I'm feeling lucky

This weekend, my sister-in-law hosted the most fabulous baby shower for me. It was such a well-organized affair (as those who read Mary's blog would expect from someone so on top of everything), with beautiful decorations, great food, scrumptious cakes (yes, cakes, plural—a chocolate one and a tres leches, and yes, I had a piece of both), so many loved ones, and mountains of presents for me and the future member of our family. Quite fittingly, the party reminded me of my bridal shower a couple years ago, when I felt overwhelmed with all the love that surrounds me. There's just no other reason to throw or attend a shower than love—it's not like you go for the food or because you had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon than hang out with a bunch of your friend's friends you might not know all that well. You go purely as an expression of your love and support for someone who's experiencing a profound life change, and I have to say I've been really deeply moved at both of my showers. It's really precious, the feeling that you don't want a moment to end. I felt that a lot yesterday, and for that, I consider myself very lucky.


I knew it!

A week ago, I was down in Palo Alto with my mom, and we drove by the campus of my alma mater, Stanford. I noticed there were preparations for the commencement ceremonies going on, and I joked to my mom that all I knew about this year's commencement was that the speaker would be someone way better than they had back in my day (though I actually had no idea who the scheduled speaker was). I knew this with confidence, because in my day, our commencement speaker was someone whose name and place in history I barely remember. The only part that sticks out in my mind was that he was against affirmative action. How inspirational! In the many years since then, the speakers have included Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Apple/Pixar CEO Steve Jobs, Nightline host Ted Koppel, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan—hell, even HP CEO Carly Fiorina was more inspiring than some law professor who's against affirmative action.

Mom and I shared a wry laugh, and we went on about our business.

Then today, I got this newsletter from Stanford.

"Former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw delivered the 115th Commencement address Sunday to more than 1,700 graduating seniors. Before an estimated audience of 20,000 family members and friends, he encouraged graduates to be mindful of their duty to contribute to society and to avoid turning exclusively to the Internet and their handheld gadgets to engage with the world."

Now, as longer-term readers may remember, Tom sure knows how to make a good commencement speech, at least in my book. All I can say is, I predicted it!


Muni Tales

Last week, a few really weird things happened on the SF Muni.

First, and perhaps weirdest, I caught the 14 bus after waiting just a few short minutes—on the way to work AND home. Catching the bus immediately one way is an atypical but lucky fluke; catching the bus both ways without having to wait 20 minutes or more is an unheard-of blessing, a luxury that sweeps away the imagination, an inspiration to dream of what it must be like to live in a city with decent public transport. This bus was neither overly crowded nor noxious with the fumes of the homeless. It took me a few minutes to orient myself, but what I saw next snapped me to immediate attention. As a group of people boarded the bus, I heard the driver stop one of them.

"I didn't see a pass in your wallet, sir," he said.

"It's...uh..." muttered the passenger.

"Please put some money in the bus, sir," the driver said.

The passenger sullenly deposited a token and muttered a semi-unintelligible but discernibly rude remark. The driver just shut the door and drove on. I sat and stared, mouth agape.

It was a bizarre experience, the likes of which I have never seen on SF Muni, where people brazenly board without paying as a rule. This same driver seemed even to be keeping the back door shut (remember, this bus wasn't that crowded, so exiting through the front door was no problem). It seemed he was trying to prevent farejumpers from hopping on that way. But maybe that was just my imagination, delirious at the joy of seeing someone enforce the rules even once.

I wondered if maybe things had changed, maybe the new SF Muni Commissioner had heard all the complaints about the 14 and told his drivers to shape up, maybe there was hope for SF public transport after all.

But this week, as I walked into work half an hour late after the bus ride from hell, I realized that everything was back to normal.


Wait, what?

I've been seeing ads about election issues on TV. "Schwarzenegger for Governor" ads. What is up with that? I thought we just finished an election. Something is terribly, terribly wrong with this scenario. You shouldn't have to start buying TV ads 10 days after an election when we're not voting again until November. (We're not voting again until November, right? Please tell me we're not voting again until November.)


RANT: How to make voting fun again

Yesterday was the primary in California, and as I attempted to determine how I wanted to vote on the two statewide propositions and four local measures, I freaked out. I realized that voting sucks. Democracy as we know it sucks. I've never known politics to be any other way, but ballot-box legislating and budgeting...sucks. We have to vote too often, and ballot propositions are way too complicated to be understood by any ordinary, working person with a limited amount of time for "extras" like current affairs.

I have a solution, and the only problem is that this blog post feels about as insignifcant as my pathetic one vote. But I'll go on anyway. My solution is two-pronged: hold elections once a year at the same time every year, when people expecct to be voting. That keeps it exciting. No primaries, no special elections, nothing, just one Tuesday in November when people understand it's their one chance to vote. This would help the turnout problem. The second prong helps the other issue: NO MORE PROPOSITIONS--period.

We ordinary individuals didn't go into politics because...news flash!...we're not genuinely interested in the ins and outs of government. I'm secure enough in my intelligence and worthiness as a human being to be able to admit that if I truly understood that vast policy implications of raising taxes on this or that segment of the population, or if I really knew so much about how best to run the California public schools, I'd be out there doing that instead of writing about videogames for a living. I mean, I care about the issues and how they affect my life, but I honestly have no idea how to make any of it better. So why am I being asked to vote on complex public policy issues I have no chance in hell of understanding?

I thought this was a representative democracy, anyway! I thought the whole tradeoff for not actually getting to make decisions ourselves was that we didn't have to make decisions ourselves. I mean, if you're going to expect me to learn all this stuff about the best way to improve public education, libraries, attendance at city council meetings, and real estate transactions, then dammit let's get rid of the thousands and thousands of suits in Sacramento whose salaries are paid by our tax dollars, and let me and my friends figure out how we want to run our own damn backyards.

My protest solution? Vote no on ALL ballot propositions, just to make a point that nobody wants them, nobody understands them, and they must be abolished. Of course, this won't happen, and nothing will change, and the voting public will just become more and more apathetic, and soon enough, the empire will crumble or some group will rise up and take charge, and something will change, and I'll look back on this time when I had the luxury of writing and ranting all I wanted about the ills of early 21st century American democracy. But until then I say, Vote No on ALL Propositions! Do it to prove a point!