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

Hilary

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):

Cake:
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

Topping.
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

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.