Unsettled in Washington DC

I’ve felt unsettled since we landed in DC on Saturday.  During my run this afternoon on the Washington Mall, I decided to attribute some of it to the redeye I took from Seattle mid-week and some of it to Washington DC itself.

Let’s start with the redeye.  I’m 43.  When I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, I regularly took redeye’s (often as frequently as once a week).  Five hours of sleep on the plane due to my superpower of being able to sleep from wheels up to wheels down, a quick shower, an extra long toothbrushing session, and I was good for a full day.  Wednesday night I took JetBlue from Seattle to Boston.  Five solid hours of sleep followed by a ride to my hotel.  I brushed my teeth and then crawled into bed at 8am for a little more sleep.  I woke up at 1pm, had a meeting, and then went back to sleep until 5pm.  After dinner I went to sleep around 10 and slept until 7.  I felt like shit when I woke up, had a full day, and crashed again at 10pm Friday night.  It’s Sunday and I finally don’t feel tired.  Yesterday, I sent my assistant Kelly a note that said “Don’t ever let me fly on a redeye again.”

Yesterday was a pretty day in DC – a little cold, but sunny.  Today has been beautiful – in the 60s and sunny.  Amy and I are here mostly to go to the Supreme Court tomorrow and hear the oral arguments on re Bilski.  Yesterday was a mellow walk around day with dinner with college friends at Vidalia (mildly ironic since I’m allergic to onions).  Today, we went to the National Gallery and the National Museum of Natural History – if you are in DC and you are an art lover you should absolutely make time to see the Meyerhoff Collection – it is amazing.  We also got lucky and saw Leo Villareal’s Multiverse light sculpture before it was removed.  All I remember from the National Museum of Natural History is the passel of children and the dinosaurs.

Now for the other half of what is making me unsettled.  As I ran on the Washington Mall I had chunks of time with the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.  Both invoke deep American pride – I find that the best description of the emotion I felt while taking a short break from my run and staring up at Abe Lincoln.  However, something just felt wrong.  DC feels too busy, the restaurants are too full, there is too much traffic, and just too much stuff. I remembered thinking about the office buildings between Dulles Airport and DC – virtually all of them were filled with companies that generate massive amounts of money from the federal government.  Several of the buildings undergoing renovation (such as the Hoover Building) had big pictures of Barak Obama on the signs talking about the scope of the renovations.  I started comparing DC to several of the other capital cities, such as London and Paris, and realized that DC is all about the business of government, whereas the other capitals that I’m familiar with are much broader in scope.

Between the damage I did to myself with the redeye and my sense of being overwhelmed by “the business of government”, I think I need to go hide in the mountains for a few days.

  • Frank Gruber

    That’s when you head out to the mountains of Virginia for some fresh air, to sample some wine and relax a bit. :)

    How long are you in the DC area for?

  • Mark Lancaster

    I am somewhat surprised by you being unmsettled by all of this. This is exactly what you chose when you voted for Obama.
    It will only get bigger and busier. Is it time to concentrate on the economy or should he continue buiding a welfare state?

  • Jessica

    If it makes you feel any better Brad, I'm 20 and get floored by red-eyes. I'm lucky enough (thanks to you!) to be able to fly first class now and then, which helps take the edge off, but red eyes kill me.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    It makes me feel a little better to know that it’s not just my advancing age.

  • Scott Dalferes

    It is very unsettling to me also that entrepreneurs will more and more on the rely on government for their business. This is very unsettling to me that the government will sap innovation out of the entrepreneurial process, make it dull and the less competitive.
    Somebody once said that the only goal of government is to grow in size and increase it's power. I agree. There seems to be more and more evidence to support that statement. – Republican or Democratic administrations. I know that you are a fan of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. I too am a huge fan and really wish that the Libertarian Party would get it's act together and nominate a quality candidate. Brad: Why didn't you vote Libertarian? It seems that would be a good fit for you.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      There hasn’t ever been a Libertarian candidate that I could take seriously.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/scott_yates498 Scott Yates

    Redeye flights have always killed me. One that didn't was to Buenos Aires, I think in part because it was such a long flight (14 hours if I remember correctly) so I got to sleep a bit longer, and also in part because it was only an hour different than NY, where I was flying from so I didn't have the changing time zones on top of the lack of sleep in a bed.

    As for the big business sucking at the bosom of government… Yes, it is unsetting, but a lot of those companies are doing good work, and it's certainly better that private companies are doing a lot of it. The government itself is not trying to do everything, those are private companies doing all that hiring around the beltway.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I agree that it's better that it is private companies. But there is a long list that are clearly just selling products and services to the federal government. The scale is overwhelming to me.

  • http://twitter.com/stgarrity @stgarrity

    Couldn't agree more…I had a similarly unsettling experience at my 5yr college reunion a few weeks ago. A number of my smartest classmates have decided that the most effective way to "make it" (wealth, impact, etc–however you define it) going forward isn't starting a company, or working for a larger corporation and trying to build something–or even going to Wall Street–it's moving to DC and lobbying for government grants/contracts/loans/etc.

  • http://www.liquidcapitalgroup.com Randy Domolky

    Government is the crutch that the economy is leaning on for the moment until we can walk and run again on our own. It is scary to me that we almost crashed and burned but thanks to government and our nations intrinsic value when business credit went to BB- there was still uncle Sam to borrow from China and avoid demise. I think it will work out in the end Brad but I agree with you that there is a bit too much government in all of our lives right now. Especially for someone like me who is a free markets oriented guy. Don't worry. Jobs will start growing again in 2010, the low dollar will boost our exports and I am sending a copy of my U2 album to Iran on how to dismantle an atomic bomb. (For those of you who do not know what an album is, it is the precursor to the 8-track which was the precursor to the cassette tape which was the precursor to the CD which was the precursor to the MP3 which was the precursor to the reunion tour.)

  • Rick Brennan

    Heard an advertisement for Fairfax, Virginia yesterday where the case was made to set up business there because "over $17 billion in government contracts were awarded to businesses in Fairfax in 2008." I wonder what $17 billion in federal money flowing into Boulder, Colorado would do to the town. When the business of government takes precedence over governing, we should fear our government.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      $17b of federal money flowing into Boulder would make Boulder a swamp!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brisbourne Nic Brisbourne

    Here is a European perspective on government (note the absence of the word big):

    There is an optimum size for government that varies slightly by country but is say 30-40% of GDP. You get un-natural feeling places when that is concentrated in cities with little other business (we have Brussels) but the reality is that at 30% of GDP government is in effect keeping an awful lot of people in work wherever they are.

    For me the question should not be 'how do we make government smaller?', but 'what is the right size for government today?' (given it changes with phases of capitalism and economic crises), and is the current delivery efficient?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Good metric.  I have no idea what % of GDP the US government is (both federal, state, and local).  That would be an interesting number.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/sigmawaite sigmawaite

    My experience is that the amount of sleep needed varies with activities, stress, diet, and not really much with age.

    I started my career around DC; it was too big then and bigger now. Out to Dullas? Sure, and to Shenandoah, Richmond, Norfolk, Annapolis, Baltimore, Frederick, etc.

    Some of the bigger bucks are from supplying services — cars, houses, clothes, hotels, wines — to the relatively well off people feeding at the public trough.

    When inflation is a threat, then just whack it back, cut each budget by 30% to 100%, and save several percent of GDP; otherwise would have to raise taxes by that much and, net, eat a LOT of our seed corn. Bummer. For the DC area real estate speculators, sorry 'bout that!

    The key: Citizens, informed via Internet 'new media', who send letters to Congress.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/sigmawaite sigmawaite

    My experience is that the amount of sleep needed varies with activities, stress, diet, and not really much with age.

    I started my career around DC; it was too big then and bigger now. Out to Dulles? Sure, and to Shenandoah, Richmond, Norfolk, Annapolis, Baltimore, Frederick, etc.

    Some of the bigger bucks are from supplying services — cars, houses, clothes, hotels, wines — to the relatively well off people feeding at the public trough.

    When inflation is a threat, then just whack it back, cut each budget by 30% to 100%, and save several percent of GDP; otherwise would have to raise taxes by that much and, net, eat a LOT of our seed corn. Bummer. For the DC area real estate speculators, sorry 'bout that!

    The key: Citizens, informed via Internet 'new media', who send letters to Congress.

  • Phil Sugar

    Amen about Washington DC. I also agree with you on no viable Libertarian's but I was flipping through CNN on election night in a hotel room (never watch) and he said something that resonated. He said Washington D.C. is like the WWE. Lots of yelling and screaming at each other in front of the camera's but behind the camera's everybody is the same.

    As for the redeye's I think its tougher when you combine the redeye with the fact that you're not home.

    I take the redeye's two or three times a month….I'm totally fine but I'm back to my home base.

    When I go to Europe…….much harder.

  • Mark

    Lincoln was the worst president in history, even worse than W. He pissed on the constitution and waged war against his own people over a lie (slavery). It would have made more sense to simply purchase the slaves like all other civilized nations had done.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JChauncey JChauncey

    Did you know that you can only call an onion a vidalia onion if its grown within the designated counties of georgia. oh and when you buy vidalia onions, pick the ones that are relativly flat – they will not be as strong as their more rounded brothers and sisters =P (I have found this to be true for most onions as well)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    I try my hardest to avoid onions of all types (since I’m allergic to them).

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/JChauncey JChauncey

      I will definitely tuck this away in my – I may need to know this one day folder. Would hate to bring you some delicious southern food only to have you go into anaphylactic shock.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

        Hah! It's not that bad – I just end up in the bathroom three hours later followed by several hours of being curled up in a ball.

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