Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blogging About Ugly People (Besides Me)

I don't usually compound the misfortune of the terribly ugly by discussing it. For instance, I have a Facebook "friend" who regularly posts close-ups of the world's ugliest kid, but I don't blog about that here. I just shudder and scroll down.

Articulate Joe and I were watching the Manchester Derby a few weeks ago, and I said to him, "Man, Phil Jones is pretty ugly." But I wasn't going to blog about it or anything.

Until I saw this picture of him from the match. There's just no way to not blog about that. And if Phil Jones's feelings are hurt, he can pay someone to make him feel better.

I am much nobler than my wife, who has been plotting for weeks to take the picture of an especially-ugly baby to send to her friends for comment. My "friend"'s ugly baby is safe from such treachery.

Obeying, Honoring, and Sustaining the Law

We believe in a bunch of stuff, among which is obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. But what counts as law?

Decrees without legitimacy are not law. They are merely legislation. We believe we are only obligated to respect that government which protects us in our "inherent and inalienable rights," a phrase that all readers in 1835 would recognize as meaning, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

This morning I read with our kids from the Bible the story of Gideon, and I was struck by this portion. In Verse 11 we read "Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites." Gideon's tax evasion means he is not obeying the Midianite law. But in Verse 12, the angel of the Lord says to him, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour."

Strict obedience to unjust laws is not necessary to be valorous or to find favor in the sight of God. The Midianite law did not merit respect, and so Gideon's disrespect for the law is meritorious.

Monday, April 29, 2013

My Lazy Homeschooled Children

My ten-to-eleven-year-old daughter just sits around the house all day, doing ten-to-eleven-year-old things like writing stories and inventing games. If she had a little more ambition, she could be at the front of her age-group, excelling at things like mugging adult women.

Correction: attempted mugging. I guess she still has a chance to catch up. But she's never going to do it without some socialization.

Annihilism Update: Taking the Piss

Last week the president concluded his remarks to the nation's largest abortion provider by saying, "Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you."

How long can God tolerate comments like that? I'd like to use this opportunity to point out to God (long-time blog lurker, no doubt) that I did not vote for the president in either of his elections. So whatever He can do to keep the collateral damage at bay, I'd greatly appreciate.

Just to be clear: it is inappropriate to ask God's blessing on infant murderers. Pharaoh murdered babies and didn't receive God's blessing for it. Herod murdered babies and didn't receive God's blessing for it. Recasting the murders as some sort of component of "freedom and equality" doesn't stop them from being murders.

Nihilism would say no side of the abortion debate is morally preferable. Annihilism says God prefers abortionists and blesses their efforts.

I am feeling less safe living in a country with a president who says such things.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

(Ancient) History Repeats Itself

Although I live my life like I'm 44, in truth I'm only 35. Why am I the only person in America who remembers 1981?

The first year of Ronald Reagan's presidency saw his wife castigated for her "obsession" with fashion. The press (back when it wasn't just a group of English majors verbally fellating statists) complained of "Queen Nancy."

What does the press do today? They write of Michelle Obama, "Isn't it fun to see her pull out all the stops and look wholeheartedly glamorous?"

The things for which Nancy Reagan were criticized would be considered by Michelle Obama to be quaint at best and hoboish at worst. But since no one remembers anything older than a decade, no one points out the inconsistency.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Annihilism Update: Immigration

The United States Department of Agriculture is advertising that they don't check citizenship status when you apply for food stamps. This can sort of make sense: people who need help obtaining food shouldn't be left to starve because they aren't legal residents. But they also shouldn't be here. Government advertising the financial benefits available to illegal immigrants will necessarily raise the number of illegal immigrants, and the costs of the benefits programs. Current levels of government debt are unsustainable. We are destroying ourselves, in part to give food to illegal immigrants.

Speaking of illegal immigrants, some people won't even speak of illegal immigrants anymore. The Associated Press has outright banned the term aside from direct quotations, and the New York Times is recommending reporters "consider alternatives." What exactly is the most-precise term for someone who illegally immigrates?

At least while they're here, they might get to serve on juries now. California is moving towards non-citizen jurors. This is another almost-sensible proposal: if your court system is overwhelmed with the trials of non-citizens, you can't expect your shrinking pool of citizens to bear the entire jury burden. But the nation risks becoming the world's flop house when people with no commitment to the community come and go with many of the same privileges as citizens.

And when it comes to the privileges of citizens, the privilege of citizenship itself is being defined away. The attorney general said this week that amnesty for illegal immigrants is a civil right. Back when the term "civil right" meant something besides "whatever I want," this sentence would be a non sequitur. How can non-citizens have the rights of citizens, which is what civil rights are? Perhaps one could argue that a pathway to citizenship is a natural right, a right that comes from God by virtue of being alive, but saying non-citizen criminals should have the rights of citizens is to say there are no rights to citizenship at all.

There is a movement underway to include within the American community immigrants with no validation of their commitment to our values, thus replacing those values with the values of the world at large. Nihilism says American values are no better or worse than those of the rest of the world. Annihilism says American values are inferior and need to be replaced by outside values. The current push for immigration liberalization without checks and commitments is an effort to annihilate America itself.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ad Grammar

I drive past a McDonald's billboard twice each week. It is advertising a special price on breakfast sandwiches when you buy two. It reads "two good to pass up."

I know they want me to read it as "[these] two [are too] good to pass up," but it seems more natural to read it as "[these] two [are] good to pass up."

While I'm blogging about poorly-written ad copy, another billboard I saw (this one for TGIFriday's) reads, "Here we don't ask why, we ask why not?" What could this possibly mean? Is that the sign of a good restaurant? It tells us nothing at all about the food.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Futility of Blogging, Or Blogging My Futility

First of all, I'm composing this post in IE, which doesn't have spell-check, so there might be some missspelings.

I have a lot of things I'd like to say to the world. Most of them start with a fist to the world's teeth. Since that's not really practical (the world doesn't actually have a set of teeth, aside from metaphorically), I'm flummoxed on opening gambits. Just start ranting? Pull a fire alarm? Get up on a table and take off my shirt? Without a firm starting position, I can't get started.

So here's an article I saw today: "Town Under Siege By River Seeks Buyout." The gist of the article is that the Mississippi River snuck up on these citizens one day, like the sneaky bastard Big Muddy can be, and now they are helpless without government money. It has to be that they didn't know the river was there, right? Because otherwise they already received their buyout in the form of implicit compensation. But none of these residents are saying, "I bought flood-prone land for a fraction of the market price, so I don't need government money to make me whole."

The townsfolk seeking the buyout frustrate me. But what's even more frustrating is that it could make financial sense for the rest of us to bail them out. Since they can take their disaster relief money and rebuild in the same spot (in fact, view it as a badge of honor to not move a single inch), then get another disaster relief check when a river known to flood up and floods again, then we can save ourselves some money by giving them a payment to leave. The article says that spending $1 on mitigation saves $4 of future costs.

Maybe they didn't actually buy at a discount, because future disaster payments are capitalized into the price of the property. So a stupid system perpetuates itself, and it can never stop because someone somewhere made plans based on the stupid system.

I was driving today on my biweekly 200-mile commute (thanks for all the attention to economic recovery, Prez), contemplating the coming implosion of private healthcare. Every rational adult knew what the result of Obamacare would be. Those that supported the plan were either irrational or wanted to destroy the greatest healthcare system ever created. Well, now the destruction is coming next year, when private insurance plans will cost 40% to 80% more than they do right now. That's not what most people consider "affordable" care.

When that happens, and Jerome Jerome the Metronome needs his valve replacement and can't get it, Barack Obama will have killed my son just as surely as if he'd personally strangled him. I'll be in the hospital room when it happens, completely powerless to stop it, and Obama will be on a Hawaiian estate, planning his next million-dollar speaking engagement. And all his idiot minions who elected him TWICE will be feeling so noble about the pretend lives they saved at the ballot box, while I futily seek to preserve the real life they destroyed.

Post-Great-War society drifted towards nihilism, the belief that traditional values and mores were baseless. Our society has now completely embraced what I'd call annihilism: the best policies for society are those that will most-assuredly destroy society.

The distinction is this: nihilism would say all policies are equally valid and none deserves preference. Annihilism would say there is a preferred policy, and it is the most destructive one.

The Kermit Gosnell trial shows the annihilism of abortion policy. The Boston bombings show the annihilism of a value-free defense against a value-determined enemy. The current Senate immigration bill shows the annihilism of injecting voters with dramatically different priorities into the electorate. The push for stricter gun control laws shows the annihilism of replacing a broad base of freedom's defenders with a narrow cadre of freedom's distributors.

In 2008 the nation needed a real response to economic collapse, and instead it got symbolism and slogans. That was the nihilistic response: "Your valuation of prosperity has no greater claim to validity than my valuation of the symbolic end of racism." In 2012 the nation needed a real response to economic stagnation, and instead it got a rejection of that response. Conventional wisdom is that the reelection of a president is a referendum on that president, but the past election was more a referendum on the challenger and what he represented. After all, Barack Obama wasn't associated with any plan for the future. What is Obama's second term plan? We were never told. But we selected it anyway, because Romney's plan was to stop the destruction, and that plan was rejected. That was the annihilistic response. "You want to preserve Western life, while I want to see its further destruction."

No blog is going to stop annihilism. A society with a death wish has to be allowed its wish. The only rational response now is to seek shelter until it's all over.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"Guess Where I Am / I Am on the Plane"

I used to post via email, back when I had a job and crap. (Five years ago, life was awesome.) Now I'm trying out the Blogger app for the first time. I heard it's terrible. This test run will help me see how true that is.

Title from the They Might Be Giants song "I Can Hear You."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How Sméagol Got His Start

Yesterday I took Articulate Joe with me to work. He found a candy basket with Life Savers inside, and evidently pocketed two of them. Then last night during Family Night, as we were watching Elder Packer's conference talk, I looked over and saw Articulate Joe holding a Life Saver in his hand, staring at it.

I asked him to recreate the pose while lovingly stroking the Life Saver. He refused to call it "My Precious," though.

Monday, April 22, 2013

No Sneering Necessary

I read Wodehouse novels to keep myself from despondency. One such novel, The Code of the Woosters, centers on a creamer shaped like a cow. Bertie Wooster's aunt wants him to sneer at it in a shop so the owner loses confidence in its value and Bertie's uncle can buy it cheap. When he fails in that assignment, he is tasked with stealing it from a large country house where he is a guest. As with most Wodehouse novels about Bertie Wooster, Jeeves saves the day.

I believe it was last year around this time that I was shopping for an anniversary present for my wife (our anniversary is this Sunday; gifts are unnecessary but far from discouraged; tradition would have you buy us pearls or silk). While browsing the store, I came across a cow creamer. In that moment, I came to see the insensibility of my not yet owning a cow creamer.

That was how part of my wife's present was this handsome cow creamer.

This is much like how Marge Simpson came to own a bowling ball.

A few weeks later, we had over some friends who are also Wodehouse friends. (That's not the basis of our friendship, but it is one of a handful of its pillars.) The wife said, "Nice cow creamer." My wife said, "I guess it's from a Wodehouse book." Our friend said, "Well, yeah."

NB: We don't drink coffee.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Assault With a Shaming Weapon

I've long argued that hate crimes criminalize perceived thought. If you punch someone, that gets a sentence of a certain length. But if you say mean things while you punch someone, that gets a longer sentence. Even if you don't say the things, but I think you think the things, you're going to jail for longer. So part of the jail sentence is for the action, and some is for what I think you were thinking when you did the action.

For some reason, government prosecutors argued the Amish beard-cutting crimes were hate crimes. As a result, mothers and fathers are serving up to 15 years in prison for cutting someone's hair. And since the Amish are such notorious prison gangsters, they are being broken up, serving in prisons from Louisiana to Massachusetts. Given the travel limitations of the Amish community, this is like sentencing them to prison without visitation.

In what possible sense is this the product of a "justice" system? Courts are to impose sentences commensurate to the damage caused. It is called "justice" for a reason. If we wanted a "deterrence" system, we'd give impossibly-long sentences for relatively-minor infractions, like five years for stealing a loaf of bread. All readers recognize the injustice in Valjean's sentence, which is why Hugo used it. Justice has been over-served here, which isn't justice at all.

To Verb

MY WIFE: What does "assignation" mean?

A RANDOM STRANGER: It's the act of assigning something.

MW: So if you gave something to me you've assignated it to me?

ARS: Well, I've never heard it verbed before.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Topic on the Lips of Every Teenage Girl in the Nation

First there was the story about Lululemon's yoga pants being transparent. I read that story with schadenfreude; conspicuous consumption that marks the consumer as conspicuously stupid will always have a place in my affections. And it was the first time I'd see a news story about Lululemon that wasn't about murder.

Then there was the follow-up story about Lululemon employees making potential-pants-returners don the pants and bend over for an evaluation of their transparency. (The pants' transparency; the fact that they're Lululemon customers already tell us about the potential-pants-returners' transparency.) Who would possibly agree to this?! As a professor of industrial organization, I'm intrigued by customer-service horror stories.

Then there was this story about a California junior high school that won't allow girls to wear leggings without a covering. When the administrators reminded the girls of this policy, "the message surprised the students and caused an initial backlash" of not just students, but parents also. Who is surprised that genitalia-revealing pants need a cover? And what parents lead such a backlash?

I can kind of get the anger at the administration's "don't distract boys" justification. "Kind of" because it sounds sexist, like girls are responsible for what boys think. And having been a junior-high-school boy, I can tell you that what they're afraid the boys might be thinking, the boys are actually thinking, all the time, whether they see 100 girls in leggings or a work crew sitting on the side of the road eating lunch. All. The. Time.

But I disagree with these modern parents who would have their daughters believe they can do whatever they want without repercussion. Visual images create thoughts, and thoughts create actions. Actions can be controlled by limiting visual images.

A local girl wore leggings with a too-short shirt to school and got the choice of covering up or going home for the day. Her mother kept her home for a week, then displayed a shockingly-poor understanding of human anatomy when she said of a requirement that shirts over leggings come to the wearer's fingertips, "She's so tall that she would have to have a skirt almost down to her knees."

Being tall doesn't make your hands reach your knees. She's a human, not a chimp. And there used to be a time in America when "a skirt almost down to her knees" wasn't shockingly long, but shockingly short.

Also of note: the shirt is see-through. We're debating whether her daughter's genitals should be seen through a black filter or an orange-and-black filter. And like a responsible parent, the mother never once considers that maybe they shouldn't be seen through any filter at all.

My memory of school is that no learning at all takes place between sixth grade and tenth grade. Everyone is caught up in the roiling sea of hormones, hierarchy, and assimilation. Now the ability to dress inappropriately is seen as some sort of women's lib issue. (The woman I know with the anti-prayer bumper sticker had to hunt around for a home-school prom with a sufficiently-permissive dress code for her tastes. How DARE you tell my daughter to cover her nakedness!) Girls need to stop being told that the thoughts they inspire and the situations they create are not their responsibility. But in a world where responsibility is a burden to be shed, girls will keep feeling the same way about clothing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What Am I Trying to Maximize

Everyone's always trying to maximize something. I'd say this conviction is borne of my profession as an economist, but I'm not an economist. I'm a ZMP worker.

What am I trying to maximize? The way I see it, I have one responsibility: see to it that my children are saved in the Kingdom of God.

Things that increase the likelihood of that happening are to be embraced. Things that decrease the likelihood are to be shunned. And things that don't have any bearing on the likelihood don't really matter.

So how much am I going to fight to defend liberty? Not that much at all. You don't need a constitutional republic to receive salvation. Plenty of Christians have lived their lives under various aliberal regimes. And what makes it more likely that my children will learn the commandments of God: having a father in jail because he refused to follow unjust laws, or having a law-abiding father at home with them?

I love the freedoms acknowledged by (not "granted by") the Constitution, but I'm not going to sacrifice my family's well-being to protect any freedoms that are ultimately unnecessary for me to be successful at my one responsibility.

I know this is how tyrants remove opposition: they get people with families to give in because these people love their families more than they love freedom from tyranny. I have a number of books that will be banned when it comes to it, and I won't risk imprisonment to protect them.

If I'm not going to resist tyranny, I don't really need high-capacity magazines, do I? "What about when they come to kill your kids, A Random Stranger?" I already told you, I'm not here to maximize the lengths of their lives.

Of course, despite what the modern world would tell you, there are things worse than death. I will fight to protect my family from those things, because I believe those things decrease the likelihood that their victims will be saved (GIANT NOTE: not because the victims are unclean, but because of the crimes' creation of destructive thought-processes in their victims). But one person cannot stop a society bent on abusing his kin. Just ask Lot, who required supernatural intervention.

So I need to qualify for Zion, for the protection that will be offered there. Which means I have to get the right attitude about money and things. And now the whole thing becomes hopeless. When you know how badly I want this belt buckle, you know I can't possibly be of "one heart and one mind" with anyone. I'm as good as destroyed by the roving hoards of death squads that await all of us who refuse to give up Mammon.

Always Good for a Laugh

I used to work with a guy who couldn't help but laugh anytime I said, "Like a bag of walnuts." In the past, I've been known to laugh uncontrollably over some lines from The Simpsons, such as, "If you ever wanted to see a mailbox shoot a boy, that's about as close as you're going to get," and "Did I hear something?"

Last week a Facebook acquaintance reposted this picture and asked for captions.

The first suggested caption: "Horry shiiii!"

A week later and I still can't keep from laughing about this every time I think of it.

Of Course College Is Effective--It's So Expensive

You know by now that I think college is over-prescribed. Yes, it takes a certain amount of education to sustain a democratic republic, but anyone who confuses college for education hasn't been to college in a while (or else has a financial stake in perpetuating the misconception). What we have now is actually far worse that a lack of education: we have miseducation masquerading as the real thing, which makes people think there's no need to restore learning because it hasn't gone away. (This is also why the continued lip-service paid to the Constitution is worse for constitutional law than the complete repudiation of the Constitution would be.)

However, plenty of Americans have bought the myths that 1) college is educational, 2) everyone needs as much education as possible, and 3) education spending is always beneficial. This then makes them wring their hands when they see that some people aren't spending as much time in school as possible. (The president recently bemoaned that we don't have enough four-year-olds in school.) In their view, there's no such thing as declining marginal utility. (Maybe they've just never heard of it, which is ironic considering how much time they've spent in school.)

Here's an article that seeks to tackle the problem of why so few Los Angeles high school students end up in college. From the article we read:

It turns out, in 2011 only 16 percent of graduates (about one in four) passed the classes necessary for acceptance into California state schools.
Read that again. I'll wait here for you to come back.

The article's author (credited as a website, but probably a person) either thinks "16%" is a confusing term for you or is himself confused by it. So he seeks to put it into "real-world" terms. For some reason he bypasses "one in six," which actually IS 16%, and goes for "one in four," which, a quick Google search would tell most of his readers, is 25%.

How far off is he? Oh, not that far. Only 56%. (For those of you driven to crying in a corner over the incomprehensibility of that figure, calm down: it's about one in two.)

Here's a likely explanation: not only are the readers confused by "16%," they are also confused by esoteric fractions like "one in six." After all, how often do you come across something divided into six equal parts? Quarters are MUCH more common.

This explanation has implications too chilling to pursue here. This is a family blog.

If you can't handle "16%," you shouldn't be in college. If 60 years of hammering education onto the American people has produced a populace that no longer knows 16% is one in six, the returns to education are indeed negative. The first step to correcting miseducation is to awaken its victims to the reality that their 16-to-20 years spent in school does not prima facie make them intelligent. And on the off chance they have a rare moment of clarity and see this truth, you have to keep them from thinking, "Another year of school would fix this problem."

I'd say 75% of Americans (about three in four, that is) are unaware that an additional year of school could be anything but a good thing. And that's one more reason we're all doomed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Coming of Bill by P.G. Wodehouse: Highlights

These are the parts of the book I liked. If that's not interesting to you, suck it. Nobody's making you read this.

"It happens only too often that the uplifter of the public mind is baulked by a disinclination on the part of the public mind to meet him or her half-way. The uplifter does his share. He produces the uplifting book. But the public, instead of standing still to be uplifted, wanders off to browse on coloured supplements and magazine stories." p. 1

"A bearer of sensational tidings likes to spread a certain amount of dismay and terror...." p. 38

"Kirk looked at his son and heir, who was submitting at that moment to be bathed. He was standing up. It was a peculiarity of his that he refused to sit down in a bath, being apparently under the impression, when asked to do so, that there was a conspiracy afoot to drown him." p. 68

"Even to his wife a man is not always eager to exhibit his soul in its nakedness." p. 87

"She had none of that reverence for the great and the near-great which, running to seed, becomes snobbery." p. 104

"Her father had cried, her brother Jim had cried, her brother Terence had cried, and her brother Mike had cried in a manner that made the weeping of the rest of the family seem like the uncanny stillness of a summer night; but she had not shed a tear." p. 139

18th-Century Pimpin'

Sunday in Philadelphia, a federal parasite employee told us, "The Thaddeus Kosciusko house is set to close at the end of the month due to Sequestration and we don't know when it will reopen, so if you want to see it, you should do it now."

I could have said, "Really? Your budget will go up while prices are going down and somehow you can't afford to run all the locations you ran in the past?" But instead I took it as an excuse to visit the smallest national park in the nation, even though it would not really interest anyone in my family but me.

Thaddeus Kosciusko was a Polish polymath: revolutionary, tutor, revolutionary, and...did I say revolutionary? Well, he revolted a lot.

But he also pimped. And as was commonly said in 18th-century Philadelphia, "Of a truth, pimpin' ain't easy."

Are those VD lesions on her face? Nice eye for detail, T-Kosz.

Just in case you can't read between the lines, you can push a button and hear a voice actor playing Kosciusko's valet give a brief narration of life in a boarding house. The valet gives a sardonic laugh when he mentions the women who would stop by to see his boss.

The building has two staircases so the human crush can find an outlet (in our 40-minute visit, we got there right as someone else was leaving and then we left right as someone else was arriving). Also, it allows for routing through the "gift shop" (a half bookshelf with more books about Casimir Pulaski than about Kosciusko). Even at the nation's smallest national park, you have to exit through the gift shop.

Information Theater

That press conference was a shambles.

Lots of talking with nothing being said. First the governor spoke about the tragedy in general terms, then the mayor spoke about the tragedy in general terms, then the senator (?!) assured us that the president (?!?!) is deeply engaged, then the FBI SAIC told us how they're going to investigate (you know, once they get around to it), then the guy from ATF told us how the explosives expert is going to be there, eventually.

It is talking that they hope you take as communication. It is information theater.

Why are they not sharing information? There are three possible reasons:

1. You can't be trusted with information. You might be a bomber, too, for all we know.

2. They don't have information. There are no leads, no clues. They don't know where to begin.

3. They don't like the implications of the information they have. It needs to be massaged before it's just released. It would be great if the bomber turned out to be a race volunteer, because then we can just call it an incident of workplace violence.

None of those reasons is comforting.

NB: the "Al Qaeda" label is a stand-in for "terrorism."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Economics of Song: The Real Slim Shady

At the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, Will Smith said, "See? I got a successful album, and I didn’t have to curse off or talk about violence." In response, Eninem rapped in "The Real Slim Shady,"

Will Smith don't gotta cuss in his raps to sell his records

Well I do, so [expletive] him and [expletive] you too

It's an interesting admission that Will Smith and Eminem are not producing substitutes. Product differentiation allows for producers to exercise more market power, because they are more like monopolies. Eminem is the only place to go for an Eminem rap, and if Eminem tried to mimic Will Smith, he's convinced his albums wouldn't sell.

What's even more interesting is the placement of the expletives: by placing them immediately after the admission that his sales depend on their presence, it's like they are only there for the sales. The profanity is not there because of artistic license, but because of economic necessity. It's like Steve Martin showing up at a celebrity golf tournament and saying, "Well, exCUUUUUUUUUUUUSe ME!" It doesn't fit the moment and as such means nothing but, "I'm Steve Martin and you want to hear Steve Martin say this."

Lastly, notice that Eminem doesn't just have contempt for Smith's criticism of Eminem's obscenity, but for his public who ostensibly want to hear it. It's like Eminem feels forced to play a character that hates his public, which makes him hate his public, which makes his character more believable. Imagine interupting Don Rickles's anniversary dinner to ask to be insulted. He'd insult you, but not as an act. Eminem hates Smith for criticizing his business model, and he hates his fans for supporting the model.

© Matt Groening

Angry, angry young man.

If the profanity isn't genuine, is it still satisfying? Is this just spurious product differentiation, which is not welfare enhancing? If we remove the F-words, are Will Smith and Eminem in perfect competition, selling albums at marginal cost?

Probably not. There's more than just a few F-words differentiating "Stan" from "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It." But raps about the market structure of the rap industry don't have much of an audience, without a few obscenities thrown in.

NB: In junior high I wrote a report on "Obscenity and Censorship," and in my usual half-ass style back then (things are different now?!), I misspelled both "obscenity" and "censorship." But I totally nailed the spelling of "and."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Upcoming Posts This Week (Or Possibly Never)

Usually when I do this, I don't actually get around to following through. Oh well.

  • Parental affection as driving force of child success. (Based on mother and child I saw driving, but the next day informed somewhat by this article.)
  • This news story.
  • This news story.
  • These news stories.
  • What exactly am I maximizing as a homeschooling parent, and how it relates to my decreasing desire to buy guns.
  • Various Google Reader items marked for comment.
  • Podcasting.
  • Horry shiiii!
  • Social nihilism.
No need to read the articles now. That'll spoil the surprise later. Of course, if there turns out to be no later, maybe you should read them now.

Forests and Trees, Vis-a-Vis Parenting

My wife and I just had a long discussion about parents we know who spend a lot of effort perfecting things that don't really matter while they ignore issues that actually have survival implications for their children. This is like militantly keeping your kid from high fructose corn syrup while leaving them in the care of your ex-con boyfriend.

What are the possible explanations for this? One is parental friction, that the dangerous practice in question is a point of contention between the parents. Parent A thinks it's important to keep the kid away from poison, but Parent B thinks it's no big deal (or thinks it's equally important that the kid have access to poison), so Parent A decides instead to parent the crap out of time spent playing video games.

Another explanation is parental ignorance. The parents don't know poison is dangerous, or they can't understand a hierarchy of threats and treat all hazards as equally worthy of their attention. I've read before about the lag in learning urban sanitation standards by new city residents in the early 20th century. Basically they bring with them their hillbilly understanding of cleanliness (or slovenliness, as it were), and in the close quarters of urban life, they create disease. Evidently it takes several generations to learn that trash cans need lids. Maybe the same thing is happening with these parents and their misplaced priorities. It takes time to see and respond to existential threats.

Maybe it's parental helplessness. Instead of direct inter-parent conflict, it's just the world in general that's keeping the parents from addressing the bigger problems. So my kid has a problem with malnourishment, but since solving that is difficult, I'll just keep them from eating any chocolate that isn't fair-trade certified.

All of these possible solutions leave me unsatisfied. If the parent just completely ignored parenting issues, it would be easier to understand; he's either not up to snuff as a parent or doesn't care enough to try. But parents who try hard, just at the wrong things, can't be easily explained.

Of course, they'd say I'm guilty of the same problems. "You keep your kid from high-quality education," they'd sniff. But even if we grant that public schools offer a higher-quality education than my children receive at home (which I don't concede), that's an issue of my maximizing on a different metric. I'm not trying to maximize their socialization or their scores on standardized tests. These conscientiously-negligent parents say they are maximizing their children's health, but then pick low-impact ways to accomplish it while ignoring high-impact ways.

NB: The "math" label has become the "science" label has now become the "health" label.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Throwing in the (Terrible) Towel

By the way, I've given up on the 2013 baseball season.

I might get frustrated at some point in the future and need to vent, but I'm not planning on blogging much about the Pirates this year. And with my cooled enthusiasm for the bloodlust that drives hockey and American football, I am losing my connection to my place of birth. I always thought I'd like to go back and live in Pittsburgh; the last time we visited it felt so much like where I belonged. Now I don't really have a place I'm from.

Soccer Math

Here's a math problem I just assigned my son: New England Revolution has won one game, tied one game, and lost two games. They have scored one goal and conceded two goals. What were the final scores of all four games played?

He can figure this out, but he's also lazy and scared of failure. I don't know if he'll put forth the effort to get the solution.

Monday, April 08, 2013

So Trunky

I hate certain words, like what most people call a hooded sweatshirt. Mostly they are words that remind me of the Saturday Night Live skit about saving time through using shortened words: "I'm about to die by lethe inject."

Throughout my mission, I hated the word "trunky." And the word "greenie." And a lot of other mission slang. Just about the only mission slang term I didn't hate was "blue dog," the meaning of which nobody knew. It was in our mission handbook as an example of a slang term to not use, but no one had ever heard it. It was speculated by missionaries that the term was invented by the AP who wrote that section of the handbook; supposedly he invented the term with no meaning behind it, confident that if it appeared on a list of banned words, missionaries would start to use it.

But lately what I've been feeling can be perfectly summarized by the word "trunky." I don't want to be here anymore. Problem: I don't yet have another place to go.

How does this affect you? Well, I might be blogging less frequently for a while. Don't interpret this as a typical depression-fueled quiet spell. This is just being ready to move on and not being able to.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

What Is the Sound of One Banana Hammocking?

The last time my wife was out of town for a while, I bought a banana hook for the kitchen. (Those are the types of over-the-top surprises I pull out; being married to me is such an adventure!) It wasn't until I reached the end of the banana bunch that I realized the hook has a problem: what to do with the last banana?

Hanging bananas on a hook requires at least two bananas (unless you impale the final banana on the hook like Shaka Zulu).

I've since moved beyond the balancing solution: when I'm going to eat the next-to-last banana, I use scissors* to snip the banana from the bunch, leaving the final banana attached to a stub for hooking purposes.

* = When I lived in Wisconsin, I discovered people there use the word "scissors" as a singular noun. "Will you hand me a scissors?" they would ask. When I asked for a "pair of scissors," like a sane person should, they would ask "What are you going to do with two of them?" For some reason, they used "pair of pants" in the normal fashion; it was just "pair of scissors" that was too much for them.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Everyday Lunch

Here's my daily lunch.

Carrots, celery, and peppers dipped in hummus, cashews, cherries, apricots, string cheese, and an apple. My calorie counting app tells me it's 837 calories.

Everyday Breakfast

Here's my everyday breakfast.

Total in almond milk, Greek yogurt, an orange, a banana, and some "dried plums." My calorie-counter app tells me it's 555 calories.

I'm not saying this is awe-inspiring or motivational or anything. I'm just letting you know what I do with my meaningless life: I wake up and eat 555 calories.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Expensive Text

I used to have a co-worker who would text me random things for no reason, even though I told him my phone plan didn't have texting, so I was paying a dime to read each of his musings.

Now I have a plan that includes texting. I wish I didn't, though. I just got the most expensive text of my life.

Both [Crazy Jane] and [Articulate Joe] need to see an orthodontist ASAP.
And just today I was thinking things maybe would be turned around for us in five months.

Magic Baby

Yesterday I was scanning through some radio stations and I heard a bit of a song that the Interwebs have told me is Keith Urban's "Kiss a Girl." The lyrics I heard were

I wanna kiss a girl

I wanna hold her tight

And maybe make a little magic baby

Doesn't making a little magic baby sound awesome?! I'm not imagining so much Baby Harry Potter--after all, all his magickness certainly didn't help James and Lily that much--I'm thinking more like how I imagine* the baby functions in The Hangover. I want a magic baby that can get me out of parking tickets, help my favorite sports teams win, and dispense hilarious comeuppances on my enemies (and I have a lot of enemies, so this baby is going to have to be SHARP, not one of those soft American magic babies that is always too tired to do squat).

Where does Keith Urban get off thinking he should have a magic baby? Isn't his life nice enough as it is? I mean, aside from the whole drug rehab bit of it. He's married to one of the most beautiful women in the world. He's got enough money that he can just do all the things I want a magic baby to do for me. He doesn't need a magic baby. I do.

I don't really think any of my previous kids would count as a "magic" baby. They can make money disappear pretty quickly, but it's not quite "magic." It's more "slight of hand." One minute it's there, and the next minute you're so broke you're thinking you might have to move to Idaho.

* = I "imagine" because I haven't seen the movie, or a complete trailer. But I've seen the movie poster featuring Zack Galifianakis wearing a BabyBjörn, and that told me everything I need to know. He and Will Tippin and Andy Bernard live like frat boys with a baby in tow, right? It seems like I've seen that movie before. So which one is filling the Steve Guttenberg role?

Monday, April 01, 2013

Enhanced Vocabulary

My daughter invented a word over the weekend. TRAVESTATE (verb): devastate by means of a travesty. EX: The 1972 U.S. men's basketball team was travestated by the outcome of the gold-medal game.

It's Uter-US, Not Uter-YOU

I know a woman whose car features the bumper sticker "Two hands working can accomplish more than 1000 clasped in prayer." What is the point of this? If she thinks working is so valuable, then she's free to work. If she thinks working is more valuable than prayer, then she could advocate a kind of "why don't you work AND pray" approach. But instead she decided to insult those who believe in prayer by equating it with wishing. (Probably worse than wishing, because at least wishing has The Secret behind it, right?) It seems to me she's not trying to increase working hands so much as decrease praying ones. Why would she care how many hands are clasped in prayer?

The same woman has another bumper sticker (she has a lot of them) that demands I mind my own uterus. As if it is the uterus that is the actual point of the argument. Is she really so self-centered that she thinks this is only about her uterus? I don't want to control her uterus, but I think killing children is wrong. (But to hear all those anti-Komen people scream it, Planned Parenthood is only about "women's health," right? Funny how you might get a different opinion when you hear their spokeswoman say a woman should be allowed to kill a delivered baby.) "Mind your own uterus" makes an abortion the equivalent of a tattoo or a piercing, and denies men any say at ALL on the life or death of their offspring. After all, none of my children were carried in MY uterus, were they?

Another woman I know commemorated Easter on Facebook by posting something to the effect that true compassion is a desire to save others from a belief in an imaginary friend. For the sake of argument, let's grant that God is make-believe; why do I need "saving" from this error? It's not like "I believe sticking a knife in an electrical outlet is harmless," an error that actually poses a threat. It's more like "I believe basketball is superior to baseball," an error that poses no threat at all.

These women would also argue in favor of "tolerance." Why are they intolerant of my belief in prayer, my belief abortion is killing, and my belief in God?

Post title a quotation of Homer J. Simpson.