Wednesday, February 26, 2003

I feel like I have lost a bit of my creative spark lately, and I apologize to those who keep stopping by to look for new posts. I am trying to readjust to life without classes. Along with this comes a long overdue return to the gym -- while this is a good thing, I am paying for it big-time. This week has been particularly bad, as I started training sessions for a 7k race I am doing in May, I'm exhausted, and I am battling a cold. I was able to eke out a few template revisions tonight, but when I sit down and try to type a coherent somewhat-lengthy post...I am at a loss. I am still ruminating on my Bachelorette piece, and hopefully it will appear in the next couple days.

Bobby has some interesting observations on tonight's Ed. I am not a regular viewer, but I happened to catch the end of this episode while wolfing down some dinner. FYI, I second his vote for Scrubsas good TV. It takes some getting used to, but it's definitely the most engaging, innovative sitcom out there right now. Plus Donald Faison is just cool.

Mark Byron posted a slew of interesting posts on faith and war throughout his fast earlier this week. Good thought-provoking reading if you are struggling with your feelings regarding your faith and the war right now. I've struggled with this quite a bit recently -- my stance on the war in relation to my stance as a Christian. I did start reading a book last weekend by Martin E. Marty (Politics, Religion and the Common Good) that does a nice job of discussing the role of the church in politics and international relations. It provides some nice insight for anyone who is interested.

The story about Peter Fitzgerald "leaking" that Bush wants to assassinate Sadaam Hussein just strikes me as odd. Several friends have suggested that this leak must have been encouraged by the White House -- but why do that to a non-influential senator who is seeking a tough re-election battle in a few months?

Monday, February 24, 2003

I was road tripping all weekend, and now I'm in the process of recovering from a cold. Hope to resume posting normally tomorrow. A few interesting links...

I should have known this would happen. The second I give Bono a little praise, he starts making joint appearances with Clinton and making oddly critical statements about the war. This article quotes Bono as saying, "We do not need to make a martyr out of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites). It is not as simple as war or no war. These are complex problems, and we need complex solutions." Well duh? Do you each one of those UN resolutions requesting disarmament and inspections was a simple little thing? Perhaps the press is misportraying Bono's comments here, but I'm still not a happy camper. Is there anyone in entertainment I can respect anymore? Besides Dennis Miller, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Patricia Heaton that is? I'm not certain.

Peggy Noonan did a great column today on the lack of class in two American ex-presidents' recent political commentary.

I can't pretend that Kid Rock has class. However, my opinion of him inched up when I found out he made some comments in support of the war at the Grammys. NY Daily News notes the irony in the fact that he used to "canoodle" Sheryl Crow. That goofy country-knockoff song he has out is sort of catchy too...

More tomorrow...desperately needing sleep at the moment.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Don't know much about reality...

There's a reason that I am not a gambling woman. I really didn't see this coming before tonight. More on Trista's choice and how I got hooked on The Bachelorette, coming soon to a monitor near you.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Random Thoughts

We were only dealt eight inches of snow here in Central Illinois, but things pretty much ground to a halt this weekend anyway. The wind was gusting at 20-30 miles an hour most of the day Saturday, which lead to a white-out all day. Saturday night the crews finally took to plowing and salting, but conditions were abysmal just the same. An eleven block venture for pizza took about forty-five minutes. Luckily everything cleared up by Monday, as Illinigirl headed back to work. I love the white stuff, but my body apparently doesn't. I have one heck of a cold, but I'm trying to maintain my normal routine through it at this point.

A guy at work has a running bet with a buddy -- big Michigan State and Illinois fans. For every Illini/Spartan basketball game, the "loser" has to display the winning team's logo in his aisle, one week for each point in the game's margin. After the game in East Lansing last month, a Michigan State banner was displayed in said Illinois fan's aisle for three weeks. After tonight's 30-point victory in Chambana, an Illinois floor mat will be sitting in my aisle until September 16, 2003. With just 4 points from superstar Brian Cook, the Illini proved their new freshman class has what it takes. If all goes well, the trio of Dee Brown / Deron Williams / James Augustine should be a force to be reckoned with next year. Now if Illinois could just figure out how to win on the road before then...

An Irish paper is reporting that Bono is among the chief contenders for the Nobel Peace Prize. Bono was primarily nominated for his work on combatting the AIDS epidemic in Africa and his "Drop the Debt" campaign to help developing third-world countries. I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Bono, a respect that has nothing to do with the fact that I generally like U2's music. :) Primarily, it stems from the fact that U2 has never been afraid to talk about Christianity and/or tackle important issues of the day in their songs. Also, I truly admire the fact that Bono respectfully lobbies everyone for the causes he believes in -- from Jesse Helms to Bill Clinton. He seems to be knowledgeable about his causes and far from a hothead. (IE You don't hear Bono on the airwaves every day, vocally denouncing the war with Iraq.) While Bono seems to stand for peace, I think he also seems to realize the complicated nature of these conflicts and the fact that the world often comes in shades of gray as opposed to just black and white. Although I may not agree with him on how/why we should combat these problems, I do think it is great that he tries something. I feel that this nomination may be justified. At the very least, I'd rather have Bono win that Governor Ryan -- his motives must be more pure.

Ben Kepple throws out a few notes of sympathy towards the Dell dude. Mark me in that column as well. I giggled a bit when I heard about the pot possession charges against him, until I came across Lileks' piece from last week referring to a Boys Life magazine article from 2002. Apparently, the Dell Dude actor lives in Lower Manhattan. On September 11th, he left his apartment and went downtown, thinking that his photographer roommate could probably use some help on the scene. He was caught in the cloud of debris when one of the towers fell. He pulled off his shirt and tried to use it as a mask to breathe, until he encountered a woman with a severe gash on her head. At this point, the Eagle Scout removed his shirt, applied it as a pressure bandage to her head, and helped the woman to safety. Lileks put it best in his Bleat last Wednesday, "Still chuckling at his pot bust? Fine. But we all wonder how we would have reacted that day. He knows. He can live with himself. I wish him good luck."

Think that's it for now, but I'm hoping to put together a special piece tomorrow night -- recapping the finale and explaining how/why I have rationalized watching The Bachelorette for the past six weeks. (My guess -- 60/40 odds that she picks Charlie. I'm not thrilled by either guy, but Ryan seems like the nicer guy and the underdog). Just for the record -- I do not plan to get hooked any more reality TV in the near future but who knows? Life is full of surprises!

Friday, February 14, 2003

Valentine's blizzard

For any who might be wondering, I had a lovely first Valentine's Day as a married woman. We had a nice, relaxing meal out and hung out at home most of the afternoon. The forecast was predicting an ice storm to start before noon, but alas the clock struck six before it appeared. We went out to grab a quick dinner, and the ice/snowflakes started falling with a vengeance. Luckily, it started late enough that we still safely made our way to the Valentine Pops orchestra concert to which we had tickets. I hadn't been to hear live classical music in quite a while, and I must admit it was quite refreshing. We walked back outside into a winter wonderland with three inches of fresh powder. It was one of those wonderful wintry nights that almost made you forget everything going on in the world -- almost but not quite. Anyways provided our power stays on, I'm looking forward to holing up inside tomorrow. Hope everyone else had a nice holiday as well. Even if you don't have someone to share it with, there's chocolate everywhere. If nothing else, that's a good reason to celebrate!
Interesting columns

I hadn't checked Weekly Standard in a few days, but Larry Miller has a great column up about his son's 7th birthday party. He had just survived a slumber party with seven little boys when he found out about Columbia. The hilarity of this piece quickly fades into a somber, grateful tribute to the men and women in the space program. If the whole acting thing doesn't work out, he should definitely consider writing.

Linda Chavez writes about her early Valentines -- new triplet grandsons -- and the community support that made her daughter-in-law's pregnancy possible. She makes quite a valid point when she says that many of us lack this kind of support in our day-to-day lives. Somehow it just seems less acceptable these days, and I agree with Chavez that is unfortunate in many respects. If you haven't read her autobiography An Unlikely Conservative yet, I highly recommend it. The story of her transformation from a campus lefty to a conservative pundit is quite fascinating, and I am quite impressed by what she has accomplished -- particularly the balance that she has maintained between her family life and her academics/career all these years.

Interesting editorial about Chicago's attempt to become the "second city" to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants. The author makes some nice points about why this is an impractical, ridiculous idea, but he never goes into the basic "rights" aspect of it. My husband and I are non-smokers with allergies. Being in a smoky bar for more than an hour thoroughly wrecks our sinuses for an entire weekend. We don't like secondhand smoke, and we choose which establishments to visit based on this fact. For example, the barriers between smoking and non-smoking sections at Steak N Shake are basically nonexistent, so we rarely patronize the restaurant. We have a choice on where to dine, and the owners should have a choice on how to to run/market their own eateries. Please don't make it more complicated than that.
Frequency disclaimer

Time has just flown by this week, and I apologize for not updating more frequently. This seems to be an emerging trend out in the blogosphere, as many people have been shutting down blogs or posting less frequently as of late. I sympathize with many of these people as work, family, gym, a few classes have been keeping me swamped. I haven't found the inspiration/time/energy to write about many topics of interest lately, and I apologize for that. To avoid burnout, I am sticking to blogging only when I am inspired. Updates probably will not be every day (at least in the near future), but I do appreciate you stopping by on a regular basis and will try to stay vigilant.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Unemployment and Outsourcing

Mark Byron has an interesting dissection of a recent post on unemployment written by Anne Wilson (can't find the post to link to it). I can relate to Anne's frustration on one level about finding a suitable engineering/techie job in the Midwest right now. (This experience is part of what led my husband back to graduate school). However, another recent Anne Wilson post touched on just why suitable IT jobs seem more difficult to find these days -- the outsourcing of computing/engineering work in the US.

In theory at least, I am all for letting the free-market regulate itself. However, this is the one issue that makes me wonder if regulation is such a bad idea. I have watched many young, college-graduate friends struggling to find jobs in the IT sector. Even here in downstate Illinois, the trend is apparent. Larger companies are rarely hiring recent college graduates, yet they continue to bring in hundreds of foreign external employees on H1-B visas and ask companies to produce thousands of lines of code in India.

Clearly this approach presents many advantages to the companies. Programmers from India are plentiful, talented, cooperative, and inexpensive. Most importantly, it helps a company lower its bottom line -- producing more product for less money, minimizing the price it must charge, and maximizing its profit. Obviously these are good things -- but couldn't this be done with American labor? Should we consider changing immigration law and forcing companies to do so? One can always argue that perhaps Americans need to be a bit more vigilant -- striving to buy their goods at slightly-higher prices from companies that produce their products with American labor. However, good luck trying to find out whether a given manufacturer or financial institution writes its software in Peoria or Pakistan.

I've heard some rumblings about this topic in the press lately, so I was just throwing it out for discussion. I thoroughly admit that my knowledge of the markets is limited to one term of micro-econ in college, and I am really interested in hearing what Mark and other IT workers have to say on this topic.
Monday's Musings

Jonah Goldberg's baby seems to be on its way. Best wishes and congratulations in advance. (Also if you haven't seen it yet, check out Jonah's big WSJ article on the Columbia tragedy -- not sure how I missed it Friday.)

Every time I start thinking that John McCain is an complete embarassment to the GOP, he find a way to redeem himself a bit. Check out Rod Dreher's excerpts from McCain's Saturday address to the Munich Security conference.

I have somewhat interesting personal spin on the story of four Cuban coast guardsmen that landed their patrol boat in Key West Friday and secured asylum. My parents were staying at this resort in Key West last week and actually saw these men come up onto the beach. This CBSNews article notes no one was certain how the men were able to evade the "Code Orange" security measures, but the word on the street was that two of the area's Coast Guard trawlers had been relocated to the Persian Gulf.

Liberate Iraq signs -- nice response to the "Not in our Name" campaign.

Mike Krempasky intelligently responds to the anti-war criticisms/speculation of a certain Dave M. over at his blog.

Benjamin Kepple reflects on his 27th birthday -- congrats! Also don't worry too much Ben. I had similar self-examination when I encountered my 25th birthday just a few weeks ago. Perfectly normal :)

Really wish I'd watched last night's decidedly un-Hollywood SNL, but I don't make a habit of it. Hokiepundit and Instapundit offer commentary on its pro-military and pro-America skits. (PS to Hokiepundit -- I do agree that Weekend Update has been weak this year, despite the comic genius of Jimmy Fallon)

Kevin Holtsberry reflects on Alias tonight. I tried to watch this show when it kicked off, but I got too confused. I watched it again after the Superbowl, and I may be hooked. It definitely requires concentration though.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Chicago, Chicago...

Like Bobby Allison-Gallimore, I finally got out to see Chicago on Friday night. I must say that I agree with his assessment over at Chicago exceeded my expectations and lived up to the hype. It was basically a two hour musical roller coaster ride. Instead of having the characters break into song, the movie switched into dream sequence mode. This allowed for quick changes of pace and a few out-of-this-world song and dance numbers. Breaking out of their usual romantic-comedy roles, Zellweger and Zeta-Jones did a fabulous job with the song and dance numbers, and I didn't think Gere and Queen Latifah were too shabby either.

I have read reviews that were critical of Chicago because it lacked substance of old-time musicals like Top Hat and the creativity of "new musicals" like Moulin Rouge. While critics may have a point, the movie was still incredibly entertaining. Like Bobby, I had to stop myself from clapping after several musical numbers. I also had to stop my sympathetic "awww" everytime Amos Hart found out Roxie had played him for a fool. In my opinion, this movie is worth paying to see on the big screen -- and that is praise that my generally frugal self doesn't hand out very often!

One of the first comments out of my mouth about this movie was "I liked it more than I wanted to". I felt bad joining the rest of the audience and rooting for the lying, manipulative murdresses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly to be found not guilty and land their own stage show. After I explained this to her, she dismissed my thoughts by saying, "Well they only killed in the heat of the moment" if that made it all okay! The moral relativism espoused by this movie bothered me, but I still found it thought-provoking and visually fascinating.

Illinigirl's review: 3.5 stars (but Picture of the Year should still go to The Two Towers).

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Assorted Thoughts

Courtesy of Josh Claybourn / Peter Milliron

My top five guilty pleasures
1) TV, particularly the WB and Trading Spaces
2) Surfing the web
3) Volkswagens and Volvos
4) Ice cream
5) The Bachelorette I'm hooked!

Five Things I Never Want To See Again
5. Ben Affleck and JLo on a magazine cover
4. Spandex bicycle shorts
3. Elimidate / Fifth Wheel
2. Bill Clinton
1. A day like September 11th

Congratulations to both Ben Domenech who is fresh off his wedding and lovely-sounding honeymoon on St. John and Patrick Ruffini who got engaged over the weekend. As someone who just celebrated her 100th day of marriage, I can vouch that it has been quite wonderful so far. Congrats and good luck to you both.

This quip caught my eye at the gym tonight. Paul Begala on Crossfire said,
"Here's what our CNN/Gallup poll asked people. They came to two conclusions on this matter. Forty-nine percent of us, almost half of all Americans believe that the president would knowingly present evidence that he knew was not accurate in order to build his case and 58 percent of us believe that the Bush administration would conceal evidence that goes again their position. Now when his countrymen and women have that low an opinion of his credibility, isn't that difficult to lead us into war?"

My first reaction -- can that really be right? I know that perhaps half of the American public is not yet convinced war is necessary, but I can't believe that the numbers doubting the basic integrity of men and women like Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, and Condoleeza Rice are that high. Does this poll seem fishy to anyone else? If you have any insight, I would love to hear it.

Aakash's blog just pointed me towards this article in the British press about how the war with Iraq won't play in Peoria. My husband was born and bred in Peoria folks, so I spend quite a bit of time there. All I can say is that they must not be interviewing the right people. I was watching a newscast recently where they interviewed Peorians after Bush's State of the Union address. Black or white, young or old, they all seemed to think that the president's logic was sound and war with Iraq was, at the very least, a necessary evil. I have heard it said before, but if you think the press in America is biased...try Britain's on for size.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Foresight and Perspective

Two of the Columbia astronauts attended Grace Community Church in Houston. Apparently Michael Husband had given his wife a note for his pastor. In the event of an untimely passing, Husband's wife had been given a note for his pastor Steve Riggle. In this note, Riggle reports that Husband requested the pastor "tell them about Jesus. He means everything to me." Not quite sure why, but I found his foresight particularly touching. Perhaps it is because such accomplished men bravely acknowledged the risks they were taking in such a thoughtful way.

The Washington Post gives a few more details about these two men, as well as providing links to detailed profiles of all seven astronauts. Husband and Anderson had left videotaped interviews before their last flight that were played during their congregation's memorial service. I found this excerpt from Husband's interview particularly comforting, because he seemed to have achieved an admirable perspective about the importance of his work versus that of his faith, an issue that I myself struggle with on a day-to-day basis.

"It was like a light came on all of a sudden . . . that this thing about being an astronaut was not as important as I thought it was," Husband said in a recorded interview with his minister not long before his last space flight. "I finally came to the point where I just said, 'Lord, I just want to be a good husband and a good father and come what may . . . with the rest.' "

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Seventeen Years and Four Days

I was in third grade when the Challenger exploded. My elementary school had been treating it as quite the event -- perhaps because a fifth-grade teacher / military veteran at the school had been one of the finalists for Christa McAuliffe's slot. Televisions were rolled out into the common areas, and all the classes had been gathered. I don't really remember what was said when the re-entering space shuttle morphed into a fireball as we watched. All I really remember was the teachers ushering us back into our classrooms and speaking in hushed voices, as a few of the school administrators remained sitting, transfixed by the news as if they couldn't believe what they were watching.

I sort of understood what they were feeling as I turned on my television this morning. I had not been paying much attention to this mission, save for reading Ilon Ramon's comments on Wednesday about how the Middle East looks so peaceful from space. Remembering that comment, my heart sank when I heard about the space shuttle this morning. It sank for the families of all seven astronauts on board, and it also sank for the nation of Israel. Given the nation's troubles as of late, Israel had taken a great deal of pride in Ramon as he became the first Israeli astronaut. Ramon was also something of a national hero for his missions within the Air Force, which included an incredible 1981 mission where eight F-16 warplanes destroyed the Osirak reactor that had been built by the French near Baghdad. God bless the families of all those men and women, including Ilon Ramon, his family, and his countrymen. They are all in our nation's thoughts and prayers today.


The networks are being quick to say that a surface-to-air missile was highly unlikely at the altitude at which the Columbia was flying, but internal sabotage (within NASA I assume) has not been ruled out. I had not even considered the possibility of terrorism against this mission because of the Israeli astronaut aboard, but apparently others had as these articles from the Orlando Sentinel / Sillicon Valley News and note. Mostly these articles were concerned with attacks upon liftoff though, and generally occurred when this shuttle flight was delayed last July due to cracks found in Columbia's fuel lines. Facts of Israel has a great deal of interesting information on Ramon, who was also the son and grandson of Holocaust survivors.

Also, Instapundit has been on top of theColumbia situation and details why it's probably not terrorism. Benjamin Kepple has some interesting updates as well. The fact that both Bush and Ridge have been summoned to the White House still doesn't sit well with me though.