Thoughts on the US Open

Watching the final holes of the US Open plus the post play interviews, I was struck by the difference in the Europeans who were interviewed and the Americans, specifically the number one player in the world, Tiger Woods. Frenchman Gregory Havret, in a consolation interview, was gracious and personable. He talked about playing well, about being let down by his putter in the closing holes but mostly he just talked. He described his experience at Pebble Beach and his thoughts on the course as well as his play on it.

Graeme McDowell, the winner from Northern Ireland, was equally talkative, discussing the course, thanking the greenskeeper and grounds crew and giving us an insight into what it was like for him to win the US Open. He was personable and friendly. Granted, he had just won the US Open but still, he treated the questions from Bob Costas seriously. He appeared genuinely happy to answer questions.

Contrast this all with Tiger Woods who answered a single interview question curtly and shortly, saying he would take nothing positive out of his performance and acting generally like a petulant child, not a man who just finished tied for fourth in this country’s greatest championship in the sport of his choosing after a long and protracted episode of marital infidelity and personal disaster. He has apparently learned nothing, still assuming that happiness only comes with a win. His interviews were never particularly enjoyable to listen to but one would hope that he had gained some perspective over the past months. Instead, he can’t hardly be bothered to honor the tradition of the championship, can say nothing good of the winner or potential winners at that point and answers a single question as if it was the dumbest thing he had ever heard.

I didn’t ever really have an opinion on his troubles over the past few months. I think he made a huge mistake but I had hoped that maybe it would help him gain perspective on life, open up as a human and maybe give back to some of the fans who clearly still honor him. Instead, he is as stony and withdrawn as always. It is too bad that the best player in the world can’t be bothered to honor and respect the tradition of the Open and its fans as well as his fellow competitors.

Python Development on Windows

I’ve been rededicating myself to a Python project over the last couple of days and hence have been trying to get my Dell Windows 7 laptop set up for Python development again. It hasn’t been particularly easy. The things I’ve run into so far:

1. Python 2.6 happily runs on Windows 64bit whatever but not all 3rd party libraries are so forward thinking. Specifically, if you’ve got a project using PostgreSQL and SqlAlchemy, SqlAlchemy will complain about the Python driver psycopg2 on 64bit systems. There are other drivers out there but my solution was just to rollback my 64bit installation of Python and reinstall a 32bit version. That seems to be working fine though I haven’t gotten to the point of actually reading and writing data yet.

2. PYTHONPATH on Windows via the registry doesn’t seem to work, at least on my Windows 7 64bit installation. I have added the required registry keys per the documentation, rebooted 42 times and done the Guido van Rossum Purple Rain Remix dance with exactly zero results. For now, I’m just creating an environment variable the old fashioned way.

3. The real problem that led me to having to modify PYTHONPATH was that package imports just don’t seem to be working. I’m sure this is me being the Python equivalent of Charlie in Flowers For Algernon. I think in the past I must have had some magical setting or batch file that modified PYTHONPATH at startup or something but I wish my subpackage imports worked without having to resort to that.

On the plus side, my first TDD test passed first time up so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. At least the code isn’t so stale that it doesn’t even function anymore.

What Is The American Way of Life?

Lexington Green asks this question over at Chicago Boyz while providing his own answer. It’s a phrase you often hear but that rarely is explained. I wonder if it isn’t largely personal in nature and possibly dependent on your political proclivities. However, given the existence of the concept, I also feel that there are common threads through the idea that weave it into a general belief system for most Americans. Since I’ve often heard the phrase but never taken the time to define it for myself, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to do so.

Leave us alone. Stealing the concept from Grover Norquist, I think Americans would typically want to be left alone to live their lives as they see fit financially, spiritually and politically. We believe that we are the best judges of what is good for us and that no amount of central planning will ever take the place of our own decisions.

Hard work done intelligently should produce just rewards I Corinthians 3:5-9 says that God will reward us each according to our work. We have internalized this as a national concept. We believe that if we work hard and produce something of value, our efforts will typically be rewarded or at the very least not drastically hindered by forces outside our control. If we develop something successful, it will not be taken from us by the more powerful and we will be left to exploit our hard work in whatever manner we see fit.

The system is not rigged Closely related to the above point, we will be treated honestly and fairly as individuals, both by our fellow citizens and by our government. Favoritism and cronyism will play no part in the advancement of our ideas and efforts.

We have the freedom to change our own circumstances For better or for worse, we can always pick up and do something else, always of our own volition. This may be from a career standpoint or a geographical one.

We are not responsible for the follies of others There seems to be a strong sense of justice in American citizens and we are typically most offended when we feel that someone has escaped the effects of bad judgment. You should have the right to screw up your life but you should not expect anyone to provide a helping hand when you do so.

We are compassionate If you do screw up, we are likely to help out but we would prefer this help to come from families, friends and charities and not the central government.

We have the right to defend ourselves at all costs This is true in both domestic and foreign issues. This was important enough to encode in the Second Amendment and our history as a nation has typically shown that we are slow to respond but when we do, it is with the entire force of the American nation.

Generally, my idea of the American Way of life is largely Jacksonian in that the people should be in charge of the Republic. Andrew Jackson, despite many flaws, believed that the common people should be deeply involved in American democracy and that when they were not, the democratic tradition was subverted. I believe the American Way of Life is defined by the empowerment of the people to improve their situation, protect their family, friends and property and to live a life of their own choosing.

Marching Towards Another Depression

A fascinating article at New Deal 2.0 details the steps we are taking towards a likely second Great Depression. At a time when economies are teetering on the edge of recovery and a second recession, governments are starting to make noises, particularly in Europe, about reducing deficits as a model for responsible financial health. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite response governments should be taking as reducing a governmental deficit will naturally result in deflationary pressures on the private sector because the two are necessarily related.

Governments have two main ways to reduce deficits, increase taxes and reduce spending, both of which are deflationary. Doing either at a time when unemployment runs at 10% in most First world countries would result in huge burdens on the private sector. Governments are currently running large deficits because we just came out of one of the worst recessions the world has ever seen. Unfortunately, the bigger problem is that a huge portion of the government spending during those recessions actually resulted not in job creation but in an amazingly brazen transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy through paying bondholders at par value and keeping the oligarchs in the big banks solvent.

Bailing out the banks instead of the common people was a monstrous mistake but not one that needs to be compounded now by cutting spending which will necessarily affect the very same classes of people negatively that the bank bailouts did through reduction of public services and increased unemployment. The fact that our elites are even considering this shows how little they understand of the situation. Or playing more cynical, how little concern they have for the plight of the middle and lower class.

What we need are statesmen and leaders who can clearly explain why the current budgets deficits are necessary and then begin to formulate plans to redirect stimulus not to the oligarchs in power but to the people most affected by the economic disaster. Instead, we have captured men and cronies in power who will continue to rape the middle class until they no longer can, either because there is no middle class left or because they have been deposed. Until the system is reformed and our political leaders once again serve the interests of the many instead of the power of the few, I don’t see how we aren’t in for dark days ahead.