Monday, October 20, 2008

Autumn Chills

It's definitely autumn now. The leaves are still bright, but they're falling rapidly. We had a hard frost last night. The lawn was white and frosty in patches. We've been building fires in our woodstove for a few weeks now. Today it was brisk outside and a little chilly in my poorly heated office on campus. In March, this would have felt like a warm day. But it's not March, it's mid October. So it felt cold.

I've been following the election quite closely, and like many have been chilled some by the tone of the rhetoric the last several weeks. Nasty politics is one thing, but the last few weeks have been alarming. The mob-like crowds at some of the McCain/Palin rallies are tough to watch. Quite likely what I see on youtube and other blogs isn't representative of most of the rallies, and certainly isn't representative of most McCain supports. But nevertheless, it's chilling.

I don't really know how to put my discomfort to words. I'm not so much angry at McCain or Palin as I am simply sad or disheartened. There seems to be an undercurrent to the campaign which mocks the very things we should be celebrating. This started at the convention, where two speakers were contemptuous of the idea of community organizing. It continues with this notion that small town America is the "real" america, and that some parts of the country are more "pro-American" than others. And then there's the use of the word Muslim in a way intended to conjure up fear and suspicion.

In the last several days I found two good responses to this madness from two very different sources. The first is from General Colin Power in his endorsement of Barak Obama. It's a powerful response to the divisiveness of the season. It's worth listening to. Powell's discussion of Islam not being anti-American is quite striking and effective. (This is at around 4:45 of the clip.) Yes, I know that Powell is an establishment figure, and he's not exactly a hero of mine. But nevertheless I found his comments quite moving.

I also recently read a graceful post, What a Beautiful World by Tim Burke. He eloquently gives voice to some of what I've been feeling the last few weeks, in a far, far more coherent and articulate way than I ever could.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Random Bullets of Whateverness

It's been a while since I've posted an update here. I've been focusing what little blogging energy I have on twittering and posting over at betweenness, the blog for the Complex Networks class that I'm teaching. I don't have the energy for actual paragraphs or transition sentences. So instead, I'll opt for the genre of the random bullets.
  • Sometimes you hear something so dumb that it makes you gasp or immediately clutch your head for fear that your brain has imploded. These moments cause not only cognitive dissonance, but some sort of physiological response bordering on actual pain. Well, today I experienced at least three such moments, possibly four. It will take days to recover. At this point I believe a full recovery is possible. But this will depend on there not being any other such moments during my recovery period.
  • I have a cold. It's not terrible, but it's annoying. Mostly I have a sore throat, and I've kinda had a headache, too. I've been taking Golden Throat Lozenges. I get them when I'm in China. Some friends of mine and I refer to them as "little pills that make things better."
  • Speaking of which, I wonder if tiaa-cref has some option where we can put our retirement savings in heroin or cocaine. I bet this would be a much better investment than whatever stocks or bonds we currently own.
  • Here is another interesting investment opportunity: fluffy kitties.
  • On a related note, our kittens grow. They haven't broken or destroyed anything recently, and Ancho has stopped licking my face when I'm trying to sleep. Ancho seems determined to eat the flowers off our Christmas Cactus. But this doesn't bother me as much as it bothers Doreen. I figure there are a lot of flowers on their way, and if Ancho really wants to eat a few it's probably ok.