Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Slow Blog Day, May 2011 edition

I am behind on everything as I spent a day going to and from Ottawa to present some research.  Next three trips to Ottawa (over the next three weeks) will be back to asking policy-maker types about their work on Afghanistan to get the civilian side and also more of the military side.  The former is for a new spinoff project that will take me to Australia in July.  The latter is for the book project and associated pieces.  I will be late with the first draft of the Aussie paper (due today) by a few days.  I blame the careless school bus driver.  May not be true, but it is a ready excuse.

So, just a few scattershot thoughts on various news/events/realizations of the day:
  • I have a new favorite podcast--Nerdist.  It is supposedly nerd-focused (comic books and such) but the interviews are with a range of interesting people and go in all kinds of interesting directions.  Hosted by Chris Hardwick, who started out on the MTV Singled Out show, it is just very, very funny.  I didn't lose control of my rental car on the way to or from Ottawa, but it was close a couple of times.  Just funny, often profane takes on things.  I will never think of Darth Vader the same after the podcast with Kevin Smith.
  • Thanks to the podcast with Kevin Smith, I will always look at Ferris Bueller's day as motivated by Ferris's coke addiction.  It just makes too much sense.
  • Thanks to another Nerdist podcast, my crush on Alison Brie of both Mad Men and Community has just deepened.  
  • Fun day of powerpoint panics.  My presentation almost had to be ppt-less as the building lost power a couple of hours beforehand.  Luckily it came back AND I was not in an elevator.  Later, on the way home, I stopped by the organizational meeting of a new ultimate league that is based in the western part of the Montreal island.  The head of the Montreal frisbee folks was a bit off his game, since his powerpoint presentation had not been saved right.  So, for the kids out there, always, always print out an outline view or a summary of your ppt so that you can handle a broken computer/file/projector.  I was ready in case the power was out--I could have given the talk, but would have had to draw on a board or something....
  • Onto professional type stuff, Prime Minister Harper was in Afghanistan to close out the mission in Kandahar.  He said the usual crap that drives me crazy--that the mission lasted longer than the two world wars.  True but inane.  "We have to look at this mission as a great success,’’ Harper said.  Depends on what you call success.  Roland Paris tweeted today how insecure Kandahar is.  I have no idea if it is better or worse.  The Taliban certainly seem to be generating lots of dramatic attacks around the country, but I do not know if this is more frequent/intense or just more visible.  The prison break shows that there has been no progress at all on that front since it is the second one.  So much for that effort.  I do think that "not losing Kandahar" was an achievement.  I do think that Canada's effort in Kandahar did earn it more influence, so these are successes.  Stopping terrorism--not so much.
  • Speaking of achievements, Harper's tour included a farm where an Al Qaeda base used to be, so that he could have Canada take credit for the renovation of a big dam project.  What he did not point out is that improving irrigation not only improves the wheat crop but also the poppy crop.  I don't think that is a bad tradeoff at all, just being honest about it is all.
  • I do disagree with a tweet I saw about the Canadian shift from Kandahar to training in Kabul making sense.  I disagree--Canada developed expertise and relationships in Kandahar that are being essentially tossed away to fill a bunch of slots that were not empty (there was no NATO need for lots of clasroom trainers in Kabul, but a heap of need for continued mentors/trainers going into combat with Kandahar-based Afghan units).  More ranting on this later.
  • One trend I hate: rebooting an entire comic book.  Worse: DC is rebooting all of its series.  I stopped collecting when my daughter was born since diapers displaced the comic books in the family budgets.  Given the messes made of my favorite characters and groups (mostly Spidey and X-folk), I have few regrets.
Perhaps more tomorrow as I try to get through some deadlines.

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