Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20

This weekend has been filled with lots of things about Barack Obama. Even a short piece on why the spell checkers complain about his name. The blog one thinks it should be Ba rack Obadiah. Seems like someone should be able to fix this.

As I listened to a lot of the Obama things I kept running into stories or people talking about what this day meant to them. These stories kept causing a lump in my throat. I realized that the sense of hope in me is very strong. It is really great to feel this way. I am old enough to know that it won't last forever, but damn, it feels good right now.

I know people who hate Obama. I choose to ignore these people. I can do this because they are marginalized right now. I know people who do not feel this sense of hope. These people are sadder to think about. These people are missing something profound that is happening in this country. They may have lots of really good reasons for holding back, but I can't help feeling that they are missing a rare opportunity to believe in something. It may never happen again in my life time.

Today we broadcast the inauguration in the auditorium. My school has a junior high in the building also. The auditorium had 500 kids from 5th to 12th grade. When Joe Biden took the oath they cheered. When Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman were anounced the kids fidgeted, but then listened. When Barack Obama took the oath they went crazy. When he spoke there was not a sound in the auditorium except for applause a few times and boos when he mentioned Bush. I do not think I have ever been in a high school auditorium this quiet or this attentive.

Last week I was in a lab and a black boy was walking by with his pants below his ass. I mentioned to him that Obama had said he didn't want to see this any more. The kid pulled his pants up. I feel a change is happening. I feel different today than I did yesterday. I have hope.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The odor of love.

There seems to be some evidence that people are attracted to members of the opposite sex based on the odor the other person gives off. The person of the opposite sex may give off a smell that signals that there genotype will produce children that are more immune to disease than either person is. This makes a lot of sense from an evolution stand point.

Why we are attracted to a particular member of the opposite sex has always interested me. In some cases there is a clear logic, the other person has money, the other person fits what you think you should have, etc. But often the choice makes little sense. You fall in love and you are not sure why. Falling in love only makes sense if it is seen as necessary for the survival of the species.

This concept has made me reevaluate why people are healthier today then they were 100 years ago. They are healthier. The general consensus has been that there is better nutrition and more immunization. I am sure this is true. But maybe it is not the whole truth. In the civil war soldiers from cities did better than rural soldiers in terms of getting diseases such as dysentery. Dysentery was a huge problem. It weakened whole armies. The argument has always been that city people had better immune systems because they had been exposed to more germs.

What if this is not the whole story. It is possible that the fact that city people have larger choices of mates meant that they were more likely to find someone with a complementary genotype. City folk were breeding healthier kids. I find this appealing because it argues for a wide open mating market. A mating market free from the need to stay within an ethnic, religious or racial group. Maybe bigots produce less healthy kids.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Did George Bush save Social Security?

When you think about it the total crash of the stock market has caused many people to delay retirement. This is exactly what Social Security needed. If no one can afford to retire than the system will save large amounts of money. So, thanks George.

In a few days Barack Obama will be President. This got me thinking about elections. I think that this country basically wants to vote for someone who is not too smart. I think the majority of people are nervous around smart people. This is why George was elected twice. This seems to be part of an American anti-intellectual bias. We want Clint Eastwood or Tommy Lee Jones to be our president.

Obama is not either one of these guys. The only way we can elect someone such as Obama is if he/she has an extra something. Obama is black, Hillary is a woman, Kennedy is a Catholic etc. The winning formula is to round up the people who want a smart leader (even though this is a minority) and add a block that will vote for someone in spite of their being smart (in Obama's case the blacks).

This may reflect the increasing divide in our country. My parents aspired to smartness for their kids. I think a lot of people in our country today are nervous about their kids becoming too smart and moving out of town and rejecting their parents life style. This is sad and needs to be addressed.