Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why I Don't Wash Clothes

Men who perform traditionally-female household chores get less action, according to this report.

I don't want to get in trouble with my wife for disclosing too much information here, but I just want to say that 5.2 "adult shenanigans" per month is pathetically low in my book. And my 12th anniversary is coming up soon. I'm not bragging. I'm just saying there might be something to my laundry-less lifestyle.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Appearing Crazy to the Crazies Means You're Sane

Comedian Joe Rogan tweeted on Jan. 27th of this year, "This country has a mental health problem disguised as a gun problem and a tyranny problem disguised as a security problem."

I agree. But that actually makes the problem much harder to deal with. Because what constitutes a mental illness is open to popular interpretation. There are plenty of people in the world willing to claim I have a mental illness (like this guy, this guy, and this guy). Requiring a clean bill of "mental health" before you are allowed to enjoy your Constitutional rights negates their inalienability. I do lots of things that are increasingly considered crazy, like praying, homeschooling, and believing in personal responsibility.

The day is coming (and is not far away) when insufficient support for the central government is considered a mental illness. "You're just paranoid! You're a sociopath! You're a narcissist!" And after all, do we really want guns in the hands of paranoid sociopath narcissists?

This is why I don't support stronger mental health requirements for gun ownership, even though I completely agree that America's biggest problem is a mental health problem.

Failed States (or, I, for One, Welcome Our New Chinese Overlords)

When American states fail, people move out. But when nation-states fail, people are trapped.

Zimbabwe is down to $217. I think we have more than $217 as cash on hand in the house right now. (Maybe not; Articulate Joe blew a bunch of money on Legos last week.)

What is the source of Zimbabwe's problems? Policies based on aspirations rather than facts. It was hoped that land redistribution would be nice, and productivity dropped. Without productivity, there's no income, and with no income, there's nothing to tax, so the government had to meet its bills with ever-increasing inflation, expropriating the wealth of the people instead of reducing its expenditures. It all started when "hope" beat "reality."

Oh crap.

NB: In the extreme, government insolvency leads to government insovereignty, so to speak.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ozzy Osbourne and Willa Cather

"The old people who couldn't read could 'hear the words' when Lizzie sang. Neither could Lizzie read, but she knew the hymns by heart. Mr. Fairhead often wondered how it was that she sounded the letter 'r' clearly when she sang, though she didn't when she talked."

Willa Cather, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, pp. 78-9.

New Technology That Doesn't Disappoint Me

I have a smartphone now. And so far I'm pleasantly surprised. It's actually as useful as other users had said it was.

As a result, my Twitter account is now worth following. Well, more worth following than it used to be (if what makes a Twitter account worth following is the presence of lots of pointless comments).

Movie Titles With Numbers

There's a story that the stage play The Madness of George III was retitled The Madness of King George when it was made into a film because producers were concerned moviegoers wouldn't see it if they thought it was the third movie in a trilogy. (Before you start telling your friends, Snopes says it's crap.) Well, today while I was on hold (for the better part of a 45-minute phone call), I was browsing Yahoo! Movies and came across an upcoming film entitled A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. So either Hollywood producers are getting more trusting in the American people's intellect, or the first two movies about the mind of Charles Swan must have done really well at the box office.

Some Dangerous Things Are to Be Celebrated

The king president says he'd have to "think long and hard" (something he doesn't always do before taking positions) about whether his hypothetical son (the one that would look like Trayvon Martin) would be allowed to play football. It's just...that...dangerous.

Other dangerous things are to be banned just by virtue of the danger they threaten. Football, though, is "probably" going to "change gradually."

A man who swore to protect and defend the Constitution has more respect for the rules of a game than for the provisions of the Constitution.

Just something to remember on Election Day 2016 when he stands for re-election.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Frankenstein Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens Guilt

What's the motivation behind re-creating Neanderthals? Could it be guilt for their extinction?

Neanderthals weren't ancestors of humans, and co-existed for a while. Although some humans responded to Neanderthal neighbors by getting their freak on, others responded by getting their eat on. (Sorry for so much technical jargon in a mainstream post. The power of science compels me.)

This strikes me as a feather in evolution's cap. Survival of the fittest writ large! Anyone who feels guilty about surviving isn't very fit for survival, is he?

We don't have to feel guilty about the extinction of Neanderthals. If they were our closest relatives, it makes sense that they were our strongest competition for resources. We survived by killing them, and since evolution reduces the meaning of human existence to being merely survival, then we fulfilled our existence by exterminating them. Re-creating Neanderthals exacerbates what we're told is an over-population problem. It creates new avenues for racism. And it dramatically increases the target audience of "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo."

NB: The "math" label doubles as a "science" label in a pinch.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Can Think of a Few Things Worse

From this blog post quoting an interview between a German magazine and a Harvard researcher looking to re-create Neanderthals, we read this argument from the egghead: "The one thing that is bad for society is low diversity."

What is a society? This dictionary says it's raison d'etre is uniformity; we form and preserve society to protect and promote some common trait. Dr. Church says we must undermine our common traits to have a healthy society. I say this kills society itself.

Government Money

What's the government spending its money on these days? What are you, some sort of right-wing nut? Why do you want to know? I've already initiated a background check on you, Bircher.

Yesterday in the car I heard an ad from the Federales telling me how to avoid home repair scams. I also heard a traffic report sponsored by HHS.

Today I read that Homeland Security is recommending I stretch before I shovel snow (if I "must" shovel snow).

Tonight I read an NIH study on best condom placement (curiously, "on your wang" wasn't one of the studied options; they're probably saving that for a follow-up grant).

All this money was seized under threat of violence. For a people currently in a tizzy over cultural violence, we sure don't have a problem using it for the most mundane of reasons.

Putting Mom in Her Place

The other day on the radio I heard an advertisement for a service called A Place for Mom. My first reaction was to marvel at the demographics behind the name. Mortality rates and social conventions make it such that a vast majority of people in assisted living arrangements are female.

But my second reaction was to wonder, "Why isn't the 'place' for mom 'my house'?" I know I'm not the first to reflect on the disintegration of the American family, but this ad really highlighted it for me. Of course Mom needs to go live with other people; where else would she go?

I have no problem with the company; they aren't driving the change, only providing a service. The cause of the problem (like the cause of all American problems these days) is Baby Boomers. Their "me now, me tomorrow, me forever" attitude created the assisted living industry and unsustainable entitlement programs. And when the teetering system falls apart, their children won't even suspect there used to be a non-government solution to the problems.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Disappointment in All Things

We browsed the Lego store yesterday. There we saw a brand new set, the Horizon Express, a three-car passenger train. It costs $129.99.

If our kids ever got a Lego set of greater than $100, it would be a major, major deal for them. Like, they would tell their children and grandchildren about it. (Seriously.) They would have to bask in the glow of purchase for a long time.

Looking at the packaging for this product, it seems to be designed to kill that glow immediately. The back of the box shows a six-car train, noting that to get something THAT cool, you'd have to buy two sets and hook them together. So now your wonderful purchase is only HALF wonderful. Then there's an additional note that you should buy sets 8878 ($49.99), 8887 ($24.99), 8884 ($14.99), 8879 ($12.99), 88002 ($13.99), and 8870 ($6.49) to get the FULL experience. So what you REALLY should buy costs $383.42, and if you bought just the Horizon Express, the packaging itself tells you missed out on 2/3 of the fun. (This is ignoring track to run the train on; it appears a small circle of track begins at $19.99, but you don't really spend $400 on a train to make it go around a small circle, do you?) Good luck maintaining a glow in the face of that.

It's frustrating to me that Lego doesn't allow anyone to leave the store happy unless he's bought the absolute top-of-the-line item. Do you really sell more items when you make people unhappy with their purchases? What happened to the days when stores sold high-end products to the well-to-do, and low-end products to those who just wanted some connection, like Ferrari swimsuits? They're still pricy for swimsuits, but cheap compared to a car. And when I proceed to checkout, they don't tell me, "Those swim trucks are crap without a car to wear them in."

Studio Apostrophe For Rent

Four times each week I drive past a highway sign advertising the presence of a national historic landmark at the home and studio of artist Gari Melchers. This sign reads: GARI MELCHERS' BELMONT.

It's not news to me that the government is too stupid to use an apostrophe correctly. But Melchers's property is owned by the University of Mary Washington. Surely someone from UMW knows this sign is wrong. Why has it not been corrected?

In my younger days, I made a hobby of correcting incorrect road signs. In high school I called the city and had them correct a misspelling in the sign "Rancho Calleguas Dr." and another in the sign "Charter Oak Dr." Then I worked for the city and notified the streets department of a misspelled "Arneill Rd." sign. I called the state department of transportation and had them remove a sign recommending trucks use an exit that had been demolished, and I had them move the city limit sign to the actual city limit. So I guess I should call my commonwealth and get this sign corrected, but I'm relatively new here and don't know how to go about this. I need a long-time Virginia resident with a lot of clout to call this in for me. Because that stupid apostrophe is basically laughing in my face four times each week.

A Trend I Support

Is snowboarding dying? Let's hope so.

I can't say ALL of my experiences with snowboarders on the slopes have been bad, because maybe one time one interacted with me while my back was turned (although that's usually when they run you over). And there's nothing magical about skis that can make a jerk be considerate. Yet it happens that skiers are more considerate than snowboarders.

The causation probably runs the other way, where your natural aptitude for consideration of others makes you less likely to choose the less-considerate recreational option. Snowboards don't make jerks, they just allow them to come out of the cities.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Squalid Den of Equity-Building Vermin

Living my lifestyle has different prices for different people. If I owned my house, I'd be saving about $1,000 per month (the difference between my landlord's mortgage payment and what I pay as rent). Now, some of that difference is the cost of maintenance, but not all of it; buying a home isn't merely an arbitrage decision.

Let's assume half the difference is savings. This means I could live exactly as I live now on $6,000 less* each year. So if we see two neighbors in comparably-priced homes, the renter should be richer than the owner. But it's not the owners who drag a neighborhood down, it's the renters. Why is this?

I don't think it's just an equity issue. You can build equity while still leaving appliances to rust on the lawn and conducting your relationship business on the front sidewalk. But if you found out renters were moving in next door, you wouldn't think, "Sweet, some higher-income folks are just what this neighborhood needs!"

* = I wanted to write "six thousand fewer dollars," but since the "$6,000" is read as "six thousand dollars," I was then stuck with the awkward construct "six thousand dollars fewer." I made my grammatical peace with what I wrote by telling myself the object of the preposition is implied to be "income," so now it all checks out. Like how "three fewer cups of milk" and "three cups less milk" are both correct.

You'd Expect A Better Return

There was a chart showing annual healthcare costs for different age cohorts, and then people started questioning the chart, then everyone agreed it was crap. Arnold Kling made an attempt to create true data, and here's what he comes up with: over twice as much money is spent each year on the healthcare of an over-85 person as on that of someone in the prime of his productivity.

Some of that is their own money, and if they worked really hard when they were younger so they could afford dialysis when they are older, then that's their right. But lots of that is not their money at all.

Matt Yglesias's first post is entitled "The Case for Death Panels, in One Chart." How about just "The Case for Non-Socialized Healthcare"? We don't have to decide who merits healthcare if it's not "our" bill.

An atheist nation will spare no expense staving off (what they consider) the annihilation of death, and will require those with resources to hand them over for this. The most effective means of lowering healthcare costs would be re-convincing America that death is not the end.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oh, My Adorable Brain!

I'm usually sympathetic to stories about idiots. But not this one.

"When typing a password, XX% of users start all over at the beginning if they make a mistake." Is this supposed to show us that they're too stupid to drop into their password three characters along? Or that they are such creatures of habit that they don't know their passwords except as an entire routine? Are we supposed to feel superior because we don't have to do this, or feel like, "Oh, I'm such a nerd!" because we do do this?

Here's the thing about passwords: they don't display on the screen. When you've made a mistake, you don't know which of the black circles is the mistake. My finger went to press "P" and landed off the side; did it press "P" and "open bracket," or maybe "dash," or maybe all three? Despite how adorable it might seem, starting over is not the result of quirkiness, but the result of rationality. The fastest solution is to start from the beginning. But fewer people want to hump the rational; compare the ratings of New Girl and Charlie Rose.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What Does "Cost" Mean?

Here's a bit of sensational (meaning "playing on the senses," not "really good") journalism warning that milk could "cost" $8 per gallon in 2013 unless Congress saves us.

If this is true, I contend a gallon of milk already costs $8 per gallon, but technocrats have declared some of that money should come from somewhere besides your wallet. Unless Congress is going to create new dairy cows or murder milk-drinkers, this article says "the equilibrium price of milk is something very different from what you've been paying."

Is this a call for our Congressional saviors to take action, or a sobering reminder of how much market intervention our ostensibly-constitutional lawmakers undertake?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Could Do 20% More Failing Every Day

There's some discussion on an econ blog I read about what will happen to wages if this crazy-ass new drug doesn't kill us all. The final verdict: who gives a crap when there's something called Modafinil to find out about?!

This ... sounds ... AWESOME. I know what you all can get me for Groundhog Day.

What are the Word of Wisdom implications here? Some articles say it might be habit-forming, but this user says, "It’s habit forming because it works and it makes you better. Any serious man who wants to be better will do everything in his power to be better. Kicking ass is habit forming."

As some of you might know, this blog spent two years or so being called "A Random Stranger IS...Kicking Life's Ass." If I get some Modafinil, life's ass will be in a sling.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Family Webmaster

A couple years ago Crazy Jane wanted to know how websites work, so I gave her "HTML for Dummies" and a computer without Internet access and turned her loose. Every once in a while we find her in her room, pouring through her book, typing in Notepad, then clicking over to her browser and refreshing to see what it looks like now.

Yesterday I came home to find her making a website for Hogwarts. When she came to dinner she said, "I figured out how to make a submissions box, but I don't know where the information goes when the user clicks 'submit.'"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I recently found out the preferred pronunciation of the word "quinoa" is KEEN-wah. Now I have to decide if I'm actually going to say that in public.

That's the thing about learning esoteric information: when you begin to use it, you become a pedant in the eyes of the layman. It might not be "Van Gouchk," but it's close.

It turns out I spend a lot of my life wanting to avoid looking like characters from 1970s Woody Allen movies.

Correct apostrophe usage is another of these issues. How hard is it to add an apostrophe and an S to ALL singular nouns, irrespective of their spelling? The common man's inability to follow fifth grade grammar makes me look like a jerk.

I recently had a talk with my daughter about some aspect of commonly-ignored grammar (I forget which one because there are so many) and I had to tell her, "Now you're going to have to decide whether to speak correctly and have everyone think you're wrong, or speak incorrectly even though you know it's wrong." Since she's homeschooled, she didn't even begin to entertain the idea of being intentionally wrong. But then, she's still got a lot to learn.

Missionary Work Problem

Yesterday I prepared my bag for starting back at school, which included stocking it with religious literature in case I talk to someone who wants to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. But today I read about a teacher who was fired for responding to a student request for religious literature.

This teacher's behavior seems pretty innocuous. He made an allusion to the most-influential work of literature in Western civilization, forgot for several weeks to respond to the student's request to learn more, and then gave his Bible away when the student said he didn't have one. Meanwhile, Los Angeles can't fire sex offender teachers.

I get the feeling that we're at a "give us Barabbas" moment as a nation. From the Democrat National Convention booing God last summer to the preference for molesting teachers over Christian ones, to the National Cathedral's decision to solemnize gay marriages, it's like we're trying to see how much God will put up with.

I Still Have a (Low-Paying) Job

Today's the first day of classes at one of the two places I teach, and although I haven't received a contract and my keycard will no longer open my office door, my department chair's e-mail makes it seem like these things shouldn't be happening. So that's a good thing.

Another good thing: no office hour this afternoon if I can't get in the door.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why a Handgun Ban Is Preferable to an "Assault Weapon" Ban

The point of the 2nd Amendment is to allow the citizens to defend themselves against the state. It always has been, and those who talk about "sportsmen" are intentionally misrepresenting the issue. Yes, it doesn't take a 30-round magazine to bag a deer, but it does to keep the ATF at bay.

The anti-gun lobby is trying to show their reasonableness by saying, "You can have handguns, just not high-volume magazines." This is the same as saying, "You can shoot the occasional criminal, but you'll be defenseless before the state."

Most Americans are not the victims of crime. But all Americans are victims of the state. This is why we'd be better off giving up handguns and keeping what have been hyper-dramatically termed "assault weapons."

Logic would require the anti-gun lobby to be on board with this (if they weren't, in fact, allergic to logic). Handguns kill thousands each year. "Assault weapons" kill a few highly-publicized dozen. If we grant their argument that guns are dangerous prima facie, then we should get rid of the most dangerous guns first. These would be the most portable, most easily-concealed guns. We would ban handguns.

A ban on "assault weapons" would not have prevented Newtown. The shooter had handguns with him, and since no one else in the school was armed at all, he wouldn't have been stopped as he murdered children more slowly, he just would have been slower.

The only thing limited-capacity magazines would do is protect statists from resistance. When the state decides to come in my home, a thousand rounds of ammunition might stop them. Seven rounds would kill a few before I was inevitably subdued, and then I would be certainly facing execution. This is why handguns aren't the anti-statist tool that "assault weapons" are, and this is why statists are fine with leaving you handguns.

All of this analysis requires us to talk about how we'd shoot police officers if we had to, which is why most Americans don't think it through. A nation born in violent revolution against tyrannical government has forbidden the concept of revolution against government and will soon ban the tools of such revolution. But the tyrants will still allow you to hunt deer, so where's the harm done?

NB: An acquaintance of mine recently wrote something on Facebook about how un-American it is to oppose the president, and I responded that opposition to tyranny is not un-American. (In fact, Benjamin Franklin once said, "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.") A friend of this acquaintance responded with ironic detachment that all uses of the word "tyranny" are contemptible. To him the word is just a charged term used to mean "something I don't like." This destroys the word which means "oppressive power," leaving us less able to talk about oppressive power, and thus less able to oppose it. Another example of Orwell's contention that the decline of language has political causes.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Why I Make My Wife Whisper in Public

I'm paranoid of being this movie queue guy from Annie Hall.

This is why my wife and I must agree on a movie before we get to the Redbox. There will be no sharing of opinions in public.

This Article Is Advising Me to Quit the Church

I read a headline today that said the article would tell me ways to get more done. Since I'm currently doing only two things, jack and squat, I figured I could use the advice.

I was not prepared for the implications of the article's first suggestion: Avoid meetings that lack an agenda. It turns out I have to quit being Mormon to be productive?

When the prophet gets up to end General Conference and it's ten-minutes-to-two, no one thinks to himself, "I wonder how long he's going to go." We know we'll be hearing, "This has been the one-hundred-eighty-third annual General Conference..." no later than 2:00:00 PM. But when the same situation presents itself in stake priesthood meeting, all bets are off. And if it happens in ward council, you'd better text your spouse to set your affairs in order, because you might never be coming home.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Another Famous Person I Know

Here's the collection of famous people I know: I sort of* went to school with erstwhile suspended linebacker Scott Fujita, I went to high school with the kid from Milk Money who had the germ phobia (I forget whether the three kid actors actually saw Melanie Griffith's breasts, a stand-in's breasts, or no breasts at all), and I had a college calculus class with Tahj Mowry from Smart Guy.

Well, now I can add one more person to the list. I saw an article in November about Jia Jiang and I thought, "I had a college roommate with that name," but since there are billions of Chinese people, and for all I know "Jia Jiang" could be the Chinese version of Dave Anderson**, I wasn't sure.

Until last night, when I read a different news story about Jiang. This story specified that he attended Brigham Young University. That's not a DNA match, but the preponderance of the evidence suggests this is the Jia Jiang I lived with in Provo in 2000.

Here's some of what I remember about him: he's a nice guy who was learning strange English idioms like "raining cats and dogs" and trying to understand them. He laughed when I told him I knew the word "biao-zi" and he taught me how to write its characters. We lived together during the presidential election that year, and he was very interested in understanding what was going on. I once described for him how easy it is to commit voter fraud in America until he expressed too much interest and I reminded him that he'd probably be sent home if he got caught.

So congratulations to Jia Jiang for his novel approach to corporate publicity. I hope his company, Hooplus, does very well.

* = I went to an elementary school that shared a campus with the elementary school he attended.

** = I once had a boss named Dave Anderson. I got a call from a man named Dave Anderson and I faked a reason to transfer him to my supervisor so I could say, "Dave Anderson, I have Dave Anderson on the line and he can help you further."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hiatus Explained, and Expanded

We spent the past two weeks in Ohio, visiting my parents. I wasn't blogging regularly because I was busy (they have Fox Soccer Channel), and because they tell you not to tell the Internet when you're away from home. The content of this blog is topical (which is a nice way of saying I put no effort into my posts aside from looking around for 10 seconds before typing), and since everything around me was Ohio-ey, I couldn't really blog without tipping my hand and leaving our nice thing at home in Virginia open for plunder.

Now we're back, and I've been rejected from a job I was really, really hoping to get. So now I don't feel like doing anything but lying down and dying. So the spartan blogging is going to continue for the foreseeable future.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Hot Old Lady

I've written before about how, now that I'm 44, I'm attracted to old ladies. I'm watching the Indentured Servants of Football championship game and saw a shot of Alabama quarterback AJ Whatever's girlfriend and mother.

(I took this photo from Big Lead Sports, who stole it from Disney*.)

Who is the hottest woman in this picture? Brent Musburger (who is 73 years old, according to Wikipedia) would have us believe it's the girlfriend. He's wrong.

* = I know Disney doesn't understand what the word "fair" means when it precedes the word "use," but as long as Disney continues to orchestrate an unconstitutional perpetual copyright, they can suck it up.