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Tuesday, November 23, 2004  

Best quiz I've seen in ages. Thanks to Sean for the link.

You Are the Investigator


You're independent - and a logical analytical thinker.

You love learning and ideas... and know things no one else does.

Bored by small talk, you refuse to participate in boring conversations.

You are open minded. A visionary. You understand the world and may change it.

Yep, that's me all over. And someday I'll start blogging again. I really, really, really mean it.

Posted by Me at 08:16 link

Wednesday, November 03, 2004  

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."

- H.L. Mencken

Posted by Me at 22:39 link

Tuesday, November 02, 2004  

Hey Undecided Voter!

Yeah, you—the one who hasn't decided who to vote for!

Are you better off now than you were four years ago?

Seriously, are you safer? Has your standard of living improved? Do you have more, or less of a good feeling, a feeling of general well-being? Are you more, or less, optimistic about the future, and about your children's future?


Well, here's a helpful hint: if you make less than, oh, $200,000 a year, then you're probably not better off. You're probably a nervous wreck. You're probably worried about your job (will your job be outsourced? will your pay keep up with inflation?), the growing debt burden on your kids (projected deficit: about 10 trillion dollars, something like $40,000 for every US American man, woman and child alive today), and you're probably worried about our national security (will terrorists somehow bomb us back to the stone age? will a series of wars bankrupt our nation, and destroy our alliances?).

Is it fair to blame George W. Bush for all of that? Or course not. But is it fair to let him completely off the hook? Hell, no! When the team starts losing and keeps losing, it's a good idea to change managers. When the ship sinks, it's fair to blame the captain. [Insert your favorite metaphor here]

And hey, you!

Yeah, you—the one who hasn't decided whether to vote! You know who you'd vote for, but you're not sure whether it's worth the effort.

Yeah, it matters! Your vote will actually count. It's oh-so-definitely worth the effort. The last election was decided by 537 votes. So get off your butt, get over to the polling place, and VOTE TODAY.

Go before work, go after work—in 32 states, laws require your boss to let you vote during work, if necessary—so just do it. Right now.


Posted by Me at 13:49 link

Monday, September 06, 2004  

Whose Land Is It, Anyway?

In case you're one of the few who haven't checked out JibJab's excellent bipartisan spoof "This Land," I recommend you click here to do so now.

The Richmond Organization, the company with the rights to Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," are maybe the only people in America unhappy with JibJab's three-minute masterpiece. They may sue because they feel the cartoon
"threatens to corrupt Guthrie's classic, an icon of Americana--by tying it to a political joke; upon hearing the music people would think about the yucks, not Guthrie's unifying message."
No doubt they're referring to the message of these familiar lyrics:
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me

But as this article points out, the message Guthrie intended was far from "unifying." Check out the last two verses (which are seldom sung nowadays):
As I went rambling that dusty highway
I saw a sign that said "private property"
But on the other side it didn't say nothing
This side was made for you and me

In the squares of the city, in the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office, I see my people
And some were stumbling and some were wondering
If this land was made for you and me
Not exactly "God Bless America," is it? I think Woody Guthrie understood America quite well, and loved his country. But he saw problems with America, the way only someone who loves something deeply can see those problems.

Today, when most Americans don't even know why they get a three-day weekend every year towards the end of summer, it's vital to reflect on the role of Labor and the common man in our society.

I'm sure a lot of right-leaning Americans would be horrified to learn that Labor Day celebrations originally were intended to show "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations."

I wonder whether, learning the true origins and meaning of the day, good conservatives might feel compelled not to take the day off? That's allright, fellows, even if you don't believe in Unions, you're still free to enjoy the hard-won benefits union members have earned for all of us by putting their jobs—and in many cases, their lives—on the line.

This land was made for all of us—but we'll get to keep it only if we, like the heroes of Labor before us, have the courage to stand up, stand together and assert our rights.

Otherwise, we'll end up with one land for the rich, and another, inferior land for the rest of us. We've moved in that direction for many years now, but I have faith that we're about to reverse the trend. November's elections will tell a lot about whether Americans truly understand what's at stake.

Happy Labor Day, everybody.

Posted by Me at 21:45 link

Sunday, August 29, 2004  

Reflections on the Blue Collar Experience

I find myself thinking in clichés lately:
  • It's a rough job, but somebody's got to do it
  • He who hesitates is lost
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
Corny thoughts. First of all, it's not really such a rough job. I like getting paid to move around for 8 hours, and now that I've gotten the hang of the job, it's enjoyable. Which is not to say that I want to make a career of it.

Which brings me to the next cliché. I'm still looking for a career-oriented job, but around here those are scarce, and competition is plentiful. Much of my competition, it seems, comes armed with experience and bachelor's degrees. I'm not sure it's true, but a lot of the time I feel like I'm screwed. So I'm thinking of completing a bachelor's degree in computer science. Or maybe finishing the one I nearly finished years ago in psychology.

If I went for computer science, I'd probably do it online. It'd take longer (about two years), but I could work full time while I did it. If I did psychology, it'd take me only one semester, but I'd have to move back to Chapel Hill (believe it or not, I don't want to), and I might not be able to work more than part time. And I'd have to find a place to stay...

If anyone reads this, I wouldn't mind a little advice. (But don't be offended if I don't take the advice.)

Meanwhile, back at the third cliché... I'm going to hang onto this job for the time being. After all, I applied to no fewer than seven temporary agencies starting in May, and this is the first job assignment I've gotten! (Clearly, Bushonomics isn't working too well around here.)

In brief, I like the following things about the job:
  • I get the equivalent of a week's worth of gym exercise every evening at work
  • When someone asks me what I do, and what the company does, I can explain it simply and be understood
  • The people I work with are diverse, and almost everyone is pretty cool
  • Predictable hours and responsibilities
  • It's 'second-shift,' meaning from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m., which gives me plenty of 'business hours' time to get stuff done
  • It's temporary
I dislike the following things:
  • It uses and develops exactly none of my computer skills
  • It doesn't pay well
  • I feel sad for my coworkers, who in most cases have been working there for years, and long after I'm gone, they'll keep working there—until their jobs get sent to another country
  • I hate the recurring feeling that I'm a very replaceable part in a machine, and that all my job functions could be performed more efficiently with robotics
  • Predictable hours and responsibilities
  • Working Friday nights until 11 p.m. puts a damper on weekends
  • Horseplay is not allowed (I'm all about horseplay)
Soon, I'll probably have a 'more suitable' job—and then I'll probably miss this one. Oh, well.

  • That's life.

Posted by Me at 22:03 link

Thursday, August 19, 2004  

I (Heart) My Job

I really do, it turns out.

I didn't at first, because there's no job as frustrating (to me) as a hard physical job that "isn't rocket science™"—and which I still have trouble keeping up with.

This job is physically hard, no doubt; every night I'm physically moving for something like 6 of the 8 hours (probably the exercise equivalent of a 10 mile hike each shift), I regularly have to climb onto, and scramble over, large machine tables (don't worry, they're not running), and several times each shift I lift heavy (75-100 lbs) things.

My job is to move the work around in such a way that all 15 of my co-workers stay busy at all times (usually not a problem as long as I stay busy), I have to stay on good terms with all of them, and I have to avoid any hint of favoritism. Of course, I also have to stay on good terms with two supervisors.

The first two nights, the job overwhelmed and exhausted me, but yesterday, I found a rhythm and got the hang of things well enough so that I found myself waiting for others instead of having them wait for me. I can tell everyone respects the work I'm doing. Which feels really, really good. Almost as good as the head-to-toe ache of muscles, and the satisfaction of being paid to get an amazing workout.

Music In My Head

  • Billy Joel — "Honesty"
  • Ben Folds Five — "Jackson Cannery"
  • Truth Hurts (feat. Rakim) — "Addictive"
  • Alexia — "Ti Amo Ti Amo"
  • Lords of Acid — "I Must Increase My Bust"
  • Bob Dylan — "Highway 61 Revisited"
(Hey, it's just the stuff swirling around my brain—I'm not suggesting anyone listen to it or anything....)

Posted by Me at 09:59 link

Tuesday, August 17, 2004  

Quick Notes

I'm moving the Towpath Century Challenge back one week, to Saturday, September 25. Join me!

I'm doing temporary work in a factory this week. Yes, I am a real blue-collar, man-of-the-people. Power to the Proletariat! Unfortunately, that means I won't have much time to blog.

But don't despair; there are still many good ways to waste your time. For instance, click here for more useful (mostly) hints than you could shake a stick at—even an industrial-sized one. Just a few quick examples:
  • Meat tenderizer will heal jellyfish stings.
  • Shuffle your feet when walking in the ocean, beach, or swamp. It keeps you from stepping on something nasty.
  • Salt and vinegar makes a good copper polish.
Oh, and apparently, Soylent Green is made out of people. Who knew? Anyway, have fun however you choose to waste your time. I'll talk to you soon, I hope....

Posted by Me at 12:17 link

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