulder and asked the guy who knew.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Three worlds exist simultaneously.
In the first, cool, carefully prescribed inputs follow clean, mechanical pathways of polished cams, balanced levers, and oiled ways through a vast, steady ocean of linkages and stored history to produce elegant, unquestioned outputs. At the edges of the ordered world, restraining walls keep the ethereal tumult of the second out.
In this second sphere, whirling vortices clash. Great rivers of emotions slam into restraining dikes, spilling over and sometimes meeting others leading to synergistic amplification of their mutual innate chaotic intensities. Uncertainty and despair vie with hope and constancy, each flow waxing and waning as streams of anger, joy, uncertainty, vision, fear, and hope rush through the strained aether. Crossed streams variously yield singularities or supernovae, violent sparks or hardened silence depending on the nature of the meeting. It is quite hard for any solitary denizen to keep the overall maelstrom from rending the very fabric of the world; peace and silence are never an option, especially when The Accuser makes his destructive voice heard, but the sole occupant of the realm still seeks them ploddingly. This is what life is when the ordered world slowly grinds to a terrible, fatigued halt and the worlds' walls melt.
The third world is the one you, dear reader, share. It's the one called reality.
Here, when the world of emotion begins to invade the place of reasoned order and the flags for help are set, few answers indeed are sufficient to the plea "Help me feel, for I am feeling and don't know how."