Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Visit from Grandma and Grandpa

This weekend, my grandparents visited me and I showed them around town. Before they came I knew it would be interesting because they are strong Republicans while I am a Democrat - unfortunately they did not come on March 9 when the university was sponsoring a depate about national health care. But there was still lots of excitement:


On Thursday, they arrived about an hour late because their GPS gave them bad directions. Then they took me out to dinner at IHOP, where they showed me lots of interesting things that have happened in the news recently. They accused the Democrats of "trickery" in getting the health care bill passed, because some of the congressmen got special deals for their home districts in exchange for their vote (as if there were any major piece of legislation where that doesn't happen). Then we went to get a shave and haircut. Apparently none of the haircut places in town offer shaves, because it's against local health regulations - clearly another example of how Big Government makes life harder for honest businessmen. However, it was also an example of how "big government" regulations can spur investment in new technology, because they offered to get me a better electric shaver. I informed them that the one I had worked just fine, so we didn't need another one - thus showing that in this case, big government regulations actually saved money. Then they dropped me off at my apartment, and they went to a hotel.


On Friday, they picked me up at my apartment and drove me to class. I introduced them to the people in the department office, and they both were happy to meet each other. They also wanted to meet my research advisor Jeff Erickson but he was not here today. We left to drive around campus, but unfortunately when we were pulling out of out parking space, another car backed out at the same time and hit the side of our car. Fortunately nobody was hurt although both of the right side doors were damaged, and the car rental company had no spare cars so we had to drive around in the same car for the rest of the weekend. Then we went to the shopping center on North Prospect Avenue to have lunch and get some stuff like new clothes. Finally we went out to dinner. Apparently Grandma and Grandpa had spent the last night watching Fox News and had started channeling Ann Coulter, because they told me what they thought about the latest news on Obama's health care bill:

Me: "What don't you like about the health care bill?"
Them: "For one thing, it reduces payments to doctors. Doctors are like everyone else, they want to make a living. If doctors start making less money, we won't have as competent doctors."
Me: "Other countries with national health care systems pay their doctors less. Do they have less competent doctors?"
Them: "They have worse systems, yes. America's health care system is the best in the world."
Me: "That's not true. According to the World Health Organization's rankings, the U.S. health care system is only ranked 37th."
Them: "The World Health Organization? Isn't that an arm of the U.N.?"
Me: "Yeah, I think it is, why?"
Them: "Don't believe anything the U.N. says. If it were up to me, I'd kick the U.N. out of the United States."
Me: "What don't you like about the U.N.?"
Them: "On every vote on Israel. The Palestinians attack the Israelis, then the UN says it's Israel's fault."

I pointed out a headline in the newspaper that said that the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) had determined that Obama's plan would reduce the deficit, but they said that was "bullshit." Another interesting headline was in local news. The story was the following: UIUC was planning to retire Chief Illiniwek, the former Native American mascot, because it was "offensive to Native Americans." A student group called Students for Chief planned to rent out space in the student union for a dance in support of the Chief, but was at first denied. The student group used a FOIA request to get the e-mails between school administrators concerning this decision, and discovered a concerted plan to keep them out of the hall, such as claiming that the room was booked even through it wasn't. Confronted with this evidence the administration relented and allowed them to have the dance. Then the student group asked the local ACLU chapter for help in suing the school for trying to violate their free speech rights. The ACLU chapter declined to pursue the case, saying that since the dance had ended up happening, there was no violation of free speech. Grandma and Grandpa said that this explanation - that they didn't pursue the case because in the end free speech was not violated - was "a fudge", and the "real reason" was because the ACLU wanted to appear "politically correct" by not supporting something "offensive" to Native Americans.


On Saturday they took me first to the D+D Game Day at Armored Gopher Games. They stayed for a few minutes just to see what the game was about, then they went off to do their own thing. They picked me up later in the day, and we went to the mall and got some stuff. Then they took me back to my apartment, so that I could go to the gaming club at school. Unfortunately when I got there I found that it was closed due to spring break. So I spent the rest of the evening at home playing the new video games I got.


On Sunday we first went to the bookstore. While we were at the bookstore I ran into one of the people I play D+D with. He thanked me for saving his character's life: in our previous battle, my character had fallen unconscious in the middle of the battle so I spent most of the battle standing up looking at the scene. From the angle I was standing I could clearly see the DM's rolls behind the screen, and could tell that he was fudging die rolls left and right. Although I didn't say anything directly to the DM, I did whisper in the other player's ear what was going on. The DM might have realized I was "on to something" and fudged the rolls less, thus making his character not die. At the end of the battle all but one of us was knocked unconscious, there were only a couple enemies remaining, and as a last ditch attempt to defeat the villain before they escaped, the last remaining character fired a wide area burst across the battlefield, killing the remaining monsters but also me. (Actually I don't really mind that my character died because now I get to play a new character with a different class. The character I have come up with is an artificer - that's the class with the "socialist healing power" I mentioned before.) After we finished up at the bookstore, they droppdd me off at the Armored Gopher's board game night, and went off on their merry way.