Bob Balaban's Blog


    Bob Balaban


    So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    Bob Balaban  January 26 2009 05:58:59 PM
    Greetings, Geeks!

    Back from Lotusphere09 (my 16th!) and mostly caught up on my huge sleep deficit. It was a good conference, maybe I'll post a summary later.

    post, however, is about radicalism, politics, political radicalism, who's right, and who's, well, left.

    By way of background, I began studying Marxism in college. I'd been a bit of a "60's radical" in high school (nothing violent or illegal, but some friends and I did close down our high school for 3 days to protest Nixon's illegal (and probably war-criminal) invasion of Cambodia in 1970. Oh yeah, we were protesting the killing of 4 students by Ohio National Guard at Kent State University (the student protesters who survived were arrested for rioting, the National Guardsmen who shot live ammo at college students, killing 4 of them, were never prosecuted). And oh yeah, we were also protesting The Draft.

    Studying (and I mean studying, not just reading a book or a few articles on it) Marxism was enlightening, a whole new (to me) way of explaining Capitalism. No, "Das Kapital" is NOT about Communism (or even Socialism -- how many of you know the difference?), it's about Capitalism, that's why he picked that title for it.... Understanding something (I'd never claim to be an expert) of Marxism also helped me in my studies of Chinese history, especially 20th Century history. I carried all that into grad school and studied it all some more. Great stuff (no, I am NOT going to try to convince you that Marxism is cool. If you want to find out for yourself, go study it).

    By the way -- for you science-oriented geeks, go get yourself a copy of Friederich Engels' "Dialectics of Nature". It's very readable if you get a good translation. See if you can spot the errors. Is he related to our own Gregory? I keep forgetting to ask....

    So, politically, I'm probably significantly more "left" than most of you. Mostly I keep it to myself. But pal and colleague Rocky Oliver and I came up with what we thought was a cool and unique way to celebrate the new President's inaugural last Tuesday.

    Both of us were, of course, at Lotusphere. We had a session ("Lotus Notes and Domino Mythbusters") scheduled for 11:15am on the 20th, the day the chief executiveshiphood of the United States changes hands every 4 years. You can imagine, given my political and philosophical leanings, that I was very happy to see George Bush vacate the office, and also pretty happy that a SMART guy was taking over. True, he tends to be a little (a lot?) more "centrist" than I am, but after 8 Bushed years, I can certainly live with that.

    So Rocky and I delivered our session starting at 11:15. The session was scheduled for an hour, and we knew that (by law) the previous President's term ends at noon. We went through a bunch of techie "myths" about Notes, explaining each in some detail, and pronouncing "True", "False" or "Weasel" on each one. For those who are wondering about the cement truck, YES it IS possible to make one disappear, IF you have enough dynamite.

    Having considered the session schedule the night before, we'd added one final "myth" to our list. We lucked out, the timing was perfect!  We finished the last Notes myth at 2 minutes to 12. We hit the next slide, announced that Bush had only 2 more minutes to be President (there was a cheer from the audience of about 300), and read it out: "Myth: A Black man will never be President of the United States".

    We both shouted "FALSE!" and cut the big screen over to a live TV feed on, JUST in time to see President Obama begin his inaugural address. I'll also note, for the record, that this was the first time that either Rocky or I had ever finished a session early.

    A bunch of people left to go get lunch, but somewhere around 50 stayed to watch. The video and the sound were both good. The speech itself was, IMHO, terrific. I was tracking in a pleased but more or less normal emotional state, until I heard him say somewhere in there:

    "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."

    After the presidential horrors of the last 8 years, this sounded so GOOD, I did choke up a little.

    We turned the feed off at the end of the speech, and I saw more than a couple of people in the audience wiping eyes. One person said to me, "I've never cried at a Lotusphere session before!" I relate to that, though I have, in the past, cried at some of my own Lotusphere presentations.... :-)

    I have to say, in closing, that I did do one thing that I possibly should not have done, because it was kind of unprofessional. However, I refuse to apologize for it. At one point during Obama's speech, the camera cut to George Bush for a few seconds, and I flipped him off. Gave him the finger. Whispered softly the words that usually go with that particular gesture. I am NOT sorry. I MEANT it, it was my session (half mine, anyway), the session was over anyway, and this was a BIG moment, for me and (regardless of how they may feel about it) for all Americans. One person did complain in the session evaluations. A friend said privately to me that he thought it was disrespectful. I AGREE! It WAS! It was SUPPOSED to be, otherwise what would be the point of doing it? It will not surprise anyone who knows me, or anyone who has read this far, that I have zero respect for George W. Bush, and I don't care who knows it.

    Text of Obama's speech
    YouTube video (watch Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts screw up the oath of office...painful)
    Here's a PDF of the MythBusters presentation: BP114.pdf

    Barnes & Noble page showing many books by/about Karl Marx
    Barnes & Noble page on Engels' "Dialectics of Nature" Highly recommended (though I am not familiar with this particular translation)

    REMINDER: The opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily represent those of my current employer, past employers, nor of the organization hosting this site. My opinions on this particular topic are probably fairly similar to those of my parents, my spouse, my children, and several of my friends. They, however, are all perfectly capable of speaking for themselves.

    (Need expert application development architecture/coding help? Contact me at: bbalaban,
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    1Jim Casale  01/26/2009 7:02:43 PM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    Hey Bob,

    Don't sweat it. I think many people feel the same way but don't have the guts to say it.

    2Bob Balaban  01/26/2009 7:11:29 PM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    @1 - Thanks for the moral support, Jim!

    3Ed Maloney  01/26/2009 7:11:39 PM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    Way to go Bob! If they don't like it, let them use Exchange!

    4Jack Kelly  01/26/2009 7:49:08 PM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    Rule 6, Bob....Rule 6

    5Tony Austin  01/26/2009 9:17:43 PM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    G'day Bob! As you know from your travels here Down Under and elsewhere, Bob, there are robust democracies that have state and/or federal governments even further to the left than your Democrats (and some further to the right than your GOP). But these countries remain vibrant democracies, and the electorate gets to vote them out -- eventually. From the Old Latin, leftism has the association of being "sinister" and maybe that's what's unsettling you, but I wouldn't worry too much about it.

    BTW, every time today that I attempt to download BP114.pdf I get a file of only 808 bytes and unreadable as a PDF. Is there something wrong on your site at the moment? I look forward to reading a kosher version, please let me know when it's ready.

    Cheers, Tony.

    6Piyush  01/27/2009 12:50:28 AM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    Hey Bob !

    I feel Obama is now more popular here in India :-)

    Thanks for posting MythBusters presentation.

    However opening of pdf is leading following error :

    "Adobe reader could not open 'BP114.pdf' because it is either not supported file type or because the file has been damaged (for example, it was sent as an email attachment & wasn't correctly decoded)."

    7Bob Balaban  01/27/2009 5:13:23 AM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    @3 - :-)

    @4 - Indeed! It was a moment, but a happy one (for me, anyway). Full of possibility.

    @5 - I fixed the attachment (some day I need to really learn how to use this blog template...). Yes, there are many,

    many things to admire about antipodean democracies. I read somewhere that the "left/right" terminology originated in the French Revolution - in the ensuing Parliament, the "radicals" sat on the left side of the room, the "conservatives" on the right.

    Nothing sinister in that.

    @6 - Attachment is now fixed.

    8David Bailey  01/27/2009 12:18:36 PM  Sorry that I missed your presentation...

    and Lotusphere!

    9mdmadph  01/27/2009 1:17:10 PM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    Must be nice to be able to express your political views so openly amongst those you know professionally. Some of us have to be a lot more careful, especially junior members trying to hold on to jobs right now. ;)

    10Felix Binsack  01/31/2009 6:55:39 AM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    Hello Bob,

    I am not a political leftist (at least by European standards) and I still think you were absolutely right to show the inauguration ceremony. I was in the session and enjoyed, as everybody else in the room, seeing the departure of George Bush and the inauguration of Barack Obama.

    11Bob Balaban  01/31/2009 7:32:23 AM  So I’m a political leftist. So sue me (How I celebrated Obama’s inauguration)

    @10 Glad you enjoyed it, Felix!