What I learned today



We Live in Public

"at first everybody's gonna like it... but then... the big brother aspects of the internet are going to become insidious to the point of madness..."
--Josh Harris, internet pioneer

SFW trailer (some nudity):

NSFW extended trailer (nudity, sex):

We live in public trailer from RADAR on Vimeo.


Simple Rules for E-mail

The NY Times has a popular article explaining how to organize your inbox. I've also adapted David Alan's "Getting Things Done" to manage my inbox, and the techniques are easily applied to Gmail. Here are some of my time savers:

Filter your mail
I have a bunch of labels to sort various reference-related e-mails. Newsletters, product information, and e-mail flyers from stores automatically go into a "News" label. When I have time to read them, I search through this label. I also have separate "Notifications" and "Facebook" labels to flag e-mails that come in to let me know that Netflix has received my DVD or a friend has commented on my Facebook page. These could also go under the "News" label if you don't want to call them out separately.

Create action labels
I have four action labels: "_Resources", "_Someday/Maybe", "_To Do", and "_Waiting", for sending items that I have to deal with later, or want to keep on hand. The underscores at the beginning of each is to keep them at the top of Gmail's list of labels. Resources are e-mails sent from friends about helpful sites, or attachments with pictures from family, and other items that I may need to reference later. Someday/Maybe is for e-mails I'd like to get to eventually, usually for things that I'd like to do, not responses. I clean these out once every few months. To Do and Waiting are used daily. To Do includes any e-mails I need to respond to or take action on. For example, someone invites me to a party and I RSVP. To remind myself, I label this To Do until the party is over. Then I unflag it. Likewise with Waiting-- if I forward an e-mail to someone and I need a response, I flag it Waiting and check on it later to make sure I received a response. This method has improved my productivity considerably without the stress of having 50 million uncategorized e-mails sitting in my Inbox.

Empty your Inbox
I also archive old mail. Gmail makes this easy with one button. You can always search old e-mail to reminisce about those old conversations, or find something you need. I definately don't spend any time categorizing mail by date or sender, as Gmail makes it easy to search under these parameters. I make it a goal to keep my inbox empty, so that any new mail I receive either needs a response and a label, or to be archived.

The key is to keep things simple, but not too simple. If you open and read an e-mail, you shouldn't have to open and read it again to figure out what to do with it. Use labels to jog your memory about what had to be done, and put the stress of managing your life onto the computer, so you can enjoy your life.

1. Basics: An Empty In-Box, or With Just a Few E-Mail Messages? Read On, FARHAD MANJOO, March 4, 2009.


How to Win

David Plouffe seems to be every bit the opposite of Lee Atwater, and a welcome change for politics. He used Deval Patrick's campaign for governor in Massachussets as a test case for Obama's grassroots popular appeal, and the strategy worked. This is a welcome change from the win-at-all-costs strategies of Lee Atwater and his protege Karl Rove.

I can't find the Chicago Trib David Plouffe article referenced on his Wikipedia page, but found it on this howieinseattle blog:
As Sen. Barack Obama's campaign manager, Plouffe was the mastermind behind a winning strategy that looked well past Super Tuesday's contests on Feb. 5 and placed value on large and small states.

The campaign had the money to make such a potentially low-yield wager, and Plouffe had long understood that the Democratic Party's complex system for apportioning convention delegates meant winning even one congressional district in a state could help generate the total needed to reach the magic number.

From his 11th-floor Michigan Avenue office, he sent resources to such states as Nebraska, Idaho and North Dakota that Sen. Hillary Clinton virtually ignored, putting extra emphasis on those with lower-turnout caucuses instead of primaries.

The plan, which had been in his head at least as far back as late 2006, was partly out of necessity because Clinton's early name recognition and party ties gave her advantages in big states.

The strategy proved itself in the two weeks after Feb. 5, as Obama won 11 contests in a row and achieved a delegate lead he never would lose. In late February, Plouffe reportedly confided to a colleague that he believed a mathematical tipping point had been reached.

'A rare talent'
Marking one of the biggest upsets in U.S. political history, Obama himself saluted his behind-the-scenes general at the start of his victory speech last week in St. Paul.

"Thank you to our campaign manager David Plouffe, who never gets any credit, but who has built the best political organization in the country," he said.

As Obama's campaign transitions to the general election, Plouffe (pronounced Pluff) will lead the way. Ironically, it will be against someone he listed in 2003, in a Washington political journal, as his favorite Republican, Sen. John McCain.

In a campaign filled with alums from the 2004 presidential efforts of Sen. John Kerry and former Rep. Richard Gephardt, Plouffe comes from the Gephardt branch.

In 2003 and early 2004, he served as a senior adviser to Gephardt's short-lived presidential bid, a dozen years after getting his first taste for presidential politics working on a campaign for Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.

That Iowa experience helped him understand the state's arcane presidential caucus system and just how important an early win there would be in knocking the air of inevitability out of Clinton.

Lean and about 5 feet 10 inches tall, Plouffe can seem almost shy compared to more gregarious campaign personalities. But he can swear like a sailor, and his near-broadcast-quality voice exudes confidence on the many conference calls he holds with reporters and donors.

"He's not a weirdo, and a lot of the people who you meet at the senior level of presidential campaigns are eccentric or difficult or egomaniacs," said friend and Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf. "If you look at the high command of the Obama campaign, normalcy seems to weave through them."

Plouffe, 41, is a business partner with Chicago-based media strategist David Axelrod and worked with him on Obama's winning 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. But Plouffe, unlike Axelrod, rarely appears in front of television cameras.

"He's the most disciplined and focused person I have ever met in politics," said Elmendorf, who previously supported Clinton. "It is very easy to get distracted by the press and donors and activists. David just has a great filter and he doesn't let any of the noise bother him. In a presidential campaign, that's a rare talent."

Stealing bases, not show
Plouffe, who declined to be interviewed for this article, believes the airing of campaign disputes in public should be avoided at all costs and that the candidate should always be the focus. Even with a rapidly growing staff of about 800, unintentional leaks are rare.

"He is smart and scrappy and doesn't bring a huge amount of ego to the table," said JoDee Winterhof, a political strategist who has worked with and competed against Plouffe at several points of his career.

Like a baseball manager who knows it is a long season, Plouffe tends to avoid highs or lows, similar to his candidate. While his boss cheers for the White Sox, Plouffe prefers the Phillies (a reflection of a childhood in Delaware).

Plouffe's singular focus on running the campaign was displayed last week when he refused, despite encouragement, to fly with Obama to Minnesota for a victory rally. He stayed behind with the staff in Chicago, where he gave a pep talk about the historic moment.

"He was about as happy as we've seen him," a campaign aide said.

Guarding the coffers
Plouffe's campaign office door is always open, but his wallet isn't.

Although Obama's campaign has shattered fundraising records, Plouffe, the survivor of congressional campaigns that have run short on money, is well-known for his frugality.

Staff members are often paid less than their Clinton counterparts were, many double up in hotel rooms while on the road, and the "L" is the preferred form of transportation to and from Chicago's airports. At least early on, workers who wanted business cards were typically expected to pay for the printing themselves.

By guarding the campaign's coffers, Plouffe was able to ensure Obama had the money he needed after an expensive Super Tuesday advertising surge.

A specialist in tactics, Plouffe also understands the workings of the media and has offered lines for Obama speeches that were powerful enough to make the final cut, a skill he honed working on many other campaigns and with Axelrod.

'They will have a plan'
While there is no time for the sandlot this summer, those who have worked with him say he brings his same zeal for statistics to politics as he does when he is pitching in recreational leagues or following the batting averages of his favorite players.

"He's fascinated by numbers," said Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, who worked with him in 1999 and 2000 when Plouffe was executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "He just has an insatiable appetite for this stuff and he could keep all of it in his head."

Carrick credits Obama's success with his campaign's long view.

"From the very beginning of this campaign, David was very focused on the calendar and the sequence of it," he said. "The Obama campaign planned for the potential of it being a longer campaign all along."

In politics since college, Plouffe worked with Axelrod on the successful 2006 campaign of Deval Patrick for Massachusetts governor. An earlier big win came in 1996, when he managed the campaign for Bob Torricelli to fill Bill Bradley's U.S. Senate seat.

Plouffe joined Axelrod's consulting business in the winter of 2000 and was named a partner of AKP&D Message and Media in 2004 (the "P" is for Plouffe).

"He has the capacity to handle more details in his head at one time than anyone I know," Axelrod said. "David is very determined at whatever he does."

Elmendorf, meanwhile, said he looks for more of the same from Plouffe in the general election.

"It was probably the best-run presidential campaign in a generation," he said. "They will have a plan. It may not be clear yet, but they will execute it."

1. Frontline: Boogieman, the Lee Atwater Story
2. Wikipedia: David Plouffe
3. McCormick, John (2008-06-08). "Obama's campaign chief: low profile, high impact", The Chicago Tribune. [broken link]
4. Howie Martin: "Obama's campaign chief: low profile, high impact"


A Father Dies

21 years. You could even say more because it was 21 years since it was published. Gestational periods vary on a first born. So his baby grew up into a privileged college junior who probably took one of his own classes and showed up, feeling superior and special, clever and ironic, and pissed him off so much that when it graduated early he thought there was nothing more to do but hang himself.

Now, his child, fresh out of college and entering the workforce, can do nothing but slave away in the marketplace and die the same anonymous death that most of the masses face, never reaching the level of fame or renown as it's father. Sure, people talk about it, but talking about its birth and growth is not the same as appreciating its accomplishments, the things it was able to do on its own, the lives it transformed, single-handedly, without any help from Daddy.

It's sad, though, because its father is always in its shadow now-- and that becomes part of the narrative of its own life-- did it cause his death? The question is as unanswerable as why it was born.

DFW 2/21/62 - 9/12/08


The Economy

September 15, 2008

This morning we woke up to some very serious and troubling news from Wall Street.

The situation with Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that are generating enormous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets. This turmoil is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.

The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren’t minding the store. Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.

I certainly don’t fault Senator McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to. It’s a philosophy we’ve had for the last eight years – one that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. It’s a philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise, and one that says we should just stick our heads in the sand and ignore economic problems until they spiral into crises.

Well now, instead of prosperity trickling down, the pain has trickled up – from the struggles of hardworking Americans on Main Street to the largest firms of Wall Street.
This country can’t afford another four years of this failed philosophy. For years, I have consistently called for modernizing the rules of the road to suit a 21st century market – rules that would protect American investors and consumers. And I’ve called for policies that grow our economy and our middle-class together. That is the change I am calling for in this campaign, and that is the change I will bring as President.

Monday, September 15, 2008

ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, U.S. Senator John McCain issued the following statement on the situation in the financial markets:

"The crisis in our financial markets has taken an enormous toll on our economy and the American people -- first the decline of our housing markets followed by the collapse of Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and now Lehman Brothers. I am glad to see that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department have said no to using taxpayer money to bailout Lehman Brothers, a position I have spoken about throughout this campaign. We are carefully monitoring the financial markets, including the duress at Lehman Brothers that is the latest reminder of ineffective regulation and management. Efforts must also be focused on ensuring that the deposits of hardworking Americans are protected.

"It is essential for us to make sure that the U.S. remains the pre-eminent financial market of the world. This will be a highest priority of my Administration. In order to do this, major reform must be made in Washington and on Wall Street. We cannot tolerate a system that handicaps our markets and our banks and places at risk the savings of hard-working Americans and investors. The McCain-Palin Administration will replace the outdated and ineffective patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to Wall Street. We will rebuild confidence in our markets and restore our leadership in the financial world."

McCain's bullshit stinks more.