The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Mayor Newsom, the Bay Bridge, and more!

Tuesday 3 November 2009 at 11:34 pm
  • I am very late to this link, but if you haven’t seen this comic explaining why Obama won a Nobel Prize, you should!
  • I’m also late to tell the story of the first (and only) rain the San Francisco area has had this season: basically, it was a piddling mid-size shower, and yet it shut down major roads and cut power to thousands of homes :-)
  • In other San Francisco news, the foggy city’s mayor dropped his bid to run for California governor next year. Gavin Newsom has made plenty of people unhappy already (city residents complain about things like crime and homelessness, for instance) — but even after losing his Mr Sheen status, he still stood out amongst a fairly lacklustre field. There seems depressingly little hope for a leader who can drive home the changes California needs to, y’know, function properly.
  • Speaking of the governor — the current one, that is — there’s been plenty of chatter online about the hilarious letter he wrote to exercise his veto on a recent bill.
  • And speaking of San Francisco, allow me to put small worries like an ill-planned triathlon in Perth into context. Until yesterday, the main bridge into the city was closed for almost a weekdumping n00b riders on an already-busy subway system, and throwing egg on the face of the state agency responsible for its (still-delayed) reconstruction. Nobody’s happy that it took so long to fix a crack that was already supposed to be fixed, at least until it got windy …
  • And finally, I’m saddened that it took an (admittedly spectacular!) fire to draw attention to the great big oil spill off the West Australian coast. It’s clearly screwed up the ocean environment (hopefully temporarily, if the oil is cleaned up), so I assume there’ll be consequences for the company involved? So far all they’ve had is part of the bill and some bad PR, and I don’t see strong signs there’s anything more to come.
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Healthcare, the battleground

Thursday 13 August 2009 at 10:47 pm

So the last few weeks have had America see a meteoric rise in largely-but-not-entirely manufactured outrage about the President’s plan to create a public healthcare system.

Well, that’s not true — it’s not the President’s plan, it’s a plan devised by (some of) Congress. That’s one of several steps Obama’s people took to try to avoid a repeat of Clinton’s failure in 1993, but (as one talking-head I saw tonight said) maybe they’re trying too hard on that front. The Democrats (for this issue has become painfully partisan) have failed miserably at selling their plan to ordinary people who see themselves as having to pay for it, and not having Obama to do his draw-people-together thing certainly didn’t help. Trying to rush the bill was also ill-advised.

And so the far-right were handed the perfect opportunity to jump into the void and spread fear, misinformation, and more fear. Hence the (not even extreme) examples of Sarah Palin’s dodgy remarks, and the editorial in an (admittedly half-rate) business paper panning on Britain’s NHS by saying Stephen Hawking would be left to die were he treated publicly. Even without facts, this tactic is brilliant; who’s gonna worry about the plight of others when fearing for your own life?

If only the plan were easy enough to comprehend that people could make up their minds for themselves. Oh wait, the current draft is a complicated mess.

If reform actually happens, it ought to be the high point of Obama’s term in office. But right now, I’m not holding out hope.

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Russia, China, night buses, and the Google OS

Thursday 9 July 2009 at 11:30 pm
  • Ever wonder what American lawmakers do all day? Pointless dedications, apparently.
  • Meanwhile, President Obama has been off doing promising work to get new commitments towards nuclear weapons reduction. But I wonder: even with a superstar leader in Washington, is the Russian government really that keen on cooperating?
  • Hearing about the Rio exec detained in China worries me; Australia’s relationship with China is crucially important, and being that they’re a communist dictatorship it’s easier to anger them than your average liberal democracy. So while the scandal will inevitably pass, I hope no real economic damage is done. (Also, I’m chuffed that yesterday’s ABC article quoted my honours supervisor!)
  • In announcing yet more service cuts (sigh), the WA transport minister is quoted as saying taxis are preferred over NightRider; admittedly I never saw a full one of those buses, but seriously? You don’t think that could possibly be because the routes weren’t ideal or there wasn’t enough promotion? Heck, even the Bay Area (and most big US cities) run 24-hour buses on major routes that are slow-but-decent (despite the times I’ve seen shift workers outnumbered by creepy homeless people).
  • And finally, Fake Steve Jobs at his finest, explaining why Google’s Chrome OS announcement is barely worth caring about despite all the blog hype: “As Sarah Palin would say, the engineers at Google are ambitionistic about wanting to progress the world, and gosh, ya know what? That’s darn good for everyone.”
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Maybe this should’ve been posted earlier?

Wednesday 6 May 2009 at 3:09 am
  • Sentiment of the moment: “pandemic swine flu, aaarrrggghh”! And in fairness, there is a reasonable risk here, but right now it’s just a tiny problem — so it’s entirely correct to act swiftly to stop its spread (nip the problem in the bud, as it were). But hearing about this has clearly gotten a bunch of people awfully panicked (to the point that I’ve repeatedly been warned to avoid New York?! xkcd summarised this pretty well). Thus it seems the world’s public health authorities are getting better at managing outbreaks, but failing miserably at managing public perceptions and PR …
  • Good grief, President Obama has announced a lot of stuff these last few weeks (maybe it’s the hundred-day anniversary thing?). Talk of spending cuts, prodding Congress with its environmental legislation, proposing investment in high-speed passenger rail, and more! It is wonderful to see people getting excited about these announcements — but for now, they are just announcements. I dearly hope some-or-all of these plans turn into reality, because that would be really exciting.
  • Looking back at Australia, and to wrap up the National Fibre Spend-fest coverage, I noticed an interesting comaprison of fibre prices — although I suspect the numbers in my last post, rough-and-ready though they were, are more accurate — and it’s interesting to see a defence of the ownership model that Team Rudd are going with. (though, who left the stupid Perth comment?!)
  • It so happens that I fly into Perth on the day of the daylight savings vote! And I still think it’s breathtakingly pointless; I mean, c’mon, anyone notice anything wrong with, oh, the economy lately? But still … this is pretty funny (via Rick!)
  • I was saddened to hear that the fourth East Asia Summit meeting, due to be held in Thailand, was cancelled (and the accompanying ASEAN meetings were cut short). Not to dismiss the protestors — Thailand is in a rough state and the current government is far from universally representative — but they are screwing with their country in ways that don’t seem to be helping.
  • And finally, there’s been a server change around here (yay OpenVM and cheapness!), but hopefully that was seamless from your point of view.
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President Obama!

Wednesday 21 January 2009 at 12:57 am

Crowds watch Obama give his inaugural address

The presidential inauguration was pretty cool! I thought it particularly amusing that every time George Bush appeared on the big screens, the crowd booed! They booed a little less at Laura Bush (and at George Bush senior, before they realised who it was). When Hilary Clinton appeared, they cheered! Then when Bill Clinton appeared, there was raucous applause! And when the Obama family showed up, the crowd went wild!

(And, about half an hour after the ceremony, that same crowd jeered at the Marine helicopter flying over the National Mall to carry George Bush out of DC …)

Crowds by the Washington Monument

Read the rest of this post »

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Playing catch-up, again

Monday 12 January 2009 at 10:29 pm
  • Let’s start with the American car industry bailout, since I neglected to comment on the give-the-plebs-some-cash stimulus packages that happened in both the US (where a second is coming!) and Australia. I was not a fan of the $13.4 billion move, and public opinion was clearly against it, although that was mixed with perceptions that spread blame for the industry’s woes far and wide. And so Ford, for example, felt it necessary to go to the lengths of a flashy PR campaign to tell people “no, honestly, we’re not all bad, we deserve the money”!
  • I find it hilarious, and also more than a bit terrifying, that the state government of California is so heavily screwed by its inability to get a budget together that the governor is talking about reducing the school year, and the state’s biggest paper is suggesting a Commonwealth-style rule to force an election after blocking supply. (Ha!)
  • The big news story of the week in the Bay Area is that a seemingly innocent dude (who, by the way, was black) got shot by railway police after New Years celebrations, which has been enough to stoke a few protests (particularly among San Franciscans who see themselves as above such things) and earn blanket coverage on commercial TV.
  • The new president’s inauguration hasn’t even happened yet (though on that note, I’ll be there and will post photos on this blog!), but on Facebook I already see folks gearing up for the next round of elections! Thus both San Francisco’s mayor and a Valley billionaire and sitting member are already gaining support for upcoming runs on the California governor’s office. And Facebook’s ad system is even deigning to show me ads for specialised software for managing election campaigns!
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