The Watchman
(22-31 January 2004)

31 January 2004
-Saw "Monster" last night with Em & Stina.  I am still just vaguely recovering.  Em told me it would probably be like "Boys Don't Cry" in intensity, to which after the movie was over, I made allusions to a Total cereal commercial... i.e. you'd need to watch "Boys Don't Cry" 20 times in a row to equal the intensity of a single screening of "Monster".  The film is incredibly well done, but simply horrific.  I could go into detail, but I don't want to.  Suffice it to say that if you want to see the worst of humanity, punctuated by the idea that there is no hope for anything, ever, then this film is what you're seeking.
-There's been a lot of talk about reparations on peoples' webpages lately.  I'm not entirely sure what I think of reparations in general, but I got very used to defending slave reparations as the case that they should not be given (one of the few acceptable status quo cases on APDA, I guess) was run against me 3 or 4 times.  I'm a bigger fan of a case I ran 3 times myself, that focuses on reparations for Native Americans who were placed on reservations.  The case that each person born on a reservation should be given $1 million as compensation for both the internment of people on reservations & the genocide committed against the Native Americans, went 3-0 (including a clutch win in 6th round at Nats 2002).  Of course these reparations are not mutually exclusive, & even support each other.  But there is the jarring fact that I used in the Native American reparations case that while the USA fought a war ostensibly to end the practice of slavery, the USA's wars involving Native Americans were all intended to perpetuate genocide and land theft.  Regardless, I am torn between the arguments that those who did nothing wrong in their lives should not be held culpable for the "sins of the father" & the reality that the playing field is largely uneven today because of uncompensated losses from the past.  I guess the best argument I end up getting from this is that all wealth should be seized tomorrow & redistributed precisely evenly to each person in the world.  I guess that's not widely considered to be practical, huh?

30 January 2004
-Was looking for links from Emily's press conference yesterday, but though it made all the local news stations in Fresno (one station even unfortunately called CalPIRG "CARPIG"), few stations still have a link.  Here's one, but it's a pretty blippy little article.  I guess TV stations don't have very in-depth websites these days.
-Have I mentioned lately how annoyed I am at my new computer's placement of Home, End, & Delete?  I mean really.
-Amy wrote me to point out that my lumping in of all Libertarians with Ayn Rand is unfair to the Libertarians who actually think.  I will not take this as an opportunity to crack some joke like "Libertarians think?" (so... tempting... must resist!), because she's right of course.  Rand's logic is shoddy & her advocacy of hedonism absurd.  Many many Libertarians do not use her works as their sacred text, or even have much respect for them.  What surprises me lately is how much law or government intervention Libertarians actually do believe in.  I always used to joke with Freez, the first real Libertarian I knew, that he had to believe in legalized crime to stay logically consistent with said belief.  Amy admitted to me that she even believes in (lo & behold...) taxation!  & even progressive taxation, in very small doses!  This is stunning to me, & makes me wonder if Libertarianism, like Feminism, has come to mean everything & nothing because of the diversity of beliefs umbrella'd under the phrase.
-The reason for all the Randian attribution to Libertarians, in my world at least, is the number of otherwise politically astute people who get seduced into Libertarian philosophy because of Ayn Rand.  Admittedly most of the Libertarians I know are probably not of this camp, but the few I've heard about just make me sad.

29 January 2004
[from Clovis, California]
-Once again, Em has done an excellent job of representing CalPIRG to the state of California.  Today it was at Fresno State, in front of their main campus bookstore, demonstrating why textbooks cost too much & how it's mainly the fault of publishers.  The thrill I get from watching her press conferences is really a nice ride.
-Ah, ping-pong, how I've missed it.  & Jen is as competitive as I am!
-So... tired...

28 January 2004
-There is so much I have to catch up on in the next few days (much of it simply making contact with people whom I haven't spoken with in a looong time), but there is no real rest for the extremely weary yet.  Em has a press conference to deliver to the good people of Fresno, so we'll be gone till late Thursday.  Leaving this afternoon/evening.  Then I will have a "normal-sized" weekend to catch up on the world.
-Oh look, it's a map of the United States!...

This site lets you make a map of how many of the 51 (they call DC a state) states you've been to.  I post this mostly in light of my comments yesterday regarding two-tone maps & my love of their appearance during political seasons.  This map, say, could represent the victory of a popular candidate over an advocate of farm subsidies, and, er, snow subsidies.  Yeah.

27 January 2004
-Yesterday I had a phenomenal day at work.  The kids were doing well, all the staff were in a good mood, & we just had fun.  & driving home late last night, I realized how truly satisfied I am with my state of being in the world right now.  I've never been one to put a huge premium on happiness, but it's so amazing when happiness just bombards you when you're just sitting around trying to do what you're always trying to do.  I'm starting to feel that all my assumptions about not making new friends in this work environment were a bit premature, & even that all the people I work with closely are becoming friends.  But old friends are moving out & visiting in droves as well.  & even after working so much lately, it's only proven that hard work can be a balm for minor dissatisfactions.  So much is so right, & after years with Emily supporting my battered faith in things working out, I'm not reciting prophecies of everything falling over the precipice of joy into the abyss of despair.  For once, I'm just enjoying it.
-People are so afraid to think for themselves most of the time.  Well, the average American, let's say.  I feel so distanced from politics that it surprises me when something like primary season can bring out the political junkie of my younger days in almost full force.  I really do enjoy the excitement of a good election, even when it's between people that I would sooner intentionally vomit in front of than vote for.  The music, the polls, the punditry, the coloring of little state outlines & bar graphs... it's fun stuff; even now I can get sucked in.  But it frustrates me how John Kerry goes from way behind to way ahead in New Hampshire the day after he wins Iowa.  & how NH really is a good prediction of the rest of the country, not because we all think like granite-lovers, but because we all can't be bothered to make our own decision once the die is cast there.  Many of you are familiar with Steve Rabin's & my old one-day national primary debate case, which debuted in Hanover, New Hampshire, in a semifinal round at the Dartmouth tournament.  Running that case in New Hampshire & winning a 4-1 decision (the squirrel said we clearly out-debated our opponents, but our case was a falsism) was one of my favorite moments in my career.  But I don't think our case would be as compelling if people could be convinced to actually think for themselves when voting.  Such a huge block of the electorate always tries to "get behind a winner" & can't think about anything besides bragging the next day.  So it is that Iowa, New Hampshire, & maybe South Carolina become 75% of the decision of who becomes President.  If things started out west, maybe my boy Dennis Kucinich would have a chance.  But that would get me actually motivated to involve myself in the political process, so what are the odds of that?

26 January 2004
-It's amazing that my week did not solely consist of the last 2 days.  In fact, there are 2.5 more, in which I will work a little more than I did yesterday.  I'm sore as all get-out & very tired & probably about to go back to sleep.  But being on the other side of those shifts is something like triumphant.
-Pat Nichols, heartless Randian that he is, posts about so-called "beancounting" & putting a pricetag on everyone's head when making a product, releasing it to the public expecting to sustain wrongful death lawsuit settlements.  Besides being emblematic of a society that has compromised every moral fiber for a green threading of fibers, his post has accuracy (when talking about the way America thinks, at least) because of one genre of products in particular.  The automobile has long struck me as the most overrated invention, setting societal progress back decades with every year it gains in popularity.  I have several illustrations for why these all-but-necessary monsters have ravaged our society, mostly because those who wish to see them thrive have a great deal of power & influence.  Just as efforts to install viable mass-transit were thwarted in cities around the nation by big money from the auto industry, so we now face a culture based on environmental decimation simply to get people transported.  & now the car has spread into a global phenomenon.  Without getting off into a tangent about how nonsensical I find cars for other reasons, I want to focus on the main reason for this post.  For those of you who have read Watership Down, the metaphor is best found in Cowslip's Warren, one of the most powerful sequences in the book.  Without trying to spoil too much of the best book ever, the traveling rabbits discover at this warren that the locals have made a Faustian bargain with a neighboring human.  They will eat his freshly laid-out greens, without the need to forage for food, & they will maintain the warren surrounded by rabbit traps, which periodically snatch one of them away without warning.  So it is with automobiles & humans.  This horrendously inefficient form of transport offers us the promise of free transport, but quite frequently takes lives, at a rate higher than any other unnatural/untimely cause of death.  & as in Cowslip's Warren, people rarely (if ever) stop to consider the incredible human tax that cars have in our world.  We accept it as a matter of course that many of us will die as a result of these machines, & do not demand significant improvements in the safety of our travel.  & thus the beancounting of human life rolls on.  Don't get me wrong... I have driven at least 100,000 miles so far in this life, & will probably drive for the rest of my life.  I am enveloped in the bargain as well... I find myself all but unable to come up with alternatives on a person-to-person level (keep in mind how much I hate New York City).  But if I had a society to design, you wouldn't find a car in it.  The price is too high.

25 January 2004
-Here we gooooooo again...!
-What a good day.  Though that utter exhaustion thing is creeping in.
-I really do like this job.  Any job that one can go to for 30/39 consecutive hours & still find joy in doing it, is probably worth sticking with for a while.  So often the kids are able to suprise me, surprise us all, with how well they do in a situation, with how much they've actually listened & learned from all we tell them.  Granted, it's still a smallish percentage, but any percentage at all is amazing.  & to think of life histories I'm familiar with, & see the evolution therefrom in front of me, well, it's downright inspirational.
-...But I'm literally fuzzy with the tiredness.

24 January 2004
-Here we gooooooo...!
-Well, it could've been worse.  & I had plenty of sympathy from the staff I normally don't work with that I was pulling back-to-back 15's.  Still, I don't think it's hit me since it's just like a normal Sunday.  At least it was a good day.

23 January 2004
Happy Birthday to Geoff Dean
-Sometimes the internet can just suck me into its, well, web.  I feel like I always have to check just one more page & before I know it, an hour or so is lost while, all the while, I really should've been doing something else.  It often includes this habit of checking the same pages (or e-mail) repeatedly, despite their lack of change.  If I were enjoying the process, it would be fine, but it's actually a vaguely annoying feeling to be sucked into that vortex.  Blahhh.  This doesn't happen very often, thankfully, but it did just consume the last 90 minutes.
-Just trimmed my beard & moustache with the brand-new trimmer that Em got me for Christmas.  Feeling a great deal better already.  I wasn't ready to let it go, but it was becoming like baleen.  Everything I ate was running through this filter of the hair-baleen & usually getting stuck there rather than entering my mouth.  Now my face is much happier.
-Now I have this image stuck in my mind about Stina & Ariela talking in whale-speak (a la Dory in "Finding Nemo") as Stina related to me from her trip to N'awlins last weekend.  It's a very funny image, & reminds me that I need to talk to Ariela.  Have you read Stina's webpage yet?  It's linked yesterday & on the BP People page.
-& now, ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, I am coming to you live from my brand-new Dell computer!  Hurrah.  So far everything is just about wonderful, & for a machine with only 256 RAM (though I intend to import some of the 448 RAM on the old machine over when I've gotten all the files off), it's surprisingly fast.  This may have something to do with it being 6 times faster in terms of processor speed (~400 MHz vs. 2.53 GHz).  My only complaint so far is that the 6-key section of the keyboard that includes Home, End, Delete, etc. has been altered from a 3x2 format to a 2x3 format.  This is annoying, because now all those keys are in the wrong place.  Otherwise, all is groovy!

22 January 2004
-Well well well.  Stina has finally stepped out into the limelight with a daily update webpage!  I'm not saying "I told you so".  Promise.
-In continued meta-webpage information, the week from the 11th-17th of this month marked an explosion in traffic to this website, with over half a million (500,000) page-views.  No wonder I was in the top 100,000 on Alexa that week.  I think I need to design a sequel quiz, since it's been just over a year since the Country Quiz (now on the front page of a "quiz" search on Google) went up.

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