We made it through another one, but just barely.
The year 2008 will forever be notorious in the eyes of financiers, real estate brokers, and John McCain.
This was the year of the bailout. The enormous house of cards that had been constructed from subprime interest-only mortgage-backed securities, securitized credit-card debt, and wildly speculative financial instruments collapsed spectacularly.
The Big Five investment banks were whittled down to the Big Two. Wall Street convinced Congress that they needed to be saved, and only a check for $700 billion (US, not Zimbabwean) would do it. Three months on, the money has disappeared and the recipients won’t say where it is. I’m convinced that this is the biggest heist in the history of the world. Second place goes to Bernard Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme made off with $50 billion.
Because the year was divisible evenly by four, the United States was ensconced fully in its presidential election. Many of us got the opportunity to vote for Barack Obama, hoping for change in the way this country is run. Much to the (pleasant) surprise of many, the Dick Cheney/Karl Rove political machine wasn’t as finely tuned as we thought, and on November 4 our citizenry elected our first non-white President.
In the world of science, progress marched on. SpaceX made some enormous progress in their quest for privatized spaceflight. The role of NASA in the Obama administration is unclear. Moore’s law continues to hold up — processors are becoming still faster and smaller. Progress continues to be made on fighting terrible diseases, and hopes for nanotechnology are higher than ever.
The Maker movement continued to develop. Recreational science and engineering is becoming more popular, as No Child Left Behind continues to only succeed in effectively teaching our children how to fill in small circles. For the first time in a long while, it seems that science is returning to its roots in garages and basements.
The entire Bush administration was a terrible time for the public perception and government support of science, and 2009 will hopefully see an end to this. Across many governmental agencies, including NASA, ideas that were not compatible with the administration’s fundamentalist religious thinking were repressed.
Non-scientific thinkers continued to gain prominence in 2008. The “debate” about evolution continues, even though there’s really not a debate at all. Evolution has been demonstrated in experiments, but super-religious zealots continue to believe the Earth is 6,000 years old and that Jesus rode on the backs of dinosaurs. Millions have accepted Jenny McCarthy as a scientific prophet, believing her statement that vaccinating our children is harmful, despite reams of actual evidence to the contrary.
Unfortunately, big and small media continue to give the crazies airtime. As the economy has forced media outlets to lay off workers, experienced journalists were replaced by young blondes reading TelePrompTers. I predict that this will backfire on the media companies, only making bloggers more useful as a valid means of news distribution.
Personally, 2008 was a year of change. I finished out my four-year teaching career and moved on to do some software consulting. My musical career (something I don’t talk much about on this blog) enabled me to perform locally with the choirs of Westminster Presbyterian Church and Congregation Beth Emeth, the Aoede Consort, AGO Festival Chorus, and the Savoy Ensemble. I also got in better shape. I ran three 5k races this year, with the best time 26:11 (8:26 per mile). I got my long run distance up to seven miles. And next year, I’m going to run a half-marathon.
Thanks to all of you for reading my rambling this year. Have a wonderful 2009!