Apr 172014

I don’t know if I’ll make it to Coachella next year, but I do have tickets to this summer’s Rock the Garden music festival here in Minneapolis. This is the first year of the festival’s 2-day format and I’m excited to see Best Coast, Spoon, and local sensation Dessa. This will also be my first year attending RTG, which is only a couple miles from my home. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and that I can find a decent sightline to the stage.

Apr 142014

I was a bit surprised to learn that Amazon has purchased digital comics purveyor Comixology. I now purchase most of my comics via Comixology and I hope this takeover leads to some much-needed improvements for the site, such as a more refined search function and a more intuitive way to organize the comics I have already purchased. Amazon has a reputation for not mucking up the companies it purchases (see Audible and Zappos), which could be good news for Comixology and its customers.

I’d like to see more competitors enter the market, but few companies will be eager to contend with a behemoth like Amazon. Publisher Dark Horse has its own digital storefront, but it’s a bit of a mess and I think I would prefer that they simply make their titles available through Comixology.

Apr 132014

Watching the live YouTube stream of Coachella during the weekend has once again stirred my interest in attending the much-hyped music festival. I seem to do this every year; I watch the concert video and think how much fun it would be to be there in person. But after more thought, I decide that the heat and crowds are more trouble than they’re worth. That may be the wrong mindset. If I have flirted with the idea for this long, I should just find a way to do it and not worry about the obstacles. That approach seemed to work well for my trip to Europe and I’m overdue for another adventure.

Stay tuned to see if I can actually make this happen. Coachella tickets aren’t exactly easy to come by.

Apr 102014

Well, that was fast. Only a week after David Letterman announced that he was retiring from the Late Show, CBS announced that Stephen Colbert would be the show’s new host. The Colbert Report has been such a consistently well-crafted piece of satire and I’ll be sorry to see it go at the end of the year. Colbert has already stated that he won’t bring his current persona to CBS, which is understandable. His schtick would only confuse the older viewers that CBS attracts, but I do hope he finds a way to deviate from the standard late-night construct of monologue, interview, and music. Colbert will probably the smartest person working on late-night network TV and his new show should reflect that.

Apr 032014

I’m currently debating whether to purchase a new van. My 1999 Dodge Caravan still runs well, but 15 years is a long time to hold onto a vehicle. I worry that it could suddenly fail without warning, forcing me to scramble to find a replacement. A new van would be a significant expense ($45,000-$60,000), but I might qualify for some assistance via a Medical Assistance waiver. I’m also fairly certain that my next van will be a Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey. The Dodge has been generally reliable, but its hunger for new parts began rather early in its lifespan.

Of course, I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can reasonably afford a new vehicle. For most people with disabilities, an accessible vehicle is a luxury item that is too expensive to even contemplate.

Apr 012014

Six months ago, most observers would have bet that Obamacare would fail miserably at enrolling seven million people by March 31st. Hell, I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic. But as the President announced today, that’s exactly what happened. This news will do little to deter opponents of health care reform from proclaiming yet again that the whole endeavor is either a misguided failure, a socialist plot, or both.  Fact on the ground matter, though. Obamacare now has a constituency; real people who will suffer if the law is repealed or scaled back. It’s a constituency that may not be the most politically well-connected, but they have a real stake in ensuring Obamacare’s success and longevity. Republicans will probably continue to pretend that this constituency doesn’t exist, even it makes them seem increasingly oblivious to reality.

I expect the law to be tweaked and revised in coming years, as it should be. But Obamacare is now a permanent fixture of America’s policy landscape, a fact worthy of a little celebration.

Mar 282014

Switzerland is planning to host the first “Cybathlon”, an athletic competition for people using prosthetics or other augmentive aids. It will include a wheelchair race, an exoskeleton race, and a (gasp!) brain-computer interface race. A better name for this event might be “Meet Your Future Gimp Overlords”. I’m curious to see what kind competition this attracts and whether it will be broadcast on-line. The organizers don’t seem interested in placing any restrictions on the kinds of technology that can be used, so the Cybathlon could be a showcase for the truly cutting-edge.

Attention corporate sponsors: I will gladly wear a sensor cap emblazoned with your product logo as I compete in the BCI races. All I require is a well-appointed training facility and a personal masseuse (whom I interview and hire, of course).

Mar 262014

Kevin Featherly, friend and fellow Humphrey Policy Fellow alumni, recently wrote a profile of me that appeared in Politics in Minnesota. It’s behind a paywall, so I’m linking to a PDF in case you’d like to read it. Technically, I don’t have permission from the magazine to reprint it, but I’m hoping my charm and good looks will keep the lawyers at bay. I also tried to reformat it as webpage, but that induced way too migraines.

Anyway, here’s the article. Kevin makes me sound much smarter than I really am.

Mar 122014

The Times’ David Carr has a difficult time keeping up with all the good stuff on TV. He writes:

I was never one of those snobby people who would claim to not own a television when the subject came up, but I was generally more a reader than a watcher. That was before the explosion in quality television tipped me over into a viewing frenzy.

Something tangible, and technical, is at work. The addition of ancillary devices onto what had been a dumb box has made us the programming masters of our own universes. Including the cable box — with its video on demand and digital video recorder — and Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation, Roku, Wii and Xbox, that universe is constantly expanding. Time-shifting allows not just greater flexibility, but increased consumption. According to Nielsen, Americans watched almost 15 hours of time-shifted television a month in 2013, two more hours a month than the year before.

Of course, I can relate. After I finish a few things on-line, this evening will be devoted to catching up on The Walking Dead and The Americans. I might even squeeze in an episode of The Daily Show before trying to make some progress on my book club selection.

I’m old enough to remember when people first started talking about television’s “golden age” in the late 90s, with the rise of shows like The X-Files and The Sopranos. But the proliferation of quality series over the last few years has been remarkable. Players like Amazon and Netflix will only accelerate this trend, throwing more content at me than I can possibly consume. I’m more than okay with that. I still love books and movies and music and comics and games, but serialized TV really has become my primary jam.

Mar 102014

This week’s must-read is a devastating article in the Times about the exploitation of several men with cognitive disabilities who, until recently, lived in Atalissa, Iowa. These men were brought to Iowa from Texas institutional facilities decades ago to work in a turkey processing plant. The company boarded the men in an abandoned schoolhouse and paid them $65 dollars per month to work long hours doing dangerous work that left many of them with serious health problems. At the schoolhouse, they lived in squalor and were treated like children by the live-in supervisor and frequently abused and neglected. They were never given a choice as to where they might live or what other work they might want to do. This mistreatment continued for years despite family members and town residents asking the state to investigate the matter.

The disability rights movement has accomplished a great deal, but like most civil rights movements, its victories have not been evenly distributed. The true scope of the abuse these men suffered was not discovered until 2009. Several townspeople quoted in the article suspected something might be wrong, but said nothing. Some of that can be attributed to plan old Midwestern reticence, but it can also be attributed to the unconscious marginalization of these men because of their disabilities. Nobody intervened because nobody really wanted much to do with these guys. And those attitudes persist far beyond Atalissa’s borders.