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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Checking in

Hey loyal reader(s). Since Gordon and I are obviously incapable of maintaining a blog on our own, we'll be periodically contributing to the group blog at Urbanagora. It's chock-full of former Daily Illni writers and semi-witty commentary.

I should also note that Mandasaurus, who fought the good fight here for too long, has moved to more forgiving climes at her own blog, Mandasaurus Roars.

As a half-ass replacement for a real post, here's an IM conversation Gordon and I had Saturday.

Gordon: Hey, so I was meaning to ask you: What are the main blogs saying about Hillary/Obama? I still just mostly read mainstream media...

Buck: A lot of lefties are very cynical and believe Obama is all hype.

Gordon: That's too bad. Mainstream media loves him.

Buck: He's good ratings. Hillary actually has a decent following in the blogs. Edwards was probably more popular than either one of them.

Gordon: That's so weird.

Buck: Not if you stop thinking horse race and look at their policies. Edwards was definitely the most liberal and populist of the three.

Gordon: I guess so. I just personally feel that Hillary has negative inspiration (what's the polar-opposite of inspiring? despiring?), and I wish people didn't discount the value of having a great communicator in the White House. Especially since so much policy talk is stuff that the president can't really control.

Buck: Well, it's been a revelation to me how jaded a lot of the left has become by seven years of Bush basically getting away with everything you can think of. They want someone (e.g. Hillary, Edwards) who they think will come in and clean shop on the Republicans. Edwards because that was his rhetoric and Hillary for personal reasons. A lot of them mistake Obama's message as making peace with the Republicans, which (for the Democratic Congress at least) has looked a lot like getting fucked in the ass.

Buck: The problem is, that section of the left has lost their way, so that when the guy they've waited for all along shows up, they can't recognize him anymore. They're too cynical. Obama's not bipartisan, he's post-partisan. He's not going to appeal to Republican politicians, he's going straight to the people. A lot of whom are not nearly as crazy/evil as their choice in elected officials would lead you to believe.

Gordon: I love all this "post-partisan" much as I recognize it as a buzzword, I strongly agree with the concept that America is torn 40/40/20, but it doesn't have to be. And under Hillary, you just know it would be more like 47/47/6. Not entirely her fault, it's just reality.

Buck: Post-partisanship a fundamentally different way of looking at things, one which a lot of political junkies just can't get their brains around. It's really the exact opposite of Rove's way.

Gordon: Exactly!

Buck: The more I see of Obama, the more I understand what people saw in Reagan. Everyone wants to be inspired.

Gordon: That's why I hate when inspiration and communication are dismissed as non-factors. They're totally factors. They're leadership...that's the first role of the president!

Buck: There's a great presidential exhibit at the Smithsonian where it talks about each of the roles of the president and which are the most important. National leader, chief executive, commander in chief, head of state, etc. You got to rank them at the end, I think I put national leader at No. 2. Here's the description of the national leader role:
Americans ask their presidents to do more than govern; they expect them to lead. No aspect of the chief executive's job is more important than articulating the nation's principles, taking on new challenges, providing comfort and inspiration in times of crisis, and, in Abraham Lincoln's words, appealing to "the better angels of our nature."

Presidential leadership has often been met with contentious political debate. But when Americans look back in history, this is the main quality they use to judge a president's tenure in office.
Buck: That pretty much sums it up. After a long time without a good one, people have forgotten how important it is.

Gordon: Yeah. Actually, my favorite quote on leadership came from McCain this year. Romney was talking about how he managed all these companies, and he said "John McCain never managed anything." And McCain responded "That's true, I'm not a manager. I'm a leader. I can hire managers.

Gordon: And it's totally true. There's thousands of good managers out there, but just a handful of leaders.

Finally, I would be amiss not to post the following video of Obama speaking Saturday, where he addresses the same ideas Gordon and I were talking about.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Exercise your brain

Spinning ballerina optical illusion.

Which way do you see the image above turning? Clockwise? Widdershins? Supposedly, the way you initially perceive it is supposed to tell you something about which way your brain is oriented. But I just think it's cool to try to go back and forth from seeing it move one way to the other. Like doing light-weight reps with your cerebellum.

I've literally spent hours staring at this thing until I can get it to turn either way at will. So, yeah, that's what I've been doing instead of blogging. Sorry.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Superbugs! Something to scrub about?

I totally believe in the value of dirt.

Dirt, grime, germs, even bacteria (like the saintly bacteria hanging out in my cherry vanilla yogurt). Those things are good for you, at least in moderation.

There's soap in my bathroom and my kitchen, of course. But it's not super-powered soap. It's just regular soapy soap.

I'm a fierce proponent of hand-washing at my job where I work with little kids. Especially because kids are disgustingly dirty. Seriously, today I saw two 2-year-olds licking a door. This month my work posted notices for strep, pinkeye, chickenpox and head lice. That's more than enough to get me to scrub my hands dozens of times a day.

Now scientists are saying that all that sudsy goodness isn't so good. We're cleaning too much, at least with too-serious stuff. Antibacterial/antimicrobial soaps and gels just aren't necessary. What is? Regular soap.

Regular soap lets the immune system get strong fighting off germs. Those easy fights prepare the immune system to fight off bigger stuff later, making you stronger and healthier.

And that's something to scrub about.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Raise some hell to fix the El

I ride the rails. I hop the bus. And I love it.

As long as I've been in cities with public transport infrastructure I've relied upon trains, buses and trolleys to get me where I need to go. I rode Boston's T to several jobs and more than several pubs. I still dream sweet dreams of Washington D.C.'s Metro (the best public transit in America). Now I enjoy climbing the rickety stairs to take Chicago's El train to work.

I've relied on red, orange, green, red (again), green (again), brown and red (for the third time) lines. And though I've been delayed, annoyed, pushed and squished, I've never been as frustrated by public transport as I am now.

Illinois' state, county and municipal authorities have failed to support Chicago transit, and now the CTA has little choice than to cut 39 bus lines and raise fares November 4, and again in January.

This is bad news for you.

You don't want me driving. And you don't want all my happy-go-Brown-line friends driving either.

There are tons of responsible Chicago public transit commuters. We switch lines. We take buses. We wait out delays and sit next to strangers. We stand up so elderly, handicapped or pregnant people may sit. Most of us listen to music at a reasonable volume. Even more of us avoid excessive cell phone use on the train. We take the CTA, the Metro and Pace.

We read the newspaper. We read books. We play cell phone poker. We sleep. We study. We giggle at funny announcements about using all the available doors. We work together to get help in emergencies. We public transit people are really quite civilized.

We're also helping you out, person who cannot take the bus or train. We're helping you and we're helping the Earth. We're good for Chicago traffic and good for humankind.

Whether you use the CTA is up to you, Chicagoans. But you benefit from the CTA and its ridership regardless. Call Governor Rod Blagojevich at 312-814-2121.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Chicagoween: The scaring, caring side of the Windy City

I love Halloween. I love costumes, candy corn, ghosts, ghouls and goblins. And, apparently, my new city loves Halloween too.

Chicagoween, as its known, is a celebration throughout the city. There are pumpkin patches in parks, haunted buildings along the lake and an orange fountain in front of the city building. It's spooktacular.

Strolling through the city on a very fall-ish day a few weeks ago I saw the Midnight Circus perform in Daley "Pumpkin " Plaza. It was an absolute riot. This kind of goofy stuff is seriously important, believe it or not.
  1. Chicagoween is awesome for families. My friends who reside in the suburbs brought their nearly-three-year-old daughter to a Halloween affair in Oz Park. She dressed up as a red dragon, rode a pony, took a hayride and got a witch painted on her cheek! Even though my friends live in the south 'burbs they had an awesome day in the city with their daughter. Families from inside the city and out can do the same, and they usually stick around to eat, play and shop. Cha-ching, says Mayor Daley.
  2. Chicagoween is free. Nothing brings people together like free. Isn't the what Halloween is all about?
  3. It made my heart sing to see a really, truly diverse group of people chuckling at the Midnight Circus. That's good for everyone. Plus there are events all over the city, making Chicagoween accessible and affordable to everyone in Chicago.
  4. Chicagoween connects everyone. Libraries, museums, parks, historical spots, the Chicago Transit Authority and many more groups are involved. Connections between real life and books, particularly, are amazing learning tools.
  5. The Midnight Circus performance is a hilarious spoof! The ringmaster is a (pretend) Mayor Daley trying to bring the Ghoulish Games (Olympics) to Chicago. It's a riot.
A huge city bringing people together, offering tons of activities, trucking in pumpkins, and making fun of itself all for silly, happy fun? Spooky.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mama McCain

As a marketing guy who dabbles in political commentary, I’ve always been interested in seeing how politicians—particularly candidates—brand and position themselves in the field.

(I’ve been observing this for years, but rarely discuss it, since I don’t like to besmirch marketing’s good name by comparing it to politics.)

Anyway, I just had to comment on a recent stunt that (in my opinion) was nothing short of marketing genius: John McCain bringing his mom on the campaign trail.

Though not my personal preference for President, McCain is one of my all-time favorite senators, a man of intelligence and integrity. Yet his campaign has been sputtering all year, and I recently wondered if he was virtually eliminated from the race.

Until now.

Don’t underestimate this move. Mama McCain’s presence isn’t just some feel-good story that’ll blow over. It’s a brilliant strategic move that will have lasting impact, mostly because it addresses head-on those critics who attack John’s age. How can they say that now, with his 95-year-old mom traveling around town? How can they question his health and stamina, when he’s displaying genetic proof of his endurance? And how can the crowds not go crazy for this adorable old lady?

My guess is McCain’s just quieted a few naysayers while earning himself a nice chunk of elderly and mom-loving voters—perhaps enough to get back into the top three Republicans.

This is not your father’s John McCain.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Business trip: Let's debrief

I'm not a corporate type. I do not like to speak about teamwork - even though I truly enjoy working with people and sharing goals. I rarely enjoy "icebreakers" or "team-building exercises" and I wince when people say "put that idea in the parking lot" when someone gets off topic during a discussion.

Here's what I learned at my two-day, 14-hour training:
  1. PowerPoint is supposed to be an aid to your lecture. You do not need to read aloud word-for-word what's on the screen because not only can I read that myself but it's also in front of me on the Power Point presentation print-out you handed out. (Perhaps I did not just learn this, exactly. However, the anger I felt at each slowly-passing slide really kept me from enjoying my deep breaths.)
  2. According to the Personal Interaction Quiz I am a yellow. This means I am a talker. Yellows are expressive, outgoing, friendship-oriented and highly creative, according to the Power Point. After learning about my yellow status I felt so creative that I tried to take notes with my non-dominant hand, made a list of what I will wear to work this week and doodled a very realistic picture of my best friend Julie.
  3. The Hyatt is very nice. I enjoyed Hyatt dinner, Hyatt coffee, Hyatt workout room and the extraordinary Hyatt bed.
  4. When in doubt, take notes. My swift note-taking made it seem like I was really learning - becoming part of the team and understanding those presentations. I'm such a fabulous fooler.
  5. I do not participate in role-plays. Ever.
  6. There is a difference between counseling and coaching. I'm not sure what, but I'm told that those are different.
  7. Finally, I've learned that a Mandasaurus can't be held down by corporate rules. I've got to be freer than this. I'm actually happy to say I'm feeling pretty damned inspired to look for something that will fill my days with less crap and more happiness. A yellow Mandasaurus can't be stuck in a such fake, PowerPoint filled world for long.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Yay or Nay? A business trip list

On Monday I'm travelling to Lisle, Illinois to attend a conference for work. I might learn some answers about what the hell I'm supposed to do in the office besides eat plums, drink coffee and pretend to understand what I'm organizing.

I've decided to create a list of pros and cons of this trip using my gut intuitions and the itinerary my boss gave me a few days ago. Here goes with List No. 2.

  • I will be staying at a nice hotel.
  • I will receive lunch, dinner, breakfast and another lunch. Allegedly there are also snacks. That adds up to a lot of food. I bet there's coffee too.
  • The hotel might have a pool.
  • I love to learn. I might learn something useful.
  • I will enjoy "Session III: Managing Difficult Employees" because I myself am a difficult employee and will learn new tricks.
  • On Tuesday training ends at 1:15 (after a "Wrap Up" from 12:45-1 - what the fuck?) and I'll get to do something fun the rest of the day! Like swim in the pool! Cannonball!
  • I will be sharing a room with someone who I don't know. I don't like that. I know I'm not winning any fights about the cost-effectiveness of paying for an individual room for me, but I'd also argue that it's not very cost-effective to put people from the city and suburbs up in a hotel less than an hour from their homes.
  • "Session I: First Time Supervisors" does not apply to me because I am not a first time supervisor. I believe I was required to have supervisory experience to get my current job.
  • I fear that "Lunch / Color Personality Analysis" will give me hives and suck all my special powers away.
  • If I eat too much I might get a cramp when I got swimming! Oh no!
I'll report back on Tuesday. Any guesses on my personality color?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

AVW Lists: Mighty Mandasaurus

I'm here to announce that I, Mandasaurus, am blogging at least trice weekly in the form of lists. I love to make lists and AVW will be home to my smartest ones.

I might need to consider whether it's reasonable to put things like "work" and "take shower"
on my list of things to do, but to avoid that query I will not posts such dull lists. Ready for our first list? Me too.

List: Things I'm Doing For Betterment, Fufillment and Possible World Domination
  1. Flossing daily.
  2. Watching Heroes, Season 1. It's amazing and definitely improves my stealth comprehension of variations in normal human abilities, oddities in the time-space continuum and skepticism of evil vs. good. And I'm crushing on Hiro!
  3. I'm enrolled in Loyola University Medical School's Mini Med School. Every Tuesday I sit in a big college-style lecture hall and learn about medical issues (the immune system, clinical trials) from real medical school professors. I take notes! Don't ask me how I've missed taking notes since being in school, but I do. I'm learning, and I'm keeping my brain mighty.
  4. Eating apples. Honeycrisps are a miracle of modern science.
  5. Volunteering for an important congressional campaign - and walking to Cure Juvenile Diabetes!
  6. Tailgating! Go Huskies!
Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.