Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Anniversary Post - Part Two

Things began to look up as we got into October. The nibbles became interviews and our level of comfort with the city began to grow. When we originally came out, I figured would we end up in one of the many suburbs I lived most closely to for my internship: Crystal City, Pentagon City, or Alexandria. However, we kept an open-mind and were introduced to Silver Spring by my dad's friend. We came out and went to the downtown. My first impression was that it was just an overly- gentrified suburb like many of the other sleeper-cities that ring D.C. (I would later find out how wrong I was).

Searching for apartments is tedious at best. Having to do a walk through with property managers is like a trip to the dentist. We get it, the place has windows, thanks! As the downturn was just beginning in September, apartment places started giving out better and better deals. It seemed like each new week, apartments would be giving one additional free month of rent. This gave us an opportunity to look at some apartments that were slightly more expensive than we were planning originally. Sadly, these ones ended up being the biggest disappointments and we passed them over.

At around this time I had a couple interviews that went really well. One in particular (at GAO) ended up with me pretty sure I would get the job. However, just to be sure we had something, I took another interview the same week with a job I would have only taken to have a job, despite the good pay. One of the managers babbled on for 20 minutes about how he came up with the name and had been thinking about it since he was 13... The name was so generic I couldn't tell which of the 5 companies that came up when I Googled it was theirs (turns out none of them, they didn't have their site up yet...).

The job offer from GAO came at just the right time and offer of employment in hand, we began the apartment hunt in earnest. In our second trip to Silver Spring we visited a few apartments within walking distance of the metro. One really fit our needs and was throwing in free underground parking. We had found a home. Now we needed a bed.

Little did I know, bed shopping is even more tedious than apartment shopping, especially during a downturn. The desperate looks on the salespeople's faces as we would enter was enough to make you cry. Obviously it had been a rough month, because everywhere we went they were ready to pounce and throw you onto the first queen-size in range. Luckily, we knew what we were looking for and ended up finding a better deal than we were expecting.

Job, check! Apartment, check! Bed, check! We were now ready to have our stuff be delivered from Utah, and to start a real life. Our first year has gone by better than expected in most ways and we now feel fully settled in. I am continually amazed by the amount of great stuff going on in town and how easy most of it is to get to.

Looking back, I still get butterflies when I think about arriving at the hotel that first day. There are some times in your life when you realize things could have taken a completely different turn. That was one of those times. I am glad it has worked out for the best.

The Solution: Educating Yourself on the Basics

Upon seeing how many Americans and Britons don't understand evolution and even reject its existence, Richard Dawkins took it upon himself to write a book that would bring the discussion back to its foundation. In The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution, Dawkins strips the discussion to the basics and then shows what sorts of evidence would have to be present to show that evolution has taken place. From there he builds the indisputable case that evolution is a fact and that to deny otherwise requires a level of cognitive dissonance, not skepticism.

Dawkins would know about skepticism when it comes to evolution. He has been one of the central authors in changing the way the mechanisms of evolution have been understood. He, like many, identify that Darwin had a good start, but that Origin of Species is far from a complete accounting of the complexity that is evolution (nor was that Darwin's goals). At Utah State University, they offered a course in which you read Origin of Species and identified what things Darwin got right and other areas where he was off the mark.

Until people take the same intellectually curious approach that great scientists take to big issues, we will continue to have moral politics and biblical debates where policy discussions and mutual respect should be.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Anniversary Post - Part One

It is hard to believe we have now been in Washington D.C. for a year. After we finished our M.A.s, we spent a month with friends and family in Utah and California. We arrived in Washington D.C. with a six week window in which to find jobs, an apartment, and a bed. My dad, in town for work, invited Heather and I to come and stay with him while he was there. Because my mom can't resist a party, she came along as well. We wanted to have at least one of our cars out here, so we drove out from Utah to Fargo, to pick up my Mom, and then from Fargo to D.C.; driving about 16 hours a day. You would be surprised how quickly you can get three-fourths of the way across the U.S.

Once we arrived at the extended stay hotel, familiar feelings of "What the hell were we thinking?" began to arise. Was this crazy idea going to work out? Could we really find something this quickly? Being an extended stay hotel, there was a fridge, stove, and microwave in the room. I will never forget the culinary ingenuity that having only two burners and a handful of utensils will give you. We cooked some surprisingly excellent meals and huddled around the tiny table in the room.

Most days would begin with Heather and I hunting for jobs for the first part of the day, at which point my mom would become totally sick of being in the hotel and we would head out to find something to do. Little did we know, Greenbelt (where we were staying) was about the most boring place in the area. Luckily, during my past stay in D.C. (for my internship), I had accumulated a list of fun places, all easily accessible by metro.

However, we never felt free of stress as the impending deadline of my parents leaving was hanging over our heads. A couple weeks, after having applied to an uncountable number of jobs, we began to get nibbles, most of which were below what we were looking for. We were holding out for careers positions that we would actually want to do for a while that paid well. There were lots of great and funny things between the searching out the best restaurants in Greenbelt (not a task I would wish to repeat...) and all of us being within about 10 feet of each other 90% of the time.

The Problem: Debating an Issue You Don't Understand

Kirk Cameron, the actor turned wacky evangelical, is back peddling his overstated and horribly confused wares. A recent video release by himself and Ray Comfort, author of one of the most poorly written books I have ever read, have teamed up again to take their version of evangelism to a whole new level of absurdity. The video itself is hilarious. Kirk sitting backwards in a chair (what is this a 90s PSA?) making absurd statements about how evolution is the antithesis of Christianity and that Darwin's ideas played a key role in Nazi crimes against humanity. Now I can fathom how evolution makes people who believe the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old uncomfortable, but to make such blatantly untrue and egregious statements is just irresponsible.

Their awesome plan is to take Darwin's original treatise on evolution (which is now part of public domain) and put in a 50 page "special introduction." It appears to be special in the same way people call their dog that can't stop running into walls, "special." They will then hand these out at campuses across the U.S. in an attempt to debunk the "myth of evolution." Now handing out a free copy of Origin of Species is all well and good, but to put in 50 pages of conservative evangelical babble serves no one. People that would even CONSIDER reading the 50 page special introduction would NEVER read Origin of Species, and vice-versa. Cameron's and Comfort's narrow, ignorant, and inaccurate understanding of reality indicates clearly that neither have read the original text that they will be giving away, nor have they read any modern works on evolution. Anyone looking at the evidence, religious or non-religious, with an appreciation of rules of evidence and the scientific method cannot but identify the facts of evolution and how it has given rise to our current biodiversity. To claim otherwise is to simply ignore the vast historical literature and on-going scientific work in any field related to biology.