Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guess who stopped by (2)

Today the Congressman met with President Saakashvili of Georgia, who was accompanied by the Deputy Interior Minister, Eka Zghuladze and the Georgian Ambassador to the US. The most interesting point during the meeting to me was when the President said that at age 41, he is the oldest member of his Government. Which means that no one is in the government who was older than 22 when the Soviet Union fell.

Next week we have the Transportation Secretary coming in.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Guess who stopped by?

One of the nice things about working for a Congressman is that all sorts of interesting people come by to meet with us. Yesterday it was three astronauts from the Space Shuttle Endeavour, who just returned in February from a vision to the International Space Station. They are wondering how anyone is going to get back there once the Shuttle fleet is retired at the end of this year.

They brought a plaque for the Congressman with patches that had flown in space, needless to day we were all gaga and had our pictures taken.

All of which caused me to reflect on a subject I think about from time to time," interest group democracy." We spend a lot of time meeting with people who want something from the federal government, sometimes legislation but more often, money. And the government had untold sums to dole out. Let's leave aside for the moment the crazy way we finance campaigns. As messy as it is, there is something glorious about the way people are able to come to their elected representatives, tell them their concerns, and seek help. I'll say this, too: if it weren't for those people coming to see us, we'd have precious little idea of what is going on in the real world, because the perspective from Capitol Hill is very narrow.

So while I know that there are big problems about who gets access and whose voice gets heard, I don't really know a better way of getting the concerns of the people to their representatives. And besides, it means that every now and then I feet to meet an astronaut.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Settling in

I moved into my new apartment on Monday night after a long, delayed flight from SF. Oh, joy, to open the fridge to find that the owner had left behind 4 Bass Ales and a wheel of Bon Bell cheese. Next morning, after the cable guy left, I headed up to Bethesda to pick up the things I'd left with my friends Julie and Mark while I was back in CA. A word about friends--What a blessing they are! Julie and Mark took me in, sheltered me from the storms (quite literally), fed me, transported me (literally and figuratively) and made me feel absolutely welcome every second. They made the first part of this adventure possible, and I am enormously grateful.

I went up to Bethesda by Zipcar, my first experience, and it is very cool. A Toyota Scion is parked across the street from my building; reserve it, press your card against the windshield, and you're in and on your way. Two hours, pick up my stuff, do a big shop at the grocery, $18.

Back at work and lots to do. Most fun so far was the other night, after "Special Orders" (see earlier post for definition), I went to dinner with the boss and three other Congressmen, from Iowa, Wisconsin and NY. Great camaraderie, talk of what it was like back home during the recess, politics, policy, more politics. These Members are part of what they call the "Populist Caucus," about which more to come in future posts. It was great to be welcomed as part of the "club," very relaxed, no pretension, just an earnest but good-humored desire to figure out how to get things done.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Early adopter

It won't surprise many of you that my iPad arrived at my door Saturday, having been ordered the first day Apple started taking orders. Fortunately, it rained hard all day Sunday, so that I had plenty of time to put it through it's paces. Though I still have plenty more experimenting/playing with the various apps vie loaded on it.

Initial impressions: will it change my life? Nope. Will it replace my laptop? Nope, esp because I can't log into VPN for work using it. Will I turn to it at home as opposed to my iPhone, laptop or desktop? Absolutely.

Reading Kindle books, Barnes & Noble ebooks and now iBooks, is fantastic. (I've given my Kindle to Liz). Reading the newspaper, a magazine or Marvel comics is way easier and more fun than on a laptop or iPhone. The right amount of the text shows on the screen, and you can easily zoom in to make it bigger.

Probably the coolest thing so far is watching movies. With the Netflix app tou can watch any of the "watch instantly" movies they have anytime you're in a wifi network. The quality of the picture is terrific, and the screen is large enough so that it doesn't look silly.

Nothing too original here, just my immediate thoughts.

On a related topic, I now have both an iPhone (personal) and Blackberry Curve (work). And my question is: why would anyone get a Blackberry if they could have an iPhone? I used to be a big fan of Blackberry, i helped introduce it to my firm when it first came out, but the keys on this thing are so small there's no way to type with it--plus it doesn't correct your mistakes. My aging eyes can't even read the keys. And web browsing, etc is a joke compared to the iPhone. Not to mention the fact that the iPhone is an iPod Just my opinion.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Back in the District

I must say it's wonderful to be back in California, despite the rain. It's Easter recess and a District Work Week, so I'm working out of our Walnut Creek office and getting out and about as much as possible. On Tuesday I spoke at a Livermore Chamber of Commerce luncheon honoring "Dream Makers and Risk Takers," and although they didn't realize it, that's a pretty good description of me for the past couple of months--going out to DC without any certainty about what I'd be doing, whether I'd be paid, and finding that the risk paid off and the dream of health care reform came true. I feel very fortunate to be where I am.