Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Maybe I Should Host a Call-In Radio Talk Show...Although From the Looks of It Only Family Would Call In

Well, at least it’s good to know that there are people out there reading what I wrote…even if it pisses them off. No, actually I had no intent to piss anyone off, but I did, and so it goes. That’s how opinions work. Some people agree. Some don’t. But gosh, isn’t the great thing about America the fact we’re all free to express them...and then be pissed off by the expression of others’. But while I do stand behind the general premise of what I wrote yesterday…that this proposed biotech lab is a good deal…a great deal…for Louisville, I do want to clear up a few points.

First, I also live in the neighborhood of biotech labs. In fact, I live in the neighborhood of the National Institute of Health…acres and acres of biotech labs. This isn’t a case of well as long as it’s in your neighborhood and not mine. Trust me, I’ve thought about the potential dangers. I’ve thought about the potential of terrorists targeting the nation’s central facility for the research of anything and everything health related. Hell, I leave for work every morning knowing my fiancĂ© is spending his entire day right in the middle of this complex. I’ve thought about contamination…I live with a kid who likes to tell me about how he had blood squirting all over him as he worked on some experiment. But the fact is, he’s safe. The lab’s safe. There aren’t any guarantees regardless and yes, we can do things to safeguard ourselves, but we can’t cower in a corner and quit progressing because of fear. Plus the work that these labs do is much too important to let fear close them. I know, and if you’re reading this blog, I know that you know far too many people who are suffering or have suffered from diseases for which there is currently no cure. I’d rather increase the riskiness of my life by .00001% or whatever in the hopes that their lives will be improved by much more than that.

Secondly, I did not intend for my comments on UL to reflect what I thought about the intelligence or ability of anyone who holds a degree from there. The truth is that the state of Kentucky does not have the type of flagship university it deserves. I would argue that UL has the potential to be that school more than UK does, but I don’t think it currently is. It is no UNC, UVA, UC Berkeley, all also public universities. The University of Louisville has a number of excellent programs, top programs, but overall it ranks, as all rankings of universities will show, as a middle-tier school. The truth is, as I think all of us know, the education you get from any school completely depends on what you put into it. Hell, W went to Yale, a school which is undeniably one of the top schools in the country, but I definitely don’t think of him as a very smart guy, while there are a great many people who have graduated from UL, who I think are extremely intelligent people doing very important things. If you felt personally attacked by my comments on UL, I’m sorry, as that was not the intent at all. My dad went to UL. My brother wants to go there for his Master’s. I obviously respect them and think of them as intelligent. I just don’t think that UL, as an overall institution, has yet lived up to its potential, and I think it would be a shame to strip away an opportunity for it to grow in stature.

And a final point, I did not attribute the adjectives “absurd and ignorant” to the people attending the meeting but to the reasons given for opposition, as reported in the Courier-Journal. I find it encouraging that people make the effort to get informed about the events occurring in their lives. I find it disturbing that people refuse to actually listen to the facts but use their energy to fight a non-battle. Concerns about health and safety are more than justified, but the truth is (and no, not supplied by me or the NIH or Jeff (how he got in this I don’t know), but by an entire history of records on the safety of such government health labs) that these labs are overwhelmingly safe. While there have been terrible health disasters throughout the history of man, it’s important to compare apples to apples here. And no, I nor anyone else, can ever guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen, but no one can ever guarantee that the house you live in won’t burn down with you inside or the car you drive won’t crush you in a crash. We inform ourselves as best as we can, and then make a sound decision. UL isn’t trying to kill anyone. That won’t help their reputation for sure. They’ve done their research. They’ve now shared it with the public. And now we make our judgments. I judge for safe. You can judge it non-safe if you choose, but if so, I’d be interested to hear a pointed argument based on the specifics of this exact lab. Now if anyone wants to oppose it for reasons like property value or traffic or whatnot, they can do that too. They should just be upfront about that being their concern.

Well, that all didn’t come out quite the way I wanted it to, but I think I covered the gist of what I wanted to say. The truth is I want the biotech lab to come to Louisville, and I want it to come for selfish reasons. I want it to spur other biotech industry in the hopes that some of it will be related to the type of work that Jeff does, so one day I can move back home and he can find a job there. So yes, selfish, but at the same time not at all. After all, Luh-vul is the city where I want to live, and you stupid, stupid UL grads and supporters are the ones I want to live by. :-)

Anyhow, all I probably did is put a few more bees in a few more bonnets, but I hope not. My original intent was not to offend anyone, and that is still not my intent. In fact, I’m looking forward to seeing all of you soon and being back in Louisville. And as a final suggestion…why don’t some more of you write blogs. You obviously have plenty of interesting and intelligent things to say, and I’m always looking for a new distraction. Just a thought.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I just read an article in the Courier-Journal about how droves of people turned out yesterday to protest the proposed building of a biotech lab at Shelby Campus, and it really annoyed me. As I read it, it became clear that this was just another example of what is wrong with Louisville. Now anyone who knows me knows I love Louisville, but sometimes the people of Louisville really piss me off. I hear Louisvillians complain all the time about how either a) the city gets no respect or b) the city doesn’t provide the right kind of opportunities to lure people to the city. But when the city has a chance to change both of these, the people come out, act like idiots, and keep Louisville right where it is. If we want Louisville to grow and to grow in positive ways that allow the city to keep the identity we love, we have to be open to change. We don’t have to raze everything that has made the city what it is. We don’t have to give up our accents and start pronouncing Louisville with three syllables. We don’t have to be Indianapolis or Nashville or St. Louis. We just have to be Louisville, with its potential recognized.

A biotech lab built with funding by the NIH is big-time for Louisville. It’s national recognition that Louisville has the talent and ability to perform truly important research. It would make the University of Louisville, a so-so university at best, a notch closer to being the kind of university the city deserves. It would bring talented, intelligent people to the community…people who would fall in love with the city we have and perhaps help bring solutions to some of the problems we can’t seem to solve. It would serve as a lure to other businesses which can provide Louisville with the kinds of jobs that many of us who would rather live in Louisville are moving out of state to find.

The reasons that people offered as opposition to the proposed building were absurd and ignorant. The lab would pose no increased health risk or terrorism risk to the city. Labs of this caliber are incredibly safe and secure places. Our health is more likely to be endangered by the crash of a tractor-trailer carrying biohazardous material on I-65 or the air pollution caused by the zillions of cars clogging up our roads because our city has no real interest in high-quality public transportation. The people at this meeting were being sensationalist, with no true idea of what they were talking about. What they’re really afraid of is true change, and it’s a shame. Because Louisville has got to move forward. Staying in the same place at this point is the same as moving backward. If we keep saying no, opportunities are going to quit knocking. And not only will we not gain, but we’ll probably lose a lot of the positive we already have.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Gosh, I Think a Crab Would Look Great On That $46 Piece of Plastic

This Saturday, I got up early to take a little trip. Unfortunately, it wasn't to anywhere exciting, but to the MVA, otherwise known as the DMV. Apparently Maryland is a special place and feels that they need to change the name of their DMV to reflect that. But in reality, the MVA was no different than the DMV. Tons of people sat in molded plastic chairs waiting for their number to flash on the screen overhead so that they could go talk to someone who was either grumpy, inarticulate, or unfamiliar with the English language. My number was 82. I think they were in the 60s when I got there. I didn't think it would take all that long since there were about 15 open stations, but of course, it still took an hour. And then when I finally got up there and was one step from being finished with the whole tedious process, the computers froze. Just my luck. So I got to sit there and sit there and sit there until they came back on. Fortunately, they did come back on and I was able to walk out of the MVA $46 poorer, but with a new driver's license. That's right...$46. It's a freaking piece of plastic folks. That's more than a parking violation costs. That's absurd. And not only is it just a piece of plastic, it's about the ugliest piece of plastic I've ever seen. Not only is there one big horrible picture of me on it, but a little fuzzy copy of this same horrible picture in the corner. And my scribbly signature (who ever thought signing on a screen was a good idea?) is also on there twice, along with my birthdate. Apparently people in Maryland are retarded and need to see everything twice before it makes sense to them. Actually, the stupid factor is confirmed by the picture chosen for the license. It's a crab. A creepy, crawly crab smack in the top right corner of my license. Come on, people. A crab. That's a good one. I mean, I used to think the Kentucky license was ugly, but at least it was interesting. This one is just flat out ugly. No redeeming qualities at all.

So yes, I came home from the MVA a little bit grumpy. I'd had to get up early on a Saturday just to wait around forever before forking over $46 (Mind you, $46 is a significant chunk of my monthly income) for an ugly piece of plastic. Buty it just wasn't all those little inconveniences that made me grumpy, but the fact that I had to turn over my Kentucky license for a Maryland one. It was as if the MVA man threw a little part of me away when he shoved my Kentucky license through the tiny slot of the locked drawer through which nothing can ever be recovered. Sure, I do live in Maryland now and will probably for a few more years, but I don't feel any connection with this place. The only parts of the state I've ever been to are Baltimore and the DC metropolitan area. I have no idea who the governor is. I don't know the state motto or song, and I can't figure out why their state flag looks like it should be waved at a Nascar race. I have no connection to this place, and I don't really have a desire to establish one. I don't feel like anything that happens here actually affects me. Maybe that will change with time. I don't know. But for now, all I know is that there's an imposter in my wallet. It's an ugly little piece of plastic (with a crab on it!) that says I'm from Maryland when I know darn well that I am and always will be from Kentucky.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

It's Not Charlie Brown's Tree

Today Jeff and I went and got our Christmas tree. We went to a farm and wandered through rows and rows of trees, examining the trees from all angles, discarding trees that from far away looked perfect but which exhibited flaws like bare spots and odd growth patterns upon closer inspection, and debating the merits of the five or six different types of trees growing on the farm. Jeff originally wanted a small tree. He thought that we didn't have enough stuff to decorate a big tree with and that we didn't have enough space for a big one. I let him think that I agreed with that theory, but I was after a big one all along. I mean, who wants a Charlie Brown tree?

It's been well over a decade since I last went Christmas tree shopping. Heck it might be closer to a decade and a half. I'm not sure. Mom, when was that? As a small child, my family always travelled down to the Hay Market to pick out a tree. I remember wandering through the aisles with each of us picking out our favorites. I remember always picking out a tree that was much too big for our house as my favorite. I didn't have much of a sense of proportion then. I still don't really. But mostly what I remember is the smell. The wonderful undeniably Christmas-y smell of fresh pine trees. That's what I missed most when we switched to fake Christmas trees. When it was determined that it was the tree which was leading to all of my brother's holiday illnesses, we had to switch. I wasn't very happy about that, but it wasn't my decision. Since then, I've come to peace with it. Hey, it's a lot less messy. (Until today, I had forgotten how many needles live trees like to leave on the floor.) But I must say that I've already forgiven the tree for its mess, because it looks beautiful and smells divine.

So as I'm sure you all guessed, I got the tree I wanted. It's a white pine that touches the ceiling and has a hearty diameter to go with it. We bought lights yesterday (multi-colored ones, because I like they way they look when you squinch up your eyes and stare at it and can see nothing but light), and we stocked up on some ornaments today (to go with the ones that Jeff claimed from his mom while we were in Seattle for Thanksgiving and the ones I will be claiming at home over Christmas). And we have a gorgeous tree skirt that my mom made for me, which looks very much like the one we have at home and makes the tree look and feel just right. So this evening we combined the tree, the lights, the ornaments, and the skirt to make a masterpiece in the corner of our living room. A few other Christmas decorations throughout the house give the place a nice holiday feel.

Hope everyone else is starting to get into the season too. It's hard not to enjoy it. And if you find yourself not feeling quite as jolly as you should be, go into the room with your Christmas tree, turn out the lights, and squinch up your eyes. If you don't feel Christmas-y then, than you're just one big Scrooge.