I haven’t been paying much attention to Occupy Wall Street. It initially looked to me like the kind of disorganized protest that happens all the time, doesn’t have enough focus, and quickly dissipates when anarchists show up to co-opt the whole thing. But now that it has successfully sustained itself for a couple weeks, it’s clear my initial perception was wrong. Today I noticed they’ve released their first official statement, and I read through it, thinking it would give me a better idea of who this group is and what they hope to accomplish.

The minutes of the meeting that agreed to this document are fascinating. They ended a long discussion of this document by saying (shouting?) THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! and it really does look like a working democracy. The meeting minutes are probably more useful for understanding the group than the official statement. It’s really impressive they’ve been able to hold this together so long without much formal leadership at all, and it’s exciting to be able to see the details of how that works in practice.

That said, the document itself isn’t great. It does very little to clarify what exactly the group is about, at least for someone like myself who is vaguely sympathetic. It’s just a long list of bad things corporations have done. The key question I had before reading it went entirely unanswered: is this group against corporations themselves, some general category of corporate behavior, or an unrelated collection of specific corporate misdeeds? It looks like the group itself hasn’t answered this question. I imagine there are more than a few dedicated communists in the group as well as people who maintain a generally positive view of corporations.

I mention all of this as context for a single word in this statement, which seems to exemplify where this group is right now. Emphasis added:

We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.

I'd speculate most adults in America don’t know when to use "which" and when to use "that." But surely at least one person in the working group that created this document understood the difference. Unfortunately the meeting at which this document was drafted has no published minutes to tell us if they collectively considered an alternative:

We come to you at a time when corporations that place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.

That single word change is pretty big. The published version suggests all corporations place oppression over equality. The alternative would say only some corporations do that, specifically those running our government. That single word is the difference between a campaign against corporate influence of government and a campaign against the very existence of corporations at all. Outside this statement, I don’t see much evidence Occupy Wall Street has defined its position on this issue. But here in this statement, they may have done so unintentionally.

I think we’re in good shape on the question of what democracy looks like. Is it too early to start worrying about what democracy writes like?

 

On Letters to an Unknown Audience, Ezra Kilty, whose trouser size is 31 x 33, quotes a passage from Master and Commander, ending with a paragraph on identity:

"The identity I am thinking of is something that hovers between a man and the rest of the world: a mid-point between his view of himself and their of him—for each, of course, affects the other continually. ..."

That seems true and I'm particularly interested in how this plays out online, perhaps because that is my primary mid-point. My brother, whose trouser size I do not know, once wrote something about how people stop blogging when they get jobs. I think he wrote it on a blog he later stopped writing when he got a job. It may be more indirect than that; people stop blogging when they have enough interaction to establish identity. That may be a job, but it could just as easily be a knitting circle.

These things take time from a day, and that's what I've always thought was driving the change. You get a job, and you don't have time to blog. But maybe it's more than that. Maybe you know on some level that when you don't interact with others, you stop existing in their minds. You feel yourself start to lose identity. So you go online and make your self known there. On a blog maybe, or a social networking site, or in videos, or as an avatar in some game. The context doesn't really matter. The point is: you are a person who acts a certain way and now other people know such a person exists. You gain identity.

It's difficult to have a good identity through interaction. Society is rigged against doing. We recognize good deeds, sins of commission, and sins of omission, but almost never good deeds of omission. You noticed when I failed to say "happy birthday" on Facebook but not when I stopped myself from posting that mean-spirited comment on YouTube. No one applauds the politicians who just do their jobs and somehow avoid attacking each other. We even vote such people out of office when someone else with more identity comes along.

It's also difficult to have a consistent identity, but that may be a good thing. Too much consistency makes it difficult to change, and we all need to change. On Ftrain, Paul Ford writes that Google+ lets you divide people into clusters and lie to each group in different ways. As negative as that sounds, it brings online identity closer to physical interaction. It's much easier to establish myself as patient in my knitting circle and efficient in my job when I don't have to mix the two. Surely this can be taken to Jekyll/Hyde extremes, but it seems we need at least some ambiguity to successfully navigate identity.

Ezra closed his post by saying I am sharing this with you. That didn't mean much to me at first, but I now find I'm inclined to say something similar in ending this, to establish my own identity by affecting your view of me. As much as I can influence it, I want my identity to be good, but also somewhat fluid. I am a person who has thought about these things.

 
bear attack

One of my group of friends sent us all a picture of a bear attack we experienced together a few years ago.

That's me on the far right of the picture, in the background. I say "a few years ago" because I don’t remember how many years it was. Somewhere around three, I think. I don’t remember this moment at all, actually. This is a good demonstration of how my memory works, or rather doesn’t. This was clearly a memorable moment, but I don’t remember it. I’m sure it was fun. I imagine someone (maybe even me) saw this giant bear statue, and somehow we arrived at the idea to pose for a picture of the bear attacking us.

Are there bears in North Dakota? Maybe we talked about that at the time. I feel like we talked about some other kind of attack in North Dakota. Maybe scorpions?

I remember a lot of the context around this photo. This was at our friends’ wedding in North Dakota, just before the ceremony. Or just before something with a set time anyway. Maybe between the ceremony and the reception? We had some time to kill before that set time, and we were at a resort with mini golf, so we played mini golf. Toward the end of the mini golf, we realized we had to hurry up, so we started playing collaboratively rather than competitively. We all worked together hitting all the balls toward the next hold, calling it "communist mini golf." Was the beat at the end or in the middle? We probably didn’t have time for a photo at the end.

It’s possible I only remember the communist mini golf part because Jessica mentions it pretty much every time we play mini golf. I also remember the reception was at a building a short walk from the mini golf. There were swings in between. And basketball. I think we played basketball at some point, maybe some other game as well. Four square? Where did we get a ball? The reception had an upstairs patio where people could smoke. People did smoke, and I joined them to talk. I don’t remember which people smoked. Either the night before or the night of the bear attack in this photo, I was outside, it was dark, and I was talking to someone. About something.

My implicit memory is great. I can do things I've done before, with skills I don’t remember learning. Much of life is like riding a bike for me, where you never really forget how. But my episodic memory is awful. I frequently start watching a new movie only to realize after five or ten minutes that I’ve actually seen it before. So maybe it’s like riding a bike, but I’m unsure if it’s my bike or I maybe borrowed it.

In many ways, as you might imagine, this is a bad way to go through life. I can’t reminisce with my friends about the bear attack; without memory, I effectively wasn’t there. But there I am, in the photo. Clearly I was there. It’s easy for people to assume from my lack of memory that I didn’t enjoy such shared moments. I’m pretty sure I did here. I look happy, of course, but beyond that, this is the kind of experience I would enjoy. Or at least I would now. Was I different then? Surely I enjoyed it.

In other ways, bad episodic memory is a gift. Unlike all my friends, I can look at this photo and experience it anew. While they can only remember their actual experience, I can construct new experiences among the wide gaps in my memory. It’s almost as if I get to relive my life, with only a few boundaries that I must repeat, in the memories I retain. Everyone looks happy in photos, so there’s a good chance my reconstructed past is actually happier than it was the first time around.

I’ve never met anyone with memory like mine. I’m pretty sure my memory wasn’t always like this, and I didn’t realize it had changed until years later, when I couldn’t very much remember years before. I’m sure there are other people with similar memories. Similar memory capacities, I mean. I doubt there are other people who remember the bear attack like I do. I can’t tell you how much fun we had.

 

My voting strategy in Denver's Mayoral race worked much better than I imagined. My thinking was that Romer would win, and I should vote for someone else who seemed good, to keep Romer accountable. What I didn’t realize is Denver’s mayoral elections require a majority, not just a plurality. So Romer didn’t actually win by a small margin; he didn’t win at all. He did get the most votes. Mejia, who I expected to take second, actually took third slightly behind Hancock. So the runoff is between Romer and Hancock. I didn’t pay much attention to Hancock the first time, and looking more closely at him now, I don’t like him as much as Romer. Specifically his suggestion to set "performance goals" for city agencies feels like an empty gesture at best, an opening to cuts based on the ability to quantify rather than actual importance at worst. So unless something significant changes before the runoff, I’m voting for Romer this time.

 

I haven’t been paying much attention to the candidates for Mayor of Denver this year, but I just got my mail-in ballot, so now it’s time to figure out how I’m voting. As I’ve done before, I’m going to share my thoughts publicly. On my long list of websites I’d like to see is a site for recording my votes and the thought that went into them. Until someone makes that (or points me to it, if I’ve missed it), I’ll be using my blog.

There are a whopping 10 candidates for Mayor this year. I’m not sure how the ordering works, but on my ballot, they are in this order: Doug Linkhart, Carol Boigon, Chris Romer, Thomas Andrew Wolf, James Mejia, Jeff Peckman, Theresa Spahn, Michael B. Hancock, Danny F. Lopez, and Ken Simpson. Romer is the only name that sounds familiar, and I’m not sure why, so I’m going into this with close to a blank slate. Let’s pull up the websites.

Right off the bat, I’m eliminating Peckman as a choice. Turns out he’s the guy who pushed for some sort of government alien welcome committee. Even if that were an especially reasonable issue, I’m not voting for someone who only cares about a single issue.

After that, there’s only one candidate who doesn’t seem to have a website: Ken Simpson. I’d be willing to look past that if the Westword article suggested he’s especially good, but it doesn’t. On his top issue, jobs, he’s quoted as saying Atlanta, Minneapolis and Austin always seem to be getting companies to come to them, and I don’t know why. Maybe learn why first, then run for mayor.

So now I have 8 websites to look at. At a quick glance, 2 of those sites look like they’re not very serious: Wolf has a number in his domain, a title of "Home Page", and what appears to be a free hosting icon at the bottom. Nope. Danny Lopez has the domain name as a title, some terrible graphics, and starts with "I am the Real Deal." Nothing says "I am not the real deal" like starting your pitch with "I am the real deal."

Now I’m looking at 6 mayoral candidates who are at least serious enough to get a decent website put together: Linkhart, Boigon, Romer, Mejia, Spahn, and Hancock. Time to look at issues. All 6 are talking about the economy and jobs. Boigon is the only one who doesn’t really say anything specific, so -1 there. Linkhart seems big into cutting services, so -1 there.

Beyond jobs, everyone but Boigon talks about being "green" or sustainability. So another -1 for Boigon. Let’s go ahead and focus on the other 5. Next issue: education. And ... everyone sounds pretty similar. That’s about it for issues at the city level. I did notice Romer has a section on LGBT equality, and while that isn’t especially relevant for Mayor, it’s nice to see he’s not afraid to say the right thing without an obvious political advantage.

Let’s move on to experience. Linkhart was on City Council. Romer was in the State Senate. Mejia was on School Board. Spahn was a judge. Hancock was City Council President. So they’re all experienced, but Romer and Spahn are the only two with political experience outside Denver. That suggests they’re looking at a future beyond Mayor, which seems good to me because they’ll need to be relatively popular as Mayor to successfully move on to anything else.

Next up: endorsements. Linkhart has a bunch of names. I guess that would be okay if he had larger endorsements too, but he doesn’t. So Linkhart’s off my list. Romer was endorsed by the Denver Post. Mejia was endorsed by AFSCME, a large union. Spahn was endorsed by a State Representative, who was apparently her 7th grade teacher. That’s less than impressive. I think I’ll take Spahn off the list. Hancock, like Linkhart, was endorsed by a bunch of names I don’t recognize. Maybe he wasn’t popular as City Council President?

At this point, I’m looking at Romer or Mejia. I suspect Romer will win, as everything about his website suggests he has the best campaign. And I’m okay with Romer winning; he looks like he’ll be a pretty good Mayor. But I’m going to vote for Mejia, because I don’t expect him to win. It’s not that I want to support the underdog; I just think closer elections keep politicians thinking about their constituencies, and that will result in better government. If Romer wins 30% over Mejia’s 29%, I expect he’ll be a better major than if he won with over 50% of the vote. And if Mejia ends up winning, I’m okay with that too.

 

I was recently reminded this blog is here by a nice comment that began "Please keep posting", so here I am, keeping posting. I last posted over a year ago, and in that year I turned 30 (then 31), stopped doing much work on my house and started just living in it, and a bunch of other stuff that makes me feel like I'm doing a pretty good job pretending to be an adult.

As a faux adult, I recently bought a new pair of Converse All Stars. After several years of wearing a few successive pairs of the same style of shoe, black leather Rockports, I decided I won't be dressing up much for the rest of my life, so I should go with some more casual shoes. Converse has been making pretty much the same shoe since long before I was born, so I figured I can avoid shopping for another decade or two.

The new shoes made me feel a little younger, a little cooler until about a week ago. I was getting ice cream at Little Man here in Denver, and an older woman walked by me in the other direction, followed by a younger woman. The younger woman stopped to point out something I'd missed. "You have the same shoes as my grandma," she said. So now the shoes feel kind of like an old man pretending to be young. Not that I feel old, nor young really; that's just what it feels like the shoes are saying to people.

So I guess that's where I am now: older, but wearing younger shoes.