Friday, October 28, 2016

New E-Mail Investigation

I don't think it's conspiracy-theorist stuff to say that Barack Obama and his entire administration want Hillary Clinton to win this election. So why would the FBI re-open their investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails 11 days before the election?

  1. They love truth and there's an objective reason to do this.
  2. Barack Obama doesn't love truth but James Comey does and he's off the reservation here.
  3. Barack Obama is lying when he says he wants Hillary Clinton to win.
  4. Barack Obama wants Hillary Clinton to win, but he wants to make her sweat.
  5. They think Hillary has large enough of a lead that they can afford this so she's not starting with impeachment hearings.
  6. Hillary's already rigged the vote. (That's my shout-out to any Trump supporters I might have in my readership.)
  7. Obama loves a constitutional crisis.
  8. Tim Kaine is running the show.
  9. It's a prelude to the Nov. 6th announcement that Hillary is completely innocent so Trump's support collapses immediately before Election Day.
  10. Some other reason.

It's probably #9, but personally I think it's a mix of #3, #7, and #8. But that's the conspiracy theorist in me talking.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Something That Makes Sense But I Hadn't Thought of Before

When I think of my bowels (which is sort of frequently, actually), I imagine their empty state as being hollow tubes that are about the diameter of a piece of poop. It was only today that I realized their empty state is probably collapsed, with the opposite sides touching each other. Otherwise, there's no explanation for farts. Why would your bowels push out some air if they are constantly filled with air?

I'm not sure why it took me this long to figure this out.

NB: Remember, the "math" label is the "science" label.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Southern Hospitality

We live in the South now, which means we can shop at Winn-Dixie, something our kids think is great since they've all read Because of Winn-Dixie. My wife and I don't think it's all that great because Winn-Dixie is expensive. But one thing they have going for them there: they pride themselves on customer service. On our first visit we walked through the doors and a cashier who was 20 feet away and in the middle of checking out a different customer yelled a greeting to us. Later I took an on-line survey where I was specifically asked if an employee greeted me when I walked through the door. It's a welcomed change from DC-area Target stores, where evidently part of the staff's training is to never be tricked into speaking to a customer.

Saturday after cleaning the chapel we wanted to go to a used-book store on that same side of town, but we arrived 20 minutes before it opened, so we went to a nearby Winn-Dixie to buy doughnuts while we waited. When I got to the register the very friendly cashier asked me, "How much are a dozen doughnuts?"

I remembered seeing the half-dozen price, but not the dozen price. ("Why do six people need a dozen doughnuts anyway?" BECAUSE WE ARE GREAT AMERICANS. NOW SHUT YOUR FOOL MOUTH.) I hadn't realized the pricing burden would be on me. I know we're no longer in the 1970s when the cashiers had to memorize 30,000 prices, but the reason they don't have to do that anymore is because of technological advancements like bar code scanners. If the box doesn't have a bar code, next she should refer to her vegetable cheat-sheet that often includes bakery items. If she doesn't have one of those, next she should pick up her phone and call the bakery. It seems like the last place to go is the customer's memory for trivia.

But she just stood there waiting for me to supply the price. I knew the half-dozen was $2.99, so I said, "It might have been $5.99?" But then I realized I was wrong, that the second half-dozen was discounted, so it was much more likely that the dozen price was $4.99. But I couldn't tell her because it would look like I was lying to get a good deal. "Oh, if you're just going to use whatever price I give you then I clearly remember that the doughnuts were two bits for 16 dozen."

So I ended up overpaying at the expensive grocery store. But I don't remember if I was greeted when I walked in the store, and I didn't even get an adorable dog that can heal The Preacher's damaged heart. What a rip-off.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Long Way Around

When I'm driving eastbound on Emerson Street, I pass under I-95 and then continue to the next traffic light. Immediately after this intersection, there's a sign advising me that, if I want to reach I-95, I should...keep going straight.

This is because I'm driving on US-1 Alternate, and that road will eventually intersect with I-95.

This is probably the most misleading road sign I've ever seen. It's even more misleading than the sign on I-15 north of Las Vegas that tells you "exit here to go to Great Basin National Park."

While that sign in Nevada makes it seem Great Basin National Park is NOT actually over four hours away, at least it is honestly the most-direct route to get there. But this sign in Jacksonville is telling you to drive about 10 miles to get to something you can LITERALLY SEE IN YOUR REAR-VIEW MIRROR AS YOU DRIVE PAST THE SIGN.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Three Book of Mormon Thoughts This Weekend

  1. As I was falling asleep Friday night, I was thinking that perhaps our prayers should be focused on outcomes instead of instruments. The outcome might be "providing for my family," and there might be a thousand instruments that would accomplish that (one particular job, a different particular job, rising asset prices, game shows, inheritance, et cetera). Unless we've been inspired to know which instrument to back, we're better off allowing the choice of instrument to be God's. Anyway, to test this theory, I looked to examples from the life of Nephi. There was a time Nephi backed a particular instrument ("give me strength to burst these cords") and instead received the outcome (becoming untied) through a different instrument (the cords fell off). And when it came to obtaining the plates of brass, he didn't back any particular instrument until he was inspired to kill Laban, and even then he refused the instrument at first.

    At this point, I thought, "What was Laman and Lemuel's reaction to Nephi returning from Jerusalem and telling them, 'I just killed a guy'?" He must have appear a psychopath to them. For the rest of their lives, they had to think, "What if he decides to kill us, too?" Once Lehi died, they probably told themselves, "We have to kill Nephi before he kills us first." My point is, I could see the killing of Laban being a major stumbling block to Lehites following Nephi, like how things in (or supposed to be in) Joseph Smith's history are major stumbling blocks to people following him today. And I realized that maybe the Lord intentionally uses people who have complicated histories so there's tension between what your brain tells you and what the inspiration of the Holy Ghost tells you. I mean, Moses had a lot of baggage, from an Israelite perspective, right?

  2. It's convenient sometimes to present the gathering at the Bountiful temple (in 3 Nephi 11) as related to "safety" so then we can go from discussing the physical safety the Nephites received at the temple to the metaphorical safety we receive through regular temple attendance. But I don't think the analogy holds up chronologically. The destruction happens in the first month of the 34th year (3 Nephi 8:5) and the gathering at the temple happens "in the ending of the thirty and fourth year" (3 Nephi 10:18). It is said to be "soon after the ascension of Christ into heaven," which is thought to have happened 40 days after the Resurrection. So at the least we're talking about six weeks after the destruction. It seems clear to me that this wasn't a gathering for physical safety. Sorry, but find a more apt metaphor.
  3. 3 Nephi 10:16 gives more evidence of the identity of Zenos and Zenock that I've never noticed before. Mormon says the Lehites are "a remnant of their seed." It's possible the reason the plates of brass contained the writings of Zenos and Zenock is because they are ancestors of Lehi. While they contained a lot of what we would consider the Old Testament, they also had "a genealogy of [Lehi's] fathers" (1 Nephi 5:14). It seems Mormon is telling us Zenos and Zenock aren't just Israelite prophets, they are ancestors of Lehi.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Silencing Critics By Becoming Unspeakably Terrible

There's a lot to hate about this election, but one thing that especially bothers me is the way that depravity has become a defense against criticism.

In a nation of laws, criminals go to jail. But in a legitimate democracy, election winners don't imprison their opponents. Normally we think of elected officials thinking they are above the law, but now we have candidates thinking they are above the law because it would cheapen our democracy if they were prosecuted for their crimes. The lesson learned is: go all in, so when your critics accurately describe your behavior, they sound like conspiracy theorists.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Narcissism Metrics

I asked my 300 students to alphabetize their exams when they turned them in today. A handful of them alphabetized by their first names.

Has ANYONE alphabetized by first name since leaving kindergarten? Every class period they have to check their names on the attendance list, which is alphabetized by last names. Every time I hand back assignments I call them out in alphabetical order using their last names. In what possible universe does a roomful of adults think they are going to be organized by FIRST names?!?

I think scenarios that give emphasis to our last names are less personal and more automated. Your preacher or your therapist uses your first name, while the DMV calls you by last name (unless the DMV has gone whole dehumanizing and called you by a number instead). How many college students think first name only is sufficient identification? Is that number increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Wussification Metrics

What percentage of animal chases in nature programs end with the prey escaping? I suspect that the percentage has increased dramatically during my lifetime, especially when the prey is a juvenile.

What percentage of animal chases in Russian-language nature programs end with the prey escaping? What about Mandarin-language nature programs? And is that percentage increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Is This the Untimely End of Milhouse?

Blogging was a lot easier back when I hated most things. Now the only thing I really hate is me.

I used to get a lot of mileage out of politics and the fools surrounding me. Politics has become ridiculously uninteresting. The next president will probably be either a terrible person who will cause irreparable harm to our republic or...a terrible person who will cause irreparable harm to our republic. And yet something like 80% of Americans takes comfort in the thought, "Well, MY terrible person is a different kind of terrible from that OTHER one." I'm going to be voting for Gary Johnson this election, not because he's wonderful, but because he won't burn the whole thing down. But we're past the point where a blog post is going to cut through the mood affiliation.

Several years ago I stumbled upon one of the truths of life: it's harder to be charitable when you're paying attention. And since I need to have charity, I've starting trying to not pay attention. This dramatically reduces the opportunities for "listen to what this jackass did at the grocery store today!" posts.

It's not that the world isn't a terrible place, but that I've come to see more clearly that the biggest problem with the world is me. At least, it's the only one I can hope to address in any meaningful way. But that doesn't make for good blog reading. "Hey, here's another short-coming I've been making zero progress on for almost 40 years." Posts like that would take my double-digit readership down into the single digits with a quickness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"A Chilling Preview of Things to Come"

So this just happened.

I'm sitting at my desk when I notice papers coming under my office door, then I hear running. I get up to see the papers. One reads, "What is Aleppo? - Johnson." The other reads, "Who's your favorite foreign leader? - Chris Matthews #6%Club."

I take these notes as opposition to my support of Gary Johnson, as I believe that's what they are intended to be. My Twitter is public and I have tweeted a number of things supporting Gary Johnson, but I've said nothing political in class (with one exception I'll detail in a footnote*). So I have students who have spent at least some time researching my political opinions and then put more time into harassing me about them. It's sort of funny, but more-than-a-little disturbing.

I had some trepidation about returning to work in American academia, and it was all based on the intolerant climate that prevails here. As I said to a friend, "I'm a cis-gendered, heterosexual, classical-liberal, married, Christian male with a stay-at-home wife and four children whom we homeschool; my entire life could be taken as a micro-aggression." I thought if I kept quiet about these things in a professional setting, I could get by unscathed. But I didn't account for the intolerance of Groupthink. Remember when Homer Simpson gets the crayon removed from his brain and then tries to sit through the movie Love Is Nice? Patty says, "Wait a minute. Somebody's not laughing here." It's not enough to allow people their opinions, I have to full-throatedly support them. You'll probably say I'm over-reacting, but this seems like the first (admittedly tiny) step towards what will eventually be struggle sessions.

I knew the Great Social Reset would be messy, but I had hoped to avoid the mess by not being associated with the social agenda that's about to be violently rejected. I see now that my hesitance to support the violence will make me a target of the violence, as well.

* = Here's the exception: when discussing the gravity model of trade, I said, "If we could somehow move China to occupy Mexico's physical location in the world, what should we expect to happen?" I laughed to myself and said, "Well, besides Donald Trump having a heart attack." I then added, "That's not meant to signify support or opposition for Trump, and I'd like to think that, if Donald Trump were here, he'd laugh along with us."

NB: I've probably used that quote from Kent Brockman as a blog post title before.

Five Unrelated Things

We evacuated over the weekend and returned Sunday because the utility company's website said our power was restored. It actually was restored a few hours ago today (Wednesday).

In the Mumford & Sons song "Sigh No More," the lyrics begin, "Sigh no more no more." But doesn't that mean "start sighing"?

Also from Mumford & Sons, another entry in the list of songs with lyrics that are really saying the opposite of the explicit meaning of the words. "But there will come a time you'll see / with no more tears / and love will not break your heart / but dismiss your fears" is saying that right now you're crying a lot and love is breaking your heart.

There are two ways to get to my office, which is on the third floor. The main stairwell has 15 stairs to a landing, 11 stairs to the second floor, nine stairs to a landing, and 15 stairs to the third floor. The back stairwell has 16 stairs to a landing, 10 stairs to the second floor, seven stairs to a landing, nine stairs to a landing, and eight stairs to the third floor. What kind of jackass architects did they have designing this place?! Why is the first floor 26 stairs tall and the second floor is only 24 stairs tall? Why not 25 each? And why can't the landing be halfway up the flight, like everywhere else in the world? And the second flight on the back stairs could EASILY be divided into three segments of equal length, but instead they made a lot of extra work for themselves to make sure they were all different. I hate it.

In the movie Two Weeks Notice Lucy Kelson's friend Meryl yells at her husband Tom, "Everything is not about you!" But what she really means to say is, "Not everything is about you!" They have very distinct meanings. (Now that I've written this, I'm pretty sure I've written it once before on my blog. As you can tell, this bothers me a lot.)

Friday, October 07, 2016

Notes on the Music of Taylor Swift: Hurricane Evacuation Edition

Part of our soundtrack for our evacuation from Hurricane Matthew was Taylor Swift's album Speak Now. My daughter reminded me that when I first heard "Mine" I tried to convince her that the lyrics said "a hairless man's hairful daughter" and that the song was a rejected entry to the Brave film soundtrack.

But my most-important observation: if Taylor's telling the truth when she sings "there's nothing I do better than revenge," why do so many people screw with Taylor Swift? I think Taylor needs to accept the fact that she is actually quite terrible at revenge.

Case in point: Kanye West. Kanye humiliated Taylor at the VMAs and her "revenge" was so devastating that he...made a video with him writhing naked in bed with a computer-generated Taylor Swift. When it comes to taking revenge, Taylor should think about using fewer moody ballads and using more knives. The saying is "snitches get stitches," not "snitches get heart-breaking melodies."

Speaking of Kanye, whenever I have to pause a Taylor Swift CD, I say, "Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish in a minute, but who's interested in stopping at Taco Bell [or whatever would be appropriate to the moment, but it's usually stopping at Taco Bell]?"