Archive for December, 2008

A two-party system, for now and for always?

December 22, 2008

Snowstorm ’08 has made this a rather slow week for me, with a lot of time spent indoors by myself.  It has been good in that it has given me plenty of time to read, watch movies, study MCATs (although I haven’t actually done any studying, I have had the time to do it if’n I were so inclined), and to contemplate the workings of the world.  Some of the main themes that I have been musing about this past weekend include multiple universes, time travel, heavy cream vs. whole milk (and how that could be responsible for my failed sunchoke gratin experiment), and the incoming presidency of Barack Obama to name a few.  

I know that in the blogging world news is supposed to travel faster than light, but this morning I got to  thinking about some older news from earlier this month. On December 2nd, the Georgian Republican incumbent, Saxby Chambliss, defeated Democrat Jim Martin in a run-off, thus quelling Democratic hopes for a 60-40 filibuster-proof senate.  This was really no surprise with Martin no longer having the Obama-factor bringing black Democrats to the polls as in the general election, but many Democrats were disappointed nonetheless.  While I consider myself a staunch liberal, I was relieved to see that a Martin victory (and potential Franken win in Minnesota) wouldn’t deliver the entire Federal Government into Democratic hands.  

Chambliss’s victory was important in preventing too much power from falling into the control of a single group of individuals.  While I find it amazing that we still rely on a 221 year old document and 25 subsequent amendments (not counting 18th and 21st since they just cancel each other out) for the basis of our law and governance, I do definitely respect the Founding Fathers’ idea of checks and balances to divide power between the three main bodies of the Federal Government.  Along similar lines, it is necessary that no particular party gains too much power.  The United States is an incredibly diverse nation and it is important that our leadership in someway represents that diversity.  

A disconcerting trend that has been occurring as of late is the disappearance of third-party politics in the US at a federal level.  Ralph Nader went from receiving almost 3% of the vote in 2000 and possibly costing Gore the election to a paltry amount in 2008 (approx. 700,000 out of over 130 million total votes cast).  Ross Perot got about 19% of the vote in ’92 as an Independent, but still was not awarded a single electoral vote.  In fact, the last time a third-party candidate received any electoral votes was George Wallace  from the “American Independent” party in 1968 (as Lynard Skynard did sing, “in Birmingham they love their governor”) and 1848 (Zachary Taylor-Whig) was the last time someone other than a Democrat or Republican was elected president.  That is not to say that the parties and the people they represent haven’t changed in the past 160 years, as recently as 1976 the Democrats were very much a Southern party, but rather it is discouraging that at any one time there are only two possible political ideologies that you can subscribe to (or just decide that you don’t care either way).  I don’t think that Nader, Bod Barr (Libertarian), Cynthia McKinney (Green Party candidate in 2008), or anyone else was a stronger candidate than Barack Obama this year, but it is nice for the people to have more options to choose from.

I am not completely writing off the two-party system as being evil, I just find it surprising that it has been as enduring as it is.  This past year has seen an attempted minority coup in Canada, a third Prime Minister in as many years in Japan, and no less than five acting PMs in Thailand as it has transitioned from military rule back to civilian leadership; “democratic” elections in Africa has been even more of a mess this year with turmoil at the polls in South Africa, Kenya, and especially Zimbabwe.  Other countries tend to see new leadership fairly often, whereas in the US whenever we get bored of one party, we simply switch back to the other one.  That is probably due in large part to our enormous wealth and resources: while we are a nation of haves and have-nots, the have-nots have enough to get by.  

I for one am very excited to see how the Democratic Obama administration handles the tough challenges ahead.  Should they fail to ease problems for the average American, we can probably expect a change in leadership in 2012, but you can guarantee it will be to Republican candidate (be it Bobby Jindal, Charlie Crist, Mitt Romney, or other) as opposed to a truly new way of thinking.  We are currently locked into a two-party system and I don’t see a change on the horizon.

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Secretive dance moves

December 18, 2008

Most people don’t really know what I do at work, but the gist of it is that I have to keep track of what genes my labs’ thousands of mice have.  This involves an exciting process know as “genotyping” in which I must perform the same tasks that I do every single day…needless to say, it gets pretty boring, so I spend a lot of my time listening to my ipod so that I don’t go completely insane.  I definitely love to dance to the music that I am list’ning to, but I often find that hard in my work environment.  So…I have begun to work on a number of dance moves than I can hide from my coworkers!  Here are my  top five favorite (in no particular order…).

1. The “This Tabletop is soooooo smooth!” To perform, hold out one hand, parallel to the floor.  Pivot this hand about the elby-bone back and forth or simply pretend  to be comforting a beached whale that there is no hope of saving.  This one is super easy to cover up, just pretend that you are deciding between one important choice or the other…

2. The Spread the Butter Similar to the dance move above, just weave your hand back and forth and flip your palm from from up to face down.  Optional Enhancement!!!!! The Spread the “I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter!” – If you have long, Fabio-esque hair, you can improve this dance by waving your hair back and forth in time with your hand!

3. The Broken Kickstand Walk towards somebody in a straight line, then STOP!  Kick your left leg in towards your body while sticking your right hand out parallel (away from body), egyptian style.  To complete the look, put a “whoops, I done made a dumb mistake” look on your face.  This dance move originated completely organically when I accidentally dropped a genotyping buffer on the floor and tried to fix it right away…

4. The Seated Popcorn Popper Stick out your two two fists equilateral from your body.  Begin to shake your fists, head, body, etc. in tune with the music that you are listening to.  WARNING-DO NOT TRY THIS STANDING UP!  EVERYONE WILL KNOW YOU ARE ACTUALLY DANCING!  If done correctly, you can just excuse this dance as shaking off some stress.

5. The Spin and THEN Snap Very self explanatory, but be careful when you use this.  Only do it if you truly have to get out some dance fever and not too many people are watching!

BONUS DANCE MOVE!!!!!!!!!!

The Chinese Ultra-centrifuge 1,2 boogie I can’t claim credit for this one, my co-worker Li always does this dance while waiting for her experiments to finish.  Simply place your hands equidistant apart on a large rectangular object and then bounce your feet apart left to right (or front to back, in time with music).  At my work I can just say I am imitating Li, you have to come up with your own excuse.

My Favorite Songs of 2008

December 17, 2008

My favorite songs are even more ephemeral than what albums I am listening to, so I decided to choose the 10 songs that held the most significance for me this past year.

1. Hot Chip “Ready for the Floor” – No song got me ready to party more than this one in 2008, so just “do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it now!”

2. MGMT “Kids” – I probably ran about 25-30 miles to this song alone during the past year.

3. Hercules and Love Affair “Blind” – My favorite dance song of the year.  I really wish that Mark and I had gone to their concert when we were in Berlin at the same time as them.

4. The Helio Sequence “Hallelujah” – Perfect pace for pounding out the miles on a long run.

5. Cut Copy “Far Away” – I have a good memory of dancing to this one on the bouncy floor at Neumo’s.

6. Bon Iver “Skinny Love” – A nice and pleasant song to listen to.

7. Ratatat “Mi Viejo” – The most memorable song I saw live all year; I love the drums!

8. Fleet Foxes “Blue Ridge Mountains” – My favorite song of my favorite album, plus I did run a lot to this song.

9. Sun Kil Moon “Tonight in Bilbao” – This whole album is great to listen to while walking around Seattle on brisk fall mornings, but this particular song also reminds me of traveling around Europe last summer so it gets the nod.

10. Gang Gang Dance “House Jam” – Totally a product of the moment, but I can’t get enough of this baby right now!

My Favorite Albums of 2008

December 17, 2008

The music that I listen to seems to change every week, but these are the albums that I have most taken to over the past year.

1. Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes – Whenever I’ve needed to relax, this album has been there for me.  

2. TV on the Radio Dear Science – I’d never bought into the hype about TV on the Radio until now.  The lyrics can be a bitter of a downer, but the beats are too catchy not to dance to.  Finger lickin’ good!

3. Cut Copy In Ghost Colors – Cut Copy and Hot Chip completely dominated my ipod for the first six months of 2008, and the party I was at this past weekend proved that I still love dancing to these guys.

4. Hot Chip Made in the Dark – Best concert I have been to outside of Daft Punk, so they’ve got to be up here.

5. The Helio Sequence Keep Your Eyes Ahead – Just a beautiful album, a significant improvement upon their previous music.

6. Santogold Santogold – At first I thought she was just a M.I.A. clone, but she does actually demonstrate a lot of diversity on her first album.

7. M83 Saturdays=Youth – I love the 80s sound!  It always reminds me of Donnie Darko.

8. Ratatat LP3 – Great music for MCAT studying.

9. Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend – You know, this album is really losing its luster for me, but it is too solid throughout not to include.

10. The Roots Rising Down – For the sake of diversity, this was my favorite rap album of 2008 (yes even more than Weezy, waaaaaaaaaaaay more than Weezy).

Entering the blogosphere

December 15, 2008

I have been wanting to start up a blog for quite a while now, but have avoided doing so because I didn’t think that I had much to say that people would be interested in reading.  Tonight however, after discussing the merits of blogging with me olde chum Amy, I  decided that I would take the plunge.  If people don’t want to read what I have to say, then they won’t read it-simple enough.  I don’t really know what my plan for this blog is yet (it came into being on a whim tonight as a result of insomnia), so it should be interesting to see how it evolves over time.  I think for now that I would like to use it as a vehicle for expressing my thoughts on events in the world, music I’m listening to, books and movies I like, etc.  

About the whole blog name…like I said, creating this blog was an impulse decision so I didn’t have a clever name picked out ahead of time.  I was scanning my apartment for some inspiration when my gaze fell upon a box of apples claiming to be “delicious and nutritious”, which seemed as good as any other name.  I am hoping that this blog will be both delicious (interesting, fun to read) and nutritious (informative, providing a new perspective for viewing the world) for the reader and for myself.