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And it’s not even a month into the new semester. That’s just pathetic, I know, but I’m sitting in my Intro to Computer Science lecture and want to smack my head open on my desk. The lecturer is not great; he’s relatively nervous and his accent makes listening an exercise in translation. And trust me, the info is all lost in that translation. I miss the other lecturer, and I didn’t think I would ever say that. To make matters worse, I know most of what has been covered in this class so far. I wanted an easy class to get an easy good mark in during my last semester.

I can hear what you’re saying, right now: Be careful what you wish for, Melanie; you might get it. Truer words have rarely been spoken. There’s a reason that’s part of (I think) an ancient Chinese curse.

Someone please put me out of my misery.

And so ends the daily rant. We now return you to your regularly scheduled life ;)

Note: I wrote this the night of the election and it was printed in my university’s student newspaper a couple of days later. I just felt it belonged on my blog, so here it is. Obviously some things have changed, some for worse, some for better, but this was still a great day for me.
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On Tuesday night, another historic milestone was reached. As a usually not-so-proud American, I was giddy with excitement when I filled out my absentee ballot a week earlier. I’d never voted before (Americans aren’t good about telling citizens abroad they have the right), but I can honestly say I wouldn’t have been as excited in the last election. Let’s face it, Kerry was okay, but not really approachable or accessible to all voting classes.

However this election has been by turns thrilling and disgusting, hilarious and sombre. I admit, at the beginning of the primary season, I was leaning toward John McCain. Even though he’s a Republican, he had a reputation for independence and didn’t always toe the party line. As the sheen wore off, I realised that ended back in the 1990s and I noticed with dismay how much more hard-line his positions had become.

I was never a huge Hillary supporter beyond the fact that she’s a woman, mostly because I detect a suspicious affinity for political expediency in her character and she’s far too establishment for my taste: too many skeletons in the closet, too many favours owed.

Enter Barack Obama. He’s articulate, well-educated, erudite; he understands how useless the establishment can be. He’s also black; well, it’s about damn time. But wait, he was endorsed by Oprah before he even decided to run. That right there made me think thrice about voting for him; is he just a token, or worse, a puppet?

That’s when I started paying closer attention to the primaries than I ever have (not enough to register to vote in them, I don’t declare party affiliation and was still leaning toward McCain at that point). On the Democrat side, I was stuck between the female token and the African-American one, until I started listening to their words, how they see the United States and envision its future. Hillary made a lot of “Shrub sucks!” comments, but Obama didn’t do much of that. Instead, he focused on the way forward for the nation as a whole.

As I started to realise this one might be the real deal, he got the nomination at the Democratic Convention; I celebrated with a small “yay!” in my living room. The campaign began and he continued to impress me. He obviously also impressed many other: not only did he raise the most money ever, he also raised it from the most people ever (we’re talking $20-100 increments, people). It started to get negative, as these things do, but nothing compared to previously.

Obama continued to focus on change, hope for the future and a way out of our current quagmire (not just wars, but social safety net and economic issues too). I was more impressed by the day (McCain’s choice of Palin also disgusted me, making Obama seem even more…better). Then the economy went to hell and things got right messy: it was clear that the McCain and Obama camps didn’t like each other much.

Still, in the end, I was proud to see record voter turn-out (projected at about 64 per cent), to cast my own ballot and to vote for Barack. And when he won I was, for once, proud to call myself an American. Will he be perfect? No. Will he be able to deliver everything he promised? Probably not. Will this nip that looming recession in the bud? Hell no!

But Obama seems to understand that torture is bad, no matter what. He knows that a social contract exists between the governed and the state which must be honoured by both parties, always. He grasps the concept of multilateralism and how essential it is in the changing world order. I believe this man will do his best to fix what he can and to return the nation to the foundations upon which it was built: All humans are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As Obama sums it up, “Hope”. That’s why I voted for him.

A lot has happened in the almost nine months since I last posted. Imagine that.

The most exciting thing for me was that I voted in the US election for the first time. I was very proud to be able to vote for Barack Obama, and I still haven’t gotten over it, as silly as that may seem. I was also quite perturbed to see that the ‘great’ state of California asked me vote on a little something called Proposition 8. I voted no, since I don’t feel that it is constitutional to refuse certain people the right to marry.

I was disgusted to see, however, that the state as a whole narrowly passed the measure, making it illegal for same-sex couples to marry. Not only was I disgusted, but I wondered about what would happen to the several thousand couples who had tied the knot since the state supreme court had ruled that it was legal. So far, nothing has changed for those couples, since they did nothing illegal. But what about when it comes time to put it to the test, like when someone retires, has a medical issue or gets divorced.

I am totally and completely pumped for the inauguration, just five days away. Thank God for the internet, or I would never see decent coverage, since I only have peasant-vision on my telly and live in Canada. I’m counting the hours for the 44th president of the United States to make history. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and it finally seems to be coming to fruition. Awesome.

I was told something was funny. I looked it up and disagreed: to me, it was hilarious. But not everyone would necessarily agree, mostly because the lens through which someone views anything is generated to a large extent by the culture in which they have been socialised. This particular case was funny to us North Americans, but a CEO in Europe would likely have said something along the lines of: this is a waste of time, and I’m not paying you to waste time.

As the internet has revolutionised the way we talk to each other, it has also brought cultures into contact which have previously had little to none. Plus, the way we now communicate so instantaneously lacks a certain element: face-to-face (F2F) communication. Most of us are never as aware of the importance of visual and/or audio cues in a conversation until we notice the lack of it.

Yesterday, I had a lovely, and extended conversation with my little brother, Linus. But it was on the phone, and so much of what he was telling me, I had a hard time understanding, since he uses his hands to talk, just like every other Gattiker. Luckily, my father was there and able to explain when I got lost, but without him, I’m sure my conversation would have been immeasurably shorter and far less satisfying.

This could easily be fixed with a video call, I’m certain, but not everyone has that capacity, and here the digital gap or divide becomes problematic. The world runs on money, and not everyone has enough to allow for things like video calls. So are we just stuck with the way thing are, or will technology somehow improve so drastically as to allow for free access for everyone?

Just a thought.

Edited 05.01.09: Claiming a blog is important in today’s social media environment. Or so I’ve been told, so that’s what I’m doing at my.commetrics.com.

I just spend about two hours fiddling with my blog. That’s stupid…but as with most things on the internet, if you really get into it, the time just flies. The problem is there are so many options and so many possibilities for customisation. A big part of me likes that, but then I look up at the clock and realise half of my day has just disappeared.

And there’s the rub: it can be so easy to get lost in cyberspace. While parts of it are highly useful for both personal and business reasons (such as email, messaging and voip), others are great for those of us trying to learn (believe it or not, Wikipedia can sometimes be a great starting point for research for a university paper).

Some parts of it, though, are just time-wasters, and unlikely to improve your life in any tangible way or advance your career in any way at all. Here I’m referring to almost any social networking site, including Facebook, MySpace, del.icio.us, Technorati, etc.

I know many would disagree with that assessment, but unless you are a business person, it is, in fact, quite unlikely that your use of these things is geared towards business, advancement or something else “worthwhile”. There are already so many people who label themselves “addicts” of one or more of these kinds of sites…can this really be a good sign?

Nevertheless, I keep trying to update my blog with half-intelligent thoughts and am trying to make it better (more on that later). Does that make me an addict too? Why are people so driven to put their inner-most thoughts out there for anyone to see and dissect? And why won’t people do that with someone F2F (face to face)?

Apparently, it’s now become too dangerous to have people apply for a passport by mail. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that I think this is the biggest crime of the century, but it seems rather ridiculous to expect people to trek across the country to get a travel document.

The problem is I need a new German passport and the “closest” consulate which can help with that is in Vancouver. That’s a whole 1500 kilometres away (approximately). It wouldn’t be so hard/impossible/bad if there was a consulate in Calgary (a mere two hours away), but no; it’s either Vancouver or frickin’ Toronto or Montreal, not to mention Ottawa (site of the Embassy in Canada).

I just find that ridiculous, and I know I’m not the only non-Canadian citizen trying to get a new passport who isn’t a U.S. citizen (they have consulates all over the place because of Canada’s “close ties” with them). The Germans are the only ones I know of to implement this “new” rule, which is typical. If the Swiss can manage to do this by mail, why can’t the Krauts?? (The closest Swiss consulate is also in Vancouver.)

Grrr…..sooo frustrating! Thanks for reading my rant, we now return to your regularly scheduled internet content.

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