Sunday, October 31, 2004

History, Don't Fail Me Now...

All signs are pointing to a Kerry win on Tuesday, according to some of the most pertinent historical statistics out there. For one, every time the Red Sox have been in the World Series during a presidential election year, the democratic nominee has won. Being that the Red Sox even managed to win this year, it seems that the odds should be even more in the favor of the Democrats. Additionally, the Redskins have been a consistent predictor of the presidential election. If they win their final home game before the election, the incumbent wins. If they lose, the challenger wins. Well today was that game, and the Redskins lost to the Packers, so it's looking good for Kerry. Please, history, don't fail this time.

Now for some random thoughts from the past week and half. Yes, I haven't been a great blogger lately.

--When I went through airport security in Louisville on the way back to DC last Tuesday, the guy at the metal detector looked at my boarding pass and commented, "Well that's different. You're the first Mary There I've ever had." I looked at him, and said, "It's Mary Theresa. They cut off the last two letters." Yeah, Mary There. Come on. I know people give their kids some strange names, but really, you actually thought that might be someone's name???

--I took the GRE this morning. Being an English major and planning to apply to History programs, I didn't really care so much for the Math section and did little to prepare for it. But lo and behold, guess which part I did the best on. Yeah, fortunately I did well on both parts, so it's not really a big deal, but it was a bit odd that I would score better on the math section. Not sure what that says. Maybe I should have stayed with science??

--I despise the fact that we just changed the clocks. The sun will now set before I even leave work. Ugh. That's disgusting. I hate winter. It makes me lazy and grumpy. I am convinced that I have SAD. I need to cut back the hours I work, so I get to spend some time in the sun each day. Think that will fly?

--Jeff and I finally have a couch. It is a big, red, beautiful, comfy couch. Seriously, it looks really nice in the room and is quite spacious. So feel free to visit now. We won't make you sleep on the floor.

--We have had no trick-or-treaters. It's sad. Living in a condo complex, I didn't really expect them to come in droves, but I thought we might have a few. But alas, no, all the candy is still sitting in a bowl by the door. Guess Jeff and I will just have to suck it up and eat it all. Man, life is hard.

--Wedding planning is hard. It makes my head hurt. There are way too many things to think about, and each thing has a million alternatives that have to be weighed. My dad said it would be okay with him if we just eloped. I think he was joking, but seriously it would be a whole lot easier. Just joking, I want the whole deal...I just wish it were easier to make happen.

Anyhow, Happy Halloween to one and all. Hope you got lots of treats and no tricks.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

It Might be Spotty...But I Like It That Way

The topic of memory has made frequent appearances in my life recently. First, Jeff and I rented and watched the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, which for those of you who don’t know is a film about a man’s attempt to erase a failed relationship from his mind using a scientific process that pinpoints the location of the memory in your brain and then deletes it. Then I went to a lecture yesterday here at the Holocaust Museum titled “The Ethics of Memory: “The Passion of the Christ” as a Case Study,” which addressed the problems with memory in relation to historical accuracy and the way we take upon memories of events that we were not first-hand witnesses of. And finally, I read an article last night in the Washington Post on a new pill that is being tested, which, if given to a person after a traumatic event, is supposed to remove the memory of that event. The preliminary research on that drug is actually going to be presented at the neuroscience conference in San Diego that Jeff is attending this coming weekend.

Memory is a particularly interesting topic to me. Without memory, so many things would lack meaning. First of all, who would we be if we had no memory of anything that had happened to us in the past? Almost every decision we make is based on the memory of another decision, action, or event. Without this memory, we would be a new person every day, and we would have to re-learn everything each day. We wouldn’t know what snow was. We wouldn’t know to look both ways before crossing the street. We wouldn’t be able to drive, to have relationships, to decide what it is we like to eat. Alzheimer’s gives us a small glimpse into what life without memory is like. For many people, Alzheimer’s is the scariest thing they can imagine happening to them. So why, I must ask, are people interested in drugs that can eliminate our memories?

Secondly, history would have no meaning without memory. It has been said that if no one remembers, it didn’t happen. Perhaps this is extreme, but it is, in many ways, true. History, as we know it, is only what we have taken the time and effort to remember and to record in some way so that others can “remember” it. Here at the Holocaust Museum, the exortation “Remember” is frequently heard. It is only by remembering that we have any chance of preventing the repetition of such an event. It is only be remembering that the event will still be real, will still have happened, after all those who lived through it are gone. Our world is ephemeral and things that are not remembered disappear. In the Jewish faith, the tradition of memory is one of the most important tenets of the faith. Every holy day is about remembering, and Jewish faith says that as long as one is remembered, one does not die. It’s a way of thinking that I like very much.

Yes, the world as we know it could not exist without memory, both individual and collective. Individual memory makes us each into people who bring unique and interesting ways of living to the world. Collective memory ties us together as people, as nations, as families. It is the root of all that we are and all that we believe. Certainly there are false memories. Certainly there are gaps in memory. And certainly there are memories many of us wish he didn’t have. But would you really want to play with your memories or let someone else? There are too many unknown side-effects, too many things that we may unintentionally lose in the process. We are who we are, not just because of the good things we remember, but also because of the bad things that we remember. We are studies in contrast. We know joy because we know sorrow. We know love because we know hate. We know gain because we know loss. Without one, it may very well be impossible to have the other. To lose the bad, might mean to lose the good. So I’ll take them both. I like my memories just the way they are.

Friday, October 15, 2004

From Today's Express

The Express is a daily newspaper that is published by the Washington Post and handed out for free at all Metro stops. It’s about 35 pages long, and contains just enough information for me to get through it all between the time I get on the metro at Grosvenor and transfer at Metro Center. It covers national, world, and local headline news, sports, entertainment, and classifieds. Today, there were two things that particularly caught my eye.

On page 10: Starbucks Plans To Extend Empire Into Small Towns – Java junkies often must journey more than two blocks to find a Starbucks, which the company sees as a problem, its chief executive told analysts Thursday. As a fix, Starbucks plans to more than triple the number of its world-wide outlets to 30,000, with half of those in the United States. It has 6,100 stores in the United States. Starbucks will focus its growth in American suburbs and small towns, with many of the new coffee shops being drive-thoughs.

Oh God, two blocks! Are you kidding me? People are currently expected to travel two entire blocks to get a $5 cup of coffee?!? Craziness. What is the world coming to? But thank God, things will be fixed soon. Now not only will there be a Starbucks across from a Starbucks, but also a Starbucks next to a Starbucks across from a Starbucks next to a Starbucks. Come on, people, why, why, why do you support this? Get off your butt and use your probably not exercised enough legs to go find a coffee shop with character, a hometown shop that needs your help to survive the onslaught of mega-chains.

Advertisement on page 25: I am opposed to same-sex marriages. To God, same-sex marriages are an abomination. Same-sex marriages will bring God’s wrath upon America, as He did on Sodom & Gomorrah (He dropped a fire bomb.) I favor the Marriage Amendment, one man, one woman. Rittenhouse for President. “”be RIGHT and write in RITTENHOUSE”.

This man apparently has a direct line to God. He knows exactly what God wants and will do. I need to look into getting one of those myself. And a fire bomb, huh. Wonder if he too thinks that 9/11 was brought about by homosexuality. Where in the hell do people get their crazy ideas? And why is it people like this who think they ought to run for president? Although I’m not a real fan of the two-party system, sometimes I’m thankful for it. If this guy had some kind of party, I know he wouldn’t get elected, but I’d sure he’d still get way more votes than I even want to imagine. Really, I think I’m better off not knowing how many crazies like him are out there.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Fall Weekend Fun

This past weekend was a perfect fall weekend. The leaves are starting to change in some places, and the air has that hint of fall in it, but the sun is still strong enough that it is warm on your face and arms. It was a perfect weekend for Cristina to visit, and for her, Tiffany, and I to get out and enjoy a bit of Washington.

Cristina, who I haven’t seen since we graduated, arrived Friday night. Despite terrible traffic (a DC constant), Jeff and I managed to pick her up on time. After dropping her stuff off at the condo and Cristina grabbing a sandwich for a late dinner, we headed out to COSI in Bethesda for dessert. Although we keep getting the same waitress there and she consistently sucks, I still like the place. I think I just like the s’mores…and the chocolate cake with raspberry sauce was pretty awesome too. We stayed there until close, and then headed home. Despite being tired, we stayed up chatting long after Jeff wished we’d head to bed. (He was sleeping in the living room where we were.) And then once we did go to bed, we stayed up even longer, giggling like little girls at a sleepover. Tiffany was ready to go bright and early the next morning, but Cristina and I were lazy bums and didn’t get moving until lunchtime. When we did finally get out of the house, we headed to Georgetown, where we had a delicious lunch at an Italian cafĂ© that almost seemed like it could have been in Europe. We then wandered around the packed streets, enjoying the weather and checking out a few stores. I did buy a corduroy blazer, which is very cute. Pooped out, we headed back to the condo where we rescued Jeff from all the football watching he’d been forced to do (poor kid). We finished off the evening at Rock Bottom, with food, drinks, and conversation.

Sunday, Tiffany headed over again, and we grabbed a soup and salad lunch at Le Madeline. The weather was so beautiful we ate our lunch outside. We then stopped in David’s Bridal, which was a highly unsuccessful trip. I didn’t find anything I even remotely liked, and although I was just looking to see what styles might look good, I never got to try anything on, because the service there was atrocious. So it goes. We rounded out the afternoon just hanging around and talking before taking Cristina to the airport so she could get back to her demanding med school life.

Jeff and I still had Monday off, so we took advantage by going to a local farm to pick pumpkins. The day was sunny with a bit of crispness in the air. With jeans and a jacket, I was perfectly comfortable. We walked out to the pumpkin patch and quickly spotted the perfect pumpkin. We snatched it up, but kept looking around to make sure we had the very best one. We did, but we also grabbed a littler one to complement it. Back at the little shop, we also grabbed three small gourds for decoration. After loading them in the car, Jeff had a caramel apple for a snack, and then we wandered down to the pond (where we saw a blue heron) and around the grounds. For $15.50, we got two pumpkins (a 19 lb one and a 6 lb one), three gourds, one caramel apple, one coke, and a perfectly lovely day. Not a bad deal at all. It was fun picking a pumpkin, and although I didn’t wear overalls, and I squatted next to my pumpkin instead of sitting on it while taking a photo, the day reminded me of the family trips we took when I was little to pick our Halloween pumpkins. There were a lot of families there too, many resembling what we must have looked like about 12-15 years ago. It’s nice to know that even when everything seems to change, there are still ways to make it all feel a little bit the same.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Notes on Monday Night Football

*It’s good to have friends. A friend from Rice, who is interning with the Ravens, gave Jeff and I free tickets to Monday night’s game against the Chiefs. Not only did we get front row seats in the club section, but we also got into the pre-game Backyard Bash where we received free food and drink courtesy of Ruth’s Chris. Pretty nice deal.

*It’s amazing how many “macho men” will don purple if it’s for football. Purple, a color most manly men tend to spurn, is worn proudly by tens of thousands of male Ravens fans. As long as it’s in jersey form, color is apparently not an issue. I wonder how pink would go over.

*Apparently Under Armor is based in Baltimore. Every time there was a break in the game (which there were a lot of thanks to TV timeouts), an Under Armor ad came up on the board. The guys behind us apparently were big Under Armor fans, because throughout the game, they never stopped yelling the slogan: “Who will protect this house? I will! I will!”

*I didn’t know that “I’m Proud to Be an American” had gained national anthem status, but apparently it has. When it was played over the stadium’s loudspeakers, everyone stood, removed their hats, and sang loudly. This was then followed by something I am told was the national anthem, but Dru Hill’s version of it did not resemble any song I had ever heard before.

*Who knew that pro football teams had marching bands? I sure didn’t, until the Ravens’ band took the field before the game. They were about as cool as the Rice MOB, which means they weren’t really very cool at all. Now band geekiness isn’t just reserved for high school and college, but can be carried on throughout your life.

*I’m surprised that I didn’t see one single Janet Jackson moment throughout the whole game. The Ravens’ cheerleaders must tape their boobs into their tops, because the tops are so tiny and the boobs so big that with all the bouncing around they do, it’s inevitable that they’re going to pop out.

*I like football the best when there are lots of long throws and runs. Both the Ravens and the Chiefs mainly played small ball on Monday, which isn’t nearly as exciting. The game was still fun, and the three and a half hours passed quickly (I never once checked to see what time it was), but the game would have been better with a few more long bombs.

*NFL games are a lot of fun. I’m glad I got to go and see all the craziness and excitement that is professional football. Everyone should check out the spectacle at least once.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Don't Forget About Poland

For me, that had to be the best moment of last night’s presidential debate. And it didn’t happen once, but twice. You’d think that Bush, even as dumb as he is, would have realized after saying it once that touting Poland as one of your biggest allies is just absurd. But no, he had to go and do it again, making a big point out of it. Poland, ah, yes, Poland. Big, bad Poland. Poland, the source of so many ‘dumb’ jokes, is now our right hand man. Gosh, I feel good. Now I’ve been to Poland (it’s the only country whose border I’ve ever crossed by foot), and I’d like to go back. I think it’s an interesting place that catches way too much grief. But I don’t think it’s any kind of world power (militarily, economically, culturally…the list goes on). It’s great that Poland is giving us some aid in Iraq, but let’s be honest. They aren’t a real partner. I took the liberty of looking up how many Polish casualties there have been in Iraq, and today’s report lists 9. We’ve had 1050+. (Britain has around 90.) It’s our war, and for the most part we’re fighting it alone. Bush can talk about his “Coalition of the Willing” all he wants, but I’m not buying it, and if you are, well then you’re just plain dumb.

Overall, I found the debate to be both interesting and revealing. I didn’t learn anything new, because I try to keep myself pretty well-informed, but I believe those who were undecided were able to see where each candidate stands, at least on foreign affairs (which right now seems to mean only the war on terror…but that’s for another time and place). Although I can’t claim to be an impartial observer, I must say that I think Kerry won that debate. While the Bush clan tried to say that Kerry flip-flopped throughout the debate, even the commentators pointed out that he took a stance and stayed with it. The Bush team wanted to say he said the war wasn’t a mistake, was a mistake, wasn’t a mistake, when in fact, what he consistently said was that the war wasn’t a mistake, but the way we went about the war was a mistake. That’s clearly two different things, and I think he’s right. Bush did his usual and kept repeating the same old lines that don’t really tell us anything. Pretty little one-liners for the non-thinking population. And most of them weren’t even that well delivered. There were numerous instances were Bush was left speechless or stumbling. And I didn’t think Bush did a very good job of adhering to the debate’s rules, always wanting a chance to rebut. But then again, Bush has always seemed to make up his own rules, so I can’t say I’m surprised.
Anyhow, I hope the debate convinced some of the undecided out there that Kerry is a better man for the job than Bush. I’m not going to say he’s the best. I don’t think he is. I think we can do better overall as a country. But at this point, we’ve got two choices, and my choice is Kerry.