Archive for November, 2003

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Thanksgiving Day

November 28, 2003

Another Thanksgiving Day has come and gone here in the United States. Angela’s family joined us for dinner. The food was superb and we all had a great time. Naturally, I took a few pictures and several of them are up in the shot recently album.

Gratitude. Let me count the ways in completely random order:

    turkeycarve.jpg

  • My health is good
  • My children are wonderful
  • My wife loves me
  • I learned how to make an awesome apple pie
  • I got a new office at work
  • Not-from-concentrate orange juice. Yum.

I hope your Thanksgiving Day was as great as mine was.

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The Only Way

November 26, 2003

There really was no other way. I had to give my titanium Powerbook G4 to a total stranger.

It all started Tuesday afternoon at work. It was almost time to go home when this young lady approached my office. She was obviously quite upset. Apparently she’d been working on an iMovie project and suddenly it just “wasn’t there” anymore. I went to investigate and found that she was right. I can’t say for sure what happened to her work, but the result was bad.

If you can imagine spending forty hours working on a sophisticated jigsaw puzzle only to have someone upend it onto the floor, that’s about the shape this kid was in with her project. All the constituent parts seemed to be recoverable, but there was no rhyme or reason to them anymore. Everything would have to be painstakingly reconstructed. Either that or start from scratch.

I offered to speak to her instructor. I don’t hold a tremendous amount of weight in academic matters, but surely he or she would be willing to extend a deadline due to an unforseen technology disaster. As it turns out, however, her project wasn’t for a class. It was for a scholarship grant. The deadline was Tuesday and there would be no extensions.

Well, Tuesday was still a long way off, I reasoned. Perhaps she could work on it until then and finish in time. But her father was arriving from out of town to pick her up for Thanksgiving break in an hour. I felt awful suggesting it, but maybe she should remain on campus and forgo spending the holiday with her family. It seemed the only way.

I dashed off to arrange card access for her so she could work in the lab after-hours. (We’re only officially open between 8 and 4:30 PM.) I kind of ran into a brick wall on that, though. The card access would have to be arranged tomorrow if at all because the person who arranged all those things had already gone home. Besides all that, just having card access to my lab wasn’t going to get her into the building if the library itself was closed. And it was going to be for large portions of the holiday break. Things were looking bleak.

And then it hit me. I’ll give her the Powerbook. I can put all 5 gigs of her project on it and let her take it home. It already has the iMovie software on it. That way she’ll be able to work night and day if need be and still not miss Thanksgiving dinner with her family. It was perfect.

I hesitated for about half a minute, wondering what might happen to me if the laptop were to be stole or damaged while she had it. I cringed at the thought of having to explain myself to the people who actually own the thing. But in the end I realized that it was, like I said, the only way. There was just no way I was going to not give this poor kid a shot at bouncing back from a terrible mishap. She deserved a chance. So I sent her off with the TiBook, the bag, a blank CD and my card. I told her to call me at home if she needed anything.

I hope she manages to have a happy Thanksgiving holiday. And I hope she manages to put her project back together again. I guess I’ll find out on Monday when she returns with my laptop.

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210, 420, Not Stopping

November 24, 2003

I did 210 pushups last week. And 420 situps. Modest achievements, maybe. Just 30 and 60 a day, respectively. But that’s in addition to my tae kwon do workouts. And the dumbells. And the 3-mile hikes through the park.

There’s always that voice, though. The one that says

You’re too busy for this.

You’re too old for this.

You’re too fat.

Too skinny.

Too weak.

Too smart.

You don’t really take all this martial arts stuff seriously, do you?

Yes, I do. And I’m not stopping. I have goals to meet.

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Nader 2000

November 18, 2003

I’m a liberal. In case you missed that somehow. L. I. B. E. R. A. L. And so, as you can imagine, the current Presidential administration has been a difficult one to sit through. It’s not just that President Bush has led us into an upopular war under false pretenses. It’s not just that he claimed to be a “uniter, not a divider” and a “compassionate conservative” and instead ended up being an extreme right-wing partisan. It’s not just the fact that he and his policies strongly and blatantly favor wealthy individuals and corporate interests over the needs of the rest of America. It’s not just that he has lead us from record surpluses to record deficit. It’s not just that he is ruining relations with many of our international allies. No, it’s not any one of those things. It’s all of them put together. Plus the fact that he’s a smirking, anti-intellectual, cowboy wannabe who appears to have risen to the top through cronyism and privilege rather than merit.

:: deep breath ::

So how does this liberal sleep at night after having voted for Ralph Nader? As you probably know, many of my fellow left-leaning Americans have launched bitter accusations against us Nader voters. They say that it was we who put Bush in the White House. Their anger towards us has at times exceeded that which they normally reserve for Republicans. Which is odd because Republicans actually voted for Bush. And there are lots of them. Why, almost half of the people who voted for President in 2000 voted for Bush! Is it fitting to blame his election on we few Naderites? It seems silly to me.

But on the other hand, there isn’t any escaping the fact that if all of us Nader voters had instead voted for Gore, Bush would be driving Texas into the ground right now instead of the whole country. I can’t argue with that logic. (At least, however, my vote didn’t put Bush any closer to the White house. I voted here in Beautiful Wisconsin, where Gore took all of our electoral votes.) And in truth, if I could go back in time to November of 2000 I would vote for Gore. And I would tell everyone else to do the same. I’d wear a big sandwich board on my chest saying “GORE!” or something like that. Nader? Who’s he?

So what was I thinking? Back then when I cast my vote for a candidate that I knew wouldn’t win? Why did I choose to do this crazy thing? There were several reasons. But by far the most important was this. It was simply time to champion the progressive causes I believe so strongly in. It was just time.

I mean our country is the richest, most powerful one on earth. And we were (at the time) riding high on the longest period of economic boom in our history. And everyone had jobs. And business was great. And since the Cold War ended we were the only super power left. We could have taken our record surpluses and used them to wipe out hunger and homelessness. We could have used it to pay for universal health care. We could have siezed our good fortune and used it as a position of strength to lift up the least fortunate among us. We could have been champions of social justice. After all, nobody could say that we couldn’t afford it. Our circumstances as a nation could hardly have been more fortunate.

If not now, when?

So I took my message to the country by voting for the most left-leaning candidate available. Ralph Nader. I thought by registering my desire to have these causes heard at the national level I would be doing my conscience and my country a favor. Perhaps Mr. Nader would get 5% of the vote, thus giving the Green Party a fighting chance in ’04. At the very least the two major parties would realize that at least some of us Americans actually cared about these issues. Maybe by giving our progressive views full voice, we few Naderites could pull the tone of politics in America back from it’s slow but inexorable march rightward.

Alas, it was not to be. But that’s what I was thinking – “If not now, when?” My idealism came to naught and Bush became president (overlooking that little Florida / Supreme Court thing). And I’m a little wiser now. Or maybe I’m just more cynical about My Fellow Americans. Not about how many of them voted for Bush, but about how many of them seem prepared to vote for him again in spite of his horrific first term.

Anyway, I don’t have a candidate picked out for 2004, but you can bet it’ll be the Democratic nominee. Even in spite of my 2000 regrets, though, I have to admit it felt good. It felt good to finally be vote for exactly what I believed in. Even if I had to learn the hard way that the politics of so many of my neighbors are far, far away from where I sit.

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Life of Pi

November 16, 2003

My reading binge continues. I completed Life of Pi by Yann Martel a few days ago. I don’t remember when I’ve read such a beautifully written book or such a mesmerizing story. It’s about a precocious teenage Indian boy in the early 1970’s who, with his family, emigrates to Canada. En route, the cargo ship carying them and their zoo animals (they’re zookeepers) sinks in the middle of the Pacific. Pi, apparently the only human survivor, winds up aboard a 26-foot lifeboat with an odd assortment of zoo animals – including a 450-pound tiger named Richard Parker. His gruesome and gritty tale of surviving for over 200 days at sea is unforgettable.

The end, however, is somewhat troubling. Pi’s account of his journey ends up in doubt; perhaps it’s simply an invented allegory for what truly happened. Martel’s point, I take it, is that because the meaning of the story is the same whether told as a fanciful allegory or as a bleak facts-only narrative one is free to choose. Those who feel they must stick with the facts “miss the better story.” He further suggests that this difference among people accounts for the fact that some people believe in God while others don’t.

I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that idea, but on the whole this is a book that you should not miss. I recommend it enthusiastically.

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Angels & Demons

November 12, 2003

I’m up to my eyeballs in books. I’ve completed a few of them and I’m in the middle of three others. It all started just a short time ago when I was complaining that I had nothing good to read. So I went looking for something. I hit the bestseller lists. I checked around. I went searching at the library and put a half-dozen of them on reserve. And, heck, I work in a library.

Before I knew it I had a pile of books at hand and not enough time in which to read them. My pile consisted of:

I’ve been able to knock down a few of them. I finished Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and Big Lies a few days ago. They were good. I’m in the middle of Life of Pi. I just started The Curious Incident. Tolkien: Author of the Century is on hold at the moment while I finish the others.

The latest one I finished is Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons. What can I say about it? It’s not great literature. Brown’s characters are cliché. His action sequences are over-the-top. His plot takes so many hairpin turns at the end that it’s hard to keep the good guys and the bad guys straight.

And yet I kinda liked it. I may yet read his newest novel, The Da Vinci Code. I have it on reserve at the library but my turn hasn’t come up yet. When it does, I’ll see how busy I am with other books. If there’s nothing better on the horizon I think I’ll go for it.

Read any good books lately?

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Uncanny

November 11, 2003

mRNA
You are mRNA. You’re brilliant, full of important,
interesting information and you’re a great
friend to the people you care about. You may
have sides to you that no one understands. But
while you understand more than most people,
you’re only half-there most of the time.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks to Heather for taking it first.