Thursday, October 30, 2008

Of course I’m voting for Obama – 322.5

Actually, I already voted for him. We did our ballots Sunday night.

Yes, I did support Hilary in the primary, but Ralph Nader aside, there has in fact been a huge difference between the two candidates for this election and the past two, and voting for someone who is completely ideologically opposed to you because of sour grapes is idiotic. (And adding a woman to the other ticket is not really conciliatory based on what woman was added.)

Yes, there was a time when I seriously considered voting for McCain, many years ago, and he seemed like a completely different person. Rich Lowry of the National Review had an interesting piece yesterday on how McCain’s career has been built on being a gadfly, so when he would take principled stands on various areas in opposition to his party, it was more that he liked being the truth-teller, standing in opposition, than that he had a thorough understanding of the issue and strong beliefs. Looking over the past few years, it makes a lot of sense, and I think in times like these we are better off with a policy wonk who will think things out and strive for intelligent solutions, rather than a contrarian who will simply be looking for an argument.

I myself had expressed concerns about his lack of accomplishments and experiences, feeling it was a little arrogant of him to run so soon, but I understand the need to capitalize on the moment. Besides, apparently a lack of long-term experience makes you refreshingly untouched and uncorrupt, which can be wonderful if you are not an idiot (and he is not, but someone else inexperienced in the race is).

Speaking of Sarah Palin, I am amazed at how much I despise her. When she was first tapped I kind of thought it was a stroke of brilliance. After all, suddenly you have a woman on the ticket, and generally you need your running mate to be more extreme than you. From what I had known of Palin already, that was true, especially on the issues of abortion and oil drilling, and apparently guns as well.

This was August 29th, though, and so I really did not see much more of her before we left. I saw a few pictures, and read about her disdain for community organizers. The first time I ever heard her speak was watching the news in Australia. I knew that there had been a gaffe with someone asking about her reading habits, but what I saw was her response later, when she mentioned some interesting reading about Obama’s terrorist associations. The story itself is a pretty sleazy thing to bring up, because it is so immaterial and yet they link it with the T-word and so it is just the basest kind of demagoguery, and yet that wasn’t surprising. What else do they have really?

What was surprising was how poorly she speaks. There are all these long pauses between the words—I think she actually might be a worse speaker than Bush, and I wasn’t expecting that. Oh yeah, people who were upset about Clinton not getting the nomination should totally vote for McCain-Palin. They’re exactly alike. [end sarcasm]

Palin has irritated me still more by her claim of exoneration after the committee investigating “Troopergate”. We had just seen the story the previous day. The bipartisan committed concluded unanimously that there was a breach of ethics and abuse of power, and if Palin had just said that she was pleased to have been exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing that would be one thing, but she added “any hint of any kind of unethical activity there.” Huh? So, yeah, I basically hate her.

However, I do not wish to leave you with the impression that I am supporting Obama due to simple elimination of the most objectionable, and he happens to be the one left. I feel like he is intelligent and ethical, and although there is a huge mess to be resolved and I don’t have great hopes for any mere mortal, he is the best of the contenders.

For one thing, I appreciate the way he can listen intelligently. I had serious doubts about watching the last debate, because really, nothing was going to change my mind and so it seemed like it would just be a waste of time. However, it was interesting to watch them, and I was impressed with how he held himself. He listened to the points made by McCain, sometimes he made notes, and when he answered, he answered with confidence and intelligence. McCain seemed really squirmy, unable to respect an opinion other than his own, and honestly, I thought it was really dirty eight years ago when Bush was questioning his mental stability but now I kind of do.

In addition, I have gained a better sense of Obama’s ability to inspire. People all over the world are watching this election, and they are hoping for a change, where there is an America they can respect again. No one gave us grief for being American, but none of them like Bush. I asked one guide about that, and he said he never met anyone who admitted to voting for Bush. Maybe that’s true. If you are traveling the world and getting outside this ethnocentric mindset where of course we can invade Iraq if we want too, it gets kind of hard for you to support Bush.

Remember, we didn’t just take to Australians and New Zealanders. We talked to Belgians, Swiss, English, French, Shanghainese, Fijian, Scottish, and Italian. One of the Belgians had actually seen Obama in Germany, and said it was amazing. Seven years ago the United States suffered a terrible tragedy, but received an amazing outpouring of support from all over the world. Instead of building on that, our leaders have worked hard to alienate countries all over, and killed the memory of the time when we were an example. The world would like that time back, and it seems possible to them.

The world gets smaller all the time and it is an amazing thing, but it increases the need for us to get along, and that involves not being bullies. I think we have a clear choice.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Please do not vote for Matt Wingard – 322.5

Generally I would prefer to be about voting for one candidate instead of against another, but much of my voting life has been choosing between the lesser of two evils, and this candidate is truly the greater evil.

If you have been following the news at all, much has been made of him attacking his son with a screwdriver, and that is not my issue. No, I am not really comfortable with the idea of hitting a seven year old in the head with anything, but it was several years ago, and it is totally possible that he has taken the anger management classes, and gotten help, and should be able to move on with his life. You might be able to argue that you don’t get to have a political life if you do these things, at least not if people find out before you get elected, and I think that might have influenced the situation that made me mad.

Wingard, a republican, is running for a seat in House District 26. He also currently holds this seat, without having won it, managing it through sheer party politics and chicanery. Jerry Krummel, also a republican, had the job, but resigned to take another job with a few months left on his term. The policy is that a joint board of county commissioners will make a selection out of three filed candidates, and if there are not three candidates the governor will make an appointment. Clearly the purpose of that policy is that even if the voters do not get a say, there is a selection, and a good candidate can be chosen.

The county commissioners made this decision, because they had three candidates. The candidates were Matt Wingard, one of his campaign volunteers, and a college student that Wingard pays to post campaign signs. Both of them said they did not want the position, and endorsed Matt.

The county commissioners that voted for Matt were all republican as well. Of the democrats, two voted for the college kid, one abstained because he knew too much about Matt to be impartial, and one abstained because the entire thing was a joke. Under the circumstances I’m not sure what I would have done. I would have been angry at the manipulation, but did they have time to see it coming and rouse up some legitimate competition?

Regardless, two unequivocal supporters are not competition, and it should have gone to the governor. Since he is a democrat, I think that is one reason why they did it this way. Regardless of party, I think you could not appoint either Wingard or Adamson, because it is too much of an endorsement of either candidate for a contested seat. I think I would have gone for some respected retired community member—after all, it is only for a few months. This begs the question, why bother with the manipulation for only a few months, and I think it goes back to the child abuse.

When the story came out, there was a lot of inter-party conflict about whether Wingard should withdraw, because some people no longer felt like they could support him and a lot of people didn’t mind the conviction on its own, but had doubts about his ability to win. This was a concern because he was regarded as a rising star in the party and that he would be a key player in the future.

I think they found a brilliant way to get around that. A lot of people automatically vote for the incumbent, and with Wingard now in the election as the incumbent it defuses the stigma of the conviction. I say it’s brilliant, but it also involves a complete lack of integrity, utter disrespect for the voters (and their intelligence), and open contempt for the law by those who are entrusted with making and upholding the law.

In the interest of full disclosure, I went to school with Matt, and we hung out in the same group in junior high. In high school we went in separate directions, and I really have not been in touch with him. This is not a personal attack, although I will say that it did not surprise me at all that he was using manipulation to get ahead. He was already pretty good at manipulation at fourteen, so it makes sense that he has honed that particular skill, especially in politics.

On another level, it is personal in that if I had not recognized his name I would not have read the story, and been infuriated by it. I admit that, but also I have grown from that because I realize that I should have read it regardless. What happens with in-state politics is important, and affects everyone in state. Another article that disturbed me a while back was one showing the relationship between political contributions and getting your issues heard. Maybe we can only vote for one representative, but we can still keep track of the other district representatives and write letters or reprimands or have an impact in some way.

Regarding Jessica Adamson, she seems okay. She has an impressive list of endorsements, mainly based on her policies and experience. Wingard himself said this election is about transportation, and she definitely has more experience there. In addition, for those of you who might have qualms about voting for a democrat, she was a republican until recently, but switched because she felt the party had lost touch. That would be a discussion for another day.

One thing that impresses me a lot is that if you go to her web page, there is nothing about Matt. It is her biography and platform and endorsements. On Matt’s page, the first thing you see is a letter from his son’s mother condemning her, and complaining that she must have some reporter from the Oregonian in her pocket. It’s not like Willamette Week ignored the story.

Anyway, this is one that I hope you will consider and will forward to anyone in District 26. Wingard is poised to go far, and that will be dangerous. This can be nipped in the bud.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes – 324

I am now back at my own computer and desk. Actually, I’ve been back for just over a week now, but there was unpacking and laundry and phone calls and all the things that happen when you have been gone for a month.

I am now unemployed. My company denied me permission to go abroad for a month, as was their right. What bugged me was that after weeks of hearing “We’re still looking into it,” and “We’re waiting to hear back,” by the time I got a firm “no”, it was three days before I was leaving. Perhaps I should have assumed that it was going to go that way, and started looking for a job a few weeks before leaving. As it was, there was no point in starting to submit applications when I found out. It can take a company three days to call you, and I would not have been around to answer the phone.

A full break would have been one thing, but what they actually said, after thanking me for being so professional about leaving (trying to get as much work ahead done as possible, and documenting how to do the things I do), they said to keep in touch and reapply when I got back. So, that was one of the phone calls, and after beating around the bush a little they told me the position was filled. On one level it was a relief, because it was getting harder and harder to overlook certain corporate shortcomings, and I lost all respect for my manager, but I hate job hunting—and I haven’t really had to do any hard-core job searches for over ten years.

I hate that aspect of my current life, but I can’t regret the trip. There were so many wonderful experiences and memories, and so many wonderful people, and I feel really recharged. I didn’t even know that I needed recharging until I began to feel the difference.

I was able to do a fair amount of posts from the road, but never with photos and a lot of things were missed. I want to go back over those in greater detail, but I also have non-travel things I want to write about, so I have spun off a second blog. Sporktastic Travel can be viewed at I will start off going over all of the spots in Australia and New Zealand, and each post will have pictures. When I finish that, I will start reviewing Italy, which I have never written about despite going there twice. After that, well, I have never written about Hawaii, or Toronto or Disneyland. By then, we may be ready to go somewhere new. We’re looking at Scotland now, largely due to how charming and wonderful their men are. More details may come out about that.

This week’s sporkful ( will remain for everything else. Tomorrow it will start off with the election, and it will not be starting off with the presidential election. I have a local race I am very concerned about. Yes, it would have been good to post before people started getting their ballots.

I have half a mind to create a third blog to post the preparedness newsletters, but that might be overkill—or just time to bag it all and get my own URL. I have almost done that, actually. I have joined Facebook.

Initially I had a horror of social networking sites, because there just seemed to be so much stupidity associated with MySpace, and I did not want any part in that. It wasn’t just teens putting up skanky pictures, and meeting with predators, and harassing other kids, it was also the ranking of friends. Maria had a friend who had to be Number 1, and would punish infractions by lowering Maria’s ranking. She is approaching forty—leave junior high behind. Now!

Anyway, Maria left MySpace (and the “friendship”), and joined Facebook, and she kept finding all these people she hadn’t seen for ages, which I like, and you don’t rank your friends, and it is free. I had actually subscribed to Classmates, and it got me in touch with three people whose e-mail addresses I kept losing, so that was good, but why am I paying for it when there is a free one? Anyway, I joined two days ago.

One thing I have been wanting to do on the blog is have an area where I post the last movie watched and last book read, and I could never figure out how to do that. I am now adding those as notes to Facebook. I will periodically list what I am currently reading, what the last book was, and a short review of it.

I think the desire to do this comes from me missing my book club. We scattered to the four winds, and at some point after that I developed the urge to tell people about the books I read. Until I have a new job and schedule, I can’t really form a new one, so this will have to do for now. Maybe someone will read it and write to me, “Hey, that sounds interesting. Can I borrow it from you? And then maybe after I’ve finished we can discuss it?” It could happen.

If you are wondering, obviously the fact that I am job hunting means that I have not made it big as a screenwriter yet. However, I really only have one screenplay done, and it is not exactly in wide circulation. I still have hopes, but the industry average is that you will have written nine before you sell one. I have one that is about half done, and there is one that I sort of did as a script, but I wrote as a short story first. My goal is to concentrate on those two for now, since I have time. Anyway, it will be fun working on a vampire story this time of year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Beautiful South

The South Island has been gorgeous. We flew into Queenstown, and started out that night for Te Anau. This is the standard departure point for Milford Sound.

It is an amazingly scenic country. There are mountains and lakes and rivers everywhere. Also, there are fields of sheep everywhere. One nice thing about coming in the spring is that it is lambing season, and somehow I never get tires of seeing baby lambs bounding around and wagging their tails.

Milford Sound is about a two hour bus ride away from Te Anau. Our bus did not leave until 11, so we started with a little hike around lake Te Anau. One area has some birds that are being rehabilitated, and we were able to see the very endangered takahe. It looks a lot like the pukeko, but you see those everywhere, whereas the takahe population is down to less than 100. We were lucky. The birds have been there for a while, but they are usually hiding.

The bus trip was gorgeous. You have new growth, but still some of the old fall colors. Also, we ran into kea, a native parrot, at multiple locations, and they are a really fun bird. They have lots of personality. They are also thieves given an opportunity, so I would not recommend setting anything down around them.

The Sound itself was all fogged in, so we did not see very much. Still, I always like being on a boat. However, it is easy to get the impression that going there automatically means you will see dolphins, and that is not true. Our guide Chris says you have about a 1 in 4 chance, which is not horrible, but no guarantee. We only saw some seals and birds. No Fiordland Crested penguins either.

The next day we took off for Dunedin and the Otago peninsula. This might have been one of the best days of the trip. The area is beautiful, and in the course of our tour I think we covered the entire peninsula. We toured the grounds of Larnach Castle, went by the Royal Albatross colony, then to Sandfly Bay (named for the way the sand flies with the wind, not for the presence of sand flies), and we finished at Penguin Place, getting up close views of many Yellow-Eyed Penguins.

I should end up posting more about everything after I get back. We head home Tuesday. I want to include links and pictures. I have hundreds. I think I am actually going to set up a second blog that is just for travel, and leave this for everything else.

See you all soon.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Rotorua stinks (literally)

This does not mean that you should not come. There is cool stuff to see here, and other cool stuff nearby. However, the town's initial claim to fame is a number of hot springs, and there is just a constant scent of sulphur. When you go out for fresh air, it isn't. I don't know--I guess people in Albany get used to the paper mill. I seem to remember a similar place in California. If I remember correctly, it was near Mt. Shasta, but it was up away from everything.

Here the entire city is built around it, and it was the original tourist attraction in the area, going back as far as the 1860's. City residents and those within two miles radius can tap into the geothermal source for their heating, which is a huge cost savings. There are also a lot of spas built around it, but the pools must be redirected, because you cannot go in directly. The temperature of one pool is 140 degrees Celsius. They have lost a few people. They used to lose the occasional drunk, but they have since put up railings around each pool and spout. Also, there have been some suicides, and our tour guide stopped at least two tourists from going in, so I suppose there could have been tourists whom no one was there to stop. Grim.

So we stopped by the Waitomo Glowworm Caves on the way here yesterday, and today we have just come back from Hobbiton. Now we need to watch the movies again. We saw the party tree, both of Sam's houses, and Bag End. Do I sound like a geek now? Oh well. It was, and still is, a large working sheep farm, so they also did a shearing demonstration for us, and we got to bottle feed lambs. Adorable. They are so cute when they run. They haven't been docked yet, so they still have long tails and they wag them when they feed.

Tomorrow we have a kiwi encounter at Rainbow Springs Nature Park, where we will also see many other native birds and reptiles, as well as trout, and then we go to a Maori performance and feast at night. Then Thursday we take off for the South Island. This is Tuesday, so a week from tonight we will be back at home. Actually, the rain today has been a lot like home, so the transition may not be too harsh.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Bay of Islands

I am currently writing from an internet cafe in Auckland, New Zealand. We got here Friday, and the next day took an early morning coach tour to the Bay of Islands. It is a bit of a drive, but definitely something worth seeing. There are various cruises that you can try, and the one I ended up choosing was the Excitor Fast Boat Tour--a questionable decision.

Now, I like being on boats, including fast ones, and I like it when it gets kind of bumpy too. So when we were coming back from the Great Barrier Reef, and the boat was at a 45 degree angle the entire time, I loved it. When we were cruising around Eaglehawk Neck in Tasmania, it was cold and there was spray, and some choppiness, but I still loved it. Somehow, this one wasn't as good.

First off, they packed us all into these waterproof red pants and jackets. It really reduced mobility, and I was worried about roasting, but it wasn't too bad. Also, they put us in life jackets right away, whereas on the other tours those have been on the boat, but only put on in case of emergency. Maybe this should have been my clue that things were going to be different.

Anyway, it started out great. The Excitor is 60 feet long, but seems smaller, and is kind of set up like a speed boat but with more seating. We hit some bumps, but those were just part of the fun. Mainly, I was trying to keep my eye open for dolphins.

As we got further into the bay, it didn't get bumpier, but there started to be a lot more spray. It was very cold, and kind of lashed the cheeks. I was getting saltwater in my eyes and swallowing some, so that was irritating, and water was getting in around the cold weather gear and wetting my actual clothes.

We got to the hole in the rock, and we were able to go through (it is not guaranteed for safety reasons, as under the wrong conditions passage would be a great way to smash the boat), and that was pretty cool, and we got to see the other caves and Wahini Moana, natural rock formation that looks like a woman staring down into the sea. So things were looking up a bit, and then we started back, and it was really bad, with so much water that I could barely keep my eyes open.

Then we saw dolphins, and it was almost like all of the bad stuff melted away. They were so beautiful, and so much closer than when we were watching from the cliff on Kangaroo Island. It's funny, because no matter how much we have seen, every time we encounter another creature, we all go "Oh,"--even if it is the fiftieth koala. Our weak point is clear.

They bobbed up and down a bit around the boat, and finally dove away and we headed back.

We were in fact quite wet, and stayed that way for the entire ride back to Auckland. Tired, wet, and bedraggled, we did something we have never done before and ordered room service.

Would I recommend that cruise again? Er, I would at least look at the other boat options and maybe find something covered, but I totally have no regrets about going on that one, because we did see the dolphins. And we have seen the bay, as well as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, learning a bit more about Maori and New Zealand history. It hasn't been our best day perhaps, but it was still a good day.

Tomorrow we head to Rotorua.