Thursday, July 31, 2008

Same Old Pirate Management

“I thought this was the year.” When most baseball fans say this, they mean, “the year we’d win a World Series.” For Pirates fans, it means, “the year we’d have a winning record.”

The new management seemed like the kind of guys who got it, who realized they couldn’t continue to have losing seasons and expect to maintain a fan base. This was the year to make a push for 500.

Then last weekend the Pirates traded Xavier Nady for a handful of magic beans. Nady is notable for being a magic bean himself. Every successful Pirate is traded with the promise that, in five years, the trade will really pay off. That’s been happening for 16 years.

There’s talk today of trading Jason Bay in a round-about way for some kid named Jeremy Hermida from Florida. But Hermida is a free agent at the end of the year, and Bay has a year left on his contract. The Pirates are about to unload talent for nothing in return, which has been their forte these past 16 years. A few years ago the highest-paid player in the organization was the Oakland Athletics’ catcher Jason Kendall. With a little luck, maybe I can end up being the highest-paid Pirate.

When Neal Huntington was announced as the new Pirates GM, I read an article on mlb.com about how embarrassing the old management had been. Now Huntington has his own Aramis Ramirez trade under his belt. He’s well on his way to the special level of failure for which the Pirates own a patent.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Travel Update

Still the best online mapping application is...me. Here's a map of our most recent travels.

July 25: after my finals I came home and loaded the family in the car and we left on our vacation. Our kids really love the new Weezer album, so I thought we'd turned a corner in terms of their refusal to listen to music on car trips. I remember my family car trips when I was a kid, and they consisted largely of driving thousands of miles while listening to the same two Oak Ridge Boys tapes. Why can't our kids be satisfied like we were when we were kids? Anyway, I put on the blue album and our kids started complaining. I said, "I thought you guys were Weezer fans now," and Crazy Jane said, "We only like the new album." But we ignored their complaints and listened to Weezer for the entire drive, in chronological order: blue, Pinkerton, green, Maladroit, black (the second album of the 10th anniversary blue album), Make Believe, and then red.

Baby X got a new state in Iowa, and then another in Nebraska when we went to the Winter Quarters Visitors Center to feed him a bottle and let the other two kids use the restroom. Here's what I don't like about Mormon visitors centers: they don't let you just walk through. They either think I'm not a member or else they want me to give them a referral. The horrible thing is, I have no testimony of missionary work (and I don't really want to get one). My mission taught me a valuable lesson: it's a waste of time trying to get people to do things they don't want to do on their own. I spent two years wasting my breath. When someone wants to find out more, that's great, but otherwise they just get angry and you get frustrated. So we stopped at the visitors center and they made me feel like I had to give an excuse for using the restroom, and then they gave me guff about not wanting the tour. I went through the exhibits with Crazy Jane and Articulate Joe while Persephone and Baby X finished up their stuf/p>

A little further up the road we drove through Blencoe, Iowa. Last year some homeowners there were giving away a house in an essay contest. It was the second home essay contest we've entered, and the second one we lost. I think the winner was some under-privileged grandmother raising two grandkids or something. I mean, how do you compete with crap like that?

After that we crossed the Missouri again to get some new counties in Nebraska. It was a toll bridge made out of steel plates that wobbled when you drove on them. Persephone was freaked out by the fact you could look down and see through the bridge, but she liked that the toll booth operator was an old man who looked like he enjoyed his job. She said, "I'd like to do that job, but I'd get stressed out by the people who didn't have the money for the toll and I'd just let them go past and I'd get fired." But I don't think they would be that big of sticklers, since the toll was advertised on a cardboard sign that read, "Cars 75." Persephone said, "Does that mean they can only have 75 cars on the bridge?" I said, "I think that means 75 cents." Incidentally, the Decatur, Nebraska, website has this to say about their bridge:

The village of Decatur received nation wide notoriety in the 1950s because of the famous dry land bridge that was supposed to be across the Missouri River. The original plans were to build the bridge across the Missouri River to connect Decatur to Onawa, Iowa. The river, on the other hand, had different ideas and changed its course thus leaving the proposed bridge site about a quarter of a mile distant from the river. Plans were changed and the bridge was built on dry land with the river to be rechanneled under the bridge upon completion. The bridge was completed in 1951, but because of the Korean War, Federal funds could not be appropriated to place the water under the bridge. The $2 million bridge soon was well known as the bridge "that went nowhere, because it lost its river." Funds finally became available to move the Missouri River under the bridge and the first traffic crossed the bridge on December 19, 1955. The bridge was officially opened May 5, 1956 during Decatur's Centennial.

Then we drove through Thurston County, Nebraska. The entire county consists of Indian reservations, and it was all beautiful. I said, "How did the Indians end up with the most beautiful part of Nebraska? I thought we made them leave all the good parts." Somehow the Indians pulled a fast one, there. I feel like we white people got cheated.

Then we came in to Sioux City, an area that has always fascinated me because (nerd alert!) it's the only place in the country I know of that has a city, a "north" city, and a "south" city and they're all in different states (Sioux City, Iowa; North Sioux City, South Dakota; and South Sioux City, Nebraska).

We got to our friends' house and they took us to Palmer's candy factory. I said, "What are they known for here again?" The wife said, "The Twin Bing, but it's horrible!" Then she realized maybe she should have said that last part a little more quietly. I guess the Twin Bing is a delicacy in "the Siouxland" (as I found out the tri-state region is called), and bad-mouthing it is frowned upon.

It's super late and Persephone is bugging me to go to bed, so I'll have to write the rest tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gua?!?!

I grew up in southern California, where lots of Spanish stuff has been anglicized (such as the Los Angeles neighborhood of San Pedro, which is pronounced very differently from Madonna's line, "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro"), but lots of other stuff is still Hispanicked up. Actually, compared to how they used to say "Los Angeles" on old Perry Mason episodes (and how Frank Black still likes to say it), I'd say they are moving away from anglicization. So when I grew up absorbing the conventional wisdom that words beginning "gua" are pronounced like, well, "gua," I didn't think there was anything wrong with that.

Then I started doing some work in New Mexico, where everyone pronounces those words "wa." I had never heard this before, but it made sense to me. I mean, if "guerra" means "war," those words are very similar when pronounced the New Mexico way, and as a child I'd read historic narratives of my hometown wherein it was explained that the post office refused the first proposed community name of "Calleguas" because it was supposed to be pronounced "kai-ay-wes," and no one would be able to say that correctly.

I asked my brother, who knows considerably more Spanish than I, and he laughed at the idea of pronouncing it "wa." He said it seemed to him like people trying to be authentic and failing at it. But the New Mexicans (who do more drunk driving than the Old Mexicans) kept saying "Guachupangue" like "wachupanway," "Guadalupe" like "wadalupe," and "guacamole" like "wacamole" (which, in turn, is very much like "whack a mole," a game I've never actually played but like in principle).

Well, just now I became aware of this website, which seems to be a vote of confidence for the New Mexicans. I'm more confused than ever now. Does anyone care to shed some authoritative (i.e.: something more than "I/my sibling/my spouse/my roommate served a Spanish speaking mission") light on this subject?

Google Maps Sucks

Back from our vacation now and I’m experimenting with ways to show our travels. Here’s what I can tell you: Google Maps sucks. Don’t spend the time to create a map because invariably the program will lose some or all of the information. I might just have to stick to my own maps like I’ve done for our past trips. We’ll see.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dateline: Marshall, MN

We're halfway through our Little House on the Prairie vacation, and I'm incredibly tired, so that's all I have to say at this time.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Youngest Grandma - Unverified New Champion

I guess I'm now the arbitrating judge in the competition for the world's youngest grandma, and that's probably as big an honor as I'm going to earn in this life. A few days ago I had a blog comment from a woman named "*~*Heather*~*" (if that's the name her parents gave her, complete with asterisks and tildes, she is also a close second to Tulula Does the Hula From Hawaii for the strangest name competition) on one of my posts regarding incredibly young grandmas. (I TOLD you people it was my largest traffic generator!) Anyway, here's what she said:

I'm 28, I have a 17 yr old son whom I adopted 7 years ago. He informed me last week that he and his girlfriend are 6 months pregnant! They are having a baby girl and she is due on my birthday. I won't even be 30 and I have yet to have any biological children of my own.

Of course this can't be verified at this time, but if it is, I believe it's my official duty to proclaim, "Holy crap!" An exactly 29-year-old grandma beats my current record holder, who was somewhere less than a year older. And *~*Heather*~* is even sort of a success story, what with adopting and all. I just wrote a long-ass paper on adoption (and it better get me an A or someone's going to find himself roughed up, DR. LEWIN!!!), so *~*Heather*~* gets my vote for being a nice human being and for being a young grandma. If she wants to verify her age on the baby's date of birth, I'm sure I'll even send her some sort of prize (disclaimer: cash value of said prize might be very close to zero; in event winner actually receives negative utility from said prize and wishes to return it, A Random Stranger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Globo-Domination AgriCorp, Ltd.) reserves the right to tell winner, "Suck it!")

So pony up with the documentation and a prize might be in the offing, *~*Heather*~*.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"There're Just So Many Choices"

You know when I quote Deb from “Napoleon Dynamite,” it’s going to be a special day.

Firstly, I read this article and thought it wise to advise Erik: just settle down and keep it zipped up. Party responsibly.

Secondly, I read this article and experienced schadenfreude for the first time since UCLA had their game-winning field goal blocked in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl. As bad as it was for the girl to be named Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii, it made my day a lot better to have read her name. That’s an even better name than Chutney.


Title from "Napoleon Dynamite."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Doctor Please Some More of These"

What a drag it is getting old.

Why do American moms need to get all coked up when they’ve so completely tranqed their kids?

“’I can definitely say without a doubt that I am addicted to caffeine,’ said Sarah Kripal, mother of two from Lincoln, Nebraska. ‘I need about four energy drinks, three cups of coffee and a six-pack of soda every day.’"

“If you take more of those you will get an overdose,” said one prominent member of the medical community, Dr. Mick Jagger, MD.

The CNN article concludes by saying one to four drinks is fine. This man disagrees with the high end of that range.

Maybe they should put their kids to bed on time and they’d have more time to relax. Persephone and I have both seen school-aged kids rockin’ the Wal-Mart at ten on a school night. Crazy Jane befriended an older girl who lives near us. She must be about nine or 10 (10 is such a fateful age because it’s when newspapers stop writing out the word for your age and start using numerals). She told Crazy Jane she can stay out until ten, and then she does her homework until midnight. Some of that might be childhood braggadocio, but I’ve seen her loitering outside after nine before. By herself, even. It’s not like she’s got some awesome social life that’s taking so much of her time. She sits outside alone until the evening news comes on (we live in the “uncivilized” part of the country, where the news is on at ten and the late-night shows start at 10:30).

We’re trying to make our kids go the other way. As much as I hate the memories of living in Ohio and going to bed before the sun went down in the summertime, we put our kids in bed at eight. Then they play in their room for an hour or two, so now I’ve started waking Crazy Jane up at seven to do math work with me. A few weeks ago she yelled at me, “I told you I don’t get up this early!” I said, “Maybe you should go to bed on time.” My secret plan is for the whole famn damily to go to bed at eight, Persephone and I wake up at four, and the kids wake up at seven. That will be a glorious day.


Title from the Rolling Stones' song "Mother's Little Helper."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Operating Systems

So I know Erik used to have a man-crush on the Linux operating system. I’m intrigued by it, but am worried that using it would require more computer knowledge than I possess. Is it still basically a system based on clicking on icons, or is it what I remember from junior high computing classes:

START

10 PRINT “Are you gay? Y/N”

20 IF “Y” GOTO 40

30 IF “N” GOTO 10

40 PRINT “Yes, you are."

END

I got awesome grades in junior high computing classes.

Obama Mad-Lib

First, fill in the lines as you think Barack Obama would. Then read my filler that serves no purpose but to make the actual mad-lib be a scroll or two down the page. Then scroll down the page and compare your answers to Obama’s.

Gerund_______

Noun 1_______

Noun 2_______

Noun 3_______

Verb 1_______

Place________

Verb 2_______

Noun 4_______

Exclamation 1_______

Exclamation 2_______

Mode of transportation_______

Now fill your answers into this mad-lib: “The other day I was [gerund] down the street with my [noun 1] when I saw a big smelly [noun 2]. This [noun 2] had [noun 3] written all over it. As we approached, my [noun 1] turned to me and said, “Please tell me you’re not actually thinking of [gerund] past that thing.” I said, “Don’t worry, boy; now that I know you can [verb 1], I’m going right to the [place] to [verb 2] you in on a [noun 4]!” My [noun 1] looked down and said, “[exclamation 1]. I mean, [exclamation 2].” “Too late!” I said, and hailed a [mode of transportation] to take us to the [place].

Okay, we talk a bunch of politics at work, mainly because work is boring and politics sometimes isn’t. Anyway, I have a pretty good impression of John McCain I do when I’m talking about McCain’s strategy. I switch to my craziest old man voice and say things like, “I was in a tiger cage, see?! I don’t need to pick a vice presidential candidate! I’m going to name Ho Chi Minh to the VP spot and you’re going to like it, you hear me?!” But I don’t have an Obama impersonation, mainly because the guy doesn’t really have an eccentric trait to exploit. This led me to use my McCain voice today when talking about both presidential candidates. The Friendly Jerk said, “Was that McCain you were doing? I thought you were talking about both candidates?” So I got to thinking, what type of Obama impression can I do? And I think I came up with something. If you’re thinking like I’m thinking, your Obama mad-lib will look something like this.

The other day I was changing down the street with my hope when I saw a big smelly change. This change had hope written all over it. As we approached, my hope turned to me and said, “Please tell me you’re not actually thinking of changing past that thing.” I said, “Don’t worry, boy; now that I know you can hope, I’m going right to the White House to change you in on a dream!” My hope looked down and said, “Hope. I mean, change.” “Too late!” I said, and I hailed a revolution of the proletariat to take us to the White House.

How many did you get right? You see, all it takes to be an Obama impersonator is to use the words “hope” and “change” (and, sometimes, just to keep people sharp, “dream,”) indiscriminately. In fact, my Obama impression consists of throwing in the phrase “hope and/or change” at random places in a sentence. (Like in high school our impression of a particular teacher’s inner monologue always ended with, “Why am I so fat?” as if all her thoughts ended that way. It was hilarious to us. In fact, it’s still quite funny to me now.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Not Recommended for Everyone But You

How old should a kid be to see a PG-13 movie?

Perhaps you're thinking, "Trick question. The recommended age is right in the rating name." Not so, evidently, as this article features a debate of how old a kid should be to see the new Batman movie (which is already on my nerves with all the "OMG! Heath was amazing! He was like if Sidney Portier and William Shakespeare had a baby, then that baby ate Marlon Brando!"). Here are some opinions:
Chuck Kim (yes, THE Chuck Kim of the Yahoo! Kids team) "recommends kids be 14 or older to see the film."

Christian Bale thinks "starting at about 9, maybe 10 years old may be an appropriate age for kids to be able to deal with this."

Jim Pappas of TheTrades.com (which is like the Manchester Guardian for meth-addicts, I guess), "would discourage parents from taking anyone under 12 to see this movie."

MoviesOnline.ca (the "ca" stands for "white and condescending") says, "3 out of 4 of those components are absolutely not suitable for young children... regardless of how the MPAA rated the movie."

The third commenter in the discussion thread, with user name "tommyrotten," says, "Great movie, not for kids younger than 12." (You know I'm on the cusp of being a serious journalist when I start quoting online personalities the way cnn.com loves to do.)

The author of the article undoes all this warning by guessing, "there are children of 10 who could not only face down the terror but even discuss some of the film's layered themes." Good work, Dave. Because if there's one thing that American parents need to hear, it's that truly exceptional children can watch this movie without a problem. As all parents these days know, their children are truly exceptional children.

The discussion thread alone is worth the click. Seriously, if you've been feeling like a bad parent lately, maybe wondering if you really are the worst parent on the block, give this link a click, scroll down, and let the self-congratulations begin. Because at least you aren't considering taking your eight-year-old to see "The Dark Knight."

Stealing Indiana Jones's Girlfriend

Erik asked for a telling of this story, so here it is.

When I was at BYU I was in College Republicans, mostly because I needed an excuse to not go to class. When I was treasurer the chairman lined up a guest speaker. He was a documentary film maker named Dodge Billingsley, and he was basically the coolest man alive. Everything about him was cool: his name (totally action adventure star-ish), his hair (grey but dignified, like Anderson Cooper thinks his is), his face (ruggedly handsome for a 40+-year-old), and his job. He told us he traveled the world, getting himself smuggled into war-torn areas and then making documentaries about the conflicts. For instance, he went to Azerbaijan and put out the word that he was interested in going to Chechnya. Then he just sat around Baku and waited to get kidnapped. They blindfolded him and took him to Chechnya. I thought, “This guy is a real-life Indiana Jones.” And I noticed he had this super hot girlfriend with him. He ended his talk with a pitch for his film, and the club felt a little awkward and bought a DVD. I was the treasurer and his girlfriend was his cashier, so I interacted with her a little while I bought the DVD.

Okay, the next year (2000) I was chairman of College Republicans. It was even more time-consuming than being treasurer, which meant I almost never had time to go to class. (I really liked that aspect of it, but it turned out the university wanted me to go to class, and a semester later I was kicked out. When people hear you’ve been kicked out of BYU they figure you got somebody pregnant or had a drug problem, and when you say, “No, it was just for grades,” they think, “Sure it was, Spermy McCrack-Fiend!”) Anyway, one of my duties was debating the chairman of College Democrats, a guy named Jake Rugh (who my friend Jill and I called “J. Crew”). Well, one of our debates was in the big empty space in the middle of the Wilkinson Center (RIP, Step-Down Lounge). There was a good-looking girl in the front row who furrowed her brow whenever I spoke and smiled when J. Crew spoke, so I figured she was from his club. When we finished the debate (my killer line in all these debates was “The Democrat Party is anti-life,” to which J. Crew could only respond, “Um, well, not all Democrats kill babies”), this girl got up to ask a question. I was prepared for a difficult one, but she gave me some softball question like, “Isn’t it true that Republicans love America?” and then she asked J. Crew some hard question about abortion. After the debate she came up to talk to me and I invited her to attend a College Republicans meeting.

College Republicans had an election night meeting to watch the returns from the presidential election. This girl came. (She needs a blog name, and my friend Jill used to call her--in keeping with her retail outlet nickname theme--Hot Topic, but that seems a little mean, especially since to disprove Jill’s theory I once went to the mall with this girl, happened to walk past Hot Topic, and casually asked, “Do you ever shop there?” and she said she did not. So I guess I’ll call her Young'Un #4.) Anyway, our meeting started at seven, and I was supposed to talk about the results on KBYU at nine. I waited and waited, but eventually it was quarter-to-nine and I had to run over to the KBYU studios to talk about an election that wasn’t over yet. I came back to the College Republicans meeting in the Tanner Building and still awaited an outcome, but eventually it was ten and they were kicking us out of the building. I was disappointed because I didn’t have TV at my house (I usually used Erik for his TV, but it was ten at night and he was probably busy man-whoring it up somewhere). Young'Un #4 said, “You can come watch some more at my house.”

It turned out she lived at home, so we went to her house and I met her mother who went to bed and we watched NBC in her basement. A few hours later they called Florida for Bush and Young'Un #4 and I made out in celebration.

I had taken a lot of crap from friends (like Erik and Jill) regarding my penchant for young'uns, so I decided to do some background work first. When she told me she was a sophomore, I figured I was home free. Not so. Evidently she had started college very young and had only recently turned 18. We went on a date (the one to the mall), and that was about it for our relationship. A couple weeks later she came over to my apartment before I left town for Thanksgiving and she said she’d been to a College Republicans meeting the year before, when she came with her boyfriend, Dodge Billingsley. What?! What?! She said she’d broken up with him, too. Since she dumped him, and then kind of pursued me, I took that to mean I was cooler than he was, and he was a real-life Indiana Jones, which made me something like Julius Caesar crossed with Zeus. When she went home I called Erik and said, “I stole Indiana Jones’s girlfriend!”

Of course, Erik won’t be satisfied without the conclusion of the story: on my Thanksgiving trip I kissed Young'Un #5 (she was the last of them) and never saw Young'Un #4 again. When Erik asked me why I stopped seeing Young'Un #4, I said, “She kissed way too good.” He loves that quote.

Now for an embarrassing story about Erik (as if Cristin doesn’t already share enough of them): Erik once made out with his first cousin. Now that's embarrassing!

Monday, July 14, 2008

IndyMac Revisited

I'm sorry. Maybe I've been reading too much of Cristin's blog, but I can't help kicking these people while they're down. (Cristin: remember there's always a 40 in "60-40," and 40% is a lot. Ted Williams hit 40% and he's in the Hall of Fame. I'm just sayin'.)

I thought we had the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation so things like this didn't happen anymore. Isn't that what President Roosevelt and Senator Glass wanted us to believe? These people show up at 4am, 11 business days late. Haven't they identified themselves as the depositors most worthy of losing their money? They probably didn't even know there was a problem until they saw Linda Alvarez tell them last night. (Is she still around? What about Colleen Williams? Man, I used to think she was hot!)

Then there's this retired teacher walking around with $171,000. He had $171,000 and the best investment he could come up with was a bank? Or this other guy who says, "I have $360,000 in this bank, and I was misled by this bank. I gave the names of my mother, my sister and my brother on the account so I thought I would be insured." So at least he was misleading the bank right back. Maybe this news story should have the headline, "People Who Try to Game System End Up Gamed." That's not really news. There's a reason FDIC insurance has a cap. These people are finding out what that reason is.

And I want to add a little something about reverse mortgages: I know they're great for particular old people, but how they ever be great for the bank? They basically pay today's value for an asset that they can't unload if the asset value goes down. And when you're dealing with old people, the appreciation on their homes is usually unbelievable, so they have a ton of room to borrow and the bank has no cushion against depreciation. I don't get it. Anyway.

The retired teacher was "originally attracted to IndyMac because of the high interest rates it offered on deposits." What is wrong with these people? Don't they wonder why interest rates differ? These are the type of people who decide where to place their retirement accounts based on what style of toaster they'll get for opening a new account.

Doom and Gloom

I sent my dad this article about how Baby Boomers are constantly unhappy. He responded with some angry defense of how horrible his life has become in “the worst economy since the Great Depression.” Oh, sorry. I guess I was reading Hillary Clinton’s line.

Anyway, every time we go see them he basically asks me, “Isn’t true that we’ll all be living under an overpass and eating lead-laced dog food before I finish asking this question?” And I say, “I don’t think the economy’s that bad right now.” And he guffaws and probably thinks, “If that’s the type of economic education he’s getting, I’m glad I’m not paying for any of it.”

What’s ironic is that I’m pretty pessimistic about the structure of the American economy. It’s all based on people thinking everything’s going to be okay. When people start thinking otherwise, you get bank runs.

When we lived in California we opened savings accounts for our two existing children at IndyMac Bank after an extensive vetting process that consisted solely of the question, “Do you have a minimum starting balance?” We were such fastidious watchdogs that when we moved to Kansas and tried to find our closest IndyMac branch, we were surprised to learn they exist only in California. (We had assumed they were a Midwestern bank, what with the word "Indy" in their name.) So Persephone wrote a letter and closed our accounts and opened new ones here in Kansas. It turns out we were the extremely preliminary front end of a bank run. How 1930ish of us!

The real problem, of course, was mortgage lending. The type of mortgage lending that allowed my parents to sell their California house for seven times their purchase price to a couple that couldn’t afford it and now doesn’t live there anymore. But I don’t see my dad beating down his bank’s door offering any of his cash back. Until you stop sheltering the moral hazards from the problems of their own making, there will always be economic problems that convince my father his pity party is warranted.


Note: I can disagree with my parents without hating them. They're great people. They just are a little nuts about money.

How Many Wrongs Does It Take to Make a "Right"?

It's a trick question, ladies! The answer is, "As many as I feel like claiming."

Take, for instance, this idiot Mormon in the news. (I'll set your mind at ease and tell you right now it's not David Archuletta, who, evidently, is dreamy, if you like to dream of pre-pubescent boys.) A non-active return missionary (so you know you're really dealing with the cream of the crop, here) who knows the modesty standard to which he and his models have committed, he has the Modern America Get-Out-Of-Jail Free Card and he's not afraid to play it: "I just feel like my right to free speech is being violated."

Ah, the Right to Free Speech. You can do anything and excuse it with this magical right. Parents refusing to pay for your coke habit? They're violating your right to free speech! Boss telling you to change your profanity-festooned tee-shirt? He's violating your right to free speech!

I don't even know what to say. The Constitution isn't binding on private individuals. Only an idiot would think otherwise.

Now for the good news: as of yesterday, he's an idiot ex-Mormon. Of course, this saddens him because, "I still want to hold onto my heritage."

So it's the Pioneer Day celebrations he values the most? The Osmond celebrity worship? Ground beef in Jell-O (which I've never actually seen and think is a Mormon legend)? I hate Utah Mormons (and that includes Mormons from Idaho, Arizona, and Las Vegas) because they think of their religion only as a social club. It's like the Intermountain Elks Lodge. Does he want to go to heaven when he's dead or does he want to have a heritage? I'm reminded of Al Gore calling his religion his "faith tradition." It means, "I don't really believe this crap, but my grandparents did and I've made some valuable business contacts in our post-service social hour."

True story: after a confrontation with the company accountant, I'm no longer allowed to talk to him. ZOMG! My freedom of speech! Help, help, I'm being oppressed! Maybe I'll just pop open a beer with a former mission companion and make everything all better.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dreams of Relevancy

Wouldn't that be awesome if I had something worthwhile to say? People would be checking my blog because they wanted to know what I'd written. Crap like that. Instead, I just sort of complain a lot, and talk about boring things. Like this:

We've decided we can only shop on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This is designed to make it so we sicken ourselves with our spending because it's happening all at once, so we will spend less. However, even as we speak Persephone is at Sam's Club. (It's cool, though, because she's combining a Sam's Club trip with a Baby X cardiologist appointment, so that's why it's happening on a Friday.) And just to show how serious we are about this thing: Crazy Jane is worried about it. She asked me last night, "What happens if there's a storm coming and we need to buy food and it's not a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday?" My wife and I don't worry to our kids, but they've picked it up from somewhere. It's almost like they're my sister-in-law's kids, who very nearly have panic attacks over things they can't control.

Oh, another boring thing no one cares about: Baby X got booted from our bedroom this week. He's been moved into the "office-slash-playroom," which our kids always just called the "slash-playroom." My office is gone, turned back into a small desk in our bedroom (smaller than the original one I built for us when we moved here). Now that I don't have to worry about my alarm waking him up in the morning, I have one more excuse for staying in bed and continually pressing snooze.

Another thing: when I get up early here in Kansas (like today at 3:30), I think, "When we lived in California I wouldn't even be asleep by now." When I worked for the city government we'd go through periods when our bedtime was between 12 and 1, but when I quit and was going to school fulltime, our bedtime became 2. That would be 4 here. At 4 this morning I was doing crap statistics homework. It's just interesting to think about.

I'm the only one still at work right now, so I don't have to do a damn thing, and it's glorious.

Let's see--what else--oh, I want to talk a little bit about "The Bachelorette," with the caveat that everything I know about the show I've learned by watching "Primetime in No Time" on yahoo.com. I remember when we lived in California and had cable (which made Persephone laugh a couple nights ago; "We used to think that was worth spending money on!") and the contestants on "The Bachelor" (there was no "Bachelorette" yet) would be very coy about whether they'd gotten it on. Usually it was pretty apparent each date ended alone until there were just two or three left, and then it was ambiguous. Now, evidently, there is a "Fantasy Suite" that the whore--I mean bachelorette--can invite the dude to for the night. On national television. I guess I can understand the whole "Fantasy Suite" idea, since I have one of my own. It has no baby crib in it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One More Reason to Hate Old People

Like I needed another reason. Nonetheless, this article details how much whining can come out of the most prosperous generation in the history of the world.

Old people have ruined our country.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

There's Cheap and Then There's Too Cheap

A while back I read this article, and I might have even shown it to Persephone. (As I browbeat my kids with tales of happy, poor children, I browbeat my wife with tales of frugality. I even showed her that article about Dumpster diving, or whatever they call it these days.)

Well, sadly, Sarah Jessica Parker's days of selling the handiwork of "exploited" laborers might be drawing to a close. Her employees will take little comfort in being assured by Americans with consciences that they are better off this way. The way they'd heard it, the way to be better off was to get a paycheck.


PS: I've got a confession to make. Evidently I once wrote on my blog "Hall and Oates don't rock." However, today when I was driving I heard the song, "Rich Girl" and I said aloud (since I talk to myself a lot), "This song kicks all kinds of ass." It turns out it's a Hall and Oates song. But at least I can take solace in the fact that I share a taste in music with a mass murderer. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Baring My Soul

All right, you blood-suckers, I'm going to level with you people. (And now that Cristin's added a timer on my blog posts, I feel like I need to be fast about it. I check Cristin's blog and think, "Holy crap, I haven't written anything in 22 hours!")

There are people in the world who are very open about their hopes and dreams. Persephone and I aren't among them. I was on the newspaper staff with a guy who would tell everyone he met, "My goal is to be the next Mark Twain." That's pretty lofty there, bud, leaving you ample room to fail. Why not just tell people, "I want to be a professional writer," and keep the Mark Twain part under your hat? That way you won't look ridiculous if it doesn't work out (which, statistically speaking, it probably won't work out).

Last week The Friendly Jerk asked me, "Do you ever think about trying to make money from writing, you know, as your job?" I hemmed and hawed around an answer. A new coworker, who can be called Super Familiar, said, "You should write a movie and you can be a screenwriter like me." And again I thought, "Keep that to yourself, you fool!"

I understand the advantage of positive reinforcement. If you want to lose weight you tell your friends and they help by offering encouragement or slapping you when you try to eat anything. But there's a difference between having a goal of losing 15 pounds and a goal of being named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive (the name of which implies that, if corpses were allowed to compete, we might see a different final ranking; like the Missouri Department of Transportation slogan "ARRIVE ALIVE," which insinuates that, should you die mid-journey, they will ship your body the rest of the way and you will arrive dead).

Anyway, Persephone and I prefer to tell our plans to no one and then, once they've happened the way we wanted, we light a cigar like Hannibal from "The A-Team" and say, "I love it when a plan comes together."

This is the approach I've taken towards grad school. While I've been telling everyone who asks, "Well, we don't know yet what we're going to do, so we're taking steps to keep grad school open, should we decide that's what we want," the truth is that I decided two years ago that I wanted to attend a graduate program in economics, but I didn't want to apply and be universally rejected and then have people say, "I thought you said you were going to grad school."

Well, it looks like I will graduate from school next May, and my GPA and GRE scores are such that I should be accepted by at least one economics PhD program (economists evidently don't believe in master's degrees, which they usually just give to failed PhD students when they kick them out). So the question is, which school should I attend?

My considerations are: 1. Where I can afford to apply (since I can't apply everywhere), 2. Where I'd want to attend (since some programs are basically just fancy math programs, and I would hate that), 3. Where my wife will agree to live (since she has already vetoed New York City and New Orleans), 4. Where I can get admitted (since I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer), 5. Where I can graduate from fairly quickly (since I'm already older than sin), and 6. Where I'd want to live. With these considerations, here's the list:

George Mason University (Fairfax, VA)

University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)

University of Kansas (Lawrence, KS)

Southern Illinois University (Carbondale, IL)

Washington University (Saint Louis, MO)

There are some others, too, I guess, but these are the ones I would say are at the top of my list. (Persephone's list is just two: George Mason, which she'd agree to because that's where I want to go the most, and Kansas, because she doesn't want to move.) Anyway, I'm opening this up to discussion. (Here's where my low readership pays off; I don't have to worry about this information getting out.) If this choice were yours, what would you pick? And, since two of my semi-readers are PhDs themselves, what criteria did you use when deciding where to go? Everything I read on the Internet says, "Go to the most prestigious school that will accept you." Should that be my guiding principle?

And next year when it turns out I've been rejected by every program in the country I don't want to hear any of you say, "What happened to your plans, man?"

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Book Review

I just finished reading a book entitled How to Wash a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale. First, here's how I ended up reading the book in the first place.

Last month on Persephone's birthday I had to go to Topeka to take the GRE, so the whole famn damily went and we made an afternoon of it. After the test we stopped by the bookstore to buy a present for Charlie. Persephone and Articulate Joe stayed in the car while I went inside with Crazy Jane and Baby X.

Inside the door a woman offered Crazy Jane a bookmark, which she took and we went along to the back of the store. Crazy Jane looked at the bookmark and asked what it said. I made her read it herself and then she asked, "Why are they selling a book about washing cats?" I told her it was a novel and she asked what that meant. I said we'd go back to the front and ask more questions once we found the book we wanted.

When we got back to the front it wasn't immediately apparent that it was the book's author who was handing out the bookmarks. There was a large picture of the author next to the table, but the woman in the store had a different hair style and was wearing glasses. I thought maybe she was a bookstore employee trying to get people interested in an appearance by an author who would show up later. However, in asking a few questions and looking back and forth between the woman and the picture, I came to realize it was the actual author herself. I was secretly pleased that I had managed to find out who she was before I said something that assumed she was someone she wasn't. That was a horribly constructed sentence, but you know what? You can suck it. If you wanted perfectly constructed sentences, you wouldn't be reading a blog, would you?

Anyway, I said, "What's your book about?" She said it was a mystery. I said, "My wife likes mysteries. And, actually, it's her birthday today." So as long as she didn't insult my ethnic background, I'd basically have to buy her book. She told me a little more about it and then I told her we'd take one.

Now, as an apprenticed economist, I usually make all my buying decisions based on price. Just moments before in that same bookstore I'd decided to not buy a Boston Red Sox board book because the licensing fee the publisher had to pay to Major League Baseball made the book too expensive. But I couldn't very well turn the book over and look at the price in front of the author. But I had a general idea how expensive hardback books are these days (although I once bought a book entitled Separation of Church and State that was listed at $50, but that was unusual).

So, Rebecca signed the book to my wife and then Crazy Jane and I bought it. We went to eat at Olive Garden (Topeka is like our Disneyland, since it has all the restaurants Persephone likes that aren't in Lawrence), and while we ate we gave Persephone her book. She was reading a different book at the time, though, so How to Wash a Cat got put in a holding pattern.

I was reading a book about changes to the federal income tax policy, which is just as exciting as it sounds, so I moved How to Wash a Cat to the front of my rotation and started reading it.

Now for the review:

I liked it. It was pretty good. The story was enjoyable and it was capably told. Hale uses a lot of adjectives, which is sometimes distractive when the words seem unnatural, but it is also enjoyable sometimes when she describes something in a fresh way. The narrator's name isn't disclosed until the end of the book. This wasn't necessarily a problem in the way it was handled, but it made it difficult to think about the book or describe it at all. The narrator made some infuriating decisions, but they were believable. Basically I was reading and thinking, "Don't tell that stranger what you're planning to do; this is a mystery novel! Someone you don't suspect is going to try to kill you!" But the narrator didn't know she was in a mystery novel, so her decisions appeared fine to her.

Last thing: the narrator meets a male character and describes him in a way that I take to mean he's supposed to be ruggedly attractive. Then she mentions his mullet. What?! Does the narrator find mullets attractive? Does the author? That needs some clarification in her follow-up novel, Nine Lives Last Forever.

Filler

Okay, going back through my blog posts, I discovered that this was an unpublished draft of a subsequent post. It was in my list, counted as a post, which meant my 1000th post was contingent on this post's existence. If I deleted it, all the counting would get screwed up. So I'm just replacing it with sterile content (which is a good new name for my blog, if I ever needed one: "Sterile Content").

Friday, July 04, 2008

"It's All About Hot Dog Management"

We're at my parents house in Saint Louis right now, and their cable TV is like crack for us. I just watched the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. Fifty-nine hot dogs in ten minutes, and then a five hot dog "dog off" to break the tie. That's some compelling television right there.

Speaking of television, Erin asked if I'd read this month's Ensign yet. That's nice of her to think I read the Ensign before the last week of the month. Actually, I looked through it when it came and I read some highlights of the Eyring article to our kids at supper, but I missed the part about his mother destroying the TV. When I read things to our kids I'm mainly looking for stories of childhood deprivation that can shame our children into not demanding so many toys. That's why we are reading the "Little House" books. We just began These Happy Golden Years last night, and I pointed out to Crazy Jane that when Laura loaded up her belongings to leave home at age 15, she had a change of underwear, a second dress, and her school books. Crazy Jane brought more crap than that on our trip to Saint Louis this weekend.


Title from the play-by-play call of last year's hot dog eating contest.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Who Needs Science?

This Denver television station tries to explain why mosquitoes bite my wife and leave me alone, but I've already answered this question. Crazy Jane asked once why bugs like to bite Mommy but not me. I said, "It's because Mommy's Danish and Danishes are sweet, but I'm Greek and we taste like olive oil. You kids are half-and-half, so you're a little bit tasty to them."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Raising Nerds

I said last night to Persephone, "I totally understand now where loser kids come from."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"If it were up to me, we wouldn't own a television, our kids would never eat fast food. Our kids would be the freaky kids that their friends mock."

She said, "Especially since you probably mocked [the girl at whose Easter egg hunt my underwear fell out of my pant leg] for not having a TV."

"I didn't. I didn't know she didn't have one. I made fun of a boy in my fifth grade class, but that was because he had this superior attitude. He'd go around saying, 'My family's awesome because we don't watch TV. I read 10,000 pages a year. I read at a 23-rd grade reading level.' So we had to make fun of him."

"That's what you're like now. You don't want a TV. You read 10,000 pages last year."

"But I'm not all braggy about it. And our kids wouldn't be. They would just say, 'Um, yeah, we don't actually own a TV.'"

My secret fantasy is to have our children watch TV when they've been told not to, and I'll take the TV into the backyard and shoot it. That would be a story they would never forget. However, it would be kind of wasteful unless the TV were either broken or about to break. (Our TV has developed weird color splotches across the middle that make it look like everyone is wearing a green masquerade mask and a pink shrug.) Maybe when TV switches over to HD would be a good time, since Persephone and I are locked in a clandestine struggle over whether to get a converter box (and whether to use a government coupon to get it). Also, I would need a backyard and a gun, two things I don't own right now.

The Friendly Jerk knows we don't have cable but he keeps coming to work and asking me questions like, "Do you get CNN? Do you get FoxNews?" Today I said, "You have no concept what channels are cable channels, do you?" He said, "No." I asked, "Do you remember a time when you didn't have cable?" He said, "No." I said, "That's how I remember what channels are cable channels. I remember a time when we suddenly got 30 extra channels and I know those are all cable channels." (Also, for about ten years we had to get up, go to the back of the television, and flip a switch from A to B to watch cable.) Oh, the humanity!