Friday, March 29, 2013

Everyone Before Lohan

Remember when Patrick Swayze was said to have scant weeks to live? I do. At the time, I said, "Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan will be dead long before Patrick Swayze.

I was wrong. But even now, I can't really understand how. That seems like it would be a pretty safe bet. If it wasn't for the fact that Patrick Swayze is now dead, I'd STILL be taking that bet.

Today I IMed my wife, "The actor who played Uncle Dursley died." She responded*, "Huh. Everyone before Lohan."

*: I standardized her IM's punctuation and capitalization so none of you thought I was married to a junior high school girl.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Back at Home

We spent the winter sleeping in the guest bed in the basement. Tonight is our first night back in our bedroom. I'd live blog it all, but nobody cares, and I intend to be asleep for most of it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Davenport, Iowa, You're on the Air"

Q: How long's it been since we've had a Larry King post? A: Too long!

I've started looking for a replacement for Google Reader. What I want is for the people buying the Twinkie brand name to do the same thing here. Just keep Google Reader going. But no dice. (What does this mean for my self-touted predictive powers? Jack squat, since Reader is a free service.) So far I'm not satisfied with anything possible. I don't think I'm the only person left who reads blogs, right? I might be the only person left writing one, but that's something else.

Remember that crazy-ass student that I had to read the Riot Act to last semester? And then she signed up for my class again this semester? Class started and she didn't attend at all. The drop deadline came and went and she still hadn't shown up once. I figured, "She must have dropped and the roll just hasn't updated yet." Then she came three times in four chances. Then she didn't come back for a month. I was wondering if I'd see her at the midterm. She didn't attend. I thought, "She must have really dropped this time." Then she e-mailed me that weekend about why she missed the midterm. I had an undergraduate professor who recommended making students in this situation sweat, not responding to their e-mails so they have to actually come see you. If she couldn't be bothered making it to the midterm, I can take a day or two to write back. Right? No. She has forwarded her original message to me. See, because some schedules matter. Not mine, but some.

Front-Row Student 1: "You have a teenage son, right?" A Random Stranger: "No." FRS1: "You don't have a teenage son?" ARS: "Not that I know of." Front-Row Student 2: [immature laughter]

Running joke at my place: every spot is "the dirtiest spot in our house." Drop a toothbrush on the bathroom floor? Kick a binkie under the kitchen cabinets? Lay down immediately inside the front door? Why are you doing that in the dirtiest spot in our house? (This makes it seem like we live in squalor. I used to tell our family we lived in squalor until I helped a ward family move and saw what true squalor is. We live in a freakin' sparkling palace compared to that. The roaches hadn't even survived; they were dead under the furniture.)

I have "football boots" (soccer cleats) coming in the mail. I'm super excited about them. Like "post a picture on the blog" excited. And don't think I won't do it, too.

What's the most hygienic way to fill these? I own ten of them now.

I don't mean to say things at Extended Ward Council that will get me uninvited to future Extended Ward Councils. It just comes naturally to me.

Couldn't stay up for last night's 10:30 PM kickoff between USMNT and Mexico, but couldn't go out of the house today without finding out the result, so had to wake up Articulate Joe at 6:30 AM and watch the game before work. Wednesday is the new Saturday! Huge result. The fact that Internet trolls are complaining about an ugly-ass draw is a good sign: expectations are advancing. But why does it seem like we've taken a step back in personnel since 2010? And would anyone seriously expect a result like this in Brazil?

Two weeks of prunes ("dried plums") now and STILL gagging on each bite. Maybe I'll never adjust.

I was going to write something Jerome said today about the president, but the county would take my kids away. Don't let them ever convince you that the U.S. of A. can't run with the best of them when it comes to suppression of free speech.

Old news: I complain to my wife "I'm the world's fattest man." New wrinkle: I add, "I have an app that confirms it."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Good Luck Paying for Your Parents' Super-Low Tuition

People wax nostalgic for the 1960s. It's a decade that seemed to have it all: foreign war, domestic social programs, gigantic infrastructure budgets. Oh, and a space program.

Why can't it be like that again? Well, because now we have to pay for it all.

Italians of my generation will pay 50% more in taxes and receive 50% less in pensions than their parents. I tell my students all the time, "Do not plan on Social Security; it will not be there for you." Sure, there'll be a program called Social Security, but it will pay peanuts. That's the way with all Ponzi schemes.

What generation of humans has been worse than Baby Boomers? Maybe the Romans of the last 50 years before Christ? That was the last time we saw a group take a civilization so advanced and destroy it for their own pleasure.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I'm Really Happy for You and I'mma Let You Finish

Taylor Swift seems like a really nice girl, and I'm not just saying that because she came to my school once. (My favorite part of that article is the guy who tried to give her his phone number.) She's probably my favorite hard-core rapper.

And yet.

And yet it seems like one of the draws to date Taylor Swift is to have a break-up song written about you. And with how quickly the break-up comes, she basically has to be working on the song for the whole relationship. Your first date is dinner and a movie, and while you're in line at the box office, she's trying out couplets that rhyme "pain" with "again."

Maybe the songwriting starts even sooner than that. She might decide whose date offers to accept based on who has the catchier name for a song title. You can get a lot more mileage out of the title "Dear John" than the title "Dear FitzHubert." (And maybe this is the explanation I was looking for!)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Public Works Don't Work

A Random Stranger in class: "The people running Metro aren't--well, it might seem otherwise, but they aren't fools. They know escalators are supposed to work; they just prefer they don't."

Just in the relatively short time we've lived here (not quite four years yet), Metro has destroyed our incentive to ever use the system. Four years ago we could take the family in and out of the District for a reasonable price. Now, with higher fares, extended peak hour rates, and SmartCard requirements, it is never cheaper for us to take the train.

Metro's response is not to become more competitive, but to get the government to give its workers more money for riding the train. Losing commuters to driving while gas prices are at record high real prices (and while government hiring has been rising) is such a failure of management that Metro's entire board should be replaced. Instead they keep their jobs while spending $2.75 billion on a new line to the airport that doesn't actually go to the airport.

In related "crony bureaucrat" news, the new transit station in Silver Spring is years late, millions over budget (current cost: $112 million), and completely unusable. But you know what we need? More government involvement in our individual healthcare decisions. That makes a lot of sense.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"I've Made a Huge Mistake"

There's something about the number 4 in my life lately. I used to have four church callings simultaneously. Then I had four jobs simultaneously. I recently had my fourth kid. I'm not sure if this means anything. It's just interesting.

I've been relieved of most of the callings, and I've given up some of the jobs (about to be more, maybe), but this hasn't translated into productivity on some of my on-going long-term goals, because crap like this happens:

Our three oldest kids are going to play soccer this spring. I want to coach eventually, but I don't have time for it right now. I signed up to be an assistant coach, so I could learn how to do it for the future.

Articulate Joe's league didn't have enough head coaches, so the commissioner e-mailed the assistant coaches and asked if two of them would move up to head coach. I let it go for a few days to see if anyone else responded, but no one did. I e-mailed the commissioner to tell him why I had chosen to be an assistant coach this season.

And that's how I became a head coach.

I'm completely not looking forward to it. I don't want to deal with hyper-competitive parents, with bullying children, with kids who've learned the secret that they don't really have to listen to adults who aren't their parents, with scheduling conflicts (how best to tell my dissertation advisor that I am coaching 10-year-old soccer?), and with the responsibility of trying to teach soccer skills to kids. I like soccer, a lot, but I don't really know how to play it well, as attested by the fact that I was a crap player.

I'm trying to keep all this secret, though, because I don't want Articulate Joe to think I'm dreading working with him. I'm actually looking forward to that part of it. It's all the rest that I'm going to hate. It might be really good material for my blog, but I've found that when things are going well for my blog, that means they're going really, really poorly for me.

Post title from "Arrested Development."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Elders Quorum Comments

Sometimes I espouse strident opinions in Elders Quorum. It's easier to do living in a ward where everyone has been waiting for me to move out since the day I moved in.

Once when I was the instructor, a quorum member was upset by my defense of what he would consider hypocrisy. He said, "Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another." I said, "No it's not. Hypocrisy is having a more-lax standard for myself than I have for others. But if I'm a smoker and I realize it's wrong, the first thing I'll do is say, 'I shouldn't smoke anymore,' and then I'll probably have another cigarette at some point. That's not hypocrisy, that's human weakness and the learning process. We should all have goals that are beyond our current abilities. Your definition of hypocrisy would have me set no goals I can't currently reach, which aren't goals at all. We should all 'say one thing and do another' because the 'saying' is how we start changing the 'doing.'" He wouldn't give in. To this day, he's still wrong.

Yesterday's lesson was about perfection. The standard member would say something like this, "We're commanded to be perfect (Matt. 5:48), which is not possible in this life, but I can be perfect in keeping an individual commandment." I've been hearing this comment more and more over the past five years or so. Usually the particular commandment given as an example is the law of tithing.

I contend that the standard member is both being too lenient and too strict at the same time. The problem starts with a misguided time-frame for compliance with the commandment to be perfect. It is a destination to guide our movement, not a location to occupy. It is acknowledged that we cannot be perfect in this life, as even Christ implies when he delivers a modified Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites (3 Ne. 12:48). As a mortal, he gave the commandment to be perfect like his Father; only after his resurrection was he himself perfect.

Once the standard member thinks he must be perfect in this life, he has to develop a way of handling the cognitive dissonance that comes from knowing his own imperfections. So he tells himself, "I will be a perfect tithe payer," or "I will be a perfect keeper of the Word of Wisdom." Even this, though, is flawed, because to congratulate himself on his perfection, he has to redefine the particular commandment. So he writes a check for ten percent of his direct deposit and thinks he's grabbed a tiny bit of perfection. But is that really the Law of Tithing? No, it's not. It's an over-simplification that ignores the command to donate all "surplus property" (see verse 1; verse 4 begins "and after that...") and defines "interest" more narrowly than the scriptures do.

Or he eschews alcohol, tobacco, and coffee and slaps himself on the back. But is that really the Word of Wisdom? No, it's not. It's a caricature that focuses on the things he's doing and completely ignores the things he's not. What of grains, fruits, and the sparing use of meat? He ignores those to focus on Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which the church says are okay.

If you think you're keeping a commandment perfectly, you have room to better understand that commandment. The standard member is intentionally avoiding a deeper understanding because with it comes a new benchmark against which he can't currently measure up.

So the standard member's idea of perfection is more strict than what the Lord actually requires, and his way of dealing with that is to be more lenient than the Lord would have him be.

Make your peace with your imperfection; we are not commanded to be perfect in this life, but to have our faces constantly pointing towards perfection, our overall goal. Stop trying to define spheres in which you are perfect, which only holds you back from advancing beyond your current abilities.

I made these points during yesterday's lesson. No one appreciated them (except for the instructor, who just wanted a discussion to happen). I was reminded of a high school friend who said to me once, "You like to stir the [excrement] just to make it stink." Indeed, I do. I stirred it yesterday. And the stink was glorious.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Causing Bank Problems

What are the long-term consequences of teaching your people that deposited funds have been surrendered hostage to the state? Or are we okay because Cyprus is small and we aren't? I'd remind you that the smallest minority is the individual.

The groundwork is already being laid for government seizure of your 401(k). All private property will be seized and sacrificed at the altar of state spending. Our new state religion requires it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Math in Church

I've blogged before about how my family creates comics in church (and I have another batch of comics to upload here soon). Well, I also speculate about math in church.

Two math problems always pop out: one is the equation of the sound-dampening architectural features on the walls of the chapel (these sort of pointy rectangles), and the other is this.

When sitting in a pew and looking across the tops of the pews in front of you, the amount of the back of each pew you can see diminishes. What is the equation for the amount of visible pew back, as a function of height above the pew tops of the vantage point, distance between pews, and how many pews away the particular pew back is?

I think that the relationship between and two xis would be logarithmic. But I can't really be bothered to figure out if that's true. First of all, I usually forget about this when I'm not actually in church (I only remember it now because I made some notes in church in 2010 and found them last week when I cleaned my office).

Second of all, it would probably be unseemly of me to bring textbooks and a calculator to Sunday services.

Tool of Oppression

I used to work in city government, until I came to dislike being a tool of oppression. I felt the police power, the right to use violence, was too important to use against those who painted their homes unapproved colors or turned their garages into rec rooms.

When I have to complete a captcha that involves reading a grainy picture, I have the feeling again. They usually are pictures of house numbers taken from the street, and are motivated either by enhancing control over the population or by generating money for the captcha creator. So I'm either a police state stooge or a corporate stooge. Neither one is appealing. All I wanted to do was comment on a blog.

PS: "So then why do you use captchas for your comments, A Random Stranger?" Because when I don't, I get Chinese-character porn link comments. I tried turning them off after a while and the comments came back. (Now, if the totalitarian-industrial complex was really smart, they would be behind the Chinese-character porn links, keeping us from refusing to fill out their captchas for them.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Meaning of "Shortcut"

Very few people, including physicians and dieticians, understand the concept of nutrient-per-calorie density. Understanding this key concept and learning to apply it to what you eat is the main focus of the book--but you must read the entire book. There are no shortcuts.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Live to Eat, p. 8.

So reading part of a book won't help me lose weight, but reading the entire book will? Isn't reading a book to lose weight a pretty big shortcut?

Make a clear choice between success and failure. It takes only three simple steps. One, buy the book; two, read the book; three, make the commitment.

Fuhrman, p. 10, emphasis in original.

I'm intrigued how my body will know if I checked the book out from the library, or stood reading it in the book shop. After all, not buying the book short-circuits the entire process, right? That's why it's Step 1?

These two questionable portions aside, I'm enjoying the book. But with so many conflicting diet books out there, how do I know which is telling me the truth? I can't use confidence as an indicator; these authors have enough confidence to make life coaches look like middle school girls. But I think Dr. Fuhrman's book is mostly true because it's telling me what the modern American doesn't want to hear: eat fruit, eat vegetables, and stop eating so much meat, bread, and sugar. See, it turns out all of us already know how to lose weight, we just don't want to do it. So when someone tells us, "My plan allows you to live on a Dr. Pepper I.V.," we all throw money at him because we want it to be true. It turns out to not be true and we say, "I don't believe in anything anymore; I'm going to law school." But Eat to Live passes the believability test, because nobody wants to hear what it has to say.

Economics of Song: We Built This City

Someone's always playing corporation games

Who cares they're always changing corporation names

When a corporation is comprised of assets of a certain value (say, $5 million), but can be sold on the market for more (say, $10 million), what exactly is all that extra money buying? Well, in accounting it's said to be "goodwill." The existing company has built up a reputation and a clientele, and if I were to buy identical assets and open up shop, my new company would not be as valuable as the existing one, because I bring none of this earned goodwill.

When a company changes its name, it loses a certain amount of its goodwill, and the amount it retains is not costless; it has to engage in a public education campaign to let people know that Company Y should be associated with the long track-record of Company X.

In Starship's world, there is some sort of gain that offsets these losses associated with changing your corporation name. What can it be? Perhaps the goodwill valuation is negative; if my company gives all its customers cancer, I'd want to change its name somewhat frequently. Less nefariously, if the public has a taste for "new" things, stodgy old corporations will want to get in on the act (think about The Simpsons's Super Bowl commercial for the Catholic Church). Or even more basically, it could be a principle/agent problem where management wants to self-aggrandize at the expense of ownership. I take over JCPenney and rename it something not associated with its long history so the image of the company is more closely tied to me, the current director.

I take it that Starship has this last explanation in mind, based on my reading of "corporation games" from the previous line. It seems the lyric is meant to say, "business activity seems important to its participants but is essentially meaningless." After all, the song argues that the standard building blocks of a modern metropolis pale in importance when compared to Starship's preferred foundation, rock and roll. Go ahead and engage in pointless corporate wrangling while Starship is over here building a city with their guitars and Bernie Taupin's brain. Suckers.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Doctor's Know Jack About Apostrophe's

My wife, a vigilant reader of my blog, texted me this photo from the doctor's office last week.

So many things to notice.

First, there's no need for an apostrophe between the "1" and the "s." It is possibly helpful when writing something like, "Most of the students received As on their papers," to avoid confusion between the plural of "A" and the word "as," but with numbers, there's no such possible confusion.

Second, I look at these three women and I think, "They're just frowning with different intensities." Don't you think the "1" lady could be a "111" if she was angry enough? See, first she comes home and finds her dog on the sofa. She's a 1. Then she sees her dog has crapped on her sofa. She's an 11. Then she finds her dog crapped her mother's ashes which he ate from the urn he knocked over. Now she's a 111.

Third, doctors are seriously hocking Botox now? I thought Botox was a poison. [check] Yep. "It is the most acutely toxic substance known...." Sounds perfect for countering aging. Like The Who said, "I hope I die before I get old."

Fourth, how's this for better anti-frown line advice: don't frown in public. Maybe if you weren't going around so angry, you wouldn't have to deaden your facial features.

PS: my wife wasn't at the doctor to get Botox.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once said, "Any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." In fact, it's called Clarke's Third Law.

I'd like to propose a corollary: any rational person in a community of irrational people will appear to have the power of prophecy.

Do you remember when everyone was all, like, "Twinkies are dying!" and I was all, like, "Uh-uh"? I do. And now we have proof I was right.

Why is this important? Because most Americans don't have the faintest clue how free markets work. As such, markets are a too-advanced technology which, in their eyes, is indistinguishable from magic. And nobody believes in magic anymore, so nobody believes in markets. When I lose my job, should I rely on an unseen nexus of private decision-makers, or send my résumé to the president? When I can't comprehend markets, I rely on Obama.

In Freud's Future of an Illusion, his critique of religion is that man invented God to explain how things happen when the active force is unseen. I understand how you move a log, but when the log moves "on its own," I say God did it. Now we don't believe in God anymore, so we don't believe in anything that happens "on its own."

Part of me wants to help people understand complex phenomena, so they aren't susceptible to messianic figures seeking to control them. But part of me wants to keep the people in the dark and become just such a messianic figure. If I can accurately predict the return of Twinkies from the dead, what can't I predict?! Assign me power of attorney and I'll let you know.

Apostrophe's Don't Make Plural's

"Concerning the James's mentioned in the New Testament, the opinion of Bible scholars is divided, the question being as to whether two or three individuals are indicated." - James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 209, footnote rr.

They Don't Know What They Want

Most explanations of voter apathy revolve around some version of the theme "both parties are the same." Yet we're told time and again that "Americans want compromise."

So is it a bad thing when the parties act the same, or a good thing?

I believe this seeming contradiction is made clear with this realization: most Americans are terribly uninformed. They don't have a position themselves because the issue is beyond them, so they figure something in the middle must be best, but then when both parties present nuanced versions of similar goals, these voters can't understand the nuance, so they think it doesn't matter who wins.

This is why I support voter apathy; if you're so foolish as to not understand the differences, you really shouldn't be voting at all. Efforts to increase voter turnout are usually efforts to manipulate confused voters. Such voters shouldn't vote. Whence the virtue of enshrining uninformed opinion? I regularly skip ballot questions about which I don't know enough (these tend to be small-time contests, like sanitation board commissioners or county judges). I wish more Americans would do the same. The last presidential election should not have been decided by those who were stupid enough to think they were voting to save Big Bird.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Learning From My Kids

CRAZY JANE: Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon named Rebecca and it was his favorite pet.

A RANDOM STRANGER: You know, I've read several biographies of President Coolidge, but this is the first time I've ever heard this.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Poor Combination

About a year ago, I saw this in AAA World, the member magazine of the American Automobile Association. "Some large companies and special-interest groups ... are lobbying Congress, urging legislators to boost the national weight limit on tractor-trailer trucks from 80,000 to 97,000 pounds" (Jan/Feb 2012, p. 9).

A few months after that, I saw an article on National Review Online quoting from this article on American Thinker. "According to the Brookings Institution, a 500-lb weight reduction of the average car increased annual highway fatalities by 2,200-3,900 and serious injuries by 11,000 and 19,500 per year. USA Today found that 7,700 deaths occurred for every mile per gallon gained in fuel economy standards."

Smaller cars and larger trucks, while at the same time truckers are driving more aggressively than ever. I make two 200-mile round trips per week, and on each leg of each trip there is at least one truck traveling close to 80 MPH, and since they are legally barred from using the left-hand lane*, they barrel up behind slower moving vehicles attempting to intimidate them into moving.

Airport security theater causes highway deaths. Automobile fuel efficiency standards cause highway deaths. Relaxed truck regulations will cause highway deaths. But as long as officials get to look compassionate instead of reckless when they propose such rule changes, we'll all quietly accept that we'll be dying more frequently on the road.

* = They're legally barred from traveling at 80 MPH, too, but it's easier to quickly identify when a trucker is violating the left-hand-lane ban.

NB: Why am I blogging in March 2013 about articles from January and April of 2012? Stuff stays on my "to blog" list for a LONG time.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Shouldn't Have To

I was driving along a few weeks ago and passed a billboard advocating for expanded Medicaid. It showed the purported parents of a sick child and featured the ad copy: "They shouldn't have to worry."

Says who? Where is it written that life should feature no worry? Is that even possible? And if, in fact, it is possible to design a life without worry, is it based on expanded Medicaid?

Both religious and atheist people say the reason behind having religion in your life is to alleviate worry. Believers say, "It brings me peace of mind to know God exists and will take care of me." Atheists say, "You believe the lie because it brings you peace of mind to think God exists and will take care of you." The atheistic outlook is necessarily one of worry; it says, "Life is meaningless and I will stare into the void instead of shutting my eyes to its existence." It's a bit like a Hemingway code hero who watches The Daily Show.

But the thing they eventually find out is that such a life isn't worth living. (Hemingway himself found that out in 1961.) So we need something to dispel the void, but if can't be God. Hmmm, what to do, what to do?

At this point authoritarianism stands up, straightens its tie, and says, "It's my time to shine."

So we need a larger government to alleviate worry. It has to have the ability to provide everything that might be a source of worry, and it has to have the authority to keep you from foolishly going without its beneficences. It must remove all choice, because choice sometimes brings worry. It must enslave us all.

Even then, is worry defeated? Do the subjects of totalitarianism look especially worry-free? Complete subjection brings quite a bit of its own kind of worry, I should think. So the state makes a promise it can't possibly deliver when it swears that larger government dispels worry.

God offers a way to remove worry while preserving freedom. The state offers a way to remove freedom while preserving worry. I agree that people "shouldn't have to worry," but that's only possible through God, not through expanded Medicaid.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Using Math to Lose Weight?

Cleaning my office turns up all KINDS of useless things!

For instance, about a year ago I saw a report that said you should use plates with a colored border to help control your portion size. The idea is that you fill your plate, and the colored border is not seen as part of the plate, so you leave it empty.

This intrigued me, so I came home and measured our plates. Our typical dinner plate at the time had a surface area of 53.429 in2. The uncolored central portion of the plate, though, only had an area of 44.156 in2, which is only 82.64% of the plate.

We've gone one better and switched which plates we regularly use. Now we use plates with a surface area of only 33.166 in2, which is 62.07% of the total area of the larger plates.

I wish I could end this post by saying, "And then the pounds melted away!" They didn't. But I think I've been making slow progress, which is pretty good for over the winter months of relative inactivity.

Expanded Playoffs Ruin Baseball

I made a note last November to blog this. Today while cleaning my office, I found the note.

In the league championships serieseses, we had San Francisco (94 wins) versus Saint Louis (88 wins), and Detroit (88 wins) versus New York (95 wins). We had the distinct possibility of a World Series featuring two teams with 88 wins. What baseball teams had at least 88 wins last year? New York (AL), Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Oakland, Texas, Los Angeles (AL), Washington, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Saint Louis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles (NL). Thirteen teams from a league of 30. That's more than 40% of professional baseball teams.

The World Series is supposed to determine the best baseball team of the year. Instead it routinely rewards streaky teams that enter October on a roll. Why play a 162-game season if the championship is just a matter of luck? Baseball can regain its relevancy by either returning to two leagues with no divisions, or by halving the regular season and not inundating the country with six months of games that are ultimately meaningless.

Literate Hillbillies (Not Named Faulkner)

I was walking down the street past two toothless hillbillies, and the one toothless hillbilly says to the other, "He can ill afford to do that."

It made me wonder if he was misusing the term "ill afford" to mean "not afford," or if he knew the difference and was using the term correctly. I, for one, am willing to assume the latter. I think the "not-verb" construction comes naturally in the early stages of learning English, and someone wouldn't even know the adverbial use of "ill" unless aware that it was distinct from the word "not."

So this was a highly-literate hillbilly I was passing, who was making an assumption of high literacy in his hillbilly conversational partner. And that made me happy. If hillbillies can learn the proper use of "ill afford," then regular folk can learn the proper use of an apostrophe.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Why I Want My Kids to Grow Up

There are some phrases that involve swear words that just can't be adequately replaced by their non-swearing equivalents. (I guess that means they aren't really "equivalents," then, huh? Well, then, their non-swearing approximations.) For instance, the phrase "crap just got real" is a poor, poor substitute for the original phrase "shit just got real." (Also, "horseshit" is superior to "baloney.")

Another is the phrase "half-assed." It just so succinctly summarizes exactly what's going on.

I am very aware of this because I've got an eight-year-old son who half-asses everything. There are so many times in a day that I want to tell him, "And don't half-ass it this time." But I can't, because he's eight.

Last week, while he was busily engaged in half-assing something, I said to him, "I can't wait until you grow up, because there's a perfect phrase to describe what you're doing, but it's PG-13."

Domestic Constitutional Enemies

The Attorney General has written this:

It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.
If the Constitution does not stop the president from killing citizens without trial, then the Constitution has no meaning.

This is not a Civil War scenario Holder is outlining, where outright declarations and formal membership is verifiable. This isn't even a case where a paper trail is convincing enough to get a judge's approval. This is the executive branch as judge, jury, and executioner over citizens within our borders.

This news story was on Yahoo! News yesterday, as the 58th-most-important story of the day, behind such news items as Tina Fey in a swimsuit (top five story), Carly Rae Jepsen won't sing for Boy Scouts, and Kelly Clarkson used to own some American Idol record but doesn't anymore. Oh, and Lamar Odom fell asleep. All of these are more important than the total tyranny under which we now live.

(Today all those other news stories are still on Yahoo!, but the domestic drone strike story is gone. Freedom comes and freedom goes, but celebrity lasts forever.)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Mailbag: Punctuation Edition

Midwestern reader Bodie has written:

You should do a post on the correct use of the semicolon. It's my favorite punctuation mark that folks abuse.

The semicolon is an often-misused punctuation mark; most Americans are stymied by its usage because it requires them to remember things like "independent clauses," not things like "where Justin Bieber celebrated his 19th birthday" (news story courtesy of supposedly-serious news agency ABC News).

Some folks go so far as to call for a new punctuation mark that absolves the user of such concerns. (Four of those eight seem like legitimate improvements in my eyes.)

Semicolons connect two independent clauses with a common theme; if both sides of the sentence can stand as complete sentences in their own right, yet the second seems like an elaboration on the first, a semi-colon is appropriate. If the second portion of the sentence CANNOT function as an independent clause, the semi-colon is not the punctuation mark you're looking for.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Bringing a Tank to a Gun Fight

Here we are, worried that the Federales are buying rounds of ammunition. Meanwhile, DHS is buying tanks.

"Oh, settle down, A Random Stranger; they're light tanks." Sorry. My mistake. Perfectly normal behavior for the domestic security arm of a constitutional republic.

I know Gateway Pundit is not a nationally-recognized news source, but I've lost confidence in nationally-recognized news sources. When you know how complicit they have been on Benghazi, you don't take their silence on a story as evidence of its irrelevance. In fact, given a highly-competitive market, any product differentiation should be welcomed. Lock-step silence on an issue is a strong signal of media bias. They ignore stories they don't like, and when they can't ignore them anymore they write dismissive responses that don't actually respond, like the AP article about why DHS needs a billion bullets.