Saturday, October 25, 2008

An American's Duty

As a former political science and political economy major, I've done my best to educate myself while also staying away from the contentious nature of this year's campaign. On both the national and local levels, it is an understatement that it has not been the most harmonious of elections. The campaign ads I've seen for both the Presidential and Senate campaigns here in OR have been... well let's just say they're not representative of the qualifications these people have obtained to run for higher office.

People are, not surprisingly, angry. The stock market is at its lowest point in almost 10 years. People who had overstretched financially to buy a house are now paying a very dear price. Jobs are being lost and those being kept are being done so at a lower wage. The war in Afghanistan and Iraq is in its 6th year. We're at potentially our lowest point on international standing since we elected to tell the Brits to bugger off 232 years ago. Needless to say, the US is feeling blooded and battered; no one can currently say that this country is in a good place. As a result, this election is being pointed to by many, many people as a tipping point for the country.

So the question I keep asking myself is "what should I do about it?" The people I know have committed to various levels of involvement. Some volunteer door to door. Some make phone calls. Some write treatises about why their presidential candidate is the right one. Some read endless articles and analysis to educate themselves in every way possible. Some ignore it all and focus on being a good person, spouse, parent, employee, student, etc. Some even do nothing at all. These people's opinions span the entire spectrum as well; some are voting Obama, some McCain and others are ignoring the person entirely and voting for the party they feel best represents their values.

Do any of these hold a greater value than the other? For this election, many people would say yes. That its the "future of America" at stake, etc. That either this country can't handle four more years of Bushian policies or that Obama is too inexperienced to be President (some of the nicer things being said by both sides). However, I would argue no. This country was built and has continued to succeed based on people "doing their part." That doesn't always mean the same thing for everyone and it changes for people as they go through both good times and bad. However it does at its heart mean a basic level of interaction and involvement with your fellow man and a desire to do well and want more. I believe this is at the core of every person; a desire to want more and do well. And for most of America, people are willing to put in the effort to do just that; it is just that this effort takes different forms.

Friends of ours from Australia recently visited and they discussed that before they left the country that had to vote for the local elections. They HAD to vote; voting is mandatory in Australia. Those who fail to do so risk a fine or in extreme cases jail time. While an argument can be made that required voting in a free election is a bit contradictory, it really struck a cord with with me.

This brought me back to the question I'd asked previously: "what should I do about it?" This country is built on equal representation. While we always have done the best job of fulfilling that promise, it is still one of many bricks the US is built on. One Person, One Vote. Make yourself represented on November 4th no matter what your vote is. No matter what your view on abortion, the economy, social issues, our foreign policy, etc., vote. If the first time you've heard of McCain or Obama is reading this blog entry, vote. I know that wanting people to vote regardless of their educational level on the issues isn't the most popular opinion to take (I've got friends on both sides of the issues making the argument that only those who've taken the time to read up on the issues "deserve" to vote) but this country is all of us. Good or bad. Red or Blue. North or South. McCain or Obama. So on November 4th, have your say in where this country is headed. Be an American and take the time to vote.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy Political Musing of the day (not an oxymoron)

At this point in the election cycle, with all of the awful nastiness in the news and the finger pointing and the obsessing over minute changes in polls, sometimes we lose sight of the larger context.

Thanks to Ben Smith at Politico for blogging a report about the following scene at a early voting location.

For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote.

When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn't in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president.

No matter which candidate you're rooting for to win in the end (and we all know I have very strong feelings about that) you have to celebrate that our country has reached a place where this scene could occur and that this woman and millions more will be able to have that experience.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Things You Do For Love...

In an effort to get out of the house a little more often and away from our computers and the TV, Becca and I have been starting a weekly date night. Tonight, we had dinner downtown and caught a movie (Burn After Reading... Two cent reviews: disappointing effort from the Coen Bros.. Very disjointed though JK Simmons was awesome in his cameo). In the middle of the movie, my phone started vibrating away and wouldn't stop for a good few minutes.

The reason why?

The Cardiac Sox

Granted, when we left the restaurant, I poked my head into the bar and saw it was 5-0 Rays in the 7th. Having watched the rest of the series and saw the lack of life in the team, I presumed they were DONE. And as someone who a) saw the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series in person and b) can't believe the team has won two World Series in four years I kind of figured as a fan I'm playing with house money at this point.

Instead, Boston lives to see another day. As Becca so astutely pointed out, we got a date night and I get to watch the Sox play at least one more time this year :)


Monday, October 13, 2008

An interview with a not so hideous man

With the recent loss of one of my favorite authors, David Foster Wallace and my recent reemergence on the blog, I thought I'd give a personal update in the method of one of his most interesting essays, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. As a result, I'm giving the answers. You get to guess the questions.

A: December 9, 2008 is my last day. Graduation is in January.
A: PR is interesting and my project is a challenge but is going well.
A: I'm not sure what is next. Some potential ideas include doing tax preparation work, getting into mediation, working for a nonprofit, financial advising, etc. Needless to say a lot of options are still on the table.
A: I quit working for Anvil in June. I still get along very well with the team there but personal issues were such that I couldn't be providing quality work for the team. However, the relationship is great and I'm doing my final project on their behalf.
A: Getting better, thanks for asking.
A: A mastectomy, a ray resection and a knee replacement with rotator cuff surgery still on the docket. I know Good Sam Hospital quite well.
A: A new nephew named Dashiell. He's two months old and is as cute as a troll :)
A: I ran a successful Hood to Coast, with our team finishing just over 26 hours. Now my spare time is spent training for the California International Marathon on December 7th.
A: Qualify for Boston (3:10 or less). I've got other goals but those are top secret. If I make them, you'll be sure to know.
A: That's all the news that's fit to print.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2008 ORRC 15k Champion!

Well... for the 30-34 age group that is.

In an effort to make my marathon training more interesting than just running down empty roads by myself, I decided to sign up for the ORRC 15k Championships out in scenic Blue Lake Park. The last time I was at the park in any capacity was watching my HS cross country career end on bittersweet note as I floundered the last mile and helped my team end up one place short of making state. I returned older, wiser and with a refined competitive streak and a definite desire to avoid "short" races like the 5k on offer. The plan was to run 15k (9.3m) @ something slightly faster than my marathon pace. So "comfortable fast" as it were.

The race was smaller in size so I got to start near the front (I tend to like to start towards the back of the group of people I should be running with so I can pick more people off :)). I took off in what felt like a comfortable pace, only to find myself... with no one in front of me. The following thoughts went through my head:

Good Brian: "Where is everyone?"
Bad Brian: "Behind you stupid."
GB: "But why? I'm not running THAT fast. <check watch> Ok, maybe I'm off to a faster start than I need to be. Time to reel it in a bit."
BB: "Do you feel like crap? No! Just keep going. You'll be fine."
GB: "But this is supposed to be a TRAINING run. You know the kind that DOESN'T kill me?"
BB: "Oi! Someone's about to pass you. Less talk, more running."

Someone did eventually pass me. But not until I had to play "guess the turn" a few times on the less than well marked course. After a quick discussion (where he admitted he signed up as Mike Ditka) made him realize I had no intentions of running with him (I mean really, who's going mano a mano with Ditka? Mini-Ditka maybe...), he was off and eventually won the race by over 2 min. I can safely say though that is the only time in my entire running career that I've led a race at the start.

So Ditka was off to the races, leaving three of us to run together for the next 8 miles. Brief discussions were had, especially since I was the only one with a watch giving us accurate splits. Well that and we were all discussing our ages, scouting out whether we had to compete against anyone else in our age group. Of course, one of the guys in the pack was my age. It really helped to have other people pushing me but I continued to beat down the BB by just staying at one pace the entire time. The two other runners ebbed and flowed, but I just moved along like a metronome. Tick, tock.

With about a mile to go, the survival pack finally broke up and the fun started. I stayed with the guy who made a break for it but just couldn't get my body to move much further. Tick, tock. But with 100m+ left, BB reemerged:

BB: "C'mon, he's hurting. Make him work!"
GB: "This was supposed to be a TRAINING run, remember? Plus who's not to say that I'm not hurting as well?"
BB: "Pain is mental, suck it up. I mean seriously. What are you, French? (apologies to our french readers in advance)"
GB: "Well, I guess he is kind of close..."
BB: "Come to the dark side."

So I did, kind of. I WARNED the guy with "I'm going to have to make you work" and I took off. Despite trying to cut him off on the last turn and pushing it hard, he was up for the task and held me off by a body length. I looked up and the time told me all I needed to know: 58:11. So what started out as a training run turned into a 15k, 10k and 5 mile personal record (PR).

My reward? A sweet blue ribbon which reminded me of Becca's horse ribbons she refuses to get rid of and the knowledge that my training for my marathon must be going better than I thought. Unfortunately Bad Brian's antics will likely have me paying a pretty significant price during my 19 mile long run tomorrow. Guess I'll just have to think about the blue ribbon then :)

(Update: so the picture of me sucked, but the results are up. As it shows, Mike Ditka did win the race)


Monday, October 06, 2008

Canucks & Children's Games

Best Touchdown Celebration Ever. Or at least in the Canadian Football League. I got nothin' else. It is 11:20pm and I'm watching the Tivo'd highlights of the Red Sox game.


Friday, October 03, 2008

A Contribution of Sorts

I'm back and I promise I'm going to be writing more (more than once every few months is an easy threshold to surpass).  In fact, I'm doing a Brian "update" of sorts that should be up soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the link below, courtesy of my friend Lincoln:

Yes, 70's Swedish Bands in full regalia.  You know I'm back!