Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Can't Believe That Today Has Come

I'm a fan of the alternate history genre of fiction, because it forces us to look at history as a malleable and flexible thing. Sure, this country averted disaster when the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved, but what would have happened if it had not been resolved? What would have happened to the world if World War II had resulted in a different outcome, or if the U.S. Civil War had turned out differently?

Looking at major world events and the aftermath they wrought, it is clear that history is a close question. The world that we know is the result of individual conversations that happened (or didn't happen) between people whose actions determined the shape of our reality. Things could very easily have gone another way.

I'm reminded that I think that our world could easily be a vastly different place today because today is the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States. I simply cannot believe that this day has come.

It's as if we've been suddenly pulled into an amateur alternate history that defies all belief. We have, apparently, elected the right person for the right time — a professorial, wise individual with a complex worldview for complicated times. Yet, more amazingly, we have elected an African-American man whose mother was only 18 when he was born, a man whose father was Kenyan and left his mother, a man whose first and last names are so unique to an American ear that Al Sharpton mispronounced them during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and a man whose middle name evokes fears about a recent U.S. enemy.

I cannot believe today has come.
     I cannot believe today has come.
          I cannot believe today has come.

And it is wonderful.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Biology Dreams

We've been a busy lot here at Sauntering, what with the lawyering and the child-rearing and the generation of sanctified knowledge and all that. I've been meaning for some time to write a post talking about what it is that motivates scientists to do what it is we do. I was going to say something about the nobility of the pursuit of knowledge and the inability to shake that lie we were given in grade school that the world really *needs* more scientists. But I realized I was wrong. This post from xkcd pretty much sums up why I became a biologist.