Saturday, August 30, 2008

Obama's To Lose

After quite possibly the oddest vice presidential pick since Dan Quayle, the presidential race is now Obama's to win or lose. McCain has effectively silenced his greatest criticism of Obama by selecting someone much less experienced as a running mate. Palin has been the mayor of a city of 9,000 and is now the governor of Alaska, a state of only 680,000 and is run largely at the expense of the U.S. federal government. She has no foreign policy experience and is even younger than Obama. The fact that McCain has put her one step from the presidency shows that he is not as truly concerned with experience as he claims. A vice president needs to be ready to take on the job of the president from day one. It is hard to see how that is possible with someone like Palin.

I hear many people say that McCain is trying to reach out to disaffected Clinton supporters with his choice of Palin. While this may seem plausible because of the fact that she is a women, I would hope that McCain would be smarter and realize the women that supported Hillary are much more savvy than that. The fact that Palin appears to be an arch-conservative and opposes fundamental rights for women (anti-choice, against federal funding for family planning) doesn't lend itself to many Clinton supporters switching sides.

The choice of Palin is likely to raise this issue of the extreme sexism that still exists within the Republican party. The traditional and essentialist roles that are ascribed to women in Republican talking points only show how out of touch the party is with changes in society. I would also not be at all surprised if having a female VP hurts McCain among southern white males. It will also be interesting to see if the media continues its sexist tirades that were so common while Clinton was still in the race.

After a couple rough weeks in the polls, it looks like smooth sailing till November now (don't prove me wrong, Obama!).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

An Election Without End

As the U.S. presidential election draws near, I am increasingly disgusted by what passes for journalism and democratic participation. It is hard to fathom how such a corrupt and despicable system is not challenged more widely by Americans. Most Americans, liberal and conservative, agree that our government has serious problems. However, instead of addressing them through collective movements, we choose to pick at each other on "hot-button" issues. Responsible and accountable government is not something anyone would oppose. The steps that would need to be taken to create a responsible system are neither easy nor straightforward. Many argue that the presence of massive amounts of money in American politics is the largest source of its problem. While I would argue that money plays a part in making the problems worse, the structure of the legislature and elections also has significant negative effects on representation and public policies that come to be instituted. The current structure enforces the two-party system and the personalization of campaigns. It also greatly hampers the ability to implement reforms. The lack of benefits of voting combined with the lack of risks of not voting create the situation where only around half of eligible voters turn out on presidential years, and even less than that on non-presidential years (let alone the paltry sum that appear for purely local or county elections).

While, for me, some form of proportional representation and changes to the amount of elections we have would be a good start; it is important that other people get engaged with this process. Having people come to understand that democracy requires much more than just voting is important if sustained, realistic change were to be enacted. This isn't something that will be accomplished through a spontaneous uprising of national consciousness. It must be facilitated by groups that people engage with in their daily lives (employers, religious communities, civic organization, NGOs, and the government itself). We as a society have learned to be apathetic, but this social apathy can also be unlearned. Giving people a reason to vote and significant benefits for electing your particular chosen party would create a more vibrant and engaged democracy.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Goodbye Bebe

Bebe (my family's black cat -- formally named Isis, though never called it) passed away a couple days ago. After her most recent bout of illness she was too weak to carry on any longer. She was getting too sick and had to be put to sleep. My dad was the only person at the vet but his account of her last moments is too touching to recount here. After hearing the news Heather and I bawled for a bit and then began to recount some of Bebe's most interesting and unique behaviors. They are presented here in no particular order.

One memory I will always smile about was the times that she would hurl her body against the bathroom door. Whenever someone was in the bathroom she would tuck one of her front legs and somersault into the door with an amazing amount of force. The sound would be reminiscent of someone in heavy work boots giving the door a good kick. Her crashing against the door indicated that it was time for one of her favorite pastimes: attacking things under the door. At this point whoever was using the bathroom was required to find something to slide back and forth under the door so that Bebe could attack it. This game was always a source of enjoyment for both participants.

Another funny behavior was Bebe's desire to placed in the highest spots in the house. She would look up somewhere and cry letting you know that she needed to be up there, and post-haste. I would usually be the one that she would get to do this. So I would pick her up and place her on all sorts of things. One of her favorite spots, strangely enough, was to be placed on top of the sliding shower doors in the bathroom. She would walk along them and lay down periodically. She then would look for other high places in the bathroom she could jump to. She also liked being placed on the really high mantle above the large window in the living room. From there should could see everything and everyone in the room.

When Bebe was a tiny kitten (we got her after some little girls found her in a park and were going around the neighborhood asking if someone would take her) we were going to dinner at La Beau's and we took her with us. She was really tiny and spent all her time in a shoebox that we lined with towels. Upon smelling the greasy food she crawled out of the box on her own for the first time in the three days or so that we had owned her. My mom gave her a bit of her burger, which Bebe immediately scarfed down while making an extremely cute growling noise, as if to be saying "stay back, this meat is mine!"

Bebe spent much of her early life living above Smiling Moon Toys with Aramie and her boyfriend at the time. When Aramie would come down for work she would bring Bebe with her. Bebe loved to explore the store and find new hiding spots. One time Aramie had her on the counter while she was stamping bags. Bebe walked through the ink pad with two paws and then continued walking on the counter-top leaving a perfect set of purple paw prints.

One of the most unusual things about Bebe was her watering habits. Drinking for her was always a spectacle accompanied by grand traditions and perfect timing. She liked running water the most. At some point she got someone to put their hand under the water so that she could drink off of it. She then trained everyone in the house to do this for her whenever she wanted a drink from the tap. My father, who initially expressed disdain at this level of servitude, would later be found watering Bebe in the very same way.

As Bebe grew older she continued to develop curious behaviors. One that was always funny and sad at the same time was when she would chase Boush (his real name is Ambush, but this spelling gets across the pronunciation better) out of warm sleeping spots. He would be in a spot for a while and then when Bebe decided it was warm enough she would shoo him away and settle in to sleep. Boush never seemed to understand this and would just go lay a couple feet away without any fight. Another odd behavior was that she liked to be spun on the kitchen floor. She would flop down in front of me on her side in the middle of the kitchen floor and I would whirl her around. She would eventually tire and stand up awkwardly and stumble to a place to rest, usually coming back for more within a few minutes.

Another Bebe idiosyncrasy was that she would hide in places where you were only able to feel her but not see her. Sometimes we would be sure that Bebe had gotten out of the house because we couldn't find her anywhere. Eventually we would start feeling behind quilts in closets or looking behind boxes under beds. A couple of her favorite spots we were never able to find. The only proof she had been there is that she would slink out of the downstairs apartment with a smattering of dust stuck on her fur.

Bebe's brushes with death came early and often. One early encounter happened when she was no more than a few weeks old. She would sometimes get cold and so we would wrap her in a towel or small blanket and place her on the couch. One day a not so aware friend (Beth for those of you from Logan) sat on Bebe as I yelled "Look out!" She immediately jumped up and looked underneath her. Bebe was now lodged between the cushions but no worse off than prior to the crushing.

One funny trait of Bebe's was that she liked to be held in crazy positions. She would like to be slung over my shoulder. I wouldn't even have to use my hands to hold her up as she would just sit completely weightless. Another funny position was when I would hold her like a shot gun complete with firing her at random family members. She would have Heather hold her with her head as far out as her left hand could reach and her right hand close to her body. Bebe would lay on her side weightless in this position until Heather's arms got tired. My father would also hold Bebe in unique position where she would be able to tuck her head underneath is arm and rest (sadly it was this position that was most comfortable for Bebe, and the position she took when the time came to be put to sleep).

One thing that will always be special about Bebe is that she had unique relationships with all the different people in her life. I had never seen such specific behaviors out of one cat. She would interact with each family member in a different way and everyone has different memories of the things about Bebe that made her so special to them. It is hard to believe that she is gone. She had a great life and brought immense joy to everyone who interacted with her. She will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

Goodbye Bebe

Friday, August 15, 2008

Back in Utah

I feel a little embarrassed making this post so late. I started the day after getting back but have not found the time or desire to finish it until now. We have arrived back in Utah and it has been a nice break since. After a couple long days of packing/driving, we finally have all of our stuff in Logan and out of the cars. It will be nice to be able to relax for a few weeks and finally take a real break. My parents have invited Heather and I to go to California near the end of August and that should be really fun as well. It feels weird to be back in Utah, if only for a little while. The Utah leg of the trip has been more fun than I was expecting. I guess two years away makes you less likely to worry about the small things that used to be annoying. It is nice to go back to the restaurants we love and see people we have really missed. Logan remains much as it always has, moderately boring with surprisingly good food. The other day Heather and I were hanging out at the Conover house and I turned to her and asked "What did we used to do for fun here?" I spent seven years living here but somehow can't remember how we filled the hours. Luckily my huge stack of books that were put off during graduate school finally have a dent. Also, Heather's sister Kayla has developed an interest in Buddhism and so I read the intro book that she bought about it. I found it really interesting and was surprised how many similarities my world view shared with it.

Being back in Logan is always nice because of the great deals on books and DVDs that we find. I found a couple books that I had used previously in my thesis for a really good deal at the USU bookstore. Also, Logan's abundant cheap booze makes the trip completely worthwhile. Having already had Crumb Brothers twice since getting back reminds me how much I will miss that place.

The job search is going well. I have found a lot of really interesting opportunities and see the process more as a hobby than something to be concerned about at this point. Getting back in the habit of applying is good and it will be nice to make some real money for once. There have been lots of interesting jobs for which Heather and I meet the requirements. It will be exciting to see where we end up and it is crazy that we will be in Washington D.C. in less than a month.

Moving back to Washington D.C. will be really fun. Having lived there for four months in my undergrad, I feel like it is a comfortable place to be. I know my way around the city really well and know what would be the best neighborhoods to live in. The only thing I dread is the weather. While it isn't as bad as weather elsewhere, it is a significant downgrade from the Pacific Northwest. Right now we imagine we will be out there for at least five years as we start actual careers and decide how we like them. Knowing that we have so many opportunities makes it much easier to be relaxed about the situation overall.

Having an M.A. still hasn't quite sunk in yet. I see it on my resume, but being in Logan doing the same things doesn't really make me feel like there has been any big change. Maybe it's because no one in Logan wants to talk about epistemologies or the social determinants of health...

Well I probably should go play with "tiny spicy" Chewy (my new nickname for the Conover family dog, in honor of the Beijing Olympics).