Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Bitter Edition of an Annual Tradition: The Spew Year in Review

 Around this time every year, I look back at my year of blogging.  I do this partly because I am a narcissist and partly so that I have a handy place to keep links to the notable posts of the year for future reference.  This year?  It also, as my first Quarantine post noted, helps chart my descent into madness.  And, of course, given how much happened this year, it also helps to remind me all that happened in this most dismal of years.  The key to getting through this year: stress baking!

The year started with a bang, alas, as the American assassination of Iranian Qasssem Suleiman.  The Iranians, undeterred, retaliated.  The series of escalations led not to war (although that was pretty close) but to the downing of an airliner by Iranian anti-aircraft batteries, which was awful but happens in such times.  

The primaries didn't drag on as long as expected, but, jeez, they were not fun.  So glad the Dems did not reward their billionaire with votes.

The highlight of my year, partly because some of the really cool stuff (Hawaii, South Africa) got cancelled by COVID, was a trip to Japan just as the pandemic was breaking out of China and Iran and Italy.  The tour guides referred to me as Sensei, as if I were wise.  The only relevant wisdom I had was where to find the most amazing French toast.  It was great to see a different part of Japan and to meet the families that hosted the students I was chaperoning.  Oh and much sake!  Kampai!

Capstone dinner

JC organizes the survey
The CDSN did both more and less than expected.  Our Capstone event was literally the last trip I had before things locked down.  It was great to meet and provide a platform for the hotshots who gave the best presentations of 2019 that were organized by our partners.  The 2021 version will, alas, be virtual.  The 2020 Summer Institute got pushed to 2021.  However, our COVID Rapid Response Conference was a success.  We brought together our members to answer questions that had been posed by the Department of National Defence, we provided some preliminary answers, and these helped provide some research agendas for our graduate students this past summer, keeping them off the streets.  We created a summer seminar for PhD students since they lost most of their chances to present research and to network.  The survey that we put out produced some very interesting results... and also gave me an excuse to go to skiing with Roland Paris who happened to be in Calgary at the same time! 

Some of the blogging addressed how it challenged academics in their research and teaching including what to do in the fall with the obvious answer that online was best, if not great.

While every year has much civil-military relations to discuss, this year was, well, over the top.  Lots of talks of coups whether to remove Trump or keep him in power.  The post that got the most hits this year was on the worst day of American Civil-Military relations in quite some time--the clearing of Lafayette park with the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff playing a very visible role.  The context was, of course, the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for extensive, systemic, and systematic police reform.  One of the highlights of my year was the efforts by my daughter, Activist Spew.  I helped make a word a thing, more so than fetch: autogolpe.  I kept insisting that Trump was not trying to launch a coup since coups require both changes in who is in power and the use of security forces.  Only very late in the year did he muse about the military and then, of course, he vetoed a bill that would give them a raise.  I had one priority for Biden's cabinet, and, well, it did not work out so well.

The election, as endless as it seemed, has had much less violence than I expected.  Ah, I am a victim of the tyranny of low expectations.  Speaking of low expectations, I didn't really know what to make of the Lincoln Project.  I often enjoyed their ads but worried about their sharpening their axes for future work against the Dems.  I was a bit over the top, but got most of the states right.

One of the highlights of the year was marking a mistake Canada made in 1945--signing the surrender document in the wrong place.

The other highlight was fall ultimate.  Summer and winter were lost due to injury and pandemic respectively, but I got to run around with some fun folks for a number of Sundays.  I hope I can do the same next summer.  

And, yes, death was all around us.  I lost a friend from grad school--Neil Englehart.  We did organize a zoom wake, which provided some solace and also educated me a bit about Neil's life as well as what other members of my cohort have been up to.  We also lost Sean Kay, a scholar I knew but not well.  

We are all glad 2020 is at an end.  I am not sure how much better 2021 will be--the pandemic is not going to magically go away very quickly.  But Trump will be on the margins, and that will do a lot to improve my attitude and many other things.  There will be much griping about Biden, and the Dems will fight among themselves.  And that will be far better than what we have had.  

It has been a very tough year. I hope you and yours managed to get through this with a minimum of scars.  Keep on keeping on.  

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