Monday, July 28, 2008

Glacier and Goodbyes

"The information of the people at large can alone make them the safe as they are the sole depositary of our political and religious freedom."

-Thomas Jefferson

It's my last week at Project Vote Smart, and I can hardly believe it. I've been saying goodbye to friends for a couple weeks now, but it's still a bit hard to believe my own time has come. I intend to make the most of my last week. I vowed last week to swim in the lake every day until I leave, and so far I have.

A couple weekends ago we took a PVS trip to Glacier National Park. It was beautiful! And lots of fun. It was a nearly perfect weekend, I'd say.

At one point a mountain goat took up residence on an information center roof. There were quite a few mountain goats and big-horned sheep. I didn't see any moose or bears though, which was slightly disappointing.

This week at the office we've been getting tons of calls about our Voter's Self Defense Manual (a PVS publication with key information from our website.) There have been advertisements, radio programs, and articles all over the country. We usually get about 25 hotline calls a day, but today we had 140!

Exactly 100 days until the election...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

All Backpacking, All the Time!

"Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free men."

-Dwight D. Eisenhower

I have gone backpacking every weekend for the past four weekends, with last weekend being the finale. For our long Fourth of July weekend, four of my friends and I went on a beautiful two night, 17 mile tour of the Anaconda Pintler National Wilderness. It couldn't have been lovelier, although it was also an adventure. We forded a river, did some cross-country bushwacking, and even weathered a couple hail storms! I couldn't be happier though.

There was still snow on the ground in some places, but it certainly wasn't cold during the day. At night it got pretty chilly, but we all had good gear. We opted out of tents, but I don't regret that decision at all. We were plenty warm and able to do some star gazing before bed. The stars are so bright when there's no other light around!

Above is the group that went last weekend, taken from the top of my friend's car. We're a pretty hard core bunch, I'd say. :)

I also visited a ghost town, which was really neat. This was a little ghost town set into the mountains, so it wasn't at all what I expected. From the few Westerns I've seen, I imagined a slightly eerie, dry town with tumble weeds and a feeling of desertion. The buildings were all quite destitute, as you can see above, but the area was peaceful and pretty. Lots of trees, flowers, and songbirds.

The mine shaft below probably leads to an old manganese mine. The town, Tower, was a silver mine and then manganese.

This coming weekend we're taking a big group trip to Glacier National Park with all the interns and some staff. I hope to have lots of great pictures and stories to share!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beautiful Montana

"A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both."

-James Madison

I thought the weather in North Carolina was fickle, but Montana is on a wholly different level of capriciousness. For the first three weeks of my time here, it would be sunny one minute, raining the next. And sometimes, just to confuse matters, both at the same time! We had the biggest snow I saw here on June 11th. And then, having had our snowball fights, two days later it was in the 70s and hasn't varied since. I've been capitalizing on the perfect weather, and I've gone backpacking the past two weekends. I couldn't be happier.

I've also been playing the piano a lot. It's really nice to be able to sit down and play whenever I like, and the other ranch residents seem to like it, which is flattering. We watched a movie last week called Once - it's an indie Irish film. One of the tracks of music won an Oscar, so I found sheet music for it. It's called Falling Slowly, and I get requests to play it a lot.

The office is still going well. We had a party in my Key Votes department on Friday, because we interns have been so amazingly efficient. We are completely caught up on this year's work, so they've had to give us work to do from last year!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Politics Everywhere!

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

-Thomas Jefferson

Above is the view of the ranch from a nearby hill where one can occasionally get cell phone reception. I didn't have luck that day, but I'll try again next time I'm up there. The little brown-roofed building to the right of the lake are our lodge and rooms. The building to the left of those buildings and just a little bit set away from the lake is the office.

It's been an exciting week! The Montana primaries were on Tueday, so there was a flurry of activity (and snow, actually!) The most exciting part of the week by far was attending a speech by Bill Clinton. He was campaigning for Hillary, so he came to Anaconda, pop. 9,000. Anaconda is only about an hour away, so we took a van full of people to see his speech. It was a small crowd, so I had the chance to shake his hand! He is truly an amazin
g speaker.

We also had a group of foreign journalists come visit Project Vote Smart. They were also here to observe the primaries and learn more about the American election system. The local news station did a story on it, which you can find at the link below. You can catch a brief glimpse of me shaking hands with one of the journalists at the beginning.

Work is going well, if tedious at times. Project Vote Smart runs a database of nonpartisan information for voters, and I'm in the legislative research department, aka Key Votes. I spend my day tracking pieces of key legislation, entering in votes once they've been taken, and summarizing bills. Bills can be the most frustrating part of the job. Some of the most confusing pieces of work I've ever had to decipher. I'm learning a lot about politics at the state level though, as I generally work on state, not Congressional, bills. I'll put PVS's website here again: feel free to check on your local Senator or representative - maybe I entered in a few of their votes!

The other interns are great. We have costume days on Friday, and so far the best has been Geek Day. Some people joked we should just come to work wearing what we normally wear.

Summer has still not come to Montana. It snowed today, and yesterday, and the day before that! We had six power outages on Wednesday, but only two yesterday. :) One of them lasted a couple hours ago though, which made cooking dinner a bit of an adventure. Besides no electricity, there was also of course no water. We managed though, with some stellar chocolate chip banana bread to show for it.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Project Vote Smart

"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people."

-John Adams

Well, one and a half books, two layovers, and three airlines later, I finally arrived in gorgeous Montana! Unfortunately, my luggage did not. It only took about 24 hours for it to be delivered though, and I was fine without it in the interim. Aside from that minor piece of bad luck though, I'm having a fantastic time! The ranch is beautiful (one of the white-capped mountains in the picture is the Continental Divide,) everyone here is super nice, and there are so many fun things to do! Besides the hiking, horse-back riding, canoeing, etc. that I was planning for, everyone really likes sports. I'm not a big athlete, but I've played volleyball, basketball, and I'm even playing left field for our coed softball team. We played a game on Tuesday against another local team, and we won - and I got two runs!

Not surprising perhaps, but the other interns are also a bit nerdy. I've found fellow board game fanatics, and I think we're planning to put on a musical in a few weeks. It really is like political summer camp!

There is no cell phone service on the ranch, but I've been told if you climb to the top of the hill in the picture above, sometimes you can get reception. I climbed the hill, but I haven't tried the cell service yet.

On my second day here, we went on a short hike around the property, and we saw this porcupine in one of the old homesteads. That's the only wildlife I've seen in person, but driving home from softball practice I've seen a bear and a herd of elk! I can't wait to see more wildlife in person, although maybe not a bear. :)

The altitude here is about 6,000 feet, so I'm always embarrassingly out of breath. I hope to get used to it soon. It's also pretty cold still. Last week is snowed! Now is not so bad; 50s with rain generally. I've ben assured that soon it will warm up and turn into a nice dry summer heat.

More about Project Vote Smart in the next post, but I highly recommend you check out their website in the meantime:

Friday, May 23, 2008

And so it begins...

I haven't left to do anything exciting quite yet. I'm still packing in Charlotte, but I thought I'd reacquaint myself with blogging before I go, not to mention share some pictures of my latest pottery creations, of which I am inordinately proud. I didn't make much this semester, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. (And they're all about as small as they look.)

I won't have a chance to do pottery over the summer, as the closest town (at 30 miles away,) has a population of about...900! Somehow I'm guessing that even if I had a way of getting over there frequently, they don't have a community pottery studio. I'll be more than occupied with hiking, horseback riding, and other outdoor pursuits on the ranch though.

While I'm posting random pictures, I thought I'd share this one of my brother Ryan and me. We went to the Nascar Speedstreet festival in downtown Charlotte yesterday. It was fun, even if we didn't get free t-shirts like we'd hoped for. :)

Coming soon: beautiful mountain scenes and tales from the battlefront for democracy!