Runcible Blog


Despite coming from ancestors who braved harsh winters and long nights, I'm not built for this weather. Perhaps if I ate enough to turn me as stout as my elder French Canadians, I'd fare better outdoors. Underneath the covers, I will myself to warmth through tension and concentration, quickly becoming my own space heater, but in the open air, no amount of willpower can overcome the thermodynamics of the situation.

Speaking of the covers, or rather, the business under the covers, I've always had difficulty sleeping next to another person, especially someone new. Whether due to tossing and turning, numb limbs, or abrupt snoring, I usually wake up drained, even if I'm happy to wake up next to the perpetrator of my unrest. I had assumed that sleeping with somebody would always mean a certain amount of irritation as we learned to cope with or ignore each other's slumber style. That is, until now. I've met someone with whom I feel comfortable at night and magically rested in the morning. It's really surprising.

I wish I could elaborate on how fond I am of this person, but as with most good things to come my way, there's a snag. She's afflicted with a kind of confusion I've witnessed too often — unsure of her state of mind after exiting an important relationship, she doesn't feel as willing to start anything new. Although it should come as no surprise (to me) that I'm most attracted to people who may be unable to care about me, I consistently avoid thinking too deeply about why that is (though I suspect I know the cause). Suffice it to say, I fare better in relationships when the balance of emotion lies further in my court than in my partner's. If someone likes me far greater than I like her, things will quickly go sour unless I have an epiphany and change my feelings. On the other hand, if I'm in pursuit of hitherto unrequited love, I have a greater hope of flipping her feelings than I have of evolving my own gut instinct.

Besides, I know Confusion. We've met several times, and every time Confusion comes my way, I learn a tiny bit more about the impenetrable mind of Woman. If she's worth knowing, which, by virtue of her sincerity, wit, generosity, intelligence, and natural beauty proves that my new buddy is, then she's worth the patience to wait for Confusion to exit the scene. But who knows? The whole shebang could fizzle out soon enough, considering she doesn't seem to give a damn about me yet. I sincerely hope not; I've never felt so rested on such little sleep.

Alvy Singer said it well:

...this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.

The Bluest City

Even I was surprised to see that Barack Obama received 88% of the vote in Cambridge.  Cambridge had a more lopsided turnout than any other Massachusetts city.

Although living in an ideologically homogenous zone can lead to the laziness of groupthink, the election results further reinforce my belief that I've come across no other place I'd rather live than Cambridge.

If only the rent weren't so damn high...

everybody does it

It's tiring to hear well-meaning people say that this election is so nasty because both campaigns have turned negative. Maybe it's a liberal desire for fairness or moral equivalence, but whatever the motivation, when asked for evidence to support the claim that both candidates dish similar negativity, the equivocators usually turn up empty. I think we need to face the fact that the GOP has, for many years running, turned toward the politics of division, xenophobia, fear, anti-intellectualism, and racism. The party is at its worst when it's behind in the polls, no matter who is steering the ship.

Some pundits claim that the only reason McCain has employed such an ugly campaign is that he needs to win, but once elected, McCain will be the even-handed moderate that we're lead to believe. This insightful blog post puts that ridiculous claim to bed:

Where is Reihan deriving the notion that this candidate and his apparatus are in a position to bring this new ecumenicalism? This candidate, with this running mate, is someone interested in, or capable of, uniting the country? The one whose campaign has dedicated every available resource to rhetorically dividing the country into the pure and impure sections? This candidate, whose rallies without exception involve incitement against some supposedly malign segment of the American people? This candidate, who literally said there is a real Virginia, and a fake Virginia? It's incredible. Sarah Palin, the second-in-command of a great uniter?
We are in a part of the calendar when people are fond of saying "your side does it too." Well, both sides do most things that the other side does. But it simply is not true that the Democrats or the Obama campaign has engaged in the same kind of cultural war that the Republicans and McCain have. That is just not true. I find few people with the gall to suggest it is. So I read with great confusion when Reihan insists that it is John McCain who can heal this gulf.

Why I'm Voting for Barack Obama

In 2004, I held my nose and voted for John Kerry hoping for an end to the disastrous four years of Bush's reign. Kerry, an uninspiring and dusty, ineffectual senator, was the lesser of two evils. He didn't put up much of a fight and faded back into irrelevance.

This election, no candidate excited me during the primaries — the Republicans ran a bunch of caricatures and empty suits, while the Democrats fielded a gaggle of dissembling senators. Although Barack Obama's choice of running to the right of Hillary Clinton on many issues rubbed me the wrong way, I couldn't vote for Clinton because she exemplifies the carpet-bagging politician with more raw ambition than sense of morality, and I thought we could do better than to elect another familiar name as president. I didn't start paying much attention to Barack Obama until he clinched the nomination.

Three things stand out about Obama:

  1. When he talks about his campaign being not about him but about us, and when he issues calls for national unity and cooperation, I believe him. A country facing enormous challenges in the coming years needs a president who can identify with real people and their problems, not one who plays the populist only on the campaign trail.
  2. Obama can finally get us past the same tired issues from the 1960's because he didn't live through them. Frankly, I hope we never see another candidate running based on his experiences in Vietnam or a candidate bitter about conflicts and scandals long dead to the majority of Americans.
  3. He acts like an adult, which seems shocking for a presidential nominee. It takes a massive ego to run for president, and either Obama hides his well, or he's restrained enough not to act like a baby when things don't go his way. His coolness under pressure, a sharp contrast to McCain's kamikaze attitude, will help restore the damage done from Bush's blundering in the world and help Obama to enact his agenda at home.

On the issues, Obama comes across as centrist but progressive. He'll get us out of Iraq, and we'll likely not have another Cold War with Russia or invasion of Iran (which seem much more possible under a McCain administration). On energy, I hope that he'll point us toward conservation and innovation, even if it takes *gasp* Federal funds to get us there. The nation has stuck its head in the sand on global warming for far too long. He has a more credible healthcare plan, which, if it weren't for the failing economy, would've been the biggest issue of the election, I think.

When dealing with the current economic meltdown, Obama is in a much better position to do whatever it takes to dig us out of the rut we've found ourselves in. Wages have decreased over the past 10 years, and the divide between the richest and poorest Americans is the highest it's been since the 1920's. The only thing "trickle-down" economics has brought most Americans is the same unhealthy lust for debt that has busted both Wall Street bankers and Wal-Mart shoppers alike. Obama knows that cutting funding for scientific research (as McCain and Palin love to tout) and giving more tax breaks for huge corporations aren't going to get us out of this mess.

In fact, it may take massive spending (in the right places) to stimulate the economy. I believe that Obama is up to the task of steering the country responsibly, even considering the likely Democratic majority in Congress. We're due for another New Deal, where corporations can take a back seat to citizens, for once. If the unencumbered Democrats can finally invest in our infrastructure (including public transportation, please!), bring us closer to universal, affordable healthcare, spur development in alternative energy (I've got money in GEX!) and other non-evil industries, and provide relief to America's workers, then I say, "Bring it on."


See the New Yorker endorsement for a much more eloquent argument. Or, The Economist, for a view from across the pond. Or a Conservative's list of reasons for choosing Obama.

Also, I'm sad to see that my home-town paper and former employer, The Eagle-Tribune, continues to grasp onto its jingoistic right-wing mantle by endorsing McCain, against the economic interests of the vast majority of Essex County's citizens. If it weren't for the fact that the company still employs family and friends, I'd be wishing for its swift decline into print-media irrelevance and an end to the hostage it's held on the Merrimack Valley's collective consciousness for the past 100 years.

finding the mode

One of my neighbors has been practicing a saxophone piece for the past few weekends.  He's been struggling but has improved over time.  Today I picked up my guitar to try to figure out what he's playing.  It's a fairly straight-forward, faintly Klezmer, D Aeolian mode spanning three octaves, broken into four phrases.  It's not too difficult to play on the guitar, physically, but its twistiness must be more challenging on the sax.  It's fascinating to hear him keep hammering on the piece and bursting out with a chromatic flourish whenever he screws up.  I can't wait to hear him play it without error, one of these days.