shaken, not stirred? no…i was stirred by the shaking

11 Jalal 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: The Telescopes, “Celeste”

I woke up a little bit after 4:30 a.m. Friday morning to the sound of things rattling in my bedroom. I could also feel my house moving a little bit, too.

It wasn’t the first time I’d felt the house shaking. There were a few other instances over the last couple of years where such shaking was definitely noticeable. But I’d figured out after awhile that the shaking was attributable to certain, um, activities by certain housemates.

But even in my fuzzy 4:30 a.m. thinking, it seemed to me that the shaking yesterday seemed a bit strong for that. However, I let it go at that. I couldn’t quite get back to sleep, and that made me feel tired the rest of the day.

At breakfast, I asked a housemate if she’d felt the shaking, and to my surprise, she said yes. She said that she was sensitive to such things because she grew up in El Salvador, where there were a number of serious earthquakes. She thought this might be an earthquake. I told her I didn’t think so—I told her such things did not really occur in Wisconsin.

I have a disaster preparation book and in it is a map of earthquake hazard zones in the United States. There are different shades of gray on the map, with the white being the lowest hazard level and the black being the highest hazard level. On the map, Wisconsin is completely white.

So I was surprised to learn when I got to work that an earthquake had indeed occurred, centered 400 miles south of us in southern Illinois. As an Illinois native, I’d known about the New Madrid Fault and the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12, and I remember feeling a minor quake in my parents’ house in Oak Park, Illinois, sometime in the late 1980’s.

It seems that along with tourists and traffic, earthquakes are another gift bestowed upon Wisconsinites from their flatland neighbor to the south. The same map I described shows a light shade of gray starting right at the Wisconsin-Illinois border, and then growing darker and darker until turning to back at the southern tip of Illinois. At least we can’t blame Chicagoans for this, they’re scratching their heads like we are at the unexpected shaking. Californians are probably scratching their heads, too, as they watch us Midwesterners make a big deal out of a little rumble—“Was that really an earthquake?” “Yah, yah, that was an earthquake, don’cha know?”

where have our elections gone? long time passing…

5 Jalal 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Doves, “The Last Broadcast”

I have grown increasingly dismayed by the tenor and the tone of the Democratic presidential primary campaigns.  It seems like every day has brought a new headline involving one candidate attacking another.  Each day on CNN’s “Situation Room,” Wolf Blitzer moderates yet another verbal scuffle between a Clinton supporter and an Obama supporter.  Lately, the “scuffles” have been a little more civilized, but the attacks continue elsewhere.

Wisconsin recently held an election for the State Supreme Court that was, from the point of view of many citizens, the dirtiest and ugliest in state history.  Reports indicate that outside special interests spent millions on attack ads.  The winner of the election said, “I’m proud of the campaign we ran.”
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching “The Situation Room” right after Michigan joined Florida in failing to come up with a plan to re-run the Democratic primary campaign in those respective states.  James Carville and Tom Daschle were participating in a discussion, with Carville representing the Clinton campaign and Dashcle representing the Obama campaign.  Carville immediately launched an attack on Obama blaming him for the fact that the primaries wouldn’t be re-run and accusing him of disenfranchising millions of voters.  Daschle tried to explain the complexities of the issue, including, for example, who would be considered eligible to vote, but he was cut off by Carville repeating his accusation.  I think Carville knew full well that the issue was complex, but also knew that his soundbites would hit harder than Daschle’s efforts to explain the complexity of the issue.  

As complex as the Michigan and Florida election issues were, it seems to me that both campaigns could have come up compromises in Michigan and Florida that would have been perceived as fair and acceptable.  That they didn’t really says something disturbing about the state of American democracy.

A large number of Americans feel that the 2000 elections were stolen by the Bush family and the Supreme Court.  Serious concerns were also raised about the 2004 presidential elections as well, particularly in Ohio.  Now the Democratic Party seems headed for a potential deadlock in the 2008 elections.  It seems we’ve lost our ability to hold elections that are widely considered free and fair—something I would have never imagined.  It really makes me wonder about the state of American democracy.

It may sound overly idealistic to expect the candidates to engage in a debate that is positive, straightforward, honest, and engages the public in the complexities of the issues.  The political mantra nowadays seems to be, “Negative campaigning works,” and “This is just the way things are.”  But I think something has gone seriously wrong when the primary purpose of campaign statements seems to be to score points, rather than inform the public.  

Let’s think about this.  If someone resorts to soundbites that distort the issues rather enlighten the public, can we really trust such a person to govern honestly, fairly, and on behalf of all people?   Quite frankly, I don’t.  But there seem to be very few campaigns that avoid such tactics these days.  

And as I watched Carville launch into his soundbite-laden attacks on the Obama campaign,  I began to wonder whether I was witnessing another death throe in American democracy–that somehow a point of no return had been passed.  I hope I’m wrong. But if the results of the Democratic primaries end up with a significant number of people feeling that their candidate was cheated out of the nomination, I fear for the future of the Republic.

celebrate march 32nd! er, um, april fool!

13 Baha 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Ditty Bops, “Walk or Ride”

I’ve always strongly believed that Wisconsinites have a better sense of humor than most of the nation, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that April Fool’s Day here is celebrated with a remarkable degree of reverence.  Or irreverence, as it were.  In any case, I would submit that it is celebrated here at least as much as Flag Day.  I think.

I was the recipient of one little joke today.  I had difficulty removing the cap from a pen that had been left on my desk.  When I finally did, I discovered that there was this glazed, sticky looking substance underneath.  I sniffed it, and realized it was Super Glue.  It took me a long time to realize that it was a prank until the pranksters revealed themselves.  Another person was given a phone message from a Mr. Lion.  He was told that the caller was reportedly mean.  

One co-worker is always the recipient of a bunch of pranks.  Today, she arrived at work to find her telephone wrapped in rubber bands.  Someone also figured out that the volume dial on her desk radio was separate from the on-off switch, so they ended up turning the volume to the maximum level—ultimately scaring the daylights out of her and everyone in a ten-foot radius, with the noise heard all the way from the elevators on the other side of the floor.  In previous years, pranks included having a “For Sale” sign put on her car,(resulting in one serious inquiry), and having each frog in her extensive desktop frog collection individually wrapped in cellophane.  

In one co-op, a fire inspector paid a routine visit, and said everything was fine.  However, one of the residents decided to write on the communal whiteboard that their cluttered basement had been declared a fire hazard and that the house had 72 hours to clear it out.  It reportedly caused a bit of a tizzy there.  

One local radio station collaborated with Madison’s mayor in a prank in which they announced a proposal to ban the sale of all compact discs in Madison, based on the concern that the holes in the discarded discs were just large enough to fit around a seagull’s beak, preventing them from being able to feed themselves.  The radio station provided an online petition that people could sign, and it was there that people were informed of the joke.  

But, in all seriousness, I wanted to take this time to make an important announcement.  As many of you know, my initial purpose in starting this blog was to write about the spiritual path of Mahikari and also about co-op living.  Then, in October of last year, I announced that I was leaving Mahikari, and that was followed shortly by my joining the Baha’i Faith.  

Things are shifting again.  I would now like to take this time to announce that I have decided to leave the co-op where I live. I have had enough of co-op life.  I have decided to heed the call of the wild and move to a subdivision in South Elgin, IL.  It’s a sweet deal—with this purchase I also gain title to a bridge over the Fox River…