Saturday, February 24, 2007

Vote, Chicago

On Tuesday, Chicago will hold city elections. The biggest race is, of course, the Mayoral race. However, the city aldermen will be on the ballot as well. Please, Chicago, go out and vote. I don't care who you vote for, just go out and voice your opinion.

Don't know where your polling place is? Go here to find yours. If you're not registered, you can use the same site to get registered as well and then go out and vote next time.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Top Secret

Do you like secrets? If so, then there is a Gmail tool that can help you keep your email secret. It's not really a new concept, but now it's very easy to add encryption to your Gmail. Here's how:

1) Get Firefox - if you don't have it already. It's a web browser.
2) Download and install Greasemonkey - it lets you add cool things to Firefox.
3) Go get Gmail Encryption

Once you install it, you will see a new toolbar at the top of your Gmail messages with two fields. Compose your secret email and then enter the recipient's public key (to generate a public and private key for yourself go here and follow the instructions under "Generating Keys") in the Public Key field and click Encrypt. You'll see your email turn into special secret code. Once your secret friend receives your email, all she has to do is enter her private key in the Private Key field and click Decrypt and your secret message will be decoded and readable.

Send me an encoded message. My public key is: 1093247:43

Thanks to Bob who is my first friend who actually uses this.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Inspiration

As more and more politicians declare their candidacies for President of the United States, I begin to anxiously await the election. In some respects, I'm curious about who will rise to the top to receive the Democratic and Republican nominations. However, I dread the inevitable assault of negativity and attack ads. Most of all, I wonder if there will be a candidate who will inspire me. In fact, I hope there will be a candidate that will inspire me. Unfortunately, I think we may have left behind the time in which a politician can be inspiring.

Think about the last time a politician said something memorable that wasn't related to a scandal, mispronunciation or ridicule on SNL. You'd probably have to go all the way back to John F. Kennedy's famous line, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." That speech is before my time, so I don't remember the impact that it had on the nation, nor do I remember if it actually inspired people. I can only make assumptions based on what history books and people who lived it can tell me. They tell me that they were inspired. However, I do know that people joined the Peace Corps and dedicated themselves to causes other than their own self-interest. This may not have been due to JFK's speech, but the climate at the time was one in which JFK could say something like that and people didn't roll their eyes. People actually listened and thought about it. What if our President said that today?

I'm not trying to bash our current President, but imagine if he cut in to the middle of American Idol and said those words today. First, the country would revolt because he kept them from their precious television show. Then, everyone would roll their eyes and think something like, "Great line, buddy. How many speech writers did it take to come up with that one?" We wouldn't be inspired, we'd just be annoyed. Believe it or not, it's not entirely Bush's fault. It's our fault, too. Mostly, it's the marketers fault.

Marketers? What? Where did that come from? It came from my life. My generation. Unlike any generation before us, we've been marketed to our entire lives. On Saturday mornings when we sat down to watch our cartoons, we saw ad after ad trying to sell us sugary cereals. That was just the beginning. Since then, we see ads every where we go. Most of us are even walking billboards. I'm sure that everyone reading this have some sort of shirt or hat that sports the Nike logo. If not Nike, then Adidas or Reebok or Tommy Hilfiger - you get the point. We understand advertising, we know what it is trying to do. We are aware that we are constantly trying to be sold something and we adjust our perspectives accordingly. In fact, we project it upon our politicians.

We see a politician using the same language that the advertisements use and we immediately assume that he's trying to sell us something. In other words, that it's in his best interest to convince us to give him our "currency" (read: vote). We know how to handle this. We make a cynical remark or judgment about this politician. We've seen it all before and we know not to believe it. Of course, it doesn't help that there have been numerous politicians cheat and lie to us in our lifetime. Those politicians have ruined it for the few who are actually sincere and honest. Because they all talk the same, they all must be the same.

Then there's the negativity. No matter what the politicians say, they will always run attack ads and take shots at their opponent. They do it because it works. People respond to those ads - true or not - and it shapes their votes. Unfortunately, the way it shapes the votes is not by persuading people to vote in their direction, but by convincing people to stay home and not vote at all. It benefits the politicians for a large number of voters to stay at home. The politicians only want the die-hards to come out and vote because they can predict how those people will vote. If the undecided, poor, fed up, disillusioned, uninspired people came out to vote, the politicians would have no idea how things would turn out and therefore have no idea what to say to win your vote. Of course, this is exactly why us young, unpredictable voters must go out and vote. If we don't make our voices heard in one way or another, we are simply giving the die-hards that much more power over our elected officials. If we all went out and voted, we just might find a politician who could say something to inspire us once again.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Super Bowl Champs!

I've been alive since January 6, 1976. In that time the NFL has held 32 Super Bowls. Since I can remember, I've watched the game and taken pleasure in the fact that I've been able to choose the winner nearly every time. Of course, it was pretty easy for those 13 years in a row the NFC team won the game. The first game that I clearly remember is Super Bowl XVIII when the Raiders beat the Redskins 38-9. Since then I've sat down somewhere to watch every Super Bowl. Every year I walked away from the game with a feeling of disappointment that the NFL season was over. Sometimes I even wondered what it felt like for the fans of the winning team.

This year, I finally got to watch my team compete for the Lombardi Trophy. I finally had a stake in the biggest football game of the year. I would have the chance to finally feel that Championship High - or that Championship Heartbreak. For the first time in my life, the commercials, the halftime show, and the bean dip would all be secondary to the actual football game. As I mentioned earlier, I made my plans to go down to Indianapolis and watch the game. If I couldn't make it to the actual game, Indy was the next-best place to watch the game.

The last time I was in Indianapolis was on December 4, 2005 to see the Colts whip the Titans at the RCA Dome. My fiancée (then girlfriend) surprised me with two tickets to my first Colts game in at least 12 years. Everything seemed about the same as I remember it from my visits in the past. However, this visit was different. Everywhere I looked, I could see something related to the Colts. Flags, stickers, banners, inflatable human-ish horse-like things wearing Colts jerseys, people wearing Colts hat and jerseys. I'd never seen so many people so excited about the Colts since, well, ever. After living in Chicago for eight years, I remembered that there were more people like me - people that were proud to wear the blue horseshoe.

I don't have to tell you the outcome of the game - I'm sure you know by now.

I celebrated with my brother and a few of his friends and we watched the rest of the city celebrate like... well, like they just won the Super Bowl. Our team was World Champs. After an entire NFL football season, our team is the only one left standing. It felt good. I can mention the Colts and people can give me all the shit they want, but after all their shit I can simply say, "World Champs." I win. I get to wear a Colts shirt that reads, "Super Bowl Champions." Strangely, it felt a little empty.

As good as I felt, I couldn't help but wonder, "Is this it?" I jump around like a fool for a couple hours and smile like a goof on the drive back to Chicago, but then I still have to go back to my life. My job hasn't changed, my bed is still lumpy and my soda is still flat. Sure, I get to brag about my team for the rest of the year but that doesn't seem like all that much when I'll you've been rooting for is for your team to win the title. There's a strange emptiness to the victory because it's built up to be so much more. The NFL season is still over and the disappointment is still there, though it's not quite as hard to take. Yet, it's not quite as satisfying as I would have expected. I'm not complaining, I'm just a little baffled. I guess that's what it feel like to be Super Bowl Champs - baffling.