Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unbelievably Popular

Was it Kierkegaard or was it Sally Field who first said, "You like me, you really like me!"?

Anyway, now I know how Kierkegaard felt. I have 11 blog followers now--so many blog followers that style usage rules dictate I use numerals instead of spelling out the word. To celebrate this fact, I added the followers gadget to my sidebar. (I had previously left it off so as to not draw attention to how pathetically unpopular I am. Or rather, was.) We should all get to know each other better because, to quote Sally Field, "At the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Old People Stay Old for Too Long

Just a reminder, your parents aren't outliving their usefulness as much as they are deciding to stop being useful.

Like Cato the Elder, I will end every post I make in my capacity as president of the anti-AARP with, "It's time to tell old people that, if they can go on a cruise, they can go to an office."

Friday, February 26, 2010

In Typing This Post, I Got to Use the Letter Ñ

Today for lunch I ordered the Diablo Turkey sandwich (and for one brief moment there, I was speaking the same language as the woman behind the counter).

What makes this Satan's sandwich is the pepper jack cheese and "Southwest" mayo. Two words: Puh. (Pause for dramatic effect.) Leez.

I asked for jalapeños, then for their spiciest mustard. What is wrong with me? Do I have a sinus infection or something?

PS: Why do I have such crap luck with listening in on people's conversations? I hear the parts that aren't interesting, but often hint at how interesting the next part is going to be. For instance, as I was walking up the stairs in a building today, I passed two women coming down. One said, "I'm just really uncomfortable with--" and then I was out of earshot. What is making her so uncomfortable? I want to know. I would have much rather given up the first two words and instead heard, "--really uncomfortable with [something tawdry]." Then I'd have a good blog post to write about, instead of several paragraphs about spicy turkey sandwiches.

Things I Hate, Meteorological Edition

I can't stand the wind. Absolutely hate it. (Strangely, though, I love to break wind, but that's a different blog post.) No meteorological phenomenon can get me down aside from wind. Rainy days and snowy days have their charm. Hot days give me incentive to drink cool beverages and induce pretty women to wear better clothes. But the wind just sucks. Flat out sucks it, long and hard.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

But I Need to Shop at Whole Foods

Wal-Mart, aside from serving as a clearinghouse for freak-gawking fetishists, has begun selling organic foods. Because I'm an American, I get all my news summarized by someone else first.

Kummer bought the same set of ingredients from Walmart and Whole Foods and had an Austin, TX chef prepare the identical meals with each set. He then had a group of 16 foodies compare the dishes. The results? Basically a draw. He also notes, but doesn't make much of it, that the ingredients at Walmart cost $126.02 but $175.04 at Whole Foods.
Whole Foods, the astute reader will remember, is where you shop when you care about your family.

What does the extra $50 buy you? The smugness that comes from shopping at Whole Foods. Wouldn't it be great if Whole Foods offered their products at Wal-Mart prices, but near the register with the other "impulse buys" they had a voucher for Organic Smugness, and charged $49.02 for it?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Friends Have My Back

Saturday my family went to the local library. I was browsing the Shakespeare section (luckily it wasn't anything more embarrassing), and one of my bus friends came over to talk to me.

Bus Friend: Hey, man, I was riding the last shuttle of the night home last night and [Driver] said, "Do you have [A Random Stranger]'s phone number?"

A Random Stranger: I gave it to him last week?

BF: I know. He said he lost it. I thought, "[ARS]'ll be happy to hear that." Then I told him, "I know he's real busy; why don't you e-mail him?" But he said, "No, I need to talk to him in person." So then he said, "Do you think he'll be in the parking lot?"

ASIDE: my shuttle stops in the abandoned parking lot of the local Target at 11 pm.

BF: I said, "Why would he just be hanging out in the parking lot?" If you weren't on the shuttle, why would you be in the parking lot? Then he asked me, "Do you know about Linked?" [Driver meant LinkedIn.] I said, "No." He said, "Give me your e-mail and I'll send you a message about Linked." So I had to give him my e-mail.

I was touched by the way Bus Friend tried to talk Driver out of calling me. He's a true friend.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Encouragement?

From this collection of advice in writing comes Anne Enright's insight, "Only bad writers think that their work is really good."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Missing Boner

If something bad has happened to the guy, that's a sad thing, but the guy who played Boner on "Growing Pains" has gone missing. If you happened to find a stray boner, please notify the authorities.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Public School Advertising

I've seen two examples of public school advertising this week, both of which did nothing for my dislike of the scam, I mean, system.

First: three days ago I was sitting at a stop light (which in our town can take up to five minutes at a time) and a shopping center marque sign was scrolling through some names of local school kids. At the end of the list, the screen said they were being recognized for their "behavior, attitude, respectfulness, and kindness." I read that and I thought, "Not one of those attributes has anything to do with scholarship." I looked at the list and thought it could be summed up as "these students are being honored for being easily controlled."

Second: today I was driving home and saw a bumper sticker advertising a local elementary school. The sticker read, "Learners today are leaders tomorrow." I thought, "What reason do we have to believe that? Are any of the parents of those students leaders? Probably not. Many, many more Americans are followers, being led by others. Their children, more likely, are the next generation of followers. And a school that is organized by the true leaders is more likely to teach the next generation how to be good followers than how to be leaders."

I dislike hokey pro-educational-establishment propaganda. Teachers and their supporters like to tell you that they're doing an indespensible service. Now, no one should feel comfortable dumping on others doing what they can with what they have, but when those others try to cover their shortcomings by calling themselves noble, the rest of us don't have to buy it. The fact is that teachers work 9 months a year, 7 hours a day, and draw salaries that reflect this. They voluntarily chose to enter the field, meaning they self-identified as having skills worth the salary they draw. Steven E. Landsburg notes in his book Fair Play:

First, colleges weed out a lot of weak students. According to standard aptitude tests, college graduates are, on average, far brighter than college freshmen; in fact two thirds of all college graduates were in the top half of their freshman classes (as measured by standard aptitude tests). On the other hand, those college graduates who go into teaching are, on average, about exactly as bright as college freshman [sic]; among students who become teachers, only half were in the top half of their freshman classes. It's as if the weeding-out process completely bypasses the education majors. (p. 30)
And since I just pissed off a lot of people who take it as given that teachers are like overweight middle-aged female Jesuses, let me just say before I turn you loose in the comments section that telling me how wonderful, selfless, caring, and sacrificing teachers are is not the same as showing that they provide a necessary service or possess skills worth more than their current salaries.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Opening Salvo

As recently appointed president of the anti-AARP (thanks for the endorsement, Cristin), I offer my opening tirade: old people are going to bleed us dry. And as support of this tirade, I give you the table in this blog post, which shows it's just a matter of time until your parents are riding your paycheck into the ground.

It's time to tell old people that, if they can go on a cruise, they can go to an office.

Friday, February 19, 2010

He Likes It When You Watch

Obama is an exhibitionist. That's the only conclusion I can draw from his desire to appoint a deficit commission. He just wants a bunch of people to watch him run up the deficit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

This Is Why Parents Shouldn't Have Children

I know that when you get as many people together in one place as we have in America, you're going to get some whack-jobs in the mix. That's just the theory of large numbers. But 10,000 whack-jobs? That seems a little high.

Speaking of seeming high, what about the people who are naming their children after products? I read this article several years ago and was lucky to find it still online. What floors me are the people who are using alcohol names. Courvoisier? Skyy? Beavis and Butt-Head featured a character named Tanqueray, but that was supposed to be a joke.

At least these people have the balls to pick a ridiculous name and go with it. I've written before about the fools who decide to change their children's names. These are the same people who think not shopping at Whole Foods is an economic hardship, who think gym memberships are inalienable rights, who think downsizing from three cars to two is unbearable suffering, and who get to vote for "hope" and "change."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wrong And How

I ended my previous post with, "Maybe I was wrong in my prediction that I wouldn't care [about being LinkedIn contacts with my bus driver]."

Boy, was I wrong in my prediction. Since writing that post, I saw my driver last night. He said, "What's your number?" I'd given it to him before, and was glad he'd evidently lost it. He said, "I want to talk to you about a new business venture." I said, "Why not e-mail me?" He said, "I really need to talk to you over the phone."

Damn it.

People Like Me Are the Worst

The following conversation has happened repeatedly throughout my life:

A Random Stranger: I can't stand (some third party).

Conversational Partner: Really? I would have thought you two got along. You have so much in common.

Yes, I know what this says about me. If you remember when I told you my favorite quotation from Notes From the Underground, it shouldn't be a surprise.

Anyway, there's a guy on my shuttles at night that I can't stand. I recognize that the things about him I hate the most are the things that are most like me. For instance, I once was in the library and saw him tell a girl that she shouldn't be in the "no cell phone" area because she was receiving texts and he could hear her phone vibrating. Is this all that different from when I told a dude on the shuttle to stop recounting scenes from Faces of Death because no one else wanted to hear it?

Last night I was on the last shuttle run from campus to my suburb, which could be called Bakersfield-Near-the-Potomac. It wasn't until we were off the freeway and approaching the mall that TWO different people said, "Wait, this isn't the shuttle to the Metro?" If J. Walter Weatherman was there, he would have said, "And that's why you don't get on a bus without reading where it's headed."

No, morons, it wasn't the shuttle to the Metro, and now they were 30 miles away from the Metro and there were no more buses running. The guy that I hate, who I'll call Asian Me, started telling them, "This isn't the Metro, and there aren't any more buses tonight. This is the last shuttle. There's no shuttle to take you back. You can't get from here to the Metro tonight." Repeatedly. I mean, how useful is that? Tell them once and then leave them alone with the pain of their idiocy. There's no reason to rub it in.

But since we're so alike, that means I probably would have done the same thing if he wasn't there. I didn't have to, though, because he said it enough for the both of us.

Bus update: my driver is way into career advancement and professionalism, so I decided to throw him a bone and become his LinkedIn contact. I figured he'd get a kick out of it and I wouldn't care, so why not? Then he sent me an e-mail asking how to accept contact invitations, so I had to give him a bit of an e-mail tutorial. Maybe I was wrong in my prediction that I wouldn't care.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Blog Admin Fail

I was wondering why no one had commented on my blog since I turned on comment moderation. I thought you were revolting against me forcing your ideas past a gate-keeper. It turned out I just was too lame to know where they were waiting for me to approve them. So I just approved a bunch, and promise to be better at it from now on.

Football Alignment

In my mind, this would be the ideal football realignment:

  • Everything has to start with the Mountain West Conference getting the automatic bid it deserves along with the six Bowl Cartel Series conferences.
  • Then the Mountain West picks up Boise State and Nevada from the Western Athletic Conference and Colorado from the Big XII. The MWC has two divisions, West and East. The West Division has Boise State, Brigham Young, Nevada, San Diego State, UNLV, and Utah. The East Division has Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State, New Mexico, Texas Christian, and Wyoming. Every year you play the other schools in your division and half of the schools in the other division for eight conference games.
  • The Big XII replaces Colorado with Iowa.
  • The Big Ten picks up Notre Dame and Pittsburgh to get to 12 schools and have two divisions.

The benefits for each conference:

  • Mountain West: acceptance as the legitimate football conference it is, some great rivalries that are outside conference lines right now (Colorado v. Colorado State, Colorado v. Air Force, and Nevada v. UNLV), and a premier matchup at the end of the season in a conference championship game to give its winner a big boost in BCS consideration.
  • The Big XII: a great rivalry (Iowa v. Iowa State), a step up in terms of competition (in my book, at least, Iowa > Colorado), and the preservation of their six-team divisional alignment by replacing a northern school with a northern school.
  • The Big Ten: great rivalries (Pitt v. Penn State, Pitt v. Ohio State, Notre Dame v. everybody around them), and a divisional alignment that will produce a highly-polished conference champion.
  • The WAC: okay, they get screwed with this plan. But the two best schools in the WAC manage to leave the sinking ship, and if Fresno State and Hawaii really want out, maybe they can join the Pac-10.

I came up with this plan while sitting in microeconomics, and it looks better than the actual proposal to have Texas join the Big 10. Seriously? This proves that I would be as good a commissioner of the Big 10 as whatever chimp they currently have pulling the levers, and am thus entitled to a comparable salary.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I [Crossed-Out Heart] Julie Powell

Here's my exposure to Julie Powell: my wife read her book, and I just sat at the kitchen table working on the computer while my wife watched Julie and Julia in the other room.

Now that I write it, that doesn't seem like a lot, so I'm sort of surprised by how much I hate her. I will now share my insights, forged in this crucible of experience.

Julie Powell wanted to be famous. She found a way to get famous. She's not committed to food or cooking any more than Miley Cyrus is committed to Disney Channel sitcoms. I think that's a crucial distinction, because Americans generally have a problem with people who want celebrity for the sake of celebrity, and so Powell feels the need to cover that up.

Secondly, memoirists should be people who have lived a life worth reading about. Yes, everyone's life is somewhat different, but I'm not clamoring for a memoir written by my sanitation-worker neighbor. Powell seems to bring nothing to the table beyond shamelessness. She's like a reality TV show in print form. It's like someone took the Millie Jackson album cover and made a book out of it.

In Powell's newest book she breaks new ground, replacing the using of Julia Child with the using of her own husband. If my wife EVER thought the best way to get past an affair would be to write a book detailing said affair, I would not stand beside her and say, "That's just great, hon. Good job capturing all the details."

Powell, or her defenders, can easily say, "You don't even know her. The movie character wasn't the real person." And blah blah blah. I stand behind my assessment: 1. Powell seeks fame for the purpose of being famous. 2. Powell does not follow the basic standards of human decorum. 3. Powell has made an ass-load of money by repeating points 1 and 2.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rethinking America's Federalism

If my previous post on the subject "left [your] teeth chattering for more", I give you the thoughts of another blogger on the subject. I thought it might be fun to see what a country like this would look like.

Firstly, there are 34 cities in the United States with more than 500,000 people. Some of these are too spread out to meet the 5,000-people-per-square-mile criterion, but I suspect there are more places in the country that surpass the density criterion without a single jurisdiction being large enough to make the list of large cities (i.e.: San Gabriel Valley, Orange County, Du Page County). Together with splitting up giant jurisdictions like Los Angeles County and Cook County, I would think we'd be closer to 50 city-states than 20. These areas would replace republican state governments with what reads to me like benevolent constitutional dictators (think Franklin Roosevelt). Personally, I'd find that unacceptable, but the truth might currently be that most of those impacted Americans won't mind.

I don't understand why building density should change the way we view the community. Just because Manhattan neighbors share walls, floors, and ceilings, does that make their community inherently different from areas of urban sprawl? I think sprawling urban areas are just places where people decide to drive more to conduct the same activities. Why are they not a city-state?

Next, the idea of merging small jurisdictions seems unnecessary. The inertia acts against jurisdiction creation, not consolidation. Just last Depression, Fulton County, Georgia, absorbed two bankrupt neighbors. Merging together counties until they are the size of states doesn't eliminate the need for county governments, it just means we'll call states counties and call counties something else when they are re-created to meet the need.

Finally, the proposal has the rigidity that is the problem with the current system. If the 500,000-people-mark isn't going to be a threshold for new city-state creation, it will be just a matter of time before the system is obsolete. Why should a 500,000-people area in 2010 be deserving of city-state status, but in 2050 it won't be, while some other area that qualified for city-state status when the plan was implemented but then lost population somehow continues in that status?

The biggest problem, as I see it, to continued federalism is a lack of fluidity. States need to be organized and dissolved as needed. That goes against all our sense of identity and nostalgia. Would government be better or worse if our state identity meant no more to us than our ZIP code or area code identity? (Area code identity, which seemed ridiculous to me 10 years ago when I first heard of it, is an actual source of pride to some people now. You'll forgive me if I don't bestow any shouts-out (nearly as high-brow as attorneys-general, but not) to the 571.) Maybe that will be the question I attempt to answer in my dissertation. If so: PATENT PENDING, bitches!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Type of Blogger I Ain't

From here:

I spend 6 to 10 hours a day on the blog, seven days a week.
Shazbot! I used to work 10-hour days, and even THEN I wasn't spending 10 hours a day doing anything. (Unless "waiting for time to pass" counts as doing something. Does it? Because if it does, then I've been busy ever since I started kindergarten.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Call to Action

I knew if I just sat around, eating Fluffernutter sandwiches, my true calling in life would find me. Today it did, courtesy of this blog: "And is there someone willing to lead the anti-AARP?"

I will lead the anti-AARP. After all, I've blogged repeatedly about the threat old people pose to my future.

My Sentiments Exactly

I get suckered by a lot of crap on the Internet. Four years ago I got suckered into having a blog, and more recently I got suckered into adding a blog to my Google Reader that features a daily post of a billionty words that read slower than molasses.

But I keep plowing through it. I feel like a guy who puts on muck boots and wades through the evaporation patties at the sanitation plant looking for diamonds. Sure, everybody knows he's nuts, but all he has to find is one diamond to make peace with himself.

Today, I found that diamond: "And no, Sarah Palin will not cut the mustard. She is a populist, not a stateswoman. Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan. Most certainly, she is no Margaret Thatcher."

Addendum: Between writing this entry and its actual posting, I read this further assessment of Palin. Conclusion: her conservative credentials are as highly-suspect as the rest of the GOP.

I've Said This Before

Listen, people: the foreign-character comments have got to stop. I don't have a problem with your freaky language, I just can't tell what is a serious comment and what is a virus posing as an add for penis enlargement.

I've had to turn on comment moderation. We'll see how much work this creates for me. But in the meanwhile, I think a good rule of thumb is posting English-language comments on an English-language blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chock Full of Original Ideas (I Swear!)

One of the setbacks of newspaper writing is the schedule. I have to write today any article I want to appear in seven days. This means that my articles can't be too timely unless I want to start every article with, "Hey, remember a couple weeks ago when that thing happened? Well, here's what I thought about it at the time."

Because the editors of my paper didn't get the memo about the death of print media, they decided to push that lag to two weeks instead of one. Now I can't write about ANYTHING in the news. All I have available to me are general trends or academic studies that nobody noticed.

A week ago, I wrote a story for the paper that is yet to be printed. The next day, the chairman of my department wrote a similarly-themed blog post on the same topic. When my story finally appears, it's going to look like I lifted his idea.

The same thing happens with my blog. I wrote a post last week about the conflict of interest inherent in having Toyota's competition also be their regulator. The next day, an economics blog I read wrote the same post. At least with that one, I have the time stamp working for me, but lately most of my blog posts aren't posting in real time. (Here's a way to tell if I posted right after I wrote: if it posted at 12:27 pm, it's a previously-written entry.)

This reminds me of my plagiarism stories. (Only old people have a "whatever-the-topic" story that they continually tell whenever the topic comes up, right?) Story 1: my final journal entry for Geography 101 at BYU was given a zero for plagiarism by the TA, whose reasoning was that it was too well-written to NOT be plagiarized. The professor, who I'd worked with throughout the semester, overruled. Story 2: last semester my editor sent me a panicked e-mail: "Where did you get this story?" Um, I wrote it? My rule of thumb for telling a small-minded person: anyone who thinks, "The only way to do something like that is to cheat" is a small-minded person.

I feel like the expert witness in Strange Brew who, when the judge asks, "For the benefit of the court, would you please explain 'time code,'" explains, "Just because I don't know what it is, doesn't mean I'm lying."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Reading


I spend a lot of time worrying that I look like a hypocrite. I wouldn't mind actually being a hypocrite, only if someone thought I was. (Is that hypocritical of me? Well as long as you don't know about it, I don't care.)

Now that nearly all of our books are on display, I worry that the following conversation will happen:

VISITOR: Wow, you've got a lot of books.

A RANDOM STRANGER: Yeah.

VISITOR [pointing at random book]: What'd you think of this one?

A RANDOM STRANGER: I haven't read that one, actually.

VISITOR [pointing at a different book]: What about this one?

A RANDOM STRANGER: I haven't read that one yet, either?

VISITOR [aside]: So this guy has all these books just to look smart.

exeunt.

How possible is this scenario? To calculate it, I went through the books we have downstairs and counted how many I read. The final tally: 257 read out of 635 books, which is slightly more than 40 percent. Things get better if you disregard my wife's books, because I'm probably not going to read any Annie Brashares, Meg Cabot, or Louise Rennison. If you eliminate them, I've read over half my books. But maybe I shouldn't rule out all my wife's books: Persephone says some of Betsey Burke's stuff can get pretty smutty.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Poll

Are my palms bruised because I've been shoveling snow for three days, or is it because I'm developing stigmata?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Internet Updates?

There are two events I have always watched, as long as I can remember: the World Series and the Super Bowl. I've watched every World Series and every Super Bowl since 1985. Sometimes life circumstances have conspired against my continuing this streak, but I have risen above.

  • January 1997: I decided I shouldn't watch the Super Bowl, since it was on Sunday and I was leaving for my mission the next week. But since the Green Bay Packers were playing and I was called to serve in Wisconsin, my mother said I needed to watch so I could relate to the people there.
  • October 1997: I'd already been beaten down by my mission by this time, so when I found members who would let us come over for the games, we were on it. When Game 7 went into extra innings, we called our numbers in from the members' house and kept watching the game.
  • January 1998: Our mission president allowed us to watch the Super Bowl if we had a member record it for us to watch on our next P-day. Since the Packers were again in the game, it would be absolutely impossible to be doing missionary work during the game, so we just went to a member's house and watched it. The four of us missionaries had been in the field long enough to hate everyone in Wisconsin and, by extension, the Packers, and so we actively rooted against them. Not the best way to build relationships of trust, probably.
  • October 1998: A single guy in the ward wanted somebody to watch the games with, so we gladly obliged him. Unfortunately, it was only a four-game series.
  • January 1999: Home from my mission for a few weeks, I was visiting my sister and her husband. My sister thought we should go to dinner since I was leaving the next day. Across the restaurant, on the muted TV at the bar, was the game.
  • October 1999: A series between two teams I hated. But I at least hated the Braves more, and watched to make sure they lost.
  • January 2000: The girl I was dating said she'd never watched a Super Bowl. That should have been my first sign that it wasn't going to work out. I nearly let her keep me from watching it, but ended up seeing the most exciting ending of a Super Bowl ever.
  • October 2000: Again, two teams I hated, but since neither was the Braves, I didn't really care which team lost. I watched some of Game 1 at least, and then forgot about the series.
  • January 2001: I boycotted the Super Bowl, hoping it would keep the horrible Baltimore Ravens from winning. It didn't. But my dedication to my streak forced me to continually check on the game periodically.
  • November 2001: By this time I was married, which introduced a whole new set of problems. I missed the end of Game 4 because it had gone long and my wife wanted to watch Felicity. If I hadn't have been all doped up on love like a newlywed, that never would have happened.
  • February 2005: Things settled down for a few years. We had cable TV and could watch everything we wanted at home. We even watched the NBA Finals a couple times. But by 2005 I was trying not to watch TV on Sundays again. We had been tricked into living at my in-laws' house, though, and my father-in-law had no problem with it, so I ended up watching the fourth quarter with him.
  • October 2005: The beginning of more serious problems. We had moved to Kansas and didn't have cable or a TV antenna. We went to my brother's house to watch Game 1, cramping my sister-in-law's style, since she hates me and the things I like.
  • February 2006: My football team, the Steelers, were in the Super Bowl. My parents recorded the game for us and mailed us the tapes. I watched the Super Bowl in early March.
  • October 2006: Before the series began, we discovered that our local McDonald's had TVs, so we bought some ice cream and watched the first half of Game 1 there. For the final game, I went to a bar where a co-worker of mine part-timed as a bartender. Their TV reception kept going out all night. He told me, "I swear we've never had this problem before.
  • February 2007: I had my parents record the Super Bowl for me again, but since I wasn't a big fan of either team and I was busy with school, I didn't end up watching the game until after my finals in May.
  • October 2007: My wife's favorite baseball team, the Red Sox, were in the World Series, so she bought a TV antenna. We had a hard time getting it to work, but eventually found a setup that allowed us to see the picture, but not hear anything. Articulate Joe then bumped into the antenna, knocking it down. It turned out to be better reception on the ground. He was scared he'd done something wrong, so we congratulated him on his discovery to help him feel better, like when he accidentally ate a lightning bug and we told him he was so brave to allow one to fly in his mouth.
  • February 2008: My parents were supposed to be recording the game and mailing it to us, but they could no longer figure out how to do it. To cover my bases I watched the nfl.com update, which gives a written description of each play, and then the next day at work I watched highlight clips on the website. Good thing I did, because my mother ended up mailing us a blank tape.
  • October 2008: Using the antenna setup discovered by Articulate Joe, we watched the games on our TV at home. It wasn't as effective as previously, and many of the games had no sound. I tried to listen to it on the radio, but the local ESPN affiliate wasn't airing it. No World Series on the radio? What the hell is wrong with this country?!
  • February 2009: The Steelers were in the Super Bowl again. Since my parents' grasp of technology had taken a step backwards, it was unlikely I'd be able to watch the game. I was in an elders quorum presidency that had a meeting that night. When I came home, my wife had decided we'd watch the second half on our TV. She made Super Bowl party snacks and we watched the Steelers win. A few months later we went to my parents' house in Saint Louis and watched the Penguins win the Stanley Cup. What a great year in sports. (Disclosure: as I write this, I am wearing a shirt that commemorates the Steelers/Penguins championships.)
  • October 2009: We followed the online written updates on mlb.com and watched the game highlights the next day when they were posted.
  • February 2010: We were going to go to my sisters' tomorrow to watch the Super Bowl, but my son has a strep infection and the largest snowstorm to hit the DC area since 1772 (when there WAS no "DC" to have an area, so that means this is the largest snowstorm to hit the DC area EVER) is currently burying us inside. It looks like tomorrow will be a day spent with nfl.com again.

Final note: I've written before on this blog about how Scott Fujita, New Orleans Saints linebacker, spent most of fifth grade trying to beat me up. Scott commented and apologized. But if Scott reads this blog post, as he's done in the past when I've written about him, I want to wish him good luck.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Snowstorm Death

According to news reports, we're all going to die this weekend, entombed in eleventy billion inches of snow. So far we've received probably two inches, so we still have a way to go.

The good news is that church will probably be canceled again on Sunday. Two weeks in a row! And three weeks so far this winter! If I ever need proof that God loves me, remind me of all these weekend snowstorms in 2010.

Family story which proves I'm not the only heathen in the bunch: once my sister and her husband were asleep on a Sunday morning. The phone rang and my brother-in-law answered it. My sister was still mostly asleep when she asked, "Who was on the phone?" My brother-in-law said it was a call to cancel church because of the weather. My sister mumbled, "Heavenly Father really does love us," and rolled over to go back to sleep.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Global Economy

I bought a textbook online. The website said it was coming from a bookseller in Washington State. Now that I have a DHL tracking number, I can see its movements:

  • Feb. 4: departed Bangkok, Thailand
  • Feb. 5: processed for departing Hong Kong

I've got nothing against buying foreign textbooks; in fact, I enjoying using textbooks that have giant labels that read "Not for Use in the United States!" But I think I might have picked a different seller had I known I'd have to wait for a package from Thailand.

This is happening to me more frequently. Last month I bought a book from "Indiana" that came from "Belgium," and a book that was supposed to come from "Great Britain" actually came from "New Jersey."

I wonder if what's going on is that I'm not buying a book, but a futures contract FOR a book. Someone in Great Britain sold me a contract to deliver the book to me by a certain date, and he ended up selling that contract to someone in New Jersey before it matured. It's kind of cool to imagine such a market. I've had a soft spot in my heart ever since my high school economics teacher taught us that, if you bought a pork bellies contact and didn't sell it before its maturation date, a truck of pork bellies would arrive at your door. I liked to spend class imagining that type of thing. The teacher liked to spend class imagining dating some of the girls, which he did the year after we graduated.

Economic Disclosures: I Spent a Billionty Dollars on Health Care Last Year

One of the problems with trying to put a dollar figure on everything is when you have to figure out which number to use. Mississippi juries are known for accepting dubiously-high "pain and suffering" compensation claims. Anytime you try to compensate someone for a non-monetary expense you have to come up with an estimate based on something a little more scientific than asking the guy for a number.

Unless you write for the Wall Street Journal, that is. Then you just say, "How much are you saving?" and repeat the figure. How can someone spend $100 each week on Burger King, let alone save that much when his food substitute is organic vegetables? Wouldn't a $100 Burger King bill be at least 20 bacon cheeseburgers? A week only has 21 meals in it. (Unless you're a hobbit, like Jerome Jerome the Metronome, who's usually finished with Second Breakfast before I wake up on Saturdays.)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Overheard

First, an aside: I'm a firm believer in showing respect to females by only using the term "girl" for those yet to reach the age of majority. High school girls are girls; college women are women. I was about to start this story by telling you it involved three women, though, and I realized you might assume more mental faculty of "women" than the women of this story obviously possess. Although they are college students, they are in many ways still girls. Is this a sign that I'm getting hopelessly old, or that college women don't act like adults? I know those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive, but I'll pretend they are, since there's so much evidence in favor of the second one.

Three girls were approaching a long set of outdoor stairs. I was right behind them and, upon reaching the stairs, decided to pass them on the other side of the railing. When we were all on the top stair, the girl closest to me stumbled. I thought, "This is going to be awesome to watch, but I'll probably have to go get help once she's at the bottom." Two or three stairs down, though, she caught herself and everything went back to boring.

Her explanation to her friends: "Normally I'm good at walking down stairs because I'm very used to them, but my hair blew in my face."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Conflict of Interest

I read this article today and I realized that I can't trust Sec. LaHood's safety pronouncements. He's an officer for the organization that owns Chrysler and General Motors; when he criticizes the safety of Toyota, is he doing it as a public servant, or as a corporate stooge?

And how reasonable is it for Toyota to need safety review from their competitor? What other industry requires competitor approval? Does Pepsi have to sign off on the drinkability of new Coke products?

I can't think of a single reason I'd want to start my own business in America today.

Ohio County Trip

I'm a month late with these maps, but since no one cares except me, they are showing up exactly when I want them to. Also, in the past I used a much better mapping program to make my county maps, but I don't work anyplace that has it anymore. I'm relying on a much older program I have on my home computer, which means the maps are going to look much more rudimentary. If you've got a problem with that, feel free to leave a comment explaining your problem, and then imagine I cared enough to reply, because if I did my reply would read: "Suck it."

On the way there, we went slightly out of our way through West Virginia. I drove a complete interstate from start to finish (I-68), and I peed in what roadside signs described as "West Virginia's Longest Creek." I got sixteen new counties.

The creek getting a little longer.

While we were there, Articulate Joe and I went to the highest point in Ohio. I got seven new counties.

Articulate Joe's county trip set-up: front seat reclined with headrest off. On this particular trip he was using my parents' GPS in his window.

The next day my father had to go to western Michigan for business and he asked if I wanted to go along.

We stopped at the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, and on the way home we stopped to see the capitol in Lansing.

False advertising: "Grand" Rapids, Michigan.

I also ate lunch at a Bob Evans, where I violated my cardinal rule of food ordering: don't repeat the name of a stupidly-named menu item. At Cold Stone Creamery (which our family gives more street cred by calling Stone Cold Creamery) I refuse to order a "Like It," a "Love It," or a "Gotta Have It." I say either small, medium, or large, and when I say it, I mean it to sting. I have never eaten a Rootie-Tootie Fresh and Fruity breakfast, even though the actual food looks pretty good. But at Bob Evans I was looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions and it wasn't until the waitress asked what I wanted that I noticed my burrito was called a "boburrito." I panicked and just read the name as it was printed, and it still eats me up inside. (Both the shame and the boburrito, which was slathered in neon-orange "cheese" that did not do my bowels any favors.) Sadly, no pictures of said boburrito survive.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Follow Up

If people grew to 3'1", I think car accidents would be less deadly.

The critical question here is how much of our development is driven by people-scale and how much by other things. All the people-scale things will shrink, so houses would be smaller, cars would be smaller, streets would be smaller, buildings would be smaller, and so towns would be smaller. If the distance between towns is also people-scale, it will shrink, too, but if it's scale is determined by other things, such as acres necessary for a certain number of cattle to graze, it would remain the same, which would seem to smaller people to be longer distances.

However, I don't think it would remain the same, because we'd domesticate fewer cattle (since any given cattle would feed more tiny people), or we'd just domesticate smaller animals. Goats would be the new cows and cows would be the new woolly mammoths.

So the end result is everything decreases in scale, towns AND the distance between towns. Now, if we assume that cars go as fast as they now do because we like the distance-to-time ratio, cars will be able to travel at a lower absolute speed while maintaining the same perceived ratio to tiny humans. Instead of 60 MPH, they'll go 20 MPH, but since our feet are only four inches long, let's say, we would still think of that distance as 60 miles.

The force necessary to move something at an absolute speed of 20 MPH is much less than at 60 MPH, so when two cars have an accident, there is less bodily damage done. Thus car accidents would not be as deadly were we all 3'1" tall.

My wife argues that people would still want to travel at an absolute speed of 60 MPH, since the distance between San Francisco and New York would stay the same absolute length, thus appearing to be much longer to tiny humans. However, I think cars will be built to human scale, meaning they would all look pretty much like Power Wheels. The size of the engine will limit the available power, and cars will top out at a lower absolute speed, which will appear to tiny humans to be about the same as our cars are to us.

The more I think about this, the more fun I have with it, but when I mentioned it to my home teaching companion earlier this week, he thought I was an idiot.