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Saturday, July 31, 2004

LESSONS UNLEARNED

Just when I thought that perhaps Congress had learned their lesson from hastily passing the Patriot Act in October of 2001, they're about to make a similar mistake all over again. The public was clamboring for answers, change, and someone's head on a platter after September 11th, and just a month later Congress enacted the Patriot Act, an overall good-intentioned bill that goes much too far in some areas, trampling on some of our basic civil liberties. The intrusive power of the executive branch is now almost frightening. If I were to check out a book on the Middle East from a public library, I could very well be a target now; branded a possible terrorist threat, simply because my reading list was spied on. Perhaps such a provision may prevent a terrorist plot someday, but for now, I think it's far too invasive. Didn't the Bush campaign advocate less government in 2000?

Now, with the fervor over the 9/11 Commission's report reaching its height, we're starting to see articles like this appear: Senators promise swift action on reforms. There's no doubt that the 9/11 report probably contains good suggestions for intelligence reform, and there's also no doubt that reform is needed. But quotes like this one, from Sen. Joe Lieberman, don't make me feel very positive about the coming legislation: "We're going to get this job done and get it done with unprecedented...speed." I purposely edited Sen. Lieberman's quote, cutting out the part where he said "thoughtfulness", because I don't think - on a nation-wide legislative level - that you can get a very thoughtful, thorough, and effective piece of legislation created and passed while constricting the Congress to a time frame. I'm guessing they want reforms passed before the election, so eager incumbents will have yet another victory to tout. What a mistake that could be. I would urge Congress to seriously consider the reform proposals before them and even come up with alternative ideas themselves instead of just accepting the lesser of all evils. It's rushed legislation like this that Congress ends up regretting in the future.

Democratic republicanism like we have in the United States is traditionally a slow process. Sometimes, in times of emergency, that can be a burden, but when it comes to the changing nature of our civil liberties, these 535 men and women that we've chosen to make decisions for us should take their time and look to the future; a future past November, where even a decision that could help them win an election may ultimately be the wrong choice. So many in Congress now regret hastily passing the Patriot Act. I do too; some of it was undoubtedly necessary, yet some of it is far too Orwellian. Despite the war on terror, I'm still against a government that's too big and too intrusive. National Guard troops at the airports? I can handle that. The government censoring my reading list? That's where I draw the line. Congress needs a wake-up call to take their time and not rush into any reform decisions, especially regarding US intelligence services.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

BUSY WEEKEND
 
With work and homework, I've managed to keep fairly busy this weekend.  I worked both mornings, Saturday and Sunday, and that ends up being about a three-hour job each morning.  My research paper is due this week.  The research is done, and now I just have to put it together.  The paper is limited to between 20 and 25 pages, but believe it or not, it's hard to get all of the information that I've got into two-dozen double-spaced sheets.  I took the day off tomorrow, so I'll have a lot of time to just sit, think, and type, which is good. 

My veterinarian brother-in-law would be proud of me, I think.  In the last few days, I've had to get familiar with using syringes and mixing medication.  The first time that I had to play doctor was Friday night; a cow was having a calf, and I was the only one there.  I thought she was having trouble delivering, but after I got her penned up she gave birth without any problems.  The calves need two shots of medicine, one nasally and one orally.  No needles are involved except in the mixing of the medicine itself, which requires combining a powder and sterile water.  The cow needs electrolytes, since she's tired from just giving birth, and of course we have to ear-tag the new calf.  I was pretty pleased when I was finished; I hadn't done any of that before, but I was able to get calf #A3358 all taken care of.  Now we've got several sick cows who need doctoring twice every day.  With this bunch, I've gotten a bit more experience at mixing medication and giving shots, with needles this time. 

By this time next week, I'll be out of the dorms for good.  It'll be nice to have a room all to myself again, especially since I'm going to start studying for the GRE before long.  The only thing that I can imagine missing will be the availability of the cafeteria, but I can cook better than them any day, right?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

APB FOR FURNITURE
 
It's kind of hard to believe that the summer - as far as classes go - is almost over.  In just a little over a week, I'll be done with class and ready to move into my apartment.  I'm really looking forward to being out of the dorms.  They've been a pretty decent place to live, but three years might have been too much of a good thing.  I'm to a point now that when I write about or research something, I've got a lot of reference materials in my room.  Over the years, I've found some favorite sources that I don't mind using over and over again.  It'll be nice to have a room to myself for my senior year.  When you have a roommate right there, you just can't help but distract each other.  I've spent quite a bit of time in the library in the last couple of weeks just trying to avoid any distractions.  The library is a great place to study, but after I get here I usually wish I had a certain book that's sitting at home or access to the files on my computer. 

Cable is expensive.  I called Cox Communications yesterday.  We'll want cable and cable internet for our apartment, and Eric (one of my roommates) said to get digital cable if I could, since he's got a digital HDTV.  I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but digital cable and cable internet were $84.00 per month, in total.  Non-digital cable and internet were $77.00.  I told them that I'd have to think about it.  I didn't want to make a more expensive decision on behalf of everybody, though when you split it four ways, the difference is negligible.  It'd be $21.00 per month per person if we get digital cable and internet, which is really just a couple of dollars more than you would pay for cable in the dorms, assuming you split the bill.  We'll probably end up going with that option.  I'd sure hate to be living off-campus alone, though.  The cable bill would be higher than my car payment!

Because I have access to a blog, I'm going to put out a rather shameless request for furniture.  If any readers have any furniture that they're interested in selling, please let me know.  Any furniture will do: ideally we were looking for a sectional couch, but for the time being we've got a couch, two recliners, and a kitchen table with chairs.  Those are the basics, I guess.  We're still needing some end-tables and a TV stand/entertainment center, and perhaps some shelving if we've got room.  As for bedroom furniture, I still need a bed.  Mom and Dad are offering my old twin bed, which is in really good shape.  I may have to take that, though I hate to leave them without a bed in their back bedroom; plus, I'd rather have a full-size bed.  After that, a nightstand, a desk, and definitely some bookshelves are all needed.  Of course I'll better be able to see what I need after I get moved in, but that's the short list for now.  Again, I'm sort of taking advantage of my blogging privileges to advertise, but I promise this is a one-time posting!

It's hard to believe that Dr. Tollefson's class is winding down already.  A final is scheduled for next Friday, though if I had to bet on it, I would bet that we won't have a final.  In classes past, Dr. Tollefson has been more concerned with good discussion, in-depth reading, and covering a broad spectrum of readings than he has been with testing our knowledge after the class is over.  In the last three weeks, we've covered so much and read so many things that it would be very hard indeed to narrow the class down to one or two essay questions on a final.  I could be surprised; we may have a final after all, but there aren't any slackers in the class.  We all participate and everyone seems to enjoy the course, and I think that means more to Dr. Tollefson than any test does.  The 20-page research paper due next week may well suffice as a final grade.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

THINGS AREN'T THE SAME AS THEY USED TO BE
 
I hardly think that I'm old enough to be reminiscing about the way things were, but a few things have caught my eye recently that make me wish that the year 2004 was closer to 1954.  I know, I wasn't around in 1954, or '64 and '74 for that matter, but things that have changed haven't always done so for the better.

Is it just me or was Art Linkletter a far better host of Kids Say the Darndest Things than Bill Cosby?  Actually, Art never had a show titled that, but it was a segment on another show of his.  Bill Cosby's version ran from 1998 to 2000 and is shown in syndication on TV Land now.  The newer version of the old idea just isn't funny, though.  Art Linkletter had a way of getting the kids on his show to say the funniest things by asking the simplest questions, many of them Bible related.  It's not so much that Bill Cosby isn't funny, but the kids aren't funny anymore.  I know what the difference is: when kids appeared on The Art Linkletter Show, they were simply wide-eyed guests; shy and nervous and all too willing to spout out the first thing that came to their minds.  The kids on Cosby's show are a bit older (usually between eight and twelve), and they're acting.  They know they're on a show where they're supposed to say funny things, and they just overdo it.  Kids of an era long past could be funny without trying or meaning to be.  Kids today just act weird and smart-alecky in front of the cameras.

Does anyone remember when you actually had to flush the toilets in public bathrooms?  Now they're all infrared, giving the bathrooms a more sanitary "hands off" approach.  Good in theory; bad in practice.  Out of necessity I had to use a public restroom just the other day, and you can't stand in front of a urinal or sit on a toilet without the flush going off erratically.  Great, a de facto beday!  Then, when you're done using them, they don't flush.  I swear, I waved my hand back and forth in front of that darn toilet for two minutes the other day and it wouldn't flush itself.  In the end, I had to push the button to flush it anyway.  Thomas Crapper must be rolling in his grave!

Finally, why does this make headline news at CNN.com?  Jenna Bush sticking her tongue out at reporters should probably not be featured on a respectable news site, nor should anything Jennifer Lopez or Britney Spears or any other "celebrity" does.  I'd rather get my pop culture news from someone besides Wolf Blitzer.  Jenna sticking out her tongue can probably be related to political issues, but come on CNN: isn't there a campaign going on?  Are there no issues to write about?  Who knows, maybe having the twins along on the campaign trail will help the President out a little bit.  At least it was a story about Jenna, who is the much better looking of the Bush twins.

Speaking of irrelevant news stories, this one makes me feel bad for the cows at the KSU dairy...

A SCHEDULING COMPROMISE

The last time I wrote about my schedule, it concerned classes for the fall. This time, I'm restructuring my work schedule. It's only a slight alteration, though it was necessary for academic purposes.
 
Because of the new study that is starting at the dairy, my boss has repeatedly told me to sign up for more hours, and he's been repeatedly turned down for the past three days straight; I cite class obligations, of course. Thirty hours per week is what KSU limits me to, and though I could break that limit, I'd really be putting myself in a bind concerning class work. Sure, it's only a three hour class, but in a four-week course, that's ten hours per week plus homework: in other words, it's a lot of time spent on one subject. Well, my boss ran into me today and, like he has every day this week, said that I needed to get inside and put myself up on the schedule more. At that point, I sort of lost it (only on the inside; I like the guy so much that I don't think I could get mean even if I had to). My tone was quite restrained, but I proceeded to explain in slow, simple terms that I...WOULD...NOT...PUT...WORK...OVER...MY...CLASS...OBLIGATIONS.
 
It was this weekend that he wanted me to sign up, for all three shifts (morning, afternoon, and evening) no less on both Saturday and Sunday. By Saturday morning, the last shift that I was signed up for, I would have hit 30 hours. That worked for me; my research paper is due next week, and the weekend is a great time to work on it. I understand his dilemma, for the most part.  On weekends, the full-time help is off, so that leaves the student workers to manage everything.  The more employees that you have on the weekends, the better.  I've even been sympathetic to that and worked some shifts that I wasn't scheduled for because they needed help.  Like every other weekend, they needed more help, but I wasn't afraid this time to say I had class to worry about.

At this point, my boss gives me a half confused, half smart-ass look and says, "but you don't have class on the weekends."  Let's pause for a moment and all shed a tear for the death of common sense.  Perhaps some people don't understand this, but let me be clear: college courses are MORE than just an hour in the classroom.  Books do not read themselves, and research papers cannot be written in a night.  What I study and the work that I put into it IS NOT EASY and it IS NOT QUICK.  I refuse to put a minimum wage, part-time job over the foundations of my future.  That's rather blunt, and I am a proponent of both part-time jobs and "down time": taking a little while to relax each day.  However, the Dane Hansen Foundation is not paying me to work, and they aren't paying me to play.  I have one job here, and that's academic performance.  I'd better do well at that job before I think of doing well at other ones.

Maybe it sounds like I'm feeling sorry for myself; throwing myself a pity-party.  I'm not, and I don't mean to come across that way, but I had to relay that information in an understandable way.  I won't compromise on classes.  I will compromise on a part-time job schedule.  I told him that if I was needed on the weekend, then I'd just take two days off during the week; it wasn't probably the exact solution that he wanted, but my firm insistance put definitive punctuation on the matter.  And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go study German defense policy...

Monday, July 19, 2004

ANOTHER OBJECTIVE SOURCE
 
I'm not quite sure why I'm so focused on getting people to look at Fahrenheit 9/11 through different eyes.  Perhaps the fact that I didn't believe or already knew a majority of what the film presented has something to do with it.  Political affiliation plays a role as well.  More than anything, though, I think I want people to recognize Michael Moore just as they recognize Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly: biased sources; proponents for their causes.
 
This site is the most comprehensive that I have found so far, and these findings will soon be published.  Dave Kopel's research is the basis for the blog "Fahrenheit Fact" that I wrote about yesterday.  Anyone who has seen the movie should take a look at this, and even if you haven't, Kopel presents his arguments in a quite unbiased manner, first stating what Moore's argument in the movie was, then his response.
 
Check it out here: Fifty-Nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11, by Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute.

NO MORE BUSINESS AS USUAL AT THE DAIRY
 
It seems like the odd jobs that were doled out on a daily basis are coming to an end.  There'll still be those kinds of things to do once in a while; flies need killin' and grass needs mowin', but a graduate student is starting a new study that will start to inconvenience us just a little bit more than usual.  Around 20 cows have been moved to the tie-stall barn.  Until today, I didn't even have a clue as to why the barn was called the tie-stalls.  It's kind of obvious, though: the cows are tied up in stalls while the study goes on.  This means that in order for us to get the cows up to the milking parlor, they have to be unchained; led up a longer series of gates, chutes, and fences; milked (twice per day around 8:00am and 8:00pm); and led back to the tie-stalls where they're tied up again in their own individual stalls.
 
The first few steps of that process aren't too bad at all.  It's getting the girls back into the barn and into their stalls that is a little trying.  You can't just let them all run into the barn at once.  Nope, we've got to take them one at a time and try to get each individual cow to her stall.  That took four of us tonight.  By the end of this week, the cows should actually be getting used to this routine and want to get back to their stalls.  By then, it should only take one or two of us leading them along, but tonight, it was a different ordeal altogether.  Some didn't want to go to their stalls, others refused to cross the grate in the floor, and a couple of them just didn't like us trying to tell them where to go.  I'm by no means an advocate for animal abuse, but I'll be darned if I didn't want to punch ol' Bossy right in the nose a time or two. 
 
The calves keep on coming, and now we're up to 19 or 20.  I don't work with them very often, but I did today because of a combination of a shortage of people and not quite enough to do around the farm.  The cows in the tie-stall barn get fed in the morning, too, so that'll be an added chore for the morning help.  Mike, my boss, is trying to get me to work mornings now, but I haven't given in to that end, yet.  For the last several weeks, I've been putting in at least six hours per day: four in the afternoon and two in the evening.  Sometimes it's more than that, and I'm officially cut off at 30 hours per week since the university doesn't want me overdoing it because of my class obligations.  That's fine with me.  Maybe some people would say I'm a slacker because I'm not putting in 40 hours, but my three-hour class amounts to ten class hours per week, plus a lot of outside reading and homework.  I think 30 hours is just fine.
 
Once the fall semester begins, I'll have to cut back even further on hours.  I can't imagine putting in 13 class hours per week (with all of the homework that entails) on top of 30 work hours.  I'm just not going to do that.  I'm sure I can get in 15 or 20 hours of work every week and get by fine on the paychecks that will provide.  I've got a lot riding on this last year, academically speaking.  I'm looking for a 4.0 GPA both semesters.  That may not happen, but I'm currently sitting at a 3.778 total GPA.  If I make a 4.0 both semesters of this last year, I could end my undergraduate career with roughly a 3.85.  We'll see how well Chemistry and Advanced Seminar in History treat me...

THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR
 
Our class briefly discussed everyone's views of Fahrenheit 9/11 this morning, and most everyone who spoke had criticisms of the movie, not praise.  That is the major difference between a class full of political science junkies sitting around a discussion table and a theater full of average Joes: the movie, on the whole, did not appeal to us or persuade us of anything and merits no praise, but instead an intensely scrutinizing review.  The average US citizen, however, could be largely affected by Fahrenheit 9/11; never having been aware of anything presented in the movie, nor concerned about a continued and objective researching of the material presented, Michael Moore's movie has the capability to make deep and long-lasting impacts on some people.  I was quite thankful to see that most in my International Defense Strategies class were fully aware that this movie was no objective report.  It is, after all, a 600-level course; a merging of graduate and undergraduate students.  The liberals in the bunch (and you can be sure there are a few) were largely quiet while Moore's misrepresented facts were exposed.  There is, it seems, no refutation to the pure bias in 9/11.
 
Scott, a friend of mine that I've had in three political science classes, put it almost perfectly: Fahrenheit 9/11 appeals to the lowest common denominator.  It's aiming at either people who already believe Moore's point of view, or those too ignorant to pursue a further study of the issues.  This latter group is probably the one that Moore sought to target the most: unengaged independents whose political opinions could largely be decided by an intensely biased yet powerful film.  My political opinions as well as my political saavy kept me from falling complete victim to the selective images and stories shown about George Bush.  Michael Moore won himself no converts in the realm of the politically astute.
 
However, we're all not so inclined to follow politics.  I've written ambiguously about the undeniable "American impatience" that motivates the majority of thought about politics, both domestic and foreign.  What that actually means is this: if I had to describe the collective nature - the collective psyche - of the United States of America, I would compare it to the behavior of a five-year-old child.  This metaphorical "child" lives in a world all his own, focusing most on the things that interest him: playing with friends, eating junk food, and toys, toys, toys!  Sometimes events that fall outside of this realm can grab the child's attention, like a book, a television program, or an animal at the zoo.  But watch out!  The child doesn't hold that attention for long before it's back to the realm of "me, me, me".  Sometimes disasters will befall the child: a fall, a bee-sting, or punishment from a parent.  But rarely do these lessons truly take heart.  Before long he's running around the slippery edge of the pool all over again or making a mess on new carpeting.
 
The collective United States is a great big child, and in the tradition of the old University of Michigan study of voting behavior, I personally have little faith in that child's current abilities.  The American people have their priorities, no doubt: work, school, friends, relationships, food, health, and living day-to-day.  Nowhere in most peoples' lives does time come for a look at political issues.  Foreign relations are a foreign field to most Americans; their opinions might be adequate for a soundbyte on the evening news, but there's not much substance under that surface.  The American impatience has made us become bored with the War on Terrorism, and continued problems in Iraq can only engender a confused anger among some Americans, without comprehensive ideas or pull-out proposals in sight.  Michael Moore's movie has only served to frighten and confuse this child.  Devoid of any real drive to know and understand, many Americans will simply walk out of the theater, newly ordained as experts in political science and foreign policy.  The child, in this context, is easily lured away from reality by strangers with candy; strangers with easy explanations.
 
The big, clumsy but ultimately powerful American child can grow.  He can make a serious attempt to become more aware of his surroundings and even act to end future tragedies and avoid major pitfalls.  This doesn't mean giving up the things that the child loves; the friends, the games, and toys.  It is, rather, realization of when events are important and the choice to acknowledge and become proactive on such issues.  Politics does matter, and a search for an objective truth should be paramount.  People will form opinions based on cold, hard facts; that much is unavoidable.  We can't fall prey to blind bias, however; coalition, consolidation, and compromise would all serve our political community well.

CLARIFICATION OF FACTS
 
Michael Moore presents a lot of seemingly damning evidence against President Bush in Fahrenheit 9/11, much of which is impossible for even the most ardent Bush supporter to refute using information off the top of his or her head.  Therefore, I've noticed a lot of sites flooding the internet that are dedicated to presenting a conservative spin on Moore's movie.
 
This site is one of the more objective that I've found.  A fellow blogger has taken the initiative to write short, factual refutations of information presented in Fahrenheit 9/11.  Some of these don't amount to too much, but there are several that accurately portray the bias in which Moore reports on Bush's actions.  In one scene, Moore accuses Bush of proposing to cut combat soldiers' pay by 33%.  That didn't sound right to me at all, and this blogger clarifies that issue.  The additional combat pay given to soldiers (on top of their regular salaries) is normally $150, which the Bush Administration raised $75 for about a year from late-2002 to mid-2003.  After this time, the Administration did propose reducing that pay back to the original $150, probably because major combat operations in Iraq had ended.  So, if you want to get extremely specific, the Bush Administration did propose to cut "combat pay" by 33%, however, Moore leaves you with the impression that this is regular salaries by saying "combat soldiers' pay" and not clarifying the issue.  He doesn't mention the fact that it was under the Bush Administration that combat soldiers' pay was raised in the first place.  Like I warned in my original posting about Fahrenheit 9/11: this is a biased point of view coming from a biased man with a political agenda.  Seek out alternative and preferably objective sources dealing with the same facts that Moore presents.
 
Check out all of the postings at "Fahrenheit Fact".


Sunday, July 18, 2004

SCHEDULE CHANGES
 
I've altered my Fall 2004 class schedule, for the better I hope.  I was going to take Latin, not only to learn the basics of that language itself, but to better supplement my knowledge of the other Romance languages: Spanish (which I know fairly well), French, Italian, Romanian, and Portuguese.  Italian and Portuguese are very similar to Spanish - in fact, it wasn't until recently that Brazilians bothered to learn Spanish at all; simply speaking Portuguese was enough to get by in neighboring South American countries.  I'm not familiar with Romanian at all, but I've had to pick up a few French books from the library and was able to muddle my way through the sections that I was interested in, simply by my knowledge of Spanish.  All of these languages derive directly from Latin, and if anyone is going to undertake a serious study of history, knowledge of French, German, Latin, and Greek is definitely a plus.  However, it looks increasingly like I'll be pursuing post-graduate studies in political science, so I've dropped the emphasis on Latin for now.
 
When it comes to my specific areas of interest in political science, I've waffled worse than a Massachusetts Senator.  It was either international studies or public administration.  I discovered that any field dealing with foreign relations and policy would probably be worthwhile during my freshman year at KSU.  There was a seminar held on future jobs with the State Department; within five years, over 50% of State Department employees would be retiring, so the potential for employment there was (or will be, rather) enormous.  Foreign affairs have always interested me, but issues of local politics and public administration seemed to be a definite area of interest, too.  Economic development issues are something that strike very close to home, and in a way, I want to do everything I can to help rural communities.  The pendulum has swung back and forth, and now I think it's permanently stuck in the direction of international relations.  One of the biggest factors has been the class that I'm currently taking: International Defense Strategies.  More than anything, this class has highlighted some serious problems facing various areas of the world, including in our own government concerning such things as our foreign policies and civil-military relations.  Meanwhile, the potential job market is bigger than I thought.  The State Department is hiring, but in this post-9/11 environment, other agencies are expanding like crazy: Homeland Security, the CIA, and the DOD.  Everyone's looking for more analysts and experts.  In fact, there's an opening right now for a part-time job with Homeland Security at the Manhattan Airport.  You're actually little more than a security screener, but that position has actually taken on a whole new meaning since September 11th.  It's paying between $25,000 and $35,000 for 20 to 30 hours of work per week, so I've actually considered applying!  I would miss the cows, though.
 
So my schedule, without Latin, now includes Chemistry, South Asian Civilization, Intro to Public Administration (I still have some interest in this area), and American Foreign Policy.  American Foreign Policy is the class that I added to replace Latin, and I think it may be much more beneficial to me in the long run.
 
I did talk with Dr. Tollefson (my current professor and head of the MA program in political science) the other day about my post-graduate options.  I've been encouraged to head straight for a PhD, and that's advice that I'm seriously inclined to take, considering the validity of and my high respect for the source of that encouragement.  Dr. Tollefson said that heading straight into a PhD is certainly a viable option; he didn't do it himself, getting a BA in Social Science and his initial MA in Hispanic Civilization, both from schools in California.  He then pursued his MA and PhD at Johns Hopkins in Washington, where he received both degrees in International Relations.  Our other resident expert on international relations, however, did go the straight PhD route, getting his BA from Missouri-St. Louis and his PhD from Indiana University, both in Political Science.  Dr. Tollefson encouraged me to go with my gut feelings on the matter, though being the director of the MA program at KSU makes him a bit biased.  He said the MA route was better for students who didn't think they were quite up to the task of complete immersion in a PhD program immediately following their BA or BS.  After looking over my academic record, he said that if I were to stay at KSU for my MA, they could probably offer me a GTA-ship, which would provide free tuition, health insurance, and a job of 15 hours a week or so that pays roughly $10,000 a year.  That sounded pretty good to me, although he does have connections at the Naval Post-Graduate School, another place that I have looked at for its program concerning civil-military relations.  He said that there, I could probably get on as a research assistant.  It'd be a steady job while I worked on my MA.  More than anything, though, he wanted me to take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) sometime in the next couple of months and then apply to three tiers of schools: those that I think are far too prestigious for me, some that I think I have a shot of getting into, and those that I feel would be sure bets to accept me to either a MA or PhD program.
 
Some pretty big names were thrown around; he wants me to apply to Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, and his alma mater, Johns Hopkins.  Those are definitely in the top tier.  I'm a little bit apprehensive to apply to all of those different places considering that applications cost money, but he said that it could be a very good investment if a place like Yale decides to offer me money to go there.  I was actually surprised that I'd be eligible to receive money if any of those places accepted me.  He seemed quite confident that a Harvard or a Yale may offer some assistance, and some people can even get full scholarships.
 
The Graduate Record Exam will be my first priority, then, which means that after my current class is over (not before, since this class is taking up a lot of time), I'm going to start studying.  The test, I believe, is broken into two major parts that universities will look at: the "basics" like reading and comprehension, and a qualitative section, which is unfortunately mathematics.  The reading and comprehension sections on tests have always been a breeze for me; in fact, had it not been for the math section on my ACT, I would have scored well above 30.  Dr. Tollefson said that the math wasn't too difficult, and if I brush up on my college algebra from a couple of years ago, I should do well enough on that section.
 
So, things in the academic department are beginning to move forward.  Graduate school, whether it is on the east coast or the west coast or right here in Manhattan, awaits.  But for right now, Dr. Tollefson's got me jumping through hoops for an undergrad class!  I've got two reports due on Wednesday and Thursday on the defense policies of Mexico and Germany, respectively.  Then, next week our major paper is due.  Based on Chalmers Johnson's book The Sorrows of Empire, I'm comparing the militaries of ancient Rome and the United States, linking both empires' expansions and transfers of power to military elites.  The poor ol' girls at the dairy won't get to see me near as much this week, as I'm going to have to give up my night shifts to work on my paper!

Saturday, July 17, 2004

FAHRENHEIT IN REFLECTION
 
In order to keep up with my classmates in International Defense Strategies, I went to the late showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 tonight.  The theater wasn't full at all, but I'd estimate there might have been 20 or 30 people there.  It's been in Manhattan for a week, so I'd imagine that most people who were really anxious to see it have done so already.  And now, my report and review:
 
I didn't come out of the theater thinking any different about the Bush Administration or the war in Iraq.  About half of the movie is devoted to making connections between President Bush and various evils: the bin Ladens and the Saudis; and corporate big-wigs.  The connections undoubtedly exist, but I already knew about them, and your opinions of the connections can seriously differ based either on political affiliation or your level of knowledge (and common sense) about the subject.  The other half of the movie is quite legitimate, some of it making a case that I've recently taken up: overextension of and abuses within the military.  This half documents soldiers and families affected by the war in Iraq with the intention of turning you against Bush and the war.  I can't say that I was convinced of that, but much of the movie that focused on our military problems was fairly good.
 
The biggest problem that I see with Fahrenheit 9/11 lies in its presentation and the way that the public has accepted it (which may be indicative of a larger problem).  We're all aware of the swarm of Dummies books out there: Windows XP for Dummies, History of the Civil War for Dummies, etc.  If I had to write a book based on what is presented in Fahrenheit 9/11, I'd have to call it The Last Four Years of Accusations Against George W. Bush - For Dummies.  Absolutely no new revelations or damning evidence against the President was presented in this movie; at least nothing new to me.  If you don't watch 30 minutes of news per day or take the time to read a major daily newspaper, maybe much of 9/11 was new to you, but even someone who rather passively follows the news has heard all of these allegations before. 
 
Bush Sr., and therefore Bush Jr., have had many connections with some in the Arab world through the oil business and supposedly have used their government positions to pad their paychecks.  Michael Moore doesn't so much as present cold hard factual proof of this, but he makes the ties and leaves it up to the audience to decide how to interpret what is being shown.  However, it's clear that Moore's point of view isn't objective.  Bush and others within the administration are shown as stupid, lazy, unengaged, and selfish.  The Administration is accused of initially being lax on terrorism, then using September 11th as an opportune springboard to carry out their actual agenda: the invasion of Iraq.  Now that Iraq is occupied by the US, the Administration is further using their connections to provide monetary opportunities for their corporate friends and allied companies, like Halliburton.
 
As I said, I've seen all of these allegations before, and I'm just not convinced of any wrongdoing by Administration officials.  Perhaps it's questionable conduct, but I believe that it can be explained with, if nothing else, an analysis of human nature.  Moore wants the audience to turn against Bush for having long-standing ties with those close to the Saudis and taking opportunities to help himself and allies in the business world.  The vast majority of this conduct took place prior to September 11th, and who can blame anyone who uses their ties to bring them success?  I've heard it several times: it's not what you know but who you know.  Bush, initially through his father's political position and later due to his own experiences, had a lot of connections.  Was it really wrong of him to use those connections to better his own businesses?  Furthermore, Moore accuses Bush and company, now in power, of unfairly using these connections to help out businesses that they had either previously worked with or had friends within.  That supposition actually seems quite reasonable to me: for instance, Dick Cheney had worked with Halliburton, and why wouldn't he recommend or even push for his former company to be given lucrative contracts in the reconstruction of Iraq?  Besides, if Halliburton wasn't the company in question, liberals would find some other corporate entity to demonize.  Trying to make these connections and pointing an accusatory finger at Bush in particular was, in my opinion, the liberal and opinionated heart and soul of this movie; what it was trying to get across and convince people of is all open to interpretation.
 
I can see that if you didn't previously know about any of these connections that they might be somewhat startling.  But the fact remains, this information has been known for years.  Only in movie form and released on such a wide scale has it further raised eyebrows among liberals.  The further arguments against Bush in general are well known ones, mostly against the war in Iraq.  Many people have told me that the worst evidence of Bush's inaction, indecisiveness, and stupidity is what is presented in the first few minutes of the film.  On September 11th, Bush was at an elementary school to read with a group of students.  After he had taken a seat in the classroom, Bush was informed that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and America indeed was under attack.  After that, he sat for nearly seven minutes without acting, continuing to follow along with the students as they read.  He looked like he was thinking to me; others call it a blank stare indicating that he didn't know what to do.  This, my friends, is evidence of nothing.  Think back with me, and try to remember where you were when you first heard of the events in New York.  How did you react?  I remember my reaction: I couldn't fathom it at first, and I too sat rather in shock while listening to radio reports of the event.  Now imagine that you're the leader of not only the country under attack, but the free world as well.  Bush, no doubt, had been deeply shocked by the attacks.  I can't blame him for taking a few minutes to collect himself under the auspices of the planned photo-op; he had a big job ahead of him.  If I were to take issue with anyone over those seven minutes, it would be with the Secret Service for not getting Bush to safety.  Ultimately, this seven minutes hurt no one, though an argument could be made that those few minutes could have been enough time for Bush to order other planes headed toward targets to be shot down.  As a brief tangent, some of the findings of the September 11th commission said that the Air Force had adequate time to shoot down at least one of the planes, indicating that they should have.  But remember, hindsight is 20/20; the rapidity of events on that morning was terribly confusing; and the last thing an Air Force pilot or his superiors probably want to do is shoot down a civilian aircraft.  Nor would Bush have wanted to run out of the classroom hollering, "Run kids!  We're under attack, you're all gonna die!"
 
Moore's anti-war mantra is clearly shown in the transition from attacking the Bush administration to looking at the role of the military.  Before March 19th, 2003, Iraq is portrayed as a happy place with children running and laughing, people enjoying themselves, and life full of possibilities enhanced by emotional background music.  The US (under Bush) ended the happiness in Iraq.  No doubt the war brought destruction, but ask my friend Mohaned Al-Hamdi, how great life was in Iraq under Saddam Hussein.  Mohaned fought in the Iran-Iraq war and deserted in 1986 after seeing a few days worth of battle that killed more than 50,000 Iraqis and more than 120,000 Iranians; Mohaned, being a “statistician”, for lack of a better word, was required to keep a count of the casualties.  He’s spent time in one of Saddam’s prisons, and despite the further turmoil that this war has wrought, you can bet that Mohaned likes Iraq’s new prospects much better than they were.  According to him, American intervention (however misguided or ill-informed our intentions were) has given Iraqis hope.  Mohaned’s unique perspective lends an almost-tangible legitimacy to our war, and his views have a certain (and refreshing) ability to shut up the liberal anti-war crowd.  His argument: how can someone who has never seen Iraq, never lived under the shroud of an oppressive government, and sits in an air-conditioned building making anti-war statements all day even attempt to understand his situation, or Iraq’s situation for that matter.  Differences of opinion exist, of course.  A mother who has lost her children as “collateral damage” or a taxi driver with a destroyed vehicle will have different opinions on American intervention, no doubt.  It’s all a matter of perspective, but I think that Mohaned has had a pretty good look at pre-Gulf War II Iraq, and according to him, his people will be better off if we’re willing to give them time.  In fact, take the time to read his personal response to anti-war talk by clicking here.  Our labeling the intervention as a quagmire simply stems from the insufferable American tendency toward impatience.
 
Preemption really isn’t discussed in 9/11, though the point is made that the terrorists and Osama bin Laden are the real enemies, pushed to the back burner by a Bush Administration with an itchy trigger finger.  I happen to agree that bin Laden, et al should have been a bigger priority than they were, but perhaps the preemptive strike on Iraq was combating terrorism in a way.  After all, recent information details that Russian intelligence warned the US that Saddam and Iraq were planning attacks inside and outside of the United States.  Who knows what we prevented by acting?  It’s easy to say that we prevented nothing, because perhaps we prevented it in the first place.  I’ve got my own problems with getting too rowdy with preemption, but in the case of terrorism, let me put forth this hypothetical: would you have prevented 9-11 if you could have?  Let’s suppose that you – and only you – knew about the 19 hijackers and their plans.  All alerted authorities think that you’re crazy and refuse to help, yet you’ve got one chance to save the lives of all the people in the planes, in the Trade Center and the Pentagon: you can personally take out the hijackers.  Would you?  Would you do whatever you could to stop them, even if it meant that legal action could be brought against you?  Would you be able to take comfort in knowing that you saved 3,000 people, even if no one else knew of or appreciated what you had done?  Most people would answer yes to these questions.  What the United States did in Iraq was simply this same hypothetical on a national scale, with the US playing the role of the person in the know, the unconcerned authorities being various intergovernmental organizations and countries around the globe, and the terrorists being the nation of Iraq.  The legal action brought against you could even be said to be representative of the American (and global) public, upset that the Bush Administration took action at all.  It’s an interesting hypothetical scenario; merely an aside, in this case, but truly something to think about.
 
The Patriot Act is discussed, with many in the audience reacting with shock that the bill passed without one House member reading it.  Further shock was indicated when a Democratic representative being interviewed said that bills are never read by the congressmen themselves.  I didn’t react at all; I knew this already.  Some bills are thousands of pages long, and reading them would require a dramatic slowdown of the legislative process.  It is regrettable that some of these bills do pass.  The Patriot Act is merely a product of that good old American impatience.  After 9-11, we were mad and had to do something.  The Patriot Act, at the time, seemed like a good start.  Now, unfortunately, the government can see what books we’ve checked out from public libraries so as to make sure that we’re not reading anything we shouldn’t be.  I’ve always disagreed with several parts of the Patriot Act, but I couldn’t express any shock or awe at this information being presented in the movie; I knew it already and had known of it since the darn thing passed in 2001.  Again, this movie could easily be given a for Dummies addition to its title.
 
The area of 9/11 that does have some substance is in its look at the strains on and shortcomings of the US military.  The movie is not directly critical of the soldiers themselves, indicating that they are merely products of a military environment that probably doesn’t do enough to educate them about their truly global and representative role.  Some soldiers, merely ignorant teenagers fresh from a GED, rout CDs through the speaker systems of their tanks to play their favorite heavy metal songs while they rumble off to war.  One soldier seemed particularly proud of his selections: Let the Bodies Hit the Floor and The Roof is on Fire, representing a burning Baghdad.  This is the ignorance and indoctrination that permeates much of our military, featuring soldiers with mindsets unfit to represent the global role that they are filling.  I’ve said it before, and 9/11 highlighted it again: many soldiers get into the military with the intention to “kill, kill, kill”.  That’s not what it’s about, and significant education is needed.  Officers need to take charge on that front, and perhaps the civilian authorities who control the military need awakened to this cause, as well. 
 
The movie takes aim at recruiting methods, which target inner cities and poor neighborhoods.  Again, I thought this was a well known fact, but in case it wasn’t, the movie highlights it.  Marine recruiters frequent the parking lot of a mall, preying on teenagers coming and going.  Based on my personal experiences with recruiters, I know that there’s no getting away from them or shutting them up once they get rolling on a sales pitch.  The cold reality of the recruiting situation is, however, that they couldn’t get recruits on the “rich” side of town.  The poverty stricken are looking for a way out of their situation, in many cases, and the military can offer that.  Moore rather unfairly presents these new recruits as cannon fodder, when in actuality, the different career options in the military are quite varied.  Not everyone ends up as an infantryman. 
 
9/11 also documents a woman, once fervently pro-military and patriotic, now disillusioned with the war after her son was killed in Iraq.  You do really feel bad for this woman and understand her frustration.  It’s easy to wave the flag and tout the military and the government when your family is intact.  It’s different when you’ve lost someone to a war of which its purposes are not entirely clear.  I couldn’t ever tell her that she was wrong for feeling that way, for changing her views, but earlier in the film (before she lost her son), she expounded on the proud military tradition in her family.  Another reality that comes with military service is this: if you serve, you are at the beck-and-call of your Commander-in-Chief, and the possibility of war is always looming; the possibility of death is always real.  Those prospects should be understood when dealing with a volunteer military; you volunteer to put your life on the line.  Soldiers don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing their wars.  Right after September 11th, many reservists and National Guard troops here at KSU were taken aback at being called to action.  No one (or at least very few), I suppose, sign up with the intention of fighting a war, let alone getting killed. 
 
The body count in Iraq is climbing ever higher.  It is an interesting look at the clash of ideology being put forward as American foreign policy.  How can a democracy, a nation concerned with the well-being of all peoples, launch an invasion and occupy a country?  Traditional forms to regime change in Iraq would have come from either affecting them economically and ideologically from the outside, or full-out invasion, destruction, and occupation with little regard for civilians or “collateral damage”.  The US, it seems, is trying to find some sort of a middle ground, which may prove futile in the end.  I hope not; I hope that the new Iraqi government is successful, that democracy grows there and elsewhere in the Middle East, and that our military can return to its traditional role of defense.  Only time will tell; this will not be a quick process, and like it or not, we’ve gotten ourselves involved and now we have to be patient.
 
Ultimately, Fahrenheit 9/11 convinced me of nothing and showed me little that was new.  Part of that evaluation stems from my personal political beliefs, and part of it comes from simply hearing and dismissing these accusations long ago.  It is, if nothing else, an exercise in free speech, which thankfully still works fine.  The merits of 9/11 are found in the look at our military and the everyday Americans who have been affected by our foreign policies.  The negatives are clearly in the attempt to smear the President, though the movie was not nearly as personal as I had imagined it to be.  Fahrenheit 9/11 would have been much better as an anti-war movie, if the anti-Bush rhetoric would have been dropped and the personal touches expanded upon.  As it stands now, however, it’s a political treatise on film, designed to inflame emotions against George Bush.  As I had stated in an earlier entry, take Fahrenheit 9/11 as it is: one man’s interpretations and opinions of certain facts; and balance the movie with a pro-Bush book (something akin to apologetics, perhaps) or by reading a justification for war.  Only after a full look can you truly be sure of your feelings on what Michael Moore puts forth.  I’m happy to say that I’ve at least gotten my full, well-rounded look at the information available after seeing the movie, though Moore now has my $7.25.  At least I've learned how to spell fahrenheit...

Friday, July 16, 2004

STUPID COMMERCIALS, HILARIOUS COMMERCIALS
 
Hardee's and Dairy Queen are in two opposing camps when it comes to producing commercials for their products.  Hardee's is making a resurgence of sorts, promoting bigger, better burgers.  Since their ad campaign started earlier this year, I've been consistently turned off by their approach.  Initially, various commercials featured the stereotypical "tough guys" (ie: construction worker) complaining about how crappy Hardee's food has traditionally been and how their most recent visit made them change their minds.  Hardee's had changed, their food was suddenly good, and whatever impressions had been made in the past were vanquished by the Angus Thickburger.
 
What a stupid ad campaign: admitting that their food was bad and their restaurants were undesirable, but the grade of beef they're now using can change all that.  Those types of ads, however, have been replaced by an even more irritating version.  Hardee's is sticking with their attempts to appeal to tough guys, going on and on about "what kind of guys eat at Hardee's".  One ad features the bleary-eyed, gum-chomping Mark McGwire silently eating a burger that is, well, just too damn big.  If a monster like McGwire has trouble manuevering this basketball-sized burger, then I'm not going to be real keen on ordering one myself.  There is such a thing as overkill.  While the ironically nicknamed Big Mac chows down on this huge sandwich, a gratingly sarcastic, nasally voice narrates about the merits of Hardee's.  Similar commercials have continued to appear, the most recent of which features a full-blown idiot fixing an El Camino with one hand and trying to hold on to a Thickburger with the other, all while making his bored-out-of-her-skull girlfriend watch his masculine exploits.  Come on, man.  Put the wrench down while you eat; that car can wait.
 
Dairy Queen, on the other hand, has started a pretty successful (in my mind) ad campaign featuring commercials that make me laugh time after time.  The first was one about a new spicy burger, in which a hapless accountant first sweats like crazy upon biting into it, then starts breathing fire, taking the office down with him.  Their newest, about a cappuccino Blizzard, features a blind taste-test in which the blindfolded tester wrestles control of the ice cream, only to run smack into a window.  Both of those crack me up every time I see them.
 
Hardee's could take a lesson from Dairy Queen.  That sarcastic, dry, boring, nasally narration (which was oddly popular several years ago) just makes me mad.  Dairy Queen makes me laugh, and perhaps want to eat a Blizzard, too...


FAHRENHEIT 9/11 REVISITED
 
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is continuing to cause quite a stir, both in the United States and elsewhere.  Due to the film's popularity, more and more theaters are showing it, not for the political views of course, but the potential for profit.  9/11 came to Manhattan last week, and several students in my International Defense Strategies class have been to see it.  One, a graduate student, urged the professor to take the entire class, which he did today.  I couldn't go because of work, but most of the students met at the theater instead of having our normal class today.    Dr. Tollefson doesn't really wear his political affiliation on his sleeve like some professors do, but he makes no bones about being a realist.  Some students were looking forward to his reactions and assessments.  The movie, I'm sure, will spark considerable debate.
 
So now, in the interest of participating in that debate, I'm probably going to see Fahrenheit 9/11 sometime this weekend.  Imagine a liberal being forced to read The Starr Report or one of Laura Schlessinger's books or listening to a few hours of Rush Limbaugh; I'm just about as thrilled to be going to Michael Moore's movie, but I'm doing it in the interest of open-mindedness and fair debate.  I'd hate to get to class on Monday to have everyone singing Moore's praises and not be able to debate them on any points, or agree with them on any points as well.  Expect a full report and review of Fahrenheit 9/11 upon my return from the theater.  

Monday, July 12, 2004

SLOW DOWN

Everyone always says to watch your speed on the stretch of Old 40 between Ellsworth and Salina. They're right: I got a warning just outside of Brookville as I was driving back to Manhattan yesterday afternoon. I had the cruise set at about 58 or so, which is over the limit of 55, but most everyone runs 60 on Old 40. I saw the patrol car turn around and head my direction, but I figured it couldn't have been me. Then he passed the car that was between us and tailed me close (too close, I thought - I could barely see his headlights in my rearview mirror) for around five miles before he turned his lights on. I thought that was unnecessary, but whatever - I know they teach you to be an unreasonable jerk at HiPo school.

Actually, he was a really nice guy. He said he clocked me at 65, which I think to be quite impossible, but since I just got a warning I didn't ask to see the rader. Maybe I was coming down a hill. Anyway, I'm passing on the warning: slow down!

FORT HARKER DAYS, ETC.

I had an excellent time at Fort Harker Days, where all of Kanopolis and a good group of people from the surrounding area gathered on Friday and Saturday. I wandered the park and up and down main street both days visiting with friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen since last summer. It was great to be back, even if it only was for a weekend.

I found Ben and Simon cleaning up in their back yard on Friday afternoon, looking for brown recluses. Ben majored in biology at Tulsa and has done research on bees, but I didn’t know he was looking at spiders, too. The hunt for the recluses was pretty successful it looked like to me, since there were well over a dozen jars and containers sitting by with spiders in them. Because of my mild arachnophobia – in other words, my girly fear of eight-legged monsters – I didn’t help out with the recluse hunt. Ben is back in Kanopolis until late August when he’ll be heading to Harvard to start med school. Pretty impressive, huh?

Gabe, Lipa, and I went to see The Day After Tomorrow at the Drive-In on Friday night. It was an alright movie; more of a political statement than anything else, it’s kind of a critique of the Bush Administration’s environmental policies.

I had every intention of being at the start of the race on Saturday morning. In fact, I was up at 6:30am, thinking that I’d better get up and over to Kanopolis. The next thing I knew, it was after 11:00am. I’d even slept through the parade, one of the things that I was really looking forward to. For the last week, I’d only been getting five or six hours of sleep each night. I’d have class in the morning, work all afternoon and evening (usually until 9:30 or 10:00pm), and then have homework when I got back. I guess that caught up with me. I hated to miss the parade, though. I didn’t get to see Josh at all; I know he was in the parade.

It sounds like Josh’s competition has got some competition. I’d heard that Aaron Robertson was running as a Republican, and now Tim Null is running, too. That’ll be another choice for me to make in the August 3rd primary alongside the election for sheriff, though which Republican is running for 108th district representative doesn’t really matter, since I’ll be voting for Josh in November. I haven’t gotten a chance to talk with him recently, but I think that he’s done a good job in Topeka. Plus, he’s got some good ideas and long-term goals for the state, which is more than I can say for a lot of legislators at that level. The short-sightedness of some legislators a few years ago has gotten us into our current budget problems. Several years ago, I was able to be on the floor of the House of Representatives in Topeka while they were in session, and I was amazed at how disinterested that a lot of the members seemed; they were talking on phones, ordering lunch, having other conversations, and just about anything besides paying attention to whoever happened to be speaking at the time. I know, the speeches go down on record and most reps know how they’re going to vote before any floor debate, but I’d still hope that my representative is taking his or her job seriously, even though it is a part-time job. I’m quite confident that Josh takes his job seriously, and he probably puts in a lot of extra time that other legislators don’t.

It’d be hard to list all of the people that I saw on Saturday. Of course, my favorites from the CO-OP were there: Monte, Michelle, Diane, and Aaron were playing volleyball, and I even ran into Mike on main street. But Julie was nowhere to be found! Monte and Michelle’s baby Sarah was there, too, but she had to be taken to the hospital on Saturday evening because she was having trouble breathing. I hadn’t heard anything else about her condition as of this afternoon, but I’m hoping that everything is alright. It was hot out, so maybe she just wanted inside with some AC. I called Peg around 4:30 that afternoon to see if she wanted to grab dinner at Orozco’s; she did, and we had a great conversation. Afterwards, she even let me drive her brand new Lincoln Aviator, which is a beautiful vehicle. We drove through Meredith’s driveway and honked, which brought her running out bearing canned goods. I got some pickles, and Peg made off with some mustard salsa.

After dinner, the heat had died down a little and the locals were back out in force. I spent the rest of the evening with a lot of people: Morgan, Gino, Shirley, Doug, Susan, Janet, Buck, Donnie, Gary, Chant and Gladys. There were a lot more people than that around, for sure. I saw a few people from my class: Tyler, Cody, Dave, and Ashley, and there were a lot more that I had been to high school with in the park. The dance went on later than usual – it was nearly 1:00am by the time the music died down. A lot of people were interested in the dairy: I talked for quite a while to both Doug Curnutt and Tom Renard about that. There was good food, plenty of people to talk with, and all-in-all, I had a good time.

But there’s something a bit more serious that I should talk about, as well.

I’ve been able to draw my entire life. Art was just something that came easy to me; it was no problem to have a picture in my head and then put it down on paper. The ability to draw is a rare thing, yet because I could do it (and do it well, I might add), I couldn’t understand why others couldn’t, and at the same time, they didn’t understand how I could. It just didn’t make any sense to me; drawing was easy, but it’s for sure a talent, a gift. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent. I don’t have kids; I’ve never had to worry about them, care for them, or put a lot of time and money into one, so naturally, I’m more than inexperienced and insensitive when it comes to matters of parenting, which is also a talent (though some certainly are more talented than others). Like the non-artistic of the world, I’m dealing with a foreign concept when it comes to matters of parenting, and that’s led to my making mistakes, one of which happened this weekend.

Alcohol is naturally a big element of Fort Harker Days, as it is at all small town festivals: Cowtown Days, the Czech Fest, etc. I’ve got all kinds of excuses about why I drink in certain situations, none of which matter here except one: I’m nearly 22 years old, and it’s legal for me to do it if I feel so inclined. However, drinking can of course lead to other problems. I was out so late on Saturday night that it ended up being after 7:00am on Sunday when I got back home. I, not understanding parenting, didn’t think much of it. I couldn’t have driven home seven or eight hours earlier than that, so the time that I got home didn’t matter as much as the people that I had worried about me all night. Mom and Dad were worried. I let them down by not calling, not at least letting them know where I was and that I was alright. I’m sure that I’m a further disappointment because I was drinking, but that’s an aside. College-aged people do that, believe it or not. It’s not a high priority for me, but spending one Friday night a month in Aggieville is pretty harmless in the grand scheme of things. But I was selfish and insensitive at the same time, and that caused my parents to worry. Dad didn’t get any sleep. Mom was angry. Both of their reactions were justified.

Dad offered me a ride home; all I had to do was call, any time I was ready to come back. Instead, I let myself sober up enough to get home on my own, leaving Mom and Dad to worry. They didn’t know where I was; I could have been fine, or I could have wrecked my car somewhere. They simply didn’t know. It’s that worry that I don’t understand but have to respect. Their worry, their care, and their love have gotten me to where I am today, which is a position that I think has a lot of potential. My parents are two of the best, most upstanding moral examples that I know of, and I let them down. I was wrong. I made a mistake.

Sometimes it’s hard to be held up to others’ expectations, but we’ve all made our own reputations. At least with my parents, I’ve made a good impression (I hope) and they have high expectations. Sometimes too high, and they take it hard when I let them down. I take it equally hard, knowing that I’ve disappointed; knowing that I’m a disappointment. Having nearly straight As from kindergarten through college has set the bar quite high for me: Mom’s reaction to my having two Bs on last semester’s transcript was fairly emotionless, but her expression was more grimace than grin. She told me once that my interest in politics should never decline, because too many people were counting on me to do something with that interest. It’s a difficult road that I’ve charted for myself, but intelligence is a gift as well, not a privilege. It should be used not only for my benefit, but to help as many others with it as I can. I just finished studying the strategic thought of Machiavelli, Napoleon, Jomini, and Clausewitz, so I hope that no one but Political Science PhDs would accuse me of skimping on my class work; it’s hard stuff, no doubt, but I’ve also got an obligation to perform well.

I hope that their feelings of disappointment subside. I’ve got every excuse in the book, like I could do that every weekend instead of just once a year, but all of those excuses can’t excuse what I did, leaving them to wonder. I was wrong. I made a mistake. And I can admit that. It hurts when those we hold in high esteem let us down, and I’m just going to assume that most of my readers have a favorable opinion of me. With that, I know I’ve got some backing, and I may have some people – maybe more than I know – hoping for or counting on my success. There may be high expectations to meet, but I can promise that I’ll do the best that I can and perform to the best of my ability.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

THE HAPPENINGS IN MANHATTAN

Not too much has been going on here that merits an exciting blog entry, but there's a bit. Last weekend I was so ready to see Spider-Man 2 that I could have exploded. On Friday, as we had planned for quite some time, Ben and I went to Topeka and met Bob to go see the movie together. Bob's got a nice place in Topeka, and if you're interested in houses in the Topeka area, check out his website. Ben and I both worked normal hours on Friday, so it was later when we got to Topeka. The first showing that we tried to get to was sold out, so we caught some dinner at Applebee's before the next one; and it was packed. We didn't have really good seats, but it didn't matter; the movie was great. We'd planned on hitting the town afterwards, but we rented the first season of Chappelle's Show and had a few beers back at Bob's. I ended up leaving around 10:00 or a little after on Saturday morning, so it wasn't a long trip, but we had a good time. And we've got an excuse to go back: we didn't get to see this bar that Bob's always talking about...

I took it easy the rest of the weekend. I wasn't scheduled to work, but I thought that maybe I would make it in to the dairy and be able to get in a few hours, which will be needed so I can have this coming weekend off. I didn't go in, though, and took the actual Fourth of July off. Monday was a work holiday for most, but not all state workers could take it easy; somebody's got to take care of the cows, right? I was able to get in nine hours yesterday and eight-and-a-half today, so I should hit my 30 hours by Thursday.

I have to be done working by Thursday, because Ft. Harker Days are coming up! A lot of people can't believe how excited I get for Ft. Harker Days, but it's the one time of year that Kanopolis really opens up, has tons of visitors and a lot of fun. The Fiesta is like Ft. Harker Days lite, but to get the full Kanopolis experience, you have to make it over this weekend. This year will be especially meaningful to me: I've really missed home quite a bit this summer; this is the first summer that I've spent away, and I miss a lot of people that I regularly saw at Orozco's or at the elevator or just around town. I'm sure there will be a lot of catching up to do. And there's more to Ft. Harker Days than just the carnival. There are plenty of sights in and around Kanopolis, the reinactors will be out in force around Ft. Harker and the Officers' quarters, and the drive-in is showing The Day After Tomorrow. Did I mention the food? Bonnie Tripp will be selling Mexican food, and Orozco's will of course be open for business. I can't be positive, but I'm guessing that the Kanopolis Lunchbox will be open, too. If you haven't had one of their Steak and Cheese sandwiches, be sure to try it. I know I'm looking forward to being there, and I hope that all of my readers can make it, too. If nothing else, be sure to be at the parade at 10:00am on Saturday morning to cheer on Josh Svaty, running for re-election to the House for the 108th district, and our very own Kanopolite, Kenny Bernard, running for sheriff.

My roommate needs a job...badly. If anyone knows of anything in or around Manhattan, let me know, and I'll pass on the info. The problem isn't finding a job: it's finding one that he really likes. He's a finance major, and ideally, he wants to work at a bank. Over two months ago he started applying at banks, many of which said they wouldn't even be calling for interviews until late June. He didn't have class until this month, so he hasn't done too much through the whole month of June. He's actually applied at a few other places that he's not interested in, but he's really banking on a bank job (no pun intended), but it hasn't happened yet, either because he's been turned down or hasn't been called back. If you've got class and other obligations, having a part-time job isn't necessary in college (considering you can afford to go without one), but I just can't imagine holding out for an ideal part-time position. You know, ideally, I wouldn't be covered in cow crap at the end of every day, but working at the dairy was a job and an opportunity that I really couldn't pass up. I'd like to be an intern for a congressman (which rarely pays, sadly), or even better, I'd like to get paid for doing this: writing. But I look at a job like the dairy, as low-paying and labor intensive as it may be, as a godsend at a time that I didn't have anything else. I had faith that something would present itself, and when the dairy job came along, I knew that it had to be what I was looking for, even if it didn't seem like that on the surface. And look at how it's turned out: I love my job, and I've learned tons. I do hope that he finds something before too long. One three-hour class just isn't enough to keep a person busy for a month, though my new one that I started today is certainly going to try.

International Defense Strategy is one of those classes that's listed in KSU's undergraduate catalog but is never offered. Well, it finally is being offered, and it looks like it could be very interesting. For now, we've just glanced over the syllabus, but we'll be comparing the historical and current defense strategies of nations across the globe by next week. In fact, the professor provided us with a pretty comprehensive list of some websites focusing on defense strategies. I'll be e-mailing that list to a certain EHS teacher who I know will have an interest in looking at them; anyone else who is interested, just let me know and I'll be happy to pass them along.

That's about all for now. My days are even longer now with a class added into the mix, so I'd better start thinking about getting some sleep...

THIS WEEKEND'S TOP MOVIE

Fahrenheit 9/11 may have scored the top spot at the box office last weekend, but the Fourth of July holiday made my kind of movie number one. Spider-Man 2 was released last Wednesday, a complicated move that had to do with offsetting possible losses due to Sunday being a holiday. In just six days, Spidey made $180 million and blew away all other challengers, breaking records at almost every step of the way. Interestingly enough, the only record that Spider-Man 2 failed to break was one held by its predecessor: largest weekend gross. The original made $114 million in the three days from Friday to Sunday, while the sequel made a mere $90 million. That can be chalked up to Spider-Man 2 being released on Wednesday instead of Friday, where it made $40 million in its first day of release alone. Clearly, the Spider-Man franchise is one that is a huge draw for nearly all audiences. Those of us who are true fans waited years and years to see Spidey on the big screen, and our patience is finally paying off.

If you're wondering what I thought of the movie, just take a wild guess. You got it: I thought it was great. A new story, a new villain, and new action permeates this new link in the Spider-Man chain. But don't expect to fall in love with the Spider-Man story if you're only wanting mindless action sequences. There're a few of those, to be sure, but Spider-Man 2 features a complicated story in which Peter Parker is forced to choose between a life of normalcy and his obligation to helping make New York safer under the guise of Spider-Man. The stress piles on Spidey as he tries to juggle work, school, and relationships successfully while still swinging off to save the day every time there's an emergency.

I can't blindly say that everyone would like Spider-Man 2. It takes at least a passing interest in super-heroism to get into the theater, but once you're there, I can say that Spidey provides plenty of thrills wrapped up in a solid story line. And why wouldn't he? After all, he's sold comic books since 1962. At the peak of my interest in Spider-Man comics, there were five monthly comics featuring him: The Amazing Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spider-Man, and Spider-Man Unlimited. There were more before that, and there have definitely been more since then, spurred on by the movie franchise's popularity. Marvel certainly has a gold mine, and here's a hint: Spider-Man 2 ends with a set-up for the next movie; yep, there'll be a third, and undoubtedly, it'll be a hit.

INTERESTING, BUT UNSURPRISING CHOICE

John Kerry's decision to add John Edwards to the Democratic ticket is unsurprising. It's probably a good campaign move, at least at this stage of the game. I can't imagine Edwards being a heavy hitter when push comes to shove, however. Adding him to the ticket was a calculated campaign move, for sure. That's usually what Vice-Presidents are best for, though Edwards certainly won't pull the South away from Bush. It's questionable whether or not he'll even pull his home state of North Carolina: a Republican stronghold.

There used to be a time when nominees waited until their party's convention to announce a running mate. Up until the 1980s that's how it was done. Prior to FDR's time, the party even picket the VP, knowing that they were merely an election tool. Now, the media has turned election season into a circus, pressuring Kerry to make a pick early, nearly a month before the Democratic convention. That's in keeping with the rest of the politics of Presidential elections today: what used to be a few-month campaign has turned into an 18 month-to-two year process. More on this later...in fact, more on a lot of things later...

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