Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Guess who made Best of Web Today?

We did, under metaphor alert. You can see Jacob Miller down in the contributor's section. This is the one of proudest days of... wait. That would be truly pathetic. Have a great evening.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Anniversary!

Ok, so our anniversary isn't for another two days, but as we're snowed in here at my parents' house in New Harmony, I thought I would take this opportunity to make a Christmas/Anniversary post. It has been wonderful to be in Utah again. We didn't realize how much we missed it and our families until we got here last Tuesday. My parents were snowed in (sensing a theme here?) and were unable to pick us up from Las Vegas on the 16th, so we took the shuttle to St. George, where Jake's mom kindly picked us up. Each day, we thought to ourselves: This will be the day we go to New Harmony. But alas, my parents either couldn't get out or the snow was falling too hard for us to get back to Cedar City for my appointments the following day. It was great to see Jake's mom, brother, and youngest sister for those few days. Friday afternoon we finally had roads clear enough to get to New Harmony to stay with my parents. My mom and I went final Christmas shopping on Saturday while Jake lounged at home and then went to meet his other sister at the airport and watch the BYU game with his family.

Sunday after church we headed up to Salt Lake to pick up Hilary, who was flying in from Omaha Monday evening and spend some time with my uncle and his family. We also got to see Jake's old roomie, Lincoln, and hang with Caleb, Melinda, and the Bean. It was so nice to spend time with friends and family! Other than Thanksgiving with my sister, this is the only other time we've seen family since July. I miss them all so much!

We left SLC Tuesday around noon to head back to southern Utah. Jake and I stayed in Cedar City for a few more hours to see his Aunt Mel and Uncle Ron. We didn't get to see as much of them as we liked that night, but we did get to go to a movie and hang out with them Christmas Eve.

Yesterday morning before Jake and I went to Cedar City, we played in the snow with Josh and Hilary. We threw snow at each other and then I had the bright idea to make snow cones with maraschino cherry juice. It was delicious. See picture:
We saw Bolt with Mel & Ron, Celeste, and Jenna yesterday and enjoyed it very much. Rhino the hamster totally made that movie. Go check it out. Later that night the Millers did their traditional Mary and Joseph dinner on wooden bowls: fish, nuts, figs, grape juice, and a couple of other delicacies that were quite delicious. Then we sang carols and called a few people and dropped off a present to a friend and drove back to New Harmony around 11 pm. The roads were starting to get bad, so we were happy to get all tucked in and wait for Santa to come.

Christmas morning was great. My mom made orange and cinnamon rolls, egg casserole, and her traditional cranberry Christmas hot punch. We opened presents and stockings and were thrilled with our haul. Jake gets very cold, so my parents and I got him very warm presents, scarves, a hat, gloves, fleece and flannel pajama pants, and a sweater. He also got The Dark Knight and the Twilight soundtrack, and his favorite childhood picturebook, among other things. I got Stranger Than Fiction and School of Rock, springform pans, a book, and the latest (a year ago) Matchbox Twenty CD. My parents also gave us a fantastic 72 hour emergency kit. It's incredible! It has two backpacks to hold it all, which includes water, tools, packaged food, matches, ponchos, and all kinds of stuff. We're going to have to ship it, as there's no way we'll be able to fit it on the plane.

We were hoping to get to Cedar to open presents with the Millers (including Jake's gift for me--I have no idea what it is), but with all the snow and no snowplow, we couldn't get out. So we've been hanging out with my family. Jake is playing Lego Star Wars on Josh's friend's Wii and has been for the last few hours. I've played games with my mom and sister and helped with food. We're making my favorite asparagus (it's the green beans from my Thanksgiving post but with asparagus...delish) and having a pork roast.

Tomorrow we're hoping the snow plow will come so we can head up to Brian Head to spend the weekend with the rest of the Miller clan and ski and snowboard. I haven't been skiing since 8th grade, so we'll see how it goes. We'll be spending our first anniversary up there, and I don't know how much Internet access we'll have, so I thought I'd post a few thoughts on the past year.

Sheri always asks me jokingly if I'm sick of Jake yet, as that was the problem with both Jake's and my previous relationships. I am definitely not sick of Jake--quite the opposite, in fact. I am still thoroughly in love with him and all his quirks. Here are two of my favorites.

There are only two categories of ice cream: chocolate and fruit. When he first explained this to me, I was confused. "What about Dreyer's Fried Ice Cream?" I asked.

"Chocolate," he said.

"But there's not an ounce of chocolate in it!" I protested.

"But it goes in the chocolate category," he explained.

So does Rocky Road, Caramel Swirl, and Cookie Dough.

The fruit category includes Bubble Gum, peach, and sherbet. I know that it doesn't make a lot of sense, but somehow it works for Jake. My mom and brother tried to convince him there has to be more than two (think vanilla) just now, but he'll have none of it.

My other favorite quirk is his use of decision trees in everyday life. One night I asked him if he wanted ice cream or pineapple for dessert. This is how he chose:
For those of you who don't read decision tree, the numbers at right are probabilities, 1 being 100%. Therefore, pineapple had a higher probability of being great, whereas the ice cream had a lower probability at just 65%. Based on this information, he chose pineapple.

Before we left Chicago, we decided to eat our slice of wedding cake. It survived the move across the country, and we didn't think it would be a good idea to try again or wait another three weeks to eat it after New Years. It wasn't awful, but it did taste like freezer. We each ate the ceremonial bite and then threw the rest away and ate a bowl of ice cream. I even took pictures to commemorate the event.

It's been a good year. Harder than I thought it would be in some ways and easier in others. Jake puts up with a lot from me; I worry about everything, I'm obsessive about food, and I'm also not a calm driver, especially when it comes to crazy Chicagoans. He is such a easy person to get along with. He tells me he loves me every day. He's kind, gentle, and funny and knows how to make me feel better everytime I get scared or worried. I'm blessed to be married to such a wonderful man. Jake, thanks for the best year of my life. I look forward to many, many more. Happy first anniversary!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Have you ever felt someone looking at you?

Recently I wrote a post about GDP and how it is manipulated through government spending and why GDP sometimes does not correctly portray economic well-being. This is what Greg Mankiw wrote on Monday:

"Usually, GDP is a reasonable proxy for economic well-being, so more is better, but that is not true in this example. Part of the problem here is that GDP includes government purchases at cost. If the government hires people to produce stuff that is worthless, that stuff is included in GDP just as much as if the government buys something valuable. When calculating GDP, the national income accountants do not pass judgment on the social utility of government spending. Anyone concerned with economic well-being has to go beyond thinking about GDP. ... Willy-nilly spending is a good way to stimulate the economy only if the outcome is judged by the wrong metric."

Very interesting. ... It is strikingly similar. Also, this is not a hugely popular topic among economists. So luck of the draw is a possible explanation, but not the only one.
Here are my other potential explanations:

1) Great minds think alike.
2) Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in awhile (I would be the blind squirrel).
3) We both use crack liberally (what do you think are those chances?).
4) Greg reads my blog (highly unlikely).
5) Greg stalks me. (very... ?)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cedar Harmony, or New City?

Ashley and I arrived in Cedar City, or New Harmony. And New Harmony. Cedar Harmony. There we go. Everything is great. Lots of snow. I don't really know what to write (I'm sure Ashley would, but she's busy), so I have included a random piece of news from the letters section of the Wall Street Journal:

When the Sauce Is Only for the Goose

I read with interest the president-elect's appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education ("Obama's Education Choice," Review & Outlook, Dec. 17). Mr. Duncan may in fact be the right man for the job, but if the president-elect and his new secretary really wish to fix public education, they need only push through one change: It is hereby illegal for any member of Congress to send his or her children to any nonpublic elementary, junior or senior high school.

What do you think?

My guess is the whole system would be fixed over the weekend.

John M. Ogle
Waterford Works, N.J.

If that wasn't enough, here is an "inflation will solve all our problems" movie from 1933. Seriously. Hahahahaha. HT: Cafe Hayek.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Caleb is the winner!

Congratulations to Caleb for getting the answer right (depicting what I actually got). You will now receive a Christmas present even though we do not have your name this year! Hooray!

The binomdist (true) formula is tricky because it sums the probability of each outcome including the number you put as the successful number of trials. So, =BINOMDIST(3,5,0.4,TRUE) actually depicts the probability of being an A student had I received 4 A's, not 3. However, since I learned today that I did get 4 out of 5 A's, Caleb still wins. Merry Christmas.

So the answer for four A's was 91.3%. However, a load of assumptions have to be made and I do not feel like defending them.

We will see you all veeeerry soon. Hooray again!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sometimes it's the destination, not the journey

First, a bit of entertainment. This is a great news article with one of the worst lines I've ever seen in a newspaper:

"Journalists came under attack for the first time in the riots, with a Russian news crew assaulted by a mob of about 50 youths, some of them reportedly drunk. "

Teenagers + Russian + Riot = Alcohol?

No, we can't make that assertion. Let's use the word "some" and "reportedly" just so we don't paint them in a bad light and accuse them of something they did not do. Don't be stereotypical now!

I'm done with exams finally. I also probably got A's in most of my classes. Now the real trick is determining the probability that I am an A or B or C student given the strict bell curves in my classes. If I received 3 A's (out of 5), and the curve dictates that only 40% of students receive A's for any given class. What is the probability that I am an "A" student on average (assuming IID, and that this is a probability question that consists of prob A and prob not A)?

Hint: I'm pretty sure you can just use the formula binomdist in excel to solve it if you know what goes where.

If you get the answer right... you will get something good. I'm not sure what yet, but it's going to be really good.

Have a fantastic evening.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tales of the Underemployed

Last week I had my first experience temping. Northwestern University has their own temping service, and as the regular positions on their HR/Career Services web page weren't panning out (all I've gotten are rejection emails from the 60+ jobs I've applied for), I thought I could make a few bucks on days I'm not subbing. Those non-subbing days were becoming more and more frequent. This particular job--viz., stuffing envelopes for the annual United Way Money Beg Campaign--required no actual skill or brain activity so I had many opportunities to discuss myriad topics with the four other people stuffing with me. It was a fairly stereotypical temp group: the vegan girl whose dream is to make vegan-friendly shoes and moved from St. Louis because the city wasn't vegan-friendly enough; the atheist, medieval history major; two out of work journalists; and me, the young Mormon wife of an MBA student.

We spent the first day getting to know each other (9 am to 5 pm). I learned more about people's past horrid relationships (boy, am I glad I'm married to a great guy!), the vegan's creepy pot-selling male roommate (see above parenthetical), and employment histories than I ever wanted to know. I've always enjoyed listening to other people, and this was no exception. More than ever, though, I was glad of my situation, beliefs, family, and husband. My favorite moment that day was when the vegan girl was telling about her most recent break-up, which involved having lived with a guy for two years and thinking she was going to marry him. She said, "You know, I decided I'll never live with a guy again until I'm at least engaged." The look of horror on the other three faces made me smile to myself.

"What do you mean?" cried one of the journalist.

"Wouldn't you want to try it out? See if it will work?" asked the other.

"I know I'd want to," said the history guy.

I finally piped up. "The statistics on that sort of thing are really interesting."

"What?" one of them asked.

"The divorce rate is higher for people who live together before marriage than for people who don't," I said. More faces aghast.

The vegan agreed. "It's something to do with the level of commitment. I finally understood that when my ex just kept avoiding the issue of marriage but wanted to stay together."

"Huh," one of them said. "I'll have to look into that."

Score one for a teensy bit of morality.

The second day, one of the guys had the bright idea to bring the entire first season of Arrested Development. Not a lot of talking going on, but oh man, how I miss that show. "Illusions, Dad! You don't have time for my illusions!" "There's no 'i' in Teamocil, at least not where you'd think." "The zero hour, Michael. It's the end of the line. I'm the firstborn. Sick of playing second fiddle. Always third in line for everything. Tired of finishing fourth. Being the fifth wheel. There are six things I'm mad about, and I'm taking over." So many gems.

The third day was our last. The job was scheduled to go until a fourth or possibly a fifth day, but we got it all done much sooner than anticipated. Some of the others wanted to slow it down so we could get in one more day, but we didn't. I'm all about that whole "honest with your fellow man" thing, so I feel good about it. This day was also the most difficult for me. My back ached, my paper cuts had paper cuts, my fingertips were dry and scratchy, and I got really tired of the hour-long conversations about beer. I generally don't mind the odd conversation about a topic I have no knowledge about, but I obviously couldn't contribute, so I was happy when the conversation turned to something I do know something about: health care. Jake and I have discussed health care often; he likes to bounce his ideas off of me for clarity's sake. You can read them in earlier blogs. Most of my fellow temps were all for socialized medicine. I mentioned Jake's idea to just graduate more doctors. "But then there will be some crappy doctors!" So? At least then supply will go up, which means price should go down. Most of the time I go to a doctor, I just need a quick checkup or antibiotics for a sinus infection. Nearly any idiot can do that. One of the journalists was very skeptical of this idea, but I say why not give the people a choice? If I know it's no big thing, I can go to the cheap doctor. If I think it could be bad, I might choose a more expensive one.

Their real concern was for the poor, which I totally agree with. The conversation moved from health care to health in general, especially food. The other journalist had done a story about food deserts, which are large areas in urban neighborhoods with no grocery stores. I said that if the city really wanted to help those in poverty, the city should take away the ordinance that keeps places like Super Wal-Mart or Super Target out. They all turned on me like I was some kind of demon. "Wal-Mart is horrible!" they all cried. "Wal-Marts ruin small towns!" If there are no grocery stores of any size within a large area, Wal-Mart isn't going to run anyone out of business. People will simply have have another (less expensive) food option instead of the zillions of McDonald's in Chicago. "But Wal-Mart wouldn't WANT to come to Chicago. It wouldn't make business sense," said the first journalist. Sure it would, if you take away the restrictions keeping them out. Right now, Wal-Mart doesn't even have the option. Choices, people, choices. By the end of that third day, I think they were glad to be rid of me. This is what happens when your husband discusses economics with you, I guess.

With any luck, however, I won't have to temp for awhile. Last Friday, the sub coordinator from the high school called me and asked I was interested in a cadre sub position that will open up at the beginning of January. Cadres are the ones who get first dibs at sub jobs, get higher daily pay, and work nearly every day. Of course I was interested! I was one of several people who had their names thrown in, but apparently it worked out; I got an email saying the sub coordinator would be getting a contract to me soon. Jake and I figured it out, and we'll actually have money at the end of a month instead of drawing down on our savings! Huzzah!

Jake has one more final tomorrow. I'll be glad to have my husband back. Not that he's been completely absent, but I just like having a Jake who isn't spending hours at our kitchen table telling himself he's hosed. He's done well on the first three exams, by the way. Just Finance tomorrow, which he's studying for now while I finish this blog entry. He has requested that I post the following music video by The Killers in honor of our upcoming trip to Utah. The video was filmed in Goblin Valley (I totally nailed that when I first looked at it, by the way) and made us both nostalgic for mountains and hills, especially orange ones. Soon, Jake.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Quick Update:

Ashley's entry below is much better than this one, but I felt it necessary to update you on the crazy stuff that is happening in Chicago.

1) It's been raining for the last 24 hours. Raining. In Chicago. Mid-December. Weird. Especially since this year is supposed to be the coldest year in a long long time. This is a good thing for Ashley and I because in an effort not to go bankrupt, the city stopped plowing our road and other "sidestreets".
2) As you may well know, the governor of Illinois got hit with corruption charges. No big surprises there. Hopefully Mayor Daley is next. This is the main news article that most people are seeing, but this is the more detailed one that I would rate "PG-13" for language (we try to keep this blog at a "G" rating).

Here is a great quote from the governor yesterday: "I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it. I appreciate anybody who wants to tape me openly and notoriously, and those who feel like they want to sneakily, and wear taping devices, I would remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon and Watergate."

Umm, I love that argument. Nixon made tapes of himself in conversations with other people that were eventually used to incriminate him. Therefore, I am innocent of these corruption charges.

Step 1: Make terrible analogy
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Take over the world

Unfortunately, people with a silver tongue can use terrible analogies all day. Oh well. Two finals down. Just a few more to go. (I have one every day at noon.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thanksgiving Pictures

I know it's been ages since my last post, but I've actually been almost busy. But that's another blog for another day...probably tomorrow. Tonight I wanted to throw on some pictures and thoughts from Thanksgiving. First, you have to understand I was absolutely terrified of making all this food without my mom looking over my shoulder. Sheri and I were talking awhile back, and she said she hoped never to have to be in charge of Thanksgiving in her life. I was not so lucky, as I got my shot my first married Thanksgiving. I was lucky in that I had my husband, little sister, and her friend (Rachel) here to help out.

First the side dishes: green beans, sweet potatoes, rolls, and mashed potatoes. I forgot to take a picture of the frog-eye salad, but you can see Jake's personal bowl of it in his picture. He's not a fan of the maraschino cherries. I am particularly proud of the rolls. I've never baked any kind of bread from scratch by myself.

The turkey turned out well. Oven bags are your friends. At least they're mine. No one really ate stuffing, but it seemed wrong to make turkey without it.
Hilary's lemon meringue on the left, and my pumpkin on the right. I discovered that my pie pan is too deep for a single recipe. Hmm. Hilary's pie was perfect!

On Sunday after the girls left, Jake's friend Min Goo and his wife came over for dinner and brought this amazing tart from Whole Foods. The picture doesn't even begin to do it justice. I don't know how anyone gets blackberries this time of year, but the tart was so good!
Also, a few weeks ago, I made apple stuffing pork chops, which turned out pretty good for my having dropped almost half the stuffing on the floor. (Yes, I threw it away.)
I'm not sure I should be in charge of Thanksgiving ever again. I'm not very good at letting anyone else cook in my kitchen, which has no counter space. Perhaps I shouldn't have cleaned it from top to bottom the day before. I got snappish at my sister and Jake a little too. I wanted everything to be perfect, and from a food standpoint, I suppose it was good. But if the point of Thanksgiving is to spend time with people I love and enjoy the gifts God blessed us with, I didn't do so well. I talked to my mom on Thursday afternoon, and she told me not to worry if everything doesn't turn out to be exactly the way I wanted it to. I didn't really get what she was saying until I sat down to my lovely meal and had no desire to eat it (which, for me, is a big deal). I hadn't spent any time with Hilary except to get annoyed with her not moving out of my way fast enough. The first time I really enjoyed myself all week was Thursday night after dinner when the four of us played games. That was what I was supposed to be doing. Every other Thanksgiving, I've been in the kitchen with my mom and aunts or grandmothers, and I've felt like I was part of the fun. Making food is supposed to be fun! We watched the new Hulk movie before we ate, but I was up and down and in and out through the whole thing checking on food. I felt like I missed out on something, but I did it to myself. I couldn't bear to let anyone else contribute. Part of me wants another chance in another year to do it right. Another part just wants to be a kitchen scullery maid peeling potatoes and helping the older women and letting them teach me how to be an adult. I'm married; I should be an adult, right? I should be able to do all of this, which is what I was trying to prove to everyone, including myself. The other part of me just wants a bigger kitchen.

Coming soon: Temping!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Karaoke Stabbings and our Obsession with GDP

So, I got 2nd place again in a competition. Winning seems to be very elusive to my not so steel trap mind.

98% of you will find what I will write below boring. For those who do, I recommend this very enlightening article (HT: Tyler Cowen) about "Karaoke Rage" instead. Karaoke rage is similar to road rage, except it is karaoke. Also, if you would like a more condensed and laymen version of the idea below, here is a related argument from Kling. However, my idea is quite different in a lot of respects.

For the remaining 2%, here you go:

GDP to a great extent has become the be-all and end-all of macroeconomics. This is unfortunate because it leads government to make the wrong conclusions. GDP is the main output on which people focus to determine the health of the economy. It is calculated as follows:

GDP = C + I + G + (X-M)

Just add up consumption, gross investment, government spending, and net exports.

There are many criticisms of GDP. I would like to focus on just one: G, or government spending.

GDP is supposed to accurately depict the economic well-being of a society. Voluntary transactions in the market is a good gauge of this. Government spending, however, is not. Here are my examples:

1) A government spends $10 M developing a new bomb. That money is now added into GDP. The economy is supposed to be better off by $10 M.

Some people erroneously believe that war helps the economy (e.g., "World War II got us out of the Great Depression!" This is false). Large amounts of spending on war simply manipulates GDP to no longer represent the economic well-being of a society. Someone needs to explain how is it that people producing large amounts of tanks, bombers, and guns makes a society better off than when those same people produce butter, hair cuts, and buildings. Now, of course there is the obvious argument that survival makes one better off than death and that defense is a crucial part of this. Point noted. However, I fail to see how this makes me better off than if people produced something that created actual utility. GDP equates bombs with corn flakes. I'd prefer to not need the bomb and eat my corn flakes, but GDP states that I'm just as well off if I have no corn flakes and the bomb is made. Of course I prefer survival, but survival and corn flakes is even better than survival and no corn flakes. GDP doesn't make this distinction.

2) A farmer receives a $5 M subsidy to plant nothing. The economy is supposed to be better off by $5 M.

The result is higher agriculture prices, never mind the deadweight social loss that comes from the transfer of money through government (Also, never mind the question of morality, "No real American wants to be subsidized."). The economy is better off according to GDP.

3) A state spends $15 B on the biggest public works project in history. It is a piece of garbage.

Government spending begs the question, "How much quality am I receiving per dollar spent?"

When GDP is calculated, involuntary transactions by government are weighted equally with voluntary transactions of people trying to maximize their well-being. The economic well-being of society is simply:

Existing Wealth + The sum of productivity of individual members of society

Voluntary transactions promote productivity. A lot of the involuntary ones fall in the dead-weight social loss bin. It is difficult to equate productivity of government projects with private projects. It is also difficult to equate endeavors that make an economy worse off with private endeavors that make an economy better off.

Governments spend exorbitant amounts on bad projects during recessions and then watch GDP climb out of negative figures. They then pat themselves on the back and say, "Hey! Look how great we are." This is similar to chaining your two year old to the toilet and then proudly watch the two year old use the toilet. Is the child better off? Probably not. Maybe the kid is emotionally scarred for life and is terrified of toilets forever after. Also, the toddler had to give up whatever unplanned fun adventures for the day. This could be a great part of the reason why the USSR's GDP dropped so drastically when it ceased being a communist state. People started doing things that made themselves better off. If people do things to make themselves happier, and GDP falls, is GDP truly a good indicator of economic well-being? I say no. "G" should be discounted or taken out of the picture completely in order to focus on the aspects that more truly reflect economic well-being.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ashley will get around to writing someday

but until then, you have me. :)

Now I have seen it all. This paper (or speech) claims that the levered up firms that bought mortgage backed securities (what some call the subprime crisis) was actually caused by... wait for it... a general lack of labor union power in the United States and free trade agreements. I bet economists read this over lunch laughing so hard they cry. Oh wait. I forgot the best part. This guy (associate general counsel of the AFL-CIO) blames global warming on a lack of union power and free trade as well. While he is at it, he might as well throw in teenage pregnancy, nuclear proliferation, and daytime television in there too!

Here is my favorite line:

"We can go in a new direction, one with enormous benefits not just for Americans but for a world facing a future of rising energy costs and a destabilized climate"

Yes. The world will really appreciate it when we tell them that it is illegal for them to sell their products to Americans. Now, as far as energy costs and the destabilized climate, it really has nothing to do with anything else that he talks about. I really think he just made a list of feel good buzzwords and threw them in wherever it didn't sound too weird.

And I thought we were doing better at economic literacy...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Letter in the Wall Street Journal

Here is an amusing and angry statement in the "Letters" section of today's Wall Street Journal. Enjoy.

Yet More Sacrifice?

I read "UAW Faces Prospect of More Concessions" (U.S. News, Nov. 17), wherein Robert Reich, adviser to President-elect Obama, is quoted as saying, "Every stakeholder needs to sacrifice. That means creditors should take a haircut. Shareholders should sacrifice; executives should put something onto the table and also employees."

He needs to explain further what sacrifices shareholders can and should make besides now holding stock that is worth peanuts, if that. Perhaps we should form a volunteer contingent and ask to replace some of the workers who now sit around the house drawing their pay for not working, thanks to a management that has demonstrated the common sense, foresight and business acumen comparable to that found in a box of rocks.

Richard R. Gallimore
SaddleBrooke, Ariz.

He does make a good point though. The shares of the company are almost worthless. What else can the shareholders sacrifice? Maybe Mr. Reich is suggesting that the stock become negative in value and require the shareholders to pay money into the corporation. Sure it makes no sense and is illegal, but that hasn't stopped a lot of ideas from being implemented.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Book Review: Lord of the World

I (Jacob) just finished the novel Lord of the World a few days ago, but I had to think about it a few days before I wrote anything about it. It is a science fiction book written over a hundred years ago by a Catholic priest. The book takes place about our time. It is an "end of days" type of book that is, of course, unabashedly pro-Catholic. It is very thought provoking and Robert Benson predicts a great number of things correctly about the future. Here is a list somebody made on the web:

"In 1907, the English convert Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson wrote The Lord of the World, in which he predicted inter-city air travel in "velors" (anticipating Zeppelins and war planes), electric billboards, globalized finance, rapid communications, atomic bombs, and the world progress of Marxism and world war. While abortion was beyond the pale even in this dystopia, he did foresee legalized euthanasia."

Also add television, or "moving pictures" as he calls them, to the list.

There are a lot of thought provoking lines, such as this one on moral relativism and private interpretation of right and wrong:

"[A] supernatural Religion involves an absolute authority, and... Private Judgment in matters of faith is nothing else than the beginning of disintegration."

I recommend reading the prologue, which you can find here.

The book is not a "666" armageddon type of book with some crazy interpretation of the book of revelations. I believe that Robert Hugh Benson gives a counter question to, "Who is John Galt" with "Who is Felsenburgh?" (Even though Atlas Shrugged was written long after Lord of the World.) Whereas John Galt is one who believes first in the principle of persuasion, Felsenburgh is one who believes first in the principle of force, "for the good of all."

I believe the best parts of this book are the arguments that Benson has to defend the anti-Christ. Even his own characters describe them as impervious logic (a little hubris?), and virtually everyone in the entire world joins his side.

Curious little book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Delicious, and I didn't even make it myself

After a strange excursion to a very liquidated Steve & Barry's store on Saturday, Jake and I splurged a little at Walker Brother's Original Pancake House on Green Bay Road for dinner. Jake had been there about six weeks ago with some friends before the Priesthood session of General Conference. He had ordered something unceremoniously titled "apple pancake." He tried to explain it when he got home that night. "It's kind of like a pancake, but it's baked and it has apples in it, and then you get a big scoop of ice cream on top." Apples aren't my favorite; I'm more of a berries or chocolate sort of girl, so I wasn't lusting after this description. However, Jake had been craving it for weeks, and he also said he couldn't eat it all by himself. So I agreed. We sat down, ordered, and in a few minutes, felt our eyes grow wide at what was put in front of us.
Now imagine a big scoop of good vanilla ice cream on top of that. I told Jake it was a good thing I had come along to split it with him. My dad has a rule, you see: Never eat anything bigger than your head. This was definitely bigger than our heads. And it was amazing! The apples were baked into the pancake (kind of a German pancake, I think) and the whole thing had this cinnamon glaze that was almost chewy. All for $9.95 (including ice cream) plus tip. And then I found out that you can buy it frozen and bake it yourself. I have also vowed never to learn how to make it, as that would be disastrous to our arteries, but it is a delicious treat. We may have found a place that beats the Belgian Waffle in Midvale....

Update: I actually looked at the price for buying it frozen. $64.95 for two! Crazy. Just go to the Pancake House. Much cheaper, my friends.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I Love Mute Math

This is why I love Mute Math. They have a new CD coming out, but this time they are making videos demonstrating how they create their crazy awesome music.

Need I say more?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My CPS experience

Every Wednesday morning I, along with other Kellogg students, have the chance to tutor at a local middle school (part of the Chicago Public Schools system). It is an interesting experience, and today was the first day of volunteering that I had an opportunity in the classroom. ...

Wow. This was my experience in the classroom of two 8th grade science courses:

I walked in the front door and I noticed some old posters about the election. It looked like each English class voted on the presidential candidates. By the charts on the posters they made, it looked like Sen. Obama won with 99% of the vote.

I waited to sign in as a student spoke Spanish with the secretary. After a few minutes the student left and I signed in and got my name badge.

I arrived at the classroom and the door was locked. A few students were waiting outside the door. It was a few minutes to 9:00 when the teacher arrived. She was courteous and explained that she was in a meeting. We went inside the classroom.

The classroom was the most cluttered class room I have ever seen. It easily beat Mrs. Camack's classroom in the clutter factor. Because the room was cold, the teacher used the office intercom and "less-than-courteously" explained that the room was cold and that her folders had not been hole punched. The staff obliged to pursue the problem of heat, and sent her a hole-punch machine. Seeming a little angry that the staff gave her a hole-punch machine instead of doing the work for her, she told one of her students to do the work at fixing the folders while she started class.

The teacher had two voices in the classroom: yelling and screaming. I was a little shocked at not only the volume, but also the tone and ... choice of words. I don't think I've ever seen a teacher call a student a "retard" until today.

The teacher asked who was ready to give a presentation on her project. A few students were ready and the teacher called on the first student, a taller girl with surprisingly good posture. The student began the presentation, and the teacher immediately interrupted. The teacher pointed out that the title had a grammatical error. However, the teacher's correction was incorrect and was no better than the student's initial statement. Although somewhat flustered, the student tried to get through the presentation. Again and again the teacher asked questions in a very accusatory manner. "Why would you do that?" "Do you see what your problem is?" "Class, do you see what her problem is?" Finally, the student was able to finish her presentation and make her way to her seat. The presentation and project were actually quite good. It was clever and probably the best one in the class.

No other student was ready, so the teacher turned the remaining time over to the students to work on their projects. Students began to move freely in and out of the classroom. Perhaps a fifth of the class of 26 students were working on something. Two students started fighting and I had to intervene. During this time of presentation preparatoin (about 30 minutes), the teacher was at her desk working with two or three students. The class mercifully ended at 10:00. Unfortunately, everyone had to remain seated while paramedics wheeled out one of the teachers in the classroom next door. I'm not exactly sure what happened to this other teacher.

The second class finally started at about 10:15. It was different in many ways. I believe the class was specially put together because nearly all of them spoke spanish. About a fourth of the students struggled speaking english. The girls in the classroom were very courteous, but the boys may have been worse than the class before. (I don't have a good explanation for this. Could it be a cultural aspect for hispanics?)

I don't believe the teacher spoke spanish. Most of the students spoke to each other in spanish and it appeared that some of them did not understand the teacher. The rest of the class followed about the same pattern as the first class. This time, however, there were no fights. Also, two of the students, judging by the complexity of their science projects, were very bright. The class ended at 11:00 and I went out the door to meet my friend Carson who also tutors and bum a ride back to Kellogg. I tried to speak briefly with the teacher at the door of the classroom before leaving, but every time a student tried to walk in and out of the classroom between us she would yell quite loudly at the student that he was interrupting an adult's conversation. This happened eight or nine times. I think the teacher got out about two sentences in three minutes.

Outside as Carson and I headed out to his car, we noticed a little ways down the street firemen were trying to put out a fire from a car that had burst into flames.

Chicago Public Schools spends far more per pupil than average. Sitting in the class my mind dwelt on two things: where does all this money go, and what if Strong Bad gave his science project on "the effects of gasoline... on fire?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Know...

You know you ought to stop listening to the radio when checking out the websites for the work-at-home and get-rich-quick ads starts sounding like a pretty good idea.

You also know you live in a city where you shouldn't own a car when the same radio station gives a traffic report every 15 minutes, even at 3 a.m.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


As many of you know, I have pretty much the coolest sister in the world. She is cute, smart, funny, and a genuinely kind and loving person. This week, she lost someone very special to her. This person was a mentor and friend to her and will be greatly missed. This person's death was very unexpected, and Hilary's community is grieving. Hilary, especially, is having a rough time of it. And other than being willing to listen, there's not much any of us (her family) can do for her or her friends. If you know Hilary well, please drop her a message on her Facebook page or via email telling her you love her and are thinking about her (assuming, of course, that you are...). Maybe by sharing this burden with her, it won't be so heavy or hurt quite so much. Muffy, I'm thinking about you today, and I wish more than anything I could wrap my arms around you and let you cry on my shoulder. I can't wait to see you at Thanksgiving. Your friend loved you dearly, and we love you too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lots of Recipes

There are other things I want to say, but I promised to put some of these out there for your enjoyment.

Pie Crust (from BHG cookbook):
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. shortening
4-5 T. cold water

In a medium bowl stir together flour and salt. using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea size. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the flour mixture; gently tos with a fork. Push moistened pastry to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening flour mixture, using 1 tablespoon of the water at a time, until all the flour mixture is moistened. Form pastry into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten pastry. Roll pastry from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Wrap pastry circle around the rolling pin. Unroll into a 9-inch pie plate. Ease into the pie plate without stretching it. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry. Crimp edge as desired.

If you plan on baking the shell before filling, prick pastry with a fork, line with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 8 minutes. Then bake 5-6 minutes more or until crust is golden.

If you are going to bake the filling, do not prick pastry. Fill and bake pastry as directed in recipes.

To make banana pie filling, prepare banana or vanilla pudding as directed on package. Cut up one banana and stir into pudding. Fill baked pie shell.

Busy-Day Cake with Broiled Coconut Topping (from BHG cookbook):

1 1/3 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
2/3 c. milk
1/4 c. butter, softened
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 T. softened butter
1 T. milk
1/2 c. coconut
1/4 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8x1 1/2 inch round cake pan; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, and baking powder. Add milk, butter, egg, and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Spread into the prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. While cake is baking, mix brown sugar and butter. Stir in milk. Stir in coconut and nuts (if desired). Spread over warm cake. Broil 4 inches from heat 2-3 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Rosemary Chicken (from Taste of Home's Contest Winning Recipes 2007):

2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 t. canola oil
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. pepper

Flatten chicken to 1/4 inch thickness. In a nonstick skillet, cook chicken in oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Sprinkle with lemon juice, rosemary, oregano, and pepper.

This one is easy to double. Serve with green beans or some other yummy green veggie.

Cashew Chicken (from Everyday Food's Great Food Fast):
This is one of Jake's all-time favorites.

1 1/2 lb. chicken breasts
1 T. cornstarch
salt and pepper
2 T. canola or vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves (I NEVER use this much--use your judgment)
8 scallions (green onions), white and green parts separated, each cut into 1-inch pieces
2 T. rice vinegar
3 T. hoisin sauce
3/4 cup cashews (toast them if they're raw; I just get the ones in a can)
White rice, for serving (optional)

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the cornstarch until the chicken is coated; season with 3/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Cook half the chicken, tossing often, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining oil and chicken to the skillet along with the garlic and the white parts of the scallions. cook, tossing often, until the chicken is browned, about 3 minutes. Return the first batch of chicken to the pan. Add the vinegar; cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add the hoisin sauce and the 1/4 cup water; cook, tossing, until the chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the scallion greens and cashews. Serve immediately over white rice, if desired.

Hoisin sauce and rice vinegar may not be readily in your fridge, but this recipe is so good, you'll want to keep them around all the time so you can make it whenever you want.

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs (From Everyday Food's Great Food Fast):

Seriously, these turn out perfect every single time.
Place 4 eggs (or 6 or 8) in a saucepan, and add enough water to cover them by one inch. Bring the water to a simmer over high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Unpeeled eggs can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

I thought I had more than that, but I'll post more when I make other good ones.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Schadenfreude (ˈʃaːdənˌfʁɔʏ̯də ) is enjoyment taken from the misfortune of someone else.

You just may catch a glimpse of Schadenfreude here.

By the way, I'm sorry for all of the links to Mankiw's blog. Actually, he rarely writes anything. Usually, he just throws together a few links he finds interesting. When he does write, it generally is quite insightful. In related news, a screaming fan by the name of Dr. Joe Baker (as some of you may know him) actually got Prof. Mankiw to sign his T-Shirt at an economics conference. Prof. Baker probably still has the shirt up in his office at SUU. I know he had it up while I was there.

A tangent to a tangent: Leaf blowers are a huge hit in Chicago. I think that is very unfortunate. Basically, people blow all of the leaves in their own lawns on the lawns of everyone else and the street. The few people who do rake or actually blow their leaves into a pile to rake up have to do much more work because of their less considerate neighbors.

It's just a thought. Is there an explanation I'm not seeing?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Good Historical Link

A quick lesson in history:
This is a clever breakdown by Caplan of Hoover's last speech as president in 1932. Not what you expected, was it?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Review: Whipping Star

Whipping Star is an excellent science fiction book. It's a quick read (180 small pages). The storyline, however, may sound familiar to some. The main character is Jorj McKie, a high-ranking officer in the Bureau of Sabotage. The story takes place in a future where "con-sentients with a psychological compulsion to 'do good' had captured the government. Unaware of the writhing complexities, the mingled, guilts and self-punishments, beneath their compulsion, they had eliminated virtually all delays and red tape from government. The great machine with its blundering power over sentient life had slipped into high gear, had moved faster and faster. Laws had been conceived and passed in the same hour.... Government had become a great destructive wheel without a governor, whirling with such frantic speed that it spread chaos wherever it touched.
In desperation, a handful of sentients had conceived the Sabotage Corps to slow that wheel." (from page 10)

McKie discovers that if an interplanar life form by the name of "Fanny Mae" dies, everyone who has used a "jump gate" to transport themselves have irreversibly connected their own lives with this life form, and must die if Fanny Mae dies. Unfortunately, virtually everyone has used these jump gates. So once Fanny Mae goes, most of the population in the universe goes with it.

Sound familiar? You may say, "this book must have been written by some crazy man in the last couple months." Crazy, perhaps. It was written by Frank Herbert (author of the original Dune). However, this book was written in the year 1969. Quite prescient.

Speaking of that whirling ball of destruction, here are a couple tidbits of news from the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Bloomberg.

"The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans"
"As conditions in the US economy have worsened in recent weeks, the Bush administration has been besieged by requests for assistance from a wide range of industries – which it has so far resisted." (It looks like Pres. Bush learned to say "no" once Speaker Hastert left)
"The 'golden billion' of the world's richest people will have to abandon hopes of increasing their wealth" - Former Prime Minister of Russia's advice for President-elect

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shameless Plug

Isn't it shameless?

In unrelated news, here is Adam's website now that he is a full-fledged attorney! Congratulations Adam! If any of you reading this find yourself no longer a citizen or with real estate law needs, he is your man.

UPDATE: This is a must-see from Greg Mankiw's blog (Greg Mankiw teaches at Harvard and is one of the U.S.'s top economists. As you can see by his many blog posts, he is not a crazy by any means, but he is pretty funny.). He is referring to a rapid change in the wording of a program at change.gov. A mandatory service draft doesn't quite sound as appealing as "setting a goal." The new wording is just ambiguous enough to make people feel good without realizing that "volunteer" means less "volunteer" and more "gulag."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Halloween and Election

Yeah, I know it's a little late, but that's the way I roll sometimes. Mostly I'm avoiding cleaning my exceptionally dirty house. But here is Jake as a redneck/Nascar fan. Notice the awesome drawn-in eyeliner mustache. I totally did that.

And me as Sarah Palin. I decided against the pageant look, as I didn't think anyone would get it. By the way, her hair is exceptionally hard to replicate. Props to her stylist for making her look awesome just about every day.

We went to some friends' home in Harwood Heights for a Halloween party and had a great time. For a great description of the rather difficult time we had getting there, see our friend Christina's blog. For their fantastic Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac costumes, see her husband Brandt's blog.

We didn't get any kids begging for candy at our apartment, as there are only 6 units in the building and no kids. Nor were there any at the party we attended. We did, however, participate in our ward's trunk or treat at the ward Halloween party the previous week.

Our friends Kimi and David invited us over to their apartment on Tuesday for pizza and election coverage. It's a little strange to be the only couple rooting for McCain among three others supporting Obama . It's a little like being the only U of U supporter when you watch the BYU-Utah game with your friends from BYU. There's no malice, but it's hard to watch. Naturally, we were a little disappointed when the numbers rolled in, but it's not like we expected anything different. We just hope (and change...just kidding) that Obama can really unite, not divide, the people of this country in good things. My main concern in all of this is that there might be a lack of those checks and balances that keep both presidents and Congress in line. I was very happy to see there was not a filibuster-proof Senate. I was also happy Al Franken didn't win Minnesota. I don't think someone running on utter contempt for middle-of-the-road religious folks or even people who actually believe in God is a good choice for an American leader. I was also pleased the Prop 8 in California passed. I was saddened to see all the hateful things said about proponents of Prop 8 after the election. One of my main concerns was not just about traditional marriage but about judges legislating from the bench, which is SOOO wrong. Go about the thing legally if you want something changed. For an interesting take on the issue, read Thomas Sowell's article from Nov. 5.

Some of you no doubt wonder what it was like in Chicago on election day, and Jake's cousin Elise wrote a fine blog about her voting experience. I was downtown for a job interview early in the day and there were Obama signs everywhere. People were in Obama shirts and jackets, had on Obama pins and hats. Streets were closed later in the day for the rally in Grant Park, where I'm sure most of you saw him give his acceptance speech. Jake and I decided we didn't want to be anywhere that had set up riot police in the slim chance of a McCain victory. :)

By the way, my job interview went well. I hope to hear back soon. I also had an interview this morning with Northwestern University's temp staffing program. It also went well, and I should be hearing about University positions soon, and I could even possibly become permanent after a few months. I'm looking forward to more steady work. Subbing has been intermittent and somewhat disappointing, although I am very much enjoying tutoring.

Jake has been working hard the last few weeks on competitions and looking for an internships for next summer, so I've had a lot of time on my hands to work on some Christmas gifts. Yes, I am that person who's already thinking about Christmas gifts. However, I do not condone the putting up of decorations or playing of music until after Thanksgiving. I'm just worried about finding the items I want on sale or having enough time to make some other gifts. I'm looking forward to seeing my sister over Thanksgiving, and speaking of food, my next blog will be devoted to some recipes I've made in the last few weeks. Stand by!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Now is the time...

I have been waiting eagerly for this day for a long long time. As Ashley knows very well, I have been dutifully counting down the days.

This is a very special occasion. ... And I'm not referring to the election.

The new mutemath song is out today on the twilight soundtrack!!!! YEAH!!! Click here to listen to it! It is awesome!!

Election update:

Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President

Update: the link to the mutemath song has been fixed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Laundry Is My Workout

By now you know my love of all things yoga, but there are times when I just can't (or don't have the time to) settle down with my mat in our living room. There are other times when I feel I have done enough physical exertion during the day to qualify as "exercise." One such day is laundry day. You see, we don't have a laundry facility in our unit, nor do we have one in the building itself. So I have to cart our 2-3 bags of laundry down the stairs of our fourth-floor walk-up to the car, from the car to the laundromat, and then back up the stairs after I finish.

We used to go to the Washing Well on Clark, but after a bad Saturday when there were lines for the dryers and six of the dryers were broken, I decided to go somewhere else. I found a place not too far from us (still have to drive; not going to walk all the clothes home) where the 18 lb. washers are only a dollar instead of the $1.50 at the Washing Well. That was the first incentive. The workers at the old place weren't very nice and, as I say, didn't fix any of the broken machines. When I walked into the new place, the man working there greeted me, brought me a laundry cart, and went back to FIXING ONE OF THE MACHINES!!! I knew I had made the right choice. They had TVs around the laundromat (soap operas and Barney, but I wasn't picky) and generally very nice people working there. As I was folding, two employees asked me which of these two colors should they repaint the laundromat. They were sweet and kind and helpful. They even let me take the laundry cart outside to load up my car after I finished folding. Unfortunately, this didn't work so well, as the parking lot is full of cracks, holes, and uneven pavement, so I ended up with one enormous bruise on my shin and another on my knee. But still. They were so nice.

I went in again last Monday. A different employee greeted me, brought me a cart, opened the door for me, and showed me to some washers. She had brought her guitar and was singing to the little kids there with their parents, which I thought was cute. As I folded my clothes, she and I chatted. She told me about how she had moved from Mexico several years ago and had become a citizen of the USA about a year ago. She also told me about her divorce and that I should never drink or smoke because my body is like a holy place and I shouldn't take anything bad into my body. She asked if my husband drank, and I told her no. She said that was good because men get mean when they drink, and that was why she divorced her husband. I met a couple of other people too, another woman from Mexico and some hippie white guy. The strangest part of all of this happened when I was almost done folding the laundry. The first woman (the employee) got out her guitar again and started singing to me. She didn't know very many songs, and even the songs she knew, she didn't know most of the words to them. Then she wanted me to join in, which I did, but that doesn't change the fact that I still don't know all the words to "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles or "It's Now or Never" by Elvis. I tried to tell her I didn't know the words, but she just wanted me to sing along, so I hurried through my last load and got out of there when I could. On a brighter note, she helped me throw my folded clothes into the car. Maybe I just won't go on a Monday again to avoid the public singing of songs I don't know. If anything exciting happens tomorrow when I go again, I'll let you know.

Then comes the fun part. Jake is very helpful hauling the bags down the stairs to the car, but he's usually at school when I get finished and come home. So I get to lug the bags up the stairs. Because I've consolidated, I usually only have two bags, but because they're so heavy, I end up making a trip for each bag. By the time I huff and puff up the stairs the second time around, I feel pretty good about not bothering to exercise for the rest of the day.

And now for something completely different: I am subbing today (hurray for money!). While I generally like what I do, I struggle with being woken up by a phone before 7 am. For some reason, I jump about a mile when my phone rings and I'm still in bed. What this means is that I should just start getting up before 6:30 (when the sub coordinator calls) so I don't have massive amounts of adrenaline pumping through my system first thing in the morning. Not pleasant. I wouldn't do well in combat. But of course I won't get up any earlier, especially not on a Wednesday morning when Jake doesn't have classes. Sleep is good. I just wish she'd call at night instead of in the early morning. The crazy thing was that I woke up briefly about 20 minutes before she called, thinking that if she hadn't called by that time, she wouldn't be calling at all, so I settled back in to the covers to sleep for another hour. No dice. I guess I'll have to wait for next Wednesday to sleep in.

And finally, Jake and I have decided on Halloween costumes. We weren't going to dress up at all, but some friends from our ward invited us to their home for a party on Friday. The tricky part is finding a costume that didn't require spending much money. Jake had to wear a suit for a competition earlier this week, and he looked so great that I thought I could wear one of my old formals and we could go as prom king and queen. I could wear my tiara from our wedding, and Jake could snag a Burger King crown. Perfect. As we were eating dinner the other night, I was wearing my glasses and Jake said, "I've got it! I know what you can be for Halloween: Beauty Pageant Sarah Palin!" I had thought about being her awhile ago. I have the general facial features and the glasses, just not the bangs. This new will work out perfectly. I don't have to buy bangs or cut my hair. I can still wear the glasses, tiara, and dress. All I had to buy was a yard or two of white ribbon to write "Miss Wasilla" on it. Jake's costume has no real political connotations. He has a Nascar hat and decided to go as a redneck or something. We'll take pictures Friday and post them when we can. Thanks for putting up with my long blog, and Happy Halloween if we don't write before then!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Two more to go...

I wanted to share this. It's nice to know Greg Mankiw has a great sense of humor.

Finally, Some Wind in the Windy City

A couple months ago, I was going to blog about how the wind in Chicago was nothing special. There were some nice breezes from the lake, but rarely did we get anything one might call "wind." Over the last few days, the wind has picked up. From how everyone spoke about it, I was anticipating gusts to knock me down or something dramatic. But it's not really any worse than Cedar City. I'm hoping the same logic applies when it comes to the much-talked-about Chicago winters. We've asked a few people at church, and most said winter here isn't much more severe than a Rocky Mountain winter. That's good news for Jake's hands and feet, which turn white and icy in the winters. That's also good news for MY feet and legs, upon which Jake likes to thrust his chilly appendages. Our apartment is also surprisingly warm. The radiators are doing such a good job that we have to cover them with blankets to sleep at night. I haven't even bothered putting an extra blanket on the bed. In getting with the spirit of autumn, I have made a pumpkin roll. I did not take a picture of my own, as it did not turn out looking as nice as all of my previous rolls, but here's the recipe. Just kidding. I can't find the right one online and I didn't bring the recipe with me. But here's a picture of someone else's professional-looking pumpkin roll. I'll get the recipe up here soon. All the ones I see have 3/4 c. pumpkin, and mine only has 2/3 c. Aha! There it is! This one has more spices than the others. It's better. Don't feel obligated to add the nuts. I sure don't.

Pumpkin Cake Roll
3 eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. pumpkin
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 c. finely chopped walnuts

Beat eggs on high speed with mixer for 5 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice. Stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Fold into pumpkin. Spread in greased and floured 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan. Top with walnuts.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn out on towel. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Start at narrow end, roll towel and cake together. Cool. Unroll.

1 c. powdered sugar
2 (3 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
For filling: Combine above ingredients and beat until smooth. Spread over cake. Roll. Chill. Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Coming up for air

I'm currently in the middle of mid-terms and a few business competitions, so I haven't had much time to write. (Ashley, I promise I'll be home later this week.) But, I thought I would come up for air to... make a joke. ... :)

All I have to say is that it's a sad day when the Onion becomes the number one forecaster of our future.


Fake News vs. Real News

Can you spot the fake?

HT: wsj/opinion

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To Tide You Over Until One of Us Has Something Real to Write

A variation on the peach cobbler:
1 can cherry pie filling
1 chocolate cake mix
1 stick butter

Dump out pie filling in 9"x13" pan. Cover with cake mix. Slice 1 stick of butter over the top. Bake at 350 for 30-45 min.

Jake liked this one a lot too. Cheap and delicious, although not terribly good for you either. Oh well. It's dessert, people! It's not supposed to be good for you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tagged by Rachey

I've never done anything like this before in public (only email), but it HAS to be better than that monster I wrote last week. I think I'll leave the politicking to Jake from now on. Mostly.

Okay, here are the rules for this tag:1: Each player starts with 8 random habits/facts about themselves.2: People who are tagged need to write a post on their blog about their eight things and post these rules.3: At the end of the post you need to choose 8 people to get tagged and list their names

1. I have watched Singin' in the Rain probably over 100 times. No joke. When I die, I want to dance with Gene Kelly in a purple dress like Debbie Reynolds where's she's standing on the ladder and he's singing "You Were Meant For Me" in the empty movie set. Brilliant. Also, "Moses Supposes" and "Make 'Em Laugh" are two of the best choreographed dance numbers in history. For a wonderful adaptation of Gene Kelly's famous scene dancing in the rain, check this out. Finally, the 12 minute "Broadway Ballet" is Cyd Charisse at her best. When I die, I also want to do the scene where Cyd Charisse is in white with bare feet and the trailing fabric that wraps them up and Gene Kelly is in black and...it's awsome. Maybe I'll watch it again while I'm ironing tonight.

2. I love food. I love smelling it, eating it, and cooking it. Every time I watch Ratatouille, I am inspired to go whip something up. I especially like making desserts. Here's one I made last week:
Pour 1 large can (don't drain it) of peaches in light syrup into 9"x13" baking dish. Pour 1 yellow cake mix over the top of peaches. Do not mix! Cut up one cube of butter and place on top of cake mix. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes. Delish.

3. I'm at the public library almost every day. We don't have the Internet at our house, so I'm here for several hours at a time, usually writing a blog, checking email or Facebook, or doing family history.

4. I have trouble being in large crowds. I'm very good at maneuvering through them; however, I don't like staying in the middle of them. Jake and I went to the Angels & Airwaves concert in Salt Lake in March, and we stood in the huge crowd to watch one of the opening bands. I think because I couldn't see anything (they were all taller than me), I started to get panicky and feeling like I was going to fall (odd sensation, I know) and we ended up standing somewhere else for the rest of the show. A&A were awesome! What a great first concert! And Jake was really nice for moving to a less fun place. Maybe I'll try again when Mute Math or someone cool comes to town. This also translated into getting panicky in a waterslide once. It was completely enclosed and pitch black. By the time I actually saw light, it had already dropped me straight down the slide.

5. I cross-stitch. I recently finished a huge one for my mom. It looked pretty good.

6. I feel triumphant when I get a good parking space, especially on our street. After 5 pm, we usually have to drive around to find anything within a block. After 9 pm, you can forget it. You might as well drive around all night. You'll get home about the same time.

7. I feel at ease when my house is clean. Moving the piles of paper and sweeping up dust and hair and crumbs is somehow therapeutic. My stress level goes way down. At the moment, my house is mostly clean because we had friends over on Monday night. I still need to clean the bathroom and make the bed. But I'm doing pretty well with everything else. I'm even keeping up on dishes. How I miss our old dishwasher!

8. I'm always reading something. I just finished Dracula by Bram Stoker. I'd never read it before, and it was pretty good. It's written in letters and journal entries, so the format is a little different from most modern novels. Before that, I read The Things They Carried and Breaking Dawn. I'm checking out Orson Scott Card's latest collection of short stories, Keeper of Dreams, as soon as it arrives at the library. Until then, I don't know what to read. Any suggestions?

Ok, I choose Melinda, Sam, Elise, and anyone else who wants to. Everyone I was going to choose has already been tagged by Rachey. Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

Beware the Abbreviations

Jake is right. Political season is upon us, and I'm going to delve into the region a little, even though I have tried to leave it to Jake to discuss on this blog. Thomas Sowell just came out with a series of columns on Barack Obama. While all of them are interesting, I was most intrigued by this one, mostly because I'm in the profession of education (yes, substitute teaching counts...I think). My purpose is not to deal with Obama at all. He's most likely going to win, and I'm not real happy about that, but I also don't love John McCain. Romney 2012! But the article succinctly deals with education in the Chicago area. I just signed up last week to teach in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and I'm not terribly excited about it. Chicago has an incredibly powerful teachers union. Chicago also spends over $10,000 per student per year. However, most schools are not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). See this really big document and please correct me if I'm interpreting the data incorrectly. Evanston Township High School (ETHS), the high school in the town where Jake attends Kellogg, spends over $17,000 per student per year and still fails to make certain aspects of their AYP. Utah, on the other hand, spends between $6000 and $7500 (depending on the year and which report you read) and has consistently ranked dead last in national spending per pupil. But are most Utah schools making AYP? A Salt Lake Tribune story said that 80% of Utah public schools made AYP for the 2007-2008 school year. Clearly money isn't everything.

It's scary to me that I'm volunteering to work in a school system with such abysmal scores and standards. Much of the problem isn't the amount of money they throw at schools, but the setup of the school system itself. Sowell notes that schools in CPS have some of the shortest school days. Most elementary school days are only five and a half hours. Another writer notes that the poorest performing areas have the shortest school days. That don't make no sinse (thank you, Coen brothers). If you're bad at something, you need to practice less? Who does CPS think it's kidding? I've also read that students are not in class the standard 180 days per year, although I can't seem to find it at the moment.

I recognize that there are weaknesses in NCLB. Part of the problem is that it hasn't had time to work all the way up the school system yet. My mom's friend teaches elementary school in Cedar City, Utah. Several years ago, most of the kids starting fourth grade couldn't read. Now most of her students beginning fourth grade are at or above grade level. Eight years from now, as those kids graduate, we can reasonably hope that the trend has continued and that standards are being met. Other weaknesses are English Language Learners (ELL--used to be ESL), who cannot read or understand the teacher, let alone the testing materials, and students on Individual Education Plans (IEPs), meaning that they have learning or mental disabilities. All these students must be included and held to the same standards when considering whether a school has met AYP. Some problems were eased when NCLB went through a revamping a couple years ago, but there are still major issues to be dealt with.

Teacher unions are also part of the problem. The unions often make it very difficult for anyone to get into the teaching profession in a specific area, creating a (sometimes) false teacher shortage. I know this was the case for me this year. Most states' educator licenses transfer very easily to other states. Illinois' system is definitely not easy. Because of the time it took to get my license, many schools at the job fair I attended in August didn't even look at me. By creating barriers to entry (e.g. all substitutes for CPS must have at least a Bachelor's degree with some emphasis in education), it's easy to create a shortage by saying that there aren't enough "qualified" teachers. Another aspect of this part of the problem is how difficult it is to get a teacher fired. After your first two or three years, you get rid of your provisional license, which pretty much means you have tenure. Unions are mostly against merit pay, so crappy teachers stay in the system for way too long (did someone say Cedar High School?). You have to REALLY screw up to get fired in education in any state. Do you realize how much teachers make here in Chicago? About $42,000 to start. And you can get up to $100,000 a year over the course of your career. It's a great gig if you can get it. I'm not opposed to someone making money; don't get me wrong. However, I find it somewhat unethical to pay teachers lots of money for doing a bad job.

All of this is pretty random, and I'm sorry I can't be as articulate and concise as Thomas Sowell. Education is important. Jake and I have often remarked to each other how grateful we are for parents who assisted, encouraged, and supplemented our education. We hope to do the same for our kids when the time comes. We've even talked about creating a school of our own, either charter or private, that emphasizes academics and application. I've watched students attempt simple story problems in math where they can't figure out which function (+ - x /) to use so solve the problem. It's terrifying. Life is a story problem. If we don't teach our kids how to THINK, we're going to have a whole lot of idiots leading the world in just a few years. That sounds pretty dismal, but it's possible to fix. If a teacher creates an incentive for succeeding as well as a consequence for failing, students get the picture real quick. I often think back on the past year of teaching and how my students are doing, especially my seniors. I remember on the last day of school I divided up one class into two teams. We played Pictionary and Taboo. One of the teams beat the other, and I handed out candy to the winning team. Members of the other teams said, "Now we get candy too, right?"

"No," I said.

"Why not?"

"You lost. Winners get candy. Losers don't."

"But that's not fair!"

"It's absolutely fair. If you win the next round, I promise you will get candy."


These are seniors in high school on the LAST DAY!!! If they haven't learned that they don't get rewarded for losing a game or doing a crappy job, I don't know what I could have taught them that would be any use.

There's so much that kids don't know that they should. That's one of the reasons why I went into education in the first place. I only hope we can elect leaders, especially at the local levels, who will truly help our kids. I also hope that parents who have not already done so will get their butts in gear and help their kids learn how to be adults.

Go read Sowell; his article is a lot more coherent than this drivel. Also, I made banana bread. It was delicious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Chicago stomping ground

With political season here, Chicago becomes an interesting place. It has the most... unique local politics that I've ever heard of.

1) The local paper questions the behavior of a limo driver that called the police when he noticed that the high school students going to prom in his limo were drinking. The paper stated, "If you report the incident to the police, then it is more likely that teenagers will engage in private binge drinking." In other words, when you increase the cost of an activity, people will consume more of it. I would love to see any evidence of that... anywhere, in any market for any good. It's one of the many statements where someone looks for an exception to the rule, and then pronounces the exception as the rule.

2) Property taxes went through the roof here in Chicago in the last week. This shocked home owners because their homes had fallen in value. The reason? "The city of Chicago believes that your home is actually worth much more than you can sell it for in the market at this point in time." Genius, absolute genius.

3) Senator debate in Chicago. So comical. The debate was on health-care. You already know what I think. Senator Durbin stated:

"If you don’t have the benefit of pooling people who are well and people who are sick then you are going to be vulnerable. That is the same deregulatory free market approach that has ruined our financial systems in America that Dr. Sauerberg wants to bring to health care."

If Senator Durbin ever offers to balance your checkbook, just say "No." He actually has it backwards: pooling, creating a security (SIV), and reselling the security was the problem, and not the solution. Lenders did not know their borrowers. Confusing the solution with the problem is a tragic mistake.

Using the reasoning from all three points above: If we all binge drink in public, then the percentage of people with cirrhosis of the liver will fall considerably. Ignore dieticians, doctors, and actuarial tables. That's the market. What could the market possibly know?

Monday, October 6, 2008


Now that we're (or at least Jake is, so that makes me one too) poor starving students again, we eat a lot of peanut butter. A LOT of peanut butter. Not only is it convenient and delicious, but it's also inexpensive. We go for the off-brand PB and strawberry jam. We're not fancy. At one lunchtime in high school--I don't remember who exactly was there--several of my friends and I went to Suzanne's house and made sandwiches. I also remember being teased for the way I made my sandwich. I spread peanut butter on both slices of bread and jam on both sides as well. "That's not a PBJ," said one of my friends, "That's a PBJJPB!" Apparently you're not supposed to put peanut butter on both sides. Hmm. That's the way my mom always made it (or at least, that's my recollection of how my mom made sandwiches). Well, as I was making Jake's sandwich this morning, I realized that putting peanut butter on one side and jam on the other would be disastrous for those who pack lunches. The jelly would soak into the bread and look gross. It would also taste much drier than it should. By spreading peanut butter on both slices, there is a nice non-absorbent barrier between the bread and the jelly. If you leave the sandwich in your backpack long enough, yes, your PB will soak into the bread, but that's a LONG time. If you have to wait that long from making your sandwich to eating it, you need to rethink your situation. And, while I have toned down the jam by only spreading it on one slice for convenience's sake, I have realized it is imperitive that PB be on both slices. I have also thought about several ways to vary our lunches including grilled PBJ, but Jake thankfully convinced me that would just be a mess. As evidenced by this post, I clearly have too much time on my hands.

Oh, and here's an awesome music video about PBJ. Enjoy your sandwiches!