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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Did you see me on CNN? I was the guy with the hat.

Once again, this is intended as observational and not political commentary.

I am not one to enjoy large crowds so it is not in my nature to attend an event like Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s first official appearance as running mates. Had it not happened here, where I live, I probably wouldn’t have been all that interested. I’m a pragmatic sort so knowing he selected Biden is all I really need to know before I move on to the more important matters of my personal life, like mowing the lawn. Still, it’s not every day that you get the chance to attend an event like this, let alone have it come to your hometown. So just for you, students of Liberal Studies, I set out to document this event. (That, and my wife really wanted to go so I didn’t really have a choice.)

The event gates opened at noon for the 2 pm speech so, of course, we were in line at a little past 10 am. The line was verrrrrry long – we may have been numbers 2000 and 2001 – but the line proved to be the most enjoyable time. We chatted. We watched as the line grew even longer (it’s always more fun when you’re not at the end.) I even bought an Obama campaign button from a vendor. It depicts Obama flying over a cityscape dressed as Superman with the caption SUPER OBAMA. I wasn’t sure if it was pro-Obama or anti-Obama but it was the most interesting option.

Once the line started moving, it moved quickly. As we moved closer to the gates, we were told dozens of times that we could not bring in water or umbrellas and that we should turn on all electronics. I was actually surprised at how easy it was to pass through security. When I stepped through the metal detectors, I paused and waited. What, no frisking? Don’t you want to at least look at me suspiciously? I deserve a little stink-eye, yes? I’ve had a more difficult time getting into the court house for jury duty.

We were able to get onto the lawn of the Old State Capital. We were about 200 feet stage left of the podium but we were only 15 feet or so away from, what we suspected, would be the entrance point (we were correct.) Above us, on roof-tops, were men in jump-suits surveying the crowd with high powered binoculars. What a high-pressure job: scanning the crowd for potential trouble. Then, they brought out their sniper rifles so I stopped feeling sorry for them and starting giving them a bit of the stink-eye I thought I’d deserved.

We started the two hour wait in 90 degree heat – me, my wife, and 35,000 of our closest friends. As time passed, people started wilting, then out-right sweating, then smelling badly, and then, in a few cases, collapsing. The news reported that 25 people were taken to hospitals and that ambulances had to be called in from surrounding counties. The Red Cross was allowed in and they began passing water to crowd. (A security note: if you attend an event like this, bottled water is not allowed since it presents a throwable object. The Red Cross had to pour bottled water into paper cups, doubling the time it took to bring relief.)

Finally, the candidates took the stage. It was exciting. It was interesting to be present at something that might be remembered . Did I learn anything? Yes.

  • If you are going to stand in the sun for hours, don’t forget sunblock. (I did.)
  • There is no reason to show up early. Simply come at your leisure and push to the front. (I didn’t, but hundreds of others did.)
  • When, after hours of sweating, you discover that you are no longer able to sweat, stop passing the water to others and drink it yourself.
  • It’s kind of fun to say the Pledge of Allegiance with 35,000 people while facing a building-sized old glory.

One final bit of wisdom. As we were listening to Barack Obama’s speech an African American women pushed up next to us. She was too short to see past the crowd. She wanted a picture but was having trouble with her cell phone. I helped her activate the camera on her phone and a remarkably tall man standing near us held it up in the air and snapped the picture. She ended up with a grainy picture in which Barack Obama might have been represented by 3 or 4 pixels but she inspected it and was happy. She turned to her friend and said, “Now we can say we were here and we saw this.”

I would have been just as happy watching local television news coverage, but she was right. Sometimes it is good to be able to say you were there and saw it.

See my photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29848272@N06/

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's easier to learn history if it happens around you

This post isn't intended to be political, just observational.

Springfield is steeped in history, thanks in large part to Abraham Lincoln. We townies don't really bat an eye at what's around us. I mean, don't all of you have presidential tombs and libraries in your towns too?

There was a cold day in 2007 that Barack Obama came to Springfield to try to make a connection with our Lincoln legacy. If you weren't aware, he announced his candidacy here in our town - you can see his speech here http://tinyurl.com/5hx2jb  At the time, he was just another person throwing his hat in the ring.  He had some heat but this was back when Hillary Clinton was considered the likely Democratic candidate.

This evening, we're hearing that he's returning to Springfield to announce his pick for Vice-President.  Springfield usually needs to be hit by a tornado or have a former Governor sentenced to prison to make the national news so we're happy to have some positive press and to be associated with, what may prove to be, historically significant moments.  If you have never been to Springfield and want to catch a glimpse, tune into your favorite new network this Saturday at 1 pm.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Vision of Students Today

I just stumbled across this youtube video and found it very interesting. It's from the Digital Ethnography working group at Kansas State University http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's up with ths social networking thing?

I've been spending a lot of time researching and trying out new web tools in preparation for the podcasts I'm planning for this year. It is absolultely mind-boggling to see how many companies are out there trying to be the next big thing. It's also amazing to see how many of these technologies are free - I'm assuming their goal is to become mainstream and then to be bought by Google or Microsoft or Yahoo.

One large component of these new tools are social networking sites. I have to admit, I'm a pretty private person and I don't do a lot of social networking beyond my friends and family, so these sites are a real mystery to me. For example, there is a VERY popular site call Twitter. (You know a tool has hit the big time when dozens of other developers are creating plug-ins to expand the tool.)

In a nutshell, Twitter is a microblog (I believe that's the correct lingo) which allows you to tell your followers every boring detail of your life. So I have two questions: 1) Are the mundanes details of my life interesting? Most Twitterers are like me and sit at a desk working at a computer. Do I need to broadcast when I go to lunch or whether I'm going to meet friends after work (can't I just do those things and not publish it to the world?) 2) Does anyone really care about these things? The goal of Twitter is to get others to follow your life. How many of us lead exciting enough lives that others would wait breathlessly for our next tweat (Twitter lingo for post)?

So, is there anyone out there who's into social networking? What sites do you use? Can you explain the allure?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Blogger How-to Part 1

Blogger How-to Part 2