You have to love that: Life Update and the Election

On a life update…

Well it’s been awhile since I’ve last updated, so I need to come through on that. It’s currently winter break and I’m enjoying my time off hanging out with Jess and making her dinner.  I’m looking forward to what 2009 has to offer, and I hope that it can find a way to top 2008.  Jess and I had a very good 2008 (new job, time at SPEA, new apartment, overall happiness etc).  And though the economy tanked, 2008 did bring us President-elect Barack Hussein Obama.

SPEA

The semester was a success. I took classes in budgeting, stats, econ, and public management, and enjoyed myself a lot for the most part.  The public management class was mostly Common Sense 101 and the stats stuff was mostly a repeat of stuff I learned in undergrad, but other than that, everything was great.  The econ class was useful and interesting, and the professor was engaging and entertaining.  The budgeting class was taught by a grinch, but he knows his stuff quite well so it was extremely informative.

From all I have seen, the people of SPEA are wonderful and I should probably make more of an effort to get to know some of them.  I have come across sophisticated and delightful people, and everybody seems to be really nice which is always a tremendous plus in my book.  It really was a breath of fresh air to step outside of the law school for awhile, and being around my SPEA peeps was a big part of that. 

As for the class level of performance that I touched on in my last entry, it was adequate.  The stuff that I learned this semester is more directly straight forward and practical when compared to most law classes, which tend to focus on abstract arguments and hypotheticals with loony fact patterns.  So, learning the material tends to not be too difficult, but that doesn’t mean that the material isn’t meaningful.  Just the opposite, I’m learning a lot of great knowledge that I will be using in subsequent years, and knowing that is gratifying.  In law school, it’s mostly about learning a mindset and a way of thinking.  I’m not going to use the vast majority of legal tidbits that I learned there.

Also, in SPEA I had more latitude in focusing on subjects that I feel will benefit me specifically versus focusing on grades.  Since the material is more closely related to what I want to do, I can focus virtually exclusively on preparing myself for the future and the grades will just come with that as a side benefit.  In the law school, it’s been more of a one or the other thing up to this point, and grades stopped being a motivation for me awhile ago.  If a class isn’t going to prepare me for the future, I’m none too interested.  More to the point, I’m judging my performance on how much I learned that I will use, not on a letter (somewhat) arbitrarily assigned to me.  Ironically, with this mindset, my grades have been better than they’ve been in years. 

Now that my SPEA semester is over, I will be going back and forth between SPEA and the law school for the next three semesters.  My academic time requirements are going to increase a lot, but that’s okay.  I made use of my extra time this past semester in ways that I’ll mention later.  Meanwhile, I have mixed feelings about returning to the law school.  There are some people there that I haven’t seen much lately that I’m looking forward to re-connecting with.  I’ll also admit that I miss the structure of law classes a bit and am looking forward to getting back into things.  That said, there would have been worse things in the world than not having to go back there.

What I did with my excess time

I found myself with a lot more time this past semester than I’ve had in awhile.  My classes did not require much time spent outside of class at all (except for group projects that I contributed to in two classes), so I found myself with more free time than I’m accustomed to.  Firstly, like all sorts of people I know, I spent an inordinately large  amount of time on the general election (more on that later).  I was about as up to date as one could be, without going overboard (there was a lot of repetition in reporting and analysis out there that was best avoided for efficiency’s sake).

I tried to spend as much time as possible viewing the going-ons of Milwaukee from afar.  There was a contentious budget that had to be hashed out, and it was interested to see that play.  There are good people there trying to move on transit, but it seems to be a “two-steps forward, three-steps back” thing going on.  MPS and child services are under extreme scrutiny with good reason, and so forth. 

I also decided to take some of my extra time to get back myself back in shape and to change my lifestyle in a sustainable way.  With an optimal location for walking, an exercise bike parked in front of a TV with DVR (great for watching recorded episodes of Colbert Report), and some time to spare, the timing was perfect for this.  It has worked out well, but it’s an ongoing effort. 

Lastly, I managed to get a position with a SPEA professor as a researcher.  My professor is actually working for the Obama transition team and is focusing on e-governance issues.  E-governance is basically code for using technology to make government more accessible to citizens.  When Obama has discussed making government more efficient and accessible, he wasn’t just blowing smoke.  You are going to see our national government become more efficient and accessible than ever before under his leadership, and the ground work for that is being laid down as we speak.  In my little worker role in this process, I’m digging through the Code of Federal Regulations to see what sort of wording they have on the books that relates to public participation and e-governance-related issues.  Increasing accessibility requires a change in the law, which requires an accurate look at what the current law says, allows, requires, and forbids.  It feels good to know that I’m doing my little part to help the Obama administration, plus I’m getting paid! 

On Election 2008

Well oh well, just as Obama won the nomination after a lengthy blog hiatus, Obama went out and won the general with me sitting on the blog sidelines.  This is quite alright of course, virtually anything that I can add to this has been said more elequently by somebody else. 

I discussed some of what I thought Obama’s election would mean in an earlier entry, and I’ll defer to that.  I would just like to say that I think Obama is the most prepared, smartest, and most organized President that we’ve had in a long time.  While his detractors ironically attacked his ability to lead during the election, it is already crystal clear to even the haters that Obama knows precisely what he’s doing and that he understands the challenges that he is facing.  While the McCain campaign was downright pathetic in myriad of ways that any of us could take the time to run through, Obama’s campaign was virtually flawless for the better part of two years.  His transition, like his campaign, has been methodical and precise, and he has a plan for the immense challenges facing his office and the nation.  I think that people will find that Obama is neither as liberal nor as “centrist” as many people think.  He is practical, he is a uniter, he is a problem solver, and he’s also a visionary.  In short, he is the best type of President and he is exactly who we need during this time of great challenges for our country.  Our method of electing our national leaders is very flawed (though less so with the power of the internet), but we get it right on occasion and we especially seem to get it right when we need to the most. 

The fact that Obama is black is a wonderful coincidence and is obviously very important in ways that I mentioned in previous entries.  One of the delightful effects of his victory is watching peoples’ heads explode on November 5th.  There are a lot of people who simply can’t stomach the idea of a minority President, and they are not going to have any choice but to deal with it.  What was once a group of people whose power and influence over our country was dominant is now a group that is being further marginalized by the day.  The demographics of our country are changing and people are getting smarter and more open-minded towards things that once seemed foreign.  The Republican party hasn’t figured this out yet, and if they want to retain relevance, they’re going to have to finally get away from that whole southern strategy thing and make an argument for why 21st century Americans should support them.  It is a new day. 

Like the cynics who questioned Obama’s ability to lead, there were many cynics who thought that America was not ready for a black President.  As I’ve written previously, I told them that America would never be “ready” for a black (or female for that matter) President, but that a candidate would come along and just force the issue.  Also, while so many Americans think so little of their fellow citizens, I really did and really do think that Americans are a very intelligent bunch if you give us the ability to make informed decisions.  I was called naive then, now I’m just spouting common sense.  You have to love that.

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