The Thinker

2003 in Review, 2004 in Preview

The year 2003 ended the right way and the year 2004 started off great. This was in marked contrast to 2003 in general, which left a lot to be desired. Both my wife Terri and I struggled with family issues. My wife’s father in law has been through major operations and as you know things haven’t been great for my mother either this year (although it ended on a hopeful note).

But as the year ended we at least got a respite from a frantic and often angst filled year. Terri and I had eleven days free from work and responsibility and I reveled in each one of them. We found hobbies to keep us busy. Mostly I worked on programming my other domain so it could be more interactive. I hope that I can market it and launch it early this year. For most computer types, programming would be considered a chore. But as I am a project manager I don’t get to program so it was fun to code for a change. But I also helped others on their journeys into cyberspace. My brother Tom is getting into the blogging business, and I helped him put up his domain which at least initially I will host for him. And arguably we did do some needed housekeeping. The house got thoroughly cleaned for the first time in years. We threw out lots of old books, magazines and assorted crap that have been cluttering up our rooms for the eleven years we’ve been in the house. I wouldn’t be surprised if our trash men got hernias after hauling away all our excess stuff.

For New Years we were invited to a party two doors down the street. We had an excellent time eating and partying with neighbors and friends. Aside from the terrific company I felt good about being reasonably physically fit. Although I could always stand to lose more weight, my weight is under reasonable control. Not so of the other men at the party about my age, many of who were approaching the seriously overweight stage. I wonder how long it will be before I hear of their first heart attacks.

New Years morning found us up around 8:30 and packing. We left Union Station around 11:30 a.m. for a two-day trip to New York City to see a few shows. Between shows we hung out in our room on the 21st floor of the Milford Plaza hotel in the heart of New York’s Theater District. We spent too much money but enjoyed the two shows we saw on the same day, starting with Hairspray and ending with Gypsy. Now we are back and have to contemplate going back to work and school in the morning.

As a political prognosticator I tend to stink. But at least in 2003 I was largely right on the money. Although millions like me did our best to stop our war in Iraq, we did not succeed because our president is tone deaf to criticism. However I feel I was at least vindicated in my position. I was skeptical that Iraq was at all tied to our national security, or that it harbored weapons of mass destruction, and I was right. And I was excited to see around midyear that Howard Dean caught fire as a presidential candidate. He excited the Democratic base as it hasn’t been excited in years. I never contributed a dime to a politician before 2003, but last year I dumped a surprising amount of money into political candidates and political causes. My contributions were many and small but they added up to quite a piece of change. got $300, Howard Dean got $400 and I was proud to make the first contribution to my friend Tim Bagwell’s campaign for congress. I can’t match the donation levels of fat cat Republicans, made faster by more obscene tax cuts passed last year for the rich, but perhaps those of us somewhere in the upper middle class can make up in volume what Republicans make up in contribution sizes. In addition to contributing money, I also contributed time. I was one of many letter writers back in October writing Al Gore asking him to endorse Howard Dean for president. In December Gore did just that; I’d like to think it was my letter that made him change his mind. In any event 2003 ended on a hopeful note that Democrats can retake the presidency in 2004 and perhaps even a house or two of Congress.

Looking to 2004 I know I will be busy contributing more money and more time on political causes. I’m not quite as optimistic as I was a few months ago that Democrats will win back the presidency in 2004. So much depends on factors outside our control. The economy is definitely improving and that will work largely in Bush’s favor, unless the Democrats can frame the issue as one of jobs. Most of those three million jobs lost during the Bush tenure won’t be coming back. Iraq is likely to remain a quagmire, and that will work in the Democrats’ favor. But there is reason to be hopeful. This time 12 years ago George H.W. Bush led Bill Clinton by 20 points in the polls, but Clinton won the election. A recent CNN poll shows the gap between Bush and Dean (assuming he is the Democratic nominee) at 5%. As Americans continue to die even though Saddam Hussein has been captured, Bush’s political bounce from the capture begins to fade and disillusionment creeps in again. The biggest risk factor for the Democrats is probably whether we get another 9/11-type attack here in the United States. A rally around the flag effect keeps Bush in office. It’s ironic but the more successful Osama bin Laden is in terrorizing us, the more likely Bush is to get reelected.

Personally I may be switching jobs this year. Over the break I interviewed for a job at the U.S. Geological Survey in nearby Reston. If I get it I will not only get supervisory responsibilities, but will put a couple more hours a day into my life. That is because my commute will go from 25 miles in each direction to 3 miles. My interview was very positive and I got very good vibes, but only time will tell if I get the position. Although I could be happier at ACF, it is not a bad place to work and I often enjoy my work. I would feel less personally vulnerable to terrorism out in Reston than I do every day working in D.C.

I think it is likely that my parents will continue to struggle with medical issues this year. They are not getting any younger. We hope they will choose to relocate closer to one of us, but it doesn’t look like they are in any hurry to do so, in spite of the risks they are taking in their own safety. I just hope 2004 ends with both of them alive; I am quite fortunate to have both of them alive. My mother will turn 84 this year, and my father will turn 78.

My daughter Rosie will turn 15 late in the year and doubtless will begin petitioning me to teach her how to drive. We expect her to continue to direct her life toward the arts. Perhaps she will be in another play or two, like her December performance in the musical Scrooge. Hopefully her grades will begin to reflect her natural talent. At this point we can do little beyond encouraging her to make these choices. Like most teenagers she has developed some tone deafness toward her parents. We hope that life’s hard lessons about life will be experienced early rather than late. Perhaps a part time job will help her focus on her choices and the reality of life in this world.


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