Light of the Fireflies

The school year ends in less than a month, but it promises to be rather busy. In lieu of real content, I can only offer this bit of emailed trivia that I found entertaining:

When most North Americans hear the Scottish folksong Auld Lang Syne we probably immediately think of New Year’s Eve…. Hotaru no Hikari, or Light of the Fireflies, is the title of the Japanese version of this song, and in Japan it’s sung at graduations. The chorus tells the story of hard-working students who wanted to study so much that they read books by the light of fireflies captured in a jar, or the moonlight reflected off snow. It can bring a tear to the eyes of Japanese who hear it sung, and a totally different image from one we might conjure up.

Maybe I should translate this song and attempt to get some air play. I bet it would go over really well over here.

Entering the Von Age

We’re going to give VoIP a try for a while. Best Buy had a hardware deal that I couldn’t refuse, so we’ll be using Vonage to see if it lives up to the hype. At the very least, we’ll save on our landline bills for a couple of months.

Oh, Vonage offers little carrots to its users for referrals. If any of you are interested, let me know!

Oh, and we’ve finally made a medical school decision. Stay tuned; I expect to have it posted within the next day or two.

“Analysts have noted that North Korea’s tightly controlled news media have altered dispatches while some official portraits of Kim have been removed from public display. The evidence is inconclusive, but analysts described a possible shift away from the cult of personality in which Kim rules the nation as a divine figure. North Korea’s state media on Wednesday broke with the rigid codes it employs in referring to Kim, dropping the highest honorific title — great leader — from a report on his visit to a military base. Although the term was picked up in later broadcasts, it marked the first such omission in coverage of an official Kim event since he inherited the title from his late father, North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, a decade ago….”

What’s this? Has the Dear Leader gone soft?

Nobody’s rioting in the streets, but I know more than one person who seems extra intent on leaving the country after the election. Others are shocked and certain that we’re all headed for four more years of misery. With the addition of Republican seats in both houses of Congress, we’re certainly in for an interesting time. For what it’s worth, though, I don’t believe that either candidate wholly represented our best interests. I can’t even say that either one was 75% right. At best, I’d have to say that Kerry was about 55% in line with my beliefs; apparently the rest of the country thinks different. What’s more telling is the geographical distribution of electoral votes. While call-in viewers on C-Span like to rant and rave about the lack of education in the South or the Midwest, I think a more accurate explanation is the very clear diversity of values as you traverse the country. I also think that the country is clearly geographically divided into groups of ideological and practical voters, with only a few inconsistencies.

I can’t say that I’m happy about the election, but I really can’t say that I’m floored with disappointment. When faced with two disappointing choices, either option brings with it some amount of hope with its grievances. I think we’ll make some gains in the next four years, but I also think that 2008 will bring about a stronger call for change, and I think the Democratic party will be ready to answer it.

Of course, maybe by then the Republicans will give me a reason to vote for my party, for once. That would be nice.

Yup, I voted. And so, apparently, did everyone else. I usually like to vote early in the morning, but that plan was cut short today when I saw that the line was about 90 minutes long just half an hour after the polls opened. I came back after class, and still spent about half an hour waiting in line — at 1:30 in the afternoon. Very, very impressive. Two people were standing in front of me who were speaking to each other as if it was their first time voting; they certainly looked young enough to have been made eligible only recently, but it turned out that one of them had voted four years ago. The other guy turned and asked me a question about the electoral college. There was an older couple behind me who were obviously very seasoned voters. Behind them was a mother holding her infant; behind her was a middle-aged man with his two boys, and so on. I think the combination of 2000’s voting issues combined with this year’s major policy differences to bring everyone out in droves, and I’m really happy to see it. And with the race too close to tell, every vote counts…even in states, like Virginia, where the outcome is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Except for their opinions on domestic economic and social affairs — and even not entirely despite them — I find the Washington Post’s endorsement of John Kerry to very clearly portray my feelings on the election ahead of us. I do not believe in entitlement and the extremes of so-called “bleeding heart” liberalism, but on most counts I agree that Kerry represents the best compromise of ideals to lead us through the next four years. That said, I don’t think that another Bush presidency would ruin our country, and I believe that some of the policy decisions viewed today as ridiculous will be redeemed in hindsight.

Either way, I hope everyone who is able to vote will make informed decisions on November 2. No matter the outcome, our freedom to choose how we want to be governed is precious and too often taken for granted. We must relish and protect this freedom; we owe this to ourselves, and we owe it to our children.

Baseball is not always an exciting sport; to some, perhaps this is a major understatement. But even the most cynical sports critic cannot deny the unique intensity of a playoff game. When everything is on the line, when an eight-and-a-half inning lead can disappear for good in the blink of an eye, when the last pitch of the last inning can make the difference between going on and going home, there’s nothing that could make me change the channel (or study orgo). And for all of baseball’s flaws — some of which were glaring tonight — the last three ALCS games have redeemed the sport for another season. It’s magic. Bring on game seven.

I wanted to write a longish essay on my thoughts about the presidential election this year, along with justification for my vote. As it turns out, there is a subject with much more personal weight that I have to expound on this weekend, so I’ll settle for condensing my political views into something much smaller.

I am a registered Republican, but this year I will be voting for John Kerry. Iraq is NOT the primary reason. I believe that the invasion of Iraq was appropriate with or without their posession of WMDs. I am angry at Bush for giving false reasons for military action, although I’m unsure whether the intelligence was bad or their interpretation was overzealous. But the bottom line is that Saddam Hussein repeatedly tried to work his way around rules placed against him, and the legitimacy of an international governing body was in question after repeated threats and repeated failures to act. Yes, there are other countries with terrible dictators, and yes, we had — and continue to have — very serious terrorist threats from sources other than (but still including) Iraq. But the people of Iraq deserve to be free like all other people, and I think we did the right thing. At this point, we should be concerned with finishing our job and leaving Iraq to govern themselves. I believe either president will do the responsible thing, but perhaps Kerry will do a better job of doing it without overly irking our global neighbors. On foreign affairs in general, I’m fairly certain that Bush has polarized the world with his trademark unwavering and idealistic approach to most problems. I think, at the very least, that Kerry represents a “fresh start” and that other countries will be willing to work with new leadership to forge and re-forge the relationships we all need.

I am mostly voting on the basis of a few social and domestic issues that I just can’t follow as part of the Republican platform. First, I can’t understand the opposition to gay marriage. Bush claims that he just wants judges to uphold the law, and he’s right — judges are not supposed to rewrite the books. At the same time, it would just be a deplorable shame for the United States to pass an amendment that restricted marriage to heterosexual couples. We have no need or use for this kind of overzealous, hyper-religious bigotry in our Constitution. Furthermore, Bush is taking a very weak position to hide his opposition to stem cell research. I understand that this is consistent with his views against abortion, but the almost limitless vision that the scientific community sees in stem cells is going to remain a very dim picture until more stem cells are available for culture. This is a case of personal moral or relgious views getting into government, and again, we absolutely can’t have this kind of stifling environment to progress look what i found.

I could go on and on. I want to see liability limits placed on malpractice claims, more work done to ensure that America can afford health care, protection of our right to buy and own firearms, abortions that are not used as another form of birth control, and so on. Neither one candidate fits my views perfectly; however, it would be a crime to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (Bill Clinton wrote something to this effect in his autobiography.) I have my doubts about Kerry’s ability to lead the nation in all respects, but I think he has more going for him than Bush as far as my interests are concerned. Either way, I’m counting on the balancing power of Congress and the Supreme Court to ensure that things don’t go wildly out of control in either direction. Perhaps, in another four years, we’ll have a candidate whom I would truly want to be our President. Until then, I believe Kerry is our best choice. I know that Virginia is typically a strongly Republican state, but this only makes my vote all the more important.

So what’s this other topic that is so important? Well, I’ll get to it. More later.

By the way, I haven’t forgotten that we have a presidential election coming up — a very important one. I’ll have something to say about that in a few days.