Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Voting Experience 2008

Well it's done and I've cast my ballot. 

As I approached the library or the early voting was taking place I was quite amazed by the number of people standing in line waiting for their turn to vote. The queue stretched out of the door down the sidewalk and around the corner of the building. Both parking lots were almost completely full and this was just before 10 o'clock in the morning, so I assume this was before any kind of lunch time rush.

I went to the end of the line and started reading the book I had not really expecting to engage any of the other voters in conversation. The older gentleman that had fallen into line behind me took a phone call and somewhat loudly announced to the person on the other end of a line that since he had recently seen socialism up close and personal and, "he didn't like it." I was pretty sure he had made that statement loudly enough so that the people around him would be able to hear it but I took it in stride and kept reading my book.

A little while later a woman came by and handed out change of address forms to people who needed them. That same gentleman behind me took one and started filling it out. He then asked me if I knew the date, so I looked it up on my cell phone for him. After he was done filling out the form it was clear that we were both pretty bored since it was taking quite a while for the line to advance. So I made a comment about how nice the weather was and this opened the door for us to start having little bit more of a serious conversation now want to stress that this man struck me as very intelligent, quite sharp, professional, and respectful to me. He was also quite inquisitive about my opinions and seemed to genuinely want to understand my point of view. He listened everything I had to say, and seemed to want to absorb and understand it.

This is how I remember the conversation going:

Voter: Never in all my years have I seen this kind of turnout for voting, it's really quite amazing.

Me: Well I think, whatever side you come down on, people understand that there's a lot at stake. They're excited, and they want to do what they think is best for the country.

Voter: There is a lot at stake.

Me: I think the thing to remember is that when this is over...

Voter: That we all come together...

Me: Yes, no one wants to ruin this country. Both of these candidates have very similar goals.

Voter: Well, me tell you that I've just come back from France, and I got a firsthand look at what a socialist government is like and what it can do to its people. Firstly, the French people are very nice and very accommodating. Whatever you've heard about them being rude to Americans is untrue. But socialism was ingrained in everything that they did there seem to be a sense that the government would take care of everything for you. (He gave an example involving travel and the increased costs of ticket prices due to government involvement in infrastructure and how the population simply accepted it without question but frankly I had a little bit of difficulty following his logic)

Me: Well, I can understand why you would want to guard against us going that far in our government, but they have a long history and tradition of embracing socialism. We on the other hand are almost the opposite. We can't hardly stand the thought of using socialism as a tool. I don't think if you took the most liberal of us --- people raised in America -- and put them in control of the government that they could affect the kind of changes that would lead us to a system like France has an eight or even 16 years it's just not ingrained in us.

Voter: Maybe you're right. The people who came here originally were attempting to escape persecution and practice their religion freely. And then the push west and the freedom that that allowed people seems to create a permanent spirit of individuality not wanting to be under the thumb of an overbearing government. (I'm beginning to paraphrase here because the conversation is starting to fade in my memory. I don't think he was quite that eloquent but I understood his meaning)

Me: Yes, so given 100 years even, I don't believe that our government could be driven in a direction that would put it in the same league with the most socialist democracies going today. That would be a major shift for us and I just don't think it's possible.

Voter: Interesting viewpoint, and yet it seems like such a danger, like it's lurking, on the verge of destroying everything we have worked for.

Me: Well do you think that's a product of the Cold War? For so long we've been afraid of anything that resembled communism or an attempt at communism that even using modest socialist leaning programs becomes extremely offensive to us. The fact of matter is, that we already are...

Voter: We are?

Me: the "S" word

Voter: the "S" word?

Me: Socialist.

Voter: Oh, yes yes, of course! Since the 30s.

Me: We don't like to think about it. We certainly don't like to talk about. It's sort of like the Fonz on the TV show happy days we could never say the words "I'm wrong". (I do the impersonation stammering on the W. sound)

Voter: (laughs)

Me: But you know, some of the things that have made this country great and powerful are really socialist programs. Like for example public education, where would we be without public education?

Voter: Well, I would be uneducated.

Me: Oh I would be too! I very seriously doubt that my family could have afforded any kind of education for me had it not been for public schools. I had very modest beginnings and want to see before you now is someone who's benefited from that opportunity. And I think that's what we are talking about, opportunity. I don't think that this country would have stayed in power as long as it has without an educated and technologically savvy workforce. The public school system for all its faults is one of the things that has made this country great. Just imagine. If we had not had it, and the larger portion of our population had remained only basically educated? I can't see that having any effect other than negative for our country. Especially with the way our economy is changed.

Voter: But you wanted to help yourself, you pulled yourself up?

Me: Sure but I was only able to do it partly because of the existence of a strong public education system. Its a combination of creating those kinds of opportunities for a large segment of our population AND the independent "American Spirit" that I think has made os great.

I think we have to be willing to embrace the social tools we are already using and maybe carefully explore others that make sense. I don't think that anyone has the power to convince us to turn an unreasonable amount of control over to the government though. I guess the sticking point is what each individual person considers unreasonable.

(A woman needs to get between us to enter the library we have a short funny conversation about her wanting to use the building for what it's intended use.) 

Voter: I'm not trying to bring race into this, (yet I sense he is about to) (he also tells me a story about his business partner and what a great guy he is, I assume the gentleman he is talking about is black and this is his "proof" that he is not a racist, but its kind of hard to understand because he has lowered his voice so much.) (I start to get uncomfortable but try not to show it.) but I've worked with FEMA and I can tell you that the people in New Orleans had plenty of warning to evacuate their homes. They were told repeatedly to leave and yet they stayed. It was if they thought the government would rescue them. And I can tell you that the people who left and the people that stayed split pretty much right down racial lines. I believe that we have set up a condition that makes lower income people rely too heavily on the government for assistance. (once again paraphrasing, I am trying to stick to what he said but this is the spirit of it. It was not cruel or angry. He seemed honestly concerned that socialist policies had lead to people to not taking responsibility for themselves. I hesitate to speak on matters of race as I am hardly an expert, but his lack of understanding of what challenges people face I thought needed some form of response.)

(So, at this point my respect for him drops by several points because I feel like he does not have a clear understanding of what motivates lower income people (regardless of race) but I try not to show disrespect for him so that possibly I can get through to him and perhaps be a Rosetta Stone to some small degree and give him a few points of reference that he can understand.)

Me: As a young man, I lived in a lot of those neighborhoods...

Voter: New Orleans?

Me: No, poor neighborhoods here and there. As I mentioned before, I don't have a lot of opportunity starting out. So as a young man I lived in some of the worst neighborhoods in cities that I lived in because that's where I could afford to live. I do pretty well now, I have a nice career, but I can tell you, I feel I had one advantage that the people around me may not have had. (I point to the back of my hand)

Voter: The pigment in your skin... (He is quick)

Me: Yeah, I feel many people made assumptions about me because I was white, and conversely I feel some people would make assumptions about those people living around me because they were not. Things are different now, I don't know how much different. But I hope they're significantly different. (He nods in agreement) But having lived in those neighborhoods I can tell you that when people in position of authority tell you what you should be doing, it may not always seem to be in your best interest. (We are nearing the end of the line and I don't think I could've timed this better if I tried)

Voter: What you mean?

Me: I understand why you might feel that lower income people have been conditioned to rely too heavily on the government. But honestly I don't see it that way. Mostly, the people in these neighborhoods that I lived in seem to be hard-working people who didn't have as much advantage. I mean, frankly that's why I was there. (The look on his face shows that this is an epiphany to him) I've never taken a dime of government assistance except for being on unemployment for a few weeks. But the reason I think many people in those neighborhoods are less likely to trust authority is that time and time again I saw the services that are taken for granted in nice neighborhoods completely under served to impoverished ones.

Voter: You think poor neighborhoods are treated differently?

Me: Well, I will just tell you about a personal experience and let you draw your own conclusion. I was trying to stop a robbery of my roommates car and I was shot in the leg. It took 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, and 35 minutes for the police to arrive. They took a statement and left. We had to call and ask for them to send someone out to investigate the crime and when the detective arrived next morning he literally looked into the vehicle and announced that there were no fingerprints and left again. It was very frustrating and actually kind of frightening to think that you were that exposed. 

Voter: that's terrible.

(I'm now at the head of the line and the person directing people where to go makes a joke about "no talking in line!" So we both make jokes about being in trouble and prepare for the serious task ahead)

Not wanting to be like France and not wanting the grubby poor people to get more than their fair share, I of course vote out of fear. Good thing I had that conversation with that guy! *wink*

As I left I saw him at his car and said "Have a good day sir!" He replied "You too! I enjoyed our talk!"

Now, up to the point where he started talking about the poor and making somewhat broad assumptions about race. I was quite impressed with the man. He was clearly raised to believe things quite different than what I believe, but to his credit he listen to what I had to say and seemed open to. I don't know, maybe he was just being pleasant to the crazy strange guy in line? Or maybe we've crossed some magic threshold where we can actually start talking to each other about things that in the past would have caused an instant and immediate shutdown of dialogue.

Maybe it's a new world.


Oh my... Look how much better this looks in my developing WordPress Blog format! Link

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ridley Scott to Make Film Based On "The Forever War"

Fox has acquired rights to Joe Haldeman's 1974 novel "The Forever War," and Ridley Scott is planning to make it into his first science fiction film since he delivered back-to-back classics with "Blade Runner" and "Alien."

Full Story At

I loved the book, I love the films of Ridley Scott, I have wanted him to return to science fiction for a long time.
I could not be happier.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I had to reconstitute myself at a subatomic level after an experiment! Arrrrrggggggg!

I would like to spend a moment today paying homage to someone who cracked me up mightily.

Another Doc no less! Evan "Doc" Shaner. He created this hilarious culture bomb you see to the right... visit his blog to get the story and a MUCH larger than thumbnail version. (Being respectful of other artists I am cautious not to step on someone's toes while trying to popularize and praise them)

"What if Charles Schulz created the Watchmen?"

According to his post, it has been brought to his attention that someone else had the same Idea back it the 80's. So I am on a quest to find that art as well... maybe I can also get a thumbnail still of the "Watchmen Babies" comic from the Simpsons. : )


Found it!

This was done by Jeff Parker sometime in the 80's

Here is Jeff Parkers take on Watchnuts from his blog...
Great Minds, Thinking Alike

Ahhh, what fun. : )

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Volkswagens, Cats & Chunky Peanut Butter

Recently I have felt like I may have come off like conspiracy theorist among a few people when it comes to personal privacy issues due to recent caution I have shown over using cloud based applications and because I railed against a Facebook app that asked "random" questions of my friends like:
1. Was I bisexual?
2. Was I an eggs and bacon guy rather than a cornflakes guy?
3. Would I travel outside the country to see a concert?

Wow... those are SOME questions...

You know that I am not trying to stay out of every database in the world... That would be pointless. if someone wanted to find out about me, it would take them about 5-10 min to get the meat and a couple of days to get a pretty detailed overview of who I am just from the breadcrumbs I have already left so far on the web.

I actually have been really public on the web for many years because I see it as a public place. I have assumed that anonymity would become an illusion at some point and I would not necessarily know when that happened so I treated it as if I was never anonymous. Instead I act on the web much like I would in any public area... in other words I try to be civil and respectful. *blink* wah! *blink* hehe

So, I just don't throw my information around frivolously. I don't see any reason to make compiling a "everything there is to know about Doc record" easier than it already is. heh. I hope I don't come off as a conspiracy theorist just because I advise caution and don't like to hand out my information it I don't have to. : )

Its just a personal thing... The spread of personal information really can't be stopped, only slowed somewhat. At some point we will have no privacy. To many people and companies want to know about us, they WILL find a way to entice us to give up the info. My question is, why give up the data to them willingly? Why give up data to just anyone that can profit from it? Its valuable! And we just give it away! Hell, at least we should be paid!

Let me introduce you to Steve Rambam, He is a private investigator who lectures on privacy, or the lack there of...
I haven't been able to watch all of the video on his lecture, but check out this section and how Volkswagen was able to determine that people who own cats and eat chunky peanut butter are more likely to buy a Bug...

Jump to 2:30 to hear about dipping your cat in peanut butter...

So... wanna know the funny part? my wife has always wanted a bug, I don't care for them... and we have to by 2 jars of peanut butter at the store. Guess which kind she likes and yes we have cats. : )

He starts to talk about "Roveology" when it cuts off (watch all of these videos if you really want to be freaked out) in honor of that here is a bit of video that shows the roots of evil! Jump to 3:50 if you are in a hurry. heh.

Notice how they talk about sending mail to people who order steaks looking for donations? Thats pure Rove it seems. Even back then... wow.

Actually watch this part also...

Ah, dangit... I still sound like a wacko... but really I swear I'm not, I'm just more careful than most people these days and man, that is not hard. : )