Free-Floating Hostility

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


In Which FFH Saves Democracy

"So who do you think the Republican plants were?" the middle-aged white lady asked her friend as they got into our elevator Saturday afternoon. We were leaving a building in Downtown Madison that appeared to house the local offices of every progressive organization in the world. We attended Election Protection training session for volunteer poll watchers in a conference room across from the National Organization for Women's door.

"Maybe it's him," said her friend, another white empty-nester ex-soccer mom, and pointed at me. "He did say he was a recovering journalist."

I just laughed. It's an amusing idea that the Republican Party would have somehow infiltrated a gathering of 15 people in Madison to listen as Stacy, one of those dreaded community organizers, went through a PowerPoint presentation on how to stand in one place for 7-14 hours and write things down. I used to do that full time, although there were usually people bringing food around while I was doing it. I doubt that will be the case on November 4, although we can always hope.

For us, saving democracy involved kosher doughnuts and environmentally friendly coffee cups. The job of an election observer is to observe. We'll stand in a designated area and write down everything that happens in case lawyers need it later. And if we see something exceptionally bad, we can call the lawyers (referred to as "briefcases") straight away. Wisconsin voting law is actually really inclusive and the city of Madison has printed one ballot for every voting-age resident, which is unheard of. In Madison, the fear is that GOP folks will talk students out of voting by convincing them they aren't really residents. In Milwaukee, the concern is more old-fashioned armed intimidation in minority neighborhoods. We're still waiting on our assignments.

The good news is we have an afternoon shift, which should keep me away from the exit polls for a few hours. Rereading my Election ramblings from 2004, that's probably best for everyone involved.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008


Sweet Merciful Crap

I'm a day late, but is this the most unlikely Op-Ed byline you have ever seen?

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Thursday, October 23, 2008


The Ultimate Vindication of the Process Story

Since everyone reads everything online now, you've probably seen this long NYT Magazine piece about the message confusion within the McCain Campaign. Given what I'm doing between 9 and 5 these days, I found it completely fascinating. I think it's actually a nice illustration of way insidery campaign stuff affects the impressions people get.

The what-if question I walked away from the article with was this, What if these guys had actually picked something and stuck with it? How different would the election be? Maybe McCain would still be in trouble. But I bet we wouldn't be talking about an erratic campaign that was sort of flailing around trying to figure things out. In the October 2004 Times story about the Bush campaign, Karl Rove said this: "We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality." This is the idea that just by saying something over and over again, you can make it true. But that's only the case sometimes.

You can say whatever you want, and the people that agree with you will agree with what you have said. It worked for Bush in 2004 because of the GOP turnout machine and his unquestioned strength with evangelicals. But when you're not talking to partisans, there has to be something in the message that jibes with pre-existing information for a message take hold. The 2004 electoral environment didn't exist anymore, but the McCain campaign continued to act as though it did. When you're trying to appeal to independents, you can't keep changing tactic every couple of weeks.

After spending six weeks successfully chipping away at Obama for not being "Ready to Lead," picking Sarah Palin as your Vice Presidential nominee creates cognitive dissonance for people not already in the tank for you or her. Then being unable to figure out what to do about the financial crisis reinforces that idea. Suddenly, you're a 26-year Washington veteran running against a guy who has been on the national stage for exactly just over four years, and he's the one people trust to lead.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


World Series Fever is Localized

From today's Detroit Free Press:
The Rays-Phillies World Series could be the lowest-rated in baseball's 105-year history, betonline.com is projecting. Lower than the Tigers-Cardinals in '34? Actually, betonline.com says the lowest TV ratings ever was the 10.1 drawn by the Tigers-Cardinals in '06. 2006, that is.
Well, the rest of the world can have their big ratings and famous teams. I'm excited for this World Series, and I'm not going to apologize for that. Tampa Bay is in the World Series. I watched the first game in Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays history. It was against Detroit and Justin Thompson started for the Tigers. He was supposed to be our next big thing on the mound. Then, not surprisingly, he wasn't. I remember being impressed at just how much of a shithole that stadium was. I couldn't believe baseball was so desperate for the expansion fees that they would even put a team in that building. Now the World Series is going to be there. How wonderful is that? I love it when things wind up in places they aren't supposed to be. It's like putting the Super Bowl in Jacksonville or Detroit. Or like when we lived in Southeastern New Mexico.

Other things I like about this World Series include
  • The Rays are favored only for the most deeply cynical reasons
  • I know a guy who used to work for the Rays organization, who promised me that the team was on the right track. So I really feel as though I was in on the ground floor with them.
  • Philly fans are sort of like the nuts at John McCain rallies. Give them a chance in the national spotlight and they're bound to do something terrible.
  • The the networks are so greedy that not only have they already pushed the starts back so late that kids on the West Coast will already be in bed, but they're willing to do it even further so they can pocket another check.
  • That's it my candidate buying that block of time.
  • That when it's over, either Tampa or Philadelphia will have won the World Series.
I made some other cases earlier, which are still operative as well.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at October 24, 2008 7:54 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I'm pretty sure I picked the Rays to win it in February. Well, maybe I did not pick them to win it all, just to root for.

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Monday, October 20, 2008


Little Red Songbook Volume II

As a sort of extension of birthday privileges, I finally received permission to screen The Pajama Game in our apartment yesterday. For the uninitiated, let me explain that it is a movie musical about unions, which I figure should represent the perfect intersection of Mike's and my interests. He objected to it on several levels, however. Though his eyes boggled, he claims the least of his objections is the lyric "I don't wanna talk small talk/I've got something better for your lips to do/and that takes no talk at all." He feels the problem is that the guy who saves the day in the end is management. I argued that a) the union wins the strike b) it's significant that the guy in question (Sid) has worked his way up off the floor so he's really representing both workers and management and c) this is a movie with Doris Day--were you really expecting that the big finale would be the triumph of socialism? Mike retorted that yes, he was. He then went on to elaborate his plans for a new musical called Karl!, the heart of which seems to be plans for a couplet that rhymes "bourgeois" with "je ne sais quoi." He says we have to watch Newsies now to make up for his disappointment. Since that will obviously not happen, we are soliciting suggestions for other musicals about labor relations.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Mike at October 21, 2008 5:06 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Here's my problem with the ending (Spoiler Alert).

    Sid finds out that the Sleeptite board authorized money for pay increases six months earlier. Old Man Hassler has been pocketing that money. It's 7.5 cents every hour (40 hours every week) for 26 weeks, Hassler has stolen $78 per worker. And in the final contract he gets to keep that money. Further, he only settles because Sid threatens to go to the board and expose him and he'll lose his job. The union claims victory even though the audience knows the union was powerless to force Old Man Hassler to settle or make its workers whole for six months of being ripped off.

    I like the representation of how the union creates camaraderie and encourages people to engage in their workplace. That part shows the best of the labor movement. But on the core economic issues, this union was fairly impotent.

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The Birthday Weekend Celebration

Trixie's first novel was published 30 years ago, but she had never been invited to give a reading in Madison until now. Saturday, which also happened to be Anna's birthday, she read here as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival. The reading involved her and a local woman with a long name reading from their books about daughters dealing with their mothers' illnesses. I have heard Trixie read before, but between readings I often forget how good she is. It was a great deal of fun and the crowd was wonderful as well. So that was a nice way to spend the Birthday weekend.

The Birthday festivities included two large cooking undertakings on my part, a dinner with the rest of the people in Anna's MSTP program (who don't fall into the category of medical students), and the procurement of curtains that have transformed the look of our townhouse.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008


Obama 2, McCain 0

I may be lousy at cold-calling undecided voters, but I'm certainly capable of voting early. Anna and I visited the City Clerk's office today and voted in the general election. Nothing funny happened, which is actually kind of a relief.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Distributing Clues to the Physicians of Tomorrow

So as long as I'm being incapacitated by the debate, I'll take a few minutes to tell y'all what I've been up to: arguing with medical students. Seriously, this takes up a lot of my time and mental energy. I've been in fight mode for months, ever since we moved to a purple state. Here are some of the, er, talking points I've been, er, talking about.
  • Childbirth involves pooping. I swear, no medical student with whom I have yet had this conversation knew this, except the one who has already given birth herself.
  • Once your patient is addicted to painkillers, please do not kid yourself that witholding the scrip he needs is going to get him off pills. It is going to send him out on the street to score. Get him into treatment if you can, but get off your high horse first.
  • Please be aware that weight loss is a no-win strategy for your obese patients. Even if you don't know that a target of BMI under 25 is both arbitrary and bullshit (which, to be fair, most med students seem to have grasped just fine without benefit of my conversation), under 5% of them will ever be able to maintain a "normal" BMI over any long term. So stop recommending snake oil and start looking into the evidence.
  • There is no board certification in an "Abortion Doctor" specialty. Primarily gynecologists and family practictioners provide abortions. Except, of course, primarily they don't, because they don't want to be shot.
  • You cannot be a competent physician and scared of bodies at the same time. Get over it, starting with being wo/man enough to use the communal shower at the gym.
  • Stop talking about the questions on the exam you just took. I don't know if the answer was glycogen synthase. You sound like you are decompensating.
  • As a student doctor you are held to a higher standard. Tough noogies. It is your responsibility to correct whatever deficiencies in your education have allowed you to reach this point in your career without realizing the following:
  1. Teenagers have sex.
  2. Teenagers have sexually transmitted diseases.
  3. Teenagers have babies.
  4. Many people have cancer and it's got nothing to do with you.
  5. No one cares how you feel about performing a digital rectal exam.
  6. Dressing up as a stripper pole for Halloween will make many of your colleagues uncomfortable.
  7. While "retarded" is in some contexts an appropriate description for some of your patients' symptoms, it is not an appropriate description of, say, NAFTA.
  8. Iran is not communist.
  9. McCain is not pro-choice, nor is he neutral on abortion.
  10. The following is not a valid critique of diversity: "The great thing about Wisconsin is that even though there aren't a lot of black people in some areas, people aren't mean about it."
  11. The following is not an intelligent critique of the election: "What worries me about Obama is that he's coming to power the same way Hitler did."
  12. Medical students are not better than other people. Some of them are worse.
Feels good to get off my chest how draining it is.

3 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger SPG at October 15, 2008 9:28 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Oh my. This was wonderful. Hooray for your return!

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at October 16, 2008 10:03 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • nice. happy blogging!

  •   Posted by Blogger Ada at January 16, 2009 9:03 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I'm so glad to read another blog! It's been a ridiculously long wait! I thought that those annoying premeds somehow went through a magical transformation (got a clue) once they got into medical school. Guess not. Keep fighting the good fight!

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Required Reading for All-White Candidates for Office

Y'all know I've been busy, so I haven't managed to fit blogging back into my new life. But I'm watching the last debate and am far too agitated to do any kind of work.

Thanks to some of my smart friends, I know about this, a blog post titled "How not to be Insane when Accused of Racism (a Guide for White People)." Wouldn't it be nice if Senator McCain gave this a read? If he copped a clue about his own privilege? Housing-related? Gender-related? Oh, gee, I dunno, whitenesss-related? How an educated man can reach this point in his career and truly believe that being "accused" of racism is equivalent to racism itself, is just, well, farcockt.

Miss y'all.

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In Which I Fail as a Political Operative

I'm not a reporter right now. But I'm not entirely comfortable being a partisan either. So it felt odd walking into the local Obama office and making phone calls today. And, honestly, it didn't go very well. I was OK at the part when I called and asked a question (who are you going to vote for?) But when it was time to try and persuade people, I was halting and found myself being asked questions that weren't on the script. That was frustrating. My overarching reason for supporting Obama is that I believe McCain will be a continuation of Bush's corporatist policies. Obama won't be so much. The problem is that it sounds kind of Communist, which isn't the best way to persuade undecideds in Wisconsin.

Mostly, I had not a lot of no answers. There were a few hang-ups and one long discussion with a guy who was pretty well-informed except he would get one or two key details wrong. And I couldn't shake him. He left the call undecided, waiting for tonight's debate. Also, I was the only person at my table and it seemed kind of lonely and unpleasant. Part of the reason I went was to meet some like-minded people. But maybe going in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday wasn't the best idea. My current plan is to go back at least one more time to try and do my part. Of course, Wisconsin isn't as swingy a state as it looked two weeks ago.

My current plans for Election Day are to act as an ACLU-trained Pollwatcher.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008


Palin 2012 And The Changing Vice Presidency

Andrew Sullivan linked to this story from the Times of London, a discussion of internal tensions within the McCain campaign right now. Sarah Palin -- parroting a widely held view in the batshit insane right-wing blogosphere -- wants to keep hitting Obama on his past associations. McCain and his closest aides, meanwhile, perhaps startled by the ugliness they've seen at their rallies in the past couple days now are thinking it might be better to lose with honor rather than go down the slash-and-burn road with no promise of success. That these tensions are appearing in print proves two things
  1. The internal fissures in the McCain Campaign are starting show. Leaks appear in creaky ships.
  2. Sarah Palin is reading the same polls at the rest of us. Instead of playing until the final whistle, she's already beginning her campaign for the 2012 nomination by distancing herself from McCain's flawed gameplan.
It was no secret that the holes in McCain's appeal were always going to make this an uphill battle for him. His three months of sustained character assassination on Obama in July and August were enough to cut Obama's polling lead nationally from 4 to about 1. McCain's only polling lead during the fall election cycle came following his convention. I believe this lead was the normal convention bounce amplified some by the return of the far-right conservatives that loved them some Sarah Palin. And it's clearly not over yet -- the difference in the way the polls look today compared to three weeks ago should tell us that. But Sullivan comes to the conclusion that, if things progress as they appear to be, will be part of the McCain campaign post-mortem. "You can ride this kind of tiger only so long before it eats you as well." Palin may have saved McCain in September, but she's not doing him any favors in October.

The belief here is that the moment she received the credit for fueling McCain's convention bounce, her interests diverged from McCain's. In the space of a week in St. Paul she became the leader of the social conservative wing of the Republican Party. But if McCain won, she would be Vice President. In 2012 or 2016, she wouldn't be able to run against Washington (part of her appeal) and she would be tied to the McCain record for better of for worse. Given the challenges of the next few years and the make-up of Congress, one wonders whether President McCain could really accomplish much worth building a campaign around. Much as Al Gore couldn't run far enough away from Clinton's blow jobs to win in the electoral college, Palin's job would be a lot more difficult. If McCain loses she goes back to Alaska with a national profile, a national base of support and the ability to raise massive sums of money. A couple of months at policy camp to make her more conversant in national issues and poof, she's ready for 2012 or 2016.

In the era of the permanent campaign, the vice presidency is now a lifetime achievement award rather than a mid-career move. First is the question of "Doing no harm to a ticket." Palin's selection started a frenzy of digging into her background. Given the proliferation of media and the ease of publishing one's thoughts (ahem) that's a lot of people asking questions. Her allies may claim that she was subjected to a level of scrutiny not given to Obama. This is bullshit. The problem is diffusion. Obama's scrutiny came over the course of this endless campaign. That's 19 months versus six weeks. Instead of things coming out gradually they came out all at once.

Further, nothing is less exciting than a known pick. If a Presidential candidate is relying on his or her Veep to create energy, he or she has massive problems. Joe Biden had been vetted by the media during his time in Washington and there were no surprises on the campaign trail. He was like Dick Cheney in that (and only that) regard. We had no way of really knowing (or maybe we did) just how crazy Cheney would turn out to be. Further, Cheney didn't want to be President. His entire agenda was predicated on being in power, so he did what he had to do to help Bush win. Incidentally, one could argue that this same reality helped doom the Kerry/Edwards ticket. So perhaps this is the one place where George W's fanatic demand for loyalty helped him. Obama's reasoning is different; I don't believe he's scared of smart people. But Biden will be 73 in 2016, which means he may not be spending the next eight years (knock wood) decorating the Oval Office in his head.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at October 15, 2008 12:24 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Glad to see Hostility back on the web.

    Instant polling analysis: Among white pure independents, 40% claim to be undecided and were almost certainly Bush voters. But Obama over the last cycle gained from 21 to 30%, and McCain fell from 37 to 28% (with undecided rate about the same, suggesting to me that some of the McCain supporters became undecided and some undecided decided).

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/108922/Candidate-Support-Political-Party-Ideology-Among-Whites.aspx

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Saturday, October 11, 2008


Upon further review

You know, maybe I'm gave John McCain a little too much credit.

I'm not sure the opposite of "Arab" is "decent man, family man."

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The Mother of All Friday Night News Dumps

Media relations professionals will tell you that Friday is designed to hide bombshells. Most reporters are trying to get out for the weekend and may have gone home, and Saturday news consumption is generally lighter than Sunday. So if you get something out on Friday, it goes in Saturday's paper and then can be referred to as "old news" on Sunday. So here's what we had last night.

John McCain in Not Acting Like a Total Asshole Shock



We found that Sarah Palin may or may not have violated any laws, but did act unethically (which may qualify her even futher to join John "Keating 5" McCain on the ticket)

I'm getting the same cringe when I see McCain that I got when I saw Kerry take three hours of his campaign in October to go hunting in Ohio. That was stupid pandering. This is something else. The video coming out of McCain rallies is generally pretty ugly (although what we're seeing does probably portray some selection bias). I'm happy that McCain undercut a week of really brutal personal attacks. But the fact that he was booed suggests that he's tapped into a really ugly vain of unhappiness that he really can't control. I hope it just stops at brutal language, although that's not necessarily the history we have in this country.

I empathize with those people a little bit. I remember wondering why Kerry and Gore weren't tough enough on Bush, as though if he just said the right thing it would convince everyone to vote the right way. But that's simply not the way it is.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008


Corporate Synergy Fail

I'm taking a Kaplan Class now to prepare for the GREs, which is probably worth a blog post at some point in the future. Today we had a Verbal lesson that included this suggestion for building vocabulary:
Get in the habit of reading well-written publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The New York Times.
No love for corporate parent The Washington Post?

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Hopping on the Bandwagon

With all that went on this summer, I can't say that I paid the sort of attention to baseball season that I usually do. So I don't remember if the Red Sox and Rays had their annual brawl in St. Petersberg. It seems like every August the Red Sox would travel to the Trop for a series that they probably felt was beneath them. Three games against nobody in the middle of the season. And then Pedro or someone would throw at some Rays player and the teams would duke it out on the field. And this happened EVERY year. It made sense on the Rays end. They started April in "play out the string" mode, so why not have a little fun along the way. Apparently, they did have a brawl this year too, although it was in Boston.

I'm rooting for Tampa this year, just for the sheer novelty. This is new for me. Usually I reflexively root against Florida teams. And this is a Florida team against a team I generally like. But the novelty of the Rays in the World Series is just too much not to hope for. That's really poor reasoning, I realize, so I won't try to justify this on those grounds. Instead, I'll make three Greater Good arguments and leave it at that.
  • We've done well with indoor World Series: Think of 1987 and 1991, which were both classics, decided in the ridiculous atmosphere of Metrodome. And in 1993 there was a Series ending home run by Joe Carter at what was then called Skydome. Probably there would be some ridiculous catwalk moment that would decide a game. It would be unbelieveable.
  • An All-Swing State Series? It would be fun watching John McCain and Barack Obama tie themselves in knots not taking sides in a Phillies-Rays Series. Also, maybe Pennsylvania's not a swing state anymore. Actually, this might be the ideal World Series generally. The team that best represents historical abject failure vs. the team that best represents near-term abject failure. A World Series sponsored by FailBlog.
  • How often do you get to see things you've never seen before? I saw Boston win the World Series last year and three years earlier. I know Sox fans feel as though they're making up for lost time, but the same team winning every year is boring. The Rays would be different.
So there you go. I realize it's basically an indefensible position. I'm going to go atone for it.

Update: I'm out of blogging practice and hit Save rather than Publish, hence the posting a day late.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008


You Forgot Poland

Remember when George W. Bush said this:



I do. One of the first posts on this blog was about a Website called Lie Girls (NSFW link). The website was a takeoff on the "Coalition of the Willing" from the early days of the Iraq War. The best line in the video is when someone walks into the room and says sexily, "You forgot Poland."

Well, now Poland's out.


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How to Fill a Fridge

When we moved from Davis to Berkeley, one of the things we thought we were giving up was the Saturday Farmers Market. The one in Davis, which was two blocks down C Street from our house, was always a bustling collection of farmers with fresh food, strollers and dogs. It was a local institution and always regarded lovingly. In Berkeley, instead of seeking out Farmers Markets, we had our vegetables delivered. We felt good about contributing to local agriculture.

One of the things we've been pleased to discover in Madison is the thriving Farmers' Market scene here in Madison. There's a massive one out on The Square (which is what they (we, maybe soon) call the area near the Capitol). This was surprising. I always thought of Wisconsin's main contribution to the nation's dinner table to be dairy products. And by the way, they hate California dairy products out here.

Closer to us on the West Side of Madison is a small farmers market in the mall parking lot. It's not big and dogs aren't allowed. But it's interesting how much of an effect it has on quality of life. We're still learning about the dynamics of Farmers Markets in places with a real winter. On Saturday, every booth was suggesting buying veggies and freezing them for the winter. The helpful people at the basil stand suggested we take five or six stalks so we could freeze it and have it during the winter. That suggests to me that they don't know that many people who go through basil the way we do. The outdoor market ends on Nov. 1. I heard there was an indoor market during the winter. I'm curious to see what grows out of frozen ground.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008


Newsflash: The Blog Lives Maybe

I finally wore a jacket to work yesterday morning.

After about 10 days of denial, I decided that I couldn't take the 15 yards between our front door and our car without the Google jacket I scored at Jeffy's wedding. It was at once a familiar and unfamiliar sensation. I told people when I interviewed for jobs around town that part of me was really looking forward to winter. I learned to drive in the snow and lived through 21 real winters in the Eastern United States before we set off for points west. Everyone scoffed at me, and I was informed that the farmer's almanac suggests that last year's "worst Wisconsin Winter in a century" was simply a warm-up act for this one. We'll see. I am excited for snow. I haven't woken up to a blanket of snow outside my door since Christmas Eve Day 2002. At least I think it was snow. It could, I suppose, have been an errant drug drop off (This was, after all, New Mexico). So the truth is I'm excited to see just how much of a wimp I have become.

I realize winter in Wisconsin isn't really news, or, for that matter, particularly that interesting. But walking into my office yesterday, I felt the strong urge to write about it. And I have been feeling the need to start writing for myself again for a while now. That's personal news, for which a personal blog is a perfect outlet.

So, this is to let you know that I intend to starting using this blog again. My sense is that the topics won't change much from the previous incarnation of that blog. Maybe more soccer and politics, but that's just judging from how I feel these days. Probably there will be plenty about us figuring out our new town. I don't know if Anna will have the time to blog, school keeps her pretty busy. But my guess is she'll make some appearances.

I kicked around the notion of starting a new site, but decided against that. I like the way this one reflects our life, if only to show that we didn't faithfully do this during the previous year. Plus, now that Twitter has caught on, this medium is sufficiently behind-the-times to feel worthwhile again.

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