Hoofing It

Today, in my new role as the coordinator of Carleton’s part of Northfield’s (and the country’s) United Way campaign (“Live United”), I schlepped all over campus to deliver more than a thousand pledge packets to every last employee – or actually, to the diligent volunteers who will get the packets to the actual employees.

Though this task took the better part of the day, and proved that those plastic USPS mail trays are meant to sit on carts, not to be carried around, it was actually a fun job. I probably met 20 people whom I didn’t know, explored some of the campus’ interesting corners (or non-corners: Goodsell Observatory is a very cool, very round building), and felt like I was contributing in some small, stair-climbing way to the campus campaign

I also witnessed the raging insanity of Family Weekend. What a madhouse. Current students with their parents, prospective students with their parents, (probably) prospective parents with their prospective students. Campus maps on a third of the eye-level vertical surfaces. Free food everywhere, much of it being consumed by tired-looking adults standing in the middle of the sidewalk. Audiae, Mercedeses, Acurae, and Lexuses crowding the streets. Young kids trailing after mom, dad, and the big sibling, taking advantage of the others’ distraction to help themselves to that free food. (Caramel-covered apple slices and ice cream!) Grown men and women attired unflatteringly like their children. Kids attired flatteringly like their parents. Britney Spears songs blasting from speakers in front of the campus center. The pleasing smell and sigh of damp leaves. Grown-ups standing perfectly still except for their swiveling heads, trying to figure out where the hell they were. Endless Carleton swag flying out of the bookstore. A lot of people looking pretty happy with the whole situation, and with the college.

Leafed Out

An old friend delurked today to fill me in on her life since the last time I talked to her; among other interesting features, this life includes finishing three marathons. *sigh*

I can’t run that far once, much less three times (gawd, I hope she hasn’t run all three this year – or this summer!), but I can offer a slideshow of the scenery in the Carleton Arb last weekend. Tell you what: ambling through this sort of beauty makes the ambling a lot easier.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Looking (Too Far) Forward

Gotcha. I’ll stop instant-messaging with friends about your legacy after 2016. I may have been slightly ahead of myself.

With their final debate behind them, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain began the final 19-day sprint to Election Day on Thursday, with Mr. Obama admonishing supporters to avoid growing complacent about the Democratic effort to win the White House and its recent gains in opinion polls.

“Debates Over, Candidates Begin Final Sprint,” NY Times

Falling Indicators

Fleece is appropriate morning, noon, and night.
The girls mistake the frosted grass outside for snow.
The centipedes come inside every night, to my disgusted chagrin.
Parents worry about the inevitable start of the cold-weather illnesses.
Minnesota Public Radio reports windchills.
Hot coffee is the only realistic option.
The college girls are wearing their Uggs again.
The winter-fearing are grumbling about the snow.
Hardware stores are selling snow shovels and de-icing salt.
I have stopped leaving my bike helmet and shoes in the garage overnight, switched from biking gloves to mittens, and added an earband to the commuting clothing.


Entry 1
It’s news to me, but 7-11 has, for the past few elections, been running a promotion wherein voters can indicate their presidential preferences by choosing certain cups for their coffee. Despite the fact that not every state has 7-11s, the final totals in 2000 and 2004 apparently lined up pretty well with the final outcomes of those elections. (This means, I guess, that just as you were about to enjoy your last cup of delicious steaming Kerry, five guys in black robes ran up, knocked in out of your hands, and handed you a cup of cold, grounds-filled Bush.)

And but so, you want to know who’s ahead now, right? You’ll have to click through the Flash-y website to see the exact numbers, but as of 9:17 pm tonight, Barack Obama leads John McCain, 59.68% to 40.32%. I think that’s called a “landslide.” (For what it’s worth, McCain is only “winning” three states [North Carolina, New Hampshire, and West Virginia], and only by narrow margins.)

Anyone out there near a 7-11, go buy a large Obama cup for me. I’ll pay you back.

Entry 2 (promoted from my Tumblr site – see the right side of this page)

At his rally in Lakeville, Minnesota, last week, a woman asked John McCain about Barack Obama being an “Arab.” McCain cut her off, but the full story is even worse. (See the video: she appears at about 0:50.) Apparently, the woman may have actually said that Obama was an “Arab terrorist,” and in an interview with reporters after the event, both repeated that slur (describing her sketchy sources for that information) and said she’s a Minnesota GOP campaign worker. See the full transcript of the interview at The Uptake. Nice campaign you’re running over there, Republicans!

Presidential Education

Amidst the continuing turmoil on Wall Street and the increasing ugliness of the presidential campaign, it was nice to read – a few days ago, but many days after its publication – this article in the Boston Globe about Barack Obama’s two years at Occidental College, a liberal-arts school in Los Angeles. According to journalist Scott Helman,

it is during the two years Obama spent at Occidental, a small liberal arts school in Los Angeles, that he started on the path that has led to the Democratic presidential nomination. Oxy, as it is affectionately known, nurtured his transformation. He started playing basketball less so he could read and study more. After shying away from activism early in his college career, he joined an antiapartheid campaign. He came to terms with his identity, eventually ditching his nickname, Barry, and embracing Barack. And then, yearning for a bigger stage, he engineered a transfer to Columbia.

Partly it was the sobering state of the world and the nation – the Iran hostage crisis and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the grave concerns over energy and inflation, and the wave of antigovernment conservatism that swept through California in 1978 as the precursor to the Reagan revolution. Partly it was a pivotal professor who helped tease out his potential. And partly it was a desire to assert more control over the arc of his life.

Very interesting stuff. I hope President Obama pays attention to the American liberal-arts colleges, which often do more with less than the big state and private universities that get all the press.

(Postscript: I thought that Obama would have been one of a very few presidential-level politicians to have attended a liberal-arts college, but – according to this Wikipedia list – quite a few have earned degrees at small colleges. By my count, at least fifteen presidents attended at least thirteen liberal-arts schools. The last to do so was Ronald Reagan, who attended Eureka College.)

Still Thinking Snow

The crisp early-October morning weather is heightening my eagerness for some snow, so I was excited to hear Mark Seeley, a U of Minnesota climatologist and state celebrity, say last Friday on Minnesota Public Radio that the Twin Cities have received measurable snowfall in forty Octobers since 1884, most recently in 2002. October snow is actually pretty late for some parts of the continent, of course. On August 31, the Canadian cross-country skier Devon Kershaw blogged about significant snowfall in the Rockies, and a couple of ski teams in Alaska actually did a bit of snow skiing in September. And this weekend, the forecast for Spearfish, South Dakota, is nicely white:

Spearfish Forecast
Spearfish Forecast

As my post last weekend showed, here in southern Minnesota it’s still rollerski season. My workout hardly compared, in topographical or physical demands, to the incredible-sounding (and amazing-looking) “Climb to the Castle” uphill race on Monday in northern New York. Then again, it was still better than using this cool but pretty weird cool invention: a synthetic surface so much like snow that you can ski on it.

When I get rich figuring out how to profit on the Wall Street collapse, I’ll use my third million dollars to install this on my woodland estate in northern Minnesota. (The first million will go in the bank, the second to buy the property and build a modest 9 BR, 8 bath shack in one corner of the lot.)