Saturday, June 12, 2021

Happy Anniversary, Indiana Jones!

 Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It is my favorite movie, bar none.  The funny thing is that I avoided it at first because I thought it was about religion--some story I read featured the ark or something.  The second funny thing is that the first time I saw it was at summer camp, and the van for the group (the kids who stayed a full 8 weeks got to go to town during the evening in between 4 week sessions) was late.  We came in just as Marion was drinking the big dude under the table.  Yet even if one loses the first part, one of the greatest openings to any movie, and the MF snake in the MF plane (way before Sam Jackson), the movie still rocks.

So, why do I love it so? 

  1. The tagline for the second movie described the first one so well: "If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones."  Just so much great action, thrilling, even when you know the hero must live.  From the escape from the cave at the start to the bar fight to the sequence from the tomb to the plane to the truck chase to the sub scene to the opening of the ark, the movie just grabs you (or me, anyway).  
  2. Indiana Jones is such a great character.  Smart, clever, resilient, funny, flawed, human (he gets hurt and feels the pain).  
  3. Marion.  I married a snarky brunette with freckles.  Coincidence?  I am not sure.  Marion was the first female action hero that I can recall.  She was not just pretty, but she was determined, resourceful as her ability with a skillet against bad guys demonstrated, and, yes, she could drink.  Indiana was a fool to let her go, and we needed the fourth movie, despite its flaws, just so we could get Marion back in our lives again.

  4. The best bad guys.  Not just the cartoonish Nazis--we love seeing Indy beat them and best them--but Belloq.  Whose smarts and arrogance made him a good match, the best match for Indiana Jones of all of the bad guys he faced.  He could not have tricked Belloq into drinking from the wrong cup.  
  5. Did I mention the sequence from the tomb to the plane to the truck chase? Any of those would be the best action sequence in a movie but to have them back to back to back?  Wow.  
  6. Hey, a professor as hero?  Did that shape my destiny as well?  Well, no.  But still, woot!
  7. So much funny stuff along the way.  The movie was just very well written.  
  8. A great score.  John Williams's best stuff?  Not sure but it competes well with his Star Wars stuff.  

One can quibble--that Indiana Jones is a product of imperialism--it belongs in whose museum--and more, but what a great piece of entertainment that still works today.  Its imagery, its quotes and memes, and all the rest are still relevant today and are burned into popular culture.  

So, enjoy the ride as the map shows the hero moving across the world.

Quarantine Report, Week 65: Phased 1

 Ontario is loosening up.  Woot?  Um, not so woot.  Long lines yesterday at clothing stores which have been closed for a few months, the full extent of Costco is now open, and, yes, patios at restaurants.  It is not enough and too much.  It is not enough because the schools remain closed, and the kids could really use just a few weeks of hanging out together.  It is not enough for me because ultimate frisbee can only start in phase 2 in three weeks even though we know that outdoor stuff is really safe.  It is too much in that people are going to let their guards down even as there are variants that are pretty harmful to those who have only had one shot.  Ottawa and Ontario are at about 70% for one shot but only 10% for two.  That latter number will accelerate, but we aren't there yet.  

My basic approach is to be pessimistic in the short run and optimistic in the long run.  I am not confident that Canada will change the travel restrictions soon.  Indeed, last night, I had an epiphany--that there was no way they would change the restrictions until after Trudeau comes back from the G7.  This government cares mostly about optics (except when it comes to having a defence minister who does not know what the job entails) so they would not want to reduce the restrictions at a time where it would make things very easy for PMJT to come back.  So, the "logic" of early July makes more sense in that context.  That and Doug Ford blaming foreigners for his own failed responses makes the Liberals more cautious.

 In a mostly meeting-less week (not a trend, alas), we made much progress on planning a series of CDSN events.  The summer institute's speaker lineup is nearly complete, the Year Ahead in December is getting there, our 9-11 event is 2/3s set, and we have started to go through the many applications for a new Project Coordinator.  I am taking my time on this hire, as I have learned that rushing it does not work out so well.  We have one podcast to record this week before we take a pause.  Our wonderful podcast producer, Melissa Jennings, is traveling and could use a break.  So, after the upcoming week, the next #BattleRhythm will be around Bastille Day, which is actually when I am slated for my next shot.

The baking continues.  I mentioned the s'more brownies I was going to make last weekend.  They were as gooey and as tasty as I had hoped for.  I distributed to our neighbors as I didn't want to cause Mrs. Spew and I to go into sugar shock. The next recipes?  Not sure, but the pressure is on as my family has informed me that I will be cooking and baking at least one night of the Saideman reunion in August.  I am going to have to figure out what worked best over the past year .... that is besides chocolate chip cookie dough pots which are, of course, required.

 

 

 

 

The story at home of late is the aging of Bob.  My daughter insisted long ago that she wanted a cat, and so we got Bob from a shelter.  He turned out to be less cuddly than we hoped, the kind of cat who would take a good petting session and turn it into a good practice first aid session.  In the past few years, he has slowed down.  During the pandemic, he has gotten positively cuddly.  He now limps around the house as his back legs and back bother him.  So, we have moved from mutual suspicion and distrust to detente to pandemic pals.  I have never been a cat person and am a bit allergic (but my daughter suggesting at age 6 or 7 that we get divorced so she could have one house with mom and a cat and another with dad and the dogs causes me to drop the objection).  So, he now insists on being picked up and put on my lap a couple of times a day to hang out for a while, making it hard to type.  But since I regret not spending enough time in the latter days of the lives of dog 1 and dog 2, I figure I can do this for Bob.  We are nearing the stage where we have to start weighing how much pain he is in versus how much he still has a decent life.  We have been through this before, but it does not get easier.  

I will finish on a silly note.  The good news is that I am biking farther and farther, getting more exercise as the weather has been mostly terrific. The bad news that the southern end of my route has both a donut shop and an ice cream truck.  Last week, I had to try the bubble waffle cone.  Well, it was more waffle than cone as you can see.  I also ordered the cookie monster ice cream for complete decadence.  Because the only way through this pandemic is to grab and hold onto (and eat) the sweetest stuff one can find.  Even if it offsets the benefits of the bike ride.  

Good luck finding the sweet stuff while we make our way through the next phases of this thing.






 




Wednesday, June 9, 2021

This Is Canada

 In the aftermath of a mass murder attack, folks tend to say: this isn't America or this isn't Canada.  As Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino noted, this is very much America.  Canada isn't the US--it has less gun violence, its racial politics are different, but, yes, violence is inherent in the system.

We just had an attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario, where a driver killed four members of the family leaving the youngest severely wounded and orphaned.  This is not the first attack on Muslims.  An attack on a mosque was only four years ago.  It seems light years away when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Syrian refugees in the face of rising xenophobia and Islamophobia.  Since then, Quebec has passed legislation squarely aimed against Muslim women who were hijabs as well as other religious minorities.  It may be too much to say that the recent violence is state sanctioned but not too far to say that the province has created a permissive environment that allows those who hate Muslims to feel as if they have a legitimate grievance.  

To be sure, this is not just a Quebec thing as that legislation is popular in the rest of Canada, that violence has occurred in Ontario not just this week but often.  That Muslims throughout Canada report hostility and harassment on a regular basis.  

This is a time of hate.  Several things are coming together.  The pandemic and the economic challenges have caused people to seek blame, to be frustrated, to seek to act out.  Fox and its ilk compete to curry with the resentful--putting out the most awful brew of lies and blamecasting.  Social media giants like facebook, twitter, and google have pursued clicks and encouraged others to do so, helping to radicalize folks.  The shift in right wing politics, where resentment boils over, has led to politicians either tolerating awful stuff because they fear electoral repercussions (notice the Republicans buying into the Big Lie, notice the Conservative Party of Canada having fights about whether to go further right or to become more centrist) or embracing it in order to get votes.  The People's Party of Canada is a xenophobic party seeking to use hate to get beyond two percent of the vote.  The centrist parties are reluctant to confront the hate of the so-called populists.  Trudeau criticized the Quebec legislation when it came out a few years ago. Now, he mostly demurs.  

These are very dangerous times for those who are different and for Democracy.  Canada is in better shape since its diversity and its institutions make it hard for the Conservatives to shift further right and still win elections. But the environment is still breeding violence.  Perhaps most Canadians buy into some version of the multicultural ideal of strength from diversity, living with each other, but there are sufficient numbers of folks out there willing to do harm.  This, alas, is Canada.




Saturday, June 5, 2021

Quarantine Report 64: Fluffier Than Before

 Yeah, I have let myself completely go during this pandemic.  Which means I have had the opportunity to notice how daily growth can produce notable changes every once in a while.  Like, when I was growing my beard out, it seemed the same for a while and then suddenly much bigger.  Now, tis my hair which seemed a bit long suddenly feels like I have wings on the sides of my head.  I am the fluffiest I have been since ... high school I guess.   I can feel my hair flop around as I go downstairs or as the breeze blows when I go outside to get the mail. It has been seven months since my last haircut, and the next one will happen after I get my second shot which is still a month or more away.

And, yes, we have both more and less certainty in Ontario.  The authorities now say we of GenX-AZ can mix if we want to, getting Moderna or Pfizer for our second shot or we can stick with AZ.  Of course, the problem with the latter is finding it, since there is not so much of it.  They say that we are eligible for our second shot 12 weeks after our first, but then there are some folks who are getting ahead of that pace.  The good news is that the Ontario authorities are calling all the folks over 80 who have not gotten a second shot.  The bad news is that this is necessary in part because the web-based system was down.  And, yeah, for those hunting shots, there are two paths--the govt locations which book up fast and the pharmacies which require tenacity to find one accepting appointments.  I did go on campus briefly and saw the line for vaccines, so I feel pretty good about getting my second dose (non-AZ, if I want that) as Carleton is only vaxxing students, faculty, and staff.  

It was my first time on campus since ..... October.  Last time, it was to get a flu shot.  This time, it was to pick up 25 copies of a book we are assigning and providing to the participants.  We have a nearly complete roster of participants--emerging scholars, junior military officers, junior policy officers, etc.  We have a nearly complete roster of presenters.  So, the event is in good shape.  A key part of it is to build bridges and foster networking across the traditional divides.  That was supposed to be facilitated by lunches/dinners/coffee/bar time.  So, the event will be online, which not only means less social time but also less time--there is no way I want folks to be on screens for entire days.  The bright side is that we don't have to arrange travel or the like, so it is an easier event to organize.  We have some stuff we have to do, but we are nearly there.

The CDSN and CSIDS are also organizing a couple of 20th anniversary of 9/11 events, so we are working on that as well.  We dropped the 50th anniversary of BattleRhythm this week, so that was a nice marker of how much progress we have made.  As we say on this episode, we really don't know who is listening, but we've had enough folks across town tell us that they listen that we believe we have some listeners and many of them are in or near government.  I am most grateful to Stéfanie von Hlatky for being such a great host, as this has added a heap of worktime to her very busy schedule.  She brings terrific insights, much humor, and great connections that make for great interviews.  Melissa Jennings, the CDSN's Director of Communications, produces each podcast with great care, diligence, and patience.  Paxon Mayer, our PhD RA, helps prep us with the research she does for us.  It is a terrific team, and I am lucky to have them.  Otherwise, we are in the middle of a transition as our previous project coordinator has moved on, and we are in the midst of hiring a new staffer.  If I didn't buy principal-agency theory before, I certainly do now.  

On the Canadian defence scene, there was not too much news this week--just one more senior officer losing his job, this time for uttering the N word apparently.  Two retired chiefs of the defence staff wrote a regrettable op-ed where they worried about the plight of senior officers.  Not a great look, given that this culture that they blame is one that they did little/nothing to change.  It happened on their watch, and now they want to say "hey, due process" at a time where it is clear intra-CAF processes are anything but due.  So, they didn't cover themselves in glory.  My take on that was:

On the personal front, it might best be summed up by this latest google map of where I traveled in May, quite a contrast to the average May where I have done fieldwork in Brazil, South Korea, and Europe.

The farthest north and west I went was to Costco.  The farthest south was biking to Manotick for exercise and for, um, ice cream.  Indeed, the trend of the week was combining exercise with bad eating as I tried out the donut shack and a new ice cream place.  I have lost weight during the pandemic, but most of that was in the first few months.  My plateau since has reflected a balancing of stress exercise, stress baking, and stress eating.  I am guessing next month's map will feature the trip to Carleton as my longest voyage of June.  I am looking forward to the family reunion at the end of July in Philly.  My daughter will make it from LA so I get to see her for the first time since Dec 2019, and it will be the first time seeing everyone else since Thanksgiving of 2019.  Zoom is helpful, but it just isn't the same.  Oh, and samplers of beers in Philly bars await me along with steak sandwiches and pretzels.  We shall see if I have to really quarantine when I get back, as that is what the Canadian border policy calls for.  Will it change by then?  I doubt it.

Time to make some s'mores brownies as the treat of the week--the aforementioned stress baking.  Be well and good luck in this uncertain time!





Tuesday, June 1, 2021

215 and Then So Many More

 Canada has been shaken by the discovery of a mass grave for 215 Indigenous kids at a residential school.  Children from Indigenous families were taken away from their communities and forced to go these schools that were designed to remove their identities and make them as white and as Christian (Catholic, either mostly or entirely, I have not read enough to be sure) as possible.  The conditions at these places caused tuberculosis, pneumonia, and other diseases to thrive, not unlike concentration camps I have toured in Germany, and priests and nuns and others abused the children.  

As an immigrant, I did not have the opportunity to be failed by Canadian schools (my Canadian friends report not getting much info about this stuff when they went to school).  Instead, I learned only a smidge as this stuff was referred to in the citizenship guide we read to prepare for the test:

This text understates the harm as the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that 4,000 children died at these schools--a far higher rate than kids in the rest of the population--and a number that many see as an underestimate.  What always gets me is that these policies and schools continued into the 1990s.  Well, that's not fair.  They continue to this day but in a different form.  Instead of residential schools akin to concentration camps, we have kids taken away from their families due to welfare policies where the parents are seen as unfit due to the scars and legacies of the past--that past oppression and persecution has lead to poverty and other poor conditions, so the state comes in and takes kids away.  

The Commission had all kinds of recommendations including spending money on finding the rest of the mass graves.  It does appear that some of this has been funded, but it is not clear to me why so little progress has been made.  

The US has a similar situation as the equivalent of re-education camps were set up in the US, they had high rates of death and disease and accidents.  I don't know if this stuff is covered in the Native American museum in Washington, DC, as my visit there was cut short.  Each year (except during pandemics), my daughter and I visit a few Smithsonian museums on the Mall in DC.  Three years ago, we went to the Native American History Museum, but we didn't stay long.  My daughter was really uncomfortable with the government that continues to persecute Native Americans curating a museum about them.  There were displays that were critical of the Trail of Tears and about Standing Rock, but I don't remember anything about the damage done to the kids.  

Anyhow, because I didn't know that much about the Canadian experience, I felt a bit more comfortable with genocide being used to describe what the US did to Native Americans than what Canada did to the First Nations.  The more I learn, the more I realize that the word fits only too well.  Much more needs to be done to recognize what happened, to compensate for the damage, and to improve the policies and the realities that the Indigenous people of Canada face. 






Saturday, May 29, 2021

Quarantine, Week 63: Revisiting the Past

I was not expecting nostalgia week to be this week, but it happens.

First, today is the anniversary of War Machine coming out four years ago, the first time I helped the script writing of a movie!  Well, sort of.

Second, speaking of Afghanistan, I gave a lecture to the NATO Field School, a program led by Alex Moens, a CDSN co-director, on ISAF's performance in Afghanistan.  So, that forced me to think about my two most recent books which not so recent anymore.  The students asked really good questions and made me think a bit about whether the stuff I believed then applies now and what I thought about Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan.  And ye olde ambivalence returned--I know that leaving will not help Afghanistan, but I also know that staying a year would make a huge difference.  So, a tricky thing to end one's participation in a forever war, which, yes, will continue.

Third, less nostalgia and much more dark history.  Despite studying the 67 page citizenship test guide, I really don't know much about Canadian history.  That was driven home yesterday, when news broke that someone had found 215 bodies of indigenous kids who had been taken from their families and forces into residential schools.  CNN calls it unthinkable, but it has been known for a long time (although not by me) that kids died at these "schools" at a rate similar to POWs in German camps during WWII.  That the lack of medical facilities and, to be blunt, the complete and total apathy about the condition of the kids meant that TB and other diseases ravaged them.  Just awful.  I knew it was bad, but not this bad.  And the residential schools didn't close until ... 1996.  25 years ago?!  That is appalling!  

But not everything was old or awful this week.  We had a student defend her dissertation proposal in record time, making my proposal class look good. Of course, it was entirely her focus and work that made it happen, but I can still do a happy dance.

My niece graduated from law school (keeping the streak alive, as she is the only lawyer in this next generation of Saidemans [my cousins' kids are too young, so they could be lawyers too].  The rest of the children of my siblings have neatly avoided that whole law school thing.  Anyway, back to the new lawyer who will be doing much good, as she is very much a social justice warrior.  We are super proud and know that:

On the vaccine front, Ontario is now moving towards second doses as we have reached 60% of folks getting their first ones.  That appears to be the magic number for when the pace of first doses slows and there "needs" to be more arms for the vaccines that are piling up.  The new schedule suggests June or early July, which are upon us, for me and Mrs. Spew.  So, maybe the date on my first vax document of
mid-July will actually be realized.  But still so much uncertainty and little faith that they will get their shit together.  

It has been six months or so since my last haircut, and my hair is now longer and thicker than any time since my teens, I think.  So much hair over/around my ears that masks and glasses slide off a bit.  Not long enough for a manbun.... but I can see it from here.

Good weather and clarity about the relative safety of the outdoors has meant more conversations with neighbors.  We don't wear masks outdoors while still keeping a distance.  I hope that other lessons will be applied--less pandemic theater of wiping down surfaces and perhaps more thought about ventilation--would be nice.  I wish Ontario would relax the outdoor rules--folks can gather in groups of 10 but no sports leagues.  Which means no ultimate.  I am much more confident that we can play ultimate and not transmit the disease, but governments lag.  

Similarly, a report came out saying that Canada should do away with much of the travel quarantine bs for those who are vaccinated and for those who are partially so.  Which means, yes, they need to start deciding how to implement vaccine passports of some kind... despite leaving the collection of data to the provinces.  Sometimes, Canada does federalism in the dumbest possible ways.  

The highlight of next week will be the 50th episode of BattleRhythm--the podcast has been much work but very much worth it.  We still don't really know who the audience is, but it does seem to have one.  I am very grateful to Stef vH for agreeing to do it, as she puts a lot more work into it than I do.  And our producer, Melissa Jennings, does such a great job with it.  I will write more about the two years of podcasting next week.  I will note hear that when someone tells me they follow me on twitter, I get embarassed and apologize (I am not alone as there was a thread this past week where that was the modal response).  But when folks say they listen to the podcast, I do feel pride.  Perhaps because my social media stuff ranges from least thoughtful and edited (twitter) to half-baked (Semi-Spew) to most considered and edited and with smart, careful hands on the wheel (the aforementioned SvH and MJ).  

My American friends have a three day weekend to kick off summer.  Enjoy!  We had ours last weekend.  Get vaxxed and again!

 

 





Monday, May 24, 2021

CDSN, Year 2: More Zoom, Still Woot!

 Two years ago was the Canadian Defence and Security Network's official launch, and I marked here last year the progress in the first year, so why not do it again?  We had to re-arrange stuff and cancel some activities because of the pandemic, but, as I keep saying, COVID reveals the weaknesses and the strengths of organizations just like it reveals pre-existing conditions in people.  Overall, the CDSN responded well to the shocks, as our forthcoming annual report will make clear.  Using the framework I started with last year, I will note the highlights and the lowlights and the next steps.  I am very proud of our team and how we made our way through the quarantine and made some contributions along the way.

So, what have been the highlights?

  • Continuing to build an excellent team.  Melissa Jennings, our Director of Communications, now is responsible for two podcasts as we added Conseils de Sécurité (more on that below) to BattleRhythm.  She has built a respository for all of our publications, she has managed the Youtube account that holds the videos of our events, she mostly runs the team of research assistants She is the glue that holds the CDSN together.  Stephanie Plante serves as our Project Coordinator for the year before moving on next month.  Her energy was most welcome during our many zoom meetings, and she helped out on a number of fronts including budgeting and event planning.  We had a new team of research assistants.  Paxton Mayer helped keep the podcast updated with news reports, produced the Year Ahead report, and did much research along the way.  Our team of MA students--Vincent Belanger, Evelyne Goulet, and Graeme Hopkins--were super helpful, including translating some of our activities into French, supporting the podcast, helping us run our various events, and engaging in random bits of research as we went along.  I'd include a picture of all us working together, but I have not met any of them in person except Paxton.  Given the stresses of the year and the challenges of working through zoom, these students exceeded all expectations, and I am very grateful for everything they did.  Again, the folks at Carleton, especially Sherry LaPlante in the research accounting office, did tremendous work for us.
  • We have doubled our podcasts! Conseils de Sécurité hosted by Sarah-Myriam Martin-Brûlé and Thomas Juneau is a joint venture with RSA-NSA, producing podcasts in French.  They kicked off by interviewing the Minister of Foreign Affairs and have kept up the pace quite well. Stef vH and I had a very good year, improving the rhythm of BattleRhythm, making it less of a grind on Melissa and Stef.  The highest highlight was the recent joint interview of Deputy Minister of Defence Jody Thomas and Acting Chief of Defence Staff LGen Wayne Eyre.  The crisis of misconduct and abuse of power has been a steady drumbeat (yeah, I know what I am doing) for the past several months on the podcast, so this joint interview was the culmination of that.  We have gotten much positive feedback, although I still don't really know who listens besides my sister.  
  • Our five research themes held workshops this year online and produced a quite a bit of research.  I am so grateful to the co-directors of the CDSN for leading these efforts despite the tough times.  The CDSN survey, with the Nanos firm, one of our partners, will be a public good for scholars of Canadian defence and security.  It produced interesting results, and the rollout, led by JC Boucher, gave it much visibility in government and beyond.  We will be doing another one in year 6 of the grant. 
  • Our annual events went very well.  We held online versions of the Year Ahead and of the Capstone.  The Year Ahead included panels on China, comparing pandemic responses, greyzone warfare, a great diversity fireside chat, and the keynote conversation with Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security Jacqueline O'Neil.  It didn't have the same networking punch as there were no lines for coffee or lunch for folks to meet and chat, but we had sharp people provide insightful perspectives about the stuff on the near horizon.  The Capstone event, which aims to give a platform to the best presentations from our partners and contributors across Canada, highlighted a variety of interesting work.  Again, I regret that the networking component suffered, but two Capstones in the books means it is now an institution!  
  • More new partners! We added two new organizations to our roster of partners: the aforementioned Network for Strategic Analysis and L’Institut militaire de Québec.  It was not planned but was not entirely a coincidence that our two new partners are Francophone entities.  The CDSN is also the RCDS, and although I am linguistically lame, our network is not.  Having partners focused on activities and entities in Quebec [IMQ] and building bridges between the Francophone and English communities [NSA] helps the CDSN be a truly national, coast to coast community.  
  • Our first post-doc and our first book workshop!  Linna Tam-Seto is/was our first post-doc.  She fit in very well with the Personnel Theme, as she worked on mentoring, gender, and the Canadian Armed Forces.  Her work was quite timely, making her a natural interview target for the Canadian media as the CAF leadership crisis reverberated.  Stephanie Martel was our first Book Workshop victim/winner, as we had a team of folks scrub her book so that it would find a good press.  Her work on Asian security communities was most interesting, and I look forward to seeing it in print soon.
  • We had our first Undergraduate Excellence Scholars: Ozan Ayata and Stella-Luna Ha.  The aim of this effort is to get undergraduates, especially those from traditionally underrepresented communities, interested in defence and security and involved in our efforts.  Stella and Ozan played a role in our Capstone, and we will be seeking other means by which to engage in undergraduates in our efforts. 
  • We held a second COVID response conference where we asked more government agencies for questions, and we produced recently a memo that gave our responses in a short format.
  • We worked with Organizations in Solidarity in the aftermath of last year's police violence to learn how we can do better to elevate the voices of racialized communities in Canada.  This has led to us consulting people from a variety of perspectives and getting proposals from different EDI consulting groups.  We are still figuring out our approach.  The conversations have been productive. 

Lowlights? Yes, alas.

  • The pandemic caused us to cancel the first Summer Institute.  We will hold this summer's institute online.  I am looking forward to it, but all of our meetings that got moved online just aren't the same--a key part of the CDSN is to build networks bridging various divides.  Much harder to do so when people don't meet in person.  I have vowed to have a social event once we can to bring together many of the people who we have met online so that we can meet in person.
  • We didn't have a Paterson Chair talk since we want that to be an in-person event.
  • We have had some churn, as my military friends would say, in our team.  We are hiring to replace Stephanie P, which means time spent on hiring and training, which means more work for Melissa.  The new project coordinator will be our third in three years.  I am hoping this position does not become the Spinal Tap drummer spot.  This is normal for our kind of enterprise, but it does, well, disturb our rhythm.  
  • Our grant efforts did not pan out this year.  We have enough funds to do what we need to do, but not enough to do what we want to do.  We came close, but did not finish in the money.  The good news is that our efforts were quite good and we should be competitive next year.

We've been lucky that our kind of stuff can be moved online, and we have been determined to make things work despite the complexities.   Our online events have worked out well, and we will have more tricks up our sleeves after the pandemic.   I am so very grateful for the patience, enthusiasm, and insights that the various folks working in the CDSN and those working with the CDSN have provided over the past year.  Hard to believe we are into year 3.  Rock on, Canadian defence and security community.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Quarantine, Week 62: Making News and Making Plans

It was a week chock full of Canadian civ-mil stuff, mostly inspired by our podcast where Stef vH and I interviewed Deputy Minister Jody Thomas and Acting Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre.  That interview inspired posts about the parliament looking in the wrong place and the realization that Canada's civilians lost control of the armed forces a while ago.  It was strange to see past and on-going work on legislatures and the armed forces start to transition into future work--departments/ministries of defense--in a single week, but that is where my head is at these days. 

That and making all kinds of plans--CDSN, teaching, and personal.  We are putting together the pieces for three sets of CDSN and CSIDS events--our Summer Institute in August, 9/11 20th anniversary, and the Year Ahead.  The first is an effort to provide some professional develop and networking for the next generation of military officers, policy officers, academics, journalists, and others in our defence and security community.  We have participants and, thanks to this week's work, we now have most of the presenter spots filled.  Now, I just need to figure out the daily small group exercises.  

We are working on a couple of ways to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11.  We hope to put a video of many folks across the various communities who will speak to what we can learn from our reaction on that day and since that day.  We are also working on a couple of panels with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute--one focused on protecting North America and one figuring out what we can learn from how the government and society reacted to 9/11 and the impact of the ensuing policies.  

The third event is our annual event that previews the next year.  We have consulted our partners, especially those in government, to figure out what are the things in the near horizon that we need to think about.  We hope to have an in-person event.  We should have a good mix of panels on a variety of topics.  

Teaching plans firmed up as we got our schedules for 2021-22.  My courses will be online in the fall and in-person in the winter.  That is what I preferred as I am uncertain how many students will be vaccinated by August, given how the rollout here has been messy.  I am not worried about myself, as I should get my second shot by mid-summer (see below), but students from wherever.  I am teaching US Foreign and Security Policy this fall for the first time in a couple of years, and I have to figure out the balance of "the old systems work again" vs "Trump broke the system, so how much of foreign policy making has changed".  I have Civ-Mil at 8:30am face to face in the winter, so that will be a rude re-introduction of winter commuting, but it will be good to see folks in person.  For both semesters, I will be teaching again the Dissertation Proposal class.  We made sufficient progress this winter that the fall Diss Prop class will be smaller as several students will defend their proposal this summer.

The big thing to plan now is the summer trip.  Really?  Maybe.  Depending on when I get the second shot, I hope to join my family for our annual summer reunion.  We are converging on my mom's place for heaps of steak sandwiches and pretzels.  The trick is not getting into the US but getting home.  Maybe things will changed for those who have been vaxxed, but I doubt that the Canadian government will move that fast.  So, it will likely require a covid test in Philly before I return, uploading info to an app, getting tested at the border, pledging to live by myself in the non-Mrs. Spew-occupied parts of the house and having her do all of the shopping for two weeks, and heaps of monitoring.  Oh my.  And, yeah, it will just be me as Bob is too old to be left in a kennel and catsitting in a pandemic is difficult.  

The plan until then is to just bike and treadmill and bake (perhaps less) and be alert to the ever-changing policies in Ontario.  The incompetent murder clowns here still seem to think that outside stuff can be bad, and they are confused about how to get people their second doses.  We will probably get AZ next month, but if the tests show that mixing works, then I will get whatever I can.  I am tempted to get a third short while in Philly since access in the US now is easy.  While the Canadians can be smug about reaching the US level of first shots, we still live in a far more uncertain world as the shots are not widely available or easily accessible.  The provincial rollout has been a mess and has produced very inequitable results.  The aggregate numbers look pretty good, but underneath that is a mess.  

Q time is strange--2020 seemed to take forever, but it is already May 2021.  We are pretty close in North America to getting to a new normal.  I know that the events of the fall will be strange, but I am hoping the winter (full of ski trips with friends and relatives) will be full of relief and even, dare I say it, joy.  

Be well!