Friday, November 30, 2012

Family Resemblance?

Angela writes

I have always thought Anne Hathaway looked like a female version of Bob Saget.
For comparison purposes:

I even went to the hassle of getting one of those super-expensive celebrity DNA analysis places to generate an estimation of what a Hathaway/Saget baby would look like.

In closing, Angela is crazy, and will have to start being careful what crazy crap she says because I might be moving close enough to drive over and slap her when the stuff she says is just too nuts.

Casual Doctors

There are a number of issues that come up in teaching economics that make all my students think I'm an idiot, and one of them is the end of professional licensing for medical practitioners. They can't begin to imagine a world where a spectrum of competency is available for the discriminating customer.

It turns out that back in 1766 it wasn't such a crazy idea.

We now sate down to dinner, which was almost cold; but previously, my arm still continuing painful, Sir William wrote a prescription, for he had made the study of physic his amusement, and was more than moderately skilled in the profession: this being sent to an apothecary who lived in the place, my arm was dressed, and I found almost instantaneous relief.
Thus William Goldsmith's titular vicar of Wakefield gets medical care when he can't afford a real-life doctor, and he relieves his suffering. Today, the vicar would be told that he has to pay for a whole-hog doctor, and if he can't afford one, well that's tough titty.

And for some reason, healthcare costs keep going up.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Intelligent Political Discourse

Yesterday I read this opinion piece in the Washington Post by the Romney campaign's chief strategist. He claims that Romney's loss was not so overwhelming as to begin the self-destruction of the Republican Party that's been going on this month. (Amnesty? Tax increases? It's like being Republican doesn't even mean anything anymore.)

At the bottom of the story, the most-recent commenter wrote, "Romney wanted to kill Big Bird! He was wrong for America."

Today driving down the Interstate I spent time behind this car.

The bumper sticker on the left originally read "JESUS DIDN'T RIDE A ELEPHANT." Then someone reminded the driver of what she should have learned in second grade, so she took a Sharpie and added her own "N," so now it reads "JESUS DIDN'T RIDE ANELEPHANT."

I form my political opinions based on fact and reason. I'm outvoted by those who form them based on talking points and ungrammatical non sequiturs.

How completely, utterly stupid must a person be to think that removing government funding from an incredibly popular commercial enterprise is tantamount to ending that enterprise? Is Mickey Mouse dead because Disney is a private company? Is Snoopy dead because Charles Schulz didn't take a cartooning subsidy? But we are asked to believe that Sesame Street would be destroyed if it didn't receive tax dollars. And the same idiots who believe GM bankruptcy would leave millions of auto workers unemployed, who believe that Hostess bankruptcy means the end of the Twinkie, believe this obvious crap and vote accordingly.

While I'm refuting the obviously wrong, the proclivities of a late-19th-century political cartoonist had little-to-nothing to do with the preferred transportation of the Son of God. But supporting the candidate whose life most-closely resembles that of Jesus seems to be popular: Jesus also didn't have an un-doctored birth certificate. Just this morning my family read John 7:41-42, where the Jews are confused about the Savior's birthplace. If it doesn't require any documentation to be the Messiah, I guess it's okay that the new "Lord and Savior"'s life is undocumented, as well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The 1950s: A More-Complicated Time

My father is a model train enthusiast. (Not that he's the type of train enthusiast whose example you'd follow, but rather that he's an enthusiast of model trains.) His father before him had model trains, too. So I grew up with model trains running under the Christmas tree.

My parents have divided everything up four ways (which is really awkward when our fifth sibling wonders why he didn't get anything, but it's okay because he's not real) so their kids can carry on their tradition. And now that I'm an adult with kids and whatnot, each Christmas my parents say, "Do you want your trains this Christmas?" But we've never had room for a train setup. (We barely have room for a tree. A few Christmases ago we were Skyping with my sister-in-law who happened to see our tree in the background and asked incredulously, "THAT's your tree?!" Because Christmas wasn't already enough of a reminder of my failure as a provider.)

Anyway, during 2012 my parents came to visit and they made the executive decision that we have enough space for trains, so in October they showed up with trains and said, "Here you go, they're yours now."

With a loop of train track surrounding the tree, my wife had no way of getting the light cord to the plug. So I decided we'd use the model signal bridge to hold up the cord.

The problem was getting the thing built. The box has no instructions, so we went searching online, where we a picture of the original (1953) instruction manual.

That's right: put the rivets on the outside, and then look at the box. Oh, the box, by the way, has this super-helpful diagram for guidance.

Embarrassingly obvious, right? Forgive me if I'm being gauche, but I've isolated the portion of the box that functions as the template.

What, was everyone an engineer in the 1950s? Then why didn't we build Sputnik first? This makes me glad I live in the age of 15-page instruction booklets written by Chinese political prisoners. At least they give you some good existential pondering about the true meaning of words.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Magazine Tranny

Some beautiful people age gracefully, like Blythe Danner. Others, however, turn into pre-op trannies. The latest cover of Vogue magazine suggests Anne Hathaway is in the second group.

How do you make Anne Hathaway ugly? I'm still not sure how Annie Leibovitz accomplished it. But accomplish it she did.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Surrounded by Hyenas

Just another Thanksgiving in America.

Previous Black Fridays left me laughing at the materialists. This time I'm frightened. I see these people demolish a pallet of cell phones and think nothing would be different if it was me and my food. They would rend me with their bare hands.

I showed this video to my students and they told me I was over-reacting. "Where was this?" they asked. "Georgia," I told them. "That's why," they said, smug in their prejudice.

Well then what explains this scene in Overland Park, Kansas?

I used to live in metropolitan Kansas (a term I like to use because it confuses the more ignorant), and those people are as middle-of-the-road American as you can get. When their teenage daughters nearly riot over lingerie being sold for a price still greater than zero, the country is beyond hope.

When I watch that video from Kansas, I think: "There is no way that manager is being paid enough."

As a comparison, here's a somewhat-orderly crowd.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Heartfelt Gratitude

I have a lot to be thankful for this month. It started when I discovered a growth on me. I sought a professional opinion and was told it was metastasized awesomeness.

So this Thanksgiving, I'm giving thanks for my awesome moustache.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Different Type of Football Fan

My family has started following European soccer* a lot more. Our kids like Barcelona because of Lionel Messi, and consequently they passionately hate Real Madrid. In our neighborhood seemingly every third car has a large rear-window decal for one of those two clubs, and our kids are either elated or incensed each time we see one or the other.

In the Bundesliga, I support Dortmund. My German ancestors were from a village right outside Dortmund, so this was an easy decision. But in the Premier League, I don't want to commit to any particular team, since I keep thinking, "We might end up living in England, and I'll need to be allegiance-free when that happens." But I guess I lean toward Chelsea. My eldest son is a big Arsenal supporter, and my daughter likes Fernando Torres, so she likes Chelsea.

Last week I thought I should probably be a Sheffield Wednesday fan, since Sheffield is the Pittsburgh of England. (My wife said, "They probably would prefer you say 'Pittsburgh is the Sheffield of America.'") I remember watching Sheffield Wednesday games in high school, but they've been out of the Premier League for a while now, and in danger of falling even further. The other night my wife mentioned that her favorite singer is a Sheffield Wednesday fan, and when I went to their website to show her what it was, she thought their owl mascot is adorable. So now we're both Sheffield Wednesday fans.

My long history of Pirates disappointment has prepared me nicely for being a Sheffield Wednesday fan: they've taken eight points from their last 14 league games.

* = British people who insist soccer be called football are lame. Soccer is an English term for "association football," a name which distinguished it from rugby football one hundred years ago.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gradually Increasing Tempo

As a missionary, when we sang "In Our Lovely Deseret" at district meeting, it was understood that each verse was sung faster than the previous verse. One missionary said, "Imagine at the top where it tells you how to sing it, it reads 'gradually increasing tempo.'"

I was reminded of that this past Sunday in stake conference, when someone bribed the organist to plow through the intermediate hymn as quickly as possible. We stood up* to sing "How Firm a Foundation," and then we were off to the races. Everybody was skipping the last two words of each line to get back in time with the organ. I guess somebody replaced the organist's decaf coffee with crack.

But I'm torn about the result. On the one hand, hymns are supposed to be slow enough to be intelligible. On the other hand, this stake has a problem with meetings that never end. (The previous night it was 8:35 in a meeting that was supposed to end at 8:30 when the musical interlude came around.) If this is what it takes for meetings to end on time, then I guess we're going to be speed-rapping every hymn from now on.

* = When the hell did we become Pentecostal? Why are we standing for every hymn? When I was in the MTC our branch president said they'd recently been chewed out by a General Authority for standing every time they sang. Let's get that crack-down going again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Guest Blogger: John Galt

In April 2011, a Swedish friend in my program put together a group of people to go see Atlas Shrugged. I thought, "I should be friendly and get to know people better," so I agreed to go. I had to drive a long way to get there, I had to drive a guy who told me all about why American students are too stupid to learn in graduate school what Filipino students learn as undergrads (surprisingly, this guy is Filipino), and then when we got to the movie I couldn't get a ticket because I had a voucher that didn't work for online sales, so I had to wait until I got to the box office. Having had some prior experience with movie-theater shenanigans, I bought a ticket to whichever movie had the closest start time to Atlas Shrugged, with the intention of sneaking in with my friends (I have so few friends that by this time the Filipino kid counted as one). The theater had ushers guarding the doors of the actual theater, though--something I hadn't experienced since I went to see Showgirls. (Hey, don't hate: it was everything 17-year-old me wanted in a movie.)

And that was how I ended up seeing Hanna by myself. Actually, I only saw the first 80% of Hanna, because my friends texted me when their movie was out and I had to leave to meet them. I saw up to when Hanna gets to the shut-down amusement park (also known as "the start of the most-exciting part of the movie").

I asked my friends how their movie was. "Terrible," the Filipino insisted. The Swede, a huge Ayn Rand fan, reluctantly agreed. They said the acting was poor, the dialog was stilted and preachy, and the special effects were distractingly bad.

Last week Hostess announced that they would shut down due to a union strike. While I was instant-messaging my wife about this, she asked why the world is falling apart and I decided we needed to see Atlas Shrugged. We rented it from Amazon On Demand (which subsequently refunded our money because their streaming wasn't that great).

It wasn't as bad as I'd been led to believe. The acting was fine. The dialog wasn't stilted until near the end, when Dagny and Hank have a voice-over conversation about the dangers of not setting wages equal to the value of marginal product of labor, but then that was it. The special effects were one scene that wasn't terribly bad, it was just obviously cheap. I think the movie was good. My wife said afterward, "I didn't expect to enjoy it at all, but it actually was okay."

In related "you didn't build that" news, the bankruptcy judge isn't allowing Hostess to shut down until they negotiate with their union some more. His job is to determine if Hostess's plan to pay their creditors something less than full-value is equitable, but instead he's making business decisions for them. It's so very Atlas Shrugged of him.

Oh, and in "Americans are idiots" news, after three days of people thinking Hostess shutting down means the end of the Twinkie, and a weekend run on Hostess products, we're finally seeing news stories about how Hostess will sell its assets, and that valuable assets will be highly-sought, so the Twinkie won't be dead after all. Just like how a GM and Chrysler bankruptcy wouldn't have killed American auto manufacturing. Oh, wait, I forgot that one presidential candidate tried to make this type of level-headed argument and had it presented as proof that he hates America.

The past election told me that the median voter is stupid. I'm detaching from politics until all the stupid people die or until something happens to make them want to get educated. The collective "oh noes!!!! no more twinkies!!!!!" of this week has shown me that nothing has changed yet.

When will John Galt come take me away to Atlantis?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Over-Reacting

Tonight in our family scripture reading, we found that Shiblon of Ether 1 is Shiblom of Ether 11. "Huh, that's interesting," I thought. We talked about various reasons this could have happened. We quickly came up with several, including Joseph Smith's error, Oliver Cowdery's error, E.B. Grandin's error, Moroni's error, Ether's error, or allophones (like L and R to some Asians).

Later I looked online a little and found the blog of a guy whose response was to become an atheist. Seriously.

I was looking more for an analysis of Jaredite phonology than just pure stupidity.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Plato's Nursery

Do you remember the part of The Republic where the Aristotle character recommends taking children away from parents to raise them in the interest of the state? Of course you do, because everybody reads Plato for fun, right?

A woman in California worked for a public school district caring for children between the ages of six months and four years. So I guess that Carter's ad had it wrong: you really only have to care for your children until your maternity leave ends. Then they're the state's problem.

Just Skip the First Reading and Start Crying Now

I believe I've written before (but I'm too lazy to find it right now for you sons of perdition) about an insufferable nerd in my junior high school named Keith. At the start of seventh grade word went around that Keith was trying to create a time machine. Really, when you're already socially unacceptable, you don't make things any better with stories like that in circulation. Early in eighth grade I was standing next to Keith when some seventh-graders came up to make fun of him. "Are you building a time machine?" they asked incredulously. "No, I'm merely working on a project that would enable man to travel faster than the speed of light," he replied. Disappointed, the seventh-graders walked away. I said, "Keith, that's a time machine," and he said, "Shhhhh!"

In junior high I started reading Don Quixote. I was enjoying the ridiculousness of it until Keith came over. "They say the first time you read Don Quixote you laugh, and the second time you read it you cry," he said. I probably replied with something like, "Shut up, Keith."

But then when I went back to reading, I could totally see Keith's point. And that totally pissed me off, that he had completely changed the way I was seeing a book I was really enjoying without thinking about the tragicomedy of it. Now I can't think of Don Quixote without thinking of Keith.

I've recently been reading The Vicar of Wakefield, a 1766 comedic novel that was supposedly the Arrested Development of its day. (It was so popular that the cover artwork is a museum painting depicting a scene from the novel itself.) It's the story of the Primrose family, their fall into poverty, and the indignities they experience there.

Needless to say, this storyline isn't as funny to me as it might have been to 18th-century readers.

The Primroses have ridiculous schemes to win favor with aristocrats, to land well-paying jobs, and to act according to their refinement instead of their circumstances. Basically, the Primroses are just like me, except they say "sate" when they mean "sat." Which shows the level of absurdity prevailing in my life.

Who knows, maybe Keith invented his time machine and went back in time, but Oliver Goldsmith beaned him and stole it, using it to come observe me and record my family's failures. Then he went back to the 1760s and just "modernized" all my uses of "sat" to read "sate." His peers probably said, "You have a vivid imagination for foolishness, sir," and he just thought to himself, "I couldn't've made this crap up if I'd tried."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are Garage Elevators Advertised in LDS Living? Because If They Are, It's Okay to Get One

Alanna writes:

...unless we started living the law of consecration without me knowing it....
I would submit that you have already covenanted to live that law, without any "someday, when I'm asked to do it" caveat.

We are under a commandment to "seek to bring forth and establish my Zion" (D&C 14:6). Zion is where the people are "of one heart and one mind ... and there [is] no poor among them" (Moses 7:18). It is not God's plan to come down and redistribute material possessions, but it is his plan that the redistribution happen voluntarily, now. "... this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low" (D&C 104:16).

How individuals go about following this commandment is a personal choice. They can give 30% of their income to charity and have a garage with an elevator, and that's up to them. My specific complaint is about merging church with excess to give the excess a patina of acceptability. It would be like getting your garage elevator to play hymns as it lowers the cars.

So don't try to justify your foreign travel by visiting religious sites. (In California we had a high council speaker tell us his children had testimonies of the gospel because he and his wife had taken them to Palmyra, Kirtland, and Nauvoo.) Just have the balls to say "some people in my neighborhood don't have enough food but I'm going on an elaborate vacation because I care more about my leisure than about their survival." And if you can't own that sentence, then change your spending.

In a possibly related note, a Facebook acquaintance linked to a story about the lifestyle of Uruguayan president Jose Mujica. Interesting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cover Me, I'm Gonna Sin

I recently bought a book (which I intend to sell to a family member looking to buy a Christmas present for me) that came with a tiny ad-pack for LDS-targeted businesses. It's ads like these that make me despair of Mormons generally.

There are two types of these ads. The first type is over-selling stuff Mormons should buy. There's the smart way to buy food storage, and then there's the way advertised by religious profiteers in LDS Living magazine.

The second type is selling stuff Mormons shouldn't be buying in the first place. Yes, you should have a picture of the temple in your home. But a 500 dollar picture? It's okay though; it's a picture of the temple. Should you spend thousands on needless travel while others lack clothes and food? Well, if you can say it's a lecture tour, everything's okay.

The folks who buy these things are aware enough of the gospel that they are uncomfortable with their natural desires for conspicuous consumption, but uncharitable enough to their fellow man that they never seriously consider going without something nice so someone else can have something necessary. The companies that advertise in LDS Living allow them to spend all their money on themselves while thinking they're doing something good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ancient Cultures and Ancient Knowledge

The Book of Mormon tells of God's dealings with a group of Israelites who migrated to the Americas. After his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus visited these people in accordance with his saying recorded in John 10:16: "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice." The people responded to the teachings of Jesus and consequently he revealed to them additional knowledge. Hundreds of years later, the people fall into wickedness and internal warfare. The survivors became ancestors of at least some of the pre-Columbian peoples.

This means that native societies are descended from societies that had greater gospel knowledge than we now have. While some of that knowledge would have been discarded (after all, they were rebelling against the gospel of Christ, so they probably viewed the teachings of the gospel's acolytes as unimportant), not necessarily all of it had to be thrown away. There's a bumper sticker on a car at my bus stop: "Christianity Has Pagan DNA." When it comes to received Christianity (as opposed to revealed Christianity), I agree. And now what I'm saying is that pagan American religions have Christian DNA.

As a result of this, there could be true knowledge contained in ancient legends and traditions. I'm not necessarily arguing in favor of the Mayan calendar thing, but I'm also not one to dismiss it out of hand.

Speaking of the Mayan calendar, I know there are some people who say, "Mayans didn't have Leap Day, so their calendar would be incredibly off by now and the end would have already happened, and it didn't happen, so the whole thing is crap." But that requires us to accept that the people who oriented their massive structures specifically for certain effects on the equinoxes didn't have a way of keeping the equinox from moving around in their years. That seems unlikely to me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Even His Vote Counts

A Facebook acquaintance just posted what I'm sure he thought was a very insightful comment about how the Director of Central Intelligence is not prohibited from doing his job just because he had an affair. This Facebook acquaintance was also appalled that the FBI was investigating someone's private sex life.

He was not being ironic.

It's like he's completely unfamiliar with the concept of blackmail, and that plenty of blackmailable stuff is legal. Yet this guy is closing in on a PhD and was allowed to cast a ballot last week.

What about a "median-voter" model that has the two types of voters as "smart voters" and "stupid voters." Every genius is countered by an ignoramus, and the median voter is just sort of knowledgeable. Is that how we want to run the most-powerful nation on earth, at the direction of the sort of knowledgeable?

Of course it is, because anything else would be racist, and we don't want to be racist, do we?

The average American is incapable of distinguishing between a racist policy (such as keeping voters away because of their race) and a policy that has a racially-biased outcome (such as keeping voters away because they don't have photo IDs). Prohibiting the second type of policy puts form above substance and means our prime directive is to "look right." Which, given the re-election of the president, I guess is a pretty accurate description of the prime directive of most Americans. Destruction is acceptable, as long as we look good when it comes.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Old Text Messages

I'm cleaning out my phone because I keep getting error messages that I've got too much crap stored on it. (The error message somehow knows the quality of my texts and pictures. Uncanny.) Here are some of the vital communiques from my recent past.

  • 26 October 2012

    Persephone, to me: "Overheard smoking mom with newborn proudly talking about how he was six wks early."

  • 25 October 2012

    Crazy Jane, to me: "SPIDER. THE worlds biggest and scaryiest and jumpyest spider is down stairs. What do i do? QUICK!!!!!!!" Follow-up: "Please hurry. It is scary"

  • 22 October 2012

    Persephone, to me: "Did you say they [our kids] could play the game cube today?"

    Me: "No. No one asked me. I told them they had a lot to do today. I could see how a kid would take that to mean 'play video games.'"

  • 19 September 2012

    Me, to Persephone: "[Articulate Joe]: I flushed my poop. Mom was in there. Me: Mom does not forget to flush her poop. [Articulate Joe]: When she came out, there was no flushing."

  • 22 June 2012

    Me, to Persephone: "Text ambiguous. Thought you meant 'want to pet groundhogs,' which could be dangerous--they could be rabid."

  • 7 January 2012

    Me, to Persephone: "Surprise, surprise, a church meeting without regard to a schedule. The hour is over, we're only halfway done, and no one is speeding up."

  • 8 December 2011

    Me, to Persephone: "I want a wonderful sandwich. I'm sad we don't have anything to make that happen."

  • 3 November 2011

    Me, to Persephone: "Fun fact learned from a missionary on campus today: missionaries in our mission call Manassas 'Manasty' because 'It's definitely the ghetto of the mission.'"

  • 29 October 2011

    Me, to Persephone: "If the college kids who volunteer to read aloud are this bad at actual reading, the rest must be illiterate. This is the result of being told their whole lives that they are wonderful at everything."

  • 19 October 2011

    Me, to Persephone: "The boys and I are at a strip club because I'm incompetent."

  • 6 October 2011

    Me, to Persephone: "I feel terrible. I'm lightheaded, hungry, tired, and need to poop." Follow-up: "I have blister on my little toe, which makes me seem like a sissy."

  • 27 September 2011

    Me, to Persephone: "Your reply was unintelligible. Are you texting drunk?"

  • 6 September 2011

    Me, to Persephone: "You're hot. And I'm rich (I got a $4,000-check today). We should have sex."

  • 24 August 2011

    Me, to my sister: "I have a monetary theory exam in 4 hours. In theory, money is nice--in practice, I wouldn't know."

  • 5 July 2011

    Me, to Persephone: "Save that sexy pirate talk until I get home."

  • 22 June 2011

    Me, to my sister: "Just kidding. Pee all you want."

  • 25 May 2011

    Me, to Persephone, during her book club: "Come home naked or don't bother to come home at all."

  • 19 February 2011

    Me, to Persephone, while she was watching someone else's kids: "Hi. Are you going to sext me like a modern babysitter?"

  • 15 February 2011

    Me, to my younger brother: "From Hugh Nibley's 'There Were Jaredites,' regarding ancient Egypt, 'Here we have some lively descriptions of community snake hunts....' The Egyptians had Whacking Day!"

And My Father Dwelt on a Map

I like geography and I like the Book of Mormon. You'd think this would mean I like Book of Mormon geography. Well, I like the idea of it, but the actual thing sort of angers me.

Too much of it is forced. Take, for instance, this website I found today. The author is not alone in identifying the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as the "narrow neck of land," but this approach has a major flaw. At this point, the only way the land would appear to be "north" and "south" would be with an understanding of the geography of the entire supercontinent from Alaska to Chile. Anyone who had no knowledge of the land beyond what he experienced himself in the Tehuantepec area would not think of the land as north and south, or the seas as east and west.

All of the detailed geography descriptions contained in the Book of Mormon are from the period prior to the Savior's visitation, and the book tells us that cataclysmic geographic changes happened just prior to that visit. Meaning there's no way to equate modern geography with Book of Mormon geography.

This is just as well, as the book is not intended to be "proved," but to be believed based on answer to prayer. Moroni doesn't tell us to know of its truthfulness through lecture tours of Chichen Itza, but through prayer.

This doesn't mean I'm opposed to all Mormon archeology. But don't try to make it do more than it can. It can show connections between Hebrew culture and Mesoamerican culture, and it can show the veracity of aspects of the Book of Mormon which were ridiculed in 1830 for being contrary to then-accepted "knowledge" regarding Mesoamerican culture. But it can't help you overlay a Book of Mormon map onto Mexico (or the Lake Ontario region, for that matter). So give it a rest.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"An Unrelated Matter"

The guy behind "Innocence of Muslims" has been sentenced to a year in prison. But the Associated Press assures us it was due to "an unrelated matter."

The byzantine legal code is designed to make criminals of us all (especially the tax code). Then, when the Federales want you in prison, they have a reason.

Is this paranoia? Does anyone think this guy went to prison for anything other than his film? "Oh, he violated his parole." Not criminally. He was originally convicted of using a computer to commit a crime, not using a computer to upload a poorly-produced video. His parole officer needed to know about this, and his restrictions should be tightened.

Instead he's going to prison with the general population, which means he's going to die. The Feds' refusal to protect him makes it a state-sanctioned murder. And the reason is his erstwhile Constitutionally-protected speech.

When Music Videos Were Awesome

This video kicks all kinds of ass. Maybe it's the red patent-leather codpiece. Or maybe it's just the... no, it's the codpiece.

Yours Until You Hand Them Over to the State

This ad bothers me.

My wife objects to my objection. Yes, I know Carter's only makes clothes for younger kids. But the entire monologue is told from a "your work is done here, mom" point-of-view. Here's a hint, ladies: if you have a hard time doing something, it could be a sign you shouldn't. "Oh, but that's not true with getting a colonoscopy!" But it is true of handing your children over to the government.

And while I'm writing of things I think that all of you will hate, let me tell you about this: the other day, when I was already in a bad mood, I was behind a woman with a bumper sticker that read "Well-behaved women rarely make history." Really, are you making history, strange lady? Driving your eight-year-old Dodge Durango and living in Bakersfield-Near-the-Potomac? Assuming you have children, within 30 years of your death nobody alive will remember you at all. Actually, it might even be sooner than that, depending how you raise them. You're not "making history." You're a nobody, just like everybody else. But, oooh, you're a unique rebel, so contrary and whatnot. If you were truly making history, you wouldn't need a bumper sticker advertising the fact.

I've mentioned to my wife that my parents will probably end up living with us. My siblings' situations don't lend for it as well as I imagine ours will. But when I mentioned this to my mother, she swore she and my father will "never do that" to their kids. Like it was a terrible injustice for families to be families.

I know I'm putting a lot of baggage on a Carter's ad. Oh well. As Bobby Brown once said, it's my prerogative. (I loved that song when I was a kid. In fact, I believe I'll close with the music video for it right here.)

Friday, November 09, 2012

District of Columbia Statehood

Statehood for the District of Columbia is a terribly stupid, unconstitutional idea that is the worst possible solution to a much-more-easily solved problem.

Congress created the District of Columbia in 1791, and for the next 10 years its residents continued to function as citizens of Maryland or Virginia. They had congressmen and senators. It wasn't until the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 that the residents were disenfranchised.

Acts of Congress can be repealed by acts of Congress. Undo the Organic Act and the problem goes away.

Completely retroceding the land to Maryland violates the constitutional requirement that the seat of government be separate from the states. Cutting the District into the Capital Service Area and the remainder, with the idea of retroceding the remainder, doesn't account for the fact that Maryland doesn't want to touch that crap with a ten-foot pole. But repealing the Organic Act would keep the residents out of Maryland while still giving them representatives and senators and presidential electors (through Maryland, not their own).

For the past five Congresses, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) has introduced a bill to do substantially this. This correction of a serious civil rights problem can't get out of committee, but every damn post office in the land can get an honorary name.

How do I know this bill will also die in the 113th Congress? Because it's sensible and appropriate, and we've seen that Americans don't understand such things anymore. (Wait, I said I wasn't going to talk about it.)

Thursday, November 08, 2012

TSA and the Economic Recovery

I wonder sometimes how much of the lethargic economic "recovery" can be attributed to TSA. Here's the connection:

People travel for business when they expect the travel to produce at least as much value as the travel costs. Thus business travel creates economic growth.

People avoid unpleasant experiences. Thus TSA pat-downs and body scans reduce the amount of traveling.

So reducing the amount of business travel creates a drag on economic growth.

This seems plausible to me. I don't know about you, but I took only one airplane trip (there and back) since the TSA went all Gestapo in 2010, which represents the fewest number of flights I've taken in a three-year period since I became an adult. A large part of that is my desire to avoid TSA. For any location this side of Kansas, I'm either driving or I'm just not going.

A study estimated that TSA thugs could be responsible for up to 275 additional driving deaths per year. This is just about exactly double the average number of airplane deaths in the U.S. from 1999 to 2003 (September 11th excluded).

That's some fine citizen protection you're doing there, TSA: killing twice as many people as you're saving. Is it really that far-fetched that all this TSA thuggery would result in less economic activity?

As Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote, "man is a creature who can get used to anything," and living in a police state is no exception. According to this article, more than half of Americans think it should be illegal to disobey a TSA agent, and a third of respondents would accept a body cavity search as a condition of flying.

I know citing the Constitution is tiresome to most Americans these days, but I'd like to point out the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches was never formally repealed. Wanting to get from here to there is not probable cause. The Supreme Court is hearing a case this term regarding the constitutionality of sniffing dogs, but naked scans, under-clothes pat-downs, and bag x-rays aren't "unreasonable"?

TSA's operating directive is to violate all of your rights and then see who protests. After all, you know who else would protest the loss of his rights? A terrorist. And now defending your constitutional rights has become probable cause.

Puerto Rico Statehood

I'm glad Puerto Rico has voted in favor of statehood. I hope Congress acts on it. I think it is inconsistent with our founding documents to maintain a colony, and when Puerto Ricans have no electoral votes or congressional representation, that's basically what they are.

I've long wanted Congress to force the issue for our territories by telling them they can either be states or independent and giving them a deadline to decide. Assuming none chose independence, some have populations too small to be states on their own. Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa should become part of the State of Hawaii, the Virgin Islands should be part of the State of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia should go back to the status it had before the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801.

An acquaintance of mine (I find it's closer to the truth to call everyone "acquaintances" rather than "friends") said he didn't think Congress would act on this because it would give electoral votes to Democrats and Republicans control the House right now, so they can block it. I don't think that's a valid assumption (Puerto Rico had a Republican governor who just narrowly lost reelection), and even if it was, I don't think we should keep people from freedom because of what we fear they might do with it.

(Just for reference, Puerto Rico has 3.7 million people, which would mean it would probably have five congressmen and seven presidential electors. Other states of that size are Connecticut, Oklahoma, and Oregon.)

Americans Don't Have a Monopoly on Irrationality

Here's some third-world irrationality for you.

"If Obama did not win, I believe most projects here [in Kenya] would stall," Joseph Onyango told the Kenyan media outlet.

How in the world would a Mitt Romney victory have halted economic activity in Kenya? How in the world does a Barack Obama victory keep it going?

Joseph needs to scale back his expectations; if Obama can't even get 25 million Americans to work, he can't very well be expected to get Kenyans to work, too.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

In Other News...

I don't want to talk about it. And I won't for a while. What is there to talk about? There's no turning back now. It's just a matter of managing the decline.

Meanwhile, there's something I've been hearing on the radio that drives me absolutely IN-SANE: Laura Ingraham's inability to pronounce the word "regularly." She does this ad for a computer back-up service where she says, "Back them up regurly!" I don't understand why the producer didn't say, "Cut! Laura, try that again and read all the letters this time." Maybe they only had so much tape on hand? Or maybe Laura can't actually say the word "regularly." My father-in-law can't say the word "oranges." Ain't no shame in it, Laura. You should just respond how my father-in-law does, with elaborate circumlocutions to avoid the word. "Back them up at rhythmic intervals!" Problem solved.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Texts I've Sent

Me to my wife, 1 June 2012:

What if that tick that bit me was a supertick and was going to give me awesome powers?

Peter Parker got all fluey right before he got all kick-ass. I bet that's what's happening to me.

[Wife responds: "I like you."]

You'll like me more when I sex you up upside-down in a rain storm.

Me to my wife, 6 November 2012:

I peed, shoke my penis off, and put it away. Then a bunch more pee came out. Now I have a wet spot on my pants that I hope will dry before I have to teach in 2 minutes.

First Electoral Impressions

I went to see Mitt Romney yesterday. Even after they moved the event from a 2,000-seat arena to a 10,000-seat arena, I didn't get in. A few thousand of us listened to it piped out to us on speakers, and afterwards he came out to say a few words with Ann.

I went to vote this morning at 6 AM. I was in line for over an hour. My wife went at 10 AM. She was also in line for over an hour.

I don't see how the president could win more than 100 electoral votes. I cannot afford to spend four more years using my master's degree to work an assortment of part-time jobs. I have a family to feed. I recently listened to a radio show where Irish people preparing to migrate to Canada talked about why they had to go. I feel like those Irishmen.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

What I Like in a Woman

I've heard a lot of songs on the radio now that I'm working fairly far away from home. One such song is called something like "She's So Mean" by Matchbox 20, a band whose lead singer looks like my former mission companion's high school acquaintance named J.R. Dutson. (These are the things we talked about on my mission.) In this new song, J.R. sings

And all you want is just to hold her

But she don't go for that

She has a hard time coming

When she can't hit back

When I heard this, I thought, "This characterization seems inconsistent with the rest of the song, where the girl is presented as very desirable." Then I realized that what I find desirable in a woman is not what turns on the type of men who want to date a hot mess. Some things that are important to me only cross the minds of these men much later, or, as Austin Powers says, "Sometimes not at all."


In Japan, Men Come First and Women Come Second

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Season That Isn't Happening

Since hockey is apparently an occasionally-scheduled event, sort of like the Oberammergau Passion Play, E.A. Sports is using its NHL 13 video game to run a simulation of all scheduled games. Currently my team of choice, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are not doing well, sitting in twelfth place in the Eastern Conference with just nine points. Recently the Penguins suffered an embarrassing defeat, 5-1, at the hands of the Washington Capitals. Coming back from such a disappointing start to the season will be made even more difficult by the loss of star player Evgeni Malkin, who sprained his ACL and will miss three to four months.

Is it weird to Malkin that such an alternate reality exists? Does this make him want to see his doctor for a check-up to make sure his ACL is okay?

In real life, Malkin is playing for Metallurg Megnitogorsk (who said the Russian language is unpoetic?), where he has 28 points and an intact ACL. I guess he dodged a bullet with this labor dispute.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Mailbag: Halloween Hangover Edition

Actually, my Halloween was quite temperate. I was the model of propriety. But my post needed a title and "Mailbag: I Hate the World and Everyone in It Edition" didn't test well with the focus groups. So "Halloween Hangover" it is.

Two readers recently commented. Long-time older brother, first-time reader Bodie had this to say about killing the children of criminals:

This opinion seems, to me, to be entirely consistent with allowing for the termination of a pregnancy resulting from rape ("legitimate" or otherwise, Akin) or incest, since neither, presumably, involved the exercise of the woman's free will.
Abortion is the civil rights issue of our day. Just as slavery was a window on the conscience of the nation nearly 200 years ago, the way we define life and extend to or withhold from it legal protection of its inalienable right to exist is a window on the nation's conscience today. Senate candidates (Akin and Mourdock, which I guess is pronounced like "Murdock" but I can't read without thinking "Mordor") have tried to express (often in inarticulate language) this concern that a person's right to life does not come from government, it does not come from the criminal status of the father, and it does not come from the will of the mother.

Nobody is denying that some terrible situations are made more unpleasant when all life is protected. But once life has begun, it is not our prerogative to determine if it began under conditions that justify its continuance.

Long-time reader, long-time sort-of-sister-in-law Angela writes:

One of my friends posted a link to an article that accused Mitt Romney of avoiding taxes by using the church's tax exempt status. I read the article which stated that the loophole was legal and the church offered it as a viable option for donors. When I asked my friend why this was damaging he said it had to do with transparency. What are your thoughts?
As universally-recognized poet laureate of the "Law and Order" television franchise, Ice-T, once said, "Don't hate the playa, hate the game." Full compliance with a crap tax code isn't grounds for disliking someone. Romney was never a member of Congress, so the craptastrophy of the current tax code was not of his making. (The current president was a member of Congress, but in keeping with all his previous jobs, he did nothing noteworthy and just occupied a chair while waiting to become president.)

A flat sales tax with a Constitutionally-limited value and the ability to apply for a refund if your income is sufficiently low would be best. But Mitt Romney isn't required to pay how much we think he should pay, and he's paid what he's actually required to pay. Those who focus on his tax rate without acknowledging his much higher rate of overall giving are making the ridiculous mistake of thinking funding government is not only charitable, but the only form of charity that counts.

Funding government is not charitable. If charity is the pure love of Christ (as some maintain), what is there that's loving about fostering dependence and despair? Personal charitable giving, where the recipient interacts with the giver, helps both maintain gratitude and humility. Impersonal receipt of a check from a faceless entity fosters entitlement and resentment. I wish it were legal for Mitt Romney to pay no taxes at all and increase his charitable donations. Maybe then we wouldn't be spending $60,000 per poor household while those households stay just as poor next year.