Sample column 1

Your Ambivalent Columnist

Hello, I'm your new Saturday Community columnist. When applying, the editors asked for three columns and a letter explaining why I wanted the job. My main reason is personal: I am a lazy writer and a weekly deadline would entice me to devote time to writing.

But why should you care what I write?

I plan to provide a personal, scientific perspective on the news. Keeping things personal somehow makes them more universal. A story about how John Q. Public came to live in Anytown USA is not nearly as interesting as one about a 41-year-old male Caucasian raised in the Air Force at various places who tells people he's from south Florida and lives in Colorado to enjoy the change of seasons and the varied topography and ecology.

My main perspective is ambivalence, unlike many of the spokespeople quoted in the paper who are definitely on one side of an issue. I believe most issues have more than just the two sides chosen for dramatic journalism. And even 2-sided issues have at least five points of view: His, Hers, His view of Her position, Her view of His position, and the overall truth of both sides.

My ambivalence appears in many ways. Superficially, I eat, crochet, and write left-handed but hammer and bowl right-handed; the difference due mainly to whether Mom or Dad taught me the task. I also play the banjo but prefer blues to bluegrass.

Deeper ambivalences include a belief that most of our ecological problems are due directly to overpopulation, yet I decided to have children figuring I have a responsibility to raise good kids; not depend on other people's children to solve the problems of the future, but I'm unsure whether I'm adding to the problem or the solution.

I am a member of the Libertarian party with a view of government beyond the bounds of the Democrat/Republican "choices" so often presented for solutions. I voted for Harry Browne in the last presidential election, but if he had won, I'd have lost my job. I work for USDA and do not view support of agriculture as a proper function of the Federal government. Yet I continue to work and even enjoy the job. At some meetings at work, I feel like a mole. At Libertarian gatherings, I feel like a traitor. At least I never feel complacent.

My deepest ambivalence surrounds my main interests: science and religion. I enjoy physics and cosmology and believe mathematics demonstrates not just logic and common sense but also intuition and spirituality. The way major math discoveries coincide with the appearance of religious prophets seems more than coincidence to me. But I don't rely on math for my religion. After investigating most major sects, I'm almost positive the Baha'i religion and its prophet Baha'u'llah are correct, yet I still have not joined the church. I'm not sure what I'm waiting for.

My official technical background consists of a math degree with lots of statistics and nine years experience as a computer programmer with an intimate knowledge of the Internet. My main irritation with journalists and politicians is the way facts are misused or misinterpreted. Another problem is the either/or view of computers or the worldwide web as savior of civilization or purveyor of unmitigated evil.

I'm not sure what topics I'll explore in this column. The ones listed above will be just the background from which I spew opinions and ideas I discover when reading the paper or talking to people. My goal will be to write clearly as I examine the underlying assumptions of stories, rumors, and studies.