This past September I had a chance to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, one of the Smithsonian museums near the National Mall in Washington, DC. From the subject matter you can pretty much guess it’s not going to be a particularly light trip, but it’s an intense, moving experience for all who visit, and I’m sure even more so for people who are more directly affected by the Holocaust than me.
The museum is laid out linearly: you enter through the atrium, take an elevator up to the top floor, then slowly and chronologically work your way down through history before finishing back in the atrium. Visiting that afternoon in September, I took in the atmosphere around me as we made our way into the exhibits. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and the crowd milling around the security lines outside the building was cheerful, most of them tourists having enjoyed a pleasant day so far in Washington, DC. As we made our way inside, it got a little quieter, but mostly because people were simply admiring the beautiful architecture of the atrium and trying to get their bearings and figuring out where to get started. But as we stepped into the elevator to go up to the top floor, the atmosphere changed. It seemed like everyone was more nervous, almost afraid of what we were about to walk into. And as we stepped out of the elevator, everyone went silent.
Earlier this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos let it slip that his company is working on delivery drones. The premise is fairly simple: small, spartan octocopters that load up your purchase, take off and automatically fly up to 10 miles to your house before setting your package gently on your front sidewalk and returning to the warehouse. Amazon has released a promotional video which looks straight out of a sci-fi movie, but they say it’s indicative of technology that actually exists today. In the couple days since the announcement, the tech sector has mostly scoffed at the idea as at best way more than two years away, and at worst a clever marketing ploy right before Cyber Monday. But companies like UPS and Google have had more interesting reactions: they’ve announced they’re getting into robotics too.
On September 13, 2012, the New York City Board of Health approved legislation that banned the sale of large sugary soft drinks at restaurants. Spearheaded by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the move was predictably met with some controversy. While one side claimed that the ban of soft drinks was the first step on the road to the Fascist States of America, the other claimed that desperate times called for desperate measures. (I can’t find a quote, but I guarantee you someone used the phrase “with great power, comes great responsibility” at some point.) The controversy was even spoofed on an episode of Parks and Recreation. And in fact, if it weren’t for the cancelled New York Marathon that almost wasn’t, this would have probably been Bloomberg’s most controversial action all year.
This story isn’t new. What is new (or at least, newer) is the cover story in the November 2012 issue of The Atlantic. Mike Bloomberg is on the cover, with a grimace reminiscent my dentist looks at me when I tell him I don’t floss every day, with a caption of “Mike Bloomberg knows what’s good for you”. And for me, it’s a lot like the smoking ban laws passed in several states (including Ohio): I think Bloomberg might be on to something.
This past weekend, I went to three different baseball games in three different cities featuring six different teams. There’s a story with all of them, and since my trip took me around the perimeter of Lake Erie, I’m making this a series of posts called the Lake Erie Baseball Odyssey.
Last Thursday afternoon, I went to my first Indians game at Progressive Field in more than a year and a half. I had vowed that 2003 would be the last time I missed a game. But as they often do, things happened, and last year, I never got to see the Indians at Progressive Field last year (although I did see them in Minneapolis). So I was happy to see the Indians at home, and I was even happier that they managed to come back from a 4-0 deficit and walk off with a win.
But last Thursday was also the start of a controversy. Chris Perez, the Indians closer, entered the game in the top of the 10th with one out and immediately allowed a single and a walk. The fans that remained of the 12,894 tickets sold booed him, before Perez found the strike zone and got the last two outs of the inning. On Saturday, after a much less eventful appearance which resulted in a save, Perez ripped the fans that booed him, saying:
I don’t think they have a reason to boo me. They booed me against the Mariners when I had two guys on. It feels like I can’t even give up a base runner without people booing me. It’s even worse when there’s only 5,000 in the stands, because then you can hear it. It p****s me off.
And you know what? I agree with him.
One year ago today, under the cover of darkness, a Navy SEAL team stormed a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, with intelligence that the man responsible for the September 11th attacks was inside. Less than an hour later, their mission was accomplished: Osama bin Laden was dead. In the days and weeks after, it was revealed that the operation wasn’t an easy one; in fact, there was great risk. As more and more details revealed the mission was more and more treacherous, Americans everywhere expressed gratitude and admiration primarily towards the SEALs who carried out the mission.
President Obama also got some of the credit and some of the gratitude, in the form of an approval ratings boost and a solid (to say the least) foreign policy credential to use in his reelection campaign. But even though the killing of Osama bin Laden was easily his best political victory in over a year, President Obama made sure to raise his voice over the celebrating crowds to caution that “we don’t need to spike the football.”
Which is why I was surprised to find him doing just that for cheap political points.