S'up? So Hillary won Pennsylvania, but Barack still leads in delegates, and nothing, election-wise, really feels any different than it did last week. Clinton won Pennsylvania, but it sounds like Barack closed the gap on her in recent weeks (supposedly three weeks ago she had an 18 point lead, but ended up winning by a 10 point margin last night). Now this thing will clearly drag out into June, and the only clear winner from this Democratic primary ends up being John McCain, who gets to conserve resources and enjoy the show as the Democratic candidates continue to attack each other, each one laying out reasons why the other shouldn't be president.
And it sounds like another light rail plan is trying to work its way onto the ballot here in Austin. The plan is expensive, of course, and it's still not clear how the city would pay for it. The initial 14 miles of the tracks would run out to the airport, through the UT campus, and out to the new development at the old Robert Mueller airport site. The tracks would not take up any existing traffic lanes, and would, therefore, theoretically create fewer traffic snarl ups than the light rail proposal which failed back in 2000 (which utilized existing lanes of traffic on some busy streets).
I have to admitht hat I like the whole idea of a light rail system, although mostly just because I think it sounds fun. It appeals to me on the same level that model trains and race car tracks appeal to little kids. On the other hand, on a more practical level, with gas prices moving closer and closer to the $4.00 a gallon mark and traffic congestion becoming worse by the day, it just feels like we need to do something to implement a more effective mass transit system (and I know we've got the Cap Metro buses whichhelp from a fuel economy standpoint, but I swear that from a traffic congestion viewpoint those buses create as many problems as they solve- every morning my commute along South Lamar is basically limited to one lane of traffic headed into town because the other lane is taken up by buses that stop every half block). Another thing that appeals to me about light rail is that hopefully, one day, it might be convenient enough to take a few intoxicated drivers off the road at night (although this initial phase of the light rail plan doesn't really sound like its going to help out much with that issue).
Well, what else? Ryan and Jamie and I watched Wargames last night. In Wargames, a young Matthew Broderick must teach NORAD's defense mainframe computer (the WOPR) the lesson of futility before the computer self-launches a preemptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. As stated in the movie, the most important lesson for this computer to learn is the fact that some contests are, in fact, unwinnable, and, therefore, the only winning move that a player can truly make is to not engage in them in the first place (i.e., the contest itself is futile).
We got to talking about this lesson as a moral, and the fact that futility can sometimes be a more important lesson than optimism. This, in turn, led to a discussion about how studies have shown that depressed people typically have been shown to have a more realistic worldview than optimistic people- in terms of assessing odds and chances of success and whatnot- but that some of the most successful people in the world have been incurable optimists, though deluded they might be. Maybe optimisitic people just take more risks than pessimists, and end up being more successful not because they are any more skilled than the pessimist at any given task, but simply because their outlook leads them to try to do more things (which means that even if they fail at some of these tasks or initially fail, they end up looking like success stories so long as they eventually succeed at one or more of them).
Sometimes, though, optimism can be dangerous. Such is the case, as the movie points out, in the case of global thermonuclear war.
You don't get a lot of chances for "do overs" in nuclear war, and optimism about your chances of winning are not nearly as important as an understanding of the futility of getting involved in such a war in the first place. No one can win. Against a relatively evenly matched enemy, there's no such thing as a "victorious" outcome. The losses that a "winner" will suffer by engaging in such a conflict make any such "win" virtually meaningless. In light of this fact, in truth, the game will always be a stalemate. (in the movie, the computer learns the lesson of futility by playing tic tac toe against itself- a game which will always end in a tie when played by two logical, evenly matched opponents- a game which is futile, because it will never have a winner, and, therefore, might be best approached by never getting involved in playing the game in the first place)
So I was thinking about optimisim and the dangers of it, and it got me to think about some of the "optimism" of the current administration. They were filled with optimism about our ability to quickly win a war in Iraq and quickly extricate ourselves. They expressed such optimisim despite protestations that removing Saddam Hussein would only create a military quagmire and civil unrest that would serve as a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalists (and that our occupation of Iraq would serve as a rallying point for anti-American activists in the middle east, a fact which might, in turn, only lead to an increased number of future conflicts). Opponents of the war saw an invasion, from the beginning, as an exercise in futility- chop off Saddam's head and three new bad guys were just going to pop up to take his place. (plus, as wicked as the bastard was, Saddam's iron-fisted rule kind of kept Iraq stable- removing him from power opened the door for a flood of sectarian violence, tribal warfare, and civil war)
Sometimes optimism creates opportunity and growth, but optimism meets its match in situations best understood in terms of futility, and at some point, the same deluded thinking which can drive the engine of progress can also lead to insurmountable loss. Sometimes even a "win" isn't really a win, and the only truly winning move is not to begin in the first place.
Anyway, I'm rambling here, but these are the lessons of Wargames where computers learn the lesson of futility more readily than humans. Beware the leader who marches you into a futile situation, citing the need for a more optimistic attitude from his followers.
Also, a penny saved is a penny earned, and you are what you eat. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A stitch in time saves nine. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. Rock out with your .... ... .