What the Hell is Going On Here?

I have a new blog-home, iMortal, at the Patheos network. They've imported pretty much everything from this blog into that one, so I need to start picking and choosing what will live there and what will stay here. So you may notice posts beginning to disappear here, but living in their new home at iMortal

The long-term fate of this site is as yet undetermined. But I imagine it'll stick around as long as I can afford the Squarespace subscription.

The Old School Transformers Movie You've Been Wishing For

There hasn't been a Generation-1 Transformers animated movie since Transformers: The Movie (discussed in depth on my podcast) in 1986. As excited as many folks my age were that the Transformers were coming to live-action film in 2007, despite the return of Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime, the Michael Bay versions clearly aren't quite what a true fan was hoping for.

But why? Aside from terrible writing, which even the best iterations of Transformers were always plagued by, what about the Bay Transformers movies doesn't work? Too many humans, for one. Sorry, but Spike never will be interesting enough to carry a movie.

But I think the biggest problem is that in the live action movies, the Transformers don't look like Transformers. Now, the bots never sported svelte, Jony Ive-approved designs, and much to my disappointment, as the years passed, newer versions of Prime and other characters had so many guns, blades, spikes, and other protrusions glommed onto them, that they looked like big mechanical jumbles.

The Michael Bay movies take that into the stratosphere, and make the Transformers all so busy-looking, so, well, messy, that they no longer resembled the robots we used to know. They were now robots in disguise in disguise as, well, junkyards? If shape-shifting robots were to emerge from Saruman's forges, I think they'd look a lot like Michael Bay's Transformers.

This is part of what makes this video so great. Harris Loureiro of Malaysia has taken what look to be the “masterpiece” versions of Generation-1 Transformers toys (so-called because they are built to mimic their platonic ideals from the cartoons and comics, articulating and transforming just as they would), and using stop-motion animation to create his own short Transformers films.

He's using sound and music from the 1986 animated film for this, a battle between some latter-day version of Optimus Prime and the Constructicons, which of course form Devastator. (They apparently have different names in different parts of the world, but it's them.)

But it's tremendous. There's nuance, there are graceful moves, suspense and surprises, and yes, they look like Transformers. Loureiro's done an excellent job with this. He has some others on his YouTube channel, which seem more like experiments and expositions of what he's able to do, but they're worth checking out too. But this is the one with an actual conflict, and it's rather bad-ass. Hollywood may need to hire this man.

Many thanks to Len Sanook for pointing me to this.

Rocks

I usually really don't like going to the beach, but I acquiesce for the sake of getting the kids out of the house, plus my wife really loves it. But today, I had a blast. It was cool, the sun was unoppressive, the kids were having a good time, but mostly, I became fascinated by the extraordinary variety of rocks and pebbles strewn all over the shore. And whatever was visible before a wave came in could change entirely after. I took some photos of what I saw, and while I also have plenty of my own personal photos of the family, mostly these are of the landscape and the rocks and the water. 

We Are All Short Now

Reihan Salam writes on short men’s failure to collectively reject heightism, and it’s a piece so good I found myself highlighting more than half of it for potential excerpt here. Rather than do that, let’s see if I can get to the meat of it.

First, a good description of the problem:

As I go through life, I will occasionally say, “well, as a short person …” before making some observation. And I’ve found that my interlocutor will often interject something to the effect of, “Hey, you’re not that short,” as if to reassure me. But why would this be reassuring if there were nothing wrong with being short?

And there’s not, of course. One thing I particularly like about Salam’s take is his acceptance that the preference for taller men in certain areas, such as in women’s choice of a mate, is a totally understandable, if regrettable, vestige of our biology. There’s no point in tying one’s guts in knots over an instinctive preference, which, thanks to civilization, can be overcome. (My wife is a bit taller than me and she likes me just fine.)

But there’s no reason to extrapolate that archaic preference into presumed height-based superiority. Being short is not an affliction, and it’s not a modern-world physical disadvantage. (Salam addresses the societal disadvantages, which of course all spring from these erroneous perceptions.) There’s nothing “better” about being tall. But we all behave – really, almost all of us – as though being short is bad, something to be ashamed of, and indeed, something to fudge.

And that’s the problem Salam wants to tackle here. Heightism is aided and abetted by short men themselves. They perpetuate the false idea that being short is a bad thing by doing things like rounding up their heights, or making fun of men who are shorter than they are. This must not stand, says Salam:

To be sure, rounding up is not the worst thing in the world. I’ll tell you what is the worst thing in the world. It is that short men who have internalized heightist attitudes are more likely to stand by as those shorter than them are casually mistreated. In our culture, men who are 5-foot–8 don’t see men who are 5-foot–1 as comrades. They treat their shorter brothers as strangers, or perhaps even as objects of pity or contempt. … To the short men among you, I’d like to ask: Have you ever poked fun at someone for their size? Have you done so to delight your taller friends, and to establish that you are truly one of them? If so, I’d like you to think hard about the place in hell that is reserved for your ilk.

Like many other accidents of biology such as skin color or sexual orientation, the stigmatization of shortness is arbitrary and baseless, and humans would do well to discard it right along with all of its other stupid prejudices. Of course, this particular stigma is not nearly comparable in severity to those based on race or sexual orientation (no one tries to ban short people from marrying each other, or from marrying tall people for that matter). But that only makes a call for short men to back each other up all the more compelling and sensible: Relative to other struggles, it’s just so damn easy. All we need to do is not buy into the myths and prejudices about height, and reject them out loud when we hear them, and things could change. We could start to make a lot of people’s lives easier and less filled with shame about something for which none should be felt.

For the record, I used to say I was 5-foot–6, when technically I measure 5 feet and 5 and a half inches. I rounded up. (My feelings about my height are a major focus of one of my songs as well.) But many years ago I decided it was absurd to try and eke out an additional half-inch for…well, for what? I’m 5-foot–5, and while there are many, many things wrong with me, that is not one of them.

Your $2000 iPhone

An interesting infographic (source) on the full cost of iPhone ownership -- and really, it applies to all modern mid- to high-end phones, not just iPhones. I can't vouch for all the numbers, but this is good to have in the back of your mind when thinking about phone purchases. 

The first mistake people make is believing that the subsidized cost of the hardware (usually $200) is the real cost of the device, when it's far wiser to remember that this small device you're haphazardly tossing around and shoving in your jeans pocket is actually a super-advanced computer that costs roughly $650 or $700. 

But if you consider all that goes into owning one to make it usable, namely the cellular data and accessories, you really are in the $1500-$2000 range. That's more than almost anyone other than professionals pays for a brand new, top-of-the-line PC!

Which may be fitting when you think about it, since these phones really are our PCs these days. (As opposed to tablets, which we all thought would be our PCs, and probably aren't going to be, but that's another conversation.) And in many ways they do more for us -- more of what we actually want to be doing -- than our desktops and laptops ever could. 

image.jpg

What I Learned While Browsing Best Buy Without My Damn Kids

There is no way to browse in a retail store for personal enjoyment with a small child in one's orbit. Double that, with one toddler and one self-mobile baby, and it becomes not only impossible, but it approaches a war crime committed against oneself. Today, thanks to the mercy of my wife, I got to wander thoughtfully around a Best Buy, with no children, and familiarize myself with some of the current generation of gadgets, which I usually only read about.

Here are some of the things I learned while browsing around Best Buy without my kids:

  • Retina iPad minis are not way better than iPad Airs. Yeah they're adorable and light, but side by side it was clear I'd made the right call: iPad mini was still just too cramped and squat, and the iPad Air far more immersive. And screen typing was a nightmare on the Mini, whereas I'm typing this right now on my Air's screen without trouble.
  • In relation to the above, I need to stop listening to tech pundits and allowing their opinions to color my own considerable gadget lust. I can trust my own avaricious instincts.
  • As for tablet size and weight, I found the LG G Pad 8.3 quite compelling. The screen (at 8.3 inches, of course) is only a fraction of an inch bigger than the iPad mini's, but it felt much bigger, and I could see it being a very good compromise between the Mini and a full-size iPad or other tablet. Something like that might be where I go for my text tablet, whenever that happens, in upcoming millennia.
  • In the context of 7.9, 8.3, and 9.7-inch screen sizes, the Nexus 7 seemed a little ridiculous, like an oversize phone. While I once really liked this line of devices, now it just seems redundant.
  • Speaking of big phones, I had gotten curious about "phablets" lately, and now my curiosity has ended. In comparison to my existing 5-inch Nexus 5, phablets' displays aren't so much bigger that they make a meaningful difference, particularly with the trade-off of pocketability. I believe I will pass.
  • On the opposite end, I'm coming to realize what many have already, that the Moto X might just be the best Android device. As Joanna Stern was just saying on The Talk Show, the Moto X may actually be the perfect smartphone size: a medium-sized 4.7-inch display, but with a sufficiently reduced bezel so that it fits the hand as nicely as an iPhone. That, or an iteration of it, is likely my next phone.
  • I've been bullish on Chromebooks, and I continue to be optimistic about what they may become in the increasingly-commoditized PC market, but holy crap, the displays on the current crop look like absolute garbage (the Pixel obviously excepted, and not for sale in Best Buy). I felt like I was looking at the screen through a haze of crud.
  • On the flip side were Lenovo's laptops. I haven't even looked at a PC laptop other than by accident in a very long time, and I had no idea how good Lenovo's looked, easily rivaling Apple's hardware aesthetically. It's just that they were all running Windows 8, and damn what a shame that is.
  • Checking out the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina Display side by side was informative, if for no other reason than to see how much they overlap -- to the point where it almost seems silly to buy the Air when the Pro is at such a similar price point, weighs not much more (and the 13-inch Air is not so weightless as to make it a deal-maker), and has a far superior display. I've always presumed a 13-inch Air would be my next laptop (again, in ages to come), but now that seems like a dumb move.

All in all, I came away from my first chance to browse electronics without my kids screaming at me with a renewed sense of being "all set," that the things I have now, old and new, high-end and low-end, are really just fine, and that I'm not missing out on any crazy-great experiences. There are certainly many things to be wished for, without a doubt, but surprisingly to me, there is little to gnash one's teeth in lust and envy over. Some, but not that much. And that's good!

 

Frivolity to Grow Your Soul

These are all connected in my mind.

First, Alan Jacobs’ “commonplace Tumblr” quotes Auden (of whose work I am almost entirely ignorant): 

If a poet meets an illiterate peasant, they may not be able to say much to each other, but if they both meet a public official, they share the same feeling of suspicion; neither will trust one further than he can throw a grand piano. If they enter a government building, both share the same feeling of apprehension; perhaps they will never get out again. Whatever the cultural differences between them, they both sniff in any official world the smell of an unreality in which persons are treated as statistics. The peasant may play cards in the evening while the poet writes verses, but there is one political principle to which they both subscribe, namely, that among the half dozen or so things for which a man of honor should be prepared, if necessary, to die, the right to play, the right to frivolity, is not the least.

Still in the afterglow of this, I read this next bit from Patrick Rhone, writing about writing. First, he quotes Vonnegut:

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.*

Let’s tie it all up. Now Rhone himself:

I think a lot of people put stuff out there for a few years, just like I did. And, because success does not come after three, four, etc. years or they don’t get the attention they deserve or they don’t meet even the lowest bar they set, they feel like they are wasting their time. As if their art is a cell on a spreadsheet that needs to have some dollar sign attached to it (it does not and should not). I think there is a lesson here that could help them…

Create daily. Don’t have any other measure of success other than making something you are happy and proud of, right now, and put it out there for the world to see. Do this for twenty years. Then, even if the world does not come to see, ask yourself if this made your soul grow. Did your art get better? Is it something you can point at and be proud of? I can guarantee the answer will be yes.

And what was that twenty years for? Frivolity, play. It didn’t have to be monetized or viral or universally lauded or even read by anyone to have had value to you. You were playing. It’s that thing that civilization has blessed so many of us with, and for which, yes, we have to fight: the time to be frivolous.

The lesson: Grow your soul for twenty years, for forty, sixty, etc., by seeding it with play. And give less of a damn about your rewards for your play, and more of a damn that you are able to play at all.

I should note, I have not yet learned this lesson.

---

* Vonnegut was an atheist, so of course his "soul" is metaphorical.

The Loudest Voice is a Bawling Baby

Frank Rich:

...these days Fox News is the loudest voice in the room only in the sense that a bawling baby is the loudest voice in the room. In being so easily bullied by Fox’s childish provocations, the left gives the network the attention on which it thrives and hands it power that it otherwise has lost.

And this is largely why I don't watch The Daily Show or shows on MSNBC anymore. We get it, Fox is full of backward morons. They're the Westboro Baptist Church of media. They love it when you waste your time hating them.

It's part of a larger problem, like what can make Twitter so tiring -- the constant, frenetic need to be offended or feel bullied by someone, and the high horse one gets to climb when they call it out.

Don't feed the trolls, whatever their form. Don't read the comments. Rein in the snark. Get a grip, and pick the battles that are actually worth fighting.

 

Stretching Awake on the Rooftops of Tarbean

If you have ever slept the whole night without moving, then awoke in the morning, your body stiff with inaction. If you can remember how that first terrific stretch feels, pleasant and painful, then you may understand how my mind felt after all these years, stretching awake on the rooftops of Tarbean.

I spent the rest of that night opening the doors of my mind. Inside I found things long forgotten: my mother fitting words together for a song, diction for the stage, three recipes for tea to calm nerves and promote sleep, finger scales for the lute.

My music. Had it really been years since I held a lute?

image.jpg

Words by Patrick Rothfuss, art by Matt Rhodes

That's What Civilization Is

Kevin Kelly:

Most of the problems in the future are going to be created by technologies we're creating today. Technology is a means of producing new problems. It's a means of producing new solutions, but the fact that we have a choice between those two is what tips the balance very, very slightly in the favor of the good for the long term. Over civilization scale, we have this net tiny incremental accumulation of these choices over time, and that tiny accumulation is what we call progress. If you have one percent compounded annually, that can be very, very powerful. It doesn't seem like very much. What's one percent? But when you compound this accumulation of choices and options over time, that's what civilization is. It's the slow accumulation of a very tiny increase in new choices over time.

We. Are. The one-per-cent.

 

Big Week for a Topaz Paragon

It’s been a busy week for me on the Internet. Let’s quickly review:

  • I have new digs at Huffington Post as a blogger, for which I am compensated $0.00 annually, minus taxes. I have Emily Hauser to thank for getting me in the door. Right now it’s all adapted or recycled material from this blog, but I’ll put new stuff there eventually. I know you don’t care.
  • A tweet I wrote that I thought was somewhat clever went viral and has now been retweeted over 1000 times, which I think means I get a prize or become President of Twitter. I’ll just wait to hear something.
  • A post I wrote at Friendly Atheist did pretty well, I suspect.

And off the Internet, the iOS game Bejewelled Blitz called me a “Topaz Paragon,” a position which I believe needs to first be confirmed by the Senate, but I’m not sure.

Writing on the Surface of a Lake

Is it cool if I try and work something out with you here? Okay, cool. Thanks.

I mentioned a few days ago on Twitter that I was considering giving up this blog entirely, and only writing for pay from here on out. The utter lack of attention and/or engagement that this blog gets, in contrast to the effort and love I put into it, has gone from being something I shrug off to something that causes anxiety and (increased) self-doubt. Be still my beating heart, it's like singing in the wind or writing on the surface of a lake. Why bother anymore?

I'm trying to be easier on myself. I had this whole thing where I'd force myself to write one post every day just to keep up the practice and get into a habit. For a while it was great. I felt like I was accomplishing something, and felt a sense of completion and satisfaction. But, folks, no one was coming to see what I'd made. I'd write long posts and short posts, posts about tech and posts about books and posts about parenting. I'd try cross-posting to Medium. I cultivated connections to Internet-famous people on social media. I even got one of my favorite writers to link back to me and write in semi-response to one of my own posts. But, folks, no one was coming.

Maybe I'm too egotistical. Maybe I'm too wrapped up in some childish need for "fame" or validation from unnamed others. Narcissism, self-absorption, I cop to all of it. But I'm just not one of those people who can build ships in bottles or compose poetry or carve figurines just for the mere pleasure of it. I need an audience.

So I seriously considered just killing this site. I mean, I'd archive the thing and let its contents live on a free Tumblr or Wordpress.com site, but no new material. If I'm going to write for no one, I'd write for literally no one, and not post online. Otherwise, I'd write for an audience, and for an outlet (mine or someone else's) that would pay me for the work. And it is work.

Obviously, I've backed away from the nuclear option. But particularly after playing steward to Friendly Atheist last week, which I really ejoyed, I'm even more convinced of the validity of my lament. Add to that the fact that in the past couple weeks I've had a medical procedure (I'm fine), got a really bad cold-flu thing, and of course endured the holidays with two small children and a couple of snowstorms, and, well, my energies have been even more drained than usual. And that's meant almost no posting to Near-Earth Object.

I'm not going to kill the site, but you'll see less of me here. When I get a general urge to wiggle my fingers over a keyboard, I'll try and either direct my energies to Friendly Atheist or else toward a personal project (like the "book" I used to be working on) not intended for immediate public view. There will be times, I'm sure, that I'll really want to just get some writerly thoughts in paragraph form onto the Web that aren't related to atheism, and then, yeah, I'll post here. But it won't be every day.

And the Obcast? I'm rethinking that as well. Mostly in terms of what's the most fun. I've done a bunch of really cool interviews, and I think I'm mostly over that format. The thought of booking more one-on-one episodes fills me with an introvert's anxiety, and I just don't need to do that to myself. I do think that when I kick it back on again, it'll be more along the lines of the panel shows I did in October on Apple and Transformers: The Movie. Group disussion with a familiar cast of my choosing. And I genuinely hope I can find some advertising to fund it.

Look, I love Near-Earth Object. For all of my and its faults and failings, it's my online identity in its richest possible manifestation. For that reason alone, it should go on. And for the few of you who do come by, I hope you keep doing that. My best hope, actually, is to find a new home for it within an existing outlet or network that would compensate me for the work. I'll be glad to jump back in to a more full-time, full-tilt Near-Earth Object under that scenario.

Until then, it might get a little dusty here. But I'll be back every so often to at least drive it around the block a few times.

 

Friendly Substitute Atheist

Oh, hey.

Over the holiday, Hemant Mehta finally went on his honeymoon, and once again called upon me to run the Friendly Atheist site. So once again, I wrote a whole lot of articles and posts. Some of them I'm really quite proud of. Others, you know, sometimes you just gotta feed the beast.

To see what I've been doing over at Friendly Atheist, click this here hyperlink. You'll be launched through the internets to my posts.

You know what? I had a lot of fun with it, and I felt like I actually got into something resembling a groove. Thanks, Hemant!

 

If You Have Anything Bad to Say about Phil Collins, I Don't Want to Hear It

The time has come for us nerds who really like Phil Collins to stand up. My friend and erstwhile musical collaborator Chris Seiler, who currently works as a sea, air, and space museum tour guide, has thrown down the gauntlet with this anecdote, originally posted to Facebook:

This will sound strange, but if you have anything bad to say about Phil Collins, I don't want to hear it. He and his significant other, Dana Tyler, arranged a trip to our museum with his two kids and I got to walk them around. I asked them how long they wanted to stay and he replied "until we're not having fun". They stayed with me for two and a half hours. Very, very nice people. All four of them. I didn't get to talk music with him, it really wasn't the time or place for that, but I did get to talk to him a little about his experience with the Concorde jet, which is something I'll get to pass on to people taking my tour.

If you have a problem with him as a musician, get over it. He was probably more surprised than you were when he became a superstar in the 80's. He did some great drumming with the early prog-rock Genesis, was Robert Plant's drummer of choice in the early 80's and picked up the sticks when his buddy Eric Clapton called about playing the 2010 Prince's trust concert, even though he had dislocated vertabre that made it almost impossible for him to sit behind a kit. He eventually became an incredibly entertaining, charismatic front man who made it cool to wear tennis shoes to prom. If you're angry that he wrote the music for Tarzan, I'm sure your kids aren't. Don't rag on something that obviously isn't written with you as the desired demographic. Instead, go find your old Abacab cassette and listen to "No Reply at All" or "Man on the Corner" and understand that he deserved his fame.

I agree with every word. Three points:

  1. Coincidentally, I read this just as I already had "Don't Lose My Number" stuck in my head (technically I had my own version of it stuck in my head).
  2. Collins' Tarzan soundtrack is awesome.
  3. Phil Collins is not the only really good songwriter in this post. Chris is an excellent songsmith himself.

 

Two-Day Weekends and My Cold, Dead Hands

Joe Wiesenthal creates out of thin air the first-worldiest of all first-world problems. (And I say this as someone who loathes the "first-world problems" faux guilt-tag.) You know what our problem is? Too many days off:

Far from everyone has a job where they're truly stimulated, and get to be around people who provide them an invigorating level of social interaction. But for the people who do have that, two days is a long time to totally shut that out. After a day, it's time to start warming back up and getting into work mode.

For many professionals it seems, Sunday is less a "day off" than it is to do similar things as you might do while "at work" but without the infrastructure and bureaucracy of being "on the job."

Let's give the benefit of the doubt, considering his use of the word "professionals," and presume he's not talking about folks who physically labor, or work themselves to exhaustion at their jobs.

But even so. Work is work. Even if you're lucky enough to be intellectually engaged by your job, even if its associated subject matter is something you're fascinated by regardless of your state of employ, even if you'd do your day-job work for nothing if you had to, it's still your job. Particularly if you work for someone, you're doing that meaningful work within a structure and an institution that has its own overarching needs and directives, and which always supersede yours.

You will have goals to meet, boxes to check. You have a schedule, deadlines, "working hours" that, presumably, you do not set. When you are "at work," your time and efforts are not your own. This can even be the case if (and sometimes especially if) you own your own business, and answer to no one. Because it's work, you're somewhere, somehow, answering to somebody.

And you need time off from that. And one day doesn't cut it, not for me anyway. One day off is a fluke, a sick day, an errand day. Two days off is minimum for what feels like actual time off.

Of course, it's perfectly fine to choose to continue to engage in things related to work on your days off. It's even okay if you want to just work! But then, it's your choice, you've decided that you want your leisure time to be filled with more from the universe of your job. Fine.

Me, I can't do that. I love the organization I work for, and I'm proud every day to be a part of it. I believe in its agenda wholeheartedly, and find its sphere of subject matter fascinating and critical.

But on my off-time, I hardly touch it. I don't read atheist blogs on the weekends, I don't listen to the skeptic podcasts, I don't spend my quiet time reading books about secularism. Because to me, it's all part of work, and I need to decompress from it almost entirely when I'm not at work. Why wear myself out on it if I don't have to? Why waste the opportunity to engage in other interests and activities?

I want two days to cleanse the palate. Bare minimum. One day would be akin to an ill-timed nap that leaves you more tired than before. Add to all this that I have two small kids, and that not-work time becomes several times more valuable.

So, no. Let's not do one-day weekends. Ever.

Now, I could be open to staggered days off, say, Saturday and Wednesday or something. But two. No fewer. Ever.

Now or Never for Elizabeth Warren

So there's that new Noam Scheiber piece in The New Republic that everyone's talking about, positing that Elizabeth Warren could well be the insurgent force that upends the Hillary Clinton presidential coronation. It's good stuff, though I think it overstates the favorability of the environment for Warren to succeed or mount a serious threat to Clinton. Scheiber cites some compelling-seeming data on the Democratic electorate's feelings about Wall Street and banks, and of course they all show how much we liberals hate them richie-riches. But that's not new, though perhaps the feelings are more intense now. I just find it hard to believe that something as mind-bogglingly complicated as policy concerning financial markets could really define the contours of a national race. I could be wrong.

(I have to admit, my eyes rolled a bit at this passage: "Chris Murphy, the Connecticut senator, estimates that not too long ago, congressional Democrats were split roughly evenly between Wall Street supporters and Wall Street skeptics. Today, he puts the skeptics’ strength at more like two-thirds." Oh really? One guy guesses it might be "like two-thirds"? Well take that to the bank! Or, since it's angry populist Democrats, take it to the community credit union.)

But for this post I'm more concerned with the question of whether Warren will or should run for 2016. The answers are maybe and yes.

If the conventional wisdom about a political figure is, "Well they're pretty hot right now, and they show promise as a candidate in 4/8 years," it really means they need to run now. Many thought Barack Obama should have waited at the time, being young and relatively inexperienced, but he knew better. He knew his star was brightest in 2008.

But the example need not be a successful one. Sure, John Huntsman turned out to be a lousy candidate. But remember, he was something of a darling during Obama's first term: a popular governor, crossing party lines, representing America in China of all places. That glow was not going to last to 2016, however, at which point he'd be forgotten. He had to run when he did, or never run at all. He failed utterly, but he had to try then, or never.

Chris Christie could afford to sit 2012 out. He'd clearly get another term as governor, he'd continue to make headlines and attract attention as an equal-opportunity ass-chewer, and for God's sake, the party nearly begged him to run in 2011/12, right in the middle of a primary already well underway. Correctly, Christie determined his moment would come again.

Ted Cruz knows his moment is now. As does Rand Paul. If either of them ever run, it's this time. This is not to say they'll win, or even do well, but as was the case with Huntsman, this is it. (Paul, however, is the iconoclastic type who might make several credible goes of it.)

(Rick Perry should have run in 2012, yes, but started earlier, as I've argued previously, because the fashionably late prove they don't have the fire within them required to go all the way.)

In four years, Elizabeth Warren might still be a liberal hero, and she might still be firing up the base. But that's a big maybe. Four years is plenty of time for other figures within the party to emerge and suck up more populist oxygen. And eight years? Forget it. She'll be in her 70s, and decade-old news. (And if it is eight years, that implies two terms of a Democratic president, which might also mean less agitation for a populist candidate.)

This is it, 2016, Hillary or no Hillary. If Warren wants to be president, she is probably smart enough to know that this is her shot. It may not be a good shot, and I am skeptical that it is, but it's likely the only one she'll get.

I think Elizabeth Warren might well run for president. I have to assume her chances of success, now or ever, are rather slim. Not because she wouldn't be an excellent president, as I'd be hard pressed to come up with anyone I'd prefer myself, but because I sense she's not a sociopath. I don't think she's both brilliant and nuts, which I believe is nearly required to capture a party nomination, let alone become president. As Scheiber says, Warren may be touched with a mania, but it's not a mania for power or self-aggrandizement, but for a policy agenda. I don't think that's enough. I think to win this thing, you need to want it for yourself, and want it so bad it hurts.

I just don't think she hurts that way.