Friday, October 29, 2004

The Big News

Ken and I want to get married.

Oh, not right now. We agree it's still too soon. But it's not too soon to start talking about it, planning for it. It takes a long time to plan a wedding, to say nothing of a marriage.

Next August makes sense. That's when my lease is up on the room where I'm living. It'll be our first anniversary as a couple (and two years since we met -- certainly that year of suffering silent crushes on one another in Quantum Mechanics counts for something.) It'll be between terms, so that we won't be dealing with classes or teaching. He'll be 27 and I'll be turning 25 at the end of that month, so we're old enough. And we don't want to wait too much longer, because we're in love.

We've been wanting to go to Europe together -- he's never been. I plan to show off the UK and France and Germany with proprietary pride, as if I'd invented them. And we're going to try for Switzerland and maybe even Northern Italy as well, if we can find the time, which we will discover together. We are going to conquer Europe.

If we get married in August we can go as newlyweds, make this our honeymoon. And that suggests another idea -- to get married while we're there, instead of before. This is appealing for lots of reasons, some of them very selfish.

We were stressed out, talking about the idea, by the problems of where to have it, whom to invite, what kind of ceremony, how to pay. Ken's best friends and part of his family live here in Chicago. My family is in Colorado, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. My friends are scattered to the four winds, up and down the west coast, the midwest, the UK. There are people who can't be invited if other people are. And we're both of us a little anti-social, intimidated by the prospect of playing host to so many people, with some powerful personalities. Even the idea is exhausting. There are religious issues, since I grew up Catholic but he did not, and the Catholic Church would require sacred oaths that neither of us is completely comfortable swearing, because we might, in different ways, feel like hypocrites at our own wedding. We can't risk saying anything we don't mean, making any promises we can't keep, on that day of all days.

But I'm not comfortable with the idea of a justice of the peace, either, in a drab room with strangers. I wouldn't feel really married. I don't view this as a contract. I hate the thought of marriage as a mere legal arrangement, with certain tax benefits and etc, to be dissolved when it is no longer advantageous to both parties. (Part of the reason I like the idea of marriage is that it will soothe my fear of losing him. A merely legal wedding admits the possibility of divorce.) This has nothing to do with the law, in my mind. The law can't require you to share each other's sufferings, forgive each other's flaws, keep each other company as you grow old. It doesn't require you to raise children together, to join one another's families, to collaborate in each other's work, and to be there for the other even if something horrible and permanent afflicts on of you, or your children... This is bigger than the law. This is the foundation of civilization, the root of every culture, one of the meanings of life.

And yes, I know the wedding is not the marriage. You could do all of that without any ceremony at all. But it's a symbol, and symbols are important to me. Symbols allow you to take a million separate experiences which are diffused in your daily existence and call them all by one name, represent them with one experience. You have to do that, collect them all together so that the common theme can emerge, the pattern, the abstraction, the meaning. Life has meaning, but it is diluted in the mudane. Symbols concentrate it, so that you can taste it... I want a better symbol than a civil servant in an government office, a better image to associate with my marriage.

So we're getting married in Europe. Just a small ceremony, but in a beautiful place. And far removed from our everyday lives, so that this experience will stick out in our memories.

A few witnesses, but no reception. We'll keep it small enough that we can all get a table at a bar afterward, if we like. And after that we'll have no duty to anyone but ourselves, with a continent at our feet. We won't have to borrow money or accept too much generosity (although we wouldn't mind a little...) or spend months fulfilling social obligations to hundreds of people.

When we had made up our minds to marry in Europe, I decided to try to arrange for a wedding in England, because I've lived in England and I speak English, and I know people there who might serve as witnesses. (Though I haven't asked anyone yet, and am a little worried about hurting people's feelings. I can't ask more than two or three. It wouldn't be fair to Ken, and our whole plan would be spoiled.) But we came up against a problem faced by people in innumerable British historical novels -- it makes me happy, in a funny way, to find myself in such a novelistic predicament. You have to reside there seven days, then post notice fifteen days in advance. But we don't want to spend three weeks in Europe before getting married. In British historical novels, people solve this problem by running away to Scotland, and I think that's what we're doing too. We've found a place, beautiful but not too expensive, not too grand for a small ceremony, just over the border on the Tweed. We're trying to book it now.

And that's my big news.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Conservatives for Kerry

I'm sure the rest of the world has already spotted this trend, but I'm amazed at how many endorsements of Kerry I'm reading by small-government conservatives.

In the Chicago Tribune,

in college papers,

and from Doonesbury, a whole bunch of them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

From the Tribune, Again

I'd figure out a way to link around the resistration page so that you could read all of these Tribune articles I cite without having to give them any information, except that I cite so many of them that if you're going to follow any of these links, you might as well make up a name and address to tell them anyway... I know it's lazy blogging, but then, originally blogs weren't supposed to do anything but call attention to interesting links.

Today's is actually from Sunday's Chicago Tribune. It is a profile of a person I find fascinating: peace activist Kathy Kelly. Do I admire this woman? With all my heart. Do I want to live her life? No. Am I sure she is right? I am not sure. But I am convinced that this is what saints are like.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Problems with Time and Space

I've been so busy lately. See, I'm a teaching assistant, and I'm taking quantum field theory, and I'm working in the lab. And then, yeah, there's Ken.

Lab work takes away from my quantum field theory time. To really understand what I'm learning in QFT, I'd need to teach myself complex analysis (I never took it) and relativity and review a number of other subjects that I have been taught, but never properly learned.

The professor started by talking about physical descriptions of rubber bands (a continuous medium in which for instance, waves can move... You can describe it mathematically with a "field") and then suddenly was talking about particles that go back in time. The idea of quantum field theory is, in a sense, that it makes no real sense to describe a single particle. You have to describe the whole system. All your particles, and the empty space between them, because the energy is constantly being exchanged. Oh, when I say "space" -- time is a dimension, almost but not quite like the others... If that sounds confusing, well, it is.

One class seems like more work than the seven I took in high school. But I don't have the time I need to spend. And it's worse because I really do want to understand this stuff. I'm wondering how the other half dozen in the class are doing, and convinced, of course, that they're all finding it easy. At least one of them is taking two other classes as well as being a TA and research assistant. But I'm used to feeling dumb.

Being a TA takes away from the time I spend in the lab. I'm just starting to understand what's going on there, to understand the point of the things I'm being asked to do. (It turns out that the project I was working on up until now may not really happen, but the new one is more interesting, and I don't really mind.) Right now, I'm working on building a control system for a laser. Now I've never studied control engineering, never heard of an "error signal before," have only a hazy idea of how feedback works. My entire knowledge of electronics comes from ten lectures and a half dozen labs I had in Durham, and here I am building adder and subtractor and integrator circuits with op amps... I can't even remember what an op amp does. I'd really like to understand how the thing I'm building works, but I'd need to relearn my electronics, and teach myself control systems out of a book, or something. I can't seem to keep hold of the various explanations I've been given... I do know that the purpose of it is to stabilize the laser, so that the frequency doesn't change when the temperature goes up or down, or when the pressure changes in the room, or whatever. I also know that if they really needed this right now, Pati and Venketesh and George and Joe could design a circuit in a few minutes. But they want me to learn.

This is the first step in the process of building a slow-light system in a vapor cell, which is the first step toward building a new kind of optical gyroscope. (I've been trying to study optical gyroscopes. It requires a little general relativity, and a lot of interferometry that I've never had. Also, I really struggle the problem of how pulses travel in cavities.) To make slow light you need a stable laser. I am also trying to understand slow light. In our experiment, it will be a side effect of something called "electromagnetically induced transparency." I am trying to understand electromagnetically induced transparency. What I understand so far is that if you use one laser to put all of the atoms in your sample into a superposition state such that the other laser tries to distort them in two directions at once, the atoms won't be distorted by the other laser, and so won't absorb its energy. That specific frequency will be able to pass through the material unabsorbed -- the material will be transparent to that color. But apparently if I send in a pulse made of that color and a lot of nearby colors, the pulse will be transmitted only very slowly. I am not sure why this is so. I do not really understand the way that the index of refraction -- the speed of light in a medium -- depends on the states of the atoms.

Ken has been helping me with this, and with QFT. He's in the same position as I am -- teaching, taking QFT, and working in a lab -- except his teaching assignment is twice as many hours, and he has a two hour a day commute. He's not taking QFT for credit, but he's doing the homework anyway, mostly so he can help me. He wants to learn this stuff too, but if not for me he would probably be trying to do it at a more convenient time.

I don't really feel like either of us is shortchanging the students, since mostly what I do is grade and supervise, and since I've seen Ken in office hours, patiently working through problems and giving advice... His students have a great TA. But we are both resenting the students, for the time they take, and I don't like that either. I don't want to resent my students. I usually like teaching. I usually get more out of it than this.

Meanwhile I haven't been posting to AFP, or to this blog (yes, that's my excuse), nor have I been watching TV (new fall season?) nor even reading much (though Ken and I are going through Catch 22 together...) We've missed concerts and movies we've wanted to see, haven't been down to Chicago since summer. And I haven't been phoning my family lately, although they're used to that...

I kind of thought that after my qualifiers, it would be easier than this. But I guess I didn't choose an easy life.

I chose a rewarding life. I chose teaching, and learning, and building things. I choose to try to balance all of that with meaningful relationships, a personal life, my family, friends, cultural stuff. I guess I shouldn't complain. I've got all of that. I've got an embarrassment of riches. Only I don't have time to enjoy them all...

Friday, October 15, 2004

Final Debate

I feel like I should say something, for the sake of completeness, but I half-dozed through it. Anyway it felt like a lot of it was the same, even in the same words, as the first two. And it was less funny because they were getting better at it. Bush was starting to get a method down (ignore the question! Talk about education!) and you could tell he was better prepared, more in control. The only really noteworthy moment was when he denied saying he wasn't too worried about Osama Bin Laden -- c'mon, what's the point? Even if he doesn't remember this stuff, the smart thing is to assume that Kerry's staff has got documentary evidence for direct quotes and explicit figures. Unless Bush does remember saying it, and is hoping that a lot of the people who watch the debates will miss the "actually, Kerry was right" commentary in the media the next day. But it's more probable that people who missed the debates will see the commentary.

I woke up again a little at the end, when they were asked what they'd learned from the "strong women" in their lives. Housemate Nick felt this was a fluff question, a give away, a chance for the candidates to make themselves look warm and likable. Maybe, but that's not what they did. They were patronizing and condescending toward their own wives and daughters. Bush more than Kerry, of course, -- Kerry made an awkward joke about Tereasa's money and then told his "my mother told me the most important thing is integrity" story, and these fell a little flat, but didn't make me feel as though I were being patted on the head. But both of them also talked about how their wives "didn't let them get away with anything" and made them mind their manners. Well, thank goodness they don't have any policy ideas in those pretty little heads! (Unlike Hillary.) What I'd've liked to have heard about their wives: "She's someone I can discuss things with, when I need to understand something. She helps me clarify my own ideas and consider new perspectives. She can hold up the other side of an argument, when I need to see how my logic stands up. We've always been able to bounce ideas off one another, and I need that now more than ever." And their daughters... probably provide what any child provides, an incentive to think about the future, to see the world from a fresh point of view.

Anyway, Tribune columnist Mary Schmich seems to have felt the same way. I'm glad she agrees with me. I wouldn't like to think I was just being touchy. But I don't think it was just me that had a bad taste in my mouth after those "sweet" answers. They really were a little over-ripe.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Second Debate

Let me just transcribe my notes. You can draw your own conclusions. "B" is "Bush" "K" is Kerry and "G" is Gibson. These are not verbatim, because I can't write fast enough.

Basically, I thought these questions were incredibly hard, and the answers incredibly revealing, and the gaffes incredibly hilarious.

B: "You gotta be consistent when you're the president -- there's a lot of pressures!"
"I wasn't happy when we found out there wadn't weapons." He organized an intelligence review to find out why.

G: (to Bush) "Well, I was going to let you do a rebuttal, but you go ahead."

K: "The goal of the sanctions was not to remove Saddam Hussein. It was to remove the weapons. They worked."

B: "I know how these people think! I work with them every day." IE I'm a world leader! Really! "They won't follow someone who says wrong war wrong place wrong time." IE if you made a mistake, the least you can do is stand by it! "It's working." Um.

But he insisted on the connection between Iraq and the war on terror more this time -- that Saddam could have given away his weapons... So if there were no weapons, doesn't that make it the wrong war?

He said some stuff I think he believes about unpopular decisions. See the comments to my last debate post...

He looked incredibly uncomfortable when Kerry was talking.

He asked the generals, "Do you have what you need for the war?" You shouldn't patronize generals.

K: "Didn't close the borders, didn't guard the ammunition dumps." And I love that he's campaigning on cutting our nuclear weapons.

B: "We're doing what Senator Kerry suggested we should do." (Kerry's a smart guy, huh?) We're getting the "Brits" and the Germans involved. But apparently that doesn't work in Iraq?

"I hear there's rumours on the internets, that we're going to have to another draft." The all volunteer army works, "especially when we pay them well and provide housing." Too bad he's cut those things.

And he is scaling back troops, in North Korea... Which a minute ago was a huge threat.

"We need to be more facile"?

K: (looks interested when Bush is talking. No Gore head-shakes.)

Has a long list of generals for Kerry.

B: talking over the moderator! "Tell Tony Blair we don't have a coalition!"

K: Missouri would be the third largest country...

K: "Out into the homelands"?

B: "The best way to defend America is to stay on the offence." He believes that.

B: "If Iraq were to fail, it would be a haven for terrorists." That's what his critics say.

"This war is a long, long war..." Ditto.

B: Why block drug importation. "I haven't yet." Yet? "It might be from a third world."

K: Four years ago Bush was in favor of importation. Made it illegal for Medicare to bulk buy, like the VA does.

B: "He has been in the U-nit-ed States senate 20 years."

K: "OGBYN's and brain surgeons." (pointing to head.)

B: "...named Senator Kennedy (sic) the most liberal senator..." "That's what Liberals do! They create government health care." Oh, that's what liberals do.

Why don't you have a better fiscal record? "We have a deficit!"

(On cutting taxes.) "It increases demand, or investment." Or something?

K: The first time we've had a tax cut when we're at awar.

Question: "How will you improve the economy?"

B: "It was going down before I got into office."

K: "I'm pledging I will not raise taxes. I will cut taxes on families earning less that two hundred thousand dollars."

B: "We got battling green eyeshades." (This confused my friends.)

"He looked at me like my time was up." Um?

"I got a plan to increase the wetlands by three million." This reminds me of a boot-up error I got once. "Windows needs 7". Next time someone leaves units off on a lab report, I'm writing "Two point five what? Two point five wetlands?"

K: "I was broke[,] with my party."

"I'm gonna be a president who believes in science.

Question: "How can the U.S. be competitive given the wage gap?"

K: Make American companies hire Amerians.

B: "I want to incent" companies to keep jobs here.

My absolute favorite--

B: "I own a timber company?(??) Nobody told me. Anybody need some wood?"

(boggle) Why would you deny that? Did he seriously think Kerry might have made up such a specific factoid? And such a checkable one? Who would make up a thing like that?

K: "The Wall Street Journal says my tax plan doesn't affect 96% of small businesses."

B: "It just does!"

B: (on the Patriot Act) "I really don't think your rights are being watered down. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't support it if I did." He says that like, "it might surprise you to know..."

B: Stem cell research is wrong, and I'm the first president ever to fund it.

Question: "Who would you nominate the the Supreme Court?"

B: "I'm not tellin'."

"Strict constructionist." No Dred Scott cases -- but strictly, the Constitution allowed slaves to be treated as property.

Wouldn't it be great if there were really a litmus test (like a strip on the tongue) and you only got the job if it wasn't acidic?

K: Dodged gay marriage, on the Supreme Court question.

Catholic, but for funding abortion.

B: Reasonable ways to decrease abortion. (I agree.)

K: Not so simple. (I agree.)

B: "Yuu can run, but you can't hide. Reality." --- What?

B: (on mistakes he's made -- great question! But he was coached.) "Appointments to a board you've never heard of..." "I don't want to hurt anyone's feeling on national TV."

B: "Saddam would still be in power, and the world would be much better off."

Closing statements --

G: "Kerry will go first as agreed."

B: "Well actually."

K: "You wanna go first."

B: "Either way."

K: "We won't cede authority to any nation, any country, any institution..." Are there any countries that aren't nations? Maybe Wales? We won't cede authority to Wales?

B: (listing his achievements?) "We've been through a lot together recession, corporate scandals, war..."

And finally, was it just my TV, or did Bush's hair look green? And what's with the moderator's teleprompter showing up at the end?

Monday, October 04, 2004

Next Year

Well, the season's over, but the Cubs had a winning record and were in playoff contention right up to the final weekend. And I've had a great time watching. Thanks, Dusty and everybody, for a fun summer.

The Reds game I saw on Wednesday was really our last hope. And we blew it -- but just barely. In the ninth inning we were up by two points, and the Reds already had two outs and two strikes on their batter. All LaTroy Hawkins had to do was throw it past him one more time... But instead he threw it over the plate and watched it sail back over his head, out of the park, for a two-run homerun. We stayed alive into a twelfth inning, but another two-run homer ended the game, and effectively, the Cubs' season.

And yet, it was still a great day to be at the ball park. The excitement was palpable. The weather was gorgeous. Wrigley Field is a stunning setting. The game was full of thrills, and of sentiment. The stands were full of the smell of beer and hot dogs, and of cotton candy and peanut shells and joy, at least the beginning. And we've got such a talented core team, and such a brilliant manager in Dusty Baker, that you just know next year we're going all the way.

That's right, I'm an archetypical Cubs fan now. We'll be buying some tickets in April, the season of hope.

These are pictures-of-pictures, and I apologize for the quality, but hopefully they give some sense of the excitement.

Fans enjoy their Ron Santo autographed baseball, one of five hundred given away randomly. Santo, the former Cub third baseman who now calls games with Pat Hughs for WGN radio, has become even more of a local hero since a movie was made about him (directed by his son) and his struggles with diabetes, which cost him both legs. He sang "take me out to the ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch, waving to the crowd from the broadcast booth.

Moises Alou's distinctive knock-knee'd batting stance.

Sammy Sosa's almost-grand-slam -- three runners go, the pitcher watches it sail, Sammy hops, and fists pump. But it was foul by a foot.

Southpaw Glendon Rusch (the figure walking away at left) with the bases loaded against him, after pitching a top quality game, and a top quality season as the Cubs sixth starter... And getting this game's only Cub home run.

View from the stands,with the lake at one edge, and the apartment buildings across the street topped with roof-top bleachers.

Harry Caray, the former voice of the Cubs, looms over the crowd at the corner of Addison and Sheffield. Wrigleyville on gameday, after a loss: forty thousand disappointed people.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Presidential Debates

The transcript is already up.

First, I was surprised by the amount of real substance. The questions (all on the subject of foreign policy and the military) were hard, and the answers actually addressed them. Second, I was surprised to see Bush losing his cool. He nearly interrupted a couple of times, and frequently demanded the opportunity to reply, and once said "Let me finish" even though his time wasn't up yet. Third, I was surprised to find myself genuinely impressed by Kerry. He mentioned Vietnam only once or twice, and it made sense in context when he did. He had at his fingertips the hard facts that the blog-world loves, on Bush administration failures. His self-control was better than Bush's, and he seemed neither stiff nor aristocratic. He said about four times as much as Bush did, in the same amount of time, because Bush hesitated and hemmed and hawed and repeated himself. Before the debates, the rumor had been that the Kerry team wanted the air conditioning down low so that no one would see their candidate sweat, but it was Bush who looked like his collar might be getting damp. Incidentally, Bush's blue suit and blue tie looked less assertive, in my opinion, than Kerry's black-with-red.

Afterward I talked to my dad, who is my prototypical Bush voter. He agreed that Kerry had "won" the debate, in the sense of being better prepared, and making more unrebutted points. But he thought Bush's hesitations played well to some extent, as though he were "speaking from the heart" instead of reciting memorized lines. We agreed that it was unfair that only Bush could get away with this. He also thought Kerry hurt himself with undecided voters by talking so much about the U.N. In particular, when answering a question about whether he believed in the validity of "pre-emptive" wars, he said "No president, though all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons." The words "global test" and "prove to the world" made my dad's eyes roll. He doesn't believe the US should be answerable to anyone else. I do, but I can see his argument, and I think Kerry did step into a trap there. The other thing he didn't like was "If the president had shown the patience to go through another round of resolution, to sit down with those leaders, say, 'What do you need, what do you need now, how much more will it take to get you to join us?' we'd be in a stronger place today." That really was a trap, because Bush had just said "And if he had been in power, in other words, if we would have said, 'Let the inspectors work, or let's, you know, hope to talk him out. Maybe an 18th resolution would work.'" He walked right into that set-up.

My dad also thinks that Bush's "on message" strategy is almost foolproof, and that as long as Bush keeps repeating "flip-flop," it doesn't really matter what Kerry says. Unless, of course, he gets a simple message or two of his own. My dad thinks that the Clinton staffers he's taken on are telling him that message should be "The Iraq war was bungled," with a side of "This president has cost us jobs" in the domestic policy debate. Those are pretty good messages, even if they're still a little too nuanced, in comparison with Bush's. At least Kerry's message is no longer simply, "I served in Vietnam."

I think he did a pretty good job summing up his position on Iraq in one of the thirty-second extentions, and it does seem consistent with all of the other things he's said: "I know exactly what we need to do in Iraq, and my position has been consistent: Saddam Hussein is a threat. He needed to be disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N. The president needed the authority to use force in order to be able to get him to do something, because he never did it without the threat of force. But we didn't need to rush to war without a plan to win the peace."

(I'm not sure he really needed to be disarmed, since he didn't have any weapons of mass destruction after all, but at the time, of course, Kerry didn't know that.)

The most right-on moment for me was near the end. The question was, "What is the greatest threat to national security." Kerry's answer was, "Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation. ... You talk about mixed messages. We're telling other people, 'You can't have nuclear weapons,' but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using. Not this president. I'm going to shut that program down, and we're going to make it clear to the world we're serious about containing nuclear proliferation." (But I'm sure my dad didn't like that.) I was impressed that he said he would send troops to the Sudan, if it were necesary and possible, with our already overtaxed military. I was also relieved to hear Bush say, "The military will be an all-volunteer army," out loud and in public.

Kerry's best jabs were better than Bush's, I think. He got Bush good on the subject of nuclear weapons in places other than Iraq, in particular North Korea. (Again, Bush's "too manly to lose face by holding bilateral talks, because that would be "giving in," probably played well with my dad. Better they should have nuclear weapons than we should compromise.) Bush protested that this was his priority too, but Kerry pointed out that Bush has already had four years to do something about the problem, and has accomplished almost nothing. Kerry -- and Jim Lehrer -- made Bush's friendship with President Putin look pretty bad too. "Mr. Putin now conrols all of the television stations. His political opponents are being put in jail." And, of course, he's consolidating power anti-democratically. Bush all but called him "Vlad." And Kerry's description of the sucky situation in Afghanistan, and the half-hearted effort to find bin Laden, really ought to cost Bush a dozen percentage points, if there were any justice in democracy.

Bush's very worst moments were in the mode of "protesting too much." Paraphrased from my own notes: "Allawi is not a puppet!" And after he answered the question, would he ever lead us into another pre-emptive war, with "I would hope I never have to..." and then "The enemy attacked us." Kerry: "Saddam Hussein didn't attack us." Bush said: "Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that." And Bush's protests rang a little hollow, because earlier he had pulled a Rumsfeld: "Of course we're after Saddam Hussein... I mean bin Laden." He also managed to repeate the phrase "hard work" in every other sentence, and said of Iraq, "I see on the TV screens how hard it is."

One moment which should be counted as an embarrassment for Bush was his answer the the question "Would a Kerry win increase the risk of a terrorist attack in the US?" The right answer to that was, "Of course not. And even if it did, would you really want to let possibility of a terrorist attack influence your vote? You want the terrorists to decide our election?" But that's not what Bush said. He said: "No, I don't believe it's going to happen... I believe I'm going to win, because the American people know I know how to lead. I've shown the American people I know how to lead." That is shameful.

Bush's message was that the US won't let our allies influence our policy. By contrast the terrorists, as he likes to emphasize, have already influenced almost everything in our political life -- have "changed everything" and left no room for "pre-September tenth (sic) thinking". Unfortunately the average undecided voter may actually see a greater loss of honor in domination by our allies than intimidation by our enemies. Those Kerry gaffes that appalled my dad may have repelled more undecided voters than Bush's over-protesting. So while in the end I was pleasantly surprised by the format, the content, and Kerry's performance and would have to declare him the winner... Bush may have won the sympathy of more undecided voters.

My mom has decided she's not voting for either.