Friday, January 27, 2006

Getting my kicks - on Route 66

Who can say they've driven across the country?

Not from here to D.C., or here to New York, or here to Florida รข€“ but through the heart of America, the very belly of the beast, virtually coast to coast?

I hope to make the trek this summer on the Mother Road- Route 66.

Grandma first gave me the idea this past summer, when she told me about the many times she's had to drive from here to California and back (once all by herself) and what an experience it was. Chicago trip last April, I've felt the pull of non-Michigan states; wanderlust is catching, friends, and I've got it bad.

What better way to see the country than old 66, a non-defunct highway that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles over 2,500 miles of mostly two-lane roads through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico?

Even though Route 66 is not recognized as an"official" U.S. highway, there are still historical societies and towns along its route that keep the road alive.

While the government may have taken down the road signs, the locals have put up some of their own.

The details of the trip are still being formulated. I have a lot of research to do. For instance - what car do I take? I wouldn't trust my own Dynasty across the country. It's a good car, but not that good.

Also, this will be a long trip - will I have the time with my remaining vacation days? And then there's the route. There are maps and guides available, but my absent sense of direction (and a dash of Murphy's Law) says something will happen, somewhere along the way, and I'll get into a tight spot.

But those aren't barriers - merely obstacles to overcome and think about.

I'm thinking that maybe it would be smarter to rent a car for the trip, take my time traveling the Mother Road, and then high-tail it back to Michigan on an interstate freeway (40 or 80 come to mind).

As goes Route 66, so I go.

I have nothing (besides work) tying me down, I've always felt a strong passion to travel (I think I got that from my dad), and I'm sure it'll be an experience of a lifetime.

These are all obvious.

What's not as obvious are all the adventures, sights, and people I'll encounter along the way. That's the exciting part: not knowing what'll happen.

It could be an absolutely boring trip (thinking of driving across New Mexico and Arizona- not to mention Kansas - is not what I think of when I imagine "exciting"). But then it could alter my perception about the size of the country (the first thing gramma pointed out), the people that live along the way, and my own sense of self and place in the world.

I'd like to get my kicks, all right.

And I know just the road to help.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Elect Dave for County Commissioner?

So the process has begun. I've thought about - and been approached about - making a run for Jackson county commissioner.

I met Saturday with Judy Dupuis, a former city council member and local Democrat leader, as well as Travis Fojtasek, the president of Recycling Jackson and many other organizations around Jackson. It was just a lunch discussion - I had mentioned to Travis that someday I'd like to get involved in politics, and he was nice enough to set up a meeting.

Democrats in Michigan are working very hard to elect local Dems to county and city positions. Jackson is a Republican stronghold (the city touts itself as the "birthplace" of the party) and local elections are almost always gauranteed to go to a GOP candidate.

Maybe not for much longer, however.

I came into the lunch meeting pretty green. I don't know that much about county politics, I'm not familiar with the who's-who among Jackson politicos, and I was really anxious about how much time being a county commissioner would take up. I like my "me" time, and I'm pretty selfish about giving any of it up.

The election, it seems, would take up most of my time. After that, Travis said, I could give as much time as I wanted to the commissioner's spot.

If you know me, you know I like campaigning. I get a big kick out of meeting new people, advertising my goals, having some fun with posters and printed materials, and just getting out there and shaking hands. That's what I'm good at, and it's what I enjoy.

But there's the "after the election" part, and that's what I'll be learning more about in the weeks to come. Meeting current commissioners, attending a county meeting, introducing myself to the local Dems. There's much to be done.

At one point, Judy asked me, "So, you have some people for your team in mind, don't you?"

Uh...sure, Judy. I've been on top of that all along. Or not.

I've certainly got a lot of thinking to do. After I meet with folks, and attend some meetings, and get a better feeling of the situation, I'll be making a decision about whether to run or not.

A big question: am I needed? Too many politicians get involved in government because they have an agenda or a certain slant on things that they want to bring to the table. I feel that there should be some need that I could fill before I would run. I need to be asked. Judy said my youth and enthusiasm could be a big help, and so I felt a little better about running.

This is big-time stuff here, folks. Sometimes I think my whole life has led up to something like this. What on Earth am I more passionate about that politics? Not much. This could open a lot of doors. Or it could be a big waste of time.

Who knows for sure?

...and hey, if you have a great slogan idea, be sure to pass it my way. Campaigning is the fun part, and I'd love to get friends involved (if they're interested). I've already had a friend or two say, "Should you run, I want to help."

Well, the chance may be coming soon.

Should I do it? Stay posted.

Friday, January 20, 2006

What have you Googled today?

A report from (you guessed it) today says that the Justice Department wants to know what you and I have been Googling here lately. They say it's because they want to do research on the Child Online Protection Act.

We can trust the government, right?

Last night a comment appeared in the "voice of the people" section of our Jackson newspaper, and one local raised the often-repeated argument: "If you're not doing anything wrong, why worry about what they're looking for?"

Right. Okay, gotcha.

Let's remember, almost a week after Martin Luther King, Jr. day, that the FBI spied on the non-violent, progressive, and brilliant Dr. King. They spied on anti-war protestors.

And now they want to see what you and I have been searching for with Google.

Even if I haven't done anything wrong, I don't want anybody - much less a government who wants to be trusted, but has proven unworthy of such trust under any administration - spying over my shoulder.

I close my bedroom door each night because (a) people allegedly say my snoring gets ridiculous and (b) I want some privacy while I sleep. Looking at what I do on the internet is like keeping my door cracked just a little. No harm done, they're just taking a listen, right?

Privacy on the internet is a slippery topic anyway. Are you truly entering a private sphere - in your PJs, on the couch, drinking a beer - or are you entering a type of public arena, with a cyber-sidewalk and no-yelling-fire-in-crowded-theater rules?

For a country that believes that the rugged individual is king (or queen), the government is sure treating us like peasants.

As I've mentioned before, nothing can fight terrorism and crime better than people doing their job. You don't need all these extra powers if someone would just earn their paycheck. Spying has its place - there's a legal, ethical way to do it - but these shotgun, roving searches are out of line.

Remember when the government was encouraging our mail carriers and plumbers to spy on us, telling them to report any suspicious activity?

Well that must not have worked out so well, because now they want to know what books you're buying on Amazon or for how many years you renewed your subscription to Playboy.

Sure, they tell us that they're checking out kids' access to porn.

But they also told us there was no domestic spying at all.

The similarities to Nixon and communist Russia are astounding. Rights pushed back for an endless "war on terror," administration enemies outed in the press, secret spying, secret overseas bases, not-secret-anymore torture, secret energy meetings, no concern for international laws and precedents.

Why even have laws? The Bush administration will just do what they want anyway. Openness and accountability, with checks and balances by all branches of government, are at the heart of the American republican democracy. From now on, any claims to spreading democracy around the world by this administration will ring hollow. They can't even get it right here at home.

Perhaps Bush and company are forgetting who they work for. Us.

They need someone to remind them.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Declaration of Who-Gives-A-Damn

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

- - - - -

What do you do when you love your country, but hate the people who run it?

Mark Twain displayed a cynicism toward government and politics that is often felt in American politics, but seldom voiced - especially by nationally-renowned figures and artists.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what's happening in America these days - the corruption, the incompetence, the secrecy. Not that any of this is particularly new, but because people still sit back and try not to think about the crimes their government is committing in their names.

Where are the Mark Twains of today?

Part of it, I think, is an overload of information. If you want to say something in today's society, you have to be either a "celebrity" or politician or someone else who is guaranteed TV time.

Our Founding Fathers had an idea. They wrote down all the grievences against their king, signed it, and sent it off express-style. They weren't going to put up with the "establishment of absolute Tyranny over these States," and they weren't afraid to say it.

But, in today's world, a signed letter - even a petitioned signed by 10,000 Americans - wouldn't make a splash in the pond. It would be ignored, or brought to committee and quashed, or appear as a letter to the editor, devoiding it of any true muscle or influence.

So the question remains. What can we do to address the problems we see in government? Can we rely on a tame, roll-over media? Can we rely on a Justice Department that rests, comfortable and warm, in the seat pocket of the President? How about Congress? Isn't that how a republic works?

When Thomas Jefferson wrote that his king "has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them," it's almost like he was addressing them to today's political climate (see: the ban on torture). If the administration doesn't even care to obey the laws that are written, why not throw up our arms and consent to a dictatorship?

Cheney would love it. So would all the corporations that have done so well these past few years while more and more Americans suffer.

So why fight? And how do we fight, if we want to? Can we really make a difference?

One person, one vote. We always have that. But election records show incumbents are more-than-likely to get re-elected by their constituents, it either means (a) voters really like the candidate or (b) most people don't give a shit.

And when we become proud of the 60 percent turn-out levels in the 2004 elections, you know we've become desperate for participation in a democracy.

Plato famously said that "one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

Is participation the problem? If the government theoretically works for us, the governed (from which it derives its power to govern), why haven't we given Washington a pink slip?

Sometimes I think I care too much.

Monday, January 9, 2006

Attack of the iPod People

Sing to me, O Muse!

Sing to me of idyllic design; of new-age craftsmanship and the beauty of plastic. Sing to me of a card-deck-sized music box, simple in function, gorgeous in intuition, and gleaming in glossy white.

Sing to me, O Muse, of my new 30 GB Apple iPod.

A mere two months after purchasing my iBook I made the plunge and bought the little machine that everyone adores.

Saturday I braved the freezing rain and made a pilgrimage to an Apple store at the Novi Twelve Oaks mall. I knew it was my kind of store when I saw a two-foot high round table set up with iMacs and kids’ video games. A family-friendly computer store, and the place literally buzzing with high-powered Apple products. This was heaven.

I hadn’t seen a new G5 iMac up close, or the new Power Macs (with brushed metal and solid, industrial design), so I played around and saw what the specs were on each machine. Then I played with the iPods – and fell in love.

Andrea called to find out when I’d be in Royal Oak for Shanita’s birthday shin-dig. “Right after I get done with my orgasm,” I think I told her.

My biggest quandary was video iPod vs. iPod Nano. Did I want the elegant, tiny Nano (with swell arm-band for my walks in the park), or the full-on, half-my-hard drive video version? I saw Cassandra’s video (for “Gold Digger,” no less) and was impressed. Videos looked darned sharp on a screen so small. And besides, I liked the idea of fitting 7,500 of my songs instead of 1,000 or so.

And white was a must-have. It can’t clash with my iBook.

But before I made the decision, I went accessories shopping. After all, half the fun of owning an iPod was getting all the cool stuff with it.

Arm bands, cases, leather pouches, stereo hook-ups, radio frequency adaptors – there was a lot to choose from. Not to get ahead of myself, I figured a hookup for my home stereo and a dock would be good enough.

I went up to the hip-looking Apple guy (this was Novi – everyone is either hip or beautiful) and asked him if my accessories were cool enough, and where I could buy my pretty iPod. He disappeared behind the counter, iPod in-hand, and rang me up on his little hand-held cash register. He even e-mailed me my receipt. This was twenty-first century shopping.

The iPod is a thing of beauty. The scroll wheel, the sharp color display, the signature white ear buds – it made me feel good to live in a capitalist country. This was the market at work: iPods control about 85 percent of the MP3-player market, and for good reason. Who wants a clunky, cheap piece of crap? No, if you’re going to carry something around to play your favorite songs (or videos, or photos, or whatever), there’s going to have to be a connection. You have to be on friendly terms. I could be friends with my iPod.

Plus you can download programs to make the darned thing a low-end Palm Pilot. Calendars, address book, reminders and alarm clocks. Like my iBook, this was one expensive personal organizer. But why not?

And all this was just the logical conclusion to my recent Mac obsession. I’ve “switched” mind, body and soul.

Now, with an iPod, it’s official.