As You Were

Devin Coughlin's blog.
Styles: Serious Spare

February 29, 2004

It always snows more on Ben

Ben covered in snow

It always snows more on Ben.

Posted by coughlin at 2:44 AM | TrackBack (0)

Saturday Night Sushi Blogging

Ben, Graham, and Collin at Hapa

Ben, Graham, and Collin at late night sushi Happy Hour at Hapa (home of the world-famous Multiple Orgasm roll) enjoying California rolls, Rock n' Rolls, and Salmon Avocado rolls with Hapa beer and sake. I had edamame and green tea.

Posted by coughlin at 2:16 AM | TrackBack (0)

February 26, 2004

Happy Birthday Emmett

Emmett with Scarf

My nephew Emmett is 2 years old today! Happy Birthday. With a vocabulary that includes such gems as "Nemo", "Nap OK", "Broken Fixit", "Push", and the ever-popular f-word, not only can he let you know what he wants, he can also yell at you when you don't do it. I am, however, looking forward to seeing him over my sister's spring break.

Posted by coughlin at 7:54 PM | TrackBack (0)

February 25, 2004

A Hole in the World

Fang Gang

So they canceled Angel.

First Jake 2.0, now Angel. I can't help but think Enterprise is next.

I have to admit that although I preferred Buffy (and Firefly, during its mayfly life) to Angel, I will be very disappointed to see the series go off the air. The Buffyverse is a contradictory place — an awful, demon-haunted, world — that is nevertheless better than our own. The characters are more vital than any real person could be and even when conflicted possess an enviable clarity (or is it crispness?) which we actual people lack.

Angel continued a tradition that fought hard against the notion that people don't want to be challenged by TV; yes, they want escape — but that isn't necessarily the same thing.

But, like the man said,

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by and they CANCELLED MY FRIKKIN' SHOW. I totally shoulda took the road that had all those people on it. Damn."

It may be that in the world of "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" and "The Apprentice" thoughtful (and expensive) genre shows can't compete. I really hope this is not the case.

Maybe they'll let Joss take over Star Trek. Certainly the franchise could use a revisioning. (I can hear it now "Sorry Captain, we can't go to warp. The engines went, well, you know, all kablooey." "Gimme some phasery goodness, Lieutenant."). There is also the Firefly movie to look forward to and the mid-season replacement Wonderfalls on Fox. I can't imagine that either one will fare particularly well, but with genre television you get brownie points just for trying.

The Buffy crowd has had an enormous effect on recent television shows. Tru Calling, Wonderfalls, Gilmore Girls, Smallville, Jake 2.0, Miracles, Still Life — all have (or had) producers or writers from the Buffy Diaspora. They can't cancel them all. Can they?

I do have hopes for the new Battlestar Galactica series on Sci-Fi. It's high time to reinvent the baroque space opera, and Ron Moore is the guy to do it. A mix of the tragic realism and the desperation of DS9, of the mystic predestination of Carnivale, and of the character conflict from Roswell is just what the genre needs right now. Of course it helps that the original Battlestar Galactica had a wonderful high concept and awful execution (remember Casino Planet? or that awful hand-ball—like game?). With good writers, like Moore, and great actors, like Mary McDonnel and Edward James Olmos, anything they produce will have to be better than the original.

Goodbye Angel, we hardly new ye — or maybe we knew you altogether too well.

Posted by coughlin at 10:18 PM | TrackBack (0)

February 22, 2004

Nader Revisited

This is a rant (slightly edited) that I wrote in late October of 2000, when many smart people I knew were considering voting for Ralph Nader. They espoused a variety of reasons — their view that there was no difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties (in retrospect, of course, this is utter crap), their hope to secure federal matching funds for the Green Party (not, in my view, a good idea, but that is an argument for another day), and most commonly, their view that globalization was the biggest problem facing the world.

I am posting this because Nader is running again (although this time without the support of the Green Party), and I don't think the calculus on globalization has changed.

It has not escaped my notice, almost four years later, that the likely Democratic presidential candidates have back-pedalled on their support of globalization and free-trade (although more out of protectionist pandering than of concern for industrializing nations). Nonetheless, I will be supporting the Democratic nominee because it is clear to me that a little bit of protectionism is by far the lesser of the two evils we will face on election day.

There are two traditionally liberal views on the best way to protect the environment and ensure human rights. Nader's view is that we should not do business with any group that violates human rights or defiles the environment. Whether these are corporations, governments, or ways of life, he believes that we have a moral obligation not to buy products from them or help them continue their unethical practices. His view is that this will force the people of these countries to take better care of their environments and to not oppress their population.

He is wrong. Does anyone really think that if the U.S. decided not to do business with a country that the people of that country would decide to change their ways? Nader and his Green Party Flower Children assume that the people of these countries want to protect the environments — it is only the evil Multi-Nats whoare imposing their wily ways on an unsuspecting population.

But in third world countries the vast majority of pollution does not come from chemical plants. It does not come from automobile emissions nor CFCs in refrigerators. It comes from subsistence-level agriculture. The burning of the rain forests in Central America does not happen because we need teal dining tables; it occurs because the only way people in those areas can support their families is to clear-cut the land and then farm the hell out of it for a couple of years until it is necessary to move on. The reason major tributaries in Central Asia and Africa are polluted is not because evil American corporations dump chemicals in them; it is the peoples of those countries cannot afford to practice water and fertilizer efficient agriculture or install a waste treatment infrastructure. These people cannot afford to be environmentalists and it is unfair of us, sitting in our houses with electric heating and Archer Daniels Midland and continent-wide water and electricity distribution systems, to tell them "Oh, sorry, you can't farm anymore because you are hurting the environment." Even if we tried, they would laugh in our faces. If you had to choose between feeding your children and saving a couple of acres of rain forest, what would you do? Would you tell the farmer in sub-Saharan Africa whose abysmal farming techniques are enlarging the Sahara "You need to buy a $100,000 water system and let more land lie fallow?" Such a thing is impossible. Or should we tell India that we won't trade with them anymore because their population is too big and they can't really support it. Maybe a couple of generations of a depressed economy will kill enough people to bring the situation under control. Right.

Real environmentalism is only possible in Industrialized economies because it requires advanced technology to be sustainable. Refusing to import goods from third world countries and imposing tariffs on economies with bad environmental records are not solutions to our world's problems. These tactics, which are part of Nader's "fair" trade policy, are counter-productive — their only effect is to lengthen the time it takes for a third world country to have the ability and interest to protect its environment. Are they well-intentioned? Of course. But they are also wrong.

The strategy of investment in industrialization will not stop environmental destruction tomorrow, or in twenty or even fifty years. More critical areas will be de-forested, and we will lose much more biodiversity. But if we don't invest in these areas, the environmental degradation will never stop, and the global ecosystem will be destroyed by population pressure alone.

Environmentalism is a bottom up process; it cannot work by government mandate alone. If people feel that protecting the environment is mutually exclusive with assuring their daily survival, guess which one wins out? The only way to get people to support environmentalism is to make them.

It sounds ridiculous on the surface — that we should try to get the rest of the world to emulate the gas-guzzling, SUV driving, suburban first world yuppie. After all the United States and Europe consume much more than our share of most of the world's resources. But we also have the most energy efficient farming practices. We have the best waste treatment facilities, the best pollution mitigation catalysts, the cleanest burning fuels, and lowest birth rates. It is no coincidence that modern environmentalism, Chief Seattle notwithstanding, is a purely First World formulation. Of course we still have millions of miles to go before we sleep, but at least we have the ability to do so. All we lack is the will. We can afford building architectures that lessen the impact on the surrounding environment, we can afford to build mass transportation and research cleaner fuels and alternative sources of energy. We alone in the world can afford to have more than fleeting thoughts about environmentalism and what the world will be like for our great-grandchildren. And why is this? It's the economy, stupid. Our economy and disposable income allow us the nifty technologies and spare time do volunteer work, to enjoy national parks, and to bitch at suburban sprawl. Industrialization and stable economies are a prerequisite for long term environmental protection.

Ahh, you say, but what about Costa Rica? Costa Rica is not industrialized, but it has managed to invest in education and protect its environment. Costa Rica survives on the graces of its tourist economy, which relies on the protection of its environment. No pristine rainforest, no dollars. So Costa Ricans protect their environment. But all of Africa cannot be Costa Rica just like all of the U.S. cannot be like Yellowstone. Clearly something else is needed.

So industrialization is the goal. How do we make it happen? Industrialization requires immense amounts of capital. It requires significant investment in every conceivable type of societal infrastructure. From education to roads to sanitary systems, from agriculture to health care and electrical grids, hard capital is needed to grow an economy. They don't spring magically out of thin air. It took the U.S. nearly one hundred years to industrialize. It took the Soviet Union thirty-five. Plus or minus a hundred million lives. So what should we, the First World, do? I would like to say that the immediate investment of trillions of dollars into third world health projects is a political possibility. But it is not. Anything we can hope to do will just be a drop in the bucket. Dilute and ineffective.

The real impetus for industrialization must come from the "evil" multinational corporations — because it is in their best interest to do so. Let's look at Nike in Vietnam or better yet, the textile industry in El Salvador. These are both the rallying cries of many liberals who oppose free trade because they equate it with slavery. Look at those evil corporations, they cry, they are enslaving people in sweatshops. They pay only $1.08 a day for ten hours worth of slapping shoe soles on or sewing shirts together. And these conditions ARE horrible, by First World standards. But there is a reason that people line up by the thousands to try to work at these places; the pay is better than doing anything else. Would you rather work for ten hours harvesting rice, up to your knees in leaches and malaria for $.70 a day, or breathe noxious fumes for $1.08? These corporations provide much needed hard currency in places where there is little to be found. They breathe life into economies that have lied dormant for years because of lack of outside investment. Does this excuse their union-busting activities [El Salvador]? Or their casual regard for human life [Vietnam]? No, of course not. But on balance, these evil multinational corporations have a positive effect on lives of people in the countries where they invest. The money they pay their workers contributes to the gestation of a middle class a consumer society. These companies provide their workers with the skills and services they need to do their job — skills and services previously unavailable in El Salvador and Vietnam. They invest in the medical and educational infrastructures of these third world countries, because they need skilled healthy workers. And they need to avoid consumer boycotts back home. Every third world worker for these evil multinational corporations brings home more money for his or her family is is better able to care for his or her children. These children are healthier and better educated than they would otherwise be and they can contribute more to the eventual industrialization of their country.

Nader is right is denouncing the WTO for its lack of transparency and public representation, but he is wrong in denouncing NAFTA, GATT, the IMF and the World Bank on general principle. The Green Party naively opposes globalization [you have seen them protesting it] when globalization is actually the solution. They oppose NAFTA because it allows U.S. companies to go into Mexico and build plants and then sell the products made without tariffs back in the U.S. I believe this is part of the solution to Mexico's stability problems. Increasing trade with the United States allows Mexico to become more prosperous than it could be in isolation, NAFTA raises their standard of living and promotes consolidation of a middle class (already quite strong in Mexico). These arenecessary for an environment and human rights aware population. The Greens may argue that this takes away jobs from unionized Americans and gives them to Mexicans who are willing to work for less. This is true; globalization is a two-way street. But on balance the increased economic activity between the U.S. and Mexico makes both of our economies healthier and spurs the creation of jobs in other sectors of our economy. NAFTA has increased the standard of living in Mexico and I am proud of that. Mexico is the most economically advanced country in all of Latin America; they have the largest middle class [with the possible exception of Argentina, which is in trouble anyway] and the strongest economy. I am convinced that Mexico will eventually emerge as the leader in pursuing environmentally-friendly policies and humans rights proposals throughout Latin America. We see some of this already. How did they get this way? By trading with us. The exchange of goods, services, and skills across the border is the one thing differentiates Mexico from Brazil or Argentina. WE helped them get this way, just like they are helping Belize and El Salvador. Nader is right that there are countries with whom we shouldn't trade because of oppressive governments and lack of human rights — Burma is one of these places and so is Afghanistan. But these are the exception rather than the norm. In most cases trade can be used as any other tool to try leverage change. Isolationism is not a solution — engagement is.

If Nader truly wants to protect the environment and ensure human rights, he would fight for free trade agreements with other countries rather than fight against the few successful agreements we have now. If Nader and the Greens really want to protect the world's environment, they will work to make sure that the people of the world become their partners rather than their enemies. Globalization and industrialization are not enemy of the environment and universal human rights, they are the only way to bring this issues to the forefront. Genetically modified crops which require less toxic pesticide and less fertilizer are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Nader's web site states "Government Of, By, And For The People .. not Monied Interests." The best way to bring about real reform and change is to make everyone a "monied interest" because only monied interests can afford to do what is right. Ralph Nader and the Green Party can't see this and that is why I am not going to vote for them on election day.

Posted by coughlin at 1:57 PM | TrackBack (0)

February 20, 2004

Public Notice As Required By Law

PUBLIC NOTICE AS REQUIRED BY LAW

Any Use of This Product, in any Manner Whatsoever, Will Increase the Amount of Disorder in the Universe. Although No Liability is Implied Herein, the Consumer is Warned that this Process Will Ultimately Lead to the Heat Death of the Universe.

Posted by coughlin at 6:38 PM | TrackBack (0)

February 14, 2004

Saturday Night Sushi Blogging

Sushi and Cat

I made an inordinate amount of sushi tonight to test out the new bamboo rolling mats.

  • Maguro and ebi nigiri
  • Tekkamaki and ebi futomaki
  • Vegetarian futomaki
  • Tamago Yaki (although it ended up looking more like a crepe)
  • Red miso soup with wakame and carrots
Posted by coughlin at 10:10 PM | TrackBack (0)

Colophon

Software

This weblog is powered by Movable Type version <$MTVersion$>.

It runs on <$MTUname property="osname"$> <$MTUname property="osrelease"$> on <$MTUname property="machine"$>.

The following plugins are used:

  • MTDCFeedList to generate a feedlist from a NetNewsWire opml export.
  • MTTextAsTemplate to expand MT tags in entries.
  • MTUname to show system information.

Styles

This weblog makes extensive use of cascading stylesheets (look Ma!, no tables! — seriously) and as such will look disastrous on user agents that have half-assed stylesheet support. Users of older browsers should use the Spare setting or should turn off stylesheets altogether. I test on Safari and on the latest version of Mozilla.

There are currently four styles:

  • Serious — It has conservative colors and a fairly minimalist design that is less prone to disaster on other platforms. The title graphic is a photo I took of the Flatirons in Boulder, CO.
  • Pretentious — a pretentious attempt to impart gravitas on my rantings. The title graphic is from Picasso's Meditation (Contemplation). 1904.
  • Silly — a silly, darker, style meant to show the power of CSS to separate interface from implementation. The title graphic is of Spike from Cowboy Bebop: The Movie. This style looks best with a gamma of 1.8 (i.e. it may not be usable on Windows).
  • Spare — no special styles at all. Use this option if the weblog is impossible to read because of your user agent.

A note on the colors: I'm color-blind, so the colors of the site may seem awkward to you. I use a color-wheel to generate complementary and neutral colors — but this is no substitute for human perception. Also, this site was designed on a Mac (with a gamma of 1.72) so it may be darker than intended on machines with higher gammas.

Posted by coughlin at 10:01 PM

About Me

The weblog is written by Devin Coughlin, a 26-year-old software developer currently living in Denver, CO.

I have a B.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University and write GTD software for Mac OS X that, amazingly enough, people actually use.

Posted by coughlin at 10:00 PM