Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Weather and Us

I'm home for the holidays, which means that I've traveled from a land of rapidly-shifting weather (Denver) to a place where the weather rapidly shifts to terrible (Northern Illinois). Last night, my family and I were going to have a nice dinner at a local Thai restaurant some 8 miles away. A great fog had come upon the land, so we cancelled the excursion.

This morning, I set out from the farm to head into Chicago for a visit with an old roommate and some other friends. The radio barked on and on about visibility being 1/4 mile. I put it at about 200 feet! It was horrifying. The creek that runs through our property was nearly overflowing the bridge. The hour-long trip to the suburban trains was unusually long - I couldn't go much over 50 mph. It was like everything, air and land both, had turned into water.

It got me to thinking about how important "talking about the weather" really is to us. It's a cliche, really, when you think about it. Asking about the weather, making fun of it, praising it, etc., are all vital parts of how we have made, make, and will continue to make conversation.

We make fun of how we "talk about the weather," but are such disparaging remarks simply a cover for not having anything else to talk about, or is it something that we have to do? I'm betting on the latter.

My guess is that if you look back far enough, to the Epic of Gilgamesh or something similarly cuneiform, you'll find somebody gabbing about the weather. It's always available for dialogue. And since it is an unmovable, non-responding thing, it is frightfully easy for us to deride it or compliment it as we see fit; it can't talk back and we can't change it. So we'll continue, on and on, until we either find a way to "fix" the weather or we get our heads on straight and talk about the important things. The weather is an easy target - we need to set our sights higher.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren, Interfaith Dialogue, and Obama

Barack Obama has selected Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to deliver the invocation at his inauguration ceremony in January. Not everyone is happy. The furor from LGBT activists (many of whom supported Barack Obama) is especially understandable. Only a few hours after the announcement, the Human Rights Campaign's Joe Solmonese had released a letter expressing HRC's frustration. Warren is a very important figure in the religious life of America, and indeed the world. I've talked about him at the University of Denver's Interfaith Student Alliance blog. The post I refer to mentions Warren as being a powerful mobilizer for Christian youth worldwide. He spoke of "armies of compassion" that could perform services for others. He is also very vocal about AIDS and poverty relief.

The guy is exceedingly influential. Obama's choice of Rick Warren to invoke in January is thus a nod to the President-Elect's acknowledgment of the importance of religion in the lives of Americans. But not all Americans subscribe to the Christian faith, and not all American Christians are in step with Warren's admittedly conservative views. What does this all mean?

Some say that Obama and Warren see eye-to-eye on social justice issues, which is true, and that they both recognize the important role that faith plays in America. But Warren's selection is seen by many as an exclusionary choice, one that Obama, for all his talk of "bringing everybody together" has apparently missed. As an interfaith activist, I am perturbed by the choice, to be sure, and I hope that Obama will prove to be a fierce advocate for building bridges among our nation's diverse religious communities. On January 20th, the world will be watching.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Social Magnetism: Gravity, Guys, and Gals

I spend a lot of time working on hypotheticals, constructing "what if" questions about the future. This is part of the curse of being a political science guy - it's up to us to figure out what's going to happen in the future (I say this to anger my historian friends - Drew, that's for you). So in my latest WHAT IF, I thought about what might happen if someone quite famous, say Al Pacino or @Kofi Annan were to hop on Twitter tonight.

I refer to @THE_REAL_SHAQ to further my what if. The guy tweeted for the first time back on November 18th, largely to tell the world that he was, in fact, the real Shaq. That's less than a month ago. As of right now, he's being followed by 21,356 people. That's insane. Once we get enough case study data, I'm sure we'll be able to chart exactly how quickly big names expand their follower count. So let's say that Pacino hops on Twitter tonight and starts tweeting about whatever strikes his fancy. Within a few days he will have thousands of followers. We know that this happens, but it can't be just as simply as celebrity worship. I follow @Ban Ki-moon, but I'm more interested in what the Secretary General of the UN is up to than merely curious about a big name's daily plans.

In much the same fashion, once someone creates an especially engaging blog post/article (more than likely a list!), it circulates wildly throughout the social web. If we're not keeping up with ourselves, it is almost impossible to figure out where our content ends up. People will cut it up, give credit where credit is due, and repost, retweet, and reshare it ad infinitum. It's like casting a satellite out into space. Even if you point it in one specific direction, it's still going to be affected by the gravitational pulls of other objects, i.e. stars, asteroids, planets. Its course will be determined by the larger (and smaller) bodies that inhabit space. In the social web, the role of gravity and social magnetism cannot be ignored. If we don't pay attention, we may end up floating out into the social web alone.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Philadelphia

I finished off my whirl of a week in DC with a trip to Philadelphia to visit my aunt. She works for the Atwater Kent Museum, close to Independence Hall, the little brick building where such fine documents as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. It was a real treat to walk around the city and see these things again.

I last visited Philadelphia in 1995 when I was a little kid, when seeing the chair where Washington sat only excited me as a history piece. Now, as a student of political science, I see these places (Philadelphia prides itself on American "firsts") as so much more.

It was inspiring to be walking around the places where some really, really important decisions in our history have been made. Despite all of the history and monuments, though, the place had a feel much like Denver - it's a big town with a small town feel.

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Washington, DC

Every time I go to DC, I spend my time there wishing that I was a resident. I feel the pulse of the whole entire world all around me, like being in the nexus of whatever happens to be happening. Even when I visit during the summer, when the fierce humidity reminds me of life in Illinois, I still think that I could bike to work, shower, and then put on my suit and tie. Going to meetings and conferences and lectures with some of the best minds. I dream of waiting in the Metro with its oddly graceful dim tunnels, and of walking past buildings where the Founding Humans did their best work. Note: Don't tell Philadelphia that I said that.

And usually when I leave the District, those feelings leave me, and I admit to myself and others that I could never, ever live there. I nitpick and find all the parts of Washington that I hate: again, the humidity; the obscenely fast pace of everything; the transitory nature of the people that inhabit the city; etc.

But this last time was different. I had my finger on the pulse and for the first time, I left the city praying to get that feeling back. Moving out there is, I think, the perfect opportunity for me to do some good. Of course, I would have to give up my bike trails and these mountains and Watercourse, but I think I could do it. We'll just have to wait and see if any of my applications get returned with a smiley face.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Through the Swamp

I've been commenting a bit on Steven Hodson's recent post Is Social Media Becoming A Social Mess? over at Inquisitr. It's been a really lively discussion, and even though the conversation is a few days old, it is still pretty interesting reading.

Hodson is right - social media, and the interactive web in general, is a great mess. Early adopters and the like have to act as the pathfinders/explorers to figure out what works in the new digital world. Some things will fail, but other tools will become as ubiquitous as email. I've addressed the unknown future of social media in terms of governance before, and the discussion developing over at Inquisitr is keenly complementary.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Evening With Michael Seltzer

So I hit up the Denver Young Nonprofit Professionals Network tonight for a little speech and Q&A with Michael Seltzer. He's a nonprofit consultant, awesome dude, and the author of Securing Your Organization's Future. You can find a better bio of Seltzer here. We had some light refreshments and then gathered in the studio at Denver Open Media. Since there were only about 15 of us, Michael had us all pull our chairs into a tight little circle, which was just super.

He talked about how his life in the nonprofit world began with a trip to Cameroon under the precursor program to our Peace Corps. From there he bounced around to a handful of different places, gaining valuable experience in a wide variety of situations and cultural contexts. He was coming of age politically during the late 60s. It was, as we know, a crazy time full of hope and cooperation. His contention was that the social movements of the 1960s were based less on organizations and more on the Movement qua Movement.

Many nonprofit organizations precipitated out of these social movements, but as they did, they lost the "vision." Suddenly the game was about promoting the organizations themselves. Granted, they had to do this to survive, but a mentality of competition came to rule the sector. And so it goes.

Nowadays, as Seltzer noted in his talk, it seems that we are edging back toward being parts of movements as opposed to solitary organizations. This is not simply a matter of playing on the same team, but perhaps an entirely new organizational structure. It's all quite a grand vision, and we talked as a group about how technology is changing the ways in which we can work at this sort of retro-collaboration. Sure, the idea of macro-movements is back in force because it has to be, but also because it can - the spirit of the 1960s has broken upon the shore of the internet and social media.



We also spoke about "sector-jumpers," those people from, say, the corporate world who are finding their existence threatened by the market. They will head for an equally precarious, but far more rewarding place, like the nonprofit sector. Seltzer talked about seeing the explosive growth of "social entrepreneurship clubs" in major MBA programs - these people want to help.

After someone referred to nonprofits as the "third sector," Michael said, "No. Nonprofits are the first sector. In 1636, a minister donated his library and some money. The organization became the first corporation in the United States, and was named after the man. That man was John Harvard." Nonprofits have been an important part of the fabric of America for some time, and Seltzer noted that, especially during this past election, Americans voted not only through the ballot box, but through their checkbooks and their volunteer hours. He sees our democracy as relying in large part upon the continued activity of Americans in the nonprofit sector. As he noted - 80% of us either donate or volunteer. We can't get those kinds of numbers even for small-town elections.



One of the participants expressed confusion about the use of technology to build the aforementioned new organization structure of Movements. She wasn't a technophobe or anything, she simply didn't know how being able to communicate digitally (ubiquitously) was going to change anything. Seltzer asked us what we thought about that, so I broke into the song-and-dance about nonprofits being on the cutting edge of communication, collaboration, and social networking/media - not so much because it's good for us, but because we have to to survive.

Along with that, someone mentioned the seeming loss of depth in our connections for breadth in our connections, but pointed out that we therefore have a responsibility to "drill down into that breadth in whatever ways we can," and in essence, "humanize these new technologies." Seltzer agreed, noting that we are still very much about face-to-face interactions. We like touch.

The whole evening was very inspiring, really. He noted that we definitely need to think of ourselves as skilled people, with cultural competency being a chief proficiency. The social movements of the 1960s were anti-professional. Nowadays, we are the professionals. We have opportunities to build great big things with lots and lots of people. New Movements. Old Movements with new names. Lots of things.

It's going to be a grand old time.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Comes But Never A Year

Frowny-face in England, from the Telegraph: Christmas banned in Oxford

It's not quite so frowny, though. The glimmer of true holiday cheer is the commentary by Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders in the city. As Sabir Hussain Mirza says:
"I am really upset about this. Christians, Muslims and other religions all look forward to Christmas."
And this from Rabbi Eli Bracknell:
"It is important to maintain a traditional British Christmas."
The concern expressed by these various religious leaders is both a refreshing example of interfaith cooperation and an illustration of the transmutation of Christmas into a holiday of "civil religion." Here in America, of course, the holiday season means a return to the discussion about "keeping Christ in Christmas." I'd be interested to see what the reaction of American Christians would be to having the leaders of different faith traditions backing them up!

Perhaps I have a romantic vision of this season. But if you've ever gotten "Christmas" gifts from a Jewish or Hindu neighbor, you'll understand what I'm on about. Happy Holidays!

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Bloggers Unite - World AIDS Day

Today is the 20th Anniversary of World AIDS Day, and Bloggers Unite has put together another massive action to raise awareness. Hence this post.

I collaborate and consult with The 1010 Project, a humanitarian nonprofit in Denver, that works to eradicate poverty in Kenya. One of our focus areas is HIV/AIDS support groups - civil society and community-based organizations that are providing hope and care to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. I've spoken before of the ways in which poverty holds back the developing world, but infectious diseases have their place, too.

It goes without saying that HIV/AIDS is retarding development. This happens on two levels:

1. When a head of a household is too sick to work, or worse, dies, that family becomes unable to support itself. It's like instant impoverishment.

2. When parents die, their children don't. This has led to what is essentially an "orphan epidemic," especially in sub-Saharan Africa. These orphans don't have options open to them, and they will likely end up in poverty.

Combating diseases like HIV/AIDS has become a global rallying point - something agreeable like climate change or nuclear disarmament. World AIDS Day will hopefully refresh the commitments of governments, organizations, and individuals to do whatever they can to stop the spread of AIDS, and to bring hope to those for whom hope is a dream.

Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Governance and Social Media (Digital Superstructure pt. 1)

I was picking through two old posts, one about the disembodied nature of empire and the other about the shifting nature of political/economic/social authority on a global level, and I started to think about how to apply my older thoughts on such things to my current interest in social contract theory and the growth of the "digital superstructure(s)" that are increasingly front-and-center in our lives.

In this case, being a contributor, or at least a mildly active participant in one's own "digital life" (since you've got one even if you're not online!) is a better idea than sitting back. The benefits (real or perceived) of being plugged in are simply higher than staying out. Pragmatism, not popularity, is driving us onto the internet - into the diffuse, sometimes highly-selective networks that are changing the speed of news, connecting consumers to producers, or even helping people.

We have absolutely no idea what is coming next, but we know that when things change, or when something big happens, there will be reflexive, collaborative and, above all, supportive networks in place for dealing with whatever it is. Best of all, these networks are, to a certain extent, self-regulating. We are governing ourselves by a loose set of rules that become more and more codified as time goes on. I doubt we'll ever have a "Blogger's Bill of Rights" or anything like that, but things are progressing, whatever that means.

For an interesting look at what might be coming around the bend, take a look at Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point Theory, but instead of viewing it in terms of true global consciousness, put it in the language of social networking and the internet. Doesn't sound quite so far-fetched now. Or does it?

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tweeting the Terror

Tweeting the terror: How social media reacted to Mumbai - CNN.com

Rough title, there. Yikes. Even I wouldn't (probably) title something like that. The articles puts out a bunch of really good info. It makes mention of the blood donation/helpline tweets. It completely ignores #mumbai and the use of hashtags.

Still, it's an easy-to-understand "primer" of sorts on the role that services like Twitter played and are still playing. The article ends on a sour note for me, and I think that it illustrates quite plainly the distrust and confusion which surround "crowdnews." I shall reproduce the final lines here:

What is clear that although Twitter remains a useful tool for mobilizing efforts and gaining eyewitness accounts during a disaster, the sourcing of most of the news cannot be trusted.

A quick trawl through the enormous numbers of tweets showed that most were sourced from mainstream media.

Someone tweets a news headline, their friends see it and retweet, prompting an endless circle of recycled information.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mumbai, Terror, and Response

I've been following the mess in Mumbai for the past few hours. As usual, Hashtags represents the best and most live way to keep up-to-date: http://hashtags.org/tag/mumbai. Even though it's getting a lot of media play, I think it's important to remember the rather peculiar "ordinariness" of the day's events.

We gasped in America when the London transport system was bombed in 2005. Londoners recovered rather quickly and went about their daily lives. They had been used to periodic terrorist attacks courtesy of the Irish Republican Army. 7/7 was really nothing new to them.

The same goes for every time we hear about a seemingly random car bomb in Iraq. That is simply the way things have been. There are children growing up in that country who have never known stability. India is no exception. We blogged at the University of Denver Interfaith Student Alliance a little bit ago about India's interfaith history, and the times when the calm has been shattered by selfish, violent acts.

Does anyone even remember the bombs in New Delhi back in October? If you live in a place like India, where sporadic politio-religious violence happens fairly often, you might not. The events taking place in Mumbai today and tonight are "scaled" for us largely because of the media exposure (thank you Web 2.0), but it always amazes me what it must be like to live in a place where such things happen fairly often. I hope that both Mumbai and India can get back on track and work to make sure that attacks like this don't happen in the future.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Digital Contact, pt. 1

I would say that I am a political scientist. It's not the first thing I do, nor is it the most important, but it's a big part of my life. I've been studying quite a bit about the concept of the "social contract." In its most basic terms, the social contract is a descriptive theory about why human beings choose to join together in civil society and appoint people to lead them. The idea is that before the rise of civil society/government, humans existed in a "state of nature," an amoral place wherein there was a great risk of violent death. Furthermore, in the state of nature there could be no real progression; history was not important because everything, day in and day out, was the same.

The social contract is the agreement between a people and the leader or leaders that they appoint to lead them. The social contract assumes that the people will give up a number of their rights in order to be protected and supplied by the sovereign, or leader. Political scientists have been writing about the social contract for 4oo years. Every new author has an interesting twist or a different viewpoint that furthers the dialogue and contributes to our understanding of the need for government in our modern era.

My intention is to combine extant theoretical notions of the social contract theory with modern network theory and social media to build a framework for the Next Big Step. It is an ambitious project, to be sure, but I think that it is eminently possible.

The basic idea is this: Things have gotten to the point where the traditional systems of government are no longer doing what they were created to do. The growth of communication/globalization has changed the way that people (be they citizens of whatever state) relate to one another and to their leaders. A possible example of the "new way" is Barack Obama's change.gov, which provides Web 2.0 functionality to the American government. Whatever the case, we are in a very good position to provide not only a descriptive account of what the new social contract theory will look like, but also a prescriptive account of what we ought to be doing in order to make the transition.

I will be posting periodical updates here, and when I have a whole bunch of stuff written down, I will make the GoogleDoc live, enabling all who have thoughts to weigh in and aid me in producing what will hopefully be a practical, hopeful schematic for the future of social media, governance, and the world community. Best to you all. These are exciting times.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trivial Pursuits?

So I teamed up with some friends of mine from the Korbel School to compete in the first ever Institute of International Education Denver WorldQuest trivia competition. It was sweet, not least of all because my team won. Actually, we tied with the IIE's own team, but they were just doing it for fun. Plus, they had three Fulbright scholars from three different continents! We won Premier memberships and a VIP happy hour. Sweet!

The questions ranged from identifying Angela Merkel to figuring out which countries DON'T border China. The last round was "World Languages." I got excited because my undergrad work was in language and linguistics and such. One of the questions asked us to identify the number of different ways of expressing the Japanese language. I knew before I saw the multiple choice that it was 4. Not only that, but I knew that they were called Kanji, Katakana, Hiragana and Romaji. We got the question right, but it left me wondering: Why on earth do I know that?

I don't speak Japanese, and probably never will (it's about 8th place in my list of languages to learn). I've always viewed the acquisition of knowledge (even the "trivial") as something like the Boy Scout motto. Be prepared. I guess I keep hoping that one day I'll bump into some eccentric millionaire who's desperately searching for someone to explain to him the importance of the Convivencia or the history of Ireland or the distance from the earth to the sun or the number of languages in Papua New Guinea or the way to make a teabag float in midair.

If I never meet that eccentric millionaire, then are all these bits of information, some a mile wide and an inch deep and some and inch wide and a mile deep, really worth learning?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Popular Sovereignty

Just finished a small write-up about the analogy between individuals and states from the Renaissance to the 18th century as well as an analysis of what this means for contemporary international relations. It's pretty messy - I may repost a cleaner final version someday.

Brauhn - Popular Sovereignty

Motrin and Such

The last day or so has featured a flurry of Motrin (yes, the pain reliever)-related activity on the Twittertubes. I was working at the library most of yesterday, so I avoided keeping up with the madness. I didn't know what was happening, and I figured that I'd savor that and wait to find out today. And so I did, by following through to Thinkjose's post about Motrin's Twitter Headache. He does an awesome job of explaining the evolution of the damn thing, and it's well worth the visit. Apparently, the hubbub was about this video:



Yeah, I agree. Pretty silly. I do like the wordart stuff, though. The entire fiasco is another example of how different things are these days. Gives me more fodder for my upcoming Magnum Opus, which will be a research project involving social media, democracy, and international relations. Gotta think big, you know.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why We Can't Stand Still

My instructor in my Modern Political Theory class was discussing how political theory, like any good idea, is generally applied retrospectively to a given situation. We aren't usually able to see patterns until after the fact. Not that this makes theory worthless, of course; we gain a greater appreciation of what has happened, and we can certainly learn about possible future occurrences of that given situation.

My instructor did point out the need for theory to be as proactive as it possibly could though, by positing this thought-experiment: "What if, tomorrow, science proves that I'm actually standing on the other side of the room?" It was a ridiculous idea, but not outside the realm of possibility.

We already know that time is relative, perhaps even more so than we would like to admit. It is, as I've long held, a social construct more than an empirical thing (I still show up early to everything, though). We can, if we like, view time as everything happening all at once, since there's no feasible end or beginning point for what we call "time." Even more disturbing/inspiring is quantum mechanics, which allows us to think really, REALLY big by looking at things that are very, very small. I offer the following easy explanation of superposition theory:



By this reasoning, my instructor most certainly could have been on the other side of the room, at the exact same time that he was where we perceived him to be. Using the aforementioned notion of time as relative, he could have been inhabiting both positions at different times as well. Whew. We can't stand still because, depending how you look at it, we are everywhere at once.

I love this stuff, but you can't think deeply about it for too long or your brain will explode.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sharia and the State


I've finished up a review of Noah Feldman's The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State. It's not actually all review - there's analysis, too. It definitely would not fit here, so it's been published through GoogleDocs. Take a peek, eh?

Brauhn - Feldman and Sharia and the State

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama and the Weather


Eboo Patel has a new one up at the WaPo's Faith Divide: Obama and the Weather

It's a very keen metaphor that he employs. Forecast calls for SWEET.

Bloggers United for Refugees


Bloggers Unite

UPDATE: EarthlyExplorations blogs about refugees and displaced people in the Philippines.

Today is Bloggers Unite/Refugees United Day, so I'm getting involved! It occurs to me that our conception of refugees or refugee status can be conceived of in a few different ways, owing largely to the different definitions of state, nation, and country.

1. Statelessness - Being stateless means that your group (however you conceive of it) lacks a territorially-defined, internationally-recognized place. The Kurds, for instance, number in the millions but still lack a state of their own.

2. Nationlessness - OK, that one got underlined so it's probably made-up. Still, lacking a nation is where being a refugee becomes a bit odd. Nationless people could very well be a part of a state, physically speaking, but being disconnected from people of your own group or even feeling apart from your own people is tough.

3. Countrylessness - That one didn't get underlined; must be real. I used to view countrylessness as some romantic notion of the "world citizen;" beholden to no government and floating throught he world on the wind. Probably OK for some, but when it's not by choice...

On a day like today, when thousands of bloggers are talking about the rights of refugees, helping them to find their families, and to reunite them with their homes, it's important to remember just how complex all these issues really are. They are seldom as simple as we would wish them to be, and international law can only do so much. It may be up to ordinary people to take the necessary steps to promote justice for those who have no home.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ambiguity


If we follow the "behind the scenes" campaign reporting now that the election has been decided, the person of Barack Obama becomes increasingly ambiguous. He said it himself in regards to the campaign; I can't find the article but will attempt to.

This guy is picking up a mighty burden. Reforming the whole of everything. Making government accountable and transparent. Listening to diverse viewpoints. You know, all the bits that make a textbook democracy.

But we all know that he is inheriting a difficult situation, and that he has already reneged on many of his campaign promises. As a pragmatist, I can understand this. I'm left wondering what effect his ambiguity and such could have on the presidency. If things go badly (which I'm sure we can all agree is possible), what kind of a reaction should we have? If I were a betting man, I would say that at this point, even if President-Elect Obama screws up royally, most people will still be behind him.

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Uncultured


Great post about the changing face of poverty eradication up at the Uncultured Project. The 1010 Project is doing great and innovative work in Kenya by listening to the people affected by poverty, and by relating their stories (usually pretty happy stories) to our friends here in the US.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Political Cartoons


I like political cartoons. They have a sweet way of boiling things down for us. Here's one from Mike Luckovich, who writes for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sure, it made me cry a bit, but I feel that it captures what this election was all about:



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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

President Barack Hussein Obama II



We have elected our 44th President. He is an American who grew up among other cultures. He is an American who has overcome great obstacles, but who has persevered. He is an American who represents the possible futures for the youth of this nation, and for the youth of the world.

But he is an American president who will inherit a broken nation, one that is divided and confused. He is an American president who will be tasked with rectifying out economic woes. He is an American president that must, must work very hard and diligently to restore the American vision. This American vision, this American Dream, is what has bound our nation to the rest of the world.

He is an American who understands these things, and he will not shy away from the hard road ahead.

He is Barack Hussein Obama II, and he is the 44th President of the United States of America.

He is going to need our help.


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Voting Images


From the Huffington Post, Amazing Voting Images.

I've included a few in particular because I find them particularly important for America:







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We are voting



65%.

It's not that hard. Come on, young people. Let's do it.


Everyone knows everything


I've been thinking a bit about social media, the internet, Twitter, hyperconnectivity, Facebook, et al. and it occurs to me that all of these things are allowing us to learn a lot about a lot of different things. We are becoming more well-informed. As we learn to process the endless streams of data coming in through our computers and Blackberries and cells, is it possible that we'll grow our brains as well?

I have done some study in linguistics (undergrad), and the link between language/information and brain size is an interesting bit of science that we haven't been able to figure out just yet. Did the need for more complex language make the brain swell, or did the brain swelling enable more complex language? Chicken or egg?

If we are evolving to handle massive data streams, fine. But I'm wondering where this new "knowledge" fits into the grand scheme of things? What's the difference between being "smart" and being "well-informed?"

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Tomorrow, Next Week, Next Month, Next Year


It's around 11 pm here in Denver. I'm hoping that by this time tomorrow night, our country will have done its quadrennial duty and elected a new president. Ideally, we would elect (overwhelmingly) the candidate that I have previously endorsed. Also ideally, we will see an outstanding voter turnout. I think about the billions of Americans that the Obama campaign especially has registered in the last 6 months. The last time that we broke 60% turnout, we were electing Nixon, 40 years ago.

By this time tomorrow night, I want to be able to look back on this election cycle and believe that we learned some important things about our country and about our place in the world.

We shall see what we shall see.

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Can you hear me now? Good.


So somebody Twittered up this article "What Happens to the Obama Network After the Election?" and it really threw me for a loop. I've had a few discussions with people about the massive success that the Obama campaign has had with social networking, in many ways changing the way that people, especially young people, interact with their elected officials. The article (in two parts) is well worth the read.

With such a huge network, there must be something that it can still do after tomorrow. Hopefully it will be more of the same, which in this case represents progressive, grassroots organizing around the issues that really resonate with "The Connected."

 
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RockAfrica Denver




The Elias Fund and The 1010 Project, two Denver nonprofits, will host RockAfrica Denver, a benefit concert to raise funds and awareness for their partners in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Hearts of Palm, a local band, and Ngumo ye Rudo, a group of Zimbabwean musicians, will perform. CDs will be on sale. RockAfrica – Denver will be at 1101 S. Washington St, Denver, CO 80210. Doors open at 6 pm and the show begins at 7 pm.

Tickets are priced at a suggested donation of $15. Sponsorship opportunities are available. All proceeds from ticket sales and merchandise will go toward the work of The 1010 Project and the Elias Fund.

The 1010 Project is a 501(c)(3) humanitarian nonprofit organization providing income generating grants and guidance to indigenous development partners in Kenya while raising awareness on behalf of the global poor in the United States. The Elias Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing hope and opportunity to Zimbabwean youth through education and community development.

For more information, visit www.the1010project.org and www.eliasfund.org.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Monopoly


The past three weeks have been spent very actively working on investigating and monopolizing my digital self. I feel as if I've wasted far too much time as it is. The diagram below is where I will be working on my presence in the months to come. If this is all very strange, it's because it is. I'm aiming for a public launch sometime in December. Hah.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Civic Duty


It's a strange thing, this American democracy we have. A federal constitutional republic, perhaps the most diverse (in any sense) in the world, full of millions of interesting people, still young, but trying its best.

I really do like it. And so I vote.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Interfaith Coalitions and Revolution


I was sitting there in my "Introduction to the Middle East and Islamic Politics" course today, listening to Dr. Hashemi lecture about the relationship between authoritarian states and their effect on political expression. He did this through a case study of Iran, explaining the ways in which politicized Islam grew to be a legitimate outlet for Iranians because there was no other outlet. This is what happens when a government squeezes its own civil society.

As he was speaking, I zoned out, and found myself wondering (because I've never checked it out) where the other religious groups stood in those months leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Despite Tehran's vociferous condemnations of Israel, Iran still boasts a population of 25,000-ish Jews (they've been there a very, very long time). At the time of the Revolution, there could have been as many as 80,000. There are of course Christians of various shades and Zoroastrians and probably bunches of others. I'm going to do some research and see if I can find out how involved, if at all, these groups were before, during, and after the Revolution. And of course find out if they are involved today.

It's worth noting that interfaith coalitions are really a value-added way to promote revolution/social change. Martin Luther King walked with Abraham Joshua Heschel. Gandhi collaborated with Indian Muslims and the panoply of South Asian faiths. There were Christian/Muslim/Jewish coalitions working to end apartheid in South Africa.

In all these cases, and for our current hour, the power of people of faith cooperating to do good things is readily apparent, and cannot be underestimated.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Official Endorsement of Barack Obama


I would like to announce my official endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States of America.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Religion and Politics - A Long Post


New post up at the DU Interfaith Student Alliance blog: http://du-interfaith.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Blood

So funny story - I'm cutting up this apple, right? Only a few minutes
ago. I put it all into a bowl to eat. So I'm sitting in front of the
comprooder eating it when I see that one of the apple pieces has this
gunk all over it. And I'm looking at this gunk and I'm like "That gunk
is my blood."

So I start looking at my hands, checking all my fingers cuz I'm
like "It's early, Tim. You might have cut into a finger without being
aware because you aren't yet awake." But I can't find any cuts and
there's no blood on the keyboard.

And then I realize that the apple slices are sitting on a bed of melting blueberries.

The blood was blueberry juice.

I bleed blueberry.



Monday, October 20, 2008

I've made the switch

Well, I knew it would happen. For a long time, I was an Opera user. I liked using my mouse gestures, my Speed Dial, and my beautiful tab management. Then, for about 20 minutes, I flirted with IE 8. Then it was on to Chrome, which I still love. Believe me, it is a wondrous platform. What it denies me, though, is the ability to do 8000 things at once within a single window.

Granted, my Chrome interface was deliciously simple - there was no title bar to speak of. But with FF3, I can get all I want and more. Goodbye, Chrome.

Espanol y Turkce

So my degree program here at the Korbel School involves proficiency in a foreign language. When I came out here, I just figured that it would be Turkish, since that's what I had spent the most time working on when I was at Aurora University. OK, now that was about 14 months ago and I still haven't perfected my Turkish. Is this a bad thing? Yes and no.

I've decided to switch over and take my proficiency exam in Spanish. I figure that even though for my purposes it is the less attractive option, it will have to suffice. You see, when I got out to Denver, I started working on Latin again made yet another stab at Greek. Midway through the last school year, I found some free Arabic classes on campus, and even got a little teeny tiny bit of Hebrew. Turkish got pushed aside. Oddly enough, I feel that my Spanish is better than usual, due in large part to interactions with Espanol-proficient folks. I'm linguistically greedy, I guess, and if it's useful to be functionally illiterate in six different languages, then bully for me!

I take notes in class with four different alphabets, but if I could pick one and stick with it, I think we'd all be a lot better off. As my old boss used to say, "Knowledge a mile across but an inch deep is dangerous."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day


Each year, Blog Action Day brings together thousands of bloggers from across the globe to raise awareness of important issues facing our planet and our people. This year's theme is POVERTY. Today, bloggers everywhere are writing about how they see poverty, what they are doing about it, and what other people can do to help.

I would say that I've studied poverty, but that would be somewhat inaccurate. It's more like I've come up against poverty in nearly every research project that I've put my nose to here at the Korbel School. In my work on comparative democratization in particular, I've found that it is a matter of utmost importance.

Poverty retards development, increases political instability, reduces quality of life, and distributes misery and hopelessness. Its chronic nature undermines many honest efforts to improve the condition of those affected by it. But too often, poverty is portrayed as a faceless phenomenon; at its worst simply an economic concern, at its best an abstract human rights issue. I am especially excited with the work that The 1010 Project is doing in this field. (Disclaimer: I work with them.) Our work is not simply about eliminating poverty. At The 1010 Project, we work to show the very human side of poverty; to give a face to a global issue.

On days like this, when bloggers everywhere are addressing the importance of poverty, we should all be mindful in seeking ways in which we can also help break the cycle of poverty. Whether it is big or small actions, we can all do something. Thank you for joining me on this day. 



Perspctv

Oooooooooooooo.....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Billy


Two households, both alike in dignity, 
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, 
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, 
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. 
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes 
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; 
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows 
Do with their death bury their parents' strife. 
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love, 
And the continuance of their parents' rage, 
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove, 
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage; 
The which if you with patient ears attend, 
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.


I love this stuff.

Choosing "The American Dream"


The Interfaith Youth Core continues to do good work. I've posted at the Bridge-Builders NING site to this effect: http://bridge-builders.ning.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2315767:BlogPost:3621

Quarter of a Tenth of a Millennium

So 25 years ago at 8:42 AM, just like it is now, I entered this world. Don't remember much about it, to tell the truth. I think I'm having a lot more fun now than I was back then. Of course, in 1983 I didn't even know what "crushing student loan debt" might be. But I have learned, and I have grown.

Alrighty then. Back to work. I've gotta figure out how John Locke's conception of Commonwealth meshes with that of Thomas Hobbes. Awesome.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kleen Kanteen Adventure


UPDATE: After posting this, I followed through to Kleen Kanteen's website and actually looked around. Apparently they sell an insulated sleeve (with a handle) for $12. Even though I paid $14 for the bottle itself, I might be inclined to get this thing if it'll keep me from boiling my hand off.


As I mentioned in the previous post, I bought a Kleen Kanteen at REI today. I think I did this only because they were $14 for 27 oz. Oh well. I got a nice green one. Click the picture for the important info:


 


So when I got back to the hood, I was making me some mate for to drink. I guess I figured that my shiny new Kleen Kanteen would allow me to transport my hot magic drink to campus and work and such. To test my hypothesis, as the mate brewed I boiled a bunch of water and poured it into the Kleen Kanteen. I think I was expecting it to...I don't really know.


You know that feeling you get where you suddenly have NO IDEA what you're doing, and you know it's STUPID but you JUST CAN'T STOP? Yeah, well I filled my Kleen Kanteen with boiling-as-hell water. It took about .8 seconds for the single-wall stainless steel of the bottle to also reach 200-odd degrees. I shouted an expletive and dropped the bottle into the sink. OUCH.


Suffice it to say, the Kleen Kanteen ROCKS for cool drinks. It has a wide mouth so it can even fit ice cubes. But hot stuff...stay away.


Our Young Republic

In class this morning, I peered over at the computer screen of one of my adjacent colleagues. He was surfing a website called SAVEUR, and was looking at a recipe for rib-eye steaks with chimichurri sauce. The steaks, not so much, but I was surprised that the site wasn't familiar to me, given my Foodie proclivities.

After class, I rolled up to REI and got some cold-weather biking gloves, a front fender, and a Kleen Kanteen (refer to the above post for more info/horror). Oh, and there was some world-class thrifting to be had at the local Goodwill and ARC Thrift. I got some killer sweaters!

But as I was saying, upon my return home, I visited this SAVEUR.com and found a great many wondrous things. One of them was an article detailing the breakfast habits of many of our Washington elites. It was pretty neat to see what all of these people eat, but one of them in particular caught my eye, not so much for his meal, but for his thoughts:
John Nichols, political writer, The Nation: " Wherever I wake up on the campaign trail, I look for a local independent coffee shop. I prefer wood floors, regional newspapers, and conversations about the Constitution. (I've found that everyone in America has an amendment to propose.) In my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, I start at Ancora Coffee Roasters, on King Street. I know some people get all excited about eggs and bacon, croissants and fresh fruit, but I'm not so inclined. I love my mocha, a chair near the window, and discussing an amendment that might yet perfect our young republic."
The italics are mine. "Our young republic," he says. This nation has 28 years to go before we reach the half-way point of the half-way point of a millennium of existence. We are still young, and there is still a lot of work to do.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Law in One's Own Hands

UPDATE: I really should have titled this one "To Protect and Serve" or something like that. There are so many clever titles out there!

Literally.

News today out of Chicago. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced that his office will, for the foreseeable future, ignore eviction notices. Dart and his deputies have been knocking on the doors of people who are renting from people who have defaulted on their mortgages. 

These tenants have no idea what is going on, and Sheriff Dart thinks that evicting them for the dishonest practices of their landlords is, quite simply, unfair. 

This is a nice man. For the whole thing, follow this.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How bad? Pretty bad...

So the DJIA fell approximately 45,000 points this morning, the S&P lost 322% of its volume, and the TED spread just hopped up about 800 basis points. What does this mean to the uninitiated in global economics?

LOTS.

I reiterate: Things are bad. Let's hope a bit that they don't get as bad as they reasonably ought to.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nous, Naan, Nights


gliding past the bakery where,

pan-adventurous,

we'd take sugared bites of Francophone treasures

after late nights sleeping soundly

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Broken Phone


Once again my Chocolate Phone has let me down. I was receiving a text message yesterday as I left the office and the thing froze up. I de-batteried it, then turned it back on, only to be greeted with a white screen and an occasionally flashing VERIZON sign. Uh oh. The next half hour is a blur, but I biked downtown and got it looked at. I parked on the 16th St. Mall, so my bike got "ticketed." Some kind soul had strapped a little sign to my vert bar that warned me about the possibility of getting a real ticket. How nice!

But anyway, it turns out that the phone eventually booted up all the way, so I could get my numbers. Sadly, I lost a great many stored text messages. I keep the best ones, so it was very sad to see them go. I suppose I still have them; my Chocolate phone is sitting in front of me right now taking up space. But we got everything transferred to a new slider (Venus) and now I am pleased. 

I would have gotten the 2nd generation Chocolate, but they don't make them anymore. The 3rd generation Chocolate is basically a Razr with a clickwheel on the outside. Yucko. Then I biked down to Vine St. and had a salad. Heyo.

Money


I'm not so sure that I'm so sure what's actually going to happen with this whole "worldwide financial crisis" business. Just a while ago, we were talking about $200/barrel oil. Now commodities are slipping, credit is unavailable, our banks are being consumed by either the government or each other, and the average consumer, anywhere, is forced to sit and wait.

We're looking for objects of blame, be they the "greedy bank executives," George Bush, the Democratic Party, or irresponsible borrowers like you and me. 

Well, my guess is that we all bear a certain amount of responsibility for this mess. It's not over yet.

Friday, October 3, 2008

VP Debate


Meh.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Small Town America, Big Town America


I grew up in a small town. The owners of a local restaurant (the only one in town) were Kosovars from Kosovo. This was all I ever really knew about them. When they moved away, the restaurant was taken over by...another Kosovar family. It seemed to be a trend. The food still tasted the same. My friends and I knew that they were immigrants, and that they had accents, but it never occurred to us why they might have come to America, or even what religion they may have espoused.

Well as it turns out, they were Muslims, and odds are that they left their country because of horrific religious violence there; I never asked for fear of causing discomfort. I hadn't  really thought of this until I left home for school and encountered other Muslims who I knew explicitly as Muslims. It all made sense to me then. Some of the kids were my age, and in looking back on my time in school with them, their religion was of little concern to me. I suppose this is because my hometown is quite obviously Christian; having never known other faiths, I had just assumed that the family at the restaurant was like everybody else. 

But when I moved to the city, I became very aware of the multitude of different religions swirling around me. Chicago was very close, and when I had reasons to visit, I would notice yarmulkes and hijabs and bindis and crosses and all sorts of other religious paraphernalia. In cities, multifaith existence is a given, but in the country, this may not be so. What I do know is that people in cities, even if they are different faiths, work and live and pray and hang out together.

In the country, even if we're not aware of it, we do the exact same thing. 


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Economics and Expectations


New post up at The 1010 Project's social network:


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Einging alspilkur groobin takoodan biflorglorenborgi niffle


They say that seeing a show at Red Rocks is something that one must do if one lives in Colorado. I live in Colorado, so I did this. Sigur Ros (currently my favorite band, recently nudging Beirut out of that position) played there last night, and it was outstanding. 

A friend and I took 93 south from Boulder all the way to Red Rocks. It is an astoundingly pretty drive. Almost too much for a flatlander like me. Peaks to my right, big rocks to my left. Steep drops, long hills... It was grand. The whole place is built into this natural amphitheatre thing, and it's outside, too, which is nice. Parachutes opened the show, and they were pretty cool. It was like the kid version of Sigur Ros. They sat down on the stage at one point. I did not understand this.


But then THEY came on. They played a bunch of my faves like Heysatan, Inni mer singur vitleysyngur, Ny batteri, Vid spilum endalaust, and a whole slew of other good things. At times, it was astounding how much sound was coming out of such skinny boys. I watched the lights of the Front Range Metroplex sparkle behind them and wondered what it would look like if the world ended like that, with some unbelievably thick Icelandic rock music surrounding me.

I can't imagine what they would sound like if Jonsi was singing in English.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In the Grand Scheme of Things


"The chronicles of Jerusalem are a gigantic quarry from which each side has mined stones for the construction of its myths and for throwing at each other." 
The above quote comes from Meron Benvenisti, a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem. It reminded me a bit of an exchange that I had with a former professor when I informed them about an upcoming trip to Turkey. It went a bit like this:

ME: Yeah, I'm going to be hanging around Istanbul and we'll go down along the coast then inland through Konya and then finish up outside Ankara. It's gonna be sweet!
PROFESSOR: Isn't Turkey full of Muslims? Aren't they a bit violent? I heard they have a lot of terrorism issues there.
ME: Umm...no. It'll be fine. Seriously.

A year or so later, I was working with my boss to organize a student trip to Jerusalem and I ended up discussing the trip with the same professor:

ME: Yeah, I'm working to put together this student trip to Jerusalem. We'll tour through the Old City and see the Temple Mount and then go touring through Bethlehem and maybe even visit Ramallah in the West Bank. It's gonna be sweet!
PROFESSOR: Yes, it totally does sound sweet. I'm sure you'll have an awesome and inspiring time!
ME: Umm...yeah. You know that...oh forget it. Thanks.

I have a greater chance of being crushed to death by a vending machine than I have of being killed by a terrorist, anywhere. I fear heart disease, cancer, credit card debt, drunk drivers, and bad decisions by leaders.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Morning Noises


It's 4:15 am Central Time right now. I went to bed a smidge after 12:30 am. As I was dozing off, I heard that familiar furniture-moving noise from the floor above. A few minutes ago, I heard it again. Now there's a perfectly good reason for me to be awake right now (my flight), but what on earth is going on up there? My friend suggested a few moments ago that maybe it was "one of those vacuum robot things." 

ROOMBA!

Of course...the vacuum-robot...Roomba...


Monday, September 15, 2008

Re: Machiavelli


Machiavelli is a Romaphile, of this much I am certain. He charts the relative successes and failures of all three states/republics/empires/whathaveyou from their earliest development. Sparta was "granted" its strong constitution and laws by Lycurgus. Under this system, class roles were highly prescriptive. Everyone knew where they were going and how they were getting there. The populace was very limited in its exercise of power. In Athens, on the other hand, the system set in place by Theseus and his successors did not clearly state where people "ought" to be in society. There was no "proper" role for strongmen or aristocrats. Because of these problems, Athenian democracy was very messy, and led to a great many fallings-down. 

In Rome, though, the original governance style was that of a kingdom; there was no place for laws detailing freedom and democratic representation. When liberty came, a rush of new laws followed it. These laws were then augmented to reflect changing situations. The republic developed organically. Plebeians were allowed certain leadership positions in the military and market, but otherwise the bulk of power was in the hands of the Senate and the patricians. This set Rome up for class conflict, but Machiavelli points out that it was just such conflict that provided the impetus for growth and change. Political crisis forced the evolution of the Roman state into a highly-functional and pragmatic machine. Power was added to power, and it was never really allowed to slip down to the populace in the form of full enfranchisement. 

Rome eventually expanded as a multi-ethnic empire, which forced it to involve all sorts of other folks in the governance process. They had to flatten their control. Athens was more localized in its endeavors, and when it did send itself out to gain land, it failed. Sparta had the same problem. Their expansion proved foolish, for their concentrated power was best at just that: being concentrated. Rome was the more perfect state because it was more willing to adapt and learn from its mistakes. It did not overly appease, nor did it overly oppress. It was, as one student noted in her response, the embodiment of "The Prince." 

Intern Much?


First post up at The 1010 Project's social network:


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin



Slate.com's John Dickerson captures the McCain VP pick perfectly:


Palin is a strong choice, to be sure, but what will it mean in two months' time?





Friday, August 29, 2008

The Convention, pt. 4 (Invesco)


I was informed quite early this morning that my press credentials would not suffice to get me into Invesco Field for the big speech. I was sad, yes, but I went downtown anyway. I stopped in at the Tattered Cover for some mate, an Economist, a danish, and a book of Sudoku, my guilty pleasure.

Took the Light Rail to Invesco and simply walked in. I held out my creds as I would have at the Pepsi Center, and I tried to carry myself as someone who belonged there. It worked. I ended up in the bleachers watching sound checks for will.I.am (WIllisms issmsm.s.semam.s..s..eiwiwle.) and Stevie Wonder, which was a real treat. It was seriously THE Stevie Wonder, and I saw him. And Michael McDonald, and Al Gore, and a whole slew of other cool and interesting people.

I finished the entire Economist while we waited, stuck underneath a speaker stand on the field. I also did a handful of Sudoku puzzles, of which I was very proud. Sometime in the afternoon, I'm not sure when, the meeting actually started. Lots of people spoke. Bill Richardson said a bunch of funny stuff, there was music, I watched the field fill with tens of thousands of people. Dick Durbin (Illinois reppin!) introduced a video about the Nominee. There were baby pictures, MIchelle stories, and some highlights. I was walking around the field during all of this, watching the crowd. They were quiet - very quiet. Just watching and waiting.It was eerie and wonderful.Then Senator Obama took the podium. The crowd exploded. As I rewatch the footage, I realize that he said "Thank you" for just under three minutes. Then he accepted the nomination. The crowd exploded again.


Again, as I rewatch this I can't help but realize that there were substantial things that I missed, like the Thank You Party in the beginning, a few of the things he said, and the way he ended the speech. I was wandering around, taking it all in; I was still listening, but it was hypnotic. The guy can talk. When he spoke of the military, the crowd chanted USA USA USA, which would normally have concerned me, but this loud patriotism felt strangely comforting. And then he said THANK YOU again and the fireworks went off and the crowd blew up and there were streamers and confetti and Obama's and Joe Biden's family came out on stage and everyone cheered and cheered.

Whatever happens in November, this was truly a night to remember. 82000-odd people at Invesco, and another 38 million watching at home. I am terribly lucky to have been so close, down on the field with the media, watching history. Hopefully November will keep with the theme. I got to bed late and tired.

Some little explosions and streamers and confetti:


And more:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Convention, pt. 3


Today was slower than usual. Lined up a few delegate interviews for my correspondent. We wanted to find some Clinton delegates and figure out what was what with the roll call later in the evening.
 
As it just so happened, I was sitting in Press Pavilion #4 during the roll call, nursing a Fat Tire and watching each delegation rant and rave about the wonderful features of their state. I thought I had missed Illinois, but then they caught a deferment. Mayor Daley spoke briefly and deferred to New York. Hillary Clinton suspended the roll call for a vote by acclamation.
 
It worked, and Barack Hussein Obama II (betcha forgot he's got numbers after his name) became the Democratic nominee. It was all very nice.



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Convention, pt. 2


I spoke with a number of delegates today as part of my "press duties." Accidentally spoke with at least one well-known Representative, which was slightly embarrasing once I realized who she was. On the whole, though, the day was a success. My legs are still killing me from the weekend's climb, but if you're wearing a suit, even a limp looks slightly cool.
 
Went to the Truman National Security Project meeting downtown, which was cool. Bill Clinton's Secretary of Defense William Perry was there, as was former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, who is now advising Barack Obama on defense policy. This guy could be the new SECDEF, and he's funny to boot! They spoke of many things, especially Russia's recent adventures in the Caucasus, and Danzig especially kept referring to all of America's foreign policy potential. He was talking not just about DoD, but also USAID, Peace Corps, Commerce, etc. It's what I call "full spectrum dominance."
 
I for one would LOVE to see about a third of the DoD's budget (a third would be close to a bazillion dollars) go towards the State Department. That would be awesome.




Monday, August 25, 2008

The Convention, pt. 1

I'm working with a major international news network for the Democratic National Convention. This means that I get press credentials and that I get to hang out with the rest of the press corps. The Pepsi Center has a few very large tents where the networks/magazines/websites hang out. Each of these tents has a lounge. These lounges are usually full of some sort of food and, more often than not, cold beer.
 
Super!

It is very interesting being here. There is a great deal of "hope" in the air, and the excitement is palpable. I am reminded, wryly, that there are only 4,000 delegates here.
 
I am one of 15,000 members of the media.
 
Oh my.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mountain Hurtin'


So I got home after the mountain climb and actually went biking for a while, which was silly, because I was already very tired and such.

When I woke up this morning (Sunday), I had to slide out of bed. My quads were destroyed, my knees were killing me, and my left gastroc had some sort of stitch in it. I spent the day lazing around the apartment. Hurt hurt hurt. I'm not sure if it was just the descent that did this to me, or if climbing up boulders might have had an effect.

Ouch ouch ouch. Advil. Not looking forward to running around during the DNC.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mountain Climbin'


Got to the trailhead exactly at 7 a.m., just like I had thought. Took some rad photos on the climb up. It was mostly sloping at that point, which lots of rocks, but pretty fun. Got pretty sweaty. Finally ended up on a side trail heading up into Shadow Canyon. It was great. I paused every now and then to drink and chill out. Finally made it into the Canyon. I wonder what the thing looks like from above with no trees, because to me it was a giant rock field. Weird. So I scrambled up that pile forever. Passed the strange man in the orange glasses who said, "You know where this trail goes?" I said NO, and he said, "Neither do I. It's got to have an end."

I disagree with him metaphysically, but I hope his geography is correct.

So I climbed and climbed and found myself stopping more often. I had already swapped out the bandana for my redband, and I wore the bandana around my neck. Climb climb climb. It was nuts. I finally made it to the saddle between Bear and South Boulder. I still chose SB, so I climbed more. Found a screw pine. Kept going.

Finally reached the scree field at the summit. I climbed up and up and up and finally poked my head out over a rock and



That's about what I saw, but with a whole lot of other stuff. Like there had been lots of "noise" and now there was just "silence with substance," or barring that, just silence. It was pretty damn quiet. I could see forever. To the west, the basin and the Rockies proper. To the east, the plains. South Boulder Peak is 8500 some odd feet, higher than Bear and Green, so the view was unobstructed. I stood there for some time. And stood some more. It was really outstanding and breathtaking and I now know that I will certainly mountain again once I get some more glucosamine chondroitin in me. So I sat down on a cold rock away from the little rodents and read some Kahlil Gibran. I spent 50 minutes on the summit, calling Mom and Dad to say HELLO and taking bunches of pictures, then I headed back down, running down most of the mountain.

This was a mistake.

I met a snake along the way, a tiny little baby guy, too. Passed lots of other climbers. Kept running. Ran and ran and ran all the way to the trailhead. Got to the car and headed out.

Two hours exactly up, 50 minutes on the summit, then 80 minutes down. It was a damn fast climb for my first time. And I definitely should have taken it slowerly. Read the post before this and you will understand.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Burma Shave



My CP final on Burma and rational choice theory is complete: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dd4vtbbk_79fmf8f9d4





I am still torn on whether GoogleDocs does a good job of presenting the work, but at least it's readable at the link. I would have shared it as a PDF, but as I found out tonight, with a SHOCK, GoogleDocs does not yet support PDF-publishing.

I know - I'm crying, too.

N.B. The paper is not that good, actually. I feel that it suffers from a real lack of direction. That being said, check it out and let me know what you think.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fixed-Gear Follies


So I've voiced my distrust of fixies before, but today I actually rode with somebody who was on one of the things. It was even weirder watching it up close. So I asked a bunch of questions and the guy was like, "You wanna try it?" As I was inspecting it, he related his near-death experience of revving up really fast on Colfax and then trying to coast.


The thing is: YOU CAN'T COAST ON A FIXED-GEAR BIKE AND THAT'S WHY IT'S CALLED "FIXED-GEAR" BECAUSE THE PEDALS KEEP MOVING EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT.


So I hopped on. I can't say it was comfortable - that whole facing down thing never really meshed with me. And his handlebars were about four inches across. Really tiny. Once I realized how to pilot the damn thing, I took off down the street really, really fast. And did nearly the same thing that he had done his first time. I revved ahead hard and after a time just stopped pedaling and went to leave my legs in a neutral position. They were still clipped in, so I almost rolled the damn thing. It really got the adrenaline pumping. I got off soon afterwards.


I won't say that I distrust the things anymore than I used to, but I do know one thing: If challenged to a race with a fixie, I will most certainly decline. They'll win every time.


Remember: They can't coast.


To truly understand why the things are so popular, this article is a good read. I'm saying this all tongue-in-cheek, because I know that I'm just the sort of guy who might buy one of these damn bikes and fall in love.