Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Don't Hate Greg Proops, But I Hate Everything He Does

About once a week, Yahoo tricks me into clicking on a link to watch "Odd News." Unlike great Yahoo shows--such as "Daytime in No Time" and "Prime-time in No Time"--this show is terrible because it features either Greg Proops or a black guy who's director said, "Just act like Greg Proops."

I don't know Greg Proops. I'm sure he's got a lot of friends and family who love him. I'm sure he is a decent human being. But I cannot stand his comedic persona. It's the equivalent of listening to Cher sing "Moves Like Jagger" while accompanied by Insane Clown Posse.

In preparation for this post (because my readers expect only the bset, and that is exactly what I deliver), I found out from Proops's Wikipedia page that he's the actor behind that terrible race announcer in The Phantom Menace. It takes a lot to qualify as the worst part of that movie (Jar Jar, trade federation dudes, pedophilia), but the announcer takes the title going away.

I'm torn: can I wish Proops well, given that his chosen profession is to make me see and listen to him? This isn't like he's a tire fitter in the Cotswolds and he can have a fulfilling life without ever bothering me again. Every time he succeeds in life, my life becomes less enjoyable. I guess the charitable thing to do would be to give up things Proops wants to try. I don't have to check Yahoo news anymore; it's just something I got in the habit of doing in September 2001 because my work computer's browser was set to have a Yahoo homepage. But I'd much prefer Proops took up an interest in a different line of work, one that didn't involve broadcasting his voice to all and sundry.

Poop in the Streets and It's Up to My Ankles

Jim Morrison will forgive the paraphrase.

Our landlord's father-cum-handyman was notified early Monday afternoon that we had a sewage backup affecting the back porch and the floor drain in the utility room. Late Monday he called to tell me to keep an eye on it. Tuesday at noon I called and his wife said he'd call me when he got back between 2 and 3, which he didn't. I called him again at 4:30 so something would happen before the end of the business day. He acted annoyed by my badgering and lined up a plumber to come by "either today or tomorrow." It's now noon the next day and no one has been by or called.

We're supposed to pay rent on Friday. Our state allows for paying rent to an escrow account when the landlord fails to make necessary repairs. Anyone who knows how to go about doing this, leave a comment and I'll see it, but not publish it to the blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Achievements in Plumbing

Ancient Romans had indoor plumbing. In the Great Brain book series, the Fitzgeralds had a water closet in rural Utah over 100 years ago. So I guess I'm a little behind-the-times now that our toilet flushes to our back porch and I have to wait for Target to open to use the restroom.

When you own property, how long after your tenant tells you "sewage is coming into the house" do you come around to take a gander? If you answered "24 hours and counting," you must have read the same property management books our landlord read. In which case, you might also easily-exposed wiring and impossible-to-close master bedroom doors are good ideas, as well. In fact, they aren't.

It's looking like we're going to make a family trip to Target when the kids get ready for bed.

Monday, May 28, 2012

So It Begins

Crazy Jane, my almost-ten-year-old daughter: "I didn't want to wake up because I was having a good dream."

A Random Stranger: "What was your dream about?"

Crazy Jane: "A boy was taking me to a Valentine's dance."

A Random Stranger: "Which boy?"

Crazy Jane: "Just an imaginary one."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Getting the Name Right

I wish all these news stories about Levi Johnston being broke would use the name "Ricky Hollywood" in the headline. I mean, why do we even have the name Ricky Hollywood?!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Morning Limbo

I've started our kids on an earlier schedule, partly to help them fall asleep better at night, and partly because I'm a jerk. But their schoolteacher (a.k.a. my wife) is pregnant, so she gets to sleep as late as she wants. The result: lots of early-morning sitting around.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Nibley Quote of the Day

"Darwin gave the blessing of science to men who had been hoping and praying for holy sanction to an otherwise immoral way of life. Malthus had shown that there will never be enough lunch for everybody, and therefore people would have to fight for it; and Ricardo had shown by his Iron Law of Wages that those left behind and gobbled up in the struggle for lunch had no just cause for complaint." - Approaching Zion, p. 206.

What's the Matter With California?

Um, everything?

I once read Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas?, wherein his answer appears to be, "Kansans disagree with me because they're too stupid to see I'm right." To pad it out to book length, he then spent 200 pages apologizing for being from Kansas. This is the type of intellectual rigor required to wrangle a book deal these days.

My mother- and father-in-law just finished a visit from California. They seemed to be a little upset when I said, "We will never again live in California. Ever."

Whence my refusal to return? I have three reasons: political, cultural, and economic.

The political reason is well-summarized here by Californian economist David Henderson. Writing of the legislature's pursuit of destructive policies, he notes

They don't seem to be restrained by the worry that many of the most-productive people will leave and are leaving the state. You can attribute this simply to ideology, and I'm sure that's an element. But I also think one of the Democrats' goals is to reduce the population of potential anti-Democrat voters so that their majority is assured.
I don't want to live where my government is always wrong.

How is this not the Frank "they're too stupid" argument? Well, I'm not saying the legislators or their constituents are enacting wrong policies because they're too stupid to see they won't work. I'm saying they are enacting wrong policies because they are pursuing the wrong ends, and they're pursuing those ends because they have wrong ideas of freedom, equality, and responsibility. Freedom cannot be curtailed when you don't like what I do with it, equality of opportunity does not produce equal outcomes, and only the individual can be responsible for his own actions. Most Californians don't agree, so I've decided not to live near them anymore.

The cultural reason is the combination of materialism, vanity, selfishness, and busy-body-ness that is the typical Californian's mindset. We did not want to raise our children where life centers on what you have and how much of it you are getting. This is something I don't think you can really see clearly until you've been away. We had a suspicion before we left, but now on subsequent visits we are amazed at the extent. I saw a preschooler's birthday party at a mid-level restaurant where velour-tracksuited mothers covered in makeup brought their velour-tracksuited daughters covered in makeup and all the gifts were clothing and accessories. My sister-in-law's church congregation is full of women who've had breast augmentation. My brother-in-law's church friends are constantly buying cabins, boats, cars, trailers, or electronic equipment. I am struggling to adopt a Zion mentality and to help my children learn the proper attitude toward money and things. There is no way they would be able to learn this in California.

The economic reason is that it's so expensive to live there, even when you live in less-desirable parts of the state. And even if I could afford to live there, would that be the best use of my resources? How could I justify doubling my cost of living when there are poor and needy Americans all around me? "Well, the weather's always nice." Is that really reason enough to indulge my pride and vanity?

I know our California family thinks they'd like it if we lived closer, and I'm willing to move to some truly awful places to make that happen (Las Vegas, Phoenix, even Utah), but--short of a burning bush commanding me to return--I will never live in California again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Great Moments in Christian Commercialization

We saw a truck for a plumbing outfit called "Master's Touch Sprinkler Company." Their logo features Jesus wielding a pipe wrench.

I am willing to bet these folks are devout Christians, so why are they making a mockery of the Savior? Most Christians take the symbol of the cross quite seriously; here it's a cartoon of a pipe assembly. And why? To get more money. If one of Peter's gatekeeping questions is, "How much money did you make out of mocking the crucifixion?", I would think most Christians would want to be able to answer, "None."

Cheeky

My mother sent me an e-mail yesterday. The subject was "New Properties!!!" I thought, "This looks like her account's been hacked." The body of the e-mail read, "Hello, Check out this properties [sic], CLICK HERE. and log in with your email." I thought, "Yep, her account's been hacked." So I sent her an e-mail that read, "I got a spam message from you. You might want to check that out."

But here's what separates the chaff e-mail hackers from the wheat ones, if you will. I got a reply that read, "I sent it to you..[sic]Check it out"

That's right: e-mail hacking is lucrative enough to warrant personalized follow-up.

What's the deal with malevolent e-mailers tipping their hands with terrible grammar? How big of an idiot do you have to be to get tricked by this? My mother does not 1) use three exclamation points at a clip, 2) start e-mails with "Hello", 3) confuse "this" with "these", 4) send a link called "CLICK HERE" (or even know how to send a link called anything but the URL), or 5) fail to capitalize at the beginning of a sentence. It's almost like the hacker is absolving himself of blame by making it obvious, like the Craigslist property scams that include three paragraphs about how they're leaving the house because they are going to do missionary work in Africa.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Saving

Since my declaration earlier this year that I was done dealing with dollar bills, I've had to decide what to do with the dollar bills I receive as change at the store. It turns out treating them like coin change (putting them in a large jar) is a really effective way to save quite a bit of money. When the time came to buy an air mattress for camping, the dollar bills from the change jar were more than enough cash.

The amount we save will only increase as we transition to more cash purchases over the summer, which is a goal of mine. This plan basically rounds all prices to the next five-dollar-increment and places the difference into savings. The only problem is that I have to take the dollar bills to the bank to get rid of them. I'm trying to kill the dollar bill, here, not save money.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mail Bag, Sister Wives Edition

JT writes:

I've tried to make this argument a number of times. People just don't like it, even if it is very logical. Kudos to you for giving voice to this permanently on the interwebs.
I find it curious that the general public would have less of a problem with me having a live-in mistress than they'd have with me having a second wife.

As Steven Landsburg writes in The Armchair Economist,

In fact, the antipolygamy laws are a textbook example of the theory of cartels. Producers, initially competitive, gather together in a conspiracy against the public or, more specifically, against their customers. They agree that each firm will restrict its output in an attempt to keep prices high. [p. 170]
Women are hurt by polygamy bans and men are helped.

Most people would say this is crazy talk. These are the people who like to ignore logic. Removing choices doesn't help people (unless you subscribe to the condescending argument that people need limited options to be happy).

Lots of anti-polygamy arguments are actually anti-forced-polygamy arguments. But even when a fully-informed, rational adult woman would have a non-religion-based preference to become a plural wife, nearly every American would want to block her choice.

I think most of this is driven by women who already have their husbands (or expect to have theirs some day) and don't want to share. But I don't think that would ever happen. Like all binding contracts, a marriage contract could not be unilaterally replaced. I've agreed with my wife to have only her as a spouse, and should I want a second wife, I'd have to get her approval or I'd be in violation of our agreement. I would not be able to just show up at home with a friend from the office and say, "I've got a big announcement: you've now got a sister wife!"

I expect to get in trouble at home for this post, since my wife has a primal hatred of polygamy. When we have this discussion, she thinks I'm laying the ground-work for that swinging lifestyle I've secretly always wanted. All I'm saying is that other people might prefer an arangement they're being kept from. I know there's a gay-marriage application to this argument, but I don't feel like getting into that right now. Maybe later this week.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Virility

This man has it.

Interesting note: Desmond Hatchett has 30 children with 11 different women. (You know you've got a lot of baby-mamas when proper copy style requires using numerals.) But 30 children with 11 different women, and the reporter notes, "The state cannot order Hatchett to stop making babies. He hasn't broken any laws, according to the report."

Brigham Young's Wikipedia article notes, "By the time of his death, Young had 56 children by 16 of his wives...." And we all know how America feels about him.

Polygamy routinely polls very poorly (seven percent think it's fine, while 92 percent say it's wrong). On what basis? Isn't polygamy preferable to what's going on with Desmond Hatchett?

Quite an Assumption

Walter Shapiro wrote this Yahoo article entitled "Advice to would-be Romney running mates: run for the hills." And why does Shapiro offer this advice? "The modern history of what happens to losing vice presidential nominees is enough to make any politician recoil in horror."

Isn't it a little early to call this assumed Romney defeat? Romney has made statistically-significant gains with women voters after a solid month of Obama's "war on women" talking point. If Obama can't win women, he can't win at all.

Four years ago the nation wanted a president of symbolism; they were electing a representation of their virtuous fairness. Now they've realized that the last four years would have been better with an actual president. Perhaps instead Shapiro should have written of the political fortunes of defeated Veeps (Nelson Rockefeller, Walter Mondale, Dan Quayle) and how Joe Biden will fit in that group.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I'm Ruining My Wife's Life

At least according to a Gallup news story cited by Will Wilkinson.

However, low-income stay-at-home moms do worse on all of these items than their employed counterparts. These moms — with annual household incomes of less than $36,000 — are less likely than employed moms at this income level to say they smiled or laughed a lot or experienced happiness or enjoyment “yesterday.” They are also slightly less likely to say they learned something interesting.
Well, at least she homeschools, so maybe that helps her learn something interesting sometimes.

Just more evidence that my family would be happier if I was not so poor.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Great Moments in Air-Quotes "Training"

Jerome Jerome the Metronome was trying to convince us to allow him to eat chocolate candies and applesauce at the same time. We told him, "It might be gross if you eat your applesauce with that." Articulate Joe said in a blasé voice, "I prefer to eat my applesauce with a [air-quotes] 'spoon.'"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Austerity Is the Symptom, Not the Problem

There's a fake debate going on in the world of economics. It sounds like this: should we have austerity or more government spending? Austerity (which is defined by most users in this debate as "less government spending than I want) is said to cause recessions, and these recessions are said to be especially tragic because they are completely avoidable. If only the fiscal authority spent more money, the story goes, things would be much better.

Where does government get money to spend? It takes it through taxes or it borrows it to cover deficits. If government is not spending "enough," that means one of three things is happening:

  1. Government is not taxing enough.
  2. Government is not borrowing enough.
  3. Government is running up surpluses.
In every modern instance under discussion (Spain, Greece, Britain, the U.S., Lithuania) the government is not hoarding cash, so we can ignore the third option. But which of 1 and 2 is going on?

If the government isn't taxing enough, we are saying that government spending a dollar is somehow better for the economy than a private individual spending the same dollar. This is nonsense. Once the dollar is spent, it is circulating. If the dollar is not spent, it's saved, and once it's saved, it is circulating. No one saves cash in a mattress these days.

Taking the money for the government to spend it is said to be better if the government spends it on "better" things. Imagine a country where 90% of the people are construction workers and 10% are financiers. Government commissioning building projects would get money to a bigger group of people. (Again, this is untrue because private saving would become construction investment, but I'm trying to outline the logic for stimulus and that's hard since stimulus is illogical.)

Taxes distort economic activity as people seek to avoid them. Stimulus further distorts economic activity as the government spends on things that pass through the political process, not on the nation's most-pressing needs. Distorted economic activity is waste. Advocating waste as a means to solvency is foolish.

The argument for higher taxes then becomes one of class warfare, since most people don't want to raise their own taxes. Sure, there's the occasional Slate columnist, but that's more socialism-chic, pretending to be rich enough and socially-responsible enough to ask to pay higher taxes. But most people in this camp are charlatans, like Warren Buffett, who advocates a higher tax on millionaires while personally using every possible tax break to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. It's good political theater, but it's completely lacking in substance; after all, the government doesn't refuse contributions. If Buffett wants to pay higher taxes, he need only write a bigger check.

The second possibility is that the government isn't borrowing enough, and this is the fake debate. We hear that the Spanish government is foolishly causing a recession by not spending enough, and if taxes aren't supposed to be raised, then borrowing must go up. But borrowing caused the problem. The government can't spend anymore because it can't borrow anymore, because it borrowed too much in the past and has no hope of paying it back. Austerity isn't causing a recession, it's the result of one.

Borrowing costs are too high for Greece, Spain, or Italy to spend their way out of the problem. In the U.S. borrowing costs remain lower, but the future looks very Hellenic if we continue adopting stimulus packages. This is the basis of the Ryan budget: we can't spend our way out of this recession because we will be the next Greece, completely unable to borrow.

U.S. government debt can become comparatively less attractive if other stable governments appear better-poised to repay their borrowing. This is already happening as Standard & Poor's lowered the rating on U.S. government debt. The president's response was simply platitudes ("we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country") and demagoguery ("a refusal to put what’s best for the country ahead of self-interest or party or ideology"). That's not a solution that lowers borrowing costs.

Greek austerity is being shown to be terrible for the people. (Greek voters suspect default would be not as bad, but E.U. leaders disagree.) The David Cameron/Paul Ryan budgets aren't supposed to be pleasant, but they are less destructive than the Greek experience. American austerity isn't designed to end a recession, it's designed to prevent a cataclysm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Terrible Idea Whose Time Has Not Come

I can't find the words to express just how completely stupid "Mormon prom" is. But since words are the juice powering my blog, I'll give it a try.

When I was in high school, I went to regular prom. Between the requisite alcohol abuse and sexual activity, I'm surprised I had time to even dance. Oh, no, wait. I forgot that--like the rest of life--I didn't have to do anything at prom that I didn't want to do.

How is it that the homeschooling parent is the one who thinks regular prom is fine, while the parents who daily send their kids to the juvenile-hall/re-education-camp with no qualms are the ones who have a sudden change of heart when sequins and boutineers get involved? Maybe they're concerned Mormonism was being too widely accepted among their children's peers, so they developed this ingenius way to ensure their kids will never be accepted again. Well, mission accomplished! Nothing makes a religion appear more fringe than being the only one not at a school-sanctioned party.

"But, A Random Stranger, we're supposed to be a peculiar people!" Peculiar isn't a synonym for weird. This isn't allowing your differences to be seen and appreciated, this is creating a difference that will be misunderstood and become a barrier to future dialogue.

And it's a created difference, too. Our church opposes alcohol and drug use and extra-marital sex. It does not opposed fancy dress, dancing, or having a fun time with your friends. Those are all the invented prohibitions of the idiot adults who think Mormon prom is a great idea.

I know prom can be an exercise in hedonism, if you allow it. I don't see how Mormon prom keeps you from it. Does the girl not get a fancy dress? (No, she does.) Does the guy not rent a fancy suit? (No, he does.) Do the participants ride to the event in their friend's minivan instead of a limousine? (That's how I took my wife to regular prom.) You don't have to be more materialistic than you want to be. If your kids have a problem with worldliness, why not fix the problem instead of driving away the symptoms?

Here are the possible benefits from Mormon prom I can see.

  1. The kids are never outside Mormon adult supervision.

    If your kids can't be trusted to be out on their own for a night, you've done a terrible job raising your kids, and instead of correcting the problem, this just allows you to ignore the issue.

  2. It creates an environment where kids who wouldn't otherwise be included can be included.

    So it's not an exercise in overcoming the allure of worldly activity, but an affirmation of that allure? It's sort of like a United Order for popularity: none of you can be more accepted than the least-accepted among you.

  3. Proms will become morally/physically dangerous in the future and this is an inspired effort to avoid that.

    Think of these Mormon prom kids as Noah's shipbuilders. They look foolish, until the rain starts!!!! But (as far as I know) Mormon prom is not the inspired creation of church general authorities, it's the "good idea" of busy-body locals. It would be no different from local leaders trying to get your kids to not wear shorts. We have "For the Strength of Youth" and general authorities and the Holy Ghost. We don't need Mormon prom.

Maybe there are other reasons I don't see, but based on these few arguments, Mormon prom is still a terrible idea to me.

Last general conference, Boyd K. Packer had this awesome quote: "Too often someone comes to me and says, 'President Packer, wouldn’t it be nice if...?' I usually stop them and say no, because I suspect that what follows will be a new activity or program that is going to add a burden of time and financial means on the family." [source] Mormon prom seems like exactly this idea, especially when attendance is compulsory, as it was for my underclassman nephew, who was assigned an underclassman date. It wasn't like she was a senior who was going to miss "her" prom; the leaders just wanted two more people at their event so it didn't seem so lame, so they required my nephew to attend.

No amount of requirements can cover up just how terrible an idea Mormon prom is.

Monday, May 14, 2012

If I Graded Them on Their Common Sense, They'd All Fail

So I turned in final grades for the semester now, which means I should be just a few hours away from my first complaint. Actually, I had my first real complaint a couple days ago, before the student even knew what to complain about.

The evening after the final exam, I got an e-mail explaining how an F would really mess up this student's life, so I should not give him an F if he earned one. The good news (in terms of limiting my hassle) is that the student passed the class. But I thought it was especially nervy to make a case not of the "I didn't earn an F" variety, but of the "ignore that F I earned" type.

Two other students baffled me, as well. One was set to pass the class quite easily until three weeks ago when he stopped attending. I don't really know how you expect to not fail when you don't take a final exam worth 40% of the grade. The other student missed a midterm exam and only attempted half the questions on the final, but still seemed to think he had a shot at passing.

I thought, "I gave you all a syllabus; you should know you have no chance of passing." But then, maybe he's just terrible at math. Or he's a Lloyd Christmas optimist ("So you're saying there's a chance!").

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Animals Aren't That Creepy

Lately I've seen a bumper sticker around town: "Animals are little people in fur coats." I tried taking a picture of it today, but I was with my wife's phone and its interface was beyond my ability to comprehend. Just take my word of it: such a sticker exists.

Here's my point: I've seen animals, and I've seen little people in fur coats. And they're not the same.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thrilling Prospects Ahead?

Things might be turning around for me, but if I've learned anything from my past, it's that they often turn right back around again. In which case, Business Insider can write an article like this about me next year.

Nobody's Mentioning That It Doesn't Work

Several places around the Internet you can read about how awesome it is that you can now play Wolfenstein 3D for free in your browser. And if your favorite part of the game experience is running around unable to fire, then you should definitely hook that crap up.

Not one of these articles is noting that the game doesn't work. It's significant that the screen cap from this article features a half-dead-yet-fully-armed player who has run up to a guard but can't do anything else.

All these "articles" just rehash a press release. If you enjoyed Wolfenstein as a kid, this will not be a satisfying experience for you.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Do You Mean "We"?

A joke I once heard: the Lone Ranger and Tonto are riding across the plains. Suddenly a group of angry Indians appear in front of them. They turn their horses around and see another group of angry Indians cutting off their retreat. Quickly they see they are completely surrounded. As the Indians approach, the Lone Ranger asks, "What are we going to do, Tonto?" Tonto slowly backs his horse away and replies, "What do you mean 'we,' White Man?"

A caring person will say, "We have an obligation to the poor," and I'm tempted to ask, "What do you mean 'we'?" I think the different meanings of "we" cause a lot of problems when such statements are made.

If I have blue eyes and you have blue eyes, we have blue eyes, yet my blue eyes are not your blue eyes. My point is maybe clearer when you realize the sentence "we have a house" has a definite meaning, while the sentence "we have houses" is ambiguous. Do we each own our house separately, or do we collectively own more than one house?

I completely agree that we each have a separate obligation to the poor, but I emphatically deny that we have (or even can have) a collective obligation to anyone. In the first case, I must give financial assistance to the poor, answering to my conscience and to God. In the second, we have some joint duty that must be split somehow. We use democracy to do that job, which stands the basis of democracy on its head: now instead of every man a sovereign, each is a slave to his peers.

We cannot respect individual liberty while affirming collective responsibilities. Only by allowing each to bear his responsibility individually are we truly free. Those who have a problem with this will say, "But what if a rich guy doesn't do his part?" It is his right to do or to not do his part. Your question supposes you know his part better than he does, that you have a right to be his father/schoolmaster/God/slave-driver and make him do what you know to be right. Whence comes this right you claim? How does he not have the same right over you?

I submit the rise of this mentality is another byproduct of the loss of religion. If there is no God to fix wrongs in the afterlife, then we have to fix those wrongs now. Otherwise there will be no justice. So we replace justice with public opinion in the defense of justice. Now "right" is whatever most people say it is, and the majority can take the money of the rich to meet our collective obligation.

Mind your own obligations. God will mind the others for you.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Penny Saved

Blogger and influential member of the Pittsburgh twitterati Steve dislikes my support for ending penny production. Here's an article from University of Georgia economist George Selgin about the history of private coinage in Britain.

The more economic history I read, the more I'm dumbfounded that people continue to tolerate government. It ruins everything it tries to do. Everything. Is living without a government really that bad?

Commandment Smörgåsbord

So from Drudge I got routed to a website called Weasel Zippers to read an article about President Obama raffling off shouts out from his Twitter account, and then I saw a link to this article, which contains the following: "Could the Ten Commandments be reduced to six, a federal judge asked Monday."

Just a reminder: the Constitution prohibits the federal government from "establishing" a religion, which in 1789 meant taxing for the benefit of the religion. The Constitution does not create "a wall of separation," nor did it even stop a state from establishing a religion, and a few states continued to do so. Displaying the Ten Commandments does not establish a religion.

I'm not arguing whether or not there should be a wall of separation, I'm just noting one does not exist. If you want one, create one. Just don't pretend one's there when it's not.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

It's a White House Visitor, Not a Choice

What's the White House party line on a fetus? It's a biological mass that the mother can electively remove whenever she wants, like an appendix or a wart. But when it comes to touring the White House, it's a person with its own name and Social Security number.

It seems this policy would be the result of terrorism fears. Maybe that pregnant lady is really just a bomb in a fat suit! (As a man with a pregnant wife, it takes some nerve for me to make the pregnant/fat connection. I'm just saying a fat suit would be a close approximation of the wonderful full-bodied appearance of a pregnant woman.)

Cloning Inflation

Most of the time, we expect technology prices to go down. It's how people used to enjoy a higher standard of living: they made the same amount of money and the things they bought became cheaper.

However, comma, in January I read an article about this woman on Anderson Cooper's show who spent $50,000 cloning her dog. I might have even blogged about it at the time. ["Spanish Flea" plays while I check.] Yep.

Not to be outdone, this couple spent over three times that much for the same service. Maybe their cloned dog has been genetically modified to get the Mississippi leg hound out of him?

I learned so much from this article. To whit:

  • There are enough terrible Americans doing this that there's an entire TLC show about it now.
  • These people thought their dog was immortal? ("We didn't expect him to die.")
  • There are dog-cloning auctions.

Some might say, "It's their money, and if this brings them the most utility, they should be allowed to do it." Of course they should be allowed to do it. What I'm saying is that they are terrible people for getting more utility from a look-alike dog than from alleviating human suffering.

And let's be honest: a look-alike is all they're getting. The things that made their dog's personality were not genetic. I don't deny they had a close connection to their old dog, but if they think their new dog will have the same personality, they don't understand identical twin adoption studies. (There appears to be a slew of things they don't understand; that's just one of them.)

I think there are things I'd like to do if no one found out, and there are fewer things I'd like to do with everyone knowing about them. The fact that these folks have no problem going on TV with their story of vanity and narcissism makes me wonder what they are doing that they're ashamed of. Or maybe they're too highly-evolved to feel shame anymore.

A Different Type of Sex Appeal

Call me old-fashioned, but this ad makes me want to take up coffee drinking.

This Is Exactly How You Do It

Why are the people in infomercials always doing stupid things before the subject product comes along to save the day? An ad for a new car-washing device will start showing a sad and frustrated woman washing her car with a paper towel or a moist towelette, having the thing fall apart on her, and throwing her hands up in despair. This was once parodied on The Simpsons when Troy McClure said that, prior to the advent of Dr. Nick Riviera's Juice Loosener, the only way to get juice from an orange was to crush an unpeeled orange against your eye socket. (The clip is available here in its original Spanish. De nada, amigos.)

If the product is only useful to idiots, well, I was about to say the market will be severely limited, but then I got to thinking about the average American, and now I'm not so sure this isn't the correct marketing strategy. Anyway, here's a picture I took in that hidden gem of all struggling malls, the As Seen on TV store.

Opening clamshell packaging is a struggle for everyone, but who uses his teeth to do it?

Now, I use my teeth for a lot of stuff they're not supposed to do. I even use them as tiny saws, working my incisors back and forth against each other to cut through string. But even I get some scissors* to open a plastic case like this.

I guess a person could use his teeth for this job, but if that's the standard for inclusion in your ad, why don't I see more commercials for crescent wrenches featuring a wrenchless fool working away on a bolt head with his molars? The voice-over would say, "Stop ruining your teeth on those hard-to-reach nuts and bolts!" Then while he rubbed his jaw, a concerned friend will hand the idiot a wrench and the man's face will light up. You would be able to read his thoughts on his face: "Oh, I didn't know!"

*: When I was in Wisconsin, I discovered that people there used "scissors" as a singular noun. Asking for a "pair of scissors" would lead to many jokes about why you needed two of them. Not being a backwoods yokel, I am here using "scissors" in its correct, plural form.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Daddy/Daughter Book Club 2

For our second installment of Daddy/Daughter Book Club, we read The Iliad. I had recently read Rodney Merrill's adult translation, and Crazy Jane read a late-grade-school version by Ian Strachan.

Not much to report from the discussion. We talked about how the pride of Paris, Agamemnon, and Achilles keeps them from correcting the problems they caused. Crazy Jane's take-away? "The Iliad is bloody." Yes, yes it is.

Future book club plans: Beowulf, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Odyssey, Ernest Shackleton, The Canterbury Tales, the Theodosia Throckmorton books, and Dragon Slippers/Dragon's Flight/Dragon Spear.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Not Enough Donuts

I've recently read some articles about how self-checkout lanes at grocery stores will soon go away. That makes me sad. Technological progress is supposed to provide a steady march towards complete isolation; making me again interact with another human where I had once escaped the requirement is a major step backwards.

I went through the self-checkout lane with a box of donuts. Our youngest kid loves donuts. When he was two years old he disappeared during Family Night, only to be found in the kitchen, where he'd dragged a chair over to the counter and eaten parts of four donuts that were supposed to be dessert later. But I think even he would agree I might have been overdoing it.

It turns out when the computer asks for your quantity, it wants you to answer in dozens, not single donuts.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Won't You Take Me To?

I'm pretty sure I haven't already blogged this picture I took on a county trip through North Carolina last fall.

This Morning's Sounds

JEROME (upstairs): Hola, que tal?

ARTICULATE JOE: [silence]

JEROME: Hola, que tal?

ARTICULATE JOE: [silence]

JEROME: Hola, que TAL?!

ARTICULATE JOE: [silence]

JEROME (now downstairs): Hola, Dadda, que tal?

A RANDOM STRANGER: Hola, [Jerome], que tal?

JEROME: Nada. Y tu?

By listening to his older brother and sister, he's even picked up that an appropriate answer to the question "how are you?" is "nothing."

Things I Meant to Blog

I have a folder labeled "blog photos." Not all of them have appeared yet, because I move a picture to the folder and then forget about it. Like this one.

Isn't this the most terrible toy display ever? This isn't an enticement to buy, it's more of an anti-shoplifting warning. "You steal from us, and we'll string up your BABY!"

But seriously, that baby's only $9.99.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Public Mourning

A high school acquaintance recently died. Looking at my Facebook feed, you'd think this guy was everybody's soul mate. He wasn't. He was just a guy who, honestly, bugged a lot of us.

I know it's gauche to speak ill of the dead, but I also think it's unbecoming to excessively laud them. He was just a guy. Maybe his death could be called untimely, but it shouldn't be news to anyone that life is a terminal event.

Am I being terribly callous? When I heard he'd died I thought, "Huh. Well, I wish him well." I didn't wax poetical on shared experiences or decide to gather my friends for declarations of endless love, as many of my Facebook friends have done.

Is this difference entirely the result of a religious perspective? Or has the culture changed to one of ostentatious-yet-superficial mourning, like car-window eulogies? We associate hired grievers with ancient foreign cultures, but will we soon return to it ourselves?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Apt Analogy

According to this news article, Barack Obama was searching for a discription of a boistrous crowd when he wrote one of his two autobiographies, and this was what he came up with:

The audience was mostly black, and everybody was laughing and clapping and hollering like they were in church.
Say no more, Barack. I can totally picture it now. That's exactly what my weekly church experience is like.

Pre-Season NBA Musings

I was all set to write a post about how, as a long-suffering Clippers fan, I was excited for this season. I even went so far as to download a picture for use in said post.

See?

But time got away from me and now we're four days into the playoffs. Whoops.

I'm still excited, though, because the Clips made the playoffs, and won the first game of their opening-round series in a huge comeback. I want to see the Clippers eliminate the Lakers in an all-LA Western Conference Finals. Then I want to see Kobe Bryant enter a long, embarrassing retirement that makes Michael Jordan's look like a stirring success.

I mean, I obviously have a rich fantasy life: I'm a Clippers fan.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012