Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

There has to be a tunnel for there to be light at the end of it. There's no light at the bottom of a pit.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Daniel Webster Is Rolling in His Grave

Early March, 2011: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-umbass), takes to the floor of Congress to recommend a Constitutional amendment that "wipes out unemployment once and for all" by creating rights to products and services. He asks, "How many people would be put to work building roofs and designing classrooms and providing every student with an iPad and a laptop?"

Early April, 2011: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-olt), takes to the floor of Congress to blame the iPad for killing jobs. He says, "Chicago State University in my congressional district, in freshman class, they're not being given textbooks any longer; they're all being given iPads as they enter school. President Wayne Watson hopes to have a 'textbookless' campus within four years, where at this state university they no longer have textbooks. Well, what becomes of publishing companies and publishing company jobs? What becomes of bookstores and librarians and all of the jobs associated with paper?" Later he says of the iPad, "Certainly it's made life more efficient for Americans, but the iPad is produced in China. It's not produced here in the United States."

Possible explanations:

  • Rep. Jackson was the last person on Earth to find out that the iPad is made in China.
  • Rep. Jackson wants to destroy "jobs associated with paper".
  • Rep. Jackson wants to limit iPad usage to the playing of Angry Birds (until he finds out Angry Birds is produced in Finland).
  • Rep. Jackson just says words that he doesn't understand.

Of course, the real answer is probably a combination of all these possibilities.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Job Hunt

I see a difference between résumé embellishment and putting a positive--yet truthful--spin on things. In my book, the first is wrong, the second is fine. So I feel justified in summarizing my three semesters of teaching college, my five years of private tutoring, and my many years of church class teaching as "several years of teaching experience."

Here's a guy who disagrees:

Mr. [A Random Stranger]

Thank you for submitting your resume for adjunct professor consideration. Your resume indicates over 1 year teaching experience but your cover letter states several years of teaching experience which I do not see. Also, you have not graduated from college which is a University requirement. Upon graduation from college, providing two copies of your official graduate transcript and proof of 3 years teaching experience, then we will consider your resume for adjunct teaching position at the [local for-profit university] Campus.

When he writes I have "not graduated from college," he'd be more correct to say I am "three weeks away from completing a master's degree." Is it typical these days to completely finish a degree before applying for work? He seems to think so. I disagree. And of the scores of people I've interviewed with, everyone else has accepted my definition of "several" with no complaints.

This response was less-than-helpful. I feel a need to write back, not angrily, but to set the record straight. I'm not going to, though, because it's best to just ignore it and move on. But I hate the idea that this guy is going to take my lack of response as tacit admission that he was clever enough to discover my ruse.

On a somewhat-related note, I hate life and everything in it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"That's the Stupid Thing That I Believe"

I'm making plans to live in northern Virginia this fall, and be available Mondays at 4:30, Tuesdays at 7:20, and Thursdays at 7:20.

Title quote from Michael Bluth.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Principal Knows Best

Want to bring a lunch from home? Too bad. You can't be trusted to select healthful enough of food.

Chicago public school Little Village Academy (which is obviously a serious learning environment, since it's not named Douglas Elementary or something equally pedestrian) only allows you to opt out of the cafeteria food if you have a sufficient medical excuse.

This article is like a "best of" regarding public schools. It has an education professional who has taken her extensive training in buzzwords and unions as the basis for thinking all her opinions are superior to those of the unwashed masses. It has a paternalistic policy that has a tenuous connection to education. It has an idiot parent who thinks he's powerless in the life of his children. And it has students who have been mislead regarding freedom and liberty.

What is the student revolutionary using to foment dissent? Not the inherent injustice in having a bureaucrat dictate your food. It's that the food "is not good enough." Presumably force-feeding the children filet mignon solves the problem.

One dad says the policy is good because without it, "there is no control over the food." Parents buy the food. Parents decide to give their kids money. But unless the school is involved, no one is in control.

Not until the reporter talked to a think-tank analyst from Washington DC does anyone mention "rights." The students cede the argument by swearing they would bring healthy food if they could. Where is the student who says, "I would bring 18 Twinkies every day, and anyone who doesn't like it can kiss my freedom-loving ass"? Evidently such a student is not in a Chicago public school.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Reading

Sunday School is in the chapel, where everyone sits as scattered as possible, and then mumbles into their chests when they have a comment, so I get absolutely nothing out of it. In past wards, I would go have my own Sunday School lesson, but here our chapel is so small that the kitchen is regularly used as a classroom.

Today, though, I decided to go looking for some empty space, which I happened to find in a corner of the "cultural hall." (Calling a gym a "cultural hall" is such a telling feature of what I have dubbed "Mormonishism.") Anyway, while I was reading The Mortal Messiah, Book 2, I came across this:

And it is worthy of note that what prevailed in synagogues anciently is what should prevail in our houses of worship today, for the Christian practice of frequent worship--of sermon and song and prayer and scriptural reading, in buildings set apart for such purposes--grew out of the Jewish dispensation that preceded ours. The apostles built upon the foundations of the past as they devised the procedures for their new day. (p.18)

I was reminded of my hypothesis that modern Mormonishism has derived much of its structure from the historical fact that the Restoration took place in an American Protestant setting. (Which isn't to say that it wasn't God's intention to have sacrament meeting look like a 19th-century Presbyterian gathering, but I do think that our church is full of a lot of unwarranted structure worship.)

Untitled Blog Post from 10 April 2011

So my Skype interview for the China job seemed to go really well yesterday. That could be a little frightening, until you remember that I have had a lot of interviews that have gone really well over the past two years. But the question remains, when the decision comes down to "starve and be homeless or live in China," which option will I take?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

"The Largest Annual Spending Cut in History"

To hear the president speak, he's out-Ryaned Paul Ryan. He's a cutting machine. He's so into cutting, he did a stint in the delivery ward cutting umbilical cords.

What's really going on: the president wants to follow the Bob Higgs approach of enfolding the 2008-10 emergency spending into the new baseline, and Ryan wants to return government percentage of GDP to its pre-crisis levels. This graph from economist John B. Taylor shows the difference.

If women weren't dying in the streets in 2007, neither will they be under Ryan's budget. But it's a lot easier to tell a camera, "Republicans have a war on women" than to say, "We want a lot more of your money, forever."

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Theory of Monetary Institutions - Kid Repellent

A RANDOM STRANGER: Go play. Mom's working on dinner and I'm trying to read.

JEROME JEROME THE METRONOME: But I want to hear you read.

ARS: "Now consider a general rise in the public's desired holdings of currency (across all brands). A simultaneous rise in demand for several banks--"

JEROME: [runs away to play]

Beijing Syndrome

I used to have a "Boycott Red China" bumper sticker. Then I got married and stopped being the primary purchaser for my life, and now I'd estimate that, like most Americans, the majority of non-food purchases I make are for Chinese merchandise.

I'm ambivalent about it. The economist in me understands the arguments for the gains from trade. The supporter of liberty in me would like to think Chinese economic liberalization will lead to Chinese political liberalization, and that the best way I can help Chinese people be more free is to make them richer. The political conservative in me dislikes that Chinese military corporations take a cut from all trade, so buying a Chinese product is giving money to the People's Liberation Army, with its implied threat of, "Americans care more about Los Angeles than Taiwan." China is complicated.

But being unemployed is more complicated, which is why I applied to teach high school economics in Shenzhen, China next year. It would be super fun to do something completely crazy for a little while. It would be nice to take a break between my master's and my doctorate. And it could turn out to be a job I can actually get.

My wife is not on board with this idea at all. I told her not to worry, that it probably won't come to anything. I e-mailed in my application this afternoon. Later this evening, I got a reply. "Would you be free for a Skype or phone chat anytime between 11:30 and 12:30 this Saturday?" Maybe I was a little too hasty discounting this job's chances of working out.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Economic Confession

This week while listening to a seminar guest speaker talk about something I should know (but don't), I had the idea for economic confession. My plan is that the department should acquire an old confessional booth and take turns staffing it. Students could confess their ignorance and receive anonymous tutoring about the things we're too embarrassed to ask about out loud.

Charity

Said to myself while driving to the temple: "That's the problem with being charitable: idiots come along and take advantage of your charitable attitude. It's better to be critical of everyone, and idiots will stay away."

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Doldrums

It comes and it goes, you know what I'm saying? I'm trying to come up with something interesting I'd want to say in a blog post (and in my weekly article that was late yesterday), but I just have nothing. Budget showdown? Meh. Libya? Meh. Recounting my 10-K in Richmond last weekend? Meh. None of it is worth moving my fingers around a keyboard.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Shoe Review

I got some new running shoes. Now, because the blogging part of my brain is out of ideas, and because I've got a lot of faith in low-probability events like the shoe company showing me some gratitude for an awesome review by sending along a free pair of shoes, I'm going to write about them.

When I ran cross country in high school, I only got new shoes every August. I didn't really pay attention to how my legs were feeling, or how many miles I'd put on the shoes. Once I became an adult, and I was paying for my own shoes, I suddenly realized that a pair of shoes takes much longer to fall apart than one calendar year. My miles dropped way off, too, so it wasn't a bad thing that my shoes were several years old.

When I began training for a marathon, the sole of my left running shoe was separating from the upper on the outside edge from wearing them to golf. I bought a new pair and everything was back to normal. However, about two or three months before my race (or "event" as my father calls it, thereby removing all questioning about whether the runner is trying to win), my knees started to hurt when I ran. I'd never really had running pain before, so I wasn't sure what to do.

The first website I visited said to replace your shoes whenever you have knee pain. I thought, "This website was obviously written by someone with a financial stake in a running shoe company." However, other websites seemed to corroborate this opinion. I went to buy new shoes.

My high school shoes were all Nike. My golf-ruined pair was (I believe) New Balance. My first marathon training pair was Adidas. So I obviously wasn't married to a particular brand. My wife did some research that suggested Saucony made a good shoe for a good price. When I got to the store and found a Saucony shoe available, I went with that.

I know, my research methods are totally lame. I'm supposed to know if I over pronate or what shape arch I have. Whatever. My old shoes don't show pronation problems, and my arch is normal. Just about any shoe is good enough for me, I guess.

So the shoe I wore for my marathon, and since then, was a Saucony Grid Ignition. The only problem I had with it was when my left big toenail turned black and fell off after my marathon. That is, that was the only problem I had until the last couple months, when my left knee developed some constant pain directly below the knee cap (between the knee cap and my Osgood-Schlatter bump). It would sort of go away on off-days, but would always come back, and last throughout a run and the rest of the day after a run.

Remembering that shoe-company-sponsored old-wives'-tale about needing new shoes, I started looking around. I had been happy with Saucony, both in terms of comfort and price, so that was where my search began. The problem was that I was much poorer than ever before, and couldn't really afford new shoes. However, I couldn't ignore my knee pain for fear it would become a larger problem, and I couldn't stop running because I was registered for an "event" in two weeks.

A couple weeks ago I took Jerome with me to Modell's (because we had a coupon for $10 off a $50 dollar purchase) to try on shoes. I came away with a Saucony Grid Cohesion 4. I got a half-size bigger than before, because my left foot was too snug with my ankle brace (plate and pins from a car accident). One of the Internet sites I found this time in my research said a black toenail could come from too snug of a shoe, running the toe into the material with each step. Now that I have my new shoes for comparison, I'm surprised with how tight on my toes me old shoes were.

One thing I'm not too sure I like about these shoes is the amount of tinsel-like material on them. Not for an aesthetic reason, but because it seems like that's the first material on kids' shoes to crack and fall off. I looked at my old shoes to see if they had any tinsel on them, to see how it has held up, but they appear to be tinsel-free (or maybe it's just all the tinsel has already fallen off). Anyway, I now have bright blue tinselly shoes, as seen here in several fake-action shots.




I was thinking of getting some after-market shoe inserts for knee cushioning, but the styles available at the store were impossible to decipher (why have three different styles from the same company if all the wording on the packaging is identical?), so I decided to wait and see if new shoes alone were enough for my knees.

All told, I spent an hour at the store, chasing away sales clerks who know nothing more about shoes than I do, before making my decision. They were $49.99 before my coupon. (The coupon was only valid because I bought a small sports pump for our soccer balls, so my total pre-tax price was over $50.) After the pro-rated coupon, the shoes were $40.89.

I came home and took them for a four-mile run. I could immediately tell a difference in my left knee, in that it didn't hurt with every step, and after the run my knee felt no more sore than it had before. That alone was worth the purchase. I continued training for my event, and my existing pain slowly abated, as it was no longer being added to with every run. In the actual 10-K, though, I experienced a lot of knee pain, both during the event and for several days afterwards.

The ball of my right foot had been getting some blisters in my old shoes, but there was no problem at all in the new ones. The only issue I have experienced was the top of my left ankle was pinched between my ankle brace and the shoe, resulting in painful blisters. I've had that problem before, though, and it is just a matter of making sure the brace isn't too far up on my foot. This seems more pervasive, though, like perhaps the shoe and ankle brace are incompatible.

My old Saucony shoes got bumped down to be lawn-mowing and helping-people-move shoes, and my Adidas shoes are about to be given to a thrift store. Now, when the folks from Saucony want to show their appreciation for my awesome review, they can send me a pair of Grid Fastwitch 4 shoes in size 11-1/2. I promise to review the crap out of those, too.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Richmond Weekend

Saturday I was in Richmond for a 10-K. Everyone in town was hyped up for the Virginia Commonwealth game that evening. Trying to coordinate our watching of the game around dinner and sessions of General Conference, we ended up having to go to a church meeting after the game had ended, but while we were still paused at eight minutes left in the first half.

My brother-in-law's solution was to show up late and leave early, so no one tried to talk to him about the outcome. It worked out well, and we were able to return to his house and watch the rest of the game in peace.

It turns out, though, that at the same time we were trying to avoid learning the outcome of the game, elsewhere in Richmond VCU fans were "rioting" in response to their loss. It's a good thing we were in a different part of Richmond, one where property destruction isn't viewed as such a viable form of discourse. Thanks to bourgeois values, we were blissfully unaware of the loss.

Trojan Brutus

I can't get over how lame the Trojans were. Paris stole Menelaos' wife and every Trojan knows he was in the wrong. They all talk about the "well-grieved Achaians," not the "unreasonably militant Achaians." And when Agamemnon and his hosts show up in the galleys, the Trojans blame Paris for causing the problem, but then they go out and fight.

Here's what I would have done: hand over Paris and Helen and tell the Achaians, "So, as you can see, you can all go home now." And if Paris refused, I would have stabbed him in the back, with a good, "Speak, hands, for me!" Then I would have trademarked the phrase (and "Winning!" while I was at it), after having first created the institution of trademark, then created a political entity to perpetually renew my trademark (just like Disney has today), so that when Shakespeare came on the scene, my descendants would be set for life.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Expensive Kids

In keeping with the ratcheted-down tone President Obama wants for American politics in the wake of Rep. Giffords's shooting, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said cutting $61 bil. from federal spending will kill 70,000 kids. That's $871,000 per kid.

I always thought my kids were expensive, but they're not that expensive.

Presumably there are kids dying right now because the Federales aren't spending an additional $61 bil. And there is some dollar figure that could be spent that would keep every kid alive (if you think of "infinity" as a figure). And of course the money has to come from the American feds, because they're the only people on Earth who have money and care about kids.

Frankly, Shah is off his game. I can't believe he didn't bring one of the "Republican murder victims" to testify with him. "Hello, [cough], my name is [cough] Bradley Jackson, [cough], and Speaker Boehner is trying to kill me." That's some toned-down rhetoric right there!