Thursday, October 30, 2008

Welfare... brought to you by ExxonMobil

Please send me your addresses, bank account and routing numbers, and I will transfer $10,000 USD into your account on behalf of ExxonMobil Corp.

This is not charity. It is a Congressional mandate that our record profits be distributed to you saps who have to buy our gas.

Jokes aside, ExxonMobil just reported the largest quarterly profit in history. Breaking its own record. Come back in three months when we will break the record for annual profit as well.

Hate on me hater, now or later...

Go head and hate on me, hater...

What I got, I paid for...

You can hate on me...

Thomas Friedman: The World Is Backwards

“Second, Washington could impose a national requirement that every state move its utilities to a system of ''decoupling-plus.'' This is the technical term for changing the way utilities make money -- shifting them from getting paid for how much electricity or gas they get you to consume to getting paid for how much electricity or gas they get you to save. Several states have already moved down this path.”

This is a quote out a New York Times article on the economy and its impact on the green-revolution. The article addresses an important point. When the economy crashes, and oil and gas prices drop, green initiatives become very unprofitable and are threatened with extinction. What was not a good point is Thomas Friedman’s (famed author of The World Is Flat) quoted text.

Is it just me or did he say, utility companies should not be paid for what they sale, but instead for what they do not sell? The idiocy and the implications of this quote cannot be ignored, especially because it is a tenant of much of the ‘green revolution’.

Let’s take a normal commodity like food. Friedman’s philosophy would suggest that instead of getting paid for how many meals I sell, I should get paid for how many meals I keep people from eating. Preposterous to think food is in the same boat as energy. If such a terrible policy is applied to utility companies (ExxonMobil would not fall in to this category) then what’s to stop a similar theory to being applied to McDonalds. Because your food is unhealthy we are going to stop letting you make money from what you sell and instead pay you for how many people you can keep out of your stores. The end game is you are most profitable when you have no customers, hooray you have profited yourself into nothingness.

I always wanted to read Friedman’s new book, but if it is filled with drivel like this... how can I. What he is proposing is destroying the idea of a capitalist enterprise and replaces it with a government controlled socialist entity. Because if you are getting paid from what you do not sell, your salary will ultimately be from a source other than your customers, in this case the government.

Some of you may be nodding your head with agreement, but we walk the line on other issues. Forcing oil companies to invest certain percentages of their earnings in renewable energy or forcing American automakers to meet certain CAFÉ mandated fuel efficiency ratings are also steps in which government plays a role in business. I do not see these acts as necessarily bad but they must be watched carefully. Forcing a company to make money in different areas and forcing a company to become unnecessary are two different things, but looking from where we are now to where we are headed, these two are along the same path. Hopefully we can exercise balance in this issue and decide what is acceptable and what is not.

Jonathan would say you can’t walk the line, but I hope we can. Because I don’t think I can sit idly by if nonsense like that is being accepted as gospel.

Not done yet…

“Third, an idea offered by Andy Karsner, former assistant secretary of energy, would be to modify the tax code so that any company that invests in new domestic manufacturing capacity for clean energy technology -- or procures any clean energy system or energy savings device that is made by an American manufacturer -- can write down the entire cost of the investment via a tax credit and/or accelerated depreciation in the first year.”

I had not made it to his third idea yet. No matter how unprofitable or exorbitantly expensive your design or process is, its cost-free to you as long as it is clean. People, I get the intention. We want to create incentives for technological development in clean technology. But offering to reimburse entire investment costs (regardless of effectiveness) is a terrible idea that will be wasteful at best and subject to manipulation at worse.

That’s it for now, I am going to go build myself an eco-mansion using an American construction company and write it off on my taxes as a energy saving device made by an American manufacturer. Come visit me anytime.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Proper Smashed

The sun woke me up this morning. This is normally a good thing, except when you realize you are on a sand dune in the desert with nothing recognizable in sight. Confusion turns to panic and back to confusion. The nausea that accompanied my awakening made me realize one fact, I brought myself out here, and its going to be one heck of an adventure getting myself back.

Before I get ahead of myself, let me describe this amazingly eventful weekend in Qatar. It started off like any weekend anywhere, a night out on the town on Thursday (our equivalent of Friday) with drinking, dancing, and a pretty good DJ. I even got invited to go on a yacht the following day, but I already had plans. That Friday, I was off to an overnight camping trip to the Inland Sea. The Inland Sea is a large inlet of water from the Persian Gulf that has snaked its way into the desert. It separate Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s border and provides wonderful contrasts of towering sand dunes and sparkling blue waters. It is a beautiful place.

Getting there is a much uglier ordeal. It is more like a safari than a road trip, and it best done in groups. Luckily all the logistics were planned out for me. I was to join my friend Cory and a bunch of Brits (plus a Finn and South African family) in their caravan. We woke up early, bought tents and food, and drove the hour south to rendezvous point. There we ditched Cory’s car (which got stuck in the sand immediately after leaving the road) and climbed into the much more robust SUV’s. Our four deep caravan managed to make it about ten minutes into the desert before our first problem struck. Danny’s (one of our drivers) car simply stopped moving. The wheels would not spin, the gears would not engage, he was a sitting duck. We were not yet in the dunes, and gratefully so, when we had this first lesson in hydraulic pressure. See a four wheel drive system has to build up pressure in the hydraulics in order to keep those four wheels spinning. If the pressure is not built you just sit there and wait until it does. Luckily our South African friend was pretty much an expert in all things off-roading. He identified the problem and had us moving in no time. From there we took the popular and relatively defined path to the inland see. Every time someone went rogue or we had to cut over a dune, the tow rope had to come out to rescue the stranded vehicle. When there are four cars, there is always someone to help you out.

The journey took a little longer than expected, and it was about two thirty in the afternoon by the time we picked a camping spot and put up our tents. By three the drinking and barbequing were well on their way. I had this silly idea that I was not going to do much drinking, so I mostly swam in the water (which had the strongest current I had ever encountered) and enjoyed my beautiful surroundings. The Finn, Eeva, even brought out a snowboard and let us all give a shot at sand boarding. Although fun, it turns out I am about as bad at sand boarding as I am at snow boarding.

It was a little after our boarding adventures that I gave up on soberness. Despite the Saudi patrol car on the other side of the water observing our debauchery, everyone was in quite the jovial mood by the time the sun was setting. We would have loved to catch the sunset from the top of a dune, but we ended up running into some stranded Frenchmen and their family on the way. So we spent the sunset pushing and pulling on a Range Rover that was completely unwilling to get unstuck. Eventually they were freed, and we exchanged numbers in the likely event that they got stuck again despite the unlikely chances of us ever finding them. Luckily they did not call.

As the sun set, we gathered round the hookah pipe and enjoyed those old campout feelings of our childhood. The South African family and a British couple both headed out after dinner, and they took restraint and moderation with them. Darkness settled in, the lamps were lit, and I learned why Brits (especially Scots) are so famous for drinking. Many bottles of liquor, packs of beers, and boxes of wine later I found myself having quite the wonderful time with my new comrades. Evidently there were Smores, sand burials, and shooting stars, but my memories were only fully brought back when the pictures surfaced.

What I do remember is being taken by the stars. I am going to confess that when I get really drunk, I tend to do very stupid things. This is probably why I don’t let it happen often. But of the times I can remember I have tried to climb a cathedral wall in a Spanish Square, gotten my leg caught on a fence I was trying to hop over (subsequently landing on my chin), and recently, I intended to walk into the desert and climb a tall dune to be one with the stars. Stupid idea, yes, but you did not see these stars. They were bright, alive, and innumerable, you almost just wanted to stay up all night and watch them. You forget what the sky is really like when you are constantly surrounded by the clutter of humanity.

So I walked, with my mp3 player as the soundtrack, deep into the desert. I remember the walk, I remember the dune, and I remember the stars, but mostly I remember waking up to the sun beating down on me.

It had to have been about five or six in the morning, and it was warm but not yet hot. I felt bad, in the stomach not the head, but was more concerned about my whereabouts than anything else. I scanned the horizon, and had to fight a bout of panic when I could not see any water. Then I realized my mp3 player was gone. I searched the sand in vain, but realized my energy and my time would probably be better spent finding my way home. So I picked myself up and started walking. Walking away from the dune was the easy part, but soon I had to choose a direction. I knew I was not far enough away from the water to never be found, so picking the right choice was just a matter of avoiding the miserable task of being lost for hours. Surprisingly, my instincts told me where to go and I merely listened. It was not the exact path I took to get there, but it was pretty darn close. In half an hour, I could see the tents and my salvation again. It was not until I passed out I reached my tent that I realized that I was still very drunk and that I was exhausted. Everyone was still sleep, so I drank some water and passed out.

When I woke up people acknowledged that I looked like death but had no idea that I had gone anywhere the night before. Evidently I stayed up later than everyone and was in my tent when they awoke. After more rest and food, I was well enough to join the group again. I requested a drive back to the dune so that I could look for my mp3 player, and Chris and Cory volunteered to take me. Once again I found the dune without much difficulty and proceeded to scan the bottom of the dune for any noticeable impurity. I was about to give up when Cory pointed to the top of the dune and said “I think that’s it”. Having bad eyes and not believing I had climbed that high, I disagreed. But Chris confirmed that there was a box and headphones close to the top of the dune. Climbing that dune drunk must have been bad, but climbing it hung-over in the 150 degree sand was just unbearable. I recovered it, but I still wonder if it was worth the pain of the climb and that searing sand.

We drove back (about two kilometers if I had to guess) and started to pack things up. The ride back was just hell. I think it took us three hours, and there were one or two times in which we thought we were going to be stuck out there all night or until a patrol could help. We dug, towed and pushed our way out of some very serious sand pits. Vomiting at some point during that day would have been merciful. Eventually we made it back to the original rendezvous point, but I was so tired that I barely noticed the goodbyes.

All in all it was a great trip, but it has caused me to give up drinking for at least a few days.

P.S. There are some serious critters in the desert. I woke up with literally hundreds of bug bites (54 on just my left arm) all over my body; I itch uncontrollably as I type this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Passed

God Anthony, why do you have to be so HIV negative all the time?

That was taken from South Park and tweaked, but it applies since I passed my test. Hooray. Now I can take some more tests to see if I can get into the country.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's the Result?

Today I took an HIV test. Not because I wanted to make sure I was STD free, but because the country of Qatar made me. In order to move here, I have to get a chest X-ray to prove I have somewhat healthy, get my blood group recorded, and get an HIV/AIDS test to make sure I don’t contaminate this country with the heretic’s virus.

Aside from thinking that it is kind of a smart thing to do, and realizing that it never hurts to get tested, it crossed my mind that it would really suck to fail this test. I mean it would suck failing a HIV/AIDS test anywhere at anytime, and I am 99.9% sure I will pass (knock on latex), but failing here, now, would be super-terrible. Because not only would I have HIV, everyone would find out (because that would be the only logical reason I would be denied a resident permit), and I would have to leave the country and probably lose my job. That’s like a triple whammy.

Not sure if there is a lesson or point to this… oh yea, here’s one, stay abstinent. Now I remember. Assuming I do get to stay in this country, I figure the only thing to worry about while screwing around here is getting someone pregnant (and herpes, Chlamydia, gonorrhea, etc.), which is at least 100 times less bad than getting the virus. I’m screwing everything in sight (joke).

*Actually, I looked up HIV/AIDS statistics in Qatar, and evidently there are 78 people with the virus in this country (as of 2007). Don’t know where they got that number from, but evidently its not all fun in the sun here in Doha.

Thoughts Worth Sharing

Thought One:
After sending out a note to some friends for dinner, I get a response from one guy saying something like “I will try and make it, but don’t hold me to it because you know I am flaky”.

This caused me to realize that self-deprecation or being open with your flaws is usually a win-win. If he does not show up, I can’t be too mad at him because he told me he might not. Its not really nice to be mad at him for being flaky either, because, well, we all have our flaws. So in essence he has exonerated himself of responsibility on the issue. He can gain points by showing up, and that ‘flaky excuse’ prevents him from losing any if he does not show. Smart play.

The one catch to this. The personal flaw card only works if people feel you are working to fix what is accepted as a flaw. Otherwise you just come off as a flaky guy who is also a loser for not trying to be less flaky.

Thought Two:
So I was on the toilet the other day, cleaning myself up, when it occurred to me that I have never used the bidet that sits next to my toilet. I quickly dismissed the idea but was reminded of a conversation that exposed the nonsense in my objections to the bidet. In the US I was telling a friend how I thought bidets were nasty and weird and how I did not want my butt getting sprayed with water. After my rant, he agreed that he was not particularly inclined to use them either, but he ruined his collaboration with the following observation. If you get mud on your arm and you try and wipe it off with paper, you end up smearing it all around and making a mess. Now if you wet your arm and a cloth and THEN wipe that same spot, you end up cleaning the mud off with no mess or smearage.

Now when ever I use my trusty old toilet paper I think of wiping mud off my arm. That bastard.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Corporate Fat Cat

As I left my personally climate controlled office and drove home in my rental car, I began to fret about the unnfortunate task ahead of me. I was about to have to change rooms in my hotel, what an inconvenience!

So what they are upgrading me to a suite with a wrap-around balcony, two bedrooms, and two forty inch LCD tv's, and three telephones (sometimes you just HAVE to make a call on the crapper)... they actually made me pack my own stuff up, the nerve! And this Lobster Rock Thermidore I ordered through room service is only average at best. Don't get me started onn the lentil soup, I can tell bottom of the cauldron dregs always. The only thing that brought a reasonable amount of comfort is the move in the stock market which has raised my return on investment to 15%.

Oh this life is hard. Big Oil really needs to do better by their employees, or else we might have to go to a profession that really knows how to treat its people.

Training Wheels

These are exciting times we live in, particularly in the midst of the elections and the market fluctuations. Having talked about the elections enough, I want to shed some light on the other interesting phenomena of the year: the market collapse.

Since around this time last year, the Dow Jones has dropped from 14K points to a low of 8K with it now trading around 9K points, a drop of about 40%. The cause of this precipitous drop (3000 points in about a month) was the freezing of the credit markets. In a nutshell, bad loans were given (mostly originating from the housing market) and then were hedged through insurance on these loans, which were then bundled and traded as commodities on the market. It was not until recently that it became very obvious that there was no money behind any of this. Foreclosures and debt growth amongst the average loan recipient killed the momentum necessary to keep these lenders afloat. Liquidity has become a scarce thing in corporate America these days. Just like a person with too much debt, banks and other companies are now in a bind. One consequence is the selling of assets at ‘fire sale’ prices so that companies can gain liquidity, and on the other side, lenders are refusing to loan out money because they either do not have it or have no faith the money will ever come back to them. The government is attempting to fix this by opening up its wallet and providing the much needed cash and in return will own a stake of these corporations.

The point of this entry is to convince all three of my readers that we have an awesome opportunity on our hands. Each one of you should be using these next six to twelve months to save up for your first (or at least your biggest) entry into the stock markets. Not only should you be saving money, but you should be learning about the art of investing. When this recession ends, the stock market will be like Vegas where the player always wins in the long run. I have already gone and put a good amount of money into the market in case things have already hit their lowest, but I have been convinced that the worst is yet to come. I have had the luck of coming under the tutelage of what I term a ‘market guru’ who is going to teach me how to look at a company’s balance sheet and determine value, to predict market trends and recognize the formation of a bubble, and most important, how to make money hand-over-fist like he does. I have never cared much for money (or rather what it can buy you), but I know I need it and that the more I have of it, the less I have to concern myself with it in the future. So I am going to use this global downturn to make money, and I want all of you to as well.

I am going to start documenting the lessons I am learning on this journey, and hopefully we can all do a little better for ourselves.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Doha Doldrums

The reality of moving is setting in. Gone is the phase of intrigue, novelty, and anticipation, what has taken its place is the reality that comes when the hoped for finally arrives. Up to recently, there was always the chance that this move would not happen, but now the rubber has hit the pavement.

I was sitting up this past morning realizing with what I would ‘dread’ the simple realities of my situation. I am moving far away AGAIN, this time really far away, and that move is going to bring along at least three months of loneliness, insecurity, home-sicknesss, etc. etc. Although I believe I will come out better for it, I am not looking forward to it. Luckily I have some friends out here, but in the big picture, I am pretty much out here alone. No family, no feeling of home, no cultural safe ground… all that is going to be tough to get through. But this is what I signed up for.

Emails from friends and family have just made me realize how much I will miss all of you all, and that being without the relative easy access to you will be difficult. Don’t feel too bad for me, I am just getting what I asked for.

Which reminds me, I am not here on vacation, I am here on a mission. These are the things that I want to do while I am here:

-Become a better writer, through consistent practice of course.
-Become more knowledgeable of other cultures, through travel and friendships with people other than ‘westerners’ and ExxonMobil employees.
-Increase my understanding of the issues controlling the world: economies, resources, wars, history, culture. Will do this through more non-fiction reading.
-Attempt to learn Arabic.
-Make all efforts to “taste the rainbow”.
-Exercise my body as well as my mind (swimming, yoga, weights, soccer)

Most people in my situation are here for the money, and yes I do appreciate the money, but that is way down on my priority lists. I must also not fall into the pitfall of trying to work to hard at my day job (not much chance of this).

This whole assignment is about growth and preparing myself for my destiny (whatever that may be). Wish me luck people.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Candidates

November is slowly encroaching on our lives, but unlike most years, this one brings with it the close of one of the most closely followed and most exciting Presidential election campaigns in this nation’s history. Come November 4, a day that will stand out in the memories of our lives, we will know who has won the great contest between Barack Obama and John McCain.

You can look at this debate through a number of lenses, whether from a policy on health care or Iraq, to their respective choices of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin for VP’s, but the most interesting view for me is through the lens of those ‘fundamental differences’ that each of these candidates often speak of. I wish I had written this post a few weeks ago, before Newsweek beat me to it, but I can at least have my crack at what was then untouched territory. I want to discuss the ways that each of these individuals sees the world.

The importance of this dissection lies in that old mantra ‘perception is reality’, and these two men will soon have the power to shape the nation and the world in the image of their perceptions. Also, when you look at their policies, the two are not as different as you would expect from a Democrat and Republican. They both more or less are supporting tax cuts, increased health care, financial regulation, and international diplomacy, even though they go about them in different ways. They both are far from the ‘right’ wing of politics, and let’s not forget that they are both agents of change. I, an independent, and a moderate one at that, fall squarely in the middle of the political spectrum and have given much attention to both candidates. I have decided that the difference between the candidates lies more in their private perspectives than in their public policies. It was mentioned in the second debate, electing a president is not about electing policies and promises, but about electing someone who’s character, wisdom, and passion will guide the country through the unforeseen future and the dynamic changes of the global landscape. So with that, lets begin.

John McCain is a fighter. Much of what will follow is a direct elaboration of this central fact. The history of a man is important, because like a vector, your origins play a large role in your destination. McCain was born into a family of military men who served this country courageously and achieved many accomplishments. His father and grandfather were four-star Admirals in the Navy, and he followed that same path, through the Naval Academy and into combat in Vietnam. In those skies, a force knocked both his plane and his life off its trajectory. I hope that we all know the story, he crashed, was beaten by a mob, rescued by the goodwill of a strange woman in a strange land, imprisoned for years in POW camp, offered release as a special courtesy to an Admiral’s son, rejected this offer and suffered away for several years until he was finally freed at war’s end. A story I find amazing. Evidently it moved him as well, because it changed his fighting from a physical arena to a political one. The goodwill of the Samaritan, the camaraderie of his fellow prisoners and the persistence against an evil force (from his perspective at the time) all changed John McCain from the future-admiral to a potential future-president.

Barack Obama is a thinker. I was torn to label him a number of things, from visionary to intellectual, but what stands out most is his instinct to think through issues objectively and thoroughly. Barack, who connects so effortlessly with his audience that I insist on using his first name like I know him, also has an interesting background. He was born to a Kenyan father and white Kansas mother, but was largely raised by his mother and grandparents after the early exodus of his father, Barack Sr. He grew up in Hawaii in a middle class household until his mother remarried, causing them to move to Jakarta, Indonesia, the birthplace of his new stepfather. Eventually moving back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents, he remained there until his college years in LA and NYC. After a short, but promising career in a research firm, he left this career to pursue his dream of community organizing in Chicago. After victories in these efforts, both small and large, Barack went on to get his Law Degree at Harvard, returned to organizing, became a professor of law, and eventually settled into his current career as a politician. Much of what makes Barack a complex person, more so than McCain, comes from the path of self-discovery that runs between these impressive accomplishments. Through internal battles with his racial background and with the absence of his father, Barack emerged with a deep appreciation for the everyday struggles that others around him were dealing with. This led him to devote his life to service and he intends to continue to do so as the next president of the United States.

Barack, the thinker, and McCain the fighter, both have compelling stories that force the electorate to decide between two competent and capable candidates. So how do their histories determine their perceptions of the present and future. Lets see:

On our enemies: McCain sees the world as a dangerous place because there are bad people out there that need to be beaten down or protected against. This view presumably originates with his military upbringing, career and schooling. Obama envisions the world as a place full of miscommunications and opportunities for cooperation. Obama learned to solve problems in the service sector where problems are solved through allies and compromise not force. Both know that we have enemies, but one is more apt to beat our enemies into submission and the other is likely to see diplomacy and strong sanctions as a path to peace. McCain favors the quote, ‘speak softly, and carry a big stick’ of Teddy Roosevelt, and Obama prefers the JFK ‘never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate’. Neither would fail to use force if necessary, but the levels of restraint and hesitation would be higher for Barack.

What this means practically. The prevention of nuclear capabilities in Iran, the sovereignty of Pakistan’s Afghanistan border, and the handling of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are all issues where these differences may become a serious issue.

On our economy: Barack grew up in a single family home with grandparents who worked much of their lives. He is a solid believer in the strength of the middle class to power an economy and believes that the job creation is the key to enabling that strength. McCain admittedly does not claim to be an expert on the economy, and I suspect much of his ideas come from his background of wealth and republican ideology. That being that capitalism is a trickle down process, as it is intended to work, and that lowering taxes on the top corporations and individuals promotes investments and growth. Obama believes that wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few and wishes to equalize that distribution, McCain believes that what a person earns a person keeps.

The extremes of both views are scary. Barack’s plan for redistributing wealth in this country borders on socialism, and McCain’s tax cuts for corporations and high-wealth individuals will almost certainly allow the gap between ‘wall street’ and ‘main street’ to grow.

On healthcare and welfare: McCain proposes a significant reform to healthcare, but in no way does his plan make it universal. His plan gives the American public more freedom to take their health care provisions into their own hands. By providing a tax-credit to individuals, McCain argues that the individual will be able to choose what is best for him or herself based on their personal situation. This plays to McCains belief that government should largely stay out of the lives of the American people, and that individuals can make the best choices for themselves. It is important to note that illegal immigrants, and those that have fallen out of the federal tax system, will remain unaffected or potentially worse off from this plan. McCain does not believe in free handouts, especially to those who are not playing by the rules.

Obama plans to provide health care to each and every individual within the borders of this nation. As stated in the debate, he believes access to health care is a right. This will bring American policies more in line with our northern neighbor, and also with our contemporaries in Europe. But this will not come free; the increased coverage will likely lower the quality of some existing health care coverage, and will cause prices of ‘designer’ health care packages to be prohibitively expensive. This does bolster one of the central philosophies of Barack Obama: it is the responsibility of those who can, to provide for those who can not.

Ultimately, McCain will attempt to preserve the American way of life as it is and how it has been. Obama is prepared to guide us into a redefined American Dream in which the old lines of power and privilege are redrawn. McCain sees the America as the rightful leader of the free world while Obama sees that as a right the world must bestow upon us.

The reality of an Obama world is simple. America will have to change, from the fundamentals to the superfluous, our priorities and relations to the world will shift. We use too much energy, exercise too much power, and consume too many resources in comparison to the rest of the world. Obama believes that we must equalize with the rest of the world, and there will be undesirable aspects to that change. Under Obama, America will not fight the ascensions of other nations into power, and as a result we will use our current position of power to teach others how to grow their power responsibly.

McCain believes that we have what we deserve, not because we are gluttons, but because this is the reward and the right of those leading the free world. McCain will ensure that we continue to do so to the best of our abilities. It is not the plan of the McCain presidency to usher in the new world order, one in which the USA is not the sole-superpower. McCain may imagine the world as a giant game of King of the Hill, where there can only be one leader of the free world. We will fight to stay on top of that hill.

Prior to going to the polls on or before November 4, investigate how it is that you see the world. Doing so will make your choice for President much easier.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


I just spent the last ten minutes looking at the results of googling “Anthony Jackson”. I simply wanted to find out how easy it was to find some reference to myself in that big ole world wide web.

This innocent episode started when I searched the name Germanique Pickens. Why search that name? Because I went to lunch with one of my mentor’s from work, and he was like, ‘you need to meet Germanique’. But he said it in a manner that says ‘I wish I was twenty years younger so I could meet Germanique’ wink, wink. So I proceeded to look her up on our phone system. Unfortunately she did not pick up the phone, leaving my curiosity roaming free. So I googled her. It did not take much foresight to imagine she was probably the only Germanique Pickens in existence, and that there would probably be a pic of her somewhere (Facebook, myspace, etc.). Sure enough, there was a pic. My interest to meet her has gone down somewhat. BUT, the whole exercise made me want to look up my own name.

I knew my name was popular, and that many people such as bass guitarists, criminals, and authors shared my moniker. But I figured that if I filtered through all the clutter that they created, I would get to that diamond in the rough that is Me. Thirty google pages later, I gave up. If I am not google-worthy, what good is my existence? It really hurt when, on page 28 or so, I see GEM – Anthony Jackson. Thinking I had finally hit pay dirt, because I was indeed a GEM scholar (which there are not many), I click on the link to discover there was even another Anthony Jackson GEM scholar… that cheeky bastard, with his PhD and accomplishments. So it turns out I am an unoticable speck in the universe that is the internet.

All this has given me hope though, a new purpose even. I will be the most famous Anthony Jackson to ever hit the internet!!! I realize such an ambitious goal is not easily accomplishment. First I will become the most famous Anthony Jackson in Texas (evidently there are 50 of us according to White Pages), then I will become the most famous Anthony Jackson on Facebook (random friending, here I come), and finally I will take on the entire internet. I will need all your support in this most important of tasks.

I really need to be more productive at work.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dreams From My Father: A Review

I have never been naturally drawn to autobiographies, but Barack Obama’s story of race and inheritance perked my interest for a number of reasons. He is the potential, and dare I say presumptive, President of the United States of America; he is young (relatively), black, ambitious, and gifted… just like myself; and he has that rare and elusive ability to inspire the masses. Reading this book was going to strengthen my resolve in supporting Barack Obama, the beacon of change. My hope did not completely translate into reality.

As implied by the title, this book was intended to address three issues: race, inheritance, and the impact of his missing father. All this was to be told through the eyes of a young man coming of age. Barack Obama tells the story well. He is an adequate writer who knows how to keep a story well proportioned and pertinent. He is descriptive, articulate and contemplative. Reading this book, you learn a great deal about the life he led. But the whole thing left me disappointed. Because at some point in the 400 odd pages of text, you realize that you know what happened to young Barack, but you do not know Barack.

I enjoyed the book, and learned a lot from it, but the same story could have been told by a close friend or a ghost writer. The text was so bereft of personal disclosure that I hesitated to continue. You see, I picked up this book because I was uncomfortable in voting for someone who was so elusive. He is a moving speaker and a man with clear intellect and wisdom, but I did not feel like his motives and his character were open for display. Now I do not assume that these motives or his character are sinister in nature, I just do not know what they are. So I picked up this book to find out. And found his text to be as obscure as some of his speeches.

The text was very quick to elaborate on the inner workings of others, or to speculate about the inner turmoils of classmates, coworkers, or family… but his divulgences into his own psyche seemed selective and curtailed. Perhaps it was in efforts to staying focused on the previously mentioned issues, but I really wished he would have given more time to his personal relationships, whether with family or friends or women. For those that have read this book, and those that will read it, please pay attention to the difference between being told something and being made to understand something. Barack tells in this book but does not make us understand him. I believe that it was understandable to do this when he wrote the book, because he was fresh out of law school and, frankly, had no reason to let people in on his life. The issue that I have, is having recognized this trait in young Barack, I see it still in older Barack. That worries me. Things are hidden away either from shame or because of ulterior motives.

The story was of a man searching for himself, and I am unconvinced that he found what he was looking for. He searched for himself in the grave of his father and kept searching through generation after generation of Obama’s. But the truth of a person, of yourself, is to be found inside. This searching was his true inheritance, his father had it, his grandfather had it, and it is obvious that Barack has it. This sense of discontentment, the need to prove one’s self to himself and to others. It is the driving force that I believe has led Barack to the place where he is now. With this presidency bid he is vindicating the wrongs and achieved the rights that his ancestors have embodied. I think Obama is still searching for that peace of self-knowledge, and has allowed success and altruism to serve as a substitute.

I believe that Barack has the ability to do great things with this country, and I believe he will. I do not know what has become of the Barack that wrote Dreams… but I hope that young man found himself somewhere along his journey.