Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Would I Make the Cut?

I was recently talking to a man who referenced the case of East German Vera Wollenberger, who reviewed her own secret police file and found out the state's primary informant against her was her husband, Knud. He pointed me to a New York Times story where I read this:

The Stasi maintained files on 6 million of East Germany's 18 million citizens.

Only a third? That's not so bad. Chances are the state has nothing on you. But if America had a similar situation, would I merit inclusion?

Here are the things I'm doing to deserve my own file:

  • Every time I have a cell phone conversation with my brother, I include the word "jihad."
  • I advocate radical change in government.
  • I homeschool.
But I also have a number of marks on my subversive escutcheon.
  • I'm irrelevant.
  • I use the word "escutcheon."
  • I don't own any guns.
If I want to be included in the 1/3, I'm going to need to dramatically up my game. I think I'll start by buying some property in West Virginia. I mean, if it's good enough for Fox Mulder, it should be good enough for me.

Maybe I Could Be a Failure Coach

I've blogged before about my sort-of-joking-but-sort-of-serious desire to be a life coach. It all started when I became aware of the existence of "prison coaches," people who counsel the soon-to-be-incarcerated on what to expect. ("Don't drop the soap. That'll be $200.")

The most intriguing part is the bravado it takes to declare yourself a life coach. I remembered when I tried to convince my doctor I was a hostage negotiator. If I just put up fliers that said I was a life coach and didn't break character when potential clients called, BAM, I'd be a life coach.

My wife thought I needed to do some research first, so I checked a self-help book out of the library. It turned out to be a parody. I still read it and count it as a bolstering of my credentials.

It seems the New York Times is onto scam artists like me. (Like me? I don't know if I'm a scam artist life coach or a legitimate one. Who can really make that distinction, anyway?) As with all other jobs that require a lot of confidence and not much else, life coaching is becoming the purview of Generation Y. I'm about 10 years too old to have never doubted how wonderful I am, and if life coaching has rules, that would be the only one.

To be a coach of something, I would probably need to have some knowledge. And thus begins the exciting new field of Failure Coaching. Have you ever wondered how to deal with your failures? Why not get coaching from some who has previous experience failing? I mean A LOT. I can teach you how to hide your failure from your family, how to maintain life without actually earning anything to life on, and how to see your failures as just a trying prelude to your impending greatness. Sign up today!

Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm Going to Hell

I was about to read an Ezra Taft Benson talk on speeches.byu.edu when I thought, "I'd actually prefer to read this as a PDF." Because, as we all know, if God doesn't use the correct file format, it's just not worth reading.


Denouement: I did search for the talk as a PDF. When I couldn't find it, I copied the text to a document and exported my own PDF. Yea, me!

"I Make It Rain"

I don't feel like blogging today. Here's something to watch, instead.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Worst Sunday of My Life (So Far)

Old ward ethos: we start giving time and attention to the crazies, and you regular folks only get what's left over.

New ward ethos: you regular bastards better not ask for ANYTHING.

I honestly feel like I'm being punked, like there's no way things could be going this poorly across the entire spectrum of my life unless Someone is just trying to see how much crap I'll take. My life is a Borat film.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Straddling the Unstraddleable

A friend recently sent me a link to an article written by Joanna Brooks. I was unaware of who she was, so I looked around her website some. And I think she's a pretty likable person (at least, she has a pretty likable persona). I think she would be a great addition my ward, if only because I'd know there was one more person gagging during the most egregious testimonies and talks. (I'd especially like to hear her take on the "why I don't eat chocolate" sermon I hear every time the priesthood has an ice cream social).

However, comma, reading her articles makes me question how I'm supposed to go about relating with people outside my church. What is the appropriate mix of apology/defense/explanation/defiance? Brooks appears to be pretty solidly in the "explanation" camp, though I hope she doesn't think I'm misreading her if I say I sense occasional elements of "apology."

I'll admit that I'm never really sure how to respond. Each approach has its problems. Apology appears unprincipled. Defense is pointless. Explanation can be worthwhile if the other person wants to understand, but if not, it's a waste of time. Defiance is uncharitable (we can't really go around telling the world to screw off, although the months of my mission where I took this approach were the happiest of the lot).

When the other person is not interested in understanding, I think defiance is the only appropriate response of the four. We have to say "this is correct." And sometimes that involves following something we don't understand. For instance, I intellectually support the legalization of drugs, but I know church president Heber J. Grant held Prohibition to be theologically correct. Maybe that was just his "get off my lawn" old-man-ness talking, but maybe not, and it's not really my place to try to decide. As we heard quoted twice last General Conference, Ezra Taft Benson pointed out in 1980 that maybe the prophet is an old man because there's prophetic wisdom in "get off my lawn." (That's a bit of a paraphrasing.)

I'm not questioning Brooks's loyalty or anything. If anything, her writings prompted me to question my own. How easy is this apology/defense/explanation/defiance balance? It depends on your social scene. Like-minded friends aren't going to make you defend uncomfortable positions. Friends seeking to understand will ask a lot of questions, but respectfully, and can continue a friendship despite differences. But if you're surrounded with antagonizing friends, nothing's going to change until you renounce either your beliefs or your friends.

There's a lot to criticize in the insular social world of many Mormons, but isn't there as much to criticize in the needlessly secular world of some? You don't need to check for a dance card before becoming friends, but you'll find more trouble awaiting you if you troll for friends at atheist book clubs. I'm doubtful the type of explaining that needs to occur with true friends can effectively happen in a mass-media setting. Then again, maybe I'm wrong. See, I still don't know what to do.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lyrical Interlude

In our family, I'm usually the one who hears lyrics correctly. My wife, meanwhile, was fully aware that The Killers had a song entitled "Mr. Brightside," but still managed to think Brandon Flowers was singing, "I missed the bright side."

Today, however, she got her revenge. It turns out the Weezer song "Autopilot" is called that because Rivers Cuomo is singing, "Autopilot," not, "Out of my head."

I had been thinking Rivers wasn't too original with the titles of the songs on Death to False Metal. "There's 'Losing My Mind,' 'Blowing My Stack,' and 'Out of My Head,'" I thought. Actually, only two of those songs are on the album.

The entire family took turns rubbing my nose in it. Evidently they all knew he was singing "Autopilot" the whole time.


Happy Birthday to Jerome, Jerome the Metronome! Four years ago today long-time blog sufferer Erin came over in the middle of the night to stay with our two older kids while we went to the hospital to have Jerome. Thanks, Erin!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fiscal Conservatism

Newt Gingrich promised a moon base today.

Why, yes, he is campaigning in Florida. Why do you ask?

In this week's debate, he also promised federal aid to underwater homeowners, and his recommended policy for Iran would pretty much guarantee another war. Yet somehow this guy gets to portray himself as the conservative in this race? From his hair to his name to his serial adultery, there ain't nothin' conservative about Newt Gingrich.


PS: The astute reader will know I am yet to endorse any candidate (and--let me tell you--this is a potential endorsement the lot of them are just dying to bag!). Pointing out how terrible Gingrich is doesn't mean I like any of the rest of them.

Ðis Is a Test

Remember how yesterday I said I þought people should start using ðe letters Ð and Þ? Well, I can't very well expect people to do someþing I'm not doing myself. Not ðat I'm going to do ðis from now on (I suspect my five regular readers would complain about lowered readability), but ðe point is ðat it's not ðat hard to do, and not ðat hard to read, I þink.

Ðe people who should be really on-board with ðis are ðose named Þeodore, Þelma, or Þaddeus. I'd love to have a new letter in my monogram (alðough any previously-vandalized concrete slabs would need to be revandalized). Ðis is no laughing matter: my in-laws' cabin is set on ten acres of trees, all of which have had ðe name "Clyde" carved in ðem. If Clyde were named "Þor," he'd have years worþ of re-work ahead of him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Things I Wish Everyone Would Do

  1. Correctly use a possessive apostrophe. It doesn't matter how the word is spelled; it only matters if it is singular or plural. A man named Mr. Davis owns Davis's book. He and his wife are the Davises. The house they own together is the Davises' house. All three words are pronounced "Davis-ez."

    Here's what it means when you write Davis'. It means there is a thing called a Davi, and that more than one of them (Davis) own something. If that is not your intended meaning, do not write Davis'.

  2. End meetings on time. There is a saying: "punctuality is the courtesy of princes." (For more on this saying, see David Friedman's blog post here.) Starting a meeting late does not bother me that much; sure, it's disrespectful, but I can be doing something else while I wait, and as long as the meeting ends on time, it's the meeting organizer who is losing more than I am. But running meetings long makes me furious.

    Allowing a meeting to go long says that the organizer is certain anything he wants to say is more important than anything else you could possibly be doing. It shows a complete disrespect for the needs of everyone else in the room. And it shows the organizer's lack of self-control.

    Why is this such a huge problem in the Mormon church? I went to a BYU devotional where the university president went 15 minutes over, making everyone late for their next classes. The lesson I learned was "never again attend devotional." I had a mission companion who viewed weekly planning as an open-ended time commitment. I have been to correlation meetings, presidency meetings, and ward councils that are set to run until the organizer gets tired.

    Our stake conferences routinely surprise with their running length (75 minutes? 90 minutes? Why do you need to know beforehand?) You're treated as one of suspect loyalties if you demand to know the length of the meeting. "Why, are you going to stay home if it's too long?" No, but I have other things in my life to schedule. Will I be home at 8, 9, or never? Every church meeting should have not only a starting time, but a well-publicized ending time.

    Having an ending time is a start, but it's not enough. I recently attended a church meeting that was advertised as ending in an hour. At the end of an hour, we were exactly halfway through the program. The meeting needs to end on time, with no exceptions. Think you have something to say that is worth keeping us late? Think again. When was the last time General Conference ran long? It doesn't happen. If President Monson doesn't have anything worth extra time, I seriously doubt you do.

  3. Use dollar coins and two-dollar bills, and stop using pennies, nickels, and dollar bills. I've written before about the stupidity of pennies and nickels. I'm not certain public action can cause their retirement from circulation. Dollar coins, dollar bills, and two-dollar bills, though, can be influenced by public behavior.

  4. Use the letters Đ and Þ. I'm not completely opposed to digraphs (I'm not calling for the end of "br," "ch," "sl," or any of the others), but it makes no sense to have a single digraph that represents two different sounds, like "th" does. The voiced "th," as in "this," and the unvoiced "th," as in "thing," are different noises, and so should not be written the same. This is especially problematic when the voicing/unvoicing creates a different word. My Uncle Theodore's nickname of "Thee" is not the word "the" or "thee." A return of Eth and Thorn would solve the problem. Since language is totally informal, this is one that public action can cause. Maybe I will begin using Đ and Þ on my blog.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kenny Rodgers: Financial Consultant

Walking through Target....

ARTICULATE JOE: When we get home, I'm going to sit at the table and count my money.

A RANDOM STRANGER: You never count your money while sitting at the table.

AJ: Why not?

ARS: There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done.

Genius Is As Genius Does

I'm kind of tired of reading criticisms of Paul Krugman that begin by acknowledging his genius. "Of course the man's a genius," they all rush to state, before going on to catalog a number of defects that even moderately-smart people would have corrected by now.

Krugman is not seeking to learn truth; he is convinced he already knows it and he's judging the rest of us by how closely we agree with him. He accepts the flimsiest of evidence in favor of his opinions and disregards the most substantial of evidence in opposition. He launches into invective with little provocation, even when his targets are making arguments he used to make himself. In fact, he doesn't even acknowledge that he used to disagree with himself, nor does he explain why he now thinks differently from how he did before.

These aren't the character traits of genius. Until Krugman is smart enough to behave like a decent human, you will be unable to convince me that he is a genius.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Televisión

Lately Hulu has been showing us ads for their Spanish-language offerings. Recently I began watching one, Una Familia con Suerte.

Firstly, I've got to learn the meaning of the word "entonces." It came up twice in the first five minutes.

Secondly, why is there such a huge difference in production values between American TV and Latin-American TV? I assume all their professionals are bilingual, watching American TV for good ideas, like how American TV gets all its ideas from Europe. But the people behind this show have never seen a modern American TV show. One character banged on the table, which was made out of glass and metal, and the rattle was so loud it drowned out his next few words. (One of those words was probably "entonces.") Maybe they didn't have time to re-shoot the scene; it was the 87th episode of the season and it was an hour and a half long. Seriously.

Thirdly, every American TV parody of Latin-American TV is not so much parody as exact duplication. The opening credits, by all appearances, were supposed to be serious.

Fourthly, I'm going to learn the hell out of the Spanish language. And Una Familia con Suerte is going to be my key.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Television

I've written before about how we can only watch television on Hulu. This means we don't do much casual TV viewing; we watch shows we've seen since the beginning (30 Rock, Bones, and Up All Night), and not much else.

All of our TV shows took most of January off, and we were in the mood for some TV watching, since I was finished with a semester of class. We had to find a show that was in its first season and which still had all of its episodes available on Hulu. And that was how we ended up watching Revenge.

Thirteen episodes later, I wish I could come up with something more that recommends the show. If you like to see a character show her cold-bloodedness by crossing out pictures with permanent markers, then you should start watching Revenge. If you like to see the bad guy from Clear and Present Danger play the father of the pre-teen girl from 13 Going on 30, then you should start watching Revenge. And if you always wondered what a rich married couple says to each other over dinner, this screenshot from Revenge will satisfy your curiosity.

Here's what's most frustrating about the show to me: the first episode starts with the end of the season, so most of the drama is lost. When Tyler holds a gun to Emily's head, is he going to fire? No, because she's still alive three months later, remember? Are Declan and Charlotte going to break up? No, because they're still together three months later, remember?

Something interesting about the show is that all the characters have terrible traits, except for one, and guess who gets shot at the beginning of the first episode? Emily is supposed to be the heroine, but her pursuit of revenge (hence the show's title) is not praiseworthy.

This show would really suffer beyond a single season. And if the season-ending cliff-hanger is "Who shot the guy from Episode 1?", then the 22 episodes of the first season would have been totally pointless. When I start back up having things to do, this show might fall by the wayside. Until then, though, we'll continue watching.

Rent Capture and Government

What explains a graph like this?

Station domination is blanketing a Metro station with your ads. It is nearly four times as expensive to dominate Capitol South as Metro Center or Union Station, even though Metro Center is a larger station (four lines instead of two) and Union Station has the most traffic of all the stations in the system (Metro Center is second; Capitol South is 29th).

As government has patronage to disperse, securing that patronage becomes very valuable. Capitol South is used by representatives, and they have trillions of dollars to spend. In 1794 James Madison wrote, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." Yet the extent to which it happens is shown by how much advertising costs at Capitol South and Pentagon.

My Nine-Year-Old Has Outgrown Class Envy

A RANDOM STRANGER: Imagine there was a law that said every millionaire has to give $10,000 to everyone who's not a millionaire.

CRAZY JANE: That would be awesome.

ARS: No, it would be stealing.

CJ: Well, not if the millionaire wanted to do it.

ARS: If he wanted to do it, you wouldn't need a law.

CJ: True.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why Wouldn't One of Newt Gingrich's Wives Want an Open Marriage?

Let's say someone comes up to you and says, "Imagine you're married and your spouse asks you for an open marriage. Would you say yes?" Your first response should be, "It depends; who's my spouse in this hypothetical situation?" And if the questioner says, "Oh, I don't know, let's say Newt Gingrich," there's only one appropriate response: "Of course." Because otherwise you've got to be monogamous with Newt Gingrich.

Two other quick notes about Newt Gingrich: I just found out yesterday that his first name is Newton. Why has he been hiding that? That makes him somewhat more likable. Newt is an amphibian, Newton is a genius from history. Get that information OUT there, Gingrich aides!

Secondly, I follow a blog with daily rambling, semi-coherent posts (which differs from this blog in that this blog doesn't quite update daily). In a post entitled, "Newt Gingrich is unfit for high office," the blogger writes:

Because I consider Gingrich to be a liar and a cheat, and President Obama to be out of his depth intellectually, and out of position in political space, should Gingrich be chosen by the GOP as its candidate for November 2012, this column will go silent on the presidential election. An electorate that sets up such a dreadful competition simply deserves what it gets.
I will make no such vow. Prepare for an election season filled with the blogging equivalent of banging my head against a wall (which, in the blogging world, is called "posting").

Pear: the Iconoclast's Apple

Did I mention that we're eating a little more healthful* lately? Well, we are.

What this means is that I have been having a pear with cheese for lunch. I could just as easily be eating an apple, except that I'm not. I'm eating a pear. Because I'm just that cool.

Really, what is a pear but a way to get attention while eating an apple? You walk down the street past a guy eating an apple and you think nothing, but change that apple to a pear and your mind is blown. "What the crap?!" you say to yourself. You possibly even say it out loud; that's just how much your paradigm has been shifted. You are, in a word, completelyblownaway.

*: Ah, "healthful," the word most people want when they use "healthy." Healthy food is food that has no diseases, like a carrot that passed its last physical. Healthful food is food that contributes to the health of its eater, like a healthy carrot.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Newt Gingrich Is Terrible

Two recent things about Gingrich show him completely unsuitable for his party's nomination. One is his decision to attack Bain Capital as a capitalist parasite. As Ron Paul said of those making such attacks, "I think they’re totally misunderstanding the way the market works. They are either just demagoguing or they don’t have the vaguest idea how the market works.” So is Gingrich a demagogue or an idiot? Neither is a trait desired in a president.

Gingrich's attacks show either a Communist's understanding of market economics or a desire to win at all costs. Given Gingrich's other pro-capitalist statements during the campaign, we're left to conclude it's the latter. But why is he so committed to winning the nomination? I can think of two reasons: megalomania, or principled defense.

Gingrich's all-in fight for a nomination he won't win is the second problem. If Mitt Romney were really going to destroy the country, then it would be important to oppose him at all costs. But for Gingrich to be mounting a principled defense, there must be evidence that Romney is, in fact, going to destroy the country. And what evidence is there? The only substantive difference between the two is that Romney supports a state-based government health insurance scheme while Gingrich does not. That's hardly "destruction of America" territory.

Gingrich has not made an overt Huckabee-style attack on Mormonism, nor had operatives make a covert Perry-style attack, but it's hard to see what there is about Romney that's so important to defeat if it's not his religion.

I understand that a lot of politics is personal, even at the national level. Sometimes a guy runs for president only because he hates the other guy who's running. (Elton Gallegly's fake 2006 retirement and then reelection in 2008 certainly seems like the actions of a guy who didn't want to be replaced by Tony or Audra Strickland.) Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign could have used the slogan "I dislike Michele Bachmann." (It could have used a lot more than that, but that would have been a start.) Orrin Hatch basically concedes in his book Square Peg that he ran for president in 2000 because George W. Bush didn't seem like a serious candidate to him. But if Gingrich is conducting such a scorched-earth campaign against Romney simply because of personal differences, then he truly is driven by megalomania.

Bigotry, demagoguery, and hubris. These are the foundations of the Gingrich campaign. Gingrich is a terrible candidate because he is incapable of lasting the entire campaign without saying something destructive. He will try to make a nuanced argument for some controversial position to show he is smarter than most of the talking heads out there, and the result will be an Obama landslide. Just look at how regularly he's made a sound byte out of opposing the Tea Party. Gingrich thinks he's the most wonderful man around, and he brooks no dissent on the question. A Gingrich presidency would be like Nixon's third term.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shocking Headlines That Shock

I was worried I wouldn't have anything to blog about today, like yesterday when I didn't get out of my pajamas at all. Thank goodness for ABC News.

Imagine, if you will, a headline proclaiming that I pay rent for a woman and her kids, and that I've never told anyone about it before. Shocking secret family? Or just the most trumped-up spin on my having a family? Here are some other things I do in my life that can be made to sound scandalous:

  • I've fathered children in several states. (All with my wife.)
  • I take drugs. (Advil for headaches.)
  • I get naked in public. (Showering at the gym.)

It's that type of banality that leads ABC News to run an article headlined, "Mitt Romney Sent Millions to Mormon Church." It's called "tithing," and it's only scandalous to people who have no knowledge of religion.

I especially love the idiot commenter who paraphrases the Bible regarding the location of one's treasure showing the desires of one's heart, and then says this article is evidence of Romney's evilness. So the guy gives money to church and he's evil. That logic seems pretty convoluted.

I'm going to spend the rest of the day writing scandalous headlines about my everyday activities. When my parents mail a birthday check for my son and I cash it, I'm laundering money! When I open Taste of Home ads addressed to my wife, I'm tampering with the mail! And of course, I routinely hook up with my high school girlfriend.

Monday, January 16, 2012

e-Confessional

I used to say I liked most music, except for rap and country. But over the past 10 years or so, some aspects of rap have grown on me.

I can appreciate creative rhyme schemes and intricate meter patterns. There are only so many ways you can sing about having sex with fat-bottomed girls (and they were basically all covered by Queen before rap even got around to trying), and since that is the point of most rap songs, most rap songs are crap. But there are other, admittedly rarer, rap songs that deal with some other topic. Unfortunately, most of those are about killing disrespectful people (a topic for which I have much sympathy).

The rap songs that gain my deepest admiration are those which are not just rhythmic braggadocio. For instance: Lose Yourself by Eminem. Yes, I admit that I like that song. What other rapper meticulously details the struggles of his former life not to set off the brilliance of his success, but to show the emptiness of that success? I know there's much to hate about Eminem, but I have to respect any rapper who sings the line, "These [expletive deleted] food stamps won't buy diapers."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Didn't Even Pay Him to Say That

The story we were reading ended with, "Tom has a fat, fat bag!"

JEROME JEROME THE METRONOME: Why did it say "fat" twice?

A RANDOM STRANGER: Sometimes you repeat a word to show you really mean it. Like if I said, "I have a tasty, tasty brownie," it would mean I had a really tasty brownie. Or if I said, "You're a cute, cute kid," it would mean you're a really cute kid.

JEROME: Or like if I said you're an awesome, awesome dad?

Full disclosure: his birthday is less than two weeks away. He might just be angling for a gift upgrade. (It's not too hard to upgrade from "jack squat.")

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Mamas and the Papas: Racists

Broke, busted, disgusted

Asians can't be trusted.

--Creeque Alley, as heard by me.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Secret to a Crossed-Off To-Do List

If you make your time-wasting things be items on the list, you get to cross off a lot of crap. (For instance, this blog post allows me to cross of an item!)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Ones About Me Aren't As Funny

I spent some time the other day browsing the memes at www.quickmeme.com. I laughed a lot, until I came to the Paranoid Parrot. Then I became pensively silent.

I've done the following Paranoid Parrot things:

  • No red underline on long, intricate word: type nonsense to make sure spellcheck's still working
  • Set alarm on phone: check 3 more times to see if it's correct
  • Copies URL to send to friend: check URL in own browser just in case
  • Make tiny mistake at work: assume I'm getting fired
  • Save, hit quit, "unsaved progress will be lost": save again
  • Have tickets to a show: constantly check pocket to make sure they're still there
And that's just from the first page.

The other meme that I can relate to is Scumbag Brain, but that one's not as insulting because it's making fun of my brain, not me.

Mail Bag - Monetary Crank Edition

So Angela writes:

I saw something on the news about a movement to get rid of pennies? any thoughts?
Of COURSE I have thoughts!

This reminds me of when a friend from high school began our Facebook reconnection by asking what I thought about renaming Bombay "Mumbai." He knew most people would say, "Zuh?" but I would not only know what he meant, I would also have a strong opinion.

First with the penny. Yes, there is an argument to retire the penny from circulation. The idea is that prices ending with a 0, 1, or 2 would round down to 0, and prices ending with a 3, 4, or 5 would round up to five. Then the smallest coin needed would be the nickel.

When I first heard about this, I didn't like it. I like exactness, and I had a suspicion that firms with enough resources to spend would find the prices necessary to make things tilt to their advantage. (I still suspect that, actually.) But economically, it is a sound argument and, on balance, I am in favor of it.

Lots of people argue from an efficiency standpoint. We spend time fussing with pennies, and that time is generally worth more than the pennies themselves. We could unilaterally declare that we won't deal in pennies anymore and when enough of us did that, the penny would die a natural death, but we can't do that because we can't force others to round in our favor. I could refuse pennies in my change from Target, but I couldn't short Target a few pennies in my payment.

The better (in my view) argument is related to seigniorage (pronounced like "seniorage"). That's the profit made when the monetary authority takes fewer resources to make the money than the money will buy. So if it takes four cents to make a dollar bill, Treasury earns 96 cents in seigniorage. The biggest problem with the penny is that it costs more than a penny to make one. That's negative seigniorage. To justify continued production, the penny would have to provide more value than this tax we bear to subsidize penny production by the Mint. And given the first argument about efficiency, it's not likely we value the penny enough to continue making it.

Here's the biggest problem with the argument against the penny: it doesn't go far enough. Because the nickel brings negative seigniorage, as well. The smallest-value coin with positive seigniorage is the dime.

Rounding to the nearest dime is probably even scarier than rounding to the nearest nickel. But when the half-penny was retired in 1857, it had more purchasing power than today's dime.

What about legacy? Well, luckily both Lincoln and Jefferson are commemorated elsewhere on money (another reason to start using two-dollar bills!). And I think it would be a fitting tribute to Franklin Roosevelt if the coin bearing his image has become so worthless as to be a suitable stand-in for the penny.

Here are two videos which do an admirable job making the case for the death of the penny. One is more passionate than the other.


Now about Mumbai: totally lame. The British did not rename an existing Indian city, they built their own city and named it Bombay. Go ahead and rename Calcutta "Kolkata," but leave Bombay alone!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Changed Monetary Regime

Shortly before we left California, back when we were making enough money to afford to "eat regularly" and "stay alive," we decided to put $25 each paycheck into our kids' savings accounts. Since that time, we've made progressively less and less money*, and that idea went away. Our kids have money jars now, and each jar contains an I.O.U. from us.

This week we started our kids back up on an allowance. There are both positive and negative aspects to making an allowance a weekly gift, and also of making an allowance wages for chores. We decided to maximize the number of negatives by using a hybrid approach that combines the two.

To prepare for their first payment, I went to the bank and took money out. When I brought it home, Crazy Jane said, "What's that weird money?"

I said, "It's a two-dollar bill."

She said, "There are two-dollar bills?"

My wife asked, "Why did you get two-dollar bills?"

I said, "Because I've decided I'm no longer transacting in dollar bills. I'm only using two-dollar bills and dollar coins."

Crazy Jane incredulously asked, "Really?"

My wife laughed and said, "This is like when we started dating again and you told me you didn't buy anything made in China, and I thought, 'Good luck with that.'"

I said, "It was still possible to do back then."

Crazy Jane said, "You could do it now. You just wouldn't own very much stuff."

*: Just for fun, here are our reported Adjusted Gross Income figures since we got married:

  • 2001: $X
  • 2002: 1.40 x $X
  • 2003: 1.50 x $X
  • 2004: 1.56 x $X
  • 2005: 0.91 x $X
  • 2006: 1.08 x $X
  • 2007: 1.13 x $X
  • 2008: 1.09 x $X
  • 2009: 0.77 x $X
  • 2010: 0.21 x $X

We're livin' the dream!

(Of course, those are nominal figures. Correcting for inflation, 2010 is 0.17 x $X.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pet People

By normal standards, I might think of myself as a "pet person." I like animals and don't look down on people who have pets. Of course, some people are pretty over-the-top about it, but often they are just people with insufficient human relationships who are filling that void with a pet, and I don't fault anyone for wanting to be happy.

However, comma, there are those whose committment to pets undermines their committment to humanity. And this type of nihilism is shocking and unsettling. I worked with a man once who said, "If I was driving a car and I had to decide between running over a guy or running over a dog, and I was reasonably sure I wouldn't get in trouble, I'd run over the guy. No doubt about it."

I worked with a woman who supports Peter Singer's idea that infanticide is not so bad, but also supports the idea of capital punishment for animal abusers. When she heard of a coworker's friend in an abusive relationship, her only concern was for that woman's dog.

Some seemingly-not-stupid people called for the execution of Michael Vick. (Many of these people also have a problem with causing mental distress to extract life-saving information from terrorists.) Dennis Prager writes, "For 30 years, I have asked high school seniors throughout America which they would save first, their dog or a stranger. In every instance (except come religious schools), one third have voted to save their dog, one third for the stranger, and one third just didn't know" (Washington Times National Weekly Edition, May 12-18, 2003). This despite the fact that Robin Hanson argues pretty effectively this week that those who say they wouldn't take a million dollars to kill their pet are lying. Our pets don't matter that much to us, but other people might matter even less.

Here's the story of a woman who spent $50,000 to have South Korean scientists clone her dead dog. Meanwhile, people near her live without reliable food and shelter.

Unlike statists, I don't respond to a story of profligacy by a call to expropriate her resources. Yes, it is her money to spend how she wants. But how she wants to spend her money shows a basic flaw in her humanity. Keynesian economics would say it doesn't matter what she spent the money on, the important thing is that it's spent. Rational humanity says her inability to cope with her dog's mortality has contributed to the unpleasantness of the lives of other humans whose plights she apparently doesn't even acknowledge worthy of her consideration.

Monday, January 09, 2012

If We Don't Over-React, the Terrorists Win

I returned books to my college library today. I tried to return them last week, but the campus was closed and there is no book drop. This was the fourth time I've been stymied by a non-existent book drop. So today I asked the librarian, "Does this library have a book drop?"

"No," she said, "not since 9/11."

?!?

Seriously, the response to airplanes hitting buildings is to make library books harder to return? If we're just going to start getting rid of things terrorists might target, we'll destroy our civilization for them. (Of course, when it comes to our freedoms they hate so much, we've already made a lot of headway with this approach.)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

God Isn't an ARS Fan

We came home from church and checked the Steelers score. They were winning, 6-0. Then while I watched the online ticker feed, the Broncos scored 20 points. I closed the computer, ate dinner with my family, and read a church book. When I next checked the score, the Steelers had tied the game at 23. While I watched the feed again, on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, the Broncos won the game.

This is the most effective lesson I've ever had on keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Taking Care Without Caring

Our ward has the ability to do nice things for us while acting like they don't care at all. It's frustrating. I want to be grateful for the kindness they show, but they show it in the most impersonal way. I know grumbling about how someone does you a favor is unbecoming, but maybe they wouldn't have to do so many favors if they treated me like a person.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Verb Transitivity in Song Lyrics

I'm not very imaginative in my post titles so far this year. This blog post promises to deliver a discussion of verb transitivity in song lyrics, and that's exactly what it's going to do.

I'm all for poetic license, but not for poetic ignorance, or poetic laziness. Feel free to misconjugate a verb if it fits your rhythm or meter better, but don't use the wrong verb for no real reason at all.

I knew that you were the truth

I would rather lose

Than to have never lain beside at all.

This correct use of the past participle of the intransitive verb "to lie" comes from the Death Cab For Cutie song "What Sarah Said."

If I lay here

If I just lay here

Would you lie with me

And just forget the world?

This ambiguous verb usage comes from the Snow Patrol song "Chasing Cars." If he's using "lay" as the present-tense form of the transitive verb "to lay," it's wrong. If he's using "lay" as the simple-past of the intransitive verb "to lie," it's right. Which do you think he's doing?

Replacing all forms of "to lie" with a different verb, like "to stay," produces this:

If I stayed here

If I just stayed here

Would you stay with me

And just forget the world?

Nothing wrong here. So I am willing to give Snow Patrol the benefit of the doubt because they are British subjects, and everybody knows all British people speak impeccable English.

Next we have a children's rhyme.

Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

Correct. Since the person is laying himself down, the transitive verb it right.

Lay, lady, lay

Lay across my big brass bed.

Bob Dylan, the oft-mentioned Nobel nominee, is wrong. However, one could argue that the alliterative use of long-A sounds was a desired effect, and so poetic license gives justification.

This blog post was every bit as worthless as its title led you to believe.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Pinterest

I don't know what to make of Pinterest. I'm not even talking about what other people use it for; I'm in no position to tell if it's escapism or bragging or some of both. I just wish I knew what I should do with it.

One method is to use it as a wish list, but I'm trying to break my attachment to material things, not strengthen it. Yeah, mansions look awesome, but there's something wrong with me as long as I keep wanting to live in a mansion while others don't.

Another method I don't want to use is to pin desserts. That can't be helpful to anyone. I'm not incredibly out of shape, but I can stand to improve. Spending all day looking up new uses for cream cheese isn't going to help with that.

I had been limiting myself to dinners and not-too-outlandish bookcases (we have a lot of books). But one of the things we're going to try to do this year is eat somewhat healthier meals. We're not looking for a drastic change, but Pioneer Woman recipes with eight egg yolks, a quart of heavy whipping cream, or two sticks of butter should be abandoned. If I can't pin dinners anymore, that leaves me just bookcases. There are only so many different ways to position books and I think I've seen just about all of them. Now all that's left to do on Pinterest is guess if the other users are escapists or braggarts.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Vinyl Lettering

Vinyl lettering is over-rated. (That's going to be the text of the first vinyl lettering work I commission.) Not every quote is worthy of a vinyl lettering job. (That's going to be Commission #2.)

I browse Pinterest and see just about everything commemorated in vinyl, including instructions for entering the shower: "Get naked." Are there Pinterest users out there having trouble remembering that one? It's not worthy of vinyl lettering in the bathroom. Now, right inside your front door, THAT's where that quote would deserve a vinyl lettering job.

A few nights ago we finished our couple scripture reading with Moses 3:25 ("And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed"). I said, "I'm going to make a cross-stitch of that to hang in our house." My wife said, "You should get it in vinyl lettering instead." I said, "I'd have to get [Personal Friend] to do all our PG-13 lettering instead of [Former Relief Society President]."

I know this makes me sound like I'm anti-vinyl-lettering. I'm not. I'm anti-stupid-people-running-loose-with-vinyl-letters. I feel the same way about chalkboard paint: not everything is made better with a coat of chalkboard paint. (For instance: a baby.) There are places where it is cool and useful to be able to write with chalk, but those places should constitute the minority of household surfaces, not the majority of them.

People who go nuts with vinyl lettering and chalkboard paint seem like kindred spirits with the people who get tons of meaningless tattoos, like misspelled lines from "House." When a religious prohibition keeps you from getting "You the man now, dog" tattooed on your neck, you do the next-best thing and vinyl letter it on your stairwell wall.

NOTE: The tattoo connection has reminded me that you people have not come through with information about the girl with the giant Marilyn Monroe tattoo on her upper arm. Ask around; I can almost guarantee you know a lady who knows a lady who knows her.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Year's Eve Biathlon

This New Year's we were visiting my sister's family in Richmond again, so my brother-in-law and I ran in the Resolution Run four-mile race again. And since cross-training and muscle confusion are the new hawtness (unlike the phrase "new hawtness," which is as broke and busted as "broke and busted"), we changed a tire in the dark on the side of the freeway.

Here's some free advertising for all car manufacturers who aren't Audi: don't buy an Audi. Because the wheel doesn't fit onto bolts attached to the car, but rather has the bolts attached to the lug nuts*. This means you have to manually align the wheel to the rim yourself, with the wheel blocking your view. Then, because this is too easy, they complicate things by machining ten holes in the rim, but only threading five of them. Amazingly, the car that lost its tire driving down my street last week was NOT an Audi.

We started the race 11 minutes late. Then with all the pressure of "ahh, we're late!" we went out too fast for a comfortable run. (At least I did. My brother-in-law was probably going half-speed.)

One thing that's nice about starting a race 11 minutes late: nobody passes you. And another thing that's nice: you get to discount the results as much as you want. So I finished at 47 minutes, but my brain said, "If I'd started on time, I probably would have won my age group." (Actually, 36 minutes moves me from 14th in my age group to 11th. But don't tell my brain that.)

Last year I was dead last in my age group at 41 minutes. I think the math is pretty clear: each 11 minutes of delay results in five minutes of time reduction. Next year I'm starting 79 minutes late and finishing in under six seconds. It'll be a new PR!

* lug nuts (n): car equipment for holding on tires. (v): what I do when I walk around. (That joke was worth the wait!)