Friday, May 12, 2006

Reunion Weekend, Recreating Yourself, and a 500 Credit Raffle

This weekend I am heading down to Philadelphia for my 20th High School Reunion from Germantown Friends School.  I only learned about it Sunday, which has made this week replete with hurried work in an attempt to be ready to go and spare time spent worrying over the upcoming event.  And now, approximately 1.5 hours from my departure, I’m taking a moment to focus on where I’m heading.

First off, I’m not sure I remember that much from High School. I was sent a list of the people that should be attending, and most of the faces came back as foggy images, but nothing concrete. And perhaps that is what makes me so nervous. I tend to get nervous of the unknown. Not only the unknown of whom my classmates were and are, but the unknown of what I was, and where it has led me to.

I know this sounds odd, but I think each of us has the opportunity to recreate ourselves just a bit when we relocate to an area where we know no one. I’m not talking about lying; I’m speaking of determining your role and your place in a new community by presenting yourself one way. If I had been the comedian at one location, I didn’t need to be that same person at the next spot, I could be more serious and introspective, as an example.

Except I’ve moved so many times it’s hard to remember the Scottage of old. I don’t remember what people thought of me, or how I was perceived. Who knows if their expectations will match up with the accomplishments I’ve actually made?  What will they see when they see me today? Will they focus on the single status, or on the independence? Will they notice the adventures or the inability to find a home?

And why should it matter to me?  That’s one I wish I had the answer to, believe me. But it does. Now about an hour from leaving, I can’t help but focus on me, and what they will see when they see me, hoping it’s the positives of 20 years apart.  I know I feel like I’ve done some great things, but for some reason the views of these strangers, these people I haven’t seen for 20 years, seems to make a difference to me.

I have neither the answers as to why it worries me nor to what difference it will make if they see me as a total failure. But I know that, as I prepare to leave, and to see these people who make up my far distant past, I am doing everything I can to make a good impression. As for why, your guess is as good as mine.

Perhaps you can tell me. Let me know what your experiences were regarding your reunions, or, if you haven’t had a reunion yet, what you would expect from one.  When I get back on Sunday, I’ll give credits to everyone who responds, and 500 credits to one responder.  And in the mean time, I guess you need to wish me luck on my reunion weekend!

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Posted by Scottage at 11:37 AM / | |  

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hybrid Bear Killed in Canada; Hunter Going to Hell

The Canadian Wildlife Service was so pleased to announce that a recently hunted bear is a crossbreed between a polar bear and a grizzly bear, a feat that has never been proved to have occurred in the wild before, though it had been forced in some zoos.  

So let me get this straight.  You have the Romeo and Juliet of bears here, one a polar, the other grizzly, a doomed love right from the start.  But you never give up; you strive for a life together, and from this great love comes one beautiful baby boy, your pride and joy, a medical marvel and a testament to the power of love.

And then WHAM!   A hunter blows the bear away. Kills him dead in his tracks, and then gets to look all proud standing over his dead body with a couple scientists because they proved that there is a hybrid bear in the world.  Guess what, jerks, there’s not a hybrid bear in the world, you just killed him!

Happy hunting, guys!  Any chance one of you is named Cheney?

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Posted by Scottage at 4:54 PM / | |  

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Get Over it Already! Stephen Colbert Still on Outs in Washington

A week and a half after the Correspondent’s Dinner during which Stephen Colbert roasted the president to his face; people in Washington seem to still hold a grudge. This time we’ve seen how C-Span feels about Colbert’s speech, as they ordered two internet video providers, You-Tube and I-FILM, to remove the video of the dinner.

Almost as shocking is the news that both sites agreed to take down the video, with the You-Tube spokeswoman saying that she thought that C-SPAN is publicly traded, and that since it is a private, non-profit organization, they have the right to pull the video. Still, the video was posted just after the dinner, and had approximately 3 million viewers in that time.

I must admit, I don’t see why C-SPAN would want the video pulled, and so I guess that really the president is still smarting over the speech, and demanded that agencies related to the government try to kill the videos out on the web.  But I have no proof of that.  All I know is that 11 days after Colbert’s speech at the Correspondent’s Dinner, it’s still a prime topic in many discussions.

Why has it lasted so long? Sure it was a great speech, and yes it took serious guts to say that speech with the President on the same podium, but to stay in the media’s eye for so long with so many issues taking place internationally?  Well, there’s an easy answer: because the Bush Administration isn’t letting it die.  

Sure, maybe they’re putting influence on others to stop this being seen, but that only adds fuel to the fire. Sorry, Pres, it was a good speech, and you got stung. It is time to pick yourself off the matt and stop dwelling on a speech that hit way too close to home for you.  There’s too much governing to do to focus on one time you came up short.

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Posted by Scottage at 11:37 AM / | |  

What It’s All About, oh, and Boston Legal and that Bird Flu Show

I decided to watch ABC’s latest disaster film, “Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America”, and I became thoroughly annoyed by it.  Most of the films that speak to the potential disasters faced by the world today are filled with messages about how we can avoid the disaster, and normally include some criticism of what we are our present readiness for the potential disaster.

And to me, this is what makes these films so worthwhile.  Like my blog, I think it’s important to communicate to people a variety of opinions, allowing for informed opinions on important issues.  And as such I see a value to disaster films that play that role.  On the contrary, disaster films that focus on real potential disasters and abandon these messages in favor of sensational deaths to me seem self-serving and disgusting.

Analyzing my Blog

This brought me towards some recent comments on my blog, indicating that I am strictly negative and offering nothing worthwhile to the blogosphere.  And while those opinions have predominantly come from people on the opposite side of the aisle from me, I respect their opinion, and give it the consideration and attention it is due.

Now I can’t say if what I write adds anything to the world, only those who read my writing can say that.  But I can say that while I notice my work sometimes being overly negative, I also feel that my goals are optimistic, that I believe that a better future can be achieved if we take some positive steps, and I want to challenge people to draw their own conclusions about the world so we can make those correct steps, and achieve a better world.

In actuality, I feel very hopeful, and think that we face so many issues today because we’re at an exciting point in our history. Now, you don’t need the theory I’m about to put forth to get the gist of the article, but I think it’s interesting, so if you have a moment, take a gander.

The Crossroads Theory – Read this Section only if You Have the Time

Basically, I have a theory, and perhaps it’s not original, but I believe that life is a path that we walk along.  The farther the path is straight, the more comfortable we get with the path, and the less stress and strife we face along the path. We could be walking through a thicket with poison barbs, and if that path has run through those barbs for a long time, we’ve probably learned how not to get nicked by now, and remain safe.

Many times on our journey we come across a path that veers off of the main path. Choose it or not, the potential for a new path creates new challenges, new decisions, and new events in our life that we have to confront in some manner.  Like in the Charles White picture, the best rewards are at the end of these paths that veer off the main road. But beware, not all veering paths end in a prize, and veering from the main path is a risk.

And sometimes we face a crossroads. The crossroads present the best potential outcomes, and the greatest possible risks. And note that the crossroads have rounded edges, not square ones, allowing that the challenges begin to occur well before we reach the crossroads, but as we are approaching it, as we start to see the potential decisions appearing over the horizons.

The World Today

This is where I see the world today.  We are close today, much closer then we’ve ever been, to reaching a world that can live in harmony.  I’m not speaking of a world where we don’t see differences between citizens; I’m speaking of a world where people everywhere are tolerant of the differences between the people, and thrive on those differences, respecting other cultures and yearning for knowledge of them.

I can’t say if close means a year away or a decade away or a century away, or if we’ll even overcome the hurdles that have been laid out by this particular crossroad. But I suspect we’ll overcome those hurdles, if we work together to understand and defeat them.  And that’s why I find it important to blog, to express my opinions, and hopefully help people critically analyze events and search for the right path.


So the moral of the story is that I do feel optimistic about the future of the world, but I feel we have challenges we must face and conquer to achieve this world. Some of the challenges deal with human interaction, and some of the challenges are in how humans interact with the earth and the environment. But if we overcome these hurdles and find the right path, I think that amazing things could be ahead for the world.  And I blog as my own little way of helping people use their own logic to find the right path.

I finish with a quote from Alan Shore (James Spader) on Boston Legal today that I thought was particularly poignant.

That’s what troubles me, this notion that we have to take sides in this country now; you’re either with us or against us, republican or democrat, red state or blue state.

No one looks at an issue and struggles over the right position to take any more, and yet our ability to reason is what makes us human.  Lately we seem so willing to forfeit that gift of reason in exchange for the good feeling of belonging to a group.  We all just take the position of our team. I’ve certainly done it and hated myself for it.

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Posted by Scottage at 2:36 AM / | |  

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Big Brother or Big Asset: Assessment of the Growing Intelligence Community in the United States

US News & World Report printed an article this week called Spies Among Us, a report on increasing surveillance in the US of ordinary citizens. And while the goal of the article is obviously to portray George Bush’s US government as invasive and much worse, it also serves to portray one area where the Bush government has been excellent – the creation of an intelligence network that can begin to address the growing threat of terrorism.

I know, I know, pick up your jaws I am indeed complementing President George W. Bush.  But in this case he deserves some praise.  The task at hand is monumental, and what’s more, there is no clear path to answering this threat, with even the best strategists only able to provide broad outlines of a plan, with no hope that their designs will effectively fight terror.  

But using a level of foresight I consider missing in many of this administration’s plans, Bush has moved forward on these broad outlines of a plan, and created the infrastructure for an intelligence network that can make US citizens much safer. And while many bloggers, including myself, speak of the atrocious legacy being left by Dubya, perhaps we also need to consider this issue and include it in his legacy, and give him some props.

The Threat and Chess

Many people have fallen into the trap of believing that the radical Muslims, who represent the largest threat of terror in the US, are unintelligent or not advanced in their methods of thinking. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  People in the Middle East are highly intelligent on all sides of the coin; it’s just that some Middle East citizens have different values than the West.

What’s more, most of the people I know from the Middle East are very strong in military strategy. Chess is a common pastime, and most of my games in the region were extremely difficult, as many of the players have a strong pen chance for attacking with multiple pieces from multiple directions at the same time. These same characteristics are evident in terrorism.

But as I would play certain people multiple times, I discovered another tactic that also presents itself in terrorism: constantly changing strategies.  Yes, the players were always aggressive, but rarely did they use the same openings in multiple games, reactions to similar situations would change from game to game, and their point of attack changed as well.  The same is true in the terrorism Israel faces, and is also true of the terrorism we fight today.

Fighting Terror

So how do you fight a threat that continuously changes its point of attack, its method of entry, and its target? You need the coordination of many intelligence agencies, and the sharing of data between these agencies allowing analysts to find patterns and prevent attacks before they occur.

In Israel, it’s all about that level of cooperation and communication. Police officers and military on the street are the eyes and ears of the intelligence community.  Over time they have learned what to look for, what is significant to terrorism, and what doesn’t merit consideration. These players report the information in, and analysts process it and distribute it for other information analysts who are looking for events that might fit together.

This must be the goal in the United States, though it’s much more complex in a country this large than in a country the size of Israel. How do you accomplish that here? With so many people, cities, government agencies, and so many law enforcement officials, how do you distribute information without invading people’s privacy? This is much tougher when you don’t know where terrorists will attack, or how.

3-Step Process

Well, to me it seems like it would be a 3-step process. The first step would be to build a massive intelligence infrastructure that could be accessed by law enforcement personnel but would be as secure as possible, which is certainly an issue today. The second step would be educating the law enforcement people on what to look for, and data that’s useful and what is intrusive and meaningless.  You finish with fine tuning the oversights that monitor this new intelligence community and protects our right to privacy.  

I agree with the article that there have been times already where the agency has overstepped its bounds, and I hate to see violations of our freedoms. And certainly specific guidelines of areas that need to be investigated, and prohibition of intrusive or non-terrorist related activities, are long overdue.  But these are questions of implementation and perhaps even abuse of power.

But as much as I may believe that Bush may abuse his power with this intelligence community, I must recognize that it provides the best possibility of defending this country against terror attacks, and is in my opinion the best initiative of the Bush administration.

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Posted by Scottage at 11:22 PM / | |