Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Who?

I've been instructed by my wife that this particular weblog is not supposed to be exclusively a forum for my political observations. However, at least two people now have contacted me inquiring as to when my post on Governor Palin would come out. Thus, by popular demand...

To be honest, I don't know enough about Sarah Palin to be able to make a definitive evaluation either way. My first reaction on hearing the news this last Friday was the same as everyone else's: "Sarah Who?" At first glance, the obvious reason they picked her was to demographically balance the ticket: young female to complement old male.

From a personal perspective, I think it's cool that she has five children, the fifth being a little baby born back in April (unfortunately with Down's Syndrome...) Her husband is ethnically part native-Eskimo, also interesting. And she's the governor of Alaska and from what I understand has really stuck it to the big three oil companies up there, which I very much enjoyed reading about. Politically speaking, I respectfully disagree with several of her policy positions, but that can be said about just about any Republican and I don't hold that against her.

From a strategic end, however, this pick was somewhat puzzling. McCain's campaign has spent the last several months criticizing Obama for his "youth and inexperience". Hmm... it seems Palin has more in each of those categories than Senator Obama. In an election where the economy and foreign policy are the two big issues, she doesn't really have much to add on either account. The best they've been able to come up with is that since she's from Alaska, which is geographically closer to Russia, she must be an expert on foreign affairs. Again, hmm... And with a candidate like John McCain who, respectfully speaking, is statistically more likely to have a major health-related incident while in office, I'm not sure I can say at this point that she would be a competent president.

So my final summary judgment would be: Governor Palin seems like a fine and decent person, but it seems like she merely balances the Republican ticket demographically without enhancing it substantively. On the Democratic side, Joe Biden does both.

And since I don't have a picture of myself with the Governor, I'll remind everyone about my photo with her running-mate (and I forgot to take off the dorky sunglasses):

Here's another one. It was at the Iowa State Fair in August 2007. This photo was picked up by the Associated Press and made it onto and the New York Times. Katie and I are sitting on the ground next to the guy in the yellow shirt.

UPDATE (09/05): This is completely ridiculous:

"GOP vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has foreign-policy experience because of the sheer location of the state she leads, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Wednesday. "I love when people say she has no national-security experience, no foreign-policy experience," Huntsman told Utah delegates to the Republican National Convention. "The state borders Russia and Canada, for heaven's sake."" -

Anyone want to start on the flaws in that little line of logic there???

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Gift of the Magi

Every year that I have taught school here in Iowa, Benjamin has sent me a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers on the first day of school. One year he ordered it six weeks in advance because he was worried that he would forget closer to the start of classes. I have loved receiving flowers and really appreciate his sacrifice. I appreciate that he is willing to spend that much money on something that doesn't interest him much at all.
I am not teaching this year and didn't expect Ben to send me anything, however, Benjamin started teaching his first university course yesterday. I wanted to do something to show him that I care about him and that I appreciate all he does for me. I went to the local grocery floral department and found some really cute candy bar bouquets. They cost more than they were worth, so I bought the supplies and made Ben a personalized bouquet. I filled the cup with kisses, then I used ribbon to attach several different varieties of candy. It turned out really nice. I ran it up to the school and was able to leave it in his classroom on the front table juste before he arrived. Yeah! I was worried that he would catch me, but he didn't. Here is a picture that Benjamin took of it.
When I arrived home, much to my surprise, there were roses on our front porch. Ben sent me flowers to congratulate me on the start of classes. How sweet! He is so amazing! I try to do something nice for him and he had already ordered flowers for me. I thought that this was a great story and I wanted to share. Here are the flowers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe Biden

So it looks like Senator Joe Biden with bill Obama's VP. First, I'd like to say that I'm somewhat perturbed with the way that the Obama campaign went about with the announcement. They did it via text message instead of holding a press conference, which is fine, but then they did not specify the time or date. Everyone (including myself) waited anxiously all week for word while the campaign dropped hints here and there. When they finally sent the text message, it was at 2:38 a.m. on Saturday morning. It felt like they were toying somewhat with us all week, and then sent it at a time that it wakes us up in the middle of the night. Not a good way to make a good impression or to combat the "elitism" impression being forged by the media and opposition.

However, the announcement came and went. I think the choice of Senator Biden is not a horrible choice, but it's not necessarily a great choice, either. By picking "experience" over "change" it gives off the impression that Obama was not 100% confident that his "change" message could win the election. He ends up looking slightly insecure with himself and his message. Also, now you have two senators on the same ticket, which hasn't been a winning combination for Democrats since 1960. I think Obama should have gone with a governor to add some executive experience. He could have gotten the foreign policy credentials with Bill Richardson (who is a governor and Hispanic, a necessary demographic to secure), or gone with Virginia governor Tim Kaine (who learned Spanish on a Catholic mission when he was in college).

On the plus side, however, Joe Biden has does have phenomenal foreign policy credentials which will come in very handy when (if?) they take office in 2009. He also will be a good representative of the Obama campaign, and he isn't afraid to make a bold statement. Biden helps balance the ticket demographically (Irish Catholic, white, "senior citizen," middle-class), and somewhat geographically (although Delaware's not going to be voting for McCain, Biden is originally from Pennsylvania - a must-win for Democrats.) Biden also had, in my view, the most impressive Iraq plan during the 2007 campaign and is extremely brilliant with foreign policy and foreign affairs.

So I suppose Obama "did no harm" with this VP pick, but I'm not sure that it will help all that much, either. There were certainly better choices out there, but this wasn't a bad choice on the whole.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New Hawkeye Poll

In case anyone's interested, here's a news report on the latest "Hawkeye Poll" run by our department here at the University. The two professors mentioned in the news story are going to be on my dissertation committee later this year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Where have you been all my life???

Even though I've been jogging a few miles a day for the last four years, I always used my old trashy shoes figuring that they get sweaty and dirty so why ruin nice shoes? (This will be of no surprise to those familiar with my clothing-purchasing philosophy.) At any rate, this year I received counsel from several esteemed colleagues familiar with outdoor jogging including Taylor Dix and Bishop Andersen. They all highly recommended getting professional running shoes. I initially expressed dismay at the prospect of dropping $100 on a pair of shoes, but as Bishop Andersen put it, "it's cheaper than knee surgery." I managed to find these on for $27 (regularly $80 and qualified for Free Super-Shipper Savings!) They're ranked in the Top 10 by Consumer Reports (thanks again for the subscription, Mom.) I used them for the first time Monday morning and holy cow. It was like gliding on clouds. I was amazed. It made exercise time even slightly pleasant (aside from the beautiful Iowa country-side). Anyways, I have experienced a change of heart about specialty jogging shoes. I have also endured many well-deserved I-told-you-so's from my wife Katie who has been trying to get me to buy some for over a year. Oh, well. Better late than never.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Family Reunion

We returned to Utah for a second time this year because I wanted to attend my Cropper extended family reunion. My mom was in charge of planning the event and she spent the majority of the year working on it. The reunion was held at a beautiful cabin near Grace, Idaho. Over the period of 6 days there were at least 80 family members present. We had a lot of fun and kept ourselves busy. Some of the activities included: paint balling (only adults got to play the real game, but the children were allowed to shoot the guns at an open field off of the port-a-potty railing), a pie eating contest, daily crafts for the children, a wagon ride and campfire dinner, swimming, water balloons, tubing, trampoline, family trivia, a dutch over cook off judged by Benjamin (he took this job very seriously), board game playing, talking and reminiscing, a family DVD with information about everyone, yummy treats, a talent show, a baby shower for me and for my cousin Shelly, and much more. Good job mom! Thanks for all your work. Ben and I really enjoyed the reunion.

Now for the pictures:
1st: A double rainbow that we saw on our drive out to the reunion.

2nd: The cabin and some of the people.

3rd: shower pics (watermelon basket carved by my sister Kristy, Shelly is expecting twins right around the time I am due with our little girl. Thanks so much for the shower. It was so much fun to get advice from everyone about child rearing. Our little girl is so spoiled and she is going to be well dressed. I had a lot of fun! I enjoyed the games especially the one where we got to sculpt baby items out of play dough. I am sad I didn't guess the correct number of candies in the bottle, I was only a thousand off. I also liked the game where they shared information about a person and the guests had to guess whether they you were talking about me or about Shelly. How fun!
4th: Denali: She was such a big help with the children, all of her extra time was spent on the trampoline. We are so glad that she came with us. She went crazy at the pie eating contest and ate more than any other child.

5th: My most recent pregnancy picture. I seem to be gaining weight from side to side, so I don't poke out as much, believe me I AM gaining weight. :)

Thanks Jenny and Everyone

I had so much fun at my baby shower in Logan at El Toro. Ben posted a few pictures, but I wanted to add a couple more. Everyone did a fabulous job of planning the shower. We played several games including ones where you had to unscramble baby themed words (snebtisa = bassinet), come up with baby names based on clues (she's a precious gem = ruby), and one where you had to guess the body parts from clues (a type of macaroni = elbow). Good job to everyone. My favorite game was one made by Jenny and Denali. It was a memory game where the clues matched popular candy types. For, example the whoppers went with the contractions card and the life savers went with the epidural card. Thanks Jenny. Notice in the picture that all the drawings were hand done by our very own Denali (Ben's little sister).
p.s. Thanks for letting Ben come, he really wanted to. :)

I LOVED seeing everyone and appreciate all of you being there.
This outfit is from Jenny and it says "hug me" on it. I love this one!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More pictures from Cache Valley

A scene from Katie's baby shower put on by my talented sister Jennifer. It was at El Toro Viejo - Logan's best Mexican restaurant. I won two candy bars in the memory game we played. We had several friends and close relatives who showed up.

We went up Green Canyon in Logan and made a camp fire on Saturday night. My brother-in-law Christian made a fire. My little sister Denali is standing on the right.

Christian cooked some juicy steaks right over the fire and some shrimp on the aluminum foil.

From left to right - Stacy, Michael, and Jennifer. Michael and Jennifer are my siblings. Mike and Stacy got married in June.

On Sunday in Cache Valley - the four Knoll siblings. From left to right - Jennifer, Denali, Benjamin, and Michael.

Stay tuned for more excited adventures as events warrant.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Back in Utah...

We made the long, scenic, and at times monotonous drive back to Utah on Thursday in anticipation of Katie's family reunion next week. We took a slight detour, however, and headed south to Colorado on the way to meet up with our friends Stephanie and Taylor Dix who recently relocated to Denver. Taylor graduated this spring from the law school at UI and now has a prestigious job lined up with a big-name firm downtown where he will enter the exciting world of tax law.

We got stuck in rush hour traffic on the way in. Downtown Denver can be seen in the background.

Invesco Field - where Barack Obama is going to accept his party's nomination for President of the United States on August 28th (the 45th anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech) in front of more than 75,000 people.

Taylor, Stephanie, and Warren were wonderful hosts. Stephanie made some awesome fajitas for dinner and then continued the Mexican theme with some breakfast burritos the next morning. Taylor took us for a 90-minute driving tour of downtown Denver on Thursday morning. Warren offered to let us watch "Super-Why" with him on PBS in the morning.

We appreciated very much their hospitality as it was a nice layover on our drive out to Utah. We arrived back at my parents' house on Thursday evening. We'll be here for the weekend and then spend a few days in southern Idaho next week with Katie's family before heading back home next weekend just in time for school to start.