Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Political Compass

Tired of being categorized in only one dimension?

A few years back, another blogger introduced me to the Political Compass, a means of assessing political views in a more refined manner than the usual right-versus-left economic measure. In this scale, political views are evaluated on a right/left scale of economics (how much government should regulate), and also on a scale measuring social attitudes, from authoritarian (government should control) to libertarian (government keep out).

Before you read further, go to The Political Compass website and take the quiz to find out where you stand politically.

Now … what did you find out about yourself?

I scored a -3.38 (on a scale of -10 to +10) on the economic left/right scale … I tend to think that the government should have some safeguards to protect individuals from corporate greed. On the authoritarian/libertarian social scale, I scored -6.82; I really, really think the government should butt out of private business such as what consenting adults do behind closed doors.

In terms of major world leaders, that puts me rather on the fringes of things – I’m off in a corner with the Dalai Lama and not much of anybody else.

And it’s no wonder I don’t much care for any of the current presidential candidates; nearly all of them, including the three that are still politically alive, are off in the upper right, while I’m down in the lower left.

Maybe I should move to Ukraine, where I can vote for Sergey Bubka.

So, loyal readers, how did you score?

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Olympics and politics in sports

Let the Games go on

Recently, in various parts of the world, most notably in San Francisco, there have been protests related to China’s role as host of the 2008 Olympics. Protesters have expressed their objection to China’s oppression of Tibet and also to China’s dismal record on human rights in general, and they have advocated boycotting the Olympics, or at the very least, the opening ceremonies. These protesters have also disrupted the ceremonial running of the Olympic torch. In San Francisco, ceremonies were cancelled and the torch was rerouted to evade the protests, disappointing spectators who had hoped to catch at least a glimpse of the torch run.

But there is a big question of whether protests at major sports events such as the Olympics have any effect at all on how a nation conducts its business. What good does a boycott really do? The Dalai Lama himself has said that boycotting the Olympics over the treatment of Tibet is an inappropriate action; those who seek to help Tibet should seek more meaningful protests.

In 1980, the United States boycotted the Olympics, which were held in Moscow, as a protest against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, and many other countries and individual athletes chose to join the boycott. In 1984, the Soviets chose to boycott the Olympics in Los Angeles.

The reason for these boycotts seemed to me to be especially petty: “I don’t like you, so I’m taking my marbles and going home.” It was awful for a sports celebration of the very best of human achievement to be degraded by a childish temper tantrum.

On a very basic level, these boycotts harmed the athletes. I have a friend who could very well have won a gold medal in the 1980 Olympics, but because of the boycott, he never got a chance to compete. But it’s not just the athletes who didn’t show up who suffered. The accomplishments of the athletes who did compete will always be questioned, since half of their usual competition didn’t show up. Even though Wladyslaw Kozakiewicz set a world record, how can he know whether he really was the best pole-vaulter in the world?

But the real impact of a boycott goes far beyond the individual athlete. In terms of national pride, far more is to be gained by showing up than by sulking at home. Consider the 1936 Olympics, in Berlin. Hitler’s Nazi regime was on the rise, and Germany wasn’t exactly a friendly place. But back then, national pride dictated that we participate in the games, and that we show our sportsmanship by rising above petty nationalism. The whole idea of a boycott probably never occurred to the people who organized our Olympic team.

We set the note during the opening ceremonies, when we refused to dip our flag to Hitler when we passed the reviewing stand. Then we really stuck it to Hitler and his ideas of white Aryan supremacy when the African-American Jesse Owens went on to win four gold medals. We would never have experienced such a shining moment if we had refused to show up.

While the Olympic Games have lost something of the luster that they used to have, they still represent (or at least try to represent) the best of the human spirit. That spirit includes a certain level of dignity, and a certain level of sportsmanship. We have far more to gain by participating than by sulking at home like spoiled children.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

T or C is a suburb of Little Rock

It used to be a suburb of Dallas

The modern telecommunications world is a marvel. I can write something and post it on this blog, and somebody from Singapore or San Diego can read it and comment on it. And, thanks to companies that track Internet traffic, I can view information about these visitors, including where they are.

Except not completely. I can’t really track where the visitors are; I can only track where their Internet servers are.

So, for example, when I sign on using the dialup connection I have at home or my work connection, I show up as being in Albuquerque. But if I’m at Five O’Clock Somewhere, I may show up as being in Clovis, or as being in a village on the Zuni Indian reservation. And if I use the dial-up connection in Truth or Consequences, I typically show up as being in Las Cruces.

Lately, however, I’ve been finding high-speed connections in T or C, and those can appear to come from just about anywhere. The motel where Pat and I usually stay appears to be in a small town near Lubbock, Texas. The restaurant with wi-fi where Pat and I often eat also seems to come from Texas, from a town so small I’ve never heard of it.

Then there’s the home where I’m currently staying. It used to be in Dallas, but now it’s in Little Rock.

Once upon a time, there were two telecommunications companies. There was one based in Dallas that was primarily land-line, that served a whole lot of rural communities, including T or C and Chama – but it also had some wireless services. Nearly everybody we know outside of Albuquerque got telephone service from this company, and many also got high-speed Internet as well. Then there was another, based in Little Rock, that was primarily wireless but that also served a few communities with land-lines. A cousin of mine worked for that company. Therefore, many of my relatives got their wireless telephone service from that company, which was a good thing, since this company consistently provides the best service when it is rated by independent organizations.

The Little Rock company bought out the Dallas company, and, while I generally don’t like to see a single company have too much power, I thought this particular merger was a good thing, since both companies seemed to have a really strong emphasis on keeping customers happy.

Then the company split into two – one side being purely the wireless, and the other being purely the land-line. Somewhere along the way, the data line that serves this home got rerouted through Little Rock.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can make for confusion when I’m looking at my visitor stats. If I have an x-thousandth visitor, and said visitor is using this Internet service, and said visitor is supposedly from Little Rock, I can’t immediately tell whether it’s one of my Arkansas cousins, or whether it’s Cornhusker.

I’ll have to look closer at the details … Cornhusker is in the suburb of Little Rock that is located in the Mountain time zone.

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