Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Caller from Canada

My new car has Sirius satellite radio which comes with around 140 channels of niche channels, including one channel called POTUS which is mostly politics talk.

There's a show on POTUS called "Standup with Pete Dominick", where a former comedian talks politics with random callers from all over. When I was driving back to SF from Google on Thursday around 10 pm he couldn't fill his hour-long slot, so he offered any caller 30 seconds to talk about whatever they wanted to say. (Note that there is a 7-second delay to the show to bleep out coarse language.)

One of the callers was from Canada and his advice for Americans was to have more confidence in investing in the future of their nation. Dominick put him on the spot, and asked what specifically Americans should invest in. The caller fumbled a little bit - "there's really a bunch of stuff" - and before his time was up, the only example he could come up with was "running shoes".

Running shoes are clearly not the prime example of what America needs to invest in[*], but as the clock hit 10 pm, I found myself turning off the radio and thinking about what the right answer should be.

It's clear that the US needs better infrastructure - fix the roads, improve road safety, and build faster, better trains. We need more solar panels on roofs so we can burn less coal, and more wind farms that feed into the grid. We need better education and better educators so that kids no longer drop out of high school, but prepares them for the jobs of the century ahead. Better and cheaper health care, better medical records, the list of big-ticket items goes on and on ...

One problem is that the US is a country that's in love with the quick fix, and the things we need to do are long-term investments that need years and decades. And that requires confidence. The caller from Canada, while wrong on the running shoes, was right.

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[*] To the caller's credit, he got cut off before he could launch into an argument. Maybe he was going to propose a scheme to give everyone running shoes to decrease obesity and thus long-term health care costs.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The only time you'll buy and read print magazines

In the future, the only time you'll buy print magazines on paper is at the airport. The only time you'll read them is during taxi, takeoff, and landing. That's when electronic devices have to be switched off.