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Happy Birthday, and keep up the good work!

Josh Marshall of TPM turned 39 today. He said:

I can’t tell whether that number sounds newly old to me or not. It seems a touch alien to me in a way that 37 and 38 didn’t. But as Seneca says, Fate leads the willing and drags the unwilling. So I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Having turned 38 a couple weeks ago, I can relate a little – 37 felt fine, 38 feels a tad odd. He’s doing a great job – TPM is one of my favourite websites. And he has done so much more – turning a good blog into a great news organisation.

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Northern Illinois University

What brings people to shoot others at random? And why, of all places, on a university campus?

Apparently the shooter was a former graduate student. And given what grad school does to some people, somehow it doesn’t entirely surprise me. I loved grad school, but it was also an incredible grind on the spirit. As for a former graduate student… I have heard that only about 50% of the people who attempt a PhD actually complete one. To me, university campuses are special – sacred space, of a sort. But universities are also all-encompassing entities, they displace the real world.

What drives a person to the place where they can kill others, where they can kill random people? I suppose since campus can displace reality, the where of it all might make some sense – you want to make your grand gesture where the faceless institution will notice you. But why a lecture hall filled with random strangers? I know there’s nothing unique about this person. I know there’s no way to make sense of it even if you try to make all sorts of allowances for minor insanity. But that doesn’t change the fact that when things like this happen, your mind tries to understand them, tries to find what motivated the person. I’d rant about guns, I’d rant about the lack of mental health care. But what’s the point? It’s been said so often. The people agree with me will think that way already. And the people who deny that guns or health care are the problem – they’ll continue to feel the way they do. So just let the tragedy stand as the tragedy it is.

My thoughts are with the victims and their families, and with the wider community.