Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You've Got Mail

I wanted to speculate a little more on my thoughts pertaining to the movie You've Got Mail, which as I said has recently become one of my favorite movies. In the movie, Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan) are two people who met in a chatroom and have been emailing back and forth ever since, not sharing any personal information (including names) but rather philosophical thoughts and musings that dig into the heart of who they both are. In the non-cyber world, they are intense business rivals: Joe Fox, the head of a discount book empire, and Kathleen Kelly, the owner of a small independent bookstore. Needless to say, their relationship through most of the movie is not a particularly amicable one. And also needless to say, neither of them for most of the movie has any idea that the person they are falling in love with over the internet is their most intense competition. I won't give away the end of the movie, but you probably can guess roughly what happens.

What are the hazards of developing a relationship with someone solely online? Well, in the end, I suppose it really depends on the integrity of the person with whom you're corresponding. Of course there's your standard internet creeps, stalkers, predators that everybody hears about. That is, I suppose, the biggest reasons that chatrooms and social networking with people you don't know on Facebook or Myspace make me nervous. It's basic safety precautions that you meet in person someone with whom you are friends with online.

The closest I can come to a You've Got Mail- esque story is the story of my friendship with J. He and I met at a weekend winter retreat in 2004. We were basically together in person for about 24 hours before we each left to go back to our homes, which were about 3 hours apart. Before we left, though, we swapped email addresses and start corresponding in that medium. Four years pass, and we continue to correspond regularly. He moves even farther away than we were previously. We both go through high school and grow up. We talk twice or so on the phone, but mostly it's still just email. There was one point in time in which I toured a college in his town, but due to extenuating circumstances we were unable to see each other.

Fall '07- I come to college at AU. He goes to a college close to his home, which happens to be only a few hours from DC. We start to talk on IM instead of emailing all the time. At first it's only occasionally, but soon the frequency increases to daily.
Spring '08- a situation comes up in which we work out logistics for me to get on a bus and go up to see him. And for the first time in four years, it works out.

I was excited to see him, of course, but I was also nervous when I got on the bus to go up to see him. In general, it's not always considered a wise course of action to go alone to a strange place to see someone that you barely know, at least in person. You always have to worry with the internet about the person you're talking to, about whether in person they are really the same person. About whether they're a creeper-stalker type of person. Beyond that, about whether they're even as great in person as they are online. About how the online friendship will translate into reality. They don't always, of course. Some people are just better in online situations where they can control what's going on, what they say. It's a great medium for people who have the common disease of verbal diarrhea, which only has one remedy: open mouth, insert foot. If you're typing a message to someone, you can stop and think about what you say before you send it. It's less personal sometimes, perhaps, but it's a safe communication medium if you want to think about what you say.

I've written a previous post about how I personally find communicating in writing to be easier. In writing, I communicate honestly, articulately, and clearly, sometimes more so than I do while speaking. Well, okay, as far as honesty goes, I'm honest most of the time when I talk too, but it has a tendency more toward bluntness, which isn't always a good thing. In writing, I usually nuance my honesty better. The honesty part, I think, is why my friendship with J. translated well into reality when we finally met again in person. He and I are both pretty honest people, and so we were pretty much the same in person as we were online. As I've said, this is not always the case. Some people craft their online personalities carefully, but these are separate from who they are in actuality, which means that anyone who meets both the online personality and the in-person personality will run into a mess of contradictions and even lies, not at all a good thing for any kind of relationship.

I think that in the end an online friendship or relationship requires two things: honesty, which I addressed above, and dedication. It's tempting sometimes when an online relationship gets challenging or annoying to just start ignoring the emails, the IMs, the Facebook messages, etc. With in-person friendships, you usually have to deal with the person eventually because you know them from somewhere, but with the internet you don't have to. This is good if the online relationship goes sour, but when it gets frustrating in the normal way that every friendship does, it requires a lot of dedication to not just give up on the friendship and let it fade off into the void ("So good night, dear void").

I'll close this ramble with a quote from the movie that sparked it. It may not apply to every online relationship, but I think it can be emblematic of the best of online relationships of any variety. In an email to Joe Fox (before she knows it's him), Kathleen Kelly writes, "The odd thing about this form of communication is that you're more likely to talk about nothing than something. But I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Carolyn's Thoughts

1) I hate being sick, and I hate being injured, and the last couple of days I've been both. Miserable cold, miserable back pain, ugh. But I will say this, it's a quick (if perhaps temporary) cure for insomnia. Yesterday I took two naps and went to bed at 11:00 for a change. Unusual for me- recently it's been more like 2 or 3 AM.

2) I watched You've Got Mail the other day, and decided it is one of my favorite chick flicks of all time. The idea of having such rapport with a person with whom you've developed a relationship solely or almost solely online is fascinating, and definitely something unique to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I'm still not sure that I'm a huge proponent of dating websites, or meeting people in internet chatrooms and online networking sites, but I do think it is possible to develop a good relationship with people you know primarily in online settings.

3) At my mom's request, I made my wish list for my birthday today, and it struck me that I'll be turning 19. Every year it sounds older. I know, technically every year is "older," but 19 sounds so close to ...20. And 21. Two decades of life. Something about that just seems odd. Oh well- I've still got my Dr. Seuss obsession to keep me young :)

4) Song du Jour: Always Be by Jimmy Eat World.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Concert Review

Review of the Jimmy Eat World/Paramore concert I blogged about on Saturday from the American University newspaper, The Eagle. Includes a couple of pictures. Oh, and also mentions the opening band, Dear and the Headlights. I forgot to mention them. Decent music, lots of energy, funny/punny name.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain

How I wish it was the same in the United States...or that I could move to Spain...yeah, that sounds nice. Nice country...very nice, still have to think about doing study abroad in the future, where and when...oh yeah, and have to think about if I want to do a concentration for my major, and if so which much to think about...
Anyway-- rain-- the original point of this-- I think DC weather has mood swings. On Friday it was about 80 degrees and sunny. Yesterday it was about 70-80 degrees and sunny. Last night it suddenly decided that it was a good idea to drop the temperature to 60 degrees and cloudy/rainy. It was thunderstorming last night when I was walking back from the concert. That was exciting. Just cloudy today, but pretty cold. Not great weather for the UC End-of-Year Party outside in the amphitheater. Didn't stop a lot of people from coming out though. Free cotton candy, free nachos from Qdoba, free stuff. Also had a nice chance to talk to Prof PTJ, the head of the General Education program here, and therefore the head of UC. He told my friends and I about some of the intricacies of scheduling, residency difficulties, etc. Oh, the joys of bureaucracy. Seems like AU took some lessons from the federal government as far as ridiculous bureaucratic measures go. I did find it funny how AU is getting grief from our neighbors about the WWI-era chemical weapons buried in one of our sports fields.

Political Musings (Slightly Uneducated Opinion Warning)

It's so hard to know what will happen in an election season. It looked from early on like this race was going to be a lock for the Democrats no matter who their nominee was. Well, months later, I personally am less convinced. I suspect that every day that this epic battle for the Democratic nomination goes on, the more likely it is that John McCain will win the presidency of the United States. Because he sewed up the GOP nomination so comparatively early, he has more time to unite the Republican base behind him (not, in this case, necessarily an easy task), make money, and go on the offensive against Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the entire Democratic party. Now yes, the Democrats can still make a strong case against really any Republican, especially one who has had anything in line with President Bush ("Do you really want four more years of THAT??") but if that's their only uniting factor, that could be problematic. My theory is that despite Obama's alleged ability to "bring people together" the Democratic party is in trouble in November no matter what. If Barack Obama is the nominee, I suspect the Hillary people will split in two-- some will move to support Obama, yes, like good Democrats, and some will move over and support McCain because of his moderate tendencies and his experience. If Hillary is the nominee, then I suspect many Obama people will simply not vote, because it's Obama that brings them out in droves, not the Democratic Party. McCain is polling narrowly ahead of both Clinton and Obama. From here out, things could swing either way-- the usual gaffe could effectively end the McCain run, or he could widen his lead. Either way, November is not going to be the expected cakewalk for the Dems-- not by a long shot.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


So I was walking back from a barbeque dinner at Tenley Campus tonight with my friend Graham, and I get a phone call out of the blue from my friend Stephen. He has somehow obtained two extra tickets to the concert on campus tonight (in addition to the one he already had for himself) and wanted to know if I wanted to join him and a couple of his friends. Having nothing better to do, I agreed. So I wound up ditching my "plans" for yet another quiet night of movie-watching in my room in favor of going to a concert by...Jimmy Eat World and Paramore.
Both of whom are now new new top bands on my list.
Sometimes spontaneous and random things wind up being a lot of fun.

Sleepless Nights, Weary Days

Living life on less than five hours of sleep a night for an entire week sucks.
Having to be reasonably cheerful, pleasant, and "with it" while going on three and a half hours of sleep is a distinct challenge.
Throw in 80 degree weather and wearing a black t-shirt and jeans to make you bake a little bit and all you want to do is make the world go away so you can take a nap.
Not being able to do that is unfortunate.
I love the zoo, I like Tryst, and I like Meskerem. I love my family, I love my friends. I love late nights hanging out with my friends and getting dessert at AfterWords.
But trying to do all of those things on so little sleep, with so little energy just makes me feel like I'm faking everything. To some extent I'm faking it, of course, but the pleasure I take in those things is real. It's buried underneath the exhaustion and subsequent aggravation, but it's real. The tough part sometimes can be digging past all that and letting that real pleasure come to the surface.
It happened a few times. One such time was when we were watching the seals at the zoo. They were just swimming back and forth, back and forth around their pool. It looked like such a nice life, peaceful and cool and predictable, albeit repetitive. And all of a sudden, watching them, I found myself feeling what I suspect seals feel...just all-around good. Like the Finding Nemo (Dory) philosophy on living life: "Just keep swimming".
I took a nap in the grass at the zoo after lunch. It was lovely, just lying there in the shade dozing off as little kids ran past screaming and the animals made their noises. And all I could think was...sleep...sleep...why can't I do this so easily at night? I was falling asleep so quickly and easily there. Heck, I fell asleep sitting up in the restaurant. Why couldn't that happen at night? Say, around 12:30-1 AM? This quasi-insomnia is obnoxious.

Friday, April 25, 2008


"Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow. Success depends upon using it wisely by planning and setting priorities."

Denis Waitely


College students are notoriously good at wasting time. It's a rare find when you encounter someone who gets their nose to the grindstone early on and gets an assignment done. More frequently, you find someone who, at 2 AM the night before a paper is due, is still incapable of getting focused on it, and instead winds up pulling an all-nighter. It's kind of sad, but it almost seems to be the natural order of life. You can be a great student through most of middle school and high school, then you slump at the end of senior year. Said slump intensifies through college, until you enter the workforce and become a productive member of society. In theory. Getting rid of homework would be nice. I always liked the philosophy of my Bible teacher in high school- "Jesus never gave tests or quizzes ,and if He was the greatest Teacher that ever lived, why should I not follow His example?" Can more teachers and professors please follow that philosophy? Please?

It's a miracle to me how some of these assignments get done considering how much time we waste. I guess it's really true, what that quote says- time is amazingly fair and forgiving. There's almost always more time and if you focus enough and get to work hard then you can accomplish most things in virtually any amount of time.

[True] Story I wrote for my College Writing class

Tara was easily the most original character in my year at our highly conservative Christian high school in New Hampshire. She and her family were originally from the New York City area. They lived in southern Maine when I met her, though, and had for many years. Tara identified with the two regions, and you could tell. She enjoyed flirting with backwoods redneck “Mainah” guys, argued New York Yankees baseball enthusiastically with all the rabid Red Sox fans at our school, wore classy black like a good New Yorker, and used the ever-colorful New England accent, complete with a-h's where r's belong, and r's where they do not belong. In many ways, she was the quintessential Yankee-- a New Yorker and a New Englander, contradictory though those two identifications may sometimes be.

In April of our senior year, Tara told me that she was going to be attending the University of Mississippi for college. I was floored, and so was she. She had never thought that she would want to go to college in the South. When she told me about going, I teased her, saying that her perception of Civil War history would be completely altered, that she'd find her Rhett Butler down there (Tara was a Gone With the Wind fanatic), and that she'd come back home saying, “That's wicked cool, y'all!”

When senior year ended, of course, I came here to American, and Tara went to Ole Miss. We didn't talk too much outside of Facebook for most of the year, but early in January I called her and we chatted for two hours. It turned out that the South had really agreed with her. She loved the lifestyle, the weather, her school-- she had even picked up some of the Southern drawl. Her voice had softened a little, and her use of “a-h”s instead of r's had intensified and softened simultaneously-- for example, she started to say “nevah” instead of “never.” And yes-- as I had predicted, she had started saying that truly cross-regional phrase: “That's wicked cool, y'all.”


Everybody always says it's the key to every relationship, the key to basically living your life successfully. And to most extents I would agree with that.
But sometimes it's just a pain in the butt. Sometimes I wish that the people who I want to know could just read my mind and know what I think and how I mean it to be expressed so that I don't have to do the work of expressing the thought.
Because sometimes the whole "open mouth, express thoughts" thing doesn't go so well. Sometimes people react really badly to comments that are not expressed well. Heck, sometimes people don't react well to comments that ARE expressed well. It's extremely unfortunate.
I always feel like I can communicate better, more clearly and articulately, more honestly even, in writing. This is good when it comes to blogging and writing papers and letters and such...not so good in face-to-face communication. Talking to people one on one isn't usually a problem for me; talking in groups is significantly less comfortable. I don't mind public speaking sometimes, but I won't do it if I don't have to.
Maybe I should sell my cell phone, become a hermit, and communicate with the outside world through solely written or typed words.
Or maybe that'd be a bad idea because I'd probably go crazy and start talking to myself out loud.
Hey, I could finally teach all those voices in my head to sing in four-part harmony.
Current music: "Believe" by Yellowcard. Been listening to Yellowcard a lot lately. Good stuff.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Update on previous post

Nothing definitive happened to make today either good or bad. Things continued to happen on both sides of the spectrum, ranging from the bad: more arguments and personal issues to deal with, and the good: a walk on the National Mall and dinner at Union Station with a good friend for a chance to relax. Guess that would make today...a normal day? Not good, not bad. We'll see how easily sleep comes tonight.
PS- Top songs- have listened to Here's to the Night by Eve 6...103 times since purchasing it. Pictures of You by The Last Goodnight 73 times. Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard 65 times.

Reading and Eating in Washington, DC

The monuments, you know. The museums, you know. But here's a list of some places you may not know-- my favorite (or future favorite) bookstores and restaurants to check out.

Capitol Hill Books [Eastern Market]
687 C Street, SE
Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Ave., NW
Joshua Heller Rare Books, Inc. [Tenleytown]
3720 Albemarle Street, NW.
Treetop Toys & Books, Inc.
3301 New Mexico Ave., NW
M&D's Books [Friendship Heights]
4515 Willard Ave. #S704
Booked Up [Georgetown]
1204 31st Street, NW
Curiosity Bookstore
1219 I Street, NW
Kramer's Books [Dupont Circle]
1517 Connecticut Ave., NW
Backstage, Inc.- The Performing Arts Store [Eastern Market]
545 8th Street, SE
Trover Shop Books & Office
2221 Pennsylvania Ave., SE

Cafe Ole [Misc. Mediterranean]
4000 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Prince Cafe [Mediterranean]
4629 41st Street, NW

Cactus Cantina
3300 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Alero [Mexican]
3500 Connecticut Ave, NW [Cleveland Park]

5333 Wisconsin Ave., NW [Friendship Heights]
Dino [Italian- $$]
3435 Connecticut Ave., NW
Pesto Ristorante [Italian]
2915 Connecticut Ave., NW [Woodley Park]
DeCarlo [Italian]
4822 Yuma Street, NW
Tosca Ristorante [Italian]
1112 F St NW

Charlie Chiang's [Chinese]
4250 Connecticut Ave., NW
Lebanese Taverna
2641 Connecticut Ave., NW [Adams Morgan]
Zorba's [Greek]
1612 20th Street, NW [Dupont Circle]
Le Chat Noir [French]
4907 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Meskerem [Ethiopian]
2434 18th Street, NW [Adams Morgan]
B.D.'s Mongolian Barbeque
7201 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Portofino [Northern Italian]
526 23rd St S, Arlington [Crystal City]
Russia House Lounge [Russian]
1800 Connecticut Ave NW [Dupont Circle]
Marrakesh [Moroccan]
617 New York Ave., NW [Mt Vernon Square]

Steak & Egg Kitchen [Diner]
Wisconsin Ave., NW [Tenleytown]
The Diner [Diner]
2453 18th St NW [Adams Morgan]
Ben's Chili Bowl [Diner]
1213 U Street NW

Old Ebbitt's Grill [American]
15th Street (Across from Treasury Dept.)
Chadwick's [American]
5247 Wisconsin Ave., NW [Friendship Heights]
M&S Grill
600 13th St NW [MetroCenter]
Martin's Tavern
1264 Wisconsin Ave., NW [Georgetown]

Reeves Restaurant and Bakery
1306 G St NW [MetroCenter]
Afterwords [American]
1517 Connecticut Ave., NW [Dupont Circle]
Chicken Out Rotisserie
4866 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Rocklands Real Barbeque
2418 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Wagshal's Delicatessen
4855 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Tryst [Coffeehouse]
2459 18th St NW [Adams Morgan]
Angelico's Pizzeria
4529 Wisconsin Ave., NW [Tenleytown]
Cheesecake Factory
Friendship Heights
Chop't [Salads]
730 7th St NW [Gallery Place/Chinatown]

In Other News...

Clinton Clearly Outduels Obama in Pennsylvania
The Bruising Will Go On for the Party, Too
Clinton Takes Pennsylvania- Victory Ensures That Tight Nominating Contest Will Keep Going

Shocker...granted that this is the first presidential election that I've REALLY paid attention to, but it seems like this whole finding-a-Democratic-nominee thing is dragging on way longer than it should be. I'm not convinced that the Dems will be able to win in November if they don't get a for-sure nominee soon, regardless of who it winds up being. McCain and the Republicans will simply be at too much of an advantage in unity, fundraising, and looking responsible, competent, and confident. You know, the "we've stopped bickering, what's wrong with you guys?" issue.

Carolyn's Thoughts

1) Having a cold seems to make life infinitely worse. I'm fortunate enough to be one of those people who seldom gets sick, but there's just something about spending all day sneezing hard enough to blow your nose off that makes life not so fun. Although I do admit that sometimes sneezing at opportune moments can be really, really funny. Like when you sneeze mid-sentence. And then pick up right where you left off after the obligatory "Bless you" "Thank you" exchange.

2) Having a sunny, warm day seems to make life infinitely better. Especially after two days of pouring rain. It's a nice change to walk around in a t-shirt and jeans, without the need for an umbrella and rain jacket. I might go lie down and bake on the Quad later. Then again, maybe not. It's probably soaked from the last two days, and bed is more comfortable.

3) Those last two statements conflict, so something better happen that makes the day look either good or bad, because if things stay the way they are it'll just be one of those really confusing not-one-or-the-other days.

4) I sometimes think I can communicate better through music and other people's quotes than through actually saying what I think. Most of the stuff I've posted here for the last several months has been either song lyrics or quotes. That's all fine and dandy, but for a blog called Carolyn's Thoughts that's probably not a good thing. Then again, I do often think in song lyrics so that's probably okay. Right?

5) I've been reading a book called Dead Heat by Joel C. Rosenberg. It's the last in a series of political thrillers, sort of religious/apocalyptic political fiction. Really cool, but really really scary at the same time. It's terrifying to think of some of this stuff actually happening. And a lot of it is not out of the question. If you want to read it, start at the beginning with The Last Jihad. The next books in the series are The Last Days, The Ezekiel Option, The Copper Scroll and then Dead Heat.

6) I play altogether too much ukulele, too much solitaire, and spend too much time in my room. And I have very little inclination to change most of those things. It just occurs to me that this is probably not healthy. Oh well.

7) I'm going home in two weeks for the summer. My freshman year of college is almost over. I survived. Wow. More thoughts to come on that one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Individual Freedom vs. Security

When I was in second grade, my family moved from Nova Scotia, Canada, to New Hampshire. The majority of my education has taken place here in the U.S., and I have learned about Canadian history and government from reading and from family. In fifth grade, I started to learn about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment freedoms, particularly the freedom of expression in speech and the press, have become topics of great interest to me, especially in comparison to Canadian rights and freedoms. Historically, the backgrounds of these freedoms are fascinating and diverse from country to country. They are of great relevance, currently dominating the news because of the allegations that the PATRIOT Act is limiting American freedoms. As the debate rages, it is important to keep in mind past cases when national security interests overtook civil liberties interests, and monitor the current situation accordingly.

The U.S. Bill of Rights' guarantee of freedom of expression arose from the British laws of the time. Free speech was allowed for Parliament members, but the common people were prohibited from committing "seditious libel," or criticizing the government. The colonists felt that citizens should be allowed to speak their minds, only censoring speech that was religious blasphemy. Though the British tried repeatedly to enforce their laws, after the 1735 Zenger trial they found it much more difficult. John Peter Zenger, the German immigrant printer of the "New York Weekly Journal," published editorials, written by lawyer James Alexander, that were critical of the colonial governor, William Cosby. Zenger's lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, based his defense of Zenger on persuading the jury that they should judge on the law of the case, not the facts. The jury agreed, acquitting Zenger despite the judges' instructions. The Zenger case had a huge influence on the American insistence on the right to free expression, which was expressed by Bill of Rights author James Madison and ultimately protected in the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...." It is harder to pin down a single event that illustrates the Canadian commitment to freedom of expression; documents since the Constitution Act of 1867 have upheld the Canadian right to free speech and a free press. These include the Diefenbaker Canadian Bill of Rights, passed in 1960, and the more prominent Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, passed by the hard effort of Pierre Trudeau in the Constitution Act of 1982.

The right to free expression in personal speech and in the press has been both challenged and upheld throughout U.S. history. The Sedition Acts of 1798 made it illegal to criticize actions of the President and laws of the country. Though it was widely unpopular, the Supreme Court never heard a challenge to the law and it quietly died when the law expired in 1801. Between then and 2001, the only major limitation on free expression in the U.S. was the Sedition Acts of 1918, which limited freedom of speech that would promote an anti-government uprising during World War I. In Canada, the biggest challenge to free expression occurred in 1970 with the use of the War Measures Act. Passed initially in 1914, this act gives sweeping authority to the Canadian government in times of crisis. It authorizes the government to do whatever it considers "necessary...for the security, defence, peace, order and welfare of Canada." The act can only be invoked during times of "war, invasion, or insurrection." It has been used three times in Canada's history: during World War I, World War II, and during the October Crisis of 1970. In the October Crisis, a terrorist group known as the FLQ (Front de liberation du Quebec) kidnapped two high-level Canadian officials in an attempt to force the government to pay more attention to several social problems. They made several demands, including ones for ransom money and the release of several criminals from jail. In response, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau enacted the War Measures Act. This suspended the Canadian Bill of Rights and gave police new powers to search, arrest, and detain people on the slightest suspicion of association with terrorist organizations.

After September 11, 2001, the civil liberties landscape in the U.S. altered significantly. With the terrorist attacks, Americans lost some sense of invincibility. Congress quickly passed the USA PATRIOT Act to impede potential attackers from destroying more lives. It gave the FBI and other organizations the ability to more closely monitor records, phone lines, private property, and other things. At the same time, it reduced both the need for the investigators to go through the court system and the rights of people to challenge the government in court over illegal searches. While this has undeniably increased national security in the U.S., some (including the ACLU) believe that this law denies-or at least has the potential to deny-many Americans their basic Constitutional rights. It also reduces Americans' right to privacy, because it does not require that the people under investigation be informed. This has thrown the U.S. into turmoil over the relative importance of the guaranteed freedoms found in the Bill of Rights that have laid the foundation of American beliefs for two hundred years, and national and personal security from terrorism.

The question that interests me is: is it possible to have a secure nation while preserving the civil liberties that both Americans and Canadians have enjoyed for many years? Though I have not formed a firm opinion, I think that the balance between national security and civil liberties needs to be carefully maintained. If national security dominates civil liberties even in the absence of crisis, our democratic way of life is threatened. This is how anarchy and/or dictatorship have gained a foothold in other countries. It is important for leaders to remain flexible as to which aspect of society (security or liberty) is most important at any given time, and lead accordingly. A classic example of this was Pierre Trudeau's leadership in the October FLQ crisis of 1970. With chaos breaking out in Quebec, Trudeau saw the need to temporarily suspend Canadian civil liberties to resolve the problem. He did so decisively, and when the crisis was over the government returned to the more free society that had been the previous status quo.

As a Canadian raised in the U.S., I've had the opportunity to compare and contrast American and Canadian history and government, and the difficult trade-offs between national security and civil rights. The historical shifts towards one extreme or the other within the U.S. and Canada illustrate the importance of maintaining a balance most of the time, with temporary adjustments in times of crisis. The most important thing is to maintain the stability of the country so that cherished historical freedoms, such as the freedom of expression, can be preserved even in times of uncertainty.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Area Man Makes It Through Day

I think we can all relate to this some days...

Area Man Makes It Through Day

The Onion

Area Man Makes It Through Day

SCHAUMBURG, IL—Besieged on all sides by such opponents as suburban conformity, inner emptiness, and virus laden spam e-mail, Adam Blume managed to survive another 24 hours.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Cherry Blossoms

Photos from the kickoff day at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.

Above: The fountains at the WWII Memorial, and the New Hampshire pillar.

Above: Walking through the cherry blossom blizzard by the Tidal Basin.
Above: The Jefferson Memorial through the cherry blossoms.

Above: The Washington Monument through the cherry blossoms.
Below: Closeup on the cherry blossoms.