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Monday, June 27, 2005

After one week back in the US....

A few observations after one week back in the US....

First, damn it is hot! Not all the time, mind you, but for at least the past several days. Even if it isn't up in the 90s or low 100s (Fahrenheit, that is), as it was this past weekend, the mugginess of a New England 80s-type day is enough to make you move a bit more slowly than usual. Still, after experiencing a season or two of Belfast weather, I will endure the simmer of the New England summer for a bit before I complain too much....

Second, politically things are a bit more upbeat than I expected for us defeated 'liberals' (I guess I am one, although I am still trying to figure out what exactly that means these days). Even discounting the fact that I am reading the NY Times and the Boston Globe (which is owned by the NYT company), the top stories in most media outlets seem to reflect what a hard time the Bush Administration is having for its agenda and in keeping its supporters in line. The Social Security battle they have waged since the inauguration is all but lost, if not in Congress then at least among the public. The frustration with the war on terror, and especially with the news from Iraq, is so significant that the White House is launching a campaign to turn the public mood around -- or at least to halt the slide in attitude that is palpable. The Republican Party itself seems to be dividing on various major issues, with McCain for example taking a major lead in openly criticizing the White House environmental policy. As reflected in one article in the Times today, the message from within the GOP seems to be for Bush to stop campagning and get on with governing....

Third, economically and energy-wise, people in the US are as crazy as ever. The price of gasoline at the pumps is as high as I have ever seen here (still well below UK standards, I know), seeming to be 223.9 per gallon on the average in the Bostonarea. And yet I have never seen so many Hummers as I see now -- literally dozens in my area alone. At the same time, shopping at the car dealerships for a new vehicle over the past several days, I noticed quite a few folks taking the few hybrid vehicles on the lot out for a spin. Every Toyota Prius on the lot of one dealership I visited had a 'sold' sticker on it, but as amazing is the long waiting list for access to the new Toyota SUV hybrid (there is a contradiction for you) and the just announced Camry hybrid due out at the end of the year. (As for me, I put in my order for a Prius -- just so I can go bumper to bumper with those Hummers!)

Fourth, US TV is as horrid as ever -- but then again, so was UK TV. I am getting back into the National Public Radio listening mode again, and I have to say that it semes to have gotten even better.

Finally, made my first major bookstore visit yesterday since returning (I usually do this right off the plane...) and came across some interesting titles to read. Now reading two works -- Richard Ellis' To The Flag: The Unlikely History Of The Pledge Of Allegiance", an interesting overview of the US Pledge of Allegiance and what it tells us about American politics; and Daniel Dennett's Sweet Dreams : Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness", a book of essays to follow up on his work on consciousness.... Obviously there will be blogs posts generated out of both books....

More to come....

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