Friday, August 31, 2012

Four Americans Talking About Sports

Student 1: Who's your coach?

Student 2: We got the coach that was with Swansea last year, but he has a totally different style of football and the team has been playing terribly so far.

Student 1: Well, English teams aren't any good, anyway. Like, if you take a middle-of-the-table English team and put them up against one from Spain, the Spanish team would win. Any Spanish team can beat any English team.

A Random Stranger: Like how Barcelona beat Chelsea. Oh wait, they didn't.

Student 1: Look at the professor, talking European football!

Student 2: Chelsea wasn't the better team, they only won because they put 11 guys in the box.

A Random Stranger: But winning is what makes them the better team. You can say you don't enjoy watching that style of play, but if they won the game playing that way, that made them the better team, since the goal is winning.

Student 1: They got lucky.

Female Student: They won because Fernando Torres scored.

Student 1: Yeah, like six goals in two years.

Female Student: Whatever. He knows when it counts.

A Random Stranger: He picks his spots.

Student 2: Are you only saying that because you think he's cute?

Female Student: Oh, of course. He's the hottest guy in the world. No doubt about it.

Student 2: Chelsea won because they had Drogba.

Student 1: Yeah, and now Drogba's in China.

A Random Stranger: Maybe not for long, though.

Student 2: Look at the professor, talking current football news!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

If I Die Old Bury Me in Cash

This article complains that "Half of Americans die with almost no money." I agree this is a bad thing; we'd be better off if it was all Americans.

What's the point of dying with money? If you die with money, you misjudged how much you were going to need. If you die broke, you planned well. Andrea Coombes of MarketWatch calls this report a "grim finding," but what's grim is wanting more unused resources tied up for no reason while real people could benefit from them right now.

Let's say a retiree can save money and give it to his heirs after his death as an inheritance, or he can give it to them now and die broke. His heirs are best serve by getting the money now. The only reason people don't die broke in greater numbers is that they don't know how long they're going to stay alive. As the inevitable end approaches, seniors should see the writing on the wall and increase their bequests. Doing otherwise is attractive to probate lawyers, but not really to anyone else.

Also, what this article calls "almost no money" is defined as less than $10,000. To retirees who have Social Security checks and possibly pension checks, having $10,000 sitting around is not being "almost broke." If they have no mortgage payments, their regular income can be sufficient for their expenses. Piling up cash would serve no purpose. After all, there's a reason we say "you can't take it with you."

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Math

My wife brought my attention to Chipotle's efforts to kill the penny. In this article, the journalist writes, "As The Consumerist pointed out, rounding to the nearest nickel isn't really a big deal, as long as the restaurant is rounding down. But if it rounds up, you pay extra - even if it's just a penny or two."

If they give you a penny, it isn't a big deal, but if they take a penny, all hell breaks loose!

No, Ann Carrns, what makes it not a "big deal" in either direction is that the two instances offset each other. If the last digit of your bill is a random variable, then rounding 1 and 2 to zero and rounding 3 and 4 to 5 produces no change to your expected welfare after a large number of transactions.

The customer who calls rounding "Chipotle-style math" isn't even ashamed that he would fail the second grade. The Consumerist article notes "no consistent method on behalf of Chipotle," meaning the store isn't cheating on the math in its own favor.

I've written before about eliminating the penny, and noted that no party can unilaterally stop dealing in pennies because the times it's to the party's advantage, it'll look like theft. I'd imagine Chipotle would be okay as long as they post somewhere on the menu board that prices are rounded at the end of the transaction. But in response to the American people being too stupid to understand elementary mathematics, Chipotle has now taken to only rounding down. So dealing with pennies is so costly that the store will take a loss on every transaction to avoid them.

Chipotle needs to not abandon this fight. I've been to a Chipotle and I know it involves a lot of standing in a cattle chute, waiting to order. Along the wall are giant Hustler-style close-ups of burrito ingredients. Replace those with information regarding the utter stupidity of the penny. Educate your customers, don't just feed them, and we can kill the penny together.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In the Twilight of My Years

A RANDOM STRANGER: [internally, while watching Ann Romney's speech] Hey, Ann Romney's kind of cute.

ANN ROMNEY: ...the man I married 43 years ago....

A RANDOM STRANGER: [internally] She's got to be in her sixties! Man, I'm getting old!

Yea for Clothes!

So I was walking around today, having this train of thoughts. "It would be weird if we could see what it was like way back before people wore clothes, when everyone was just going about their business naked. But it wouldn't look the same as if everyone went around naked today, because lots of the things we do these days weren't done back then. No one would be riding a bike naked back then, or sitting around the office. They did things that hardly anyone does anymore, like hunting. Or climbing trees." And it was then that I pondered on just how terrible it would be to climb a tree naked, and I felt very appreciative of clothing.

You Know How I Know You're Not Going to Like My Answer?

My new(est) boss asked me, "Where do you church?" And my internal monologue replied, "Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh."

Because there's only one group of people that uses the word "church" as a verb, and they hate Mormons.

I disagree with evangelical theology, but so what? I can still be civil. But the reason I can't get along with evangelicals is entirely their hatred. The same thing is true of homosexuals: my gay friends have more of a problem with my religion than I do with their sexual orientation, but most of their animosity comes from their assumptions about my religion.

For a religious sect that allows eternal salvation for nothing more than a few words of confession, evangelicals sure do refuse to take Mormons at their word. I'm a Christian because I say I am. If that's not good enough for me, what makes it good enough for you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Snooki Says My Wife Can Complain

My newest son is going to have to make his peace with being no more than the second-most-famous baby born in August 2012: Snooki "Nicole Polizzi" MTV had a baby this month, too. And since no one else has ever given birth in the history of the world, we are all fortunate Snooki is here to tell us what it's like.

"Post birth isn't so comfy and glamorous," she has tweeted. Which flies smack in the face of all those "post birth is so comfy and glamorous" stories new moms are always telling. Thank Viacom for Snooki, here to set us all straight.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Body

If you first saw this blog post in an RSS feed with just the post title visible, you probably clicked on it quickly in hopes I uploaded some prurient pictures. Alas, that's not the case. But I'm flattered.

I was walking on the campus of my newest job (Job #4 right now) and walked past a woman who had made a shirt reading, "My Body, My Choice." Which sounds like great logic, until you realize it's not her body we're talking about.

What defines the extent of my body? I'm sitting in a chair, wearing clothes (again, my apologies), with a computer on my lap (I just had my fourth kid, so I can take risks like this). How much of this is my body? Now, I'm not this kind of scientist (I'm a social scientist, which means I'm not a scientist at all, really), so I might be wrong about some of this, but it seems my body has to be biological tissue, so that eliminates the chair, the computer, and the clothes. Although amputees with prosthetic limbs would probably consider the limbs parts of their bodies. Anyway, I'm not an amputee, so let's ignore that right now.

Okay, so biological tissue. But how much biological tissue? When I have sex with someone we're metaphorically "one body," but are we really one body? It seems a fairly fool-proof standard is DNA. What tissue bears my DNA is my body, and what tissue doesn't bear my DNA isn't my body.

So a fetus is not part of a woman's body. It's a separate body that the woman is temporarily hosting. It is not a set of tonsils that are clearly the woman's to do with as she sees fit. The fetus has its own DNA from the moment of conception, and if no action is taken against it, it will become self-viable life. That's a far cry from "my body."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Virility: I Have It

Last Friday our fourth child was born. I don't really feel like I know him well enough yet to give him a blog nickname (besides I've backed myself into a "J" corner with Crazy Jane, Articulate Joe, and Jerome Jerome the Metronome). It's okay, though, because it's going to be a while before he can do anything blog-worthy. (If eating and pooping was blog-worthy, I'd never run out of material.)

This hospital was not as terrible as our California hospital, where the head of obstetrics confronted us with our answers to an "anonymous" survey and where the chaplain told us he wanted to serve patients of all religious backgrounds but then he didn't respond to our request to have some scriptures to read. But the Virginia hospital wasn't as nice as our Kansas hospital, where the staff could competently handle paperwork and wasn't bewildered to see the baby's father.

There was one chair in our room, and it was about four feet away from the bed. In Kansas they let me take the doctor's stool and she got a different one; in Virginia there was no stool to take and every nurse wanted me to move out of her way.

Maybe the most annoying thing about having a kid born in Virginia is that he was born in an independent city. Not having a county listed on a birth certificate just looks wrong, like hairs that grow out of the top of a nose. (Seriously, I just saw that for the first time a couple years ago and it CREEPS ME OUT! My newest boss has that and I can't do anything but stare at his nose while he talks. Oh, I hope like hell I don't get that when I get old. Gross!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Francis Is Busy" / "Busy Doin' What?"

My office had the floor jackhammered apart the other day. This is a partial explanation for why I haven't blogged in a while. That and four jobs and a 41-week pregnant wife and a dissertation (Remember that dissertation? Yeah, neither do I).

Things aren't going to get any calmer for a while. We'll see how much my blog suffers (and how much all six of you don't care).

In the coming days, I should write a blog post about how my family went to see Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan last weekend. In the meantime, be satisfied with this list of presidential candidates I've seen in person.

  • George H.W. Bush
  • Elizabeth Dole
  • Jack Kemp
  • Dan Quayle
  • Alan Keyes
  • Barack Obama
  • Mitt Romney

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Five years ago today, the financial crisis began.

Recovery Summer has come and gone a few times now, and still no recovery. This isn't a bit of misfortune that's befallen the president; it's the expected result of his policies. Raising hiring costs will always reduce employment, and raising hiring costs in a time of high unemployment shows one of three things:

  1. The president doesn't understand basic economics.
  2. The president doesn't care about the un- and underemployed.
  3. The president wants the political benefits that come from persistent high unemployment.
Which of these three do you want in a president? Personally, I'd prefer none.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Seriously, It's All Over, Folks

How is this president leading any polls at all? Eight percent unemployment (or is it more like 15.2%?) and his administration spends time arguing that the number is 8.254%, not 8.3%. Three years into his administration and he spent all of his sizable political capital passing a disingenuous health care law that most Americans didn't (and still don't) want, a law that was cynically written to not cause bankruptcy until right after the ten-year budget scoring horizon. Ratings agencies have downgraded our national credit and he responds with sound bytes about us "always being a Triple-A nation." Uh, not anymore, moron; that's kind of the point when the ratings agencies take away your Triple-A rating. Last summer he forced a raising of the debt ceiling by threatening to use his discretionary powers to keep Social Security recipients from getting their checks, then said Congress was forcing him to do it. He explicitly told the Russian prime minister that he will have more freedom to act against the public's wishes after his reelection. His released birth certificate and Selective Service registration card are obvious forgeries. His economic team doesn't meet for months at a time while he shoots hour-long ESPN specials featuring his NCAA basketball tournament picks. He insults our allies, belittles our people, bows to our enemies, and still doesn't have a plan to end the recession.

This president should be trailing by 20 points. Instead, it's neck-and-neck. And the only explanation is, it's all over now.

A majority of Americans aren't worried about saving the country; they just want to get theirs before the whole thing falls apart. Imagine a dog covered in fleas. The fleas drink the dog's blood, but if they drink it all, the dog dies and the fleas will have nothing to drink. The fleas stay on this side of that event horizon, preserving the life of the dog to preserve their own. But when the fleas hear the vet say, "This dog has six months to live," they go Bacchanalian on that dog's ass.

That is what's happened in America. The fleas are gorging. How else to explain a California school district paying $1 billion to borrow $100 million to buy non-essentials? This is the end, now. Get while the gettin' 's good, because everything's about to fall the hell apart.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Lamentation Literature (Follow-Up)

A new Lamentation Literature is born. Here is the standard scenario: "I am a young, hard-working Latter-day Saint; six months ago I was well on the way to financial independence, following the admonitions of my elders. Today I am broke, and my children lack necessities. What went wrong?"

...

So here is the answer to your question, What has gone wrong? The Lord has not let you down after all your plans and exertions. You have let him down by all your plans and exertions.

Hugh Nibley, "We Will Still Weep for Zion" (in Approaching Zion, pp. 341, 371)

I don't feel like I'm any closer to understanding anything than I was in February 2005 when I quit my job at City Hall. Which means I'm no closer to making things better.

What is the proper relationship between humility and ambition? Are we not supposed to "do many things of [our] own free will"?

I don't pretend to understand anything anymore.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Heat Hysteria

Global warming is melting street lamps! Funny how global warming only affects one side of the melting lamps. But don't worry, it totally is global warming that's doing it! Well, maybe it was that reported dumpster fire. But "that dumpster fire was caused and aggravated by the record heat and dryness."

How does global warming cause dumpster fires? Maybe in one of those super-common "oh, it was so hot I forgot to not throw my lit cigarette in that dumpster" kind of ways?

This article shows everything wrong with the climate change movement: you have no credibility when you axiomatically ascribe everything to global warming. Stillwater, Oklahoma, is having a hot summer. Is that unusual there? No. Is this summer unusually hot? Maybe. Flesh that out into an argument. Don't just take a picture of lamps melted by a dumpster fire and tell us it's a reason to "go green."

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Books I Would Like to Write

A biography of former Supreme Court justice George Sutherland.

A biography of former BYU professor Hugh Nibley.

The unwritten sequels of Louis L'Amour's 12th-century adventure novel The Walking Drum.

That's in addition to the usual crap I write.

Sharpie Pen and Solo Cup, Circa A.D. 700

Researchers found the tomb of an ancient Mayan prince. Buried along with him were some ceramics.

One bore hieroglyphics reading: "[This is] the drinking vessel of the young man/prince." A second vessel also bore a mention of a young man or prince.
Seriously, we've had this problem for over a millennium and writing your name on your cup is still the best we can do? Thanks a heap, science.