Friday, October 28, 2005

On the first day of Fitzmas...

Got the third post on the thread at Kos. Whoo-hoo!
Wow - John Stewart corrects Ed Helms pronounciation of Tobago. Cool.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

One more reason I don't shop at Walmart

This is just lovely -
An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.
Hire younger people, pay people with seniority less, and this gem
To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)."
While I feel a little guilty linking to the NYTimes (I am boycotting them over Times Select and Judith Miller), I'm too busy being outraged by Walmart (again) than to care about being pissed off at NYT.
Waiting for Fitzmas

Well, still waiting. At least the news has gotten interesting again. It's also cool to see Al Franken out hawking his new book which, as he points out, is prescient.

I also filled out a Harris Poll survey yesterday in which they used to "i-word" - do I think Bush should be impeached, and why. Of course I said yes, and among the three reasons I listed the fact that he had abandoned his post on 9-11 and run away and hid. I doubt many people will share my opinion, but it's nice to get to say it to a pollster. More important though is that fact that they are asking it. Chris Bowers (I think) on MyDD has been asking that pollsters ask the question for months, because he felt that there was groundswell for impeachment, but if pollsters were not asking the question there was no way for people to know.

Another interesting point was made today at HuffPo - that this is worse than Watergate - 2000 American soldiers have died because of these guys actions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Hoping for Fitzmas tomorrow. Will we get the indictments we want? Hoping for Rove and Libby. Hoping for Cheney. Will we be so lucky? Not going to be too shocked it Cheney doesn't get it. I would be unhappy if Rove and Libby got away with their treason.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Leucaena and Mora

Are Leucaena and Mora two sides of the same coin? Is this all a community assembly question? Are they both a matter of "who gets there first"?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Old Friends

I finally got around to looking up my old webpage, my blog from the days before the word blog find it no longer exists. Navigated my way through the wayback archive of msnhomepages to the link to my page - but there was nothing there. Quite sad.

On a more positive note, I have decided to make the effort to look up people. I finally caught up with Barry - ok, he caught up with me - and I've spoken to him a few times online. Spoke to Parv today, and to Sanjay last night. To round things off, I've emailed Jen Clevinger - need to email Curtis. It's amazing to see their family picture - last time I saw him, Alex was a baby - now he's 7. Curtis and Jen look pretty much the same though. What was weird was the realisation that I had never mentioned them to Linz, or never mentioned them enough for her to remember their names. And my past is full of stuff like that - people I know, people who were good friends, who have just slipped away. It isn't like I don't want them still to be my friends - it's just that distance slipped in.

Job hunting makes me want to look for people. Saw job ads at Georgia Southern - wasn't quite qualified for the position, but it did make me think of dropping Lissa a line. Another person I haven't seen since 1998. I can't believe it's been that long. It's amazing where life can take you. I ran into Ted Feldpausch at ESA this summer. People you knew pretty well and yet would have a hard time coming up with in your head. Networking is a funny old thing - something I don't understand, but I can see how it would be valuable. It makes all the difference in the world to know someone on a list of job applicants, I'm sure it does. Anything that makes a person stand out from the crowd.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Trinidad Politics

I'm back to the stage where I don't even want to read newspapers from home any more. You look at the Guardian or Express and all you see is murder after murder. I'd say I'm reminded of 1995, but the truth is, compared to this 1995 was nothing.

It's obvious that Manning is incompetent, he really isn't up to the job. I won't go as far as to say that he's complicit in the crime wave - crime tsunami, really - I don't believe that he is. But he isn't up to doing anything about it. He has been blessed by spikes in oil prices that allowed him to bring a budget full of tax cuts and other goodies. Will it be sustainable? I wasn't able to figure out what sort of an oil price it was predicated on, so the answer is "who knows". In a normal economy, driven by internal factors, this level of crime would depress the economy enough to force any government to act. The problem is that government revenue is all the more dependent on external factors, and while high crime can make foreign investors think twice about getting involved in a country, these are oil companies - compared to a lot of places they operate, Trinidad is still a safe country, even after a string of bombings.

So elections are not due until the end of 2007. More than two years away. It should be plenty of time for the government to start to crack down on crime and spread enough patronage to keep themselves in power. To be honest, as much as I despise this government, it's beyond the point where I can take pleasure in their failures in the hope that it will get them voted out of office. I would rather they do something, get crime under control, even if it meant that they were given another term in government by the grateful populace. I just don't believe that they can do anything. Manning failed in 1991-1995, and he is failing in precisely the same way in 2001-2007, or hopefully 2001-2006 (one can always hope he calls another snap election and gets voted out again, but I don't think that even he is that stupid).

So what of the UNC? Will Dookeran's election (or annointment, really) as party leader be the thing that people are looking for? Dookeran has been an almost mythical figure for a long time - Abu Bakr wanted him as interim Prime Minister after the coup, he remains the most popular politician in Trinidad and Tobago. The problem, I suspect, is one of whether people will see him as running the UNC, or simply being a new face for a party run by Bas. For the time being, Bas is still the man in charge, and everyone knows it. Not only is he still Leader of the Opposition, he is also the puppetmaster within the party. His slate was able to win control of the party executive, and he retains the support of the rank and file, and of the core supporters of the party. For the time being, the party is still his, and it looks like he wants to pull a Lee Kwan Yew and stay as "Senior Minister". I don't think that will do the trick. In order to win over the "swing voters", people have to believe that they are voting for Wins, not Bas. Too many people do not trust Bas, even though they aren't happy with Patrick.

What is interesting is that Bas' slate was able to win control of the party executive, while Dookeran's slate failed. In 2001 it was the other way around - Bas' slate failed, and Ramesh's slate won. It says something about the membership of the UNC. In 2001 Bas backed an "NAR" slate - people like Carlos John, and Ramesh backed a solidly Indian slate. In 2005 Bas picked the Indian option, leaving Dookeran to back the integrated, ex-NARite slate. And once again the Indian slate won. (Ok, maybe "ex-NARite" is the wrong term, since Kamla and the skinny man were people who stayed in NAR in 1991). What does that mean for the party? Well, like anywhere else, the party membership, the core of the party, is not the same as the people who will or may vote for it in an election. The UNC is a party of the grassroots, of the sugar worker - these are the people who have followed Bas for the last 30 years. The "NAR element" - Indian or mixed, middle to upper middle class - may be solidly within the party, they may have given their allegience to the UNC, but they are probably not as well represented among party members.

But all this is speculation based on feeling and impression, and not on any data. But at the very least, we have the prospect of the next election being Naps versus Pres!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Intellectual Immigration

There's an interesting "first person" in the Chronicle today, about a Danish academic moving to the US. In it he talks about the European "intellectual immigrant" moving to the US, and holding on, holding onto the old traditions that have been forgotten at home (like changing from brown shoes to black shoes at 6 o'clock). That I can understand - the need to find little ways to set yourself apart for fear of being submerged in the culture, for fear of becoming an American.

On the other hand, he talks about the difficulties faced in adapting to American culture, the difficulties of trying to fit in. And I realise how Americanised I am. For one, Trinidad is terribly Americanised, far more than people realise or want to admit. American television,'s a lot more of a cultural homogeniser than you realise. I suppose I realised that during the International TA Orientation at MSU in 1994. I felt pretty silly having American slang explained to me.

Then there is my childhood in Canada. I try to minimise it, but it is a huge part of who I am. The connection to Canada is strong and deep. It isn't home, but it means something real to me.

And then there is my American PhD. There is no need for me to adapt to American academe - it's all I really know beyond the undergrad level. You don't think about things like that, but I am most certainly a product of an American scientific tradition.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Job Hunting

Well, I finally got a job application out today. It felt really good to get it out, but now I don't know what to do next. I feel like, ok, that's done, I don't have to think about that again for a while...when, in reality, I've just barely gotten started.

It also makes you think about networking. Talking to Jen about applying for her former job. Thinking about emailing Lissa - I would if I thought there was any way that I could fit myself to the jobs posted by Georgia Southern. And the fact that there's another MSU grad at the school I just sent an application to. I can't say I really know her name, I can't put a picture to her face, but it's still a point of commonality - if she is on the search committee she should recognise my name, or at least my references (Pete and Tom, at least). There's a job at Toronto - it would be a great job, but I rather doubt I am what they are looking for. Nonetheless, the thing that I wonder about is whether Sean Thomas would remember me, after I bothered him at ESA this summer.

My main point is, I now understand a little better why things like ESA are important for people who are trying to get hired, get noticed. Ecology, science as a whole, is such a small world. It's a shame I have never been better at schmoozing. I know people, I think I leave something of an impression on people...but I don't know enough people, and I don't know the movers and shakers, the rising stars.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

OU Suicide Bombing (update, of a sort)

So it's been five days since Joel Henry Hinrichs blew himself up outside my building. The best source of information I have come across is the Wikipedia article, but that does not delve into the rumours that are flying around. There are verified reports that he tried to buy ammonium nitrate a few days before the bombing, but the store clerk refused to sell it to him because he couldn't say how much he needed or what he needed it for. There are unconfirmed rumours (or, at least unconfirmed as far as I can tell) that he was attending mosque regularly and that he tried to enter the stadium but was refused entry because he did not allow them to search his backpack. Whether this is true or not is unknown - I was hearing that story almost from the start, and to me it seemed like it started as speculation by the reporters on the scene. While people are now saying that "someone" saw it, I am inclined to take it with a grain of salt. I'm sure there are security cameras that recorded the whole thing, I am sure that whether he had a ticket or not is verifiable...we'll hear something sooner or later, which will contain some aspects of the truth, but probably not the whole truth.

It's still mostly sad. They replaced the bench he blew himself up on by Monday afternoon. I don't think I'd want to sit on the new bench though. What drove him to do this? The other wild speculation - whether there might be some deeper plot behind it, and the simple fact that, hey, someone blew themselves up outside my building really haven't sank in. I don't feel any real sense of danger about the whole thing. Of course, someone could have made a bigger bomb and walked into the building at 9:20 am any morning, when the corridors are packed with people, and have hurt as many people as they wanted to. There is no such thing as absolute security, just measured risks.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Gordon says that we will not be able to get back into the building until at least noon. Still cordoned off by the police. Again, it feels strange. Who was this person? What were they planning to do? Why did they choose that spot? Disgruntled botany student who was unhappy with a grade? I sure hope not.
Suicide bomber at OU?

Someone blew themselves up outside our building at OU. Rather disturbing. Was it a 'suicide bombing' or a 'suicide by bomb? It was reported to have taken place in "the courtyard near the George Lynn Cross Hall, Botany-Microbiology Building on OU's campus". Right near my office. Gordon, the department chair, reported a broken window, but no other reported damage. I suspect probably Linda's or Jia Li's office.

It was veyr worrying at first, when news reports came from people inside the stadium, who could only report on the general location based on the sound. Then came the reports of the "courtyard" at GLCH. More worrying, though at least it meant it wasn't in the building. Finally, Gordon's email clarified things - he has more information about the building than the news media (not that, I suppose, they are very motivated to report on the condition of the building).

It's mostly puzzling. It's just difficult to figure out what I feel. Oh well...