Obama's new website, change.gov, is soliciting people's stories and contributions/ideas. Since last week's election was the first time I've ever honestly felt hopeful about the results, I found the opportunity to say something too much to resist. Since it's unlikely what I wrote there will every become public, I'll reproduce it here: ( My StoryCollapse )
1:20pm: ...Yet I am ashamed of California
Proposition 8 passed. There are states in the union from whom I expect that kind of bigotry. But not California. California, I thought you were better than that.
Here's a story for you:
In the 1830's, Americans persecuted the Irish.
As the Irish slowly integrated, they joined the rest of America in persecuting the Polish (and other Eastern Europeans).
Eventually, both those nationalities just became part of the group called "white", and together they fought tooth and nail against civil rights and equality for blacks. And they grouped together to fear and persecute the Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Mexicans.
So I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that yesterday, on the very day the America first elected a black president, almost 7 out of 10 blacks and hispanics in California turned right around and voted to persecute gays and lesbians.
I shouldn't be surprised. Nonetheless I'm crushed and disappointed.
It seems that most humans require an "outsider" group to fear and persecute in order to be happy. Even those who have been persecuted - maybe particularly those who have been persecuted - feel the need to do the same to others. This fact is the most depressing thing about human nature.
That persecution is now engraved into our constitution. Even if eventually repealed, it will live forever in strike-through as a sign of our shame.
When first Clark, then Richardson, and then Edwards dropped out of the democratic primary months ago, I despaired. Not because I thought Obama or Clinton would be bad presidents, but because I honestly believed that America was not grown up enough yet to elect either a woman or a black person to the presidency. I thought there was just too much latent sexism and racism for that to be possible, and that we'd be stuck with the garbage coughed up by the GOP this time around**.
I was wrong. Yesterday, America proved better, and more mature, than I believed it to be.
I am extremely pleased, and I positively glowed to hear Obama's beautiful acceptance speech last night. And you can bet that I am not only willing to admit my error, but I'm frankly thrilled to have been proven wrong. I began to believe it was possible a month ago, and began to believe it was likely two weeks ago.
Obama has the opportunity to be a great, popular president - possibly even the next FDR or JFK. But even if he's only an adequate president, he will be a vast improvement on what we have:
He won't get us into interminable wars with promises that they'll be "easy" and justifications that turn out to be vapor.
He won't nominate industry executives to the very bureaus that are supposed to regulate them.
And that, folks, is why I will sleep better at night, now. Our long national nightmare is over.
Thank you, America.
** Note: there are plenty of Republicans for whom I have respect, and many whom I thought would make better presidents than Bush Jr. In fact, as measured against GWB I have at least a certain measure of respect for every GOP president in the last 60 years. However, the list of Republicans for whom I have respect does not include McCain, Romney, Huckabee, or Giuliani.
11:10am: California Voting Tomorrow
A friend reminded me this morning that I usually post voting endorsements (particularly of California ballot propositions) before an election, and that some of my friends think this is quite useful.
I'm a little too busy under a huge deadline to write any large posts today, but as it turns out this time around I'm in complete agreement with Kevin Drum's analysis on the Mother Jones blog. In summary, this comes to a Yes on 2 and 12, a weak "maybe" on 11, and a strong, definite No on everything else.
Very quick analysis on a lot of the No's: California is Broke with a big B. Huge fractions of our budget (like 80%) are either graven into our constitution from previous ballot propositions and thus can't be cut, or are payments on loans we've taken out and bonds we've sold and so can't be cut without the state defaulting or declaring bankruptcy. (states defaulting on loans is a Bad Idea (TM)).
This means anything we want to spend on (like, say, a high-speed rail system) has to come out of that remaining 20%. The "remaining 20%" largely means education and a few social services. So, trying to build a high-speed rail system in the midst of the worst financial crisis in 5 decades means that a few thousand teachers will lose their jobs or get their salaries cut, and education in CA is already facing another $4 Billion cut next year even without other additional expenditures to drain on it.
Same goes for any bond-funded system, because those bonds need to be paid back with interest when they mature in a year or two, and those repayments come out of the general budget. Bond measures (12 excepted, read Kevin's analysis) cost more than regular programs funded through the legislature.
As a final aside: voters shouldn't have to deal with the kind of financial analysis I've just described above. This is why we have the state Assembly, and it's why trying to affect laws and change through the ballot system is a really bad idea, and in addition to the costs it's why I will generally vote "No" on 90% of all ballot propositions.
10:02pm: Nine Inch Nails
Woot! My sister and I saw nine inch nails in concert for the second time last night. This time, we were in the pit, about 20 feet from the stage. This meant 3.5 hours on our feet, getting pushed around and sweated on. I'm getting a little too old for that part, frankly, but damn ... I could see Trent Reznor's face and read his expression as he performed "Hurt". Damn, that man can sell anguish like no other artist.
The best part of it was the special pre-sale for the devoted fans (like me) ... we got those floor tickets for only around $60 each, and got to line up in an easy early-admittance line just for buying early.
The show ratcheted up the visual effects over last time: now with both a full-stage backing screen behind the band and three full-width panels that could be raised or lowered: a huge array of servo-controlled multicolored LED floods and two full-width grids of LEDs that could show full-color video effects, one in front of and one behind the band. (There are some poor cell phone type videos of the visuals on YouTube to give you an rough idea of what it looked like).
Anyway, nerdvana for a geek like me who loves intense music. I don't think I'll be in the pit at age 50, but I'll still be going to see Trent Reznor's shows.
12:00pm: Help stop the FISA bill
Yet again, the Democrat-led congress is trying to give the telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for knowingly violating the law by spying on American citizens without a warrant. They claim this bill (the FISA bill) is a "compromise" that requires said companies to be evaluated by a judge. However, it specifies that they judge is to let them go free as long as they can prove that the President sent them a memo requesting the spying ... which we already know that he did.
"Whatever the president says" is not the law of the land, nor should it be. We don't live in a dictatorship or a monarchy, and we have a separation of powers precisely because that's necessary to protect the rights of the people.
The vote in the House is today; I just learned of it and so I think I missed my chance to contact my representative about it. However, there's still a chance to contact senators about it. Here's the letter I just sent to both my senators; I'd encourage all of you to do something similar.
Dear Senator Boxer,
I am writing to ask you, as my senator, to please vote against the current FISA bill when it comes before the Senate. Though called a "compromise", this bill in effect gives retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies for warrantless spying on American citizens as long as they can show that the President and Attorney General sent them a memo - which we already know that they did.
This is a horrific precedent that attempts to make "whatever the president says" the effective law of the land. By doing so, it hamstrings the current and future jurisdictions of the legislative and the judiciary and the very checks and balances that make our democracy work.
We do not live in a monarchy, and we should not behave as if we do. Please, please, vote against this bill.
Yours, Evan D. Dorn, Ph.D. Entrepreneur and Businessman Altadena, California
3:39pm: A Paradox! dancenerd has commencement ceremony today, making her and I officially a paradox. (ha, ha). Sure, she finished her degree quite a while ago, but had to wait until today to make the walk for the hooding ceremony. We almost skipped it, frankly, but we have such a lovely picture of the two of us from my commencement ceremony in 2005 that it seemed fitting to get a matching, parallel picture today.
In other news, today I weighed under 160# for the first time in almost three years, so I guess the exercise + eating healthy plan is working! Hooray! It seems I'm even converting dancenerd, who has been joining me on the Wednesday cycling workouts with the Pasadena Triathlon Club, and seems to be getting addicted to cycling! Cool...
9:10pm: We're home! We're home! dancenerd and I are home from Austin. And this time, she's staying for the duration. Our 9-month sojourn into long distance -- the longest separation we've had yet -- is over. Hooray!
We even unloaded the truck tonight. We'd originally expected to leave that till tomorrow morning.
12:54pm: A happy day
I'm leaving for the airport in about two hours. This trip -- like many others over the last nine months -- is to Austin, TX, to see dancenerd. However, unlike all the previous ones, this time she's coming back to Pasadena with me!
Yep, this relationship has been long distance for the last 9 months (out of 3 years, 9 months together), and the long-distance aspect of it will be ending in only six hours!
Now, if I can just stay awake long enough to finish packing and get to the airport...
4:24pm: She's coming home!
I leave on Monday for a few days to help dancenerd move back to California. It's been a long nine months with her away! It will take a few days to pack up and load the U-Haul, but we should be back by the middle of Memorial Day weekend.
10:31am: Leaf Blowers
I try to limit the number of things I hate. Hatred is not the most worthwhile emotion; it tends to generate a lot of stress.
But gas-powered leaf blowers definitely make it to my short list of hateworthy entities. They use fossil fuels in a very inefficient, polluting manner (those little two-stroke engines really emit the hydrocarbons!) and make a horrendous racket. They're absolutely the worst form of noise pollution in a typical residential neighborhood. And all this just to spare someone a few extra seconds of mild effort with a rake.
For half an hour every wednesday morning, there is a period where I cannot think or work as my landlady's gardeners run the damn thing up and down my driveway, right outside my office window. Argh! I would happily pay them an extra ten bucks a week to do it with a rake instead.
9:51am: A long-delayed update
Hmm, so it appears that I have not logged into my LJ account in approximately six weeks! Sheesh. Well, here's a rough update of the things hovering around the top of my mind lately:
I had a lovely visit with dancenerd in Austin two weeks ago, and two weeks hence I will be traveling back to Austin to help her pack up and move back to Pasadena. Hooray! We have survived nine months of long distance!
Last weekend I went to Wildflower with the Pasadena Triathlon Club. My knee not being in shape for running, I was signed up only to do the swim portion of a relay on the long course race. I had estimated 45 minutes to swim 1.2 miles, but apparently didn't give myself enough credit: I did it in 34:30, and my team went on to take sixth place in the relay competition.
I have been very actively hit on by men twice in the last two weeks. I'm quite flattered by the attention, but I am at least 95% straight as far as I can tell, so I am unable to reciprocate.
4:21pm: Hooray for snow!
And hooray for snowboarding for three straight days until you are so tired and sore you can barely walk! I managed to improve my skills, even getting to where I could reliably do ollie-180's, which I'd not tried before. That's a pretty basic/novice trick in any boardsport, but learning anything new is satisfying when you're over 30 and you can practice the sport once a year.
In other thoughts, not much can make a dude more proud than watching his 58-year-old mom cruise confidently down black diamond slopes on both skis and snowboard. I even talked my parents into renting ski bikes, which we all proceeded to learn in short order. Turns out as crazy as they look they're actually a little easier to learn than skis or snowboards, at least for people experienced in snow sports. My parents kick ass.
Anyway, it was a good weekend and I feel much better for not having missed my favorite snowy mountain sports for an entire year.
And since then, Mom and Dad have been (unintentionally, I think) tormenting me with stories about how Idaho is having the best snow year in 20 years, with dozens of feet of snow at all the ski resorts. Stories of luxurious, thick powder. It's been killing me.
So I finally decided I couldn't take it any more and made arrangements to go home. Dad has tomorrow off of work and isn't on call this weekend, so we're headed up to the cabin in the mountains for three straight days of snow sports. On the menu: snowboarding, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and maybe even some downhill skiing.
Ahhh... I can practically taste it. Just a few hours! Time to get my work done and go pack.
6:38pm: Hate crimes in 2008
What, in 2008, teaches a Southern California teenager to hate gays so much that he will walk up to a classmate and blow his brains out in 1st-period English class, on Valentine's Day? Was it his parents? His peers? Or was it just an otherwise troubled kid who picked whatever feud he could find as an outlet for his rage?
2:48pm: How would you recast Star Wars?
If you were to remake Star Wars (original movie and/or trilogy) with present-day actors, who would you cast? Rules: you can't use anyone who played a major character in the prequel new trilogy. So, sorry, no Ewan McGregor for Obi-wan.
Luke: Tobey Maguire Leia: Charlize Theron Han Solo: Nathan Fillion Obiwan: Ian McKellen Voice of Vader: Laurence Fishburne Lando Calrissian: ???? C-3PO: ??? Emperor Palpatine: Tom Cruise (I would pay to see this)
12:01am: 2007 In 2007 I started — for the first time — to live the life I want to live instead of the life others expect me to live.
Okay, so that sounds like adolescent melodrama, weird for a man of 33. But the changes of this past year have in fact been extraordinarily significant and I'm far and away the happiest I've ever been.
Things that happened in 2007:
I fell far enough behind on my freelance work, paperwork, and finances to finally be forced to come to terms with my procrastinative and aversive tendencies. With the help of a (truly excellent) therapist I managed in only eight weeks to actually understand what's going on with my head and to develop the tools for combating it and dramatically increasing my productivity. Though there have been some roller-coaster periods with work since the summer, I've been overall on a humongous upswing.
I "came out" as atheist on this LJ and decided to stop hiding what I believe (or rather don't believe) from the public just because it's a minority viewpoint that might make others uncomfortable.
Two changes in my personal life, one major and one minor, have hugely improved my happiness and ... well, I guess you'd call it spiritual comfort and satisfaction. Both involved accepting who I am and who I want to be in the face of possible rejection and disapproval, and both resolved internal conflicts that had troubled me for years.
My personal philosophy and beliefs about morality came together in a stronger and more consistent way than ever before.
I came to understand my own strong craving for the approval of others, and change my relationship with it a bit in a way that affected all of the above issues and improved my overall outlook.
No resolutions: In 2008 as in every previous year I made no New Year's resolutions. Because I always seek to improve myself and if I need a trigger event like January 1st to actually work on something I shouldn't have unrealistic expectations about it. I improved a lot of stuff in 2007, and will continue that effort this year.
10:28am: More on geography
Following up on the geography meme, I think even my sad performance was better than the score that would received by this particular product of the American educational system. Cute hair, but otherwise she makes me want to leave the country.
Visit The Geoquiz and take all the geoquizzes there through the Middle East. (The world, Continents, and "Zoom Ins" ... all the ones where you click on nations). Cut and paste the list below and post your scores! No Cheating!
World: Continents and Oceans: 36/36
South America: 37/39
Central America: 41/42
Middle East: 64/75
TOTAL: 516/750 (68%)
Hmmm. 68% is a D+. Not so good! dancenerd did much better.
Darnit, it Europe it is utterly unfair how much has changed since I was in High School. My pathetic showing in Africa, however, can only be blamed on early-onset Alzheimers or my own stupidity. There was a time when I could place every nation on the world map and name its capital city.
Phone interview with Google yesterday. I think it went reasonably well, given that I've never taken an algorithm class and my only two CS courses of any kind were 8 and 15 years ago.
And of course, right after we got off the phone, I remembered what final means on a Java method or class. (I checked and I am right, but of course it would have been better to remember while on the phone.)